Hitomi Hyuga

My instructions were simple:

Watch the Hero from afar. Keep silent vigils over him at all times, only interacting when absolutely necessary. You are to stay hidden. You are permitted to engage in combat only when immediately threatened. Disobeying your orders could result in termination of your position; you know very well what follows that.

I shuddered as the memory of my commander giving these orders flashed across my mind's eye. Just the look of him was enough to send chills up my back, let alone hearing him bark orders a hair's breadth from my face. Of course, it wasn't just the man's severe, rugged appearance or his daunting voice that had made these particular orders so frightening. It was how crucial the mission was to the fate of Hyrule. I was keeping watch over the Hero of Time himself, assuring that he remain safe and on task, lest the kingdom fall to the Gerudo king.

The idea of the task itself is actually quite simple; after all, it was a tracking and observation mission. It was nothing I hadn't done a thousand times in the past with many would-be royal assassins. If that were the case, then why did the very same orders suddenly fill me to the brim with anxiety? A silly question, of course; as mentioned, it was crucial that I follow orders and assure the safety of the Hero. Any unfortunate mishap and his quest could be halted without warning. It was a task that kept me awake for weeks on end, only allowing me to rest when the Hero entered into one of the five sacred temples where I was forbidden entry. I could almost feel the dark purplish circles under my eyes as if they weighed me down. My muscles tightened and knotted the longer I stayed awake, and even more so when I was more or less forced to hide in a stationary position. A person who had never seen me before would likely have been able to tell that the mission was wearing on me physically and mentally. And yet I remained diligent.

It was on a clear, starry night that I reflected upon these thoughts. The Hero had set up camp a few miles outside of Kakariko Village after conquering the beast that dwelled within the catacombs of the Shadow Temple, and he was en route to Gerudo Fortress. I saw him enter his tent a few hours after sundown, the remnants of his campfire now only a few glowing embers. I leapt down from the tree I had been watching him from and leaned against the trunk; immediately, the tension in my muscles loosened a bit and I could breathe a sigh of relief. There shouldn't be any enemies for miles after the Hero's handiwork, I thought. The Hero's journeys through each temple would, little by little, eradicate the evil that had enveloped the kingdom. I noticed a significant decrease in the amount of monsters that roamed the fields, patrolled strongholds, and lied in wait for unsuspecting prey. Given this opportunity, I reached into the pouch strapped to my leg and withdrew a match and a cigarette from my dwindling supply. A disgusting habit, I knew, but I felt I could allow it just once for the sake of preserving my sanity.

"Those are bad for you, you know."

In an instant, my adrenaline was pumping and I was crouching into a defensive position, ready to strike. Instinctively, my hand flew to the throwing daggers tucked into my boot. The Hero held up both hands. "Easy, I'm unarmed."

I scowled at him. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to sneak up on trained assassins?"

"Yeah, right after she taught me to lace up my boots," retorted the Hero. "Of course, I never assumed you were an assassin, with the way you follow me around all the time."

My heart dropped. Instead of snapping back at him, I turned my back to him and took the first heavenly drag on my cigarette. I could feel the Hero's eyes on me, staring me down. He leaned against the tree and stared down at his boots. Then he glanced at my cigarette. "Got another one of those?"

"I thought they were bad for you," I said coolly, blowing a stream of smoke down toward the ground. As if I'm going to waste one of these on the likes of you, you rude little prick.

"And I thought Sheikah weren't supposed to have any vices," said the Hero. "That makes us even, don't you think?"

I found myself at a loss for words. Touché, Hero. Keeping my eyes forward, I took out another cigarette and match and passed it to him. He smoothly struck the match on the heel of his boot and lit up. "Thanks, man. I owe you one." I rolled my eyes. You'd better; you've just set me back an extra smoke. I'm coming after you when I finally lose my mind over this mission.

"So why have you been following me anyway?" asked the Hero, the cigarette still in his mouth. No manners, this one. "And for how long?"

Inconspicuously, as if to show him how to handle a smoke properly, I dragged and lifted the cigarette away from my lips with my index and middle fingers. "It's none of your concern."

"Well, if I'm being stalked I'd like to know," said the Hero snidely. "And another thing: this is the first time I've really talked to you. Every time I see you, you give me this long speech, a warp song, and then you just disappear."

