And here's chapter six! Before we start, I just want to say thank you very much for the birthday well-wishes, everyone!
Despite living in the same building as Link—three floors below him, no less, Zelda thought of herself as incredibly lucky enough to not have had any run-ins with him around the complex in the two and a half weeks following that Monday they went to the publishing office together.
Zelda entered the small stairwell shaft of the north building, heading for The Stone's office. Most of the campus was still empty; she was quite a bit earlier at school than she usually was. She remembered the night before right as she was on the subway home that she had forgotten her notebook in the office, and in it contained the homework she had to do last night. She figured if she showed up early, it'd give her enough time to pick it up and try to finish it before the first bell rang, as well as during classes and lunch.
The Tuesday after she and Link went to the publishers', her little promotion was announced formally to the rest of the staff. Since then, she'd been noticeably busier with business on top of what she had to do as a staff writer, what with still having to learn everything the executives had to teach. Even if she was given a more formal position, she still had to contribute stories; everyone had to regardless of position or experience. Even the editors, and even Link.
She also found herself making more announcements to the staff and kind of harping on everyone to meet the deadlines. But of course, people didn't really seem to listen to her; whether they were making a conscious decision not to or not was another question, but some writers were still lagging on getting their drafts in on time. And of course, the stories that came in late were always the ones that the editors found the most important and wanted to publish the most. It was beginning to get tired really quickly, and she had only gotten the job not even a month ago! Was that was it was really like, having to rely on others to get their work done on time? She had to give credit to the editors for being able to put up with it, and especially to Link for having to deal with the entire staff on it. Even though he ruled with an iron fist, to say the very least.
But still, she liked what she did. She liked having that responsibility. And what she liked the most was that the editor staff trusted her enough—someone who had barely been at The Stone for a month, to do it. She couldn't really complain, either. She also got an updated badge that said "BUSINESS MANAGER" instead of "STAFF WRITER," and it also said as much in the staff listings in the editorial section of the paper and in her bylines in every story she'd get published from then on. That kind of formal acknowledgement was nice.
"Oof!" She had bumped into someone, unaware of where she had been walking amidst mulling through her thoughts. "I'm so sorry!"
She looked up at the sound of the deep voice; she had been looking straight down at the floor the whole she had been walking. When she looked up, she saw the person she had bumped into was the suited man she had run into that one day along with Link outside of the building.
His brother, Raven.
Zelda's eyes widened a little bit. She had been surprised that she had been so careless she literally walked right into someone, but now she was even moreso that it was Link's brother, of all people. What was he doing here? He stared down at her with the same emotionless expression he had on the first time she had seen him. It wasn't all that far off from the one Link usually had on, or the one the man who was apparently their uncle made either. What, did chronic tightassness run in their family genes?
"I'm sorry," Zelda bowed again, taking a few steps back and to the side to allow Raven to pass. "I should have been more careful."
"…Tell me about it," was all he muttered in a low voice as he dusted off his necktie and sharp, well-fitted suit: he was wearing a dark gray vest over a white dress shirt with matching pants.
She furrowed her brow at his sudden rudeness; good thing she was still facing down so he couldn't see it. Yeah, attitude problems were definitely a dominant gene in these people.
"Oh… Harkinian, is it?" He asked.
She looked up at that and nodded slightly. "Um, yes… Zelda Harkinian… Um, may I ask how you know my name?"
He shrugged nonchalantly, slipping a hand into his pants pocket. "I saw your nametag for The Stone the last time we saw each other."
So he remembered who she was. That was kind of surprising. She would have thought a guy like him, whatever he did, would be so busy he couldn't be bothered with remembering names and faces.
"And I've heard about you from my uncle," he added.
Zelda tilted her head a bit a that, raising an eyebrow. "Your… Your uncle?"
He nodded. "You met him, right? He runs the printing office that publishes The Stone?"
"Well… Yeah, I have," she nodded quickly. "I mean… Not personally, anyway. But I've seen him before."
How did their uncle know her name? She's seen him twice before, but they've never formally introduced themselves to each other. The only way he could have known anything about her was… if Link mentioned her to him. But that one time in the car in the parking lot then, Link never called her by name, just as a friend. Though as far as Zelda was concerned, they were hardly even that. So Link talked about her to him when she wasn't around?
