A/N: Hey, aren't you impressed? A year for the last chapter, a month for this one. Personally, I'm quite proud of myself. I doubt we'll have any delays like the last one again, because I've created a basic outline for the story now and I know where I'm going with it. Anyway, enjoy the chapter!
Oh, and I finally squeezed in Debbie. :P
I reappeared on the side of the temple: exactly where I'd entered in the first place. The glow of the portal faded, leaving me alone in Faron Woods.
It was strange how different everything seemed now. While the forest still held that sense of wonder it had when I'd first fell from the sky, it now wasn't nearly as impressive or unusual; now mixed with my fascination was a strange sense of familiarity. No wonder; almost all of the memories I had from Hylia's life took place here. It seems I used to spend a lot of time in this area.
Realizing that I'd been staring at the surrounding trees with abnormal curiosity, I shook my head. I needed to go to the temple to speak with that old woman, now. This experience had made me even more curious - who was she, and how did she know so much?
I trudged through the tall grass again, walking back onto the path. I'd just taken my first step onto the stone when suddenly there was a crackle of magic in front of me. Much to my surprise, an object appeared directly in my path on the ground. Too stunned to halt, I gasped and stumbled over it. I caught myself just before completely losing my balance and whipped around, my bewildered gaze darting to the ground.
My eyes widened as I examined the figure. It wasn't just an object - it was a person! Or what I thought was a person, at least. They had dark purple skin and white-lavender hair. Their skin glinted in the sunlight, as though it was made out of steel, and I saw several scratch marks covering their body. A gem in the centered looked almost shattered, barely remaining intact. For some reason they seemed familiar.
Then it hit me. This wasn't any normal person - it was a Demon.
"Ghirahim!" I blurted out, backing away from the creature. I frantically scanned my memories for anything helpful. I didn't remember much about this guy, but I knew that he was Demise's second-in-command, a spirit inhabiting the sword the Demon King wielded. In the past, he wasn't a match for my divine powers, but as a mortal I really was little more than an inconvenience. In fact, hadn't the old woman at the Sealed Grounds told me to stay away from him? Maybe I should just leave while he wasn't paying attention-
Too late. His dark eyes caught mine, surprise hidden in their depths. The expression on his face became a maniacal grin.
"Spirit Maiden!" He let out a sound that might have been a laugh, but it was so breathy that it was hard to tell. I suddenly realized exactly what the scratches meant: he was injured. Not severely, but it still gave me hope that I might have a bit of an advantage. "I wasn't expecting to find you here!"
I took another step back, glaring at him as vaguely I recalled times where he destroyed towns and tortured living beings just for the sport. I greatly wished I had some sort of weapon now. I wondered what had happened to Hylia's "Goddess Sword" - it certainly sounded like it would have been a nice thing to give the Spirit Maiden. Especially if it meant I'd get to wipe that infuriating smile off my enemy's face.
He let out a low chuckle, seeing the disgust in my eyes. "Ah, you recognize me. How wonderful."
"Stay away from me," I snarled.
"But it's been such a long time since we last met, Your Grace. Where's your hospitality?"
I was so angry that I was on the verge of lunging at him - magical enchanted sword or no - but I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. He was just toying with me; he knew how much his words irked me. Or rather, how much he irked me. He could be saying anything and I'd still hate him with all of my heart.
My gaze fell on a rather nasty scratch that had broken several layers of the steel-coating, revealing a brownish texture beneath. "I see that you've lost your touch."
His expression grew dark. "Nothing more than an inconvenience. It was merely a little play session with a pet of yours that got out of hand. I'm just a bit out of practice thanks to those hundreds of years you forced me and my master to stay in that wonderful seal." The biting sarcasm in that last part of his statement was easy to ignore, but the way he'd spoken of a "pet" caused me to feel some alarm.
"What 'pet'?" I asked. I couldn't help but remember the battle sounds I'd heard outside of the Skyview Spring. That couldn't have possibly been Ghirahim's battle... could it?
He smirked. "Oh, you didn't know? Perhaps I shouldn't ruin the surprise, then. He was wielding the Goddess Sword, though... I would have thought you'd prevent anyone else from using that, considering how terribly attached you were to it all those years ago."
The Chosen Hero? It was possible. I still couldn't remember who or why I'd chosen a hero, but if I didn't have the Goddess Sword, he or she would be the next most likely person to receive it. Otherwise someone had stolen it somehow. But if they had used it to harm Ghirahim this much, then they probably deserved it. Anyone who managed to hurt him like this not only had my respect, but also my blessing.
