Just in time for the new year!
Yeah, I know I expressed interest in posting a ZeLink fanfic sometime last year or the year before, but sadly, inspiration never struck. And then this came around. I really must say I love the chemistry that Link and Zelda have in Skyward Sword, so I suppose that if any ZeLink fic was gonna come out of my butt, it was going to be from this game.
Under the Great Tree
When was it, exactly, when I went to sleep?
While a blurry, green landscape spun around her as she was getting her bearings, she tried to ponder this question. Somehow, she thought that if she looked deeper into the world she found herself in, she'd think of an answer with which to satisfy her, if only briefly. In all honesty, she didn't know if what was going on around her was actually happening—if this place's existence itself had an ounce of acceptable credibility—let alone knowing when her mind's eye became metacognitive of its query for the actual "time of day," as it were.
It wasn't hours ago, no, she thought. Nor could it have been mere days or weeks. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism that she never was able to find that answer. Disbelief could've been another. The fact that it happened to her, an otherwise-ordinary girl who lived in the sky—this much she could recall—could've been reason enough to have incomprehension be the third means of which to keep her from ever obtaining that knowledge herself. All that she could gather was that it could only have been a really, really long time.
She waved her arm in front of her to confirm her control over her view, and surprised she was to actually be blessed in the presence of a delicate-looking hand, adorned at the wrist with a snow-white, hand-sewn sleeve, intricately stitched to a gown fit for a royal. Looking down, she could see straight, golden locks of hair on either side. And her feet! An outfit this meticulously crafted wouldn't have been complete with matching white sandals that could almost paint life into a burned wasteland by the step.
For some reason, she found herself yet again in an infinitely-spanning grassy plain, a tickling zephyr running through all the grass that grew under her feet, as well as some of the small flowers that bloomed nearby. There was a big blue sky blanketing the bright scenery; it was devoid of almost all clouds that would hinder the view of the sun, which brightly shined in the heavens and gently warmed her skin to complement the temperate wind flowing through her hair.
Why did she find herself in this beautiful prison time and time again? The answer to this was about as elusive as the other question she kept asking herself; it was perhaps more so, even, as at least she had a pretty good sense of metrics despite being out for who-knows-how-long.
For what may have been the thousandth time, or maybe even the ten-thousandth, she looked at the lone tree on top of the only hill that she could ever find in that world. For a world devoid of most other signs of life, aside from the limited selection of non-woody flora and a few avian companions, it wasn't that bad of a sight, really. It was perfectly grown: It was tall as they come, but as sturdy as battle towers would envy. The shade it allowed was perfectly even and symmetrical on all sides so that at high noon, one needn't ever worry of claiming a side with little cover from the sun's rays. It was truly a tree that could've grown only with the favor of the gods.
Her mind restless with coming up with answers, or perhaps due to the unusually-high temperature (odd, given her brightly-colored attire) and how everything around her blurred as she quietly stepped through the plain, she decided to take advantage of the tree's refreshing shade.
The birds flying in the sky and perched in the tree grew a little panicked, making higher-pitched and faster chirps the higher she climbed the hill. She soon found out, however, that it wasn't because of her presence specifically but, instead, because of the particularly-loud yawn of someone who had already occupied a part of the shade.
This was certainly an odd happenstance, she acknowledged to herself with a nervous finger to her chin. This is the first time I've ever seen another human in this perpetual dream.
Lying upright, asleep, was a young man…perhaps a bit older than she, biologically speaking. His clothes, stylistically oozing the lifestyle of someone who also lived in the sky, struck a bell in the recesses of her memory. A Skyloft resident? How…?
Somewhat nervously, she approached the boy and asked with a quiver in her voice, "Sorry to bother you, but…" Her train of thought came to a halt when the boy slowly opened his eyes, as if blinded by the light the tree was shielding him from, and gazed on her through his unkempt hair. He seemed to be even more surprised to see another person as she was, almost like he hadn't seen another human in an untold number of years himself.
At the same time, it was like he knew something about her that she didn't know herself; the benign, almost comforted grin on his face only supported that suspicion. "No trouble at all," he replied, somewhat sleepily.
"Ah, good…" she sighed with relief. Her train of thought returned to her, she tried again: "Anyway, I know this seems a bit random, but I don't think I remember seeing you here before."
"You look like you don't remember seeing anyone here before," he quipped, stretching and rubbing his eyes in an attempt to shrug off any sleepiness he had left.
She chuckled for what was possibly, and literally, the first time in eons. "I guess you're right."
