Chapter 10: A Moment Alone
The following morning after Link's nightmare or 'violent spasms' as Leto so fondly put it, the trio awoke at the crack of dawn and began packing up their things.
Leto, the first done of the three, had already tied her saddlebag to Guard and was busy tying bandages over her arms, her back to her two comrades. The dull morning light made her hair break into various hues of colors, her blue eyes as misty as the thickly fogged Hyrule Field.
Zelda caught glance of nasty scars and burn marks running down the length of their friend's arm. Scars crisscrossed one another in a strange pattern, as permanent as the tattoos on Link's arm.
Leto, well aware of Zelda's glances at her disfigured arms, turned and smiled at her. She bore no ill will toward her friend for staring, it was clearly through concern that the glances were done in.
"They're ugly, aren't they?" Leto asked, still smiling.
Zelda snapped out of her seemingly intense glare and looked worriedly into Leto's eyes. Her face turned a bright red as the mercenary dropped the long length of bandages and stood up, walking in a slow and easy gait to Zelda.
"I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…" Zelda trailed off as Leto's piercing blue eyes stopped any further protests.
The young mercenary held up her right arm, the more scarred of the two with its vicious blade, whip, nail, and burn marks, and smiled calmly. "It's alright, Ms. Greene… I know why you were looking at them…"
"These scars are memories… some of them were fond, some done in anger, and some remind me of how much of a fool I've been in my short life," Leto whispered, her gaze never leaving Zelda's eyes. "It just goes to show how many memories, wonderful or cursed, occur in only eighteen years of our short lives…"
The moment of seriousness was broken as Leto grinned mischievously, almost as though sensing the questions about to surface from Zelda's mouth.
Putting her arm down, she pulled another roll of bandages from out underneath her long cloak and started wrapping it about the length of her arm.
"Imagine, if these are eighteen years of memories, what would my entire life look like?" Leto questioned, letting out peals melodious laughter. Still chuckling, Leto turned her back on Zelda, shoulders still rumbling with laughter as she walked away, idly wrapping her arms.
As she looked about the familiar landscape of Hyrule Field, the craggy mountains carved by the thumb of the Goddesses, the purple color of the early morning sky, the dew that dripped off every delicate leaf, Zelda felt as though there was something more to Leto.
Even though her friend was strong, cheerful, and beautiful to match, there was always something there…
Leto's blue eyes radiated a sadness… a sadness greater in depth than even Great Bay… Something had happened in the young mercenary's path that had left her so scarred and deeply hurting that it affected her even now, years after it had happened.
'This is something that I will figure out myself…' Zelda thought to herself as she climbed astride her horse. 'Yes… I will find out what caused such sadness to creep into her eyes.'
'Clang! Crash! Ting!' The sound of two blades meeting in the afternoon cool echoed across the seemingly endless planes of Hyrule field.
Link drew his sword and brought it cleaving swiftly through the air toward his opponent, hoping to her off guard with his extreme speed.
Alas, the sword that was so much larger than his own met with the smaller sword, the impact ringing loudly, sparks issuing between the two blades.
Leto grinned at the young soldier before taking her gigantic sword with one hand and pushing forward slightly.
The force sent Link flying backwards, an astonished look plastered across his usually stoic face.
"Come now, Mr. Greene! Is that the best you can do?" Leto cried, still smiling.
The soldier panted in pain, rearranging his feet so that he would fall squarely on both. He, however, was unprepared for what would happen next.
Leto jumped into the air, her blade held readily in her hands. She twisted a somersault in the air and brought the blade cleaving down toward Link, the gesture so fast that he could hardly believe that someone with such a heavy sword could be possible of such a thing.
In a last attempt of defiance, Link sent his sword up to block as fast as he had dared. The two sparring partners went crashing into the ground, dust clouding about them, obscuring them from view.
Zelda coughed furiously, her mind feverish with worry. As soon as they had stopped for the day, Leto had grabbed her sword and challenged Link to a little fight, claiming that the two of them were getting rusty. Link, being the war axe that he was, immediately agreed. Now he was sent crashing into the ground after he was so sure that he was going to win…
"Are you two alright?" Zelda shouted into the cloud of dust, waving her hand in a futile attempt to send the dust away.
"Yeah, but I think that Link here needs a bit of medical attention. He's got a nasty cut on his forehead," Leto called out. "I'm sorry Mr. Greene, I guess I misjudged my strength…"
"It's all right, Leto," came Link's pained reply to the mercenary's apology.