"And I'm risking my damn neck just by having this conversation with you!" I snapped. In a huff, I snuffed out my cigarette and teleported away under the blinding flash of a Deku nut. Unbeknownst to the Hero, I wasn't far away; only up into a tree a few feet away from his tent. Angry as I was, I still had to keep an eye on him.

The Hero kicked the dirt beneath him dejectedly as a faint, tiny blue light emerged from under his signature green cap.

"I told you you'd never get close to him," said the Hero's fairy companion, her trilling voice piercing the silence like a whistle.

"Then what would you call that, Navi?" asked the Hero. "I'd dare to call that a conversation, wouldn't you?"

"A short one, maybe," scoffed the fairy.

"It's a start," said the Hero hopefully. With that, the duo retreated into the tent and didn't emerge again until morning.

Even though I was still irate about losing a cigarette to the Hero and wasting my own by hiding from him, my mind could no longer focus on being angry. The Hero's words echoed in my mind. "It's a start." A start to what?

Three nights had passed since that encounter, and I was still uneasy in thought and deed. I hid from the Hero with more effort, lest my cover be blown again. The Hero continued his quest, journeying to the Gerudo Desert. The night he arrived in the valley, he camped out in the carpenter's tent, resting before infiltrating the fortress the next morning. I myself took refuge on a nearby crag overlooking the destroyed bridge and gate into the fortress. On the other side, I had a clear (albeit distant) view of the Gerudo Fortress. Warriors clad in scanty purple uniforms and armed with ornamentally-bladed lances patrolled all over the fortress. They know he's coming. They're waiting for him.

I shifted my focus back to the tent, where I could hear the Hero and Mutoh, the carpenters' leader, chatting and occasionally laughing uproariously. How the hell can the Hero just waste time like that? He has a quest he needs to focus on! I shook my head and chalked it up to the empty liquor bottle that had been tossed outside the tent.

I kept an eye on the fortress as the Hero slept, watching for any patterns that might give away any weak point in the Gerudos' defense. All through the night, guards rotated in and out of duty, not giving way to apathy or lethargy. It was an iron-strong defense, but if anyone had a chance of breaking it and earning the desert warriors' trust, it had to be the Hero. All I could do was watch.

The next morning, I moved along the outlying crags as I observed the Hero. He was a bit slow to his arrival in the fortress, thanks to a monstrous hangover. It was all I could do not to hang my head as I watched him stagger up the mountain pass, holding his hand to his forehead and grimacing at the morning sunlight. I glanced at the first gate into the fortress, where two sentries stood atop watchtowers with spyglasses; and the Hero was none the wiser. He was getting ready to walk right into their hands.

Alarmed, completely disregarding my role in the mission, I leapt closer to the sentries and immediately drew my sedative-tipped throwing needles. With a direct hit to the neck, both women would be unconscious for several hours. Before the Hero could come close enough for them to spot him, I skillfully took them out, one at a time. The nearest sentry, when hit, wavered a bit before collapsing on the floor of the tower. The other noticed her partner's fall and began calling out her name (was it Aida? Aliya? She was speaking so quickly I couldn't quite make it out). Before she could flag over her Gerudo comrades with the commotion, I readied another throwing needle. At that precise moment, the remaining sentry looked up at me, eyes widened in a fiery anger.

"Satru! Satru!" she cried out, waving her arms toward the fortress and pointing in my direction. While she was distracted, I threw the needle with impeccable accuracy and nailed her in the neck, leaping out of sight lest my cover be blown.

I expected her to succumb to the sedation like her partner: simply crumpling into a heap. However, I didn't count on her being much of a fighter. The woman's speech became slow and difficult to understand; she soon had to hold herself up by the rails of the tower. It took a good minute and a half of yelling and weakly waving her hand toward her approaching comrades before it was futile to worry about them being alerted. She gave her comrades plenty of time to arrive before she finally went under, her body hanging limply over the tower.

"That one, there's the intruder!" one called. "Hot damn! Looks like we've got ourselves a strong one!" I was taken aback by the use of the Hylian language after the second sentry had used that of the Gerudo. How this thought came to me as I believed I was being chased I'm not sure. It probably came with the knowledge that I could easily escape, even though I'd been sighted. As it turned out, I wasn't the one being chased.