"Said you were the business manager or something like that," Raven shrugged. "Some job you got there. Are you sure you can handle that? You better not screw up. This isn't something like the yearbook you're working for."
She could feel her cheeks heating up. What was this guy's problem?
"I appreciate the concern," Zelda shook her head, stuttering a bit. "But I'm handling it just fine! You don't need to worry about me."
Raven ignored her, walking over to the windows facing the quad that lined the wall. "But I guess it's not entirely your fault. Link's the one who appointed you, right?" He looked over his shoulder to her. "If anything, it's more his fault than your incompetence."
Her back and arms stiffened at that. Her fist balled up some of the fabric of her skirt, wrinkling it finely. This guy… He was worse than Link! What did he have against her all of a sudden? They had barely even met and talked five minutes!
"Everything's going just fine!" Zelda blurted out. "And if something wrong happens, then it is my responsibility! That's my job, isn't it!"
He just smirked and shrugged his broad shoulders. "You tell me."
Zelda inhaled deeply, looking away from him. She couldn't believe this guy! Yeah, he was definitely worse than Link!
"Well," he finally spoke after a moment of tense silence between them. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked the screen for the time. "I'll be going now. You do your job, Miss Harkinian."
Zelda watched him walk down the hall, glaring him down. What a wonderfully pleasant way to start the day off, that conversation. She was about to turn to head for the office, but then she heard Raven's footsteps stop and his voice call out for her.
"By the way," he started. Zelda turned around to face him, tucking some hair behind her ear.
"Stay away from my brother." He said flatly.
Her eyes widened; she was so caught off guard by that, she almost even staggered a step back. What was that just now? 'Stay away from my brother?' What did that mean!
"…Sorry?" She asked after a second, shaking her head a bit. She was already confused enough by his accusations and belittling; where had that come from all of a sudden? But by the time she was able to get her question out, Raven had already turned back for the stairwell, and he was all but ignoring her.
"Hey!" Zelda called out to him. "What do you mean!" She was ready to chase after him, turn him around and press him for questions or something, but he was already gone, the door slamming loudly behind him. Just after Raven's sudden departure, she heard another door open behind her.
"The hell is all the noise out here?"
Zelda whirled around to see one of the doors to the office swinging open, and out poked Link's head.
"You mind not—" He stopped mid-sentence, scratching the back of his head with his left hand that also held a pen, when he saw Zelda. He stared at her for a second—Zelda returning the same lost gaze, before his shoulders fell and leaned against the doorframe "…Oh, it's just you."
Zelda's brow furrowed a second, but she just shrugged him off. She had grown so used to that tone of voice she didn't even question it anymore. Not that that was anything to be proud of.
"What was all that noise just now?" Link asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"…Nothing," Zelda replied quietly as she walked towards him for the door. Should she tell him? Oh, she just ran into your brother who you seem to have so much of a bad relationship with, who verbally attacked her and threatened her to stay away from you. But it was nothing though, so don't even worry about it.
…No, she was probably better off not telling him that much. Yeah, she didn't need anything more complicated, especially at such an ungodly early hour in the morning. "I just walked into a student and got into an argument and told me to watch where I was going and all."
Not the truth. But not really much of a lie, either.
"You actually bumped into them?" He just chuckled wryly, shaking his head. "…Of course you did."
Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "…Shut up. What are you doing here so early anyway?"
"Should be my line," he replied cheekily as she walked past him into the office. He stood up straight and casually pushed the door behind him closed.
"I forgot my notebook here yesterday," Zelda replied as she walked towards her desk. "What about you?"
"Looking over a few of the editors' last page drafts." He walked over to the water heater on the table next to the fridge and turned it off. He peeled off the paper lid cover of his cup of instant noodles and placed it under the heater spout and dispensed the boiling water into the cup.
Zelda nodded quietly and peered over the waist-high bookshelf that was next to her table, and there was her spiral notebook where she had left it. "Well I got what I needed," she said. She picked up the notebook and slipped it into her book bag. "I'll let you get back to your editing, so I'm going to finish my homework in the library. Sorry for interrupting you."