The boy patted the ground next to him to offer her a seat, which she politely accepted with a smile. Without a care about her delicate attire—after all, was it even real?—she brought her knees up to her chest and fidgeted with the grass in reminiscence. Maybe talking about it would keep her from losing hold of the fragile thoughts she was finally being humored with.
"I can't remember for the life of me how long I've been here … It's been a very long time, though. That much I know."
She couldn't tell from where she was looking, but the boy frowned when he heard this, maybe as his own display of sympathy. "Sounds a little extreme, if you ask me. Was it by some kind of overdue karma that you're bound here or something?"
She kept her mouth shut for about a minute before she could compose herself for a proper reply. What welled up in her in that very sixty seconds was one of the few things she could remember clearly of life before her slumber. She knew it, of course, since that was the force that tied her to that realm to begin with. It was out of necessity, sure, as even she could remember it was the only way to maintain the seal that could only delay the world's destruction a bit longer. Yet…
"You know," she finally said, breaking the long, awkward silence that was spent by the both of them staring off into the cloud-rimmed horizon. Necessity itself wasn't the only reason, or else she wouldn't have been so willing to make that sacrifice. If there was one feeling she was all too familiar with, it was the painful remorse that wouldn't leave her heart—remorse for exploiting the services of the person she held most dear and the defining trait of his valiance: perseverance. Karma, indeed—ironic, given her status among the very same beings who dealt it.
"…That's exactly what it was."
That didn't do much for the frown on his face. In fact, that probably only increased its weight. He looked down to hide it, but a simple glance from her was evidence that he couldn't evade detection in time.
"I-I'm sorry. I did bring this upon myself, so I suppose the last thing that I'm entitled to is venting."
"No, no!" he interjected with waving hands. "I don't mind at all. To be honest, it's a little refreshing. I can't say I've been here as long as you have, but I can say that visitors don't just drop in that often to say hello. It's pretty lonesome sometimes, being the only friendly person around."
"I just about know this place like the back of my hand, but I don't ever remember you being here. When did you stumble across it?"
It was his turn to laugh. "I can't really say myself. I'd say hours ago, but with this place, you never can tell. It's not like the sun moves that quickly… Not that that's a problem. It's just nice to be here instead of the place I'm usually in."
She turned her head in curiosity. "Oh?" she inquired. "There's a place other than this one?"
The boy paused a bit before slowly shaking his head, which confused her. "Not for you, no, but if this is anything of what anyone else would call a 'dream,' then you could say the same about that place. Now, for quite a while yet, that was the only place I could visit in my sleep, but now, it seems the goddess is giving me a bit of a break from that nightmare. About time, too."
"Was it by some overdue karma that you were bound there, as well?" she asked with a mischievous smile, which was met with a hearty laugh…that soon faded into a frown, as it looked like he gradually came to a realization of his own actions, the likes of which were, at that point, unbeknownst to her.
"Something like that." A gust of wind blew through the tree temporarily broke their conversation, but the cool sensation gave them both a refreshing slight vigor to continue, mostly aiding the boy like a good swig of hot tea. "There's someone I'm trying to look for. Well, I guess you could say I found her already. …But had I just been there for her sooner, it would've actually made a difference. Now, like you, she's been gone a long time by now."
Then it hit her. She turned to the side to look him in his eye, but his face was tilted to the ground to remedy his obvious vulnerability. There's something about him… Could it really be him, after all this time?
She had to confirm it. Centuries of seclusion from any emotional touch from him was trying; it was a pity, she admitted to herself, that she resort to his shadow for comfort, but it excited her to know that it was his. She carefully inched closer to him until their shoulders almost touched, keeping her breathing light as to not immediately alert him of her suspicions. "I dunno…" she slowly began. "I'm sure you've made more difference to her than you might think."
He turned his head to her but didn't say a word. His eyes looking distant and avoiding her gaze, as well as the look of guilt being suspended inside them that personified the kind melded into her psyche, were proof that he couldn't bring it upon himself to believe her words. After what she did, she couldn't blame him.
She continued, "Sure, you may not have been there for her in time, but it's not like you weren't there for her at all. Some people wouldn't have tried if they knew it was pointless, but I can tell you didn't. You should know more than anyone else that that gave her hope."
He looked reluctant to break his streak of muteness, but to spite himself, his mouth wouldn't listen. "What makes you so sure?" he croaked. The way that his face slightly twisted, she'd almost think that he was beginning to tear up.