The Hero happened to come teetering up the pass just as the guards had been alerted.

In an instant, he was bound, gagged, and knocked unconscious by a blow to the head. They clearly realized the significance of their catch, because the warriors all cheered and cuffed each other on the shoulder as they dragged away their prey. My blood ran cold as I could feel my jaw clench.

"You are permitted to engage in combat only when immediately threatened. Disobeying your orders could result in termination of your position; you know very well what follows that."

I shivered as the orders of my commander echoed in my mind. I wanted so badly to tear at the ends of my hair, to scream out of frustration at my own stupidity. I seized my cowl, removing my only means of disguise, and threw it to the dusty ground. In my fit of rage, I threw a powerful blow, which landed on the wall of the crag behind which I was hiding; my fist became an epicenter, sending waves of pain from my hand all the way up to my bicep. I gritted my teeth and held my hand, watching blood roll down my wrist and stain my bandages, the pain bringing me back down from my momentary loss of control.

You fucked up, Sheik, I told myself. You did the opposite of what you were told. You let your emotions get the better of you, and now the Hero has been captured.

Another voice, another part of me, piped up in my mind. You couldn't stand to see him walk so easily into their hands, could you? The man was a sitting duck, so you intervened and tried to make it a little easier. You were only trying to help, but why?

It's crucial that he not be hindered in his quest. It didn't occur to me that I was having a mental conversation with myself until a long time after; considering the outcome, I find it best that I don't question it. It was my sole duty to watch over him and protect him. Instead, I was counterproductive and may have jeopardized the mission. The Gerudo are sided with the Evil King, who knows what they're going to do to him?

And is bitching about it going to break him free and gain access to the Haunted Wastelands? I think not. I stopped myself, realizing what I was doing. Come on, follow your emotions just a little more and help him out. The commander would forgive you for this, not for sitting on your ass and idly waiting for the Hero to figure it out for himself.

With that, I tied my cowl back over my face and wiped the remaining blood from my hand. It was time to atone for my sins.

After the Hero's capture, it seemed that the Gerudo let down their watch; I waited in a closer pass until dusk, watching their every move. Gone were the guard rotations, as well as the sentries stationed at every opening. How could a tribe of such apt warriors be so foolishly short-sighted? Chosen one or not, any soldier is bound to have some kind of backup.

Wondering aside, I certainly wasn't about to complain about the lack of security; from where I stood, I could see a stone brick tower with a single high window at the top, covered by a wooden slab. Chances were that was where I was going to find the Hero. Thanks to the lowered defenses, I was easily able to sneak past the main center of the fortress. I noticed light coming from several windows, along with loud, hearty laughter. Hn, seems a bit early to celebrate, ladies.

I leapt onto the window of the stone tower; I had wondered why there was only the wood and no metal bars to prevent prisoners from escaping, but my question was answered as soon as I gazed down into the prison. There was no door leading into the fortress at the bottom. I could see the faint blue light of his fairy companion, confirming my premonition. There was only a single torch illuminating a sand floor and rusted iron shackles to which the Hero was bound, arms up, head hanging in shame.

He looked up at the sound of the creaking wood; I could see the scowl emerging on his face as he glared down at the floor. "If you've come to kill me, get it over with. No fucking nonsense."

I leapt down the wall and landed gracefully, soundlessly, in front of him. "Some hero you turned out to be. Maybe I won't help you break out after all." I turned my back to him, making like I was going to leave. I smirked as I heard the chains rattle violently behind me.

"What're you doing?! How'd you make it past the guards?!" he demanded, an odd mixture of relief and anger expressed in his voice.

"Does it matter now? What matters is that the coast is clear and you've their trust to earn," I said, taking out one of my throwing needles. The fairy emerged from behind the Hero's head and watched as I inserted the needle into the lock on his right arm.

"You're using that to pick a lock? It's a straight edge, what good will it do?" she piped.
"It's an old lock," I said, jimmying it about, listening for a tumbler. "If I can break the inner mechanism, it should open up."

The Hero held up his left wrist, eyeing the cuff locked around it. "How long do you think it'll take? I've got a score to settle with those women!"

