Childhood Ignorance

By Kurai Hitokiri

Chapter 12: Beloved Friend

"Link, wake up!" someone was violently shaking him from the gentle, painless slumber of his dreams… Dreams that involved Zelda's smiles and her loving embraces… dreams where their rank in life didn't matter… Dreams that weren't haunted by the burning reminder of Zelda's sorrowful face when he had pulled away from her.

Link painfully opened his blue eyes to find Zelda shaking him into painful consciousness. His pulse quickened when he saw the young Princess' sorrowful face.

Zelda's nightgown front was doused in crimson blood, along with her hands and face. Her hair was in disarray and her violet eyes were leaking tears, red and swollen from her sobs. The usually composed countenance that Zelda kept about her was broken into shards…

"Zelda, what's wrong?" Link asked gently. He hadn't seen her so distressed, even after her father had taken away her favorite books.

"You have to hurry, it's Leto…" Zelda sobbed, grabbing Link's arm.

A huge sense of panic rose within his gut. What was wrong with Leto?

He allowed himself to be led to his companion's room by Zelda, stumbling like a drunken man through the dimly lit corridors of the inn. A horrifying sight met his eyes, stealing his breath away and making bile rise to his throat.

Their proud, strong friend Leto lay frighteningly still on the floor of their room. Her blue eyes were closed, crimson liquid leaked from her hairline and spilled from her mouth. Blood pooled about her still form, a frighteningly dark pool in the dim moonlight.

Link's gag reflex took control as he saw Leto's dead form. He had seen dead, mutilated bodies before, but it was worse when the person lying still was a close and dear friend. How could someone as strong as Leto fail? Who had done this too her.

The room spun about him and he became extremely nauseas. His hand grasped the threshold as he took a moment to register what he had seen…

Raising his gaze to the wall, he saw Leto's large sword buried deeply into the stone wall, and a gristly message that made his blood run cold in his veins.

"…It was Artemis, wasn't it?" Link whispered to Zelda softly.

"I couldn't do it… I couldn't stop her from being hurt…" Zelda said softly.

Link ran over to Leto's still form, bending down next to her. Taking a gentle hand, he placed it on Leto's throat, searching for a pulse, wishing with all his heart that she wasn't gone…

A faint and dull throbbing pulsed underneath Link's cold fingers. Leto's pulse was there, but just barely… He turned a frantic gaze upon Zelda, his blue eyes shinning with unshed tears.

"You stay here, I'll go run and get a doctor," Link said, his voice trembling ever so slightly. He stumbled to his feet, ignoring the pungent metallic odor clogging his nostrils. Without a single sound, Link ran as fast as he could out into the cool night knowing that with every moment that passed, Leto's life was dying, like a flickering ember.

Link paced the long corridor of the inn, every step echoing through the stone walls. His blonde hair was mussed, honey stubble covered his cheeks, his blue eyes were filled with intense worry and sorrow.

Dull light filtered through the holes in between the curtains… giving the building a melancholy feel…

Behind a wooden door, Leto lay dying, Zelda at her side and the finest doctor in town attempting to save her life. It had been a good many hours since the doctor had entered, his tools at his side and a determined expression in every feature of his face.

Link was still numb with shock and pain. Leto, the beautiful, powerful, and kind warrior had been easily defeated by the Sage of Cosmos. Artemis truly had lived up to her name… she was as powerful and merciless as records had claimed.

He clenched his hand, biting the side of his cheek so hard that blood spurted, filling his mouth with the sickeningly sweet taste of blood.

Artemis… she had entered the inn and defeated his friend, leaving her on the edge of death and leaving a threatening note on the wall written in blood. She would pay… Link would make sure of it…

Link's thoughts were interrupted as the door to Leto's room swung open, revealing an extremely exhausted Zelda.

