I'll show you how it all begins…and not leave the rest to your imagination.
The sun was setting. The golden light reflected off of the train station's glistening surface, signifying the end of the day. Characters of all shapes and sizes were stepping up onto the platform. This was the Station – though, it didn't always have that name. Whether it was for a melee, or for a brawl, this particular train station was for the in-ordinary, for those who would come to this world in search of a good fight; or for those invited to one, at least. Two figures stood in the midst of all this; one, a man clad in green, the other a woman, adorned with ornate jewelry which added to the regal air she carried herself with. They looked at each other, the woman flashing a faint smile before they turned back to set foot onto the platform. Before they could, however, they heard someone shout out-
They turned to see a small man of Italian descent dressed in red and blue overalls run up to them, his cheeks somewhat rosy due to the chilly evening breeze.
"H-hello, Mario," Zelda greeted, having to look down at the man of smaller stature, "what is-?"
Before she could continue, the small plumber reached into his pocket and held out what appeared to be two gold tokens, flashing the pair a broad smile.
"Your fares," he explained as both Link and Zelda each grabbed one, "I-a forgot to mention, the train demands-a it…even for the departing."
Zelda winced inwardly at the word of choice; departing made it sound grimmer than it should be.
"Thank you," Link spoke, nodding his head in a gesture of thanks, his face ever stoic, "You always did look out for us."
"A-come on now," Mario responded cheerfully, rubbing the back of his head, "it's-a really nothing…"
The sun was almost set now, with the platform nearly empty save for the three of them. A low horn honk emitted from the front of the train; it was nearly time.
Mario's cheerful demeanor faltered for a brief moment. He took his hat off, before saying "I'm-a sorry, I know you both already gave your answer but I just a-gotta ask again; are you-a sure about leaving? You've-a been with us for so long now, two tournaments in a row."
"And we don't regret a single minute of it," Zelda prompted, "Not even the business with Tabuu…"
Link gave her an odd look.
"Well, perhaps not," Zelda half laughed, "…but even so. As much fun as this ride has been… I still have a kingdom to lead. I can't afford to keep going away like this; and Link also has his own affairs he has to tend to."
Mario nodded understandably. He shifted his hat back onto his head before flashing a halfhearted smile to both of them. "Ah well. Can't-a blame a man for tryin." He performed a short bow for both of them. "It was a pleasure, keeping you at the Manor. Everyone'll miss-a you both dearly."
Zelda smiled warmly, bowing curtly in return. She turned and made to leave, but was surprised to see Link was not following her. The green tunic-bearing swordsman went down on one knee so that he was at eye level with the smaller mascot.
"I…I know I'm not the first Link to leave," he began, "and I know it's a bit tough finding newcomers to invite. I just wanted to apologize for this inconvenience we're bringing on you-"
Mario interrupted Link's stern apology with a boisterous laugh, leaving the latter a little shocked. "Look at us a-both," he said, still half-chuckling to himself, "apologizin' and a-steppin over each others' words."
Link grinned, understanding overcoming them both. They shook hands as the train horn honked one last time.
"It's been a pleasure." Link stated. Zelda smiled.
As Mario waved them both farewell, his thoughts went to a specific part of Link's statement: finding newcomers. He turned away from the platform, looking up at the Smash "Manor" itself in all its glory. He gazed wistfully at the enormous building, currently empty.
"Some manor, eh?" a smooth baritone voice spoke. Mario turned to see a gloved hand, larger than life, floating in the air almost above him. "Remember when it was small enough to warrant a name like that?"
Mario sighed warmly as he looked back at the home of Smash. "I remember a lot, Master Hand. How-a many years?"
The plumber heard a small chuckle. "Even I have lost count, I'll admit," Master Hand replied, "but even so…"
Mario stepped forward, surveying the work ahead of him in preparation of a new tournament, "How much more-a space you reckon we need? The assist trophy house will need-a expansion too for sure, and we need to get in a-touch with Pokemon Center for more pokemanz-"
"-You really don't tire of this work, do you?" Master Hand interjected, turning curiously to the small mascot, "Smash season only just ended, and you're immediately ready to jump back into it. This gets bigger every tournament, with more and more of a workload. Even my back is aching just thinking about it…"
"You don't-a have a back."
Mario smiled inwardly, "It's a-never been work for me, Hand. And I'm always a-happy to help." The plumber shifted his hat's position again before cracking his knuckles.
Only three more years until the next Smash tournament season began; he and Master Hand had a lot of work to do.
Chapter 2: Chapter One - A Champion's Invitation
A Champion's Invitation
A voice cried out over the golden plains. These vast fields were once wrought with various ruins, some hundreds of years old, others thousands. Over the course of the previous year, however, the people of this land had gotten to work, cleaning and repairing their kingdom one ancient gear at a time. Looming towers of ancient sheikah origin still cast their shadows over the land, and the castle itself was still worse for wear. Although progress was slow, if not in any part due to the people's reluctance to work together again after spending so much time apart, it was progress. And this made Zelda, Queen of Hyrule, happy.
Queen, Zelda mused in her head as she scribbled notes down in her journal as she stood amidst the Hyrule plains, still not quite used to that. "Link!" she called out again, looking up from her journal; by the Goddess Hylia, where has that boy run off-
The blonde hylian girl shrieked as she jumped around, facing her would-be scarer: a boy no older than her, strands of blonde hair flying against his face in the morning breeze as he grinned widely at her. He bore a blue tunic, a Champion's garb; and a weapon of equal renown strapped to his side.
"You're getting jumpier, Zel', I can feel it," Link said, before being shoved by Zelda herself.
"It's not funny Link," she started, but she was already forcing herself to hold back a smile as the boy belted out loud laughter. Goddess alive, why can't I stay mad at this boy? She briefly thought back to everything that had transpired; the events of over 100 years ago. She remembered the Champions, and how they fought valiantly against Calamity Ganon before succumbing to the malice. She remembered how foolishly she acted towards Link, all out of some sort of spiteful jealousy that he had managed to accomplish his goal and she had not. Most of all, she remembered her father, and her strained relationship with him. Now, it was all gone; all but Link. Or, was he? The Link she knew all those years ago acted differently than the one who was laughing right now; he almost never allowed himself to speak, much less laugh. It had already been a year since Calamity Ganon's defeat, yet Zelda still found herself pondering about Link like this. He managed to be happy like this so easily; so why was she still on edge, as if the war was still raging on around her?
