Spring came in twos and threes.
Fives, too, but no one was particularly surprised because everyone understood the central idea that when flowers grew, they grew in numbers, and where the flowers were, spring was. And in addition to how ever many blooms there were, one thing was for certain: Mipha was strong, Mipha was resilient; yet for her wellbeing, the people said to all things springing and sprouting, "In like a lion, out like a lamb".
But there was nothing anyone could do about this sort of situation. Not in a lifetime—the flower-spitting disease was a rare occurrence; it was possibly the first time many people had even heard of it.
... Not that literally telling the plant nearest to you the equivalent of a not-so-kind "would-you-oh-so-kindly-fuck-off" would solve anything (it didn't), but there was so little anyone could try aside from dancing around fairy fountains (which, some Zora women did in fact do, mind you—nothing happened, but it's the thought that counted), and unfortunately, Mipha's own healing power could only provide so much aid.
Those hooligans had to get tired of folktale-esque remedies eventually.
And they did, but no one stopped bringing little trinkets to their beloved Champion, in hopes that acts of generosity and kindness would soothe the aches in her chest. To everyone's (or rather, Revali's) surprise, for a little while, it worked.
Ironically, what Revali brought to his ill Champion-in-arms was a freshly-cut bouquet of flowers, and he broke out in a cold sweat when Mipha's accompanying nurse—a young Sheikah woman, whose name Revali didn't bother to learn—eyed their fluorescent petals with narrowed eyes.
He'd only wanted an excuse to avoid meeting with the others, aside from also being concerned for her wellbeing, and he had nothing else practical to bring her. After all, the last time he'd seen Mipha in person was a week prior at the castle training grounds, where he had bested her in swordsmanship, she succumbed to a fit of coughing, and Revali took the blame wholeheartedly for her unwell state. (He didn't mind being prattled on; he may have been a little too overwhelming during their training session, even for Mipha.)
It was an unsettling moment in the medical wing. Voices, or rather, a singular voice, could be heard behind the closed door—did she have another visitor? As silent as a raven in the night, he tapped at its wooden surface, beyond concerned, after he was hesitantly granted permission to enter by the nurse.
The soft voice, presumably Mipha's, quieted so that her words were muffled.
Revali lifted his wing from the door handle, out of courtesy should Mipha turn his audience away, but pressed the side of his head lightly against the door to try and make out her voice.
"Link—" he heard, almost desperate sounding, before the door opened in front of him.
In the blink of an eye, Revali fell forwards with a cry of alarm (such was the fate of a leaning statue), barely catching himself by grappling at the doorframe with a free hand.
"Great goddesses above—are you trying to kill me?" he accused, jutting a wingtip towards the Hylian who exited so suddenly, with a tone that was less-than-friendly.
Link's eyes opened, revealing widened hues (were they always this blue?); he looked surprised to see the Rito Champion standing there, if the flustered expression gave any indication of his demeanor. Perhaps he was just frightened by the loud squawk of surprise. Regardless, Revali was equally as frightened of his near-imminent death.
The boy shook his head wildly in response before he dipped his chin downwards in apology, turned heel, and took off. Revali wondered if there were ruder ways to exit a situation.
He also wondered if he even said goodbye to Mipha.
When Revali regained his composure and poked his head through the space in the doorway Link had left, the smell of woodsmoke and a long-gone seafood dish stimulated his senses; an odd combination that made his head spin. The room was small and almost empty, save for a medical bed surrounded by many different kinds of get-well-soons, scattered flower petals, and the sunlight filtering through the room's single large window. It was... quaint, to be frank.
In the center of all this, Mipha was (comfortably) drowning in all these things, tucked neatly underneath the bed's thin, white covers, and looking like a strange porcelain doll because of how pale she was. Needless to say, she was very stare-at-able. And normal looking. ... If normal meant bed-ridden and frail (therefore, not very normal. Not at all).
Revali clicked his tongue softly when Mipha attempted to rise upon seeing the face of her visitor, prompting her to lie still.
"I swear on Hylia herself, the nerve of that boy..." He kicked the door closed (passive aggressively, as expected) and took liberty in sighing deeply.
Mipha sat up and poised herself on her elbows, attentive now. Her hands busied themselves with working out the wrinkles in her blanket, smoothing them and brushing off stray petals on her lap. "Revali—"
"Feeling okay?" he asked to try to change the subject with not-very-Revali-like posture, leaning against her bedpost. 'How long have you been hiding this' is the second thing he wanted to ask, but he doesn't. The bouquet he held felt more than awkwardly heavy in his grasp when Mipha's shimmering eyes met his.