"Anyway," Ghirahim said conversationally, heaving himself to his feet with, as I smugly noted, no small amount of effort. "I happen to require the holy power that you possess in order to resurrect my master. Did you know that? If you'd kindly stand still for a moment..."
I snorted. "I'd like to see you try and capture me right now. You're too injured to catch me if I run."
"Oh, don't think so highly of yourself," he laughed. "You're only a mortal now. Even wounded, I'll have no problem dealing with you, especially when you don't even have a weapon."
Goddess. He was completely right. Not that I could tell him that.
"Fortunately, though, I happen to have minions to do these things for me." He smiled arrogantly. "Bokoblins are usually quite useless, but I doubt they'd actually fail to catch you. You probably don't even have all of your memories, do you?"
My fury rose yet again - this self-proposed Demon Lord really knew how to rile me up. But this time he'd insulted me on a more personal level - he'd insulted not only Hylia, but Zelda, too. This was yet another person doubting my ability because of my appearance. As if Gorko and the Kikwis hadn't been bad enough.
Just as I was about to angrily retort, Ghirahim disappeared with a snap of his fingers - and in a shower of diamonds, three Bokoblins materialized.
Fear, instead, took over, my anger dissipating in an instant. I frantically glanced around - but I was surrounded. There was no escape, no one around to help...
Trapped like an animal, I could only just barely find time to consider this simple question: fight or flight?
A Bokoblin stepped toward me, and I made my decision. I kindly informed him by swinging my arm and punching him in the face.
The creature stumbled back, an almost comical look of shock on its pudgy face. Then it darkened in primal rage, and it screeched and lunged at me.
It was easy to see coming, so I managed to step away, twisting behind him. I desperately tried to recall my training in the Knight Academy, wistfully thinking about how much easier it would have been with Link here. He was always much better at the combat stuff than me...
My pondering over the best way to kill a Bokoblin with only a harp and my hands was interrupted by a strong pair of rough, smelly Bokoblin arms enveloping me. I shrieked and struggled viciously. I was not going down without a fight. Eventually, as the other Bokoblins stepped forward to help, I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures and I bit down hard on the Bokoblin's arm. With a cry of pain, its firm grip loosened and I darted out of reach, turning back to face the monsters. I nearly gagged as the dirt-taste of its purple blood remained in my mouth.
One charged at me with arms outstretched, but I sidestepped and bashed at it with my harp, the strings twanging unpleasantly. I prayed that I hadn't broken any of them as it yelped in surprise at the instrument striking its arm. Another came at me and I ducked, just barely dodging it.
I'd been so, so, so lucky so far. Unfortunately, my breath was already labored, and I hadn't even been fighting for long; I really wasn't good at this. Worse, my enemies could tell that I was tiring – I could see it in the gleam of revenge in their vacant eyes, particularly the one I'd chomped into. I briefly closed my eyes with a grimace, wondering how I'd ever get myself out of this mess. When I opened them again, I nearly fainted in fear. One Bokoblin had a sword out. I thought they had to keep my alive!
Oh, Goddess, I prayed, or whatever deity is actually left out there... please help me...!
I was so involved in my fervent praying that I almost missed the stirring energy around my wrists. But only almost.
I jumped as I felt a strange force ripple through me, filling my body with a warm feeling. It felt so powerful, almost frighteningly so, and it kind of felt... normal.
I had a feeling Hylia was very used to this sensation.
The next thing I knew, a Bokoblin's sword was zooming toward my head. Terrified, I put up my arms in a defensive position, but I knew I couldn't dodge. I looked away and closed my eyes, not wanting to see the sword piece through my skin, wishing to spare myself that last gory image...
But rather than feel extreme pain, I felt that rush of energy leave my body with a pop, and then a strange clanging of a sword hitting a barrier. Furious Bokoblin yells followed.
I peeked an eye open, and I was shocked by what I found. A shimmering lavender crystal-like shield had encased me, cutting me off from the monsters. It was strange, though – I could still feel the breeze and hear the sounds of the forest clearly, although I appeared to be removed from the rest of the world.
A Bokoblin lunged at me, and I flinched in surprise, almost expecting to be hit. However, the sword bounced right off the barrier.
Amazed, I scanned my memories for something to explain this. It felt a lot like magic, but I didn't have very much power as a mortal. I could sense my energy as I could in the past, and I hadn't consciously decided to perform any kind of magic like that.
I glanced down at my hands – and for the first time, I realized that my wrists were glowing. Oh, no, wait... not my wrists. It was those purple bracelets that the old woman had given me.
Her words returned to my mind. "I suspect they might have some kind of magic in them..."
Finally realizing what this meant, I let out a joyful laugh. As long as this magic lasted, I was safe.