Her beautiful face was clouded with hopelessness and extreme pain. Dark circles were visible underneath her eyes, her lids swollen and red. Her hair wasn't combed, instead it was wet from Zelda's rushed shower. She had washed the blood from her body, but somehow in her eyes there was still that same look of shocked pain as fresh as it had been only a few hours ago.

Zelda took a shaky breath, her eyes swirling with tears. It was apparent she was trying to keep herself from bursting out with tears… whatever she had to say, it couldn't have been good.

"Leto is in critical condition…" Zelda whispered, her voice shaking slightly, "The impact against the wall made her organs erupt… her chest cavity is filled with fluids… she's literally drowning internally. She's bleeding internally… The list goes farther… but…"

"Zelda…" Link whispered, seeing the tears filling his friend's eyes. She was about to break, he could tell.

Leto was probably the only female friend that Zelda could tell everything to… Years in the castle hadn't allowed the young Princess to make friends like a normal girl.

"…The doctor said he doesn't know what to do…" Zelda whispered, her voice almost inaudible.

Suddenly Zelda was in his arms, crying wildly into his shoulder.

Her tears seeped through his tunic, her small hands clung to him. Zelda was broken mentally and emotionally…

Link felt his own tears come to his eyes as he held Zelda in his arms. Sobs wracked his body as he buried his head in her blonde locks.

For the first time in his eighteen years of living, Link Greene cried.

The hours trickled painfully by… every second nerve wrecking and frought with nightmares. Night fell upon the inn when the doctor finally emerged from Leto's room, his eyes lowered resignedly.

Link and Zelda turned, staring hopefully as the doctor shut the door.

He met the duo's eyes with sadness, shaking his head. In that moment, the little hope they had left diminished. Zelda buried her face in Link's neck, taking slow and shaky breaths in a futile attempt to calm herself.

"I've tried everything…" the Doctor whispered. "She's not going to last much longer… she was asking for you, you'd best go… Make her last moments the best…"

Without another word, the doctor gave them a sad smile before taking off down the hall and loosing himself in the darkness of the night.

"Zelda… try to smile for her," Link whispered to the young woman as he approached the door, hand held on the knob.

Link felt Zelda withdraw herself from his strong arm before shaking her head, a small, fake smile plastered on her unwilling mouth.

Link smiled as well, placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder, bracing himself for the sight within. He slowly turned the knob, every moment cracking his heart even further…

Leto lay in bed, her hair splayed across the pillow, her features was pale as death, sweating feverishly. For the first time in their short acquaintance with her, Leto looked as helpless as a child. It was a sad sight to behold.

Zelda left her place by Link's side, gently walking over to Leto and placing a hand on her scarred arm.

"Hey there, Leto. It's me, Zelda," Zelda whispered, stroking Leto's arm like a mother.

Leto's eyes flickered open halfway, azure showing through slightly. Her pale lips quirked up in a warm smile, her eyes flashing with pain at the small strain.

"Hey there guys… I guess I don't look to well, do I?" Leto whispered, her voice a faint whisper.

"No, you're better than ever," Link said as cheerfully as he could manage. His heart was cracking at the pitiful sight of the once strong warrior. A few days ago Leto sent a drunk flying through a wall, now she was barely strong enough to lift a finger.

Leto merely smiled, laughing slightly. "You're a terrible liar, you know that?"

Link bit his lip in pain. Leto was as perceptive as she always was, even though she knew she was dying, she was still able to smile. Would he have that same strength when the time came for him to go?

"I know that I'm done for… I knew it the moment I drew my blade," Leto murmured. "Artemis is not a force to be trifled with… She's ruthless and powerful. Her spell not only threw me against the wall, it destroyed my innards… Not even my healings spells could heal something as bad as this… I'm done for…"

"There has to be some way… some sort of spell that can save you, Leto," Zelda said, shaking her head. She wouldn't accept this… it was impossible to accept something like this…

"Zelda, my life force is dwindling… there's nothing I can do," Leto said hoarsely, smiling again. "I'm sorry I couldn't complete that job for you."