Instinct took over her as she embraced him, and her own tears rained down her face when she found that she could feel his form, as if this weren't just a dream world and was indisputable consciousness. It felt real; as far as she was concerned, there really was someone there to keep her company for the first time in that epoch, enjoying the shade and breeze and sunny weather along with her.
"Because I know just what kind of person you are, Link."
The boy was caught unawares by her sudden approach—not just unawares, but off-balance, even. He had to really work to keep himself from toppling over, but when he regained his composure, he returned the embrace even more tightly than she was able. The suffocation involved would ordinarily be uncomfortable, of course, but she was too busy reveling the exchange of affection to notice. "'Hope,' you say? Zelda, of all the cliché things for you to say, it had to be that, didn't it?"
Yep, that's definitely Link, she thought with rolled eyes, but she didn't really care in the slightest. She had never been happier to hear that distinct snark of his again, so what else could she do but laugh—and laugh her hardest until her gut ached? Link soon joined in, so before long, it felt like they were enjoying themselves just like they used to do in the sky, sans the flying. The respite of their union, simulated as it may have been, was nothing less than heavenly.
Most of the time after that was just their sitting under the tree and enjoying the scenery, maybe chatting about this and that for a few seconds before going quiet again. It wasn't so much that they didn't have a lot to say; surely, both had anthologies' worth of stories to tell the other, and each respective other would have gladly lent his and her ear as if their moment there were final.
But as how dreams would have it, it was to reach its terminus in very short time, too short for prolonged conversing. Link's form started to fade and garble to the point where Zelda could no longer recognize him. "It's time for you to go now, huh?"
At least he had time left enough to reply before neither could gaze at the other any longer: "I made a promise, didn't I?"
His voice sounded weak; it was truly only a few seconds before they parted. Yet, she just wanted one last word before he could no longer hear her. She couldn't give it much thought, but what little time she had, she made the most of it. "Just come back in one piece!"
Sadly, it really was the last that she could hear from him, so she never knew if he heard her final request or not. All else she could hear around her was the sound of now-calm birds in the branches and the relaxing whoosh of the wind. She was, once again, alone in the shade under the great tree.
Link opened his eyes and was, quite startlingly and not a moment too late, greeted with the cold, calculated stare of his trusted companion.
"Master Link," she said, "I am reporting that it is currently two-point-five hours before noon. You requested that I terminate your sleep cycle at around that time to continue our progress."
He couldn't help but feel a little irritated for having a spirit alarm clock waking him from the only decent dream he's had in quite a while, but he was probably more irritated at himself for setting that alarm clock in the first place. Well, there was little point in lying down and risking getting sleepy again, so he bit the bullet and replied as calmly as he could, "Yeah. Thanks, Fi."
She nodded in acknowledgement and flew back into the sword snuggly lying next to his bed without another word. It and his shield being only in arm's reach, he lifted both over his shoulders and made sure to strap them on tightly before he treaded toward the door. The knobs and doors at the Knight Academy had a tendency to squeak loudly if they weren't turned and opened reasonably quickly, so he kept the possibly-sleeping Fledge in mind by stepping out and hastily closing the door behind him.
As he reached for the knob for the double doors just outside his room, he suddenly remembered something. It was one of those nagging memories that you couldn't completely remember the origin of but were still able to play it over again in your head. The only new thing about it was that it also carried some kind of sentiment to it. It couldn't have been from when he was just a kid; the voice associated with it was too mature.
He felt like he had forgotten to tell someone something important. It probably wasn't too important if it really was from years ago, but the sad yearning behind it remained. He couldn't remember who it was who said it, try as he might to pound his head to force his brain in recalling it, but the message itself was still the only thing he could remember all too clearly, just like if it were spoken right in his ear.
It wasn't a question, he determined. It was a request—a simple request.
He wish he could remember the addresser, but the best he could do was open the door and walk out into the morning Skyloft air and reply, "Of course I'll come back in one piece," before taking off on his crimson mount and continuing his arduous, yet still hopeful, search at Eldin Volcano.
Before you say anything, yes, that is, indeed, the place on the moon from Majora's Mask. While I feel it is a nice setting for a fic of this genre, I also kind of wanted to sort of combine the awesomeness of Skyward Sword's ZeLink with the also-awesome symbolism of Majora's Mask. What're ya gonna do, eh?
Sadly, I can't really say I feel this is my best work. I think I wasn't as inspirationally charged as I was before, but hey, it comes to you when it does. Can't change that.
Well, until something else strikes me, happy holidays, everyone. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart, Nintendo, for twenty-five years of The Legend of Zelda. May there be many more of them to come!