By silent agreement, they hadn't opened the letters yet.
Instead, they had gathered in Zelda's room, in a rough circle on the floor (although, Zelda decided, it really was more of a triangle than a circle with only three people, and... that probably wasn't the appropriate time for such a tangent), the letters in their hands. She glanced across at the boys uneasily - they were in close contact, knees touching, Link gripping his letter for dear life.
"Well," she started carefully, cautiously. "Should we take turns, or just... open them all at once?"
Sheik glanced up at her, expression carefully neutral. He had only put the one preference in, she recalled suddenly, if he hadn't got into the music program, he wouldn't be going to university. The fact that he held a letter of identical size and thickness to the others now...
Well, that indicated that he probably had got his wish.
"Let's get this over and done with," Link croaked, paler than usual.
Zelda nodded, slipping one finger beneath the flap of the envelope. "Okay, on three," she said with a calmness she really wasn't feeling. "One... two..." She drew in a breath. "Three."
For one absurd moment, Zelda struggled with the paper. Why wasn't it opening? Was the glue too strong? Had they sent her a trick envelope just to tease her?! No, wait, Sheik had got his letter out already, and Link was ripping his envelope open with ease, if not grace...
She let her breath out slowly, and carefully opened the envelope.
Dear Ms Nohansen, it started, We are pleased to offer you a place in the Mudora School of Law at the University of Kakariko...
Law school. Zelda lowered the letter, expression frozen. She had got into law school.
Her first listed preference. The hardest program she had applied for. The one her father had urged her to choose, claiming she was simply brilliant enough to do so...
The part of her that had hoped she hadn't got her first preference, that it'd default to studying history, her second listed one, tightened her grip on the paper.
She had got into law school.
Sheik let out a soft little laugh, setting his letter at his feet and spreading the paper out. Zelda glanced over instinctively and smiled - Sheik had got his first (and only) choice of the Bachelor of Fine Arts at Kakariko as well, where he would enrol in their world-class music program. "Link, Zel? How did you go?" he asked, a smile tugging the corners of his lips.
Silently, Zelda passed him her letter, and the smile froze. He had known exactly what she had hoped for - not quite having the marks to get into her alleged first choice, having to 'settle' for ancient history instead.
Instead, she had been a little too clever for her own good, and the result... well, the result was there on the paper for anyone to see.
She had got into law school.
Link was the only one who hadn't revealed his program yet, hands white-knuckled on the paper. Sensing her and Sheik's scrutiny, he folded it with a suddenness that took them both by surprise, mouth fixed in a thin line. "So you guys both got in to Kakariko, right?" he confirmed, smiling tightly. "Me too. So I guess that's settled, huh? Should we start looking for a place?"
Sheik nodded slowly, reaching up to drop a hand lightly on Link's shoulder. "It looks like it," he confirmed, voice soft. "What course did you get?"
For a moment, Link looked like he was torn between answering and setting fire to his letter. Finally, he shook his head, forced out the word, "Science," between gritted teeth, and got to his feet. "I'm hungry. Let's go get dinner."
He exited the room, trying and failing to look nonchalant, and Zelda let out a quiet groan. "Oh no..."
With a sigh, Sheik nodded again. "He had been worried about that - not getting into vet studies, getting straight biology instead. It's been keeping him up at night," he confided gently, and Zelda winced. "Especially since more in-depth zoology doesn't start until second year, and there's compulsory chemistry - there's a lot of maths in that. I worry he'll be overwhelmed."
Given that Link (and Sheik, in fairness) had dropped out of maths classes as soon as they were able to, it was going to be a fair challenge, indeed.
"And neither of us will be much help," she added softly. "We'll be in completely different faculties - I won't be able to tutor him this time."
"We can find him one," Sheik decided, and Zelda nodded in agreement. He quirked a quick smile, though, and pulled her into a sudden hug. "I know it wasn't your real first choice," he murmured into her hair, "But you're smart. You'll do well in it - maybe you can do something like historical preservation law."
Zelda chuckled a little, squeezing back. "Specialisations don't come until the third or fourth year," she reminded him gently, then shrugged. "I suppose that's enough time to adapt."
He nodded, finally letting her go. "I bet Link's hungry. We better not keep him waiting," he reminded her softly, and started for the door himself. "We can worry about this later."
That, Zelda thought as she closed the door behind her, was probably a given.
Dinner that night had been a sombre affair. Zelda could see that Sheik was visibly reigning in his excitement at getting exactly the course that he wanted, and although a part of her remained grateful for the consideration, a smaller, pettier part resented it. Why couldn't she have just got the course she wanted? Why couldn't they have told her that she had 'only' got history instead of law?
Because, she harshly reminded herself as she dug into the pasta, picking around bits of fish (honestly, did people really not consider fish to be animals these days? What part of eating an animal was vegetarian?), she hadn't been brave enough to list history as her true first preference. Because the university administrators couldn't read minds. Because, honestly, she really should have just asked to do history from the outset...