Link looked up from the water dispenser and watched her make her way for the door.
"You didn't interrupt me," he finally spoke. He sat back down at his desk and gently placed the steaming cup of noodles on the desktop, putting his binder on top of it to keep the heat insulated inside to soften the noodles. He put his eyeglasses back on, kicked his shoes off under his desk and brought his legs up to the seat and folded them under him. "You can do your work here if you want to."
Zelda didn't respond right away; she hesitated on whether to take his offer up or not. Wait, no! Don't say yes! Remember Operation Avoid Link!
"It's fine," she quickly shook her head. "I tend to talk to myself when I do my homework," she lied, "so I don't want to bother."
"What's the point of going to the library of all places if you're just going to end up being loud?" He asked almost incredulously.
She stammered for a second. Good Goddesses, did Link have terrible timing in deciding on whether to be rational or not. "I-I—"
"Do you really hate being alone with me that much?"
Zelda froze at that. She turned around to face Link over her shoulder. He was sitting at his desk, his cheek resting on his knuckle. He stared at her from behind his thick wire rim frames. The question just then sounded neither rhetorical nor sarcastic… It actually sounded rather genuine.
It wasn't so much the question itself, but the fact that the way he asked it wasn't in his typical sarcasm was what surprised her. Why was he asking her that? He just shrugged a bit, scratching the back of his head some. "Do you?"
"…I'm going to the library." With that, she quietly left the room, softly closing the door behind her. Link said nothing, nor did he try to stop her. He just sighed softly and with a push of his glasses against the bridge of his nose to prevent them from falling, turned back to the draft in front of him.
"Y-yes, I know," Zelda nodded, cradling her cell phone in the crook of her neck between her cheek and shoulder. "I'm so sorry once again!"
"We're not going to go through the same thing we went through last issue, are we!" The man on the other line demanded, his patience quickly wearing thin.
"No, sir!" She quickly shook her head, as if the man were right in front of her.
She had spent the last ten minutes on the phone with the man from the printing office. That afternoon after business, she was supposed to go to the office to drop off the final proofs for the second issue of the paper. The problem was that they were missing three of them, and at the rate the staff was working, it seemed like they wouldn't have them done on time. They would have been, but Link, being the perfectionist he was and having such terrible timing he had, decided that a few articles in the opinions pages weren't deemed fit enough for publishing and ordered the backup stories be published instead. And that required another session of draft edits and rearrangements to layouts that otherwise would have been completely finished. Today, of all days, he made that decision. She almost felt like he had done it to spite her, since she would be the one who would have to contact the printers should something like a delay occur.
The man sighed so heavily she could almost feel his breath blow through the earpiece. "When will we get your proofs!"
"We only have three more pages to complete!" She answered. "If we could have just one more day—"
"We agreed mutually that today they'd be finished!"
From across the room, Link watched Zelda from his desk, looking up from his computer monitor over to her ever so often.
"I-I know, sir! B-but just this on—"
"Hold on," the man groaned, cutting her off. In the background, she could hear two men talking, but she couldn't quite make out what they were saying. As she waited, she looked down at the desk calendar that lay flat on the tabletop. On today's date she circled multiple times in red rink and wrote in all capitals, "PROOFS DUE." She also wrote it on the large white board calendar in front of the room so everyone could see. What, did no one in the room but her have eyes! It was right there! How come no one could ever get their work in on time!
"Y-yes!" Zelda quipped, jumping slightly at the sudden, sharp mention of her name.
"I'm sorry, but I have to attend a quick meeting," the man said. "But I'm calling back in half an hour from now! We aren't done with this discussion yet!"
"Yes, of course!" Zelda responded hastily. Before she could say a goodbye, though, the man hung up. Setting her phone down, she sighed exasperatedly and picked her pen up. She uncapped it and crossed out "PROOFS DUE" on her calendar, drawing a small sad face next to it.
"Excuse me!" Zelda called out to everyone, getting up from her chair and picking her phone up. The whole staff quieted down, turning to her. "I'm trying to get our deadline pushed back to tomorrow, but it isn't… really going so well. So I really need everyone to work as fast as they can to get our pages done by today so we can actually meet the deadline!"