"Here, let me help you. You're probably feeling a bit dizzy from that," Leto said softly. Some shuffling was heard within the cloud, making Zelda assume that Leto was letting Link lean on her as they made their way out.
A rather humorous sight met Zelda as the two emerged. Leto held Link's right arm, supporting him easily with her great strength while Link limped, his stoic expression set into one of great distain. His blue eyes seemed to be pouting as though he wanted Leto to let him go so he could stand on his own to feet.
As they approached Link's soft sleeping palette, Leto immediately let go of poor Link's arm. The soldier's blue eyes widened in surprise as he fell to the ground, face first into his bedding.
"What was that for, Leto?" Link shouted, getting up on his knees and glaring into the young woman's beautiful blues.
"Well, I thought you would be able to lower yourself down if we were at your bedding," Leto said, shrugging, "Perhaps we should... not spar anymore for a while after this. That was quite a knock to the head I gave you." The young mercenary bent down and pushed back Link's shaggy bangs, pointing to a raw, deep gash oozing blood and other bodily fluids onto Link's face.
"Can't you just heal it?" Link asked, slapping Leto's hand away and bringing his hand to rest on the nasty cut.
Shaking her head, Leto frowned. "I would rather it healed on its own. Nature should be allowed to take its course."
"Then how come you healed me at the tavern?" Link retorted, smiling. He thought he'd caught her off guard…
Leto laughed, shaking a hand as she stood, dusting her black pants off. "Oh, that's because you looked so horrible! Really, I'd never seen anyone such a wreck in a tavern fight before… You looked as though you'd been stomped on multiple times and had an accident with makeup…"
Link ground his teeth in frustration, glaring his infamous 'I'm going to kill you' glare at Leto, who had by now begun laughing aloud as she recalled Link's face during the fight.
"Ms. Greene, why don't you take care of him while I go get some firewood?" Leto asked, still chuckling.
With that, Link's eyes went wide with horror. No, Leto couldn't do this to him! Didn't she know how he felt when he was alone with the Princess? No, she didn't know, but still Link couldn't help but feel that there was some other motive or hidden meaning that Leto had in mind…
"Leto!" Link whispered furiously as the young fighter turned toward the forest, large sword in hand. "Leto, you had better not leave me! I know you can hear me, Leto!"
Leto, upon hearing the young warrior's angry whispers at her, turned around, blue eyes shinning mischievously, her fine mouth quirked in an annoying little smile, and one eyebrow rose in amusement.
Much to Link's fury, all Leto did was mouth 'You'll thank me for this one day' before turning and disappearing into the falling night to 'search for firewood.'
"That is quite a bad gash, Link," Zelda said, crouching next to her friend. Taking a gentle hand, she softly pushed back his blonde locks to stare at the rent in Link's tanned skin.
Sharp shoots of electricity shot up Link's spine and spread through the whole of his back. Zelda was touching him… Him, the man that was part of this problem in the first place. The person that had ruined her perfect marriage to the perfect (yeah right!) man and ruined their perfect kingdom. The only thing that Link had done for Zelda was brought her closer to ruination than any of her previous ancestors.
Zelda was too busy staring at the cut to notice Link's blank expression. She searched through her thoughts, looking for the right moment… the right spell that Leto had taught her to cure flesh wounds… Even though Leto had wanted Link's wound to heal on its own, Zelda was more than willing to do it in her place, despite being very inexperienced with magic.
"Hold still, Link. This might sting a bit…" Zelda whispered, placing both hands on top of the gash. Closing her violet eyes, Zelda searched through her mind, delving far into her core, the source of her magic. There in the depths of her mind, swirling in rainbow colors, stood the energy necessary… Now all she had to do was take hold of it and bend it to her will…
The words flowed freely out from her mouth like water… Words that sounded so wise and noble, so strange and mysterious…
The gash wove together, almost as though a needle and thread were stitching the wound. The horrid smell of blood that had once clogged Zelda's nose faded into the milky scent of night air, the only remains of the crimson liquid drenched her hands.
Link touched his forehead in somewhat surprise. It was smooth and unscarred, as though Leto's sword had never touched its frail surface… Zelda was truly at natural in magic, it must have been inherited through her bloodline from the first Zelda, the Princess of Destiny who sealed away the Evil King.
"There," Zelda said, smiling at him softly. "I am none so bad at magic. Perhaps traveling with Leto was right to do, as I thought. And as I hypothesized, you, Link, are once again proven wrong."