"I am fi—"
Her mouth was opened in the shape of a small 'o', answer on the tip of her tongue, before she jerked violently as if being struck by lightning. Revali could only hide a grimace and pat her backside as she brought a fist to her mouth and sputtered and spilled falsely-decorated coughs which scattered throughout the small room like the fine pottery on the top of the shelves that mom told you to never touch.
"I suppose that's a no."
He relinquished in a brief moment of recess when Mipha's tremors ceased seconds later.
But as her hands pulled away from her face, Revali remembers the surge of panic that flooded his veins upon seeing the round, heart-shaped petals that fell from Mipha's lips into the cupped shape of her palms.
In this moment, Revali noticed three things:
1. They weren't the same petals he had seen laying on the sheets upon entering. The ones on the floor and already around Mipha were a very rich blue, a color Revali liked. Blue was always a nice color.
2. Each of the flimsy petals, the ones in Mipha's grasp, were the same vibrant, light-blue color at their edges—a bubbling stonewash—before the color faded and grew into a purer, whiter pigment towards where the petals were attached to the stem of the flower.
3. In Mipha's small hands, they looked like winter snow in the sky, sitting in a bowl of the setting sun. Revali was reminded of his home in Tabantha.
Both Champions were silent for what seemed like an eternity. Revali wanted to drop the bouquet he cradled, suddenly feeling guilty.
"Silent princess," he stated rather than asked after a long moment of quietude, scanning the Zora's face for a confirmation or denial.
The ill Champion shook her head, a small smile overtaking her previous pained expression. A façade. One that Revali knew all too well. "No," she vocalized, looking up from the petals in her hands and laying them out onto the sheets. It's obvious this hadn't been her first "bad" fit. "They're something else." She squinted, turning enough just to look at Revali with one eye. "The princess courteously invited herself in earlier, saw the flowers," she paused, "and she claimed she had never seen them before. She left a little while before you sought an audience in search of her encyclopedias and medical books, hoping they would hold solutions."
"And the hero? Why was he here?"
"To accompany the princess," she said simply, making Revali roll his eyes. She smiled, simper sweet on her face, and continued, "and to check up on me. He wanted to talk for a while longer which is why he stayed, but excused himself out as you came, as I'm sure you've noticed." Mipha curtly nodded towards the entryway of her confinement. "He said something along the lines of wanting to help Zelda skim through her books for more information."
That explained why he had seen Link rush out a few moments before. (... Just thinking about the boy made his stomach feel tight.)
In response, Revali only gripped the bouquet he held (a strange, constrasting assortment of blue nightshades and some others he couldn't remember the names to; none of them were the parasitic flower that Mipha housed) tighter, fully aware that his wing would reek of crushed grass later.
Although the Hylians, as fragile of a race they are, may not have known the specifics of the disease, the older races could recall some semblance of it. Whatever the princess planned, it wouldn't work by the looks of it. Revali knew as much.
"But whatever type of plant it is doesn't matter," he pointed out, bitter. "It's her bumbling fool of a knight's fault, is it not?"
Mipha looked vaguely surprised that Revali was aware of the specifics of her ailment, and she bit her bottom lip. "He is not responsible for what I feel towards him," she answered, confirming the other half of Revali's suspicions, "and it's perfectly fine if he chooses not to return my feelings. I cannot force him into experiencing the sentiments we are supposedly not destined to share." She lifted a hand to her chest, as if to bow, before it was enveloped in a glowing blue light. It held the space in between her breasts, and a very small sigh slipped under her breath as she quelled some of her pain with her healing power. "It is not my place to determine who he should and should not love."
The Rito Champion only dipped his head, as if he were taking into consideration the full weight of the situation Mipha had herself in, disbelieving that she would let herself perish because of such irrational feelings for an equally irrational person. "Then why allow yourself to die, all for this silly boy?" The crinkling of plant material in his grip could be heard. "You'd rather suffer like a dog and let yourself fester like a walking corpse all because your childhood crush for the hero weighs out everything else?"
The Zora Champion was unfazed, and if anything else, had all the sureness and confidence in the world as she met Revali's eyes once more. It was scary as to how... golden they were. Since when were they so fiery?
"Do you believe I choose to suffer because if I bleed and die in front of everyone's eyes, he will return my affection?" Her words were heavy and milky, and Revali's heart thudded hollowly and slowly in contrast. "I do harbor love for Link, Revali, and my love, though not returned, is mine to do with what I please." She took a deep breath. "I wish to continue housing these unrequited feelings and continue to love him with all my heart and being, despite my... regrettable circumstances."