From the editor's section, Midna just laughed. "Good luck with that!" She exclaimed, her words drenched in sarcasm. "We're definitely gonna need that extension the way we're going now!"
Zelda walked over to her, crossing her arms over her chest in contempt. "That's why I'm asking you all to work faster! We had this deadline set for almost three weeks! Aren't you an editor? You should know better than us how to work under a tight schedule!"
"Zelda," Karane spoke with a sheepish smile, looking up from the group of staffers she was tutoring. "I have to be a bit honest with you, but we've never had a deadline set this early before."
The blonde looked at the orange-haired girl for a second. "…Really?"
"We usually get at least three weeks before we have to submit everything," Saria added. Zelda turned to her.
"You didn't have the publishers set the date for you, did you?" Midna giggled. Zelda didn't respond. It was just as Midna deduced; Zelda had agreed on the deadline the printers proposed, thinking there wouldn't be a problem with it. Midna turned to Link, who was still working on his computer. "Are you sure we made the right decision giving her that job?"
Zelda blushed hotly at that. Of all the editors, aside from Link of course, her relationship with Midna was probably the coolest. Midna was helpful and could actually be nice when she decided she needed to be, but often she did more than her fair share of teasing and sarcastic comments with the rest of the staff.
"Look back at past production schedules," Link finally said to Zelda, though he didn't look up from his monitor. He opened a drawer next to him and pulled out a large, overfilled file of desktop calendar pages and casually dropped it on his desk next to him. "We archive them for a reason, you know. You'll see that Karane, Midna and Saria are right; you let them set the deadline way too early."
She swallowed hard, looking over to the calendar on the white board where she circled the date in bold, red dry eraser marker ink. Was it… Was it really her fault…?
"Y-you never told me about that!" Zelda exclaimed, quickly growing irritated. "Why didn't you tell me sooner when I first told you about the deadline!"
"It's not our job," Link snapped. "That's your department, Newbie. We just go along with what you tell us."
"Well I wouldn't have let them set it so early if I had known what was early and what was late! You never told me you backlog the schedules!"
"You didn't ask."
Her jaw almost dropped. "I told you the day you gave me this job that I didn't know how to do this!"
"And I told you what you have to do!" Link shot back, taking his glasses off and standing up. "Didn't I? And I asked you if you had any more questions, and you said you didn't! Why the hell should I bother with trying to teach you something you don't ask me about!"
"…W-well isn't it better to get things done on time earlier, anyway?" She shrugged. "Finishing early would only add to The Stone's reputation, wouldn't it?"
He just stared at her with this horribly condescending sneer. "Are you that stupid?"
Her eyes widened. What did he just say?
"The Stone is as successful as it is because we take our time," Link sighed. "Would you rather speed through the entire process and produce shit, or give yourself enough time to actually do work well and make it good? The point, Newbie, is that this early deadline of yours threw our pacing off. The printers obviously didn't take you seriously when you agreed to today as the deadline because no one but a rookie would let them do that."
They both hotly glared each other down, the entire room silent with their eyes on the pair. Zelda seriously had had it with Link beyond she could handle. He was just so infuriating, where did he get off! It wasn't his problem? It wasn't his job? Like hell it wasn't his problem and his job! He was the one who gave her the responsibility in the first place!
She was so unbelievably frustrated; she could feel the beginnings of tears starting to form. But not wanting to look weak in front of the staff, and especially in front of Link, she just blinked them away and stormed off, heading for the exit and slamming the doors behind her.
Zelda leaned over the railings on the edge of the north building's roof, a soft breeze gently sweeping past her. She could see the football team practicing in the athletic fields in the distance and the cheerleader squad running through their usual routines on the grassy knoll in the quad. She checked her phone for the time; it was ten minutes before the man from the publishers said he would call back, and she still didn't have a convincing enough argument planned to allow them to have the one day extension.
That Link… He was so unbelievably big headed! She wanted so much to just go back down to the office, look him up in the eye and punch him! She couldn't believe that, even under all the visible amount of stress she was under, that was all he had to say! No words of encouragement, or even a sliver of help. Just 'It's not our job,' and just like that it seemed like he expected her to be able to fix it herself!