Zelda quickly shook herself out of this stupor and looked back at Link. "Were you able to get in touch with the Rito?" she asked, her voice not betraying her earlier thoughts.
Link managed to settle down from his giggle fit before answering, "Yeah, but they're busy reinforcing trade routes; we still have groups of Bokoblins in that area, and they're trying to get it locked down. They won't be able to help us excavate the rest of the Guardians here."
Zelda nodded intently as she scribble down all of this new information. It was only when she looked up again that she realized how terrible Link looked; he had scrapes and scorch marks peppering various parts of himself.
"Uh…Zel-" Link began, noticing what she was looking at.
Zelda looked up, her eyebrows scrunched up in confusion. "What happened?" She asked.
Link's eyes darted over her face, "Well, the reason why I took so long getting back here was…eh-"
"What is it?"
"…Can we go sit by that tree over there?" Link indicated towards the edge of the woods, a few dozen meters away from where they were currently. "This one's a bit of a doozy…"
(A few hours earlier)
A group of bokoblins sat around a small fire in the dense forest, loudly slurping on their latest meal and bickering amongst themselves. Unbeknownst to them, a figure clung hidden to one of the numerous trees, a bomb arrow nocked and ready for fire.
For as big as their ears are, they never hear these, Link thought to himself as the bomb sizzled loudly. He aimed at the center of their camp and fired, blasting the nearest bokoblins away shrieking as the others roared and took up arms, having spotted him.
Might as well, Link thought, his heart thumping in his ears as he landed on the ground. It was only then when other, larger figures suddenly lurched from the shadows of the dense forest; Link counted no less than six Moblins, all armed to the teeth as they screeched at him. Then, loud, booming footsteps shook the trees violently around them.
Lumbering through the trees, a figure larger than all of them crashed through the woodwork; long shambling limbs, a supremely rotund body, and one disgusting glimmering eye at the top. Then another. And another. Link fully realized the trap he had just fallen into; he counted seven remaining Bokoblins, six Moblins, and three Hinoxes. One Hinox bellowed loudly in his direction as all monsters lunged at the blue-garbed adventurer-
Link stood in the shade of the tree, his story interrupted as Zelda proceeded to hit him on the shoulder with her journal shouting "Idiot!" repeatedly. The blonde boy attempted to appease her to no avail as she continued to shout a mix of-
"IfIhadknownIwouldhavegonewithyouyoumoronyoudensebufffoonhowcouldyou-" and so on. Link quickly realized that nothing he said would appease her, so he did the next best thing.
"Dontyouevereverpursueabattlethatdireyoudenseimbecilepromisemeyou-mmf!" Zelda's lips were held shut by Link's own as he caressed her face. They stayed like that for a few moments, the wind blowing through the branches and rustling the leaves, grass swaying to and fro. When Link pulled away, Zelda's glare had definitely softened.
"Promise me. If you ever get into another situation like that, promise me you'll call for aid."
"Promise." Link said sincerely; as much as he enjoyed an intense battle, he didn't enjoy worrying someone he cared about. Then, remembering the rest of what had transpired, a broad smile grew on his face.
"And that wasn't even the best part."
(A few hours ago)
Link's mind was moving at a million miles per second; he was forced into a wide sidestep to miss a Moblin's swing only to enter the path of one of the Bokoblins; the master sword swung true, cleaving through the creature's leg and immobilizing it for the time being. Before Link could regain his bearings he was kicked in the gut by another Moblin, sent flying backwards as all of the air was forcefully pushed out of his lungs. Mere moments before connecting with the ground, Link reached within himself and activated a champion ability; a swift and powerful gale shot him upwards above all enemies. With no time to lose before his enemies regrouped, Hyrule's Champion quickly pulled out his bow and nocked three bomb arrows; his last ones.
Time seemed to slow down. Link precisely aimed at three different areas of the clearing, trying to hit as many monsters as possible. Just as he let loose the arrows he pulled out his paraglider; the explosions propelled him further away into the air, only to bump into another tree and lose momentum. He surveyed the field; no Moblins or Bokoblins left, but the three Hinoxes still lumbered toward him, smacking their lips hungrily.
And he had just run out of arrows.
Without hesitation, Link leapt off the tree, landing on one Hinox and plunging his blade deep into its eye. The Hinox let out a bloodcurdling scream as it smacked Link away hard, his body flailing through the air before colliding with the gravelly ground below. Link felt his broken bones and ruptured intestines being rapidly healed by Mipha's Grace, but now he was out of his hail mary pass; it was only just now that he felt the severity of his situation. The stabbed Hinox had sit down, the intense trauma from its pierced eye causing it to lose consciousness, while the others continued to head towards Link. He quickly stood up once more, adrenaline pumping through his blood, a wild look in his eyes; he was already five steps ahead.
Just as the Hinox closest to him reached out with a giant wart covered hand, Link held his Sheikah Slate out; suddenly; the Hinox was frozen in place.
A glowing blue orb materialized in Link's hand before he threw it at the moving Hinox; it exploded right in front of its eye, staggering it for a second. Link immediately began slashing at the frozen Hinox, but was only able to get a few deep cuts in before the Stasis projected onto the beast wore off. The Hinox wailed at its wounds before swiping at Link, which he only just barely dodged. Both lumbering creatures loomed over Link, and as Link realized he just might have run out of options-
Something faster than Link could fully see had crashed into the ground behind them. The Hinoxes turned around, and Link focused on this as well. Whatever it was had kicked up a lot of dust, making it difficult for Link to see what exactly it was; he could make out the beginnings of a silhouette. The figure was humanoid, like him, only with significantly larger shoulders, it appeared. One arm…wasn't an arm, it was something more akin to a small cannon-
A bright green glare flashed amidst the dust, right where a human's head would be. The Hinoxes stared dumbly at this new figure, one of them beginning to approach it. As soon as it took one step, the figure raised its "arm", with what appeared to be small device that Link couldn't properly see promptly shooting out of it. It collided with the approaching Hinox's head; Link was peppered with bits of skull and flesh. The Hinox stood there for a second, then another…it fell to the ground, headless, a small tremor shaking the trees in the process.
