In Due Time
by Queenie Z
Amaterasu slowed her dash into a brisk walk, looking about almost frantically as she made her way along the shoreline of Ryoshima Coast. She lowered her head to sniff the ground as she went, stopping only when she took notice of something out of the corner of her eye. Having finally spotted what she was looking for - a fissure in the ground a few feet out into the water that glowed with an eerie orange light - and approached it, paying no mind to the waves that rolled over her paws. Then, she barked, her tail wagging excitedly at her discovery.
Trailing behind the wolf goddess was her companion, a sharply dressed man with a blade at his side, who glided across the water as quickly as his abilities could take him. Seeing her excitement, he couldn't help but laugh. "You're far too quick for me, ma chérie," said Waka, peering down at the strange fissure. "So this is the gate you've been seeking, I presume?"
Her tail still wagging furiously, Amaterasu simply looked at Waka expectantly.
"Ah, yes, of course," he said in realization, reaching into the pouch tied to his belt and pulling out a small, round device, "that's precisely what we're here to find out." He then touched a button on the machine, which then projected a series of alien-looking digits. After glancing at the numbers for a moment, he nodded sagely. "…It appears that this hole is emitting a similar type of energy to what you described. Almost identical, in fact." he said, looking back at the beast with a self-satisfied expression. "I believe you've found your gate to the other world, Amaterasu."
Amaterasu seemed pleased with his answer. As she further approached the portal, however, Waka interrupted her with an outstretched arm.
"Just a moment," he said, "this 'lost child' you say you once helped - do you even know whether or not he's still alive?" His face grew somewhat more serious as he spoke. "Sixty years is nearly an entire lifetime for mortal men, after all."
The wagging of Amaterasu's tail slowed to a halt. She pondered Waka's words for a moment, then looked back up at him, her eyes shining with determination.
With another small laugh, Waka placed his free hand on his hip. "I should have known. You won't stop until you know what's become of him, will you?" He shook his head, amused. "Your stubbornness was always an admirable trait, mon amie. However…"
With a tilt of her head, Amaterasu signaled him to go on. He hesitated slightly, turning his gaze towards the moon before continuing.
"…I try not to be too frank with my prophecies," he said with a hint of sobriety in his voice, "but I must warn you: you may not be entirely pleased with what you find."
The beast narrowed her eyes, undaunted. Then, she walked further into the sea, allowing the light of the portal to swallow her up. When she was gone, Waka put away the alien device and brandished his flute instead. Then, he lept from the water, gliding gracefully onto a nearby cliff from which he could see the portal's orange glow beneath the water. Finally, he began playing a soft, familiar tune, passing the time until his companion's return.
High above the fields and valleys of Hyrule, on his perch between the world of the living and the world of spirits, the phantom of the Hero of Time stood in silence, gazing contemplatively down at the realm below. It warmed his heavy heart somewhat to watch the land and its people grow and prosper; to witness the waning of his own age and the waxing of a new one. Had his current form allowed it, he would have smiled at the bittersweet sight.
Yes, he thought, Hyrule was changing, and though the threat of future crises always loomed overhead, the flow of time was taking its course… without him.
For a moment longer he pondered. Then, suddenly, the Shade stirred, sensing a foreign presence intruding upon this tranquil spiritual plane. He moved his left hand to the hilt of his blade in anticipation of the threat; even in death, he would show no mercy to those who would taint his beloved land!
The sound of his former name startled the Shade, causing him to draw his sword and attack. He spun around, bringing his weapon down upon his foe with a force that would have slain any normal being in a single strike. However, the intruder was far from normal, and the blow was blocked by a peculiar force. Recoiling slightly from the impact, the Shade regained his footing and braced himself for combat, but the trespasser seemed uninterested in engaging him.
"Lower your weapon, Hero," the intruder commanded, "I mean you no harm."
The phantom froze in place at the sound of the familiar voice, and he finally got a good look at his opponent; a radiant, white-haired woman in elegant robes of deepest red and brightest ivory, whose steely gaze was that of a most ferocious warrior. Though her presence was dazzling and her aura was distinctly holy, it was the crimson markings upon her face and hands that made the Shade finally realize who this mysterious person was.
"…Amaterasu," he uttered, lowering his blade in stunned awe.
Amaterasu's face softened into a warm smile. "It's been far too long," she said with a hint of relief, "I had feared that you wouldn't recognize me in this form."
The Shade sheathed his weapon, then bowed respectfully. "It is a form most suited for the great sun goddess," he said. "…I humbly apologize for thinking you an enemy."
"There is no need for formalities, Link." She approached him, placing a hand on his shoulder and straightening him upright. "You sound so serious - not at all like the brave, wide-eyed youth I met in Nippon." She frowned. "What's happened to you after all these years?"
He kept his head hung low, the shadow cast by his old helmet hiding the majority of his face. He stayed silent.
"Link," she urged him, "please. Tell me."
Finally, the Shade answered her. "That youth died ages ago," he said, slowly lifting his head to reveal a ghastly sight; his features had decayed almost completely, while a single glowing eye looked down upon her with a heavy sadness. "…And so did his innocence."
Amaterasu's eyes widened in horror. She stared for a moment, then slowly removed his helmet, revealing the full extent of his decrepit appearance. Her horror turned into deep sorrow - she discarded his helmet and took what was left of his face in both hands.
