Silver fell silent, his eyes distant and his expression wistful, as if the memory of the titanic event had reminded him of what he'd evidently given up. Strangely, it was Knuckles who rose and took him aside from the others, speaking in an oddly gentle tone. They couldn't hear what Knuckles was saying, but eventually Silver gave a regret-filled sigh and returned to his place to finish the last part of his tale.
With great regret from both myself and Oni, I reluctantly removed Oni's mask and felt the immense power I'd borrowed leave me. Oni's promise of power hadn't been without substance, and I keenly felt my limits, old, familiar limits I'd had for so long I'd grown used to them, once I gave back all I'd taken. His offer to repay what I'd done for him by giving that to me whenever I needed it was so sorely tempting that I very nearly replaced the mask again immediately.
Oni, to his credit, understood. He said nothing, but in the last moments we'd shared an awareness I'd caught his thoughts again and knew that he understood why I'd surrendered the great and terrifying power I'd wielded to bring down the Demon Majora and fulfil Oni's oath.
After a few moments to get my thoughts back in order and focus again, I remembered why I'd chosen here and restored my apparent humanity. I reached out to Navi, who was again with Blaze in their room, and let her know I was going to send them the recumbent Skull Kid for them to keep an eye on, then when I told Tatl and Tael what I was doing, they insisted I send them along as well. Tael's choice to go along surprised me.
"Navi will want to know what happened," he told me. "And after being separated from Tatl for a while, I think I owe her an explanation too. You can bask in the adoration of the people you saved all by yourself."
I gave a slightly guilty look at that.
"Don't look at me like that. I know that's what you've been up to, seeing the mayor and everything." He thought for a moment, then in a softer voice said, "Go enjoy yourself Silver. You deserve it."
I sent them over to Navi and Blaze, then descended the steps to the ledge that overlooked south clock town. By coincidence – though in this case I would much rather have another term for it, because I suspect someone did this on purpose – my arrival back from the moon had happened moments before dawn, and when I stood there on that ledge with a mass of locals looking back at this proud Hero who had saved them, a single brilliant beam of sunlight peeked over the horizon and illuminated me and only me.
You see why I don't want to call it coincidence?
I'll admit I did enjoy it. In Hyrule I'd never had the chance, having to go back in time almost as soon as I was done, but here in Termina time had been with me instead and I was able to enjoy the moment of recognition and, yes, the adoration Tael had mentioned.
I ended up spending most of the morning getting even more attention than I ever had as Mikau for it, receiving grateful speeches from all manner of people, and in the end the only way I was going to get out of it and let the carnival actually happen was to politely excuse myself and pretend there was some other land that needed me as well, slipping away.
Or at least, I appeared to slip away. The Zora band still needed Mikau to play, though the band thanks to my efforts the previous day were aware of the reality of the situation. Lulu had insisted on it, though she also delivered an ultimatum to the band that under no circumstances were they to tell anyone that I was the same boy who had just saved them. Not even Evan contested that after the tones she delivered it in.
The carnival then finally got on, and I couldn't help but enjoy the moment seeing much of Clock Town again rooting for me when I played with the band. By the sounds of it, I did Mikau proud there, and no one was able to tell the difference.
I was obliged of course to meet some of the fans and at least appear to see other parts of the carnival that spread around the entirety of Clock Town, in the process allowing me to slip away to the local Great Fairy and return the Great Fairy's sword. After experiencing Oni's power, I had no regrets about handing it back, but I do regret that Oni himself was the reason for that.
The Great Fairy also gave me something that startled me in return for this – the Majora's Mask itself. I touched on it however and found that the Demon was no more, and the mask was now just an ornament.
Getting it back to the Happy Mask Man was more of a challenge, so I spoke with the rest of the band who covered my choice to return to my own natural form and covered for Mikau's apparent disappearance. Naturally I raised some attention, but mostly I gathered people just believed I was here for the carnival, and since I wasn't causing any trouble left it at that.
I did notice that no one made note of my clothes, since they were identical to those in the human form – but on my way down one street I found out why. One enterprising young tailor had worked rapidly to start turning out garments that mimicked my own ones, and was doing a thriving trade.
Time, I noticed, no longer paused when I entered the Clock Tower – but then, there was no longer any need. There, waiting for me as if he had been there all along as the Happy Mask Man, patiently stood with his hands clasped.
"Here," I told him, handing him the mask. "You have it back once more. The Demon is gone from it now, so you won't have to worry about it again."
"I knew I could count on you, Silver," he said gratefully, taking it from me. "And you have collected to many other masks, filled with happiness. Representing so many people who's lives you have touched on. If more were like you..." he trailed off, but then changed instantly to bowing. "But I must be going. It is almost past time I left and moved on in my search."