The remaining Hinox looked at the figure, then at Link. It silently lumbered off back into the shadowy forest. Link stood up, breathing raggedly, sweat and scorch marks adorning his clothes. He could finally make out the figure more clearly.
It didn't appear human; more like something Dr. Robbie would have thought up in his lab; its surface was of a metal Link couldn't identify, and it did indeed have a small cannon for an arm. It watched Link silently, the aggressive visor on its head putting him somewhat at unease.
"Can you talk?" Link said, projecting his voice so that the figure at the other side of the clearing could hear. The figure seemed to pause for a moment before nodding curtly. It then began approaching Link, its movements as robotic as its appearance. Link tensed up-this could be another enemy-
The figure stood directly in front of Link, towering over him somewhat. The head shifted up and down, presumably assessing Link's appearance.
"Yeah," a metallic, monotone voice rang out from within the figure, "You're definitely a Link."
Link bristled at this somewhat. "How do you know that name-?"
"-Is there a Zelda on this world?" The figure interjected.
Link frowned. "This world?"
The figure paused, as if thinking about something. It promptly lifted its free hand to its head, tapping some hidden button on its exterior. The head proceeded to glow yellow as it vanished, revealing something Link was shocked to see; a person.
She had piercing eyes, and a head of blonde hair. She was beautiful, in an angular, harder kind of way. She held Link's gaze unwaveringly; Link had seen this before, the glare of a warrior who had seen many battles. She held her hand out.
"My name is Samus Aran," she stated, her voice no longer metallic sounding but still monotone, "You and Zelda have been invited."
Link, eyes wide, held out his hand and shook Samus's. "Uh, Link," he said, his voice sounding distant and unnatural, "but I suppose you already knew that."
"Pleasure," Samus replied stiffly. She then smoothly swept her arm over to her cannon, pressing some buttons on it until a small compartment opened up with a surprisingly dainty-looking letter in it. She lightly grabbed it and handed it to Link: the letter's seal had a symbol Link didn't recognize.
Link's confusion was growing worse by the second. "Invited to what, exactly?"
"Well, what does it say?"
Zelda was brimming with dozens of questions, but that one was at the front of her mind. At that, Link pulled out his Sheikah Slate, pressing on it until the letter in question materialized in front of her. The seal appeared to be a cross that was placed asymmetrically. She began to read the letter, which read as follows:
You have been invited to the 5 th Super Smash Bros. Tournament! A tournament where dozens of heroes from various worlds come together and do battle for our entertainment! Interact and battle with the best of the best! Unwind and relax at the multiversally famous Smash Manor! If your decision is yes, simply peel off and press down on this letter's seal to acquire your train fare!
Housing fees need not apply. Any injury you may or may not sustain as the result of a Smash will be attended to by our team's inhouse doctor free of charge. Smash Season lasts approximately 1 full year. Any special requests (home stage, assist trophies, etc) must be approved by team leader Master Hand before the tournament officially begins.
Zelda found herself with even more questions.
Multiverse? Heroes from other worlds? Train fare? Housing fees?
"You hear that, Zel'? No housing fees!" Link exclaimed, his eyes already glowing with an excitement that Zelda just couldn't match.
Meeting people from other worlds? Other universes? The research potential laid out from this prospect was astronomical; and yet…
"Link, I can't," Zelda sighed dejectedly, "our home still lies in shambles. I have to be here to see through its restoration. It's my responsibility."
Link's expression fell, but his eyes held a solemn understanding. "Yeah, I know," he said sincerely, "it's just…this might be the only chance we get to see what lies beyond Hyrule."
Zelda thought for a moment, and then for another. A strange glimmer appeared in her eyes.
"Precisely," she began as a new idea began to take root in her mind, "That's exactly why I'm staying, and you're going."
Link's mood immediately shifted. A wide grin etched itself across his face as he jumped and pumped his fist in the air in a victorious fashion. "Yes!" he exclaimed.
Zelda's cheeks grew red, "W-well now, you don't have to appear so glum about it!"
Link's face morphed from excitement to confusion, "Wait, but why? Hyrule needs protecting, does it not?"
"Yes, and if this letter had come at any other time, I don't think this would have been possible…but now, we're already under the process of restoring Hyrule's army to its former glory, and we have the cooperation of the other Champions' descendants. Having taken all of that into account, I think Hyrule would be fine missing one warrior for a year."
A year. That word stuck in Link's mind as he realized the connotations. "But…a year apart from-"
Link stopped himself as he saw the mischievous gleam in Zelda's eye.
"Oh?" she began, her voice overly soft, "is the great Champion of Hyrule, slayer of Calamity Ganon, saying he'd miss his beloved queen?" Zelda's teasing smile grew as she continued, "besting a group of horrific Moblins and Bokoblins, that's a small feat, but spending even one second apart from his belo-"
Link held Zelda in his arms, catching her off guard again with a kiss. When they parted, Zelda was pouting. "Not fair."
A small fleeting grin passed through Link's face, but his eyes remained serious. "I'll write you every day. I'll write, take pictures on the Slate, I'll-"
"Alright, alright, you big softie," Zelda attempted a teasing tone again, but her blushing cheeks betrayed her true feelings. As much as she herself would miss Link, she had to stay strong for her kingdom.
Link sighed, "I should probably start packing up, huh? Head over to the house in Hateno, get some things-"
"Hold on a second," Zelda interjected, pointing at the letter, "You should probably get that…"train fare" they were talking about.
"Oh yeah, right," Link said as he bent down, picking the letter up once more. The afternoon sun glimmered through the tree branches as he looked at the Smash seal. Might as well acquire this train fare now, he thought.