"Be patient; I should have it off as soon as…" I trailed off as I watched him smash his wrist against the stone wall several times. He cried out in pain with the last hit, and he held his arm close to his chest as the shackle clattered to the ground.

I stared at him. "…are you insane?"

The Hero gave me a grin. "Got it off before you did."

I snatched his right wrist back. "And it's not happening again. We can't have you trying to infiltrate the fortress with two broken wrists."

The fairy flew right in front of my face. "How're we getting him out of here? There's no ladder or door anywhere in here!"

I stopped my work and looked at her. I then realized that this was the first time I'd seen her so close. I'd only ever seen her from a distance, as a glowing orb. But upon this encounter, I noticed that she was just like a tiny Hylian; she wore what looked like a dress fashioned from leaves, and her hair reached down her tiny back. I snapped out of my daze. "Where's his equipment? The longshot ought to reach that shutter up there."

"They took my pack when they captured me, I don't know where my stuff is," the Hero growled, still wincing at the pain of his wrist. He has to at least have a hairline fracture, I thought.

"I don't have a rope or anything," I said, gazing up at the window. "Even if I did, it wouldn't do us any good; there's nothing for you to hang on." I glanced over at the fairy, who was hovering worriedly over the Hero. "I don't suppose she can bring it all back to you."

"I'm not quite that strong," said the fairy, shrugging regretfully. That's when it occurred to me.

"You! You're small enough to sneak into the fortress unnoticed! You can find where they've hidden his pack, and come back and tell me so I can find it!"

She looked at me skeptically. "I dunno…what if I get caught?"

I held out the palm of my hand for her to stand on. "There's a chance that could happen. But we need you to be brave and do your best. As soon as you find it, come back as quickly as possible and lead me to it. Once I have it, I'll take care of getting it back. Do you think you can do it?"

The fairy, after a moment of contemplating, held her tiny head high. "I can do it!"

I lowered my cowl a bit and gave her a rare, sincere smile and held her up toward the window. "Go on, we're counting on you." With a flourish, the fairy speed up and out the window. I sighed and held my forehead, hoping I'd made the right choice.

"What was that all about?" said the Hero with disgust. I looked at him blankly and raised an eyebrow. "You know what I mean. 'We need you to be brave and do your best.' Since when are you not a condescending ass?"

"Do you want to get your things back or not?" I retorted coolly. The Hero began to speak, but faltered and looked down at the ground.

"Well are you at least going to get me out of this?" he asked crestfallenly, rattling the chains to which his wrist was still bound. I smirked again. Like a child, this one is. Smugly, I picked up the needle again and restarted my attempt at picking the lock. As I worked, the Hero watched me with soft eyes, not unlike those of a young child.

"I appreciate what you're doing for me," he said embarrassedly. "I can't believe I walked right into their hands like that."

"You really shouldn't have been drinking last night," I scolded.

"Heh, so you were still following me," he said, grinning. "And here I thought you were just going to leave me behind after the way you stormed off that night."

That night? Oh, he means just outside of Kakariko… "Technically, I'm not supposed to be interacting with you at all. That's why I ran off: I was disobeying orders."

"Disobeying orders? You were ordered to follow me everywhere?" The Hero almost looked hurt.

"Don't give me that look," I scoffed. "By the order of the princess, I am to keep watch on you at all times and intervene should serious complications arise."

"The princess," said the Hero vacantly. After a moment, he snapped out of it and glared at me. "Hey, you never answered my question!" After another snide glance, he clarified. "Why the sudden change of heart with Navi? How come you're such an ass to me when I haven't done anything to you?"

"The fairy…"

"Navi," he corrected.

"Right, sorry. Navi needed encouragement to get that pack, she didn't look confident. I can turn it on when I need to."

"Okay, so why were you so mean to me that night, then?"

I sighed. "I don't really know. I guess I was mad at you for startling me, then taking one of my cigarettes…"

"That's it? Because I took a cigarette?" He looked hurt at this point.

"Oh come now, I've only got a limited supply," I said, raising my chin above the line of my cowl giving him a small grin to set him at ease. "With this world of shit we're in right now, a man has to keep his sanity."