But… she knew that as much as she wanted to, she couldn't blame Link for everything. She remembered what Raven had said to her that morning. If she messed up, it was her responsibility for being too careless, not Link's for appointing her. That's what she told him, and she had to own up to that. Yeah, Link dropped the ball in just assuming she could do the job no questions asked… but then she was guilty for the same thing, right? It would be too selfish to force the staff to work faster just because of her mistake.
Accepting responsibility—that was the mature thing to do. Too bad it offered no solution to the problem.
She heard the door to the stairwell open behind her. She looked over her shoulder, and there stood Saria smiling softly at her. Zelda smiled back a bit before turning back to the view before her.
"How are you doing?" Saria asked as she approached her. She leaned forth against the railing next to the blonde.
Zelda sniffled, wiping the last of her tears away. "I'm feeling a little better. Thanks."
"You know, it's okay to cry," Saria patted her on her shoulder. Zelda looked down at her, still smiling a bit, Saria was quite short despite being a senior. She went up to just the middle of Zelda's forearm, maybe an inch or two below her shoulders.
"I think I'm done with that," Zelda chuckled a bit. "But thanks, Saria."
"We've all cried at least once due to stress from business," Saria giggled a bit. "I mean, I've cried a few times last year, so you're not alone! And it's just the beginning of the year, so you'll see others cry too if it makes you feel better!"
Zelda couldn't help but laugh at that, the idea of feeling better because someone else was crying. Oddly enough, though, it still cheered her up. In a bit of an ironic sort of way, she supposed. "I-I'll definitely keep that in mind."
Saria sighed a bit, calming her laughing down. "As long as you're feeling better… Link really should have been more direct with you in how to negotiate deadlines with the printers, though."
The blonde chuckled wryly at that shaking her head. "Nooo kidding…"
"But the other editors and I should have known!" Saria adjusted the hairband that pushed her shoulder length light green hair back. "What with how Link is and everything… But I really don't think he made a mistake in givng that job to you and not someone else."
Zelda turned to her at that.
"I mean, we all had our doubts to be honest, since you just barely started writing for us," Saria added. "Business manager is one of the jobs that usually only second year staff members get."
The taller girl sighed, resting her cheek on her palm. "…Then why did he give me the job? I even told him that he should have given it to an executive…"
Saria shrugged her shoulders, honestly unable to come up with a reason. "I can't read his mind, but he must have had a good reason. I mean, he insisted that it be you."
Zelda looked down at her for a second. Did he really? …Why was that?
The two girls heard the stairwell door open again. They turned around to see who it was that opened it, and saw it was Link. His hands were in his pockets, his shoulders slumped casually a bit. Zelda furrowed her brow at him. He really was the last person she wanted to see.
Link just stood across from them for a few seconds before clearing his throat softly. "Saria," he started, pointing his thumb behind him to the door. "Get back to work. Your pages are the ones that are still missing."
The green-haired girl nodded quickly. "Sorry." She flashed Zelda a quick smile before jogging towards the door. As she passed Link, he reached down and ruffled her short hair a bit. She playfully swatted his hand away from her, shaking her head with a giggle, before opening the door and leaving the two blonds alone, softly closing it behind her. Link looked back at Zelda. Her back was turned to him; she was too busy staring out into the distance and trying to forget he was there. He just took in a soft breath before walking over to her.
Zelda just ignored him as he stood next to her. Go away! She left the office for a reason!
"…What?" Zelda sighed heavily, scratching the crown of her head and pulling her hair back with her fingers in one fluid motion. She didn't look at him though. "Gonna insult me some more?"
Link said nothing. He just reached into his pocket and pulled out a small folded piece of notebook paper and handed it to her. She eyed it for a second before speaking again. "…What is that?"
"Just take it," he snapped back. Zelda shot him a dirty look, as if to yell 'Don't talk to me like that!', before swiping it from between his thumb and index finger. She unfolded it and saw in Link's handwriting a bulleted list of what looked like directions.
She shrugged. "What am I supposed to do with this?"
"Tips," he replied. He folded his arms and rested them against the railing. "On how to deal with the publishers. You're too direct. Just watching you argue with them pissed me off."
"Tch!" Zelda scoffed, crumpling the paper in her fist.