Link quickly peeled the seal off of the letter and pressed down on it with his thumb. For a moment, nothing happened. Then, Link was gone.
Zelda's eyes widened. "Link?"
One second, Link was under a tree in Hyrule field with Zelda. The next, he was…was...
Link looked around, he was on a cliff he did not recognize, overlooking a sea that seemed to stretch on forever, the sunset reflecting off the shimmering waves. Slightly ahead of him, stood Samus Aran herself in full armor. Link no longer held the letter's seal; instead, he held a small gold token with the Smash symbol engraved into it.
Link was the most disoriented he had ever been his entire life. Samus turned her head, as if just noticing he was there. "I see you've made it," Samus said, her gaze still unwavering, "The train should be here in a bit; Smash season technically starts in a few weeks."
A few weeks..?
Samus suddenly looked confused, the first emotion shift Link had seen her go through, "Where's your Zelda?"
Link flashed a nervous smile at this. He raised his arms up in a helpless gesture, "Well…"
Realization seemed to dawn on Samus as she shifted her body to fully face Link.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2 - A Message to the Past
A Message to the Past
In a chariot being dragged along by two horses across a rickety, muddy road, a young girl lay dreaming.
What exactly it was she was dreaming about, she wasn't sure; it had been a while since she dreamt of anything. She saw flashes, brief moments that felt plucked out of time; swords clashing against swords, fire flowing against pure ice, a man, towering over everyone else and grinning darkly; the imagery felt so vivid, the girl felt herself growing more and more disoriented.
At last, she saw something she could make out clearly; a boy, just about her age, with blonde hair, carrying a sword she recognized immediately. The girl tried speaking out, only to get swept up in what could only be described as the passage of time; memories and thoughts she didn't fully recognize began to consume her, drowning her. Panic began to overcome these thoughts. In the midst of this dreadful chaos, a single word seemed to echo around her, faint at first, but growing stronger slowly, ever so slowly…
"Zelda! Your highness!"
The girl awoke with a gasp, eyes glancing back and forth haphazardly through the chariot's interior; no flames, no grinning stranger. Just herself, and a man she did in fact recognize.
Dressed in yellow robes as ancient as himself, nothing about the old man seemed to stand out at first glance; however, if you were to look into his eyes, you would find a wisdom that transcends even his age. This was Sahasrahla, the elder of Kakariko village, and he was looking over Zelda with some worry.
"Are you alright?" he spoke, his voice somewhat raspy with age, "You've laid there passed out for a good majority of this trip, and just now you seemed as if you were having the most frightful of 'mares…"
It was just then that the girl fully remembered just who and where she was; Zelda, the last of Hyrulian Royalty. She had just finished conducting a meeting amongst herself, Sahasrahla, and other key members of the Hyrule elite, and was accompanying said elder back to his village with an entourage of knights to ensure he completed the journey back from the castle.
Meetings. Right. Those.
Zelda flashed as best of a smile as she could at the older man, "I'm perfectly fine, elder. It's simply all of these meetings and regulations I have had to oversee lately…they tend to tucker a young lady out."
Sahasrahla seemed uncertain for a moment, but after returning the smile he seemed to have bought her cadence. The old man looked outside the chariot window, seeing the lush wildlife they were passing by, past the knights riding white stallions that surrounded their vessel. Zelda gazed out as well; although she was technically the leader of Hyrule, she very rarely had the chance to see the land itself, and its people. Even before the events that had transpired…
"I know ruling a kingdom as vast as this can be cumbersome to say the least," the wise elder began, still gazing out at the countryside, "but you have already done great work, your highness. And it does me great pleasure to see you hold your head up high, and not let the riffraff and political discourse affect you too much."
Zelda sincerely took his words into account, and bowed her head in a prim and proper fashion. "Thank you, elder. And please," she continued, a small smile curling at the edge of her lips again, "it's simply Zelda. I don't believe I'll ever be comfortable with monikers such as that…"
"I apologize," the elder responded warmly, "Just old habits from an even older man."
Zelda winced inwardly at that; an unintentional reminder of why she was Queen, now. The events in question felt like they had happened so long ago, when really it had only really been a few years since then. Of course she was preparing her mind and body to a certain extent, in case that something such as….the event that had transpired, happened again. Though, she supposed the people around her had been preparing her for that her entire life.
Afraid of even thinking about it. Childish, Zelda thought to herself somewhat bitterly.
"And what of Link?"
Zelda blinked. "W-what?"
"It has been some time since he departed, hasn't it? Have we heard from him?"
Zelda paused for a moment. She remembered the honorable youth, the same age as her, who saved Hyrule. They had interacted so briefly before he announced that he would be leaving the kingdom, in search of other lands where he could garner as much training as possible so he could fully defend Hyrule.
"No, we have not," Zelda replied, holding her finger up to her chin in thought, "but I'm certain it is only due to how preoccupied he must be."
"You don't worry that something may have happened?"
Zelda firmly shook her head. "No…as odd as it may sound, I believe I would have felt it if something did. Ever since…"
The young girl froze. Sahasrahla had uttered that word so calmly, so easily. Briefly, she was reminded of the dream she had just bore witness to, and that familiar feeling of unease clutched at her heart for a second.
"…Yes. Ever since, I've felt oddly connected to Link. I do not know why- I had never known the boy before. But when I lay in that dungeon beneath Hyrule castle, trapped…the first person my mind called out to was him."
When Zelda looked up at the elder, she was surprised to see him grinning broadly. "You do not know much about Hyrule's history, do you, your highness?"
He spoke candidly, without judgement, but Zelda still felt slightly embarrassed upon hearing those words. "No, I'm afraid not," she laughed nervously, "for as much as my father's peers taught me of my abilities, they neglected to teach me much of my land's history."
Sahasrahla's grin stayed as he nodded in understanding. "We have more to discuss, my queen. But, perhaps another time."
The chariot abruptly stopped; they had stopped at the top of a hill, and at a close distance were the buildings that made up Kakariko Village. Zelda gazed out to the community and smiled to herself; children were running playfully throughout the streets, sweet music playing as the citizens bustled about in the afternoon sun. It was perfectly idyllic.