I took a tentative step forward, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the crystal followed me as I walked. I gave a huge grin to the silently enraged Bokoblins. "Tell Ghirahim that I'm sorry that I couldn't stay longer." I smirked. "I have important matters to attend to. Goddess stuff, you know?"
And then, just as I'd turn around to head to the Sealed Temple, a peculiar noise caught my attention, causing me to glance back over my shoulder. The Bokoblins' ears perked up, and they turned with me toward the sound.
Much to my surprise, the wide doors of the temple that had given me so much trouble earlier were now wide opened. Before I could process that enough to feel annoyed, the sound registered in my brain as footsteps and I panicked. Taking this as my cue to flee, I turned and ran away from the agitated Bokoblins, where they were too distracted by the new visitor to notice.
Unsure of where to go, I dashed behind a tree to my right, where the useless tablet was, and hid, leaning against the trunk and listening as I tried to calm my beating heart. My shield started to deteriorate around me as the glow faded from the bracelets. I wasn't sure how to keep it up or summon it again, so I was forced to hope that the Bokoblins hadn't noticed where I'd gone and they wouldn't find me.
The footsteps then paused. There was a moment of silence, and then I heard the high-pitched Bokoblin war cries. I sighed with relief. At least that meant it probably wasn't an accomplice of theirs. But now I could only hope that that person wouldn't be killed by them...
I held my breath at the sound of a metal blade being drawn, much different from the tone of the Bokoblins' crude swords. There was a clang – like the sword meeting the Bokoblins' club-like weapon – and then some sounds of struggle, mostly from the monsters. I shut my eyes as I heard the dying shrieks of the Bokoblins as they fell, one by one, an animalistic, harsh sound full of fear. I guess it was better that they die than me, but it still wasn't very pleasant to listen to. Besides, it meant that this person was dangerous. I probably should stay out of sight for now...
At last, the battle stopped, and it seemed that the mysterious new visitor was victorious. Finally, the sword was sheathed, and I heard a sigh that sounded very familiar for some reason...
Suddenly, a light tug on the hem of my dress caused me to yelp, which I quickly tried to muffle with my hand. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and I heard the sword exit the sheath once again very quickly. My heart pounding, praying that some kind of sword-wielding creature even worse than the Bokoblins wasn't about to come after me, I first addressed the problem at my feet by glancing down.
The small eyes of a Kikwi stared back up at me. Machi tilted his head to the side curiously, probably wondering why I was cowering behind a tree. I shook my head frantically and put a finger to my lips to signal to be quiet. I silently gestured behind the tree and he tentatively leaned over to gaze around it. His face brightened.
"Kwee! Over here!"
Horrified at the Kikwi for revealing our hiding spot, I pressed my back against the bark so hard that splinters poked through my dress and into my back. I shrank back as the Kikwi cheerfully waded out into the open air.
But then... warm comforting laughter sounded from behind the tree. "Machi? I thought you might be another monster! What are you doing here?"
Oh. My. Goddess.
My breath caught in my throat. I knew that voice.
"Link?" I breathed, unwilling to believe it. It couldn't be! Link? Here? On the Surface? But I'd grown up with the owner of that voice. I'd recognize it anywhere. Was my mind playing tricks on me?
"The monsters are gone, kew-kaloo," Machi responded brightly. "I know you had something to do with it! Thanks to you, I was reunited with my fellow Kikwis!" Wait... did that mean that Link knew Machi? When did this happen? Was it really Link?
Overcome with the intense desire to see him again, I finally gathered the courage to lean over and cautiously peer around the tree.
My breath left me for the second time as my gaze rest upon him. There was no mistaking it – that was my friend. Much to my awe, he was dressed in the Skyloftian Knight uniform, green for this year's class. A sword was strapped over his shoulder, glinting in the sunlight, but I couldn't examine it very well from this far away. I couldn't help but take a moment to admire how incredibly knightly he looked in his uniform. It was like he was born for it.
Machi began speaking again. "So, did you ever find the girl you were looking for, koo-weep?" His eyes flickered to me, where I was peeking out from behind the tree. However, I was too shocked by his words. A girl? What girl?
Could Link have come all the way to the Surface... just for me?
"No, not yet," Link responded. "But I have an idea of where to go next."
"Kwee, that's good..." I suddenly realized why Machi was looking at me so uncertainly. He wondered why I hadn't revealed myself yet. To be honest, I was wondering too.
The problem was... I didn't feel ready to face him yet. Link was too important to Zelda, and I was still trying to cope with Hylia's memories. My identity was a whirl of confusion at the moment, and, as much as it broke my heart to think it, Link would only make things worse right now. Not to mention that he'd want me to go home with him! How in the world could I explain why I couldn't without having to describe a past immortal life that I still didn't fully understand myself?