The Hero, after a long silence, finally returned my smile. "Okay, I'll give you that. But hey, I'll make it up to you somehow."

I all but disregarded his words as I finally finished picking the lock. The shackle clattered to the sand with the other one, and the Hero stretched out his now free wrist. "Thanks for that," he said, holding his hurt wrist with his good hand.

I delicately took his hurt wrist, gently shushing him as I carefully prodded each inch of it. When I reached around the base of his hand, he cringed and whimpered, again like a small child. "It'll be okay, it's a sprain, a hairline fracture at most."

"How the hell am I supposed to fight?" he asked. "I'm left-handed; I can't switch on short notice!"

I was going to answer him, but a tiny blue light at the top of the tower diverted my attention. The fairy, er…Navi, flew down to us, brimming with excitement.

"I found it! I did it!" she said proudly. I smiled at her again.

"Okay, Navi, take me to it," I said, preparing to leap up the stone tower walls.

"Wait, what about me?" demanded the Hero. "What if they come back while you're away?"

I looked at him. "How in the world would they get down here, let alone get you out?" Again, the Hero faltered and then fell silent. I could hear Navi suppressing a giggle. "Come along, Navi." With the gentle grace beaten into me by training, I leapt up the walls, making a zigzag path up the tower. I soundlessly landed under the wooden shutter.

"Hurry with that, promise?!" called the Hero. Giving him another smile, I held up a hand to seal the promise before leaping out of the tower and onto a nearby building.

Huh, the Hero's not bad company once you get used to him… I caught myself thinking. I shook the thought out of my head and followed the fairy into the fort, where the first challenge was waiting.

"That's it right there!" said Navi, pointing down the hall into the next room. I sighed in relief; it was out in the open, not far from an exit. I thanked the goddesses and my lucky stars that the Gerudo were careless enough to leave a hero's weapons where anyone could get them.

The two of us began to rummage through the pack, making sure nothing had been removed. Sure enough, all of the Hero's weapons, including the Fairy Bow, his bomb bag, and the Longshot, hadn't been touched. All five bottles he had collected were perfectly intact, one still full of red potion. However, even though all of his other tools and weapons were still there, two crucial items were still missing.

"Navi, did you see his shield and the Master Sword?" I asked.

Her tiny eyes widened. "I-I don't know…I didn't see it when I came here earlier…"

"They must have taken them elsewhere in the fortress," I said. I held out my palm again for her to land on; I felt sorry for her as she wiped away tears. "You did a phenomenal job; I can handle it from here. You go back to the Hero and tell him what happened."

Navi sniffled. "Okay…" Before she could fly off, I stopped her. I reached into the pack and took out the bottle of red potion.

"If you can carry this back to the tower, give this to the Hero. It'll give him ample time to heal before he goes into combat." Navi nodded devotedly and took the bottle by the neck in both hands. It was tough going at first, but I had complete confidence she could get the potion back to the Hero.

With her leave, I took the Hero's pack and slung it around my shoulder. Hm…now if I were an intruder's sword and shield, where would I be hidden? Based on my own experiences with infiltration (usually included the homes of assassin suspects), it would be hidden in a high-traffic area, where its absence would be easily noticed and its captor could be easily caught in the act. You just want to make my life hell, don't you ladies?

I resigned to my task and delved deeper into the fortress. Fortunately, it seemed that most of the warriors were completely intoxicated, either unconscious or still raving in a drunken stupor. I actually found that I could simply tiptoe past certain rooms without having to employ my infiltration skills, the women were that out of it. I explored several floors of the fortress to no avail; they may have let down their guard, but they certainly didn't spare any preemptive measures when it came to hiding his weapons.

It wasn't until I got to the basement level that I felt like I was close to my goal; this area had less chambers and larger, decorated hallways. Beautiful tapestries, often portraying warriors and past leaders, hung on the walls. I combed out every part of this floor, sometimes taking a moment to admire their handiwork.

I eventually came to a heavy wooden door, bolted shut with an iron lock. Given my luck with the rest of the fortress, I knew that I would have to take a chance here. The lock was massive, but it certainly didn't look impenetrable; it looked old, with a light coat of rust on its surface. I stood there for a moment, pondering the best way to get it off and open the door. My first thought went to the satchel of items I was now carrying; there were a lot of potential solutions thanks to the Hero. A bomb was out of the question, as effective as it may have been. It would certainly break the lock, and most likely the door as well, but I couldn't afford to draw that much attention to myself, lest I get caught as well.