Both of them exited the chariot, their entourage surrounding them, on watch. Sahasrahla bowed his head down respectfully towards Zelda, and the young queen did the same.
"It has been a pleasure, your highness," the elder's voice crackled against the soft breeze.
"So it has," Zelda responded in kind, "And again, it's just-"
Zelda didn't get to finish her thought- something considerably large, bluish in hue, careened past the clearing ahead of them, kicking up dust in the empty countryside ahead of Kakariko village and causing the knights' horses to rear up and react wildly in response. The thing came to a stop some distance away, allowing everyone to get a better look.
The object was unlike anything Zelda had ever seen; it looked sleek and angular, primarily made up of a deep blue color, with red accents here and there. Upon a closer look, the young girl realized that it wasn't touching the ground. It stayed motionless for a second.
A faint click! emitted from the object, and a seemingly black compartment at the top smoothly slid up.
"By Din's fire," Zelda heard the elder mutter, "what manner of a device is it?"
Another second of silence passed. Then ano-
A boisterous cry was heard as a figure leapt out of the object at blinding speed, somersaulting high up into the air and blotting out the sun before landing back down right in front of the group. All knights immediately drew their weapons, Sahasrahla backed away, and Zelda stood firm, looking at the figure in pure curiosity.
It was…a man. A man dressed in garb that Zelda couldn't piece together for the life of her; he wore what was possibly the tightest form fitting suit in existence, golden yellow boots and gloves, and a single gold-trimmed silver shoulder plate. A scarf of similar correlation swayed in the afternoon breeze. The figure stayed in the position he landed in, one knee on the ground with his right arm raised distinctly outward, for longer than what was probably necessary, almost dramatically. The knights were looking more and more confused by the second, whereas Zelda herself was still gazing at the man with an almost innocent-like curiosity; this was by far the strangest looking man she had ever seen in her life.
Without warning, the man suddenly stood up, bringing his right arm tightly to a right angle, with two fingers held up. Zelda couldn't make out his face; he was wearing a bright red helmet, also gold trimmed. Two angular lights brimmed where his eyes should've been; the only part the youthful queen could really make out was the dazzlingly white smile the person bore.
"PRINCESS ZELDA! CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE BEEN INVITED!"
Zelda gasped at the sudden loudness, while the knight's horses reared up in a small frenzy once again.
"E-excuse me?" she squeaked, her voice sounding orders of magnitude-smaller by comparison.
"You address a queen, knave," one of Zelda's older knights barked, his lance at the ready, "now state your business!"
The man stayed in the same position, seemingly frozen, for a few more seconds; his smile faltered, as did his pose.
"Wait, queen?" he spoke, his voice suddenly at normal volume, "I must not have the right place. This isn't Hyrule?"
"Yes, this be Hyrule," Zelda spoke clearly, walking past her knights(much to their discomfort), "Who do I speak to?"
The figure grinned in a comically friendly way, "Well now, do I have news for you-" he took a step forward and made to grab something attached to his waist; the knights promptly surrounded him, weapons still in position. The man's mouth suddenly went stern, and his entire disposition immediately became tense.
"Well, Smash Season technically doesn't start for another few weeks or so," the figure spoke in a low voice, his fists slowly clenching, "but if you boys insist I'm happy to demonstra-
"-Stand down, all of you," Zelda ordered, and after a moment's hesitation, her knights complied. The man simply stood there. She craned her head to the side in a peculiar fashion, her eyes seemingly boring holes into the figure's head, "He…means me no harm."
She almost couldn't see his thoughts, they were moving at such a blistering speed; but she could feel his presence. There was no ill intent behind the man's conviction at all.
"What is your name, sir?" Zelda inquired as neutrally as she could.
The man performed a small backflip before giving an exaggerated gentleman's bow, "Captain Douglas Jay Falcon, at your service. Or Captain Falcon, for short. Or simply Captain. Or Falcon. Or-"
"Regardless," Zelda forced her smile somewhat – she still didn't feel completely comfortable around this strange man, "What exactly is this…Smash Season?"
Falcon held two closed fingers up to his helmet in a small salute, "Always happy to help. There a bar around here?"
After some short discrepancy over what exactly Falcon defined as a "bar", they went to the next best place; Kakariko Inn. The inn was cleared out of patrons per Falcon's request, which Zelda reluctantly obliged; only the person behind the counter remained. The pair sat across each other at the wooden table closest to the door; despite being indoors, Captain Falcon still hadn't taken his helmet off. Right off the bat, the two found themselves embroidered in a conversation of sorts.
"So," Zelda was speaking, you mean to tell me, you and other compatriots as bizarrely dressed as yourself get in those - those-"
"-Cars, right," Falcon completed the foreign word for her as he drank out of a large wooden mug.
"Right, those cars," Zelda said, her odd pronunciation of a word she didn't know eliciting a light snicker from the captain, "and you just...ride them around a course repeatedly? At a speed fast enough to kill."
Zelda's brow was furrowed in confusion, "How very odd. And all for a monetary prize, of course."
Captain sighed, not out of contempt, but rather a sense of knowing something Zelda didn't, before saying "Well, there's other kinds of rewards to gain from it. You just gotta be the right kind of person for it, of course. And don't even get me started on the bounty hunting busi-"
"-Hold on there just a moment, Mr. Falcon," the queen held her hand up politely, "as surprisingly pleasant as this conversation of another world has been, I'd like to discuss this…"Smash" business."
The blue and red man took another swig out of his giant mug before responding, "Alright, so first thing's first; you're gonna wanna read this." The Falcon reached to something clipped to his side and slid it over to Zelda's side of the table; it appeared to be an unremarkable letter, the seal displaying a symbol the blonde girl didn't recognize.
"Hold on just a moment," Zelda mildly protested as the captain began taking another long swig, "I asked for you to explain this to me-"
Falcon slammed the mug down onto the table's surface, apparently done with his drink. He exhaled sharply, satisfied with the beverage, before stating, "Really, this letter lays all the groundwork for what I gotta say, so you should probably just read it first."