"Don't talk, we'll go get another doctor… some magic-user," Link whispered, as unwilling to accept the young mercenary's fate as Zelda was. Sobs choked his words…

"Hah… you had better not cry, Link," Leto whispered. She swallowed heavily, giving a deep and shuddering breath inward. "You've got to be strong… I'm glad that I set eyes upon Princess Zelda for once in my lifetime."

Zelda's eyes widened in shock, causing Leto to chuckle weakly.

"Yes… I knew about it all… How you and Link are going to Artemis to break your vow…" Leto said softly. "Now listen, there is vital information that I must say…"

Leto appeared to choke down some blood, as a tiny dribbled down her chin as she spoke.

"Artemis has every right to be angry with the world…" Leto whispered. "It's failed her time and time again. She never chose her own path, and everyone she ever loved had died because of their association with her… Imagine one hundred years of living and already you've lost your family, friends, and loved ones, and you're destined to live forevermore without them… It's like an eternity with a dagger in your heart… a lonely existence."

Leto gave a sudden cough, liquid poured forth from her mouth in a stream of blood. Zelda clutched at Link's hand as Leto stilled, taking a shuddering breath before continuing, her voice clogged by liquid.

"Artemis is unbeatable… Though she won't kill Zelda, she'll kill you Link…" Leto said, her throat gurgling. "I've been reincarnated for many years, my line served Hylian Royalty for many years… One of my incarnations knew you in a past life… Link, Hero of Time…!"

Link's mouth was firmly shut, his eyes widening. Was he the reincarnation of the Hero of Time? Was that the reason why he looked so much like the Hero?

"Link the first was a righteous man… he fell in love with Princess Zelda, your ancestor, Highness, and the two of them engaged in a passionate romance… However, times were rough in Hyrule, and in order to insure Hyrule's survival, Zelda was married away to an aristocrat from a foreign country…" Leto explained. "Artemis had a soft spot for Zelda, since she taught the young Princess her magic. You might say that Artemis was almost like an older sister. When Zelda went after Link, and found he had left her for another land, Artemis flew into a rage… she caught the Hero and killed him viciously."

"What does this have to do with our vow?" Zelda whispered.

"Link and Zelda made such a vow, but it was quite weaker than yours. Link died when Zelda was still unmarried, so the spell reincarnated his soul into you, Link," Leto whispered weakly. "Your bond is so strong, Link and Zelda, because the Hero of Time and Princess of Destiny's vow still lives… very weakly, but it still lives… Which is the reason why the vow you made as children was strengthened…"

Leto's eyes flickered slightly, her face turned even paler, and her hand's warmth slowly dwindled. "I don't have much time left… But you can't give up… Go after Artemis… She… she is the one that you must reach… only she can break it…"

Zelda gave a shuddering sob as she watched her friend fade away, not even comforted when Leto gave a weak smile, laughing slightly.

"You guys… the short time that I've spent with you two has been the greatest in my entire life… Don't… don't forget me… Good… goodbye…" Leto whispered. With a shuddering gasp, Leto seemed to sink into her pillow, eyes dilating and engulfing her gentle blues. Her warm touch faded into the coldness of death, her hand hanging limp in Zelda's desperate grasp.

Her heaving chest slowly gave, and held still, her eyes closing for the final time. Still, her smile never left her face, even as the last of her life left her fragile form.

"...Leto?" Zelda said softly. She shook her friend's gently… no response… "Oh Goddesses… Leto, no… No, come back, we still need you. Leto, please wake up… please say that you're only joking… You can't go Leto, don't give up… Leto…" Tears fell from Zelda's eyes as she buried her face in Leto's limp form.

At ten o'clock at night, Leto of Kokira closed her eyes and breathed her last… At ten o'clock, Leto, beloved friend and powerful warrior died a slow and painful death at the young age of eighteen.

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