At last, I decided on the Megaton Hammer. It wouldn't make a lot of noise, and it would still get the job done in one easy strike. I removed it from the satchel and gripped the handle with both hands, amazed at its lightness. With one big swing, the old lock was instantly shattered and the door was open.

"Clever boy!" I wheeled around, only to be struck in the side and taken down by a powerful punch. A warrior, garbed in a much less modest (at least compared to the sentries) attire, smirked. "Trying to sneak up on us on a night like this? Very heroic, indeed, not the least bit cowardly!" Instead of indulging her, I got back up and charged her head-on. She laughed and leapt right over me with a grace I almost envied.

"Looks like we have another prisoner on our hands! Aveil will be so pleased!" To my great fortune, she was far too cocky to notice that I had taken out a dagger from my wraps. However, instead of killing her, I slammed the hilt into the back of her head. She collapsed to the floor, eyes wide open. Of course, I couldn't just leave her there, lest she wake up and alert her comrades. On the other hand, killing her could make the Gerudo very wary to let the Hero gain passage to the Haunted Wastelands.

I took the safe route, tying her hands and feet together and covering her mouth with bandages. I found a small alcove near one of the tapestries, and I placed her limp, sleeping body inside and covered it up with the tapestry.

To my great relief, the Master Sword and the Hero's Hylian shield were placed against the far wall in the room behind the heavy wooden door. I almost felt that I'd had it too easy with this short mission; almost no enemy encounters, no cryptic hiding place for my goal, and an easy exit. I stopped myself with this thought. Did I really almost complain about an easy mission? I really need to get my head out of my ass. At that, I took my leave and made my way back to the Hero.

I grinned to myself. Now the quest can resume.

I couldn't help but find the Hero's trek through the fortress rather boring and uneventful. Again, like with my mission to find his sword and shield, there were no feasible obstacles. On the other hand, it was going to take him slightly longer to infiltrate because of a promise he had made to Mutoh the night before.

"What do you mean? His team was captured by the Gerudo?" I had asked him when I made it back to the tower.

"Yeah, they lured the carpenters in with promises of becoming lords or something, and then threw them in prison," he had answered, reequipping his weapons.

I had snorted. "Sounds like they got what was coming to them. Are they even worth rescuing?" I will never forget the look the Hero gave me when I said that, a look of disgust.

"I promised him I'd do it, alright? And I'm not about to break a promise." After that, I held my tongue and simply helped him in any way I saw possible.

Now, as I watched the Gerudo suddenly scramble to get out of their states of inebriation and deal with an intruder, I knew that the Hero wouldn't need me to help him out of this mission. He proved to be more than proficient enough to pull it off. All I had to do now was watch.

One by one, men I assumed were Mutoh's carpenters made their way out of the fortress and back out to their boss, looking absolutely frightened. I snorted again, wondering how the Gerudo intimidated their prisoners, especially such dim ones. After a fourth man exited, I leapt to a nearby window on the building he left. Sure enough, the Hero was in there, going hand-to-hand with another scantily-clad warrior wielding two deadly-looking scimitars. After the events of the night, I would normally feel obligated to help him, but he seemed to be holding his own against the woman. She proved to be a more than worthy adversary; the fight went on for several minutes, and the Hero was beginning to tire out.

At that moment, I heard shouting from outside the building. A group of warriors, led by one bobbed-hair, modest woman, were gathering and pointing at the building where the fight was taking place. Again, I panicked, knowing that they would surely throw the Hero back in the dungeon if they overtook him.

However, this time I knew exactly how I could help the Hero without hindering him, unlike the last time I tried to be preemptive. I took a dagger from my wraps and, with careful timing, threw it toward the Gerudo warrior. It hissed through the air and embedded itself in a crack in the stone wall behind her. Fortunately for the Hero, she was momentarily distracted, and he was able to land a final blow to her temple with the hilt of the Master Sword.

The Hero whirled around and glanced at the window where I had been standing. He smiled sincerely and gestured for me to come in, an invitation I accepted.