Zelda blinked. She still wasn't quite used to someone speaking in such an improper cadence; the only one she could think of was Link, and he had barely spoken at all.
"Very well," she responded, and proceeded to neatly open the letter. In the meantime, Captain Falcon began to gesture towards the man behind the counter; he held up five fingers, so the man brought him five more mugs.
"Better be paying for these…" The older man grumbled as he walked off to the counter.
"Now anyway," Falcon said, holding the drinks in both hands as he turned back to the table, "as I was sayin-"
Zelda had stated the word calmly, the letter opened and laying on the table.
If Falcon weren't wearing a helmet, Zelda would have seen him blink.
"Beg your pardon-?"
"Yes. I accept the invitation." Zelda repeated, as calmly as can be, neatly holding her hands on the table surface.
Falcon froze for a brief second. "Uh…thought you said you wanted an explanation?"
"Yes," Zelda responded, "but after having read the invitation, I believe I have a fair idea of what this "Smash Season" is. And I would very much like to be a part of it."
Falcon stayed silent. He brought one of the five mugs to his lips and downed the entirety of the liquid inside the container. Then, he spoke.
"Well, that's gotta be a record for fastest newcomer acceptance now isn't it…?" Falcon half-muttered to himself, "You sure you don't have any questions? You don't have a kingdom to help lead?"
"Yes," Zelda responded, looking down at her hands, "and I care for my people dearly. My greatest wish is to be able to defend them from any danger, no matter how dire the danger may be."
Zelda looked up, that curious look from earlier back in her eyes, "But then, you showed up. Dressed like…that, ready to fight an entire squadron of knights as if it meant nothing, in a-what was it you called it-?"
"Right, a car," Zelda continued, her strange pronunciation of the foreign word eliciting another small smile out of Falcon, "Something I've never seen before. And this letter indicates that there may be dozens, maybe hundreds of other worlds, full of all manner of creature and man I've never dreamed of existing; who's to say whether they are all wonderous or evil? Certainly not me, while I sit here in Hyrule, the land I've stayed in my entire life."
Falcon had downed his fourth drink listening to this, but he stayed razor-focused on what was being said.
"So really, my first thought was that I have to go; for the sake of my people. To discover what or who's safe, or what is not. To gain insight on lands and beings unknown, all in the service of better leading and protecting my home, something I…" Zelda thought back to Ganon. How Agahnim had managed to capture her so easily, how she had been too weak to help Link save her kingdom. She couldn't let that happen again. "…something I wasn't able to do in the past. I must make up for past transgressions."
Captain smiled again; though he was a stranger to this Zelda, there was already a hint of familiarity to her. And with that, he finished his last drink.
"Well then. Welcome to Smash."
Chapter 4: Chapter Three - Déjà vu
"What's with the photos?"
Samus spoke somewhat gruffly as her young compatriot aimed his Sheikah Slate in various directions inside of their cabin. Said cabin was what Samus would call overly ornate; the pair sat in red velvet-covered benches, lined with golden armrests, the window next to them adorned with pillowy white drapes. All of this elaborate décor made the woman in the bulky orange and red armor stand out to say the least.
Link aimed his Slate at her when she said this. Samus simply stared directly into the Slate's camera, her decadent gaze hidden behind the glowing green of her helmet's visor. Link slowly lowered, the Slate, a nervous grin on his face.
"Heh. My bad. I just-Zelda wanted me to-" the young champion began, faltering as Zelda crossed his mind for the dozenth time since had boarded the…
"-What did you call this thing again?" Link had somehow interrupted himself.
"Right, that," Link responded, checking to see that he had recorded the word and its definition in the Slate's archive earlier. "I'm sorry about that, also. Zelda being, er, absent, I mean."
The kid seemed to fumble when it came to apologies, Samus thought. It was also the 5th apology he had uttered about his absent companion so far.
"It's really nothing," Samus replied curtly, "We do these invitations ahead of time. Just means we have to find another contender." She was half-lying; though she herself didn't put much thought to it, she knew a certain plumber must've been having an aneurysm after receiving her message about Zelda.
Link nodded. He then simply placed the Slate to his side on the bench, continuing to gaze around the train's interior as he did so.
Samus realized that she might have inadvertently told him to stop what he was doing. "Sorry. Didn't mean to stop you-"
Link immediately picked up the Slate again and resumed his activity before Samus had reached the end of her sentence; she sighed to herself, the exhale of breath inaudible within her armor. "I guess I forget what the first time is like for everyone."
"Everyone's first Smash Season, you mean?" Link muttered, seemingly attempting to gain a closer shot at what lay outside the train's window; a jumbled mess of colors amidst vast nothingness.
Silence quickly permeated the room. Samus cursed herself silently in her head; she was never fond of having to engage the newcomers of any Smash tournament, but due to her standing in said tournament as one of the original contenders, she found the duty forced upon her more often than not. Samus sighed silently one last time before preparing to speak.
"That Sheikah Slate," she began, "it's technologically based, right? I wouldn't have expected that."
"Really?," Link responded, turning to Samus with a questioning gaze, "Howso?"
Because it's not like a Link to carry something like that, Samus wanted to say. She found herself briefly wondering just how much about Smash Season she was allowed to break to someone who had only just entered, with no knowledge whatsoever. How does one take to being told that they're not the first of themselves? But was that really how it worked in the land of Hyrule? Were each Links reincarnations of each other, or merely descendants? Samus glumly realized that these were things she probably should have asked the Link who came before. The Link who seemed so very different from this one…
"Samus?" the bounty hunter realized that she hadn't responded for an extended moment of time.
"Sorry," Samus replied stiffly, "Got lost for a bit."
Link gave what appeared to be a reassuring nod, half grinning, "I get it."
Samus blinked. "Anyway," she began, "I'm guessing you have a lot of questions."
"Oh definitely," Link replied quickly, "but there's one I'd like to have answered first-"
Link looked back outside the train, to vast ocean of clashing colors.
"Where are we?"
Samus looked out the window with him. "It has a somewhat complicated past; it's not what we originally used as a means for travel that's for sure."