Link frowned, narrowing his eyes and glaring at the Princess. "That is not fair, Zelda. You know that I am sometimes right."
Zelda rolled her eyes. "Sometimes. But most of the time, who is right, Link?"
"…" The glare continued, turning even more intense. He hated it when she had to prove that she was right. And though he might not want to accept it, she was more oftentimes right than he was, another trait that she had inherited from her esteemed ancestor.
Zelda's merriness did not last long, as her smile gave way to a deep, worrying, thoughtful expression. Her violet eyes overflowed with worry and doubt, something that Link had never seen in the Princess' eyes in his entire experience with her.
"Is something wrong, Zelda?" Link asked softly.
"It's nice not having anyone call me by my title," Zelda said softly, averting her gaze to the hard ground. "But I find myself missing home…"
"Is that what you are worried about, Zelda?" Link asked.
"No it is…" Zelda whispered. "Such terrible things I have heard about Artemis! She can kill men without touching them or saying a single word… bring people back from the dead, and summon powerful monsters to her aid. These things I hear about her… I cannot help but think that she will not take us lightly, Link."
Link's eyes flickered for a moment with something unreadable as Zelda continued on her rant.
"What if instead of helping us, she kills us? She certainly has the power to deal with the three of us!" Zelda said, burying her face into her delicate hands, golden locks shielding her further. "I cannot bear to think of you and Leto lying dead on the ground before me! Leto is too good a friend, despite her only being in our acquaintance for a few days! You… I care about you too deeply… sometimes so deeply it scares even myself, Link! When I think of you lying there, face down dead with blood leaking about you, I cannot bear it!" Zelda's delicate shoulders shook with sobs.
Link was shaken. Zelda was crying? Zelda never cried, no matter how difficult the situation! No… he couldn't let her cry, if he did, they would all loose hope, especially him.
He gently placed his arms around the sobbing Goddess, pulling her sobbing figure into his chest. His hand made gentle circles about her back as he whispered sweet words into her ear.
"Zelda…" Link said as gently as he could, "I knew what I was getting into the moment that Rauru told me of Artemis' fearsome power. However, as dangerous as she may be, she is our last chance to break our vow. I would die to protect you, Zelda, and I know that Leto would as well. I can promise you though, that I will never die facing Artemis… I will always protect you, no matter what."
Zelda drew out from her friend's chest and looked into his blue eyes, and then she knew that it was no lie. He would protect her as he promised, she could see the determination there.
"Thank you, Link," Zelda said, smiling. "I…"
Link could feel her tightening her hold on him… their faces were mere inches from one another's. He was aware that he could count every single tear in her eyes, and count every lash about her eyes.
The distance began to close between their lips, Zelda's eyes closing… The two friends had no idea what they were doing, it was as though they were attracted to one another, an urge that could not be denied.
'What am I doing?' Link suddenly thought. 'I'm about to kiss the Princess of Hyrule, who is engaged to the Prince of one of the most powerful of Kingdoms! I shouldn't…'
Link pulled quickly away, abandoning his hold upon the Princess. There was much regret and hatred in his mind as he lay down, turning away from the Princess' tearing eyes. If he looked into them again, he could not deny his feelings…
"We should get some sleep," Link whispered, throwing his blanket over his body, still staring into the dark. "Leto will be fine, no doubt just getting extra supplies within the forest."
His muscles relaxed as he felt the Princess leave her place by his side and slowly move toward her bedding. Still, even as he drifted into sweet slumber, he could feel her gaze upon him, and burned into his mind was the disappointment and hurt that he saw in her eyes as he rejected their kiss.
"Curses, Link!" Leto stood behind a large oak, staring at the sleeping couple. Her brow was furrowed in frustration as she kicked the tree as gently as she could, leaving a deep indent within its bark.
Leto hadn't been gathering wood at all, she'd been watching the scene between the two childhood friends, hoping that something would happen between the two of them. Alas, Link had pulled away.
"Hmm…" Leto placed a hand to her chin in thought, looking up night sky. "What can I do to get that fool to confess his feelings… Well, I'll just have to use plan B then… And if plan B fails, then I'll just keep trying…"
The howling of a wolf pierced the night sky, causing Leto to look in the direction of the mountain looming before them, the tips covered with dense fog in the dim moonlight.
"Either way, Artemis isn't going to have pity on them…"
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