"I could've finished her off, you know!" he said. Despite his complaint, his eyes told me he appreciated the help. I raised a hand and clapped him on the shoulder, but he quickly moved my hand and embraced me in a bear hug. I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks. Why is this embarrassing?

Who cares? Enjoy it!I shook my head at the second voice, the other part of me, in my head and hugged the Hero back.

"I know, I just thought you could use a hand," I said. "Besides, the Gerudo are on their way here, you'd better get out soon."

"Are you kidding? I just freed those men, like I promised, and took down four of their strongest fighters! Who else is there to stop me?" He almost seemed to puff out his chest with this statement.

"Okay, if you insist." Somehow I knew there would be no changing his mind. "Just be wary of any attack formations they may take, since it's a pretty sizable group of them."

"Fine," said the Hero. "I have to thank you; you've saved my ass twice in one night, not to mention got the quest back on track. If it weren't for you, I'd still be stuck in that tower."

"It was nothing, just following orders," I said.

"Oh, it was more than that," said the Hero, putting his hands on his hips. "You didn't have to send Navi back with a potion, and you certainly didn't have to knock out that warrior a second ago. You're going above and beyond the call of duty."

I shrugged. "Again it was…"

"No. Don't say it was nothing, because it wasn't. After everything you've done for me, I could call you one of my best friends." I pulled up my cowl so he couldn't see me blushing again.

A door slammed nearby, indicating that the Gerudo were on their way. The Hero sheathed his sword and faced the door. The small group shuffled into the cell room.

"So you're the one causing all this trouble," said the woman with the bobbed hair. "You've got a lot of nerve, kid, coming in here and releasing those prisoners."

"I only did it for the sake of the land," I heard him say.

"Good answer," said the bobbed-hair woman with a small chuckle. "I am Aveil, second-in-command to the exalted Nabooru. And to whom am I addressing myself?"

"Call me Link," said the Hero. "This is my partner, Navi." I could hear the fairy's wings beating as she flew.

"I must say, it was pretty impressive how you managed to get out of that tower and infiltrate the fortress," said Aveil.

"Oh, I didn't do it alone!" said the Hero proudly. "I had a lot of help from…" He faltered as he presumably turned around to gesture to where I had been standing. What he didn't know was that I had left the building as soon as the women entered it. I was listening to everything that was happening from the roof, just above the window.

"Well however you did it, it was pretty god-damn impressive," said Aveil gruffly. "Looks like we aren't enemies after all, since you are the Hero of Time we've heard so much about. Word is that you plan to vanquish the evil within the Spirit Temple, do you not?"

The Hero seemed distant when he answered them. "Yeah, that's right. I'd like your permission to enter the Haunted Wastelands and the Desert Colossus."

"For the Hero of Time, so be it," said Aveil. She clapped twice, presumably calling for servants. "But not before you get a night's rest. You will stay in the finest guest quarters for the evening, and we will tend to all of your wounds before you go."

When I heard them leaving the room, I made my way out of the fortress and toward the Haunted Wasteland gates. Fortunately, I already knew how to access the Temple thanks to all the warp songs. All I had left of my mission was to teach the Hero the final warp song.

And oddly enough, as much stress as this mission caused me, I was sad to see it end.

The next morning, I sat atop the sandstone arch outside the Spirit Temple, waiting for the Hero to arrive. I had my speech prepared, another very poetic, very symbolic one, and I knew exactly what it would entail. The Hero was going to have to go back to his childhood and revisit this temple. In a way, I was very pleased that I was able to help him get back on track, and the quest was going to be completed in due time.

If that were the case, why did I feel so bitter that he had to return back in time?

Looks like someone's got a little crush on the Hero!

I frowned. You again? Look, how long am I going to keep having to argue with myself?

You're holding a flame for Link, the Hero of Time! So predictable, I bet every girl he's ever run into feels the same way…

I shook my head. Believe me; I do not have a crush on the Hero. At least, that's what I wanted to believe. However, despite my strongest efforts to persuade myself otherwise, I couldn't deny that I greatly admired his strength, his kindness, and how determined he was to rescue the carpenters from the fortress. After all, he had never really met them before, and was absolutely not obligated to save them, yet he insisted on doing so. That kind of selflessness was an excellent quality of the man who was to save Hyrule; it was a quality one didn't see often in the kingdom since its fall.