That didn't mean I wasn't tempted. Oh, no. You have no idea. I really, really wanted to rush out into his arms and fly back to Skyloft. I wanted it so badly it almost hurt.
"What are you looking at, Machi?" came Link's voice, and I swiftly pulled back behind the tree's thick trunk.
"...Nothing," the Kikwi said hesitantly. "Kwee, I think nothing..."
I could tell that he was confused and wanted to tell Link, but he respected me enough not to. I was extremely grateful. I'd definitely have to thank him later.
"Alright," Link said just as uncertainly. There was a pause, and then he said, "So where to next, Fi?"
An odd sound caught my attention and I frowned. It vaguely reminded me of bells, or a sword being unsheathed, or some combination of the two.
"Based on the message from the goddess within Skyview Temple, I advise that you take the Ruby Tablet you acquired and place it within the Statue of the Goddess at Skyloft."
My eyes widened in shock. It was a distinctly female voice, light and monotone and ethereal. Definitely not someone I knew. It hardly even sounded human. But I hadn't seen anyone else with him...
"The is a 97% chance that Zelda has headed for a location known as Eldin Province," the voice continued emotionlessly. Well. She knew me, apparently. But her prediction was way off. "Placing the tablet in the altar should create a column of light through which you can access the province. However, I recommend first healing at Skyloft and stocking up on potions at the bazaar."
"I do kind of need more potions," he murmured. "I used them all up in my battle against that Ghirahim guy..."
Wait, Link had fought against Ghirahim? And won?
"And I can't deny that a rest sounds good right now," he concluded with a sigh. "I hope... Zelda can take care of herself in the meantime."
"Kwi-koo, I'm sure she can!" Machi piped up. "She'll be fine!"
"Yeah, I'm sure you're right." He paused. "I guess I'll see you later, Machi. Maybe once I've found Zelda we can come back."
"You should," Machi agreed.
"Okay. I promise." I could just imagine his smile right there... I really wanted to see it again. I leaned over, but I was surprised to see only Machi waving in the direction of the temple. There was then a sound like the whoosh of wind and chimes... and then silence.
The quiet lasted for a moment longer, before Machi finally said, "Koo... What happened? Why didn't you want to talk to him?"
I sighed before finally stepping out and revealing myself. I glanced around, but there was no sign of Link anywhere. Even the Bokoblins had vanished. Where had they gone? "It's... complicated. Thank you for not telling him."
"You're welcome, koo-kew. But... he is your friend, right?"
"Yes," I told him. "Definitely. My best friend. But..." I bit my lip, looking away. I owed him an explanation, but what could I tell him? That I was the reincarnation of Hylia? "I just need to stay away from Link right now. I... I didn't even know he was looking for me. I wish he wasn't. I mean, I'm touched, but... I can't go home yet."
"He fought through all those red guys to find you," Machi said quietly. "He found all of my Kikwi friends because Bucha wouldn't tell him where you were. Kwee, we even told him that the temple was dangerous, but he went there to save you."
Goddess. Link had done all that for me? I felt a pang of guilt as I realized the last time we saw each other was when that tornado took me away. He must think something horrible happened to me...
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "I didn't expect so much from him." Hmm. That wasn't supposed to sound so negative. "If you see him again anytime soon..." How unlikely was that? "...tell him I... that I..."
I love him.
"...I'm sorry. Tell him I'm sorry. Please."
"Okay, koro-koo." Machi nodded dutifully. "Are you leaving now?"
I didn't want to. The Kikwi's presence was comforting, and I was reluctant to continue this quest of mine. It wasn't exactly fun avoiding Bokoblins all the time.
"I... probably should." I let out a long breath. "Yes... yes, I'm leaving. I'm heading back to the Sealed Temple."
"I'm going back to the forest now to meet up with my fellow Kikwis, kee-paleep," Machi explained.
"Oh! That's in the same direction." I couldn't help but smile a bit at the heartening prospect that I might have some company. "You can come with me!" I gestured to him. "Come on. Let's hurry back. We don't want Bucha to worry about you."
Machi nodded and took his place beside me as I started heading back the way I'd come, but my mind already wandering back to what I'd just experienced. I learned that I was a reincarnated goddess. Link was fighting his way across the Surface to find me. Ghirahim was trying to capture me to resurrect his master or something equally evil. And now I had to go and find out who the woman at the Sealed Grounds really was.
This had certainly been an interesting day. Unfortunately, no matter what the outcome of this adventure was, I had a sinking feeling that my life would never be the same again.