Memories began to cautiously flit through Samus's mind; memories of friends and foe brawling it out for various reasons, before ultimately coming together for the sake of the multiverse.
"We used to call it Subspace, but it serves a different purpose now than it did back when it held that name. Now it's just called the Lightstrip. The road to Smash Station; all multiversal trainlines run through here."
Link continued to gaze out into the Lightstrip for a few more moments before turning back to Samus, his eyes wide with an almost innocent-like wonder, "Alright then. Now, what's the Smash Manor?"
"Too easy; you're gonna see it in a bit anyway."
"Who am I fighting?"
"Depends on the tourney brackets."
"Is it to the death?"
"…I don't think it'd be as popular if it were-"
"-I didn't pack any clothes. Do I get clothes?"
"Yes. It's all magic or whatever, I'm not really the best one to ask-"
"-I didn't pack anything. Do I get to send for stuff or something?"
"We do have a messaging system, yes. If you'd like, I'm sure someone could incorporate it into your slate-
"-What am I fighting for?"
"I meant is there a reward."
Link paused, his questioning barrage put on hold for a brief moment. He seemed to put some thought to what he was planning to say next.
"Are you a contender?"
"How long have you been doing this for?"
"Since Smash Season was invented."
Link's demeanor seemed to change at this statement; his body seemed to stiffen up a bit, his eyes steeling into a hardened gaze so subtle that Samus herself almost didn't notice. If Samus held any bit of arrogancy, she would have assumed it was some misplaced respect due to seniority.
"I see," Link responded sincerely, "You must have fought many warriors."
"Everyone's seen their fair share of battles," Samus replied, feeling uneasy at the slightest hint of praise, an urge to change the trajectory of the conversation suddenly taking root within her.
"Can I ask something?" Link blinked; it was the first time Samus had asked a question through the entirety of their trip on the train.
"Why did you say yes, while Zelda said no?"
Link's grin faded. He held the Sheikah Slate in his hands, running his fingers over its various grooves and patterns.
"She's responsible for her people's well-being; at least, that's how she sees it. Hyrule isn't where it needs to be, she thinks she needs to be there every step of the way."
"What do you think?" Samus asked, growing slightly irritated at her apparent lack of apathy towards the conversation; she found herself involved in what this Link had to say.
"Well, I guess she's right," Link spoke seriously, still looking at the Slate as if it were a crucial part of him, "…Guess I wish she came with me."
Samus's first instinct was to stay silent; she wouldn't have wanted someone to speak if it was her having a moment, so why should she? Inwardly Samus scolded herself.
"You'll get to message her every day," she spoke the unfamiliar words of attempted comfort, "the Smash networking sytem is very…er, direct."
Link looked up at her, his eyes slowly morphing from vulnerable to grateful; Samus felt herself grow instinctually agitated at the foreign feeling.
"Why're you still wearing that?" Link spoke up, gesturing to her armor, "we're indoors."
Their conversation was interrupted by a low humming noise which briefly reverberated throughout the cabin. Link looked over to the tall bounty hunter with an inquisitive gaze.
"We're arriving." Samus said blankly whilst proceeding to get up from her seat, "you can take as many photos as you like."
Link frowned, "What does that mea-?"
A blinding white light shown through the cabin's windows, forcing Link to turn away. Said light slowly faded away, leaving Link still somewhat blinded; he attempted to look out the window once more only to see…
Brilliant blue skies for as far as the naked eye could see. A crystal clear lake which seemed to span for miles before culminating in vastly numerous cascading water falls; various landmarks seemingly plucked out of the ground and left floating in the sky, multiple buildings visible on each one of these skyward bound platforms. At the center of it all was something Link hesitated to call a Manor, because to Link the word meant, house.
And the Smash Manor turned out to be anything but; an enormous island lay at the center of the lake, on top of it lying a monolithic construction which could have pierced the clouds above, if there had been any to speak of. The architecture seemed ancient in design, though the materials making up the Manor were clearly new, spotless marble columns and sweeping archways peppering the massive structure. The shape of it gradually sloped the further up the building, culminating in one tower which proudly held a deep red flag bearing the Smash symbol. It flapped against the wind.
Link found himself dumbstruck; not even Hyrule Castle was this all-encompassing. He couldn't even snap himself out of his stupor enough to bring the slate up for a photo. The train began to smoothly make its way over to an expansive marble platform just ahead of the Manor itself.
"Huh." Link heard his female companion speak calmly next to him, "Could've sworn they said it was gonna be bigger this time. Come on, let's go."
Hyrule's Champion believed the sight would feel less surreal once he set foot on the ground itself; as Link stepped out of the train's door and into the cheery morning sun, he found it was almost more disorienting than before.
"You still have your fare, right?" Samus spoke as she surveyed the landscape ahead of them, seemingly looking for someone.
"Yeah," Link replied distantly, "It's in the slate-"
"-Good, don't lose it; it's your ticket both in and out of here."
A meandering thought suddenly struck the front of Link's mind, "Where is everybody?"
"Still a few weeks out; guessing we're some of the first ones to show." Samus replied, silently grateful for the peace and quiet, as momentary as it may be, "Where in the world is that plumber…?"
"Plumber?" The strange word seemingly brought Link back to reality, "What did you say-?"
A small red and blue blur landed on the ground between the pair, seemingly out of nowhere; upon closer look, Link realized it was a man of short stature, wearing red and blue overalls, a thick moustache adorning his face. A red hat with a pure white "M" sat atop his ahead.
The abnormally short plumber performed another brief jump before striking a pose on the ground, both arms outstretched in an inviting manner, a goofy open-mouthed smile on his face.
"A-welcome Sammy!" Mario belted out, Link witnessing Samus visibly recoil slightly in response to the nickname, "it is a-so nice to have you back with us!"
The bounty hunter inclined her head slightly and sighed audibly; the hero of Hyrule couldn't help but notice her more relaxed body posture in the wake of this person however, as if she had known the plumber for long enough to warrant the nickname. "Good to see you too, Mr. Jumpman."
Mario let out a small laugh before turning to Link, his eyes still cheery, "And a-this must be the new Link! So nice to have a-you as one of the first a-new arrivals!"