I sighed and gazed out at the horizon. The sun was peeking over the rocky mountain, painting the sky a beautiful orange and red. I'd heard the old saying, "Red sky in morning, sailors take warning," but I was still dumbstruck by its brilliant splendor.

Not long after that, the Hero came trudging through the pass from the Haunted Wastelands, Navi close behind him. He fought off a few stray Leevers with ease and I watched a look of relief wash over his dusty face as he climbed the steps to the Spirit Temple. I smiled sadly, knowing he would only encounter two dead ends. It pained me to know that there was a possibility that he wouldn't survive in such a difficult temple as a child, but it hurt more when I realized that I couldn't be there to help him.

The Hero returned outside, and I could tell he was fuming. "Stupid fucking temple, how am I supposed to save their leader if I can't get inside?!"

I leapt down from the arch and landed gracefully in front of him. I wanted to talk to him so badly, but I knew I had to go with protocol. "Past, present, future...The Master Sword is a ship with which you can sail upstream and downstream through time's river...The port for that ship is the Temple of Time...To restore the Desert Colossus and enter the Spirit Temple, you must travel back through time's flow...Listen to this Requiem of Spirit...This melody will lead a child back to the desert." With that line, I took out my lyre and played the melody I knew as the Requiem of Spirit.

Once the Hero knew the melody, the two of us played a duet, one of my favorite parts of my mission. I could easily lose myself in playing the lyre, but playing it coupled with the Ocarina of Time produced some of the most beautiful melodies I've ever heard.

I was going to warp away under the flash of a Deku nut, but I was shocked when the Hero grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward him. "Wait! Don't go yet!"

"Hero, what're you doing?" I asked. Normally, this would anger me, but deep down I was glad he did it.

"I wanted to apologize," he said remorsefully. "I've been thinking about it, and I realized how much I made you go against your orders."

"Believe me, it's no trouble…" I began. He held up his palm and shushed me.

"I still feel bad, because I could've made you lose your position. I didn't, but I could've!"

"My commander never has to know what I've done," I assured him. "As long as you carry out the quest, it doesn't matter."

The Hero's eyes grew wide and he looked down at the sandy ground. "I hope I can…"

As far out of my comfort zone as this was, I finally lowered my cowl and gave him a sincere smile. "You're the hero chosen by the goddesses. If anyone can do it, it's you."

He looked dumbstruck. "I've…I…" He gently ran his knuckles down my cheek, much to my surprise. I could feel the blood rushing to my face and I quickly turned my face away.

"You should be getting to the Temple of Time," I told him, pulling my cowl back up. "You've got work to do."

"Wait! One more thing…" The Hero began fishing in his knapsack. "This is a little something to make up for that night outside Kakariko." He took out a small paper parcel and pressed it into my hand and closed my fingers around it. Further investigation showed it to be a new package of cigarettes. "I asked Aveil for them, and she gave them to me without question," he said excitedly. "Since you said you needed to be sane, this ought to keep you from going crazy until I get back!"

There was no hiding my smile; the Hero looked at me expectantly. After a moment, he held out his hand, beckoning me to shake it. I pushed his hand away and, on impulse, threw my arms around his shoulders. He was surprised, but gladly surrendered and hugged me back.

"You're a wonderful man," I told him.

"I try," he said, giving me a silly grin.

I patted him on the shoulder. "Go on, I'll be waiting here for you when you return." With that, the Hero saluted me and took out his ocarina. Within moments, he was swept away in a brilliant golden light to the Temple of Time.

See? He's not so bad once you get to know him!

I shook my head and took out one of his cigarettes. I guess you're right. I took a long, heavenly drag and exhaled. Now all I have to do is wait. I walked over to the temple steps, still enjoying my smoke. I didn't worry about going into hiding again; I wanted him to see me when he got back.


I'm alive! And the world shines for meeeee, today!

For DreamsComeFromTheHeart, I hope it's satisfactory!

If you like my stories, talk about them! If you don't, just keep your mouth shut.

But srsly, constructive criticism is welcome!

-H. H.