"Your soul is withering," she said sadly. "Your grief and sorrows have eaten away at your spirit." She stroked his cheek in a tender, motherly fashion. "How could this have happened? You were destined for greatness - you were so blessed…!"
"Much has happened since we last parted," said the Shade, "I'm afraid it will be far too complicated to explain."
"Complicated or not," said Amaterasu, opening her palm in front of her and materializing a physical embodiment of the Celestial Brush, "I'm willing to listen." She took the brush and, with a few elegant motions, created a miracle. The Shade's decayed features transformed; his ghostly bone and sinew became flesh, his messy, golden hair grew back, and both brilliant blue eyes were restored. Even his armor regained its former golden shine, and all traces of its age were swept away. Gasping slightly in shock, he looked down at his hands, where rosy, flesh-covered fingertips peeked out of his gauntlets, then reached up to touch his face and hair.
"My face," he uttered, astonished by the great goddess' awesome display of her power.
Amaterasu's expression brightened considerably at the sight, and she chuckled at his reaction. "It isn't permanent," she said, "but, for now, it will do." She looked upon him affectionately. "Now, Link, please… tell me why your spirit has become so troubled."
Link glanced back at Amaterasu for a moment. Then, for the first time in many, many years, his lips curled into a bittersweet smile. He reached over, placing a hand on her arm and turning her attention to the view of the world below.
"I want you to look upon this land," he said, "upon Hyrule."
She did so; she looked upon the plains, the mountains, and the rivers. She looked upon the forests and deserts, upon Lake Hylia and Hyrule Castle, and she marveled at their majesty. "…A most beautiful land indeed," she said.
"After my journey ended, after Ganondorf was slain and peace had returned to Hyrule, I continued to fight for this world and others like it. My blood, my spirit, my life - I gave everything I had in order to defend my homeland." Link's face fell into a serious expression once more. "…But it was not enough."
"What do you mean?" asked Amaterasu, "You fought so hard, and you emerged victorious - what makes you think that wasn't enough?"
"I am not the first to be chosen by the gods as the Hero, and I will certainly not be the last. Someday, another young boy will be tasked with delivering Hyrule from evil." He shut his eyes. "…Yet I have done nothing to pave the way for him. This land is on the brink of another age of darkness, yet in life I was not able to ensure the success of the next Hero."
"That is what you regret," said the goddess, "and that is what binds your spirit to this world."
Link nodded. "I have witnessed the most terrible of events, and I have made mistakes that are unforgivable. They have always haunted me, and those wounds may never completely heal. However, in spite of all that, it is not being the Hero of Time that I regret." He looked back at Amaterasu reassuringly. "I only regret that I could not do more."
Amaterasu understood; it pleased her to know that Link had accepted his destiny with such courage and valor. However, her heart still ached for him; for all of the suffering he had endured and continued to endure still in death. She placed a hand to her chest and hung her head.
"You deserve your rest," she said. "How long must you wait to pass on your legacy?"
He turned to face her. "I will be able to reap my blessings in due time," he said. "The path of the Hero is rife with hardships, but those hardships will one day lead to something greater. That is what you told me, is it not?"
She stared at him in a moment of realization; then, her face lit up with pride. "You've kept your faith," she said joyfully, taking his hands in hers. "When I stopped receiving your prayers of thanksgiving, I feared you had lost it. …You've grown far stronger than I ever could have hoped for, Link; I'm so proud of you."
Link let out a small, somewhat bashful laugh. "I'm honored to hear those words, Amaterasu." He looked back towards the image of Hyrule Castle on the horizon. "You should return to Nippon and worry no more - I will remain here until my work is finished."
With a nod, Amaterasu let go of Link's hands. "I pray that you will find your peace soon," she said, "and that your gods and all of your loved ones will welcome you home with open arms."
"And I pray that your radiant glory and love remain everlasting."
The great goddess turned and walked away, disappearing into the mist. With her departure, the spell on Link's form dissipated, and he became the decrepit Shade of the Hero once more. Then, he resumed his watch over Hyrule, alone yet steadfast, waiting for the one who would inherit his ancient legacy.
"So the little lost child managed to find his purpose after all," said Waka with a hint of pleasant surprise. "Très bien! With such an outstanding strength of will, I'm certain he'll resolve his unfinished business someday."
From her spot on the ground, Amaterasu barked, swishing her tail across the grass in agreement.
"The other world seems to be in good hands," he continued, "even moreso now that you've adopted its chosen one as your own."
The wolf tilted her head and gave him an incredulous look. Seeing this, Waka waved his hand dismissively.
"Pardon, ma chérie," he chuckled, "it was only a joke. You were always drawn to those with great destinies, after all." He tapped his flute on his chin. "Though, speaking of children, we ought to be headed back to the Celestial Plain - the pup probably misses you already!"
Amaterasu stood, stretching her neck and preparing to leave - indeed, now that her own business had been settled, she was eager to return home to her son as well a long overdue nap. However, Waka had already lept off of the cliff and onto the surface of the ocean, gliding out towards the open sea. He spun around, calling back up to his companion.
"Don't think I won't leave you behind if you're too slow!" he said, "Let's go, baby!"
With an indignant bark, the wolf goddess followed after him, all while the glow of the morning sun revealed the silhouette of the Ark of Yamato docked just over the horizon.