If she was feeling disappointed, though, she knew Link, seated next to her, had to be feeling worse. He had tried to get his first choice, and he hadn't been good enough. Zelda knew from glancing at the guidebook all prospective students received that vet studies was fiendishly difficult, requiring mathematics and all three branches of high school science and near-perfect marks for everything.
Quietly, she wished she and Sheik could have persuaded him against applying for vet studies. It would have caused far less heartbreak - there had to be other ways to work with animals!
She glanced up at him, morosely poking at his pasta with his fork, the bowl still mostly full. "Not hungry?" she murmured, and he started violently.
"Guess not," he muttered, finally setting down the fork. "We had a big lunch before we left the lake, though."
Not that big, she wanted to say skeptically, but wisely let it go. "For what it's worth," she said softly, leaning close so only he could hear, "I didn't get what I wanted either. We will just have to make the best of things, and -"
He let out a hollow laugh, pulling away and stabbing an olive with a fair measure of violence. "Just because you didn't put the right one in. Not because you're too dumb."
Zelda... would not have phrased it like that, but she sighed and drew away nonetheless. Unfortunately, he had somewhat of point - she could have got exactly what she wanted if she had been a little more courageous.
Maybe that was why she had been chosen as the Wise Princess and Link as the Courageous Hero. More than a year go, the Summer Court seemed very far away now.
"I'm sorry," she sad softly, and returned to her dinner.
Link's slump, thankfully, hadn't lasted. With the three stuck indoors for the entirety of the next day by pouring rain, Zelda had set them tasks - she would begin looking for rental properties, Link was assigned to search through job listings for Kakariko City, especially the popular district around the university itself, and Sheik was to outline exactly what steps they would have to take in order to enrol.
Stationing themselves in the study (so Link could use the computer while she and Sheik used their laptops), Zelda opened up the rental listings and dove in, grinning at the sheer amount of listings. This would be easy.
Ten minutes in, a frown was slowly growing on her face as she clicked through the listings. That one was in a horribly seedy area directly next to the bus depot, that one only had one bedroom, that one looked like it was about to fall apart...
Oh, that one looked likely. She opened up the listing, took one look at the photograph of the bathroom, and closed it again with haste that bordered on the indecent.
Right - definitely not that one. Why did people take photos of such disgusting bathrooms, anyway?
Ah, there was one - beautiful, with hardwood floors and smooth stone flagging carved from local rock with freshly-painted walls, two (supposedly, she was beginning to mistrust the word) spacious bedrooms, a bathroom that was actually clean, a ten-minute walk to the university, stores around the corner, in their price range...
And it had been leased the day before. Zelda let out a groan of frustration.
"How are you two going?" she asked in an attempt at distraction, and Link turned to give her a quick smile.
"I found a few," he answered, waving the notepad he had been jotting down notes at. "There's a coffee shop right next to the uni, and they want people who know how to make and talk about coffee -"
Sheik, whose blood was made of a significant portion of caffeine, perked up at that. Link gave him a fond grin.
"And Zelda, there's a whole lot of tutor positions at the high school. They've got history, government, and languages listed, as well as a bunch of other stuff."
Letting out a thoughtful sound, Zelda wandered over, peering at the information. "That'd probably be enough," she murmured, glancing up at Link. "What about you?"
He shrugged a little, sitting back in his chair. "I'll find something," he told them decisively, then paused, a smile crossing his face. "Actually, I may call Malon..."
Malon? Sheik and Zelda swapped perplexed glances as Link hurried out of the room, searching for his phone. Sheik let out a shrug, turning back to his laptop. "He's resourceful," he pointed out mildly, and Zelda chuckled.
"He is. I just hope he finds something..."
The rest of her sentence went unsaid. If Link could find a fulfilling job, it would possibly be helpful - something he could focus on other than school that he was skilled in.
They had their answer shortly - Link bounced back into the room, a grin on his face. "She said yes!"
"To what?" Sheik asked, and Link's smile widened.
"To working on the ranch. Her Dad is happy for me to just work weekends, and Epona already knows and loves me, right?"
Zelda swapped another glance with Sheik. Working on the farm would be good, but... "It's a two-hour bus trip to the ranch," she pointed out gently. "Each way."
He shrugged. "It'll be fine. I'll nap or something. And I still get some weekends off, so we can do something there, right?"
Sheik gestured to his laptop. "From the looks of things, we'll have a few weekdays off as well," he pointed out. "It's not so much like school. It looks like Zelda will have two full days, a half-day on Thursdays, and just one class on Friday. And, nothing on Tuesdays." He gave her a quick smile. "You have a prescribed course."
Even less flexibility, then. Zelda let out a soft sigh, then nodded. "Thanks, Sheik," she murmured, peering at the breakdown of classes. It didn't seem too horrible...
"We'll work around yours, then," Link decided, sitting himself down. "Easy. And we'll stay together."
Together? Zelda liked the sound of that. "Right," she grinned, "Back to real estate!"
Neither she nor Link were doing what they wanted to do. But that, she decided, they could work with.