"What?" He cocked an eyebrow, turning his body to face her. "Are you gonna cry?"
"No!" She retorted, her face flushing deeply. She opened her mouth to say something, but her phone interrupted, vibrating in her hand. She looked at the caller ID on the screen. It was the man from the printing office again.
Link shrugged a bit after her phone vibrated a few times. "Is that them? …Aren't you going to answer it?"
"…Yeah," she muttered under her breath and sliding her thumb across the screen to answer the call. "…Hello?"
Zelda walked away from Link, wanting to talk to the man more privately. In her free hand, she uncrumpled the paper Link gave her and unfolded it, skimming through his directions. Link watched her quietly before deciding to leave her be. Pushing himself off the railing, he walked back towards the door to the stairwell, closing it softly behind him, leaving Zelda alone.
Zelda opened the refrigerator, reaching inside for a can of Blue Potion.
"How did it go?" Link asked her from in front of the copy machine.
"…They agreed to extend our deadline to tomorrow," she replied nonchalantly. She held the can away from her at arm's length as she snapped the tab, the liquid inside fizzing audibly.
"Of course they did," he snorted in a smug, matter-of-fact tone. "You followed my directions, didn't you?"
She just scoffed and took a sip of her soda. The truth is, Link was right. When the printer called, she swallowed her pride and—albeit grudgingly, followed the steps Link had written out for her. The negotiation went much more smoothly than she imagined, actually, after doing so. The man still seemed a bit upset, but he sounded much more willing to allow the extension than when she had tried to argue for it herself—without Link's help.
As soon as the copy machine finished, he took the original paper from under the lid and took his freshly warm copies off the tray. On his way to walking back to his desk, without looking he reached over and ruffled his hand on top of the crown of Zelda's head, his fingers trailing through her long tresses.
"Good work," he said to her, genuinely meaning it. He froze in his steps when he felt her hand grasp firmly yet gently around his wrist. He turned over his shoulder to look at her. She was looking away from him, but her cheeks were that same old flushed hot pink. She slowly lifted his hand off her head and down to his side, some long strands combing out between his fingers as he did so.
"…Don't do that," she finally said, letting go of his wrist. He just stared blankly at her for a few seconds before sighing a bit and walking back to his desk.
"Okay!" Link spoke loudly to the staff. From the corner of his eye, he saw Zelda walking back to her desk, quietly drinking her soda. "Listen up!"
Everyone turned over to him as he stood between his desk and swivel chair. "We got our extension, but just for tomorrow! You can all thank our Newbie later."
He looked over to Zelda, who just listlessly waved her hand over her shoulder to him as she took her seat. He chuckled inwardly at that.
"Be sure to get everything done by tomorrow!" He said, turning his direction back to the staff. "And I'm not playin' around this time!"
The staff nodded in agreement, quickly going back to business as Link sat down. He glanced over to Zelda, who, unfortunately for her, was looking over at him at the same time. They made eye contact for a second, before Zelda's brow furrowed and she looked away, nervously combing her fingers through her hair. Link just smiled inwardly to himself, putting his glasses back on, and opened a word processing window on his computer.
The next day, Zelda nonchalantly walked down the stairs leading to the subway station. It was still the middle of the week; she couldn't wait for it to be Friday already so she didn't have to worry about school or The Stone for just a few days. She had actually thought of faking sickness by warming her forehead with her hair dryer like she used to do when she was a kid so she could just take the day off and spend it reading fan fiction online like she wanted, but she somehow resolved herself to get up and get ready for school. Besides, she was going to have to go the printing office to drop the proofs off later in the afternoon. No way was she going to put that off after what happened yesterday.
It really was some sort of miracle that they allowed the extension; especially with how badly delayed they were with last month's issue, she didn't think even with Link's advice they would agree. No matter how much she hated to admit it, she supposed she owed Link some sort of thanks for that.
She turned the corner and made her way for one of the automatic ticket dispensers, getting her subway pass out of her wallet, when she noticed someone standing before it. And given the way he glanced back and forth between the ticket booth monitor and the large map of the subway routes on the wall in front of him, he definitely looked, to say the least, quite lost.
It was Link.