"Wait – before you go," I called him back, and he changed instantly again, back to clasped hands. He waited patiently, evidently aware of how hard this was for me, and how reluctant I was to do this. I took out Oni's mask again, looking at it for a long moment in which Oni again conveyed his understanding. "I want you to promise me something," I addressed Oni. "That no matter what you do or who you meet, you'll do everything you can to live up to the name 'Good Demon'."
"I owe you, Silver. If this is what you wish of me in return, then I will do this for you," Oni answered, then gravely said, "I so swear that from this point onwards, I shall do all that is in my power to be the Good Demon in more than just name, for the benefit and peace of mind of my friend and comrade, the Hero Silver."
"Then here," I said to the Mask Man. "I ask you to carry him. I don't dare keep him with me – I'd be too tempted to use him again, and I don't think I'd be able to resist the urge to use that power."
The Mask Man took the mask from me, looking at it himself before he changed instantly again, and now Oni's mask was attached with the other masks to the outside of his pack.
"Wha- how-" I heard the startled Demon exclaim, trying to make sense of it himself.
"A very courageous and noble thing you have done there, Silver," The Happy Mask Man said. "But also a very good thing. But I must be going... and perhaps in time our paths will cross again. Oh, but before I go... enjoy your carnival, Silver," he told me, changing to walking away toward one corner of the Clock Tower's inside. He stopped in place before reaching it, fading out of existence, forever putting Oni beyond my reach.
"That's almost the end of the story there," Silver at last concluded. "Kafei came and looked me up since he knew about my other forms and persuaded me to officiate for the official wedding of him and Anju. I did point out I didn't know the slightest thing about it, but he told me the two of them insisted. I don't think I did too badly, and they forgave me my mistakes almost as soon as I'd told them they could kiss. After that I once again told them I ought to leave, more to avoid the attention again, and I stuck around for a time with the Zora band until they were able to find a replacement to fill Mikau's shoes. Lulu pointedly told me that I would stay to teach him until she was satisfied he could fill in. That took a few years, but I didn't really mind. It kept me busy for a time, and kept me out of the part of Hyrule's future where I was busy dealing with Ganondorf, so I didn't cause any paradoxes."
"How come the people of Termina didn't talk about you when I went there then?" Sonic asked.
"How should I know? The Hyrule you and Tails went to was some time after mind, after all. Maybe sometime I'll look into it and find out, but I'm content to leave it be for now."
"I guess you didn't need to worry about Ghirahim either," Tails noted to Knuckles. "If he's been shattered again..."
"Someone could still reassemble him," Knuckles disagreed. "I want to do something to stop that if I can. It depends what happened to the pieces."
"Another time," Manic cut over them both. "'cause it's my turn now – and Silver's got that idea I gave him to handle."
"I'd almost forgotten," Silver said with a smile. "Sonic, would you come with me a moment? There's something I have to show you."
Sonic gave him and his brother a suspicious look, but neither said anything as Silver showed him outside. A green flash told them that Silver had taken Sonic somewhere and some-when as well.
Manic took that as his cue to explain. "I figured since Sonic was sulking, and there's bound to be a time when there's another Hero needed, maybe we could make a recommendation," he told them. "And since Silver can probably tell when those times are, I suggested a few things to help him home in on one. He'll probably arrive in a moment with him, only it'll be him after he's done his job as a Hero."
On cue, a second green flash occurred.
"-didn't get my aim quite right," Silver's voice completed a sentence he'd evidently started earlier. "This should be about right," he added, and the two came in – only this time, Sonic bore green as well, one resemblant more of Manic's than the others, and he looked hard at Manic.
"You could have asked me before you sent me off on that adventure," he said accusingly. "Do you know what I had to go through?" he demanded, then glanced to Silver, who was evidently trying not to laugh. "And you can stop that as well," Sonic added.
"Something wrong, big brother?" Manic asked innocently. "You did want to be a Hero, after all."
Sonic stalked off, muttering to himself. Silver burst out laughing openly now, then when he recovered, he said, "The time I took him to is actually on a slightly different branch of a time line than the one our ones happen on, and Hyrule there is flooded. He had to overcome his abject fear of swimming while there, and his boat didn't make things easier for him."
"Do you mind?" Sonic's voice came.
"Lets hope he recovers in time to hear my story," Manic said. "Or least that he's reasonable by the time we get around to his turn."
A/N: Whew! Some sixty odd chapters later and at long last we see the culmination of Silver's second epic tale, along with the hints of Sonic's own and the promise of Manic's one - which is coming up next. Sorry to those of you who are expecting Knuckles' adventure with Skyward Sword next, but that epic is likely going to be longer and more arduous than any of the others, so I'm going to put that back a little bit.
For now that, I'm going to take a short break - if I can persuade myself to this time - before I start on Manic's story, 'Manic Minish' so stay tuned.
And now with that, I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I did writing it! See you all next time!