That, being said, happened to be what Revali was thinking, and he'd wondered if Mipha knew that from the very start. If she'd prepared this string of words for every person that wondered why she'd oh-so willingly throw her life for the single person that unfortunately did not love her back. She doomed herself to a certain death and would have the heart to justify it.
Of course she would.
Rolling his shoulders, he could only stare at the Zora girl for so long before resorting to looking at his feet, or the floor. Or both. "Mipha, I—"
"It's alright. I want to apologize for my outburst," the aforementioned Champion interrupted, now holding her face with both her hands. "I understand where your concern lies, Revali, and you are a wonderful and irreplaceable friend. It's just—" She suddenly ended her sentence, bursting with another cough. Two. Three.
Revali sighed and bowed crookedly to place his crushed, tattered bouquet alongside baskets of fruit and other such items and goodies that circled Mipha's bed. "There is no need for atonement; I should be the one apologizing for being rude," he started while staring at the flower petals that lay scattered haphazardly across her lap and comparing them to the Hylian Champion, "I just cannot comprehend why, out of all the people, you chose him."
Mipha cleared her throat with a gravelly "ahem", and deflated, sinking further into her pillow. She reminded him of an octo balloon out of air.
"Revali—believe it or not—he is very likable, once you get past your own jealousy of him." (Revali scoffed and rolled his eyes, as if this were supposed to be patently obvious.) "And you may not ever think that this may ever happen to you—" (Obviously.) "—but there is someone out there that you'd love so intensely, you'd be willing to die for them. Even at the hands of something as simple as... flowers."
She seemed serious, yet Revali could only force out a sullen chuckle.
"I highly doubt it."
Mipha then laughed for the first time in the duration of his visit, sounding like bells. If it weren't for the underlying tension of the situation, Revali would have thought that she was getting better.
"And I believed Link had shared the same feelings for me that I have for him," she replied with a cracked smile. "But here I am. Unrequited feelings are more common than you can imagine, Revali. And sometimes, the people you love don't even notice."
This exchange had occurred months ago. Revali barely had time to fully grasp the weight of her words from their brief meeting and the meaning behind this mysterious flower-spitting disease before life whisked him away.
Not that he'd be forgetting this ordeal anytime soon; it's the first time he's seen the flowers, and it won't be the last.
The world decides to end on a winter's day.
No one is particularly surprised. Because really, winter is inherently cursed by fault of instinctive claim, frostbite and starvation, and because everything is dead. Literally, and metaphorically. And the world has no reason to end on good, fruitful seasons like spring or summer, and even autumn, the "stepping-stone-to-winter", because they are just inherently good seasons.
But there is nothing good about winter. Ever. At least, to Revali—if the world he knows by fault is doomed to apocalypse and eternal damnation by the goddesses themselves, it would be during the winter. Unfortunately for him, the entirety of Rito Village (maybe even all of Hyrule, on a grander scale) aren't aware of this single person whose insignificant corner of the world had come to an abrupt end.
How he found himself hurling, bent over and crying silently for breath is another mystery that the world will never know, save for Daruk and Urbosa, who were the ones hoisting their feathered friend out of the training grounds.
To recap: the pitiful Hylian Champion did something grand enough to prompt applause. Revali issued a challenge. Link would usually laugh it off with some lousy grin, but this time, he said nothing, did nothing, and said nothing, again. He was cool, calm, collected, and coolly, calmly, collectedly dismissing Revali.
Revali remembered uttering a not-very-vague statement on how Link could easily be eaten up by a Lynel, and halfway through, his throat constricted. He couldn't breathe. Couldn't speak. No one realized anything was wrong until he just... collapsed. Nothing really life-threatening happened though, and the incident was played off as fatigue and dehydration. And thus, he was sent home by orders of the princess, and could not resume his training until his health improved, which was e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s-i-n-g.
That was yesterday. Again, Revali thinks about how no one seems to know about his plight. Not that he can blame them; he's exceptional at hiding these sorts of things, if, by all means, refusing to exit his living quarters for the next three days could count towards being an exceptional liar.
Still... the bouts of asphyxiation and the thrumming in his chest have become harder to deal with since that particular incident in the castle, and he doesn't have a lick of an idea of what's ailing him; it can't be fatigue or dehydration or whatever the hell anyone suggested. Allergies? Common cold? Rito flu? ... Allergies (again, for good measure)?