Zelda furrowed her brow at the sight of him. What was he doing? Didn't he have a car? Why was he bothering with the subway?
"…What are you doing?" Zelda asked curiously as she approached him. Link looked over his shoulder to her, crossing his arms as he did so.
"…Trying to figure out how to work this damn subway ticket shit," he replied coolly as he scratched his head. "I don't know how the hell everyone does it all the time."
She cocked an eyebrow at that. "Wait, you've never taken the subway before?"
Link just kind of scoffed at that, looking away.
Zelda studied him for a bit. He almost looked… embarrassed. Wait! Link? Link Avalon? Link Avalon, embarrassed! Oh Goddesses, this was way too good to be true! She thought she would never see the day that Link of all people would look so lost and helpless! Oh Nayru, why wasn't the rest of the staff there to see it!
"The hell are you laughing at?" He snapped at her when he noticed her trying to stifle a small giggle.
"N-nothing!" Zelda held her hands up defensively. "But Goddesses, who doesn't know how to take the subway?"
"…I drive everywhere," he admitted quietly, scratching his waist.
"Then why are you even bothering with something so pedestrian like the subway if you got yourself that nice green sports car?" Zelda chortled mockingly, crossing her arms over her chest. For the past month and a half, it was always Link antagonizing and poking fun at her. Now that it was the other way around, there was no way in the Sacred Realm that she was going to let his chance pass up!
"Because you don't want to ride with me when I drive to school."
She stopped laughing almost instantly at that. What was that just now? Was he being serious? He couldn't be serious! He was joking! Wait, she couldn't tell! Link was just too damn good at poker facing that it was almost impossible to tell the difference between him joking and being serious!
But since the day he told her that they live in the same building, Link's always casually offered to take her to school and drive her home, saying it would be more convenient for her. But of course, she always refused. And of course, she never gave him a straight reason whenever he asked why.
"…Here," Zelda finally pushed him aside with a snort of contempt and pressed a few buttons on the monitor. "The station you want is Castle Town Prep—East Campus. Obviously." She pointed at the station stop on the map. "See? And you're charged by the distance, so you're gonna pay three rupees."
She offered her hand out to Link, and he quietly dropped three green rupees into her palm.
"…And there." The machine whirred a bit, beeping as it printed out Link's ticket. She swiped the small stub out of the dispenser and handed it to him.
"Thanks," he muttered quietly, taking it as he slipped wallet into his back pocket.
"Yeah," she shrugged, swiping her subway pass. "…And thank you, by the way… You know, for the tips and all that."
As soon as she was done, the two walked together towards the boarding platform where a crowd of people were waiting for the next train to arrive.
"Don't mention it," Link replied casually. He reached over and ruffled her hair again, but Zelda quickly pushed him away the second his palm made contact with her head.
"Hey!" She glared at him, stopping in her tracks. She patted her hair down, trying to hide the growing blush in her cheeks. "I thought I told you to quit doing that!"
Link just shrugged her off, smirking cheekily. "Last I checked, you weren't my superior. You still don't have my job like you said you would." He leaned forward so that they were at eye level and added in a taunting voice, "So I don't have to do a thing you say."
Zelda's cheeks burned, but not from embarrassment. Oh, this time it was far from embarrassment.
Some quick anonymous review responses:
Lauparisi: Yes, The Gossip Stone is a monthly school newspaper. The one I worked for was as well too, haha. Sorry, I should have made that a bit more clear.
Anon: Hahaha, thank you very much for reading and I'm glad you've been enjoying so far! But please don't deprive yourself of sleep on account of me! There are so many other active authors and stories much better than me. I don't deserve that kind of attention D;
Another thing that I should have addressed much earlier on (like before the beginning of the first chatper) is that despite this being set in a high school theme, the typical themes and tropes are (I'd like to say) much more downplayed in this story compared to my other stories that are also set in a school setting, and presumably the many others in the Zelda fandom as well, and instead focuses much more on the inner workings of The Stone and Link and Zelda's relationship. I thought I should point that out for anyone who may have been wondering.
That said, thank you all very much for putting up with me! Feedback, especially constructive in nature, is of course greatly appreciated. :]
Enjoy Life and Smile.