Just thinking about the pitiful state of his wellbeing exhausts him and makes his stomach turn. Maybe he doesn't feel like eating, and staring at the sizzling cooking pot isn't helping. Or maybe it would've been a better idea to sleep than to struggle to conjure a meal he wouldn't be able to swallow anyway. All in all, it's deathly late; he figures it's sometime past midnight, but it's been a while since he last checked—
"You're up late, Champion Revali."
Said Rito jumps an imaginary three feet—a whole yard—before the flight or fight response kicks in and, obviously, he chooses to fight. Whipping around so that he suffered maybe only a third-degree-windburn to his face, he meets his "assailant", who so happened to be the village elder. Typical.
The elder laughs throatily as the Champion's expression flushes faintly. "Jumpy tonight? I hope your recovery is going well," Kaneli says, inviting himself into Revali's living space.
Revali utters a guttural "ahem", lowering his eyes in respect of his superior, before looking back towards his cooking. His mouth feels numb. "I am becoming well enough to consider myself fit to leave the village in a few days time," he answers lowly with assurance, not really sure if he should toss in some rock salt to the simmering dish. For some odd reason, he thinks about Link's cooking, which he had eaten some weeks ago. The golden boy had been occupying his thoughts as of late, and Revali wonders why they're becoming more frequent. "It's nothing extreme."
Kaneli whistles lowly, a bass note that Revali can't dream of hitting. "I can only thank the goddesses above that it is not a serious illness. What Hyrule and the village would do without their Rito Champion... it appalls me to even consider the notion."
Ah, yes. The imminent death pep-talk. "My health has not been dwindling, and it shall not be anytime soon." The Rito youth narrows his eyes at the steam rising from the pot. "I assure you, elder, that I am—"
The feeling of something crawling up his esophagus cuts his sentence in half. It is... unpleasant, to say the least. It's like having an evil spinach try to strangle you from the inside out, if spinach could be evil or strangle you. Now, to be completely honest, he has never had anything against vegetables; he scarfed down hearty radishes when mum told him to, and he used to have quite the taste for carrots as a fledgling. But the taste in his mouth is something... completely different.
Revali shudders violently (from the cold and from the cough) and presses a wing over the crack in his beak, afraid of coughing up loose feathers from preening. Tears begin welling in his eyes from the struggle of choking, the sensation prompting him to dip his head. And the last thing he sees before shutting his eyes is Kaneli's mouth agape with cries for the Champion.
A crease of pain withers from Revali's tensed expression almost as quickly as it came after he had hacked behind his wing, and the heartbeat pulsing in his eardrums is deafening as he pushes away his elder's concern and hammers his other wing to his chest. Something small and light sticks to his tongue and plumage, and all he could think is 'Gross'.
"I—I'm fine." From behind the security of his feathers, Revali objects when Kaneli shelters him underneath a downy wing. "I must have swallowed a bug or something of the sort."
The Rito elder stares, indignant, and not easily fooled. "Revali, if you should require any professional medical assistance—"
"I will not request anything of that caliber. As I was saying, I assure you that I'm completely fine." What a completely cuckoo thing to say.
Kaneli tilts his head, as if reading his mind. "I suppose I shall leave you to tend to your wellness alone?"
Revali nods, closing his wing around his beak and brushing it down lightly, not knowing what he coughed up. It morphs into a fist and lays by his side as he once again allows himself to be distracted by the (probably burnt) food over the flame. "It would be much appreciated, elder."
"As you wish. I bid you a good night, Revali."
"As to you."
Their exchange ends with Kaneli retreating to his own perch in the village, somewhere higher up, and with Revali not sparing him a second glance. Instead, his mind and eyes wander from the flickering flames licking the pot to his closed fist.
With a hitched breath and a dry mouth, Revali only stares at the shell of his feathers (a royal blue—blue is always a nice color) before he takes a shuddering breath and carefully unravels his grasp. In the center of his hand, he observes with horror-stricken eyes, is an assortment of flower petals, wet with saliva, but still fresh and regal-looking all the same. Their appearance is peaceful and awe-inducing, in spite of his ragged breathing. They are heart-shaped and a lazy, soft blue around the rims. The blue color fades into a dreamy white at the center, reminding Revali of freshly fallen snow and the colors of the Hylian Champion's eyes.
As he stares dumbly at the petals cupped in his wing, he can only recall that the first time he saw the flowers, they didn't belong to him.
Defeated, he closes his eyes with a labored sigh and pulls his legs closer to the warmth of his body. His heart begins to accelerate upon his realization of the gravity of this particular situation. How? What? When? Where? Why?
Maybe he can pretend it's not happening. Maybe it'll go away if he opens his eyes again.
His denial doesn't run deep, and, though he'll never admit it, he wonders if Link really is trying to kill him.