Mario held out his hand, Link grabbing it in a firm handshake. "I a-hope good ole' Sammy wasn't too rude with her a-invitation, all these years and she's-a still workin' on her people skills!"
Samus stood there stiffly as Link turned to look at her with a goofy grin, "Oh yeah, she was very welcoming." For as disoriented as Link was upon first glance at the Smash Manor, this funny little man was helping him readjust to a certain extent.
"Anyway," Samus spoke up, "We're really the first to get here?"
"Eh, some of," Mario replied, turning to look back at the structure before them, "Some of tha' veterans have shown up; a couple'a assist trophies too, which is odd; they-a not scheduled to arrive for another week…"
The plumber snapped out of his thoughts and turned back to the duo, "But enough about a-that! Let's get you both settled in! I've a-got some big news to share once everyone arrives!"
"Everyone but a Zelda, right," Samus corrected.
Link noticed the briefest of eye twitches from Mario. "A-correct, yes. Come, a-this way!"
It was only when the trio began to make their way to the Manor that a certain statement stuck itself out in Link's mind, one which would continue to confuse him for the duration of the walk up to the building:
The "new" Link?
Chapter 5: Chapter Four - One Link, Two Link, Three Link
One Link, Two Link, Three Link
The Manor somehow appeared bigger on the inside; Samus and Link found themselves being led by Mario through a gigantic hallway, the tiled floors consisting of a simple black and white checkerboard pattern whilst sunlight lazily gleamed through the towering windows. Mario hadn't stopped talking the entirety of the trip, and Link was beginning to wonder if what was being said was actually being directed towards him or not.
"The floors are-a nice and spotless for now, but I will-a still have to schedule multiple clean up-a crews per night; maybe even a-per hour? Every contender has been accommodated with their own living space, but as-a to whether or not they will-a treat those living spaces-a with respect remains-a to be seen; Master Hand still-a needs sixteen fighter files forwarded to him before the end of the day for-a finalization processes, and ohohooo a-speakin' of tha' fighters-"
"Yeah, speaking of," Samus casually interjected, "that was actually one of the few things I was wondering about; how many contenders are we expecting this season? I remember last time, the roster size was upwards of…40, 45 fighters total? I imagine we weren't able to squeeze in all of the newcomers from then-"
Mario let out the loudest bout of cheery laughter Link had possibly ever heard, but the blue-garbed Champion still found himself somewhat disassociated with the conversation taking place; he was still thinking about the thing Mario had said earlier about a "new" Link.
"That's a-very funny Sammy," Mario was still wheezing, jokingly wiping a tear that didn't exist, "I know you've-a already read tha' tournament plan for this year, but it is a-so nice to know you have a sense of humor."
Samus stayed silent for a moment before responding, "….There's a tournament plan?"
Mario's laughter faltered. He stopped walking and turned to look at Samus with wide eyes.
"YOU DON'T KNOW? THAT'S-A EVEN BETTER!"
Samus did not appear as amused by this as the pint-sized plumber seemed to be; her more rigid body language at this loud response made her seem more agitated about being left out of the know, if anything. Mario resumed his walk forward at a brisker pace than before.
"Come along now! Gotta check in with the Hand!"
They keep talking about this hand guy, Link thought to himself as the trio walked below a sweeping archway into another hallway, imagine if it really was a giant hand? Heh.
It was a giant hand.
The three stood in what appeared to be Master Hand's office, though it could have been easily mistaken as a daycare center for giants; the architecture in this room was blocky, furnished with loud, blaring colors that almost served to give Link a headache. Blues and yellows pounded against the hero's vision, almost distracting him from the fact that the décor in the room was several times bigger than it should have been; his head only reached up to the seat of an abnormally large wooden chair, which itself sat facing an equally large mahogany desk. Various stuffed animals and wooden building blocks littered the multicolored carpet, each item rivalling even Samus in height.
Looming down over the trio at the very top of the desk was a giant gloved hand, floating by itself.
"Ah yes," a smooth baritone voice echoed, "more arrivals. Two veterans, at that."
"A-well," Mario projected his voice up to the Hand, "one being-a veteran in name only, yes!"
"Hi MH," Samus stated her greeting briefly before looking over at Link, who gazed back with a confused look at what Master Hand had just said.
He definitely knows something weird's up now. Samus wondered if she should have actually attempted explaining the full situation to Link before, on the train.
Eh. He'll probably have a funny reaction.
"That makes it…" Master Hand began as he lifted a giant ballpoint pen and began writing on a comically large document, "twelve arrivals total so far. They keep coming at this rate, I expect we should have everyone settled just a single week before the tournament is set to begin; cutting it a little close, Mario."
"I-a know," Mario replied candidly, "but with the, ah, special nature of this particular Smash Season, we-a both knew there'd be a little bit of squeezin' in a-here and there."
"This, uh, special reason being…?" Samus questioned aloud, unsure if she would get an actual response from the two at this point.
"You didn't receive the official tourney document then, I'm assuming," the hand's reverberating voice replied with a sigh, "Mario, when you stated that the residents of Cap Kingdom knew how to establish an effective messaging infrastructure, I expected-"
"I-a know, trust me," Mario interjected glumly, "I guess I-a just didn't realize how unprepared they were with a network of this-a scope. I'll a-have to reconsider the deal for the paratroopa delivery system for a-next Smash Season and THEN-"
The topic at hand was very quickly devolving into words and phrases that Link had no knowledge of; he felt like an outsider to the current conversation.
Master Hand seemed to take note of this, interrupting Mario with, "Link, we'll get your moveset sorted out later; for now, why not try to get a feel for the Manor? Should be the perfect opportunity to do so, what with there being so few contenders getting settled into their living spaces and what not-"
"-A-yes, perfect!" Mario interrupted.
Link blinked, somewhat disregarding yet another unfamiliar word, moveset. "Well I guess it is, huh?" he replied; he genuinely did want to discover every nook and cranny of the Manor. The hero of Hyrule flashed a smile as he prepared to exit back out into the immaculately designed hallway, only for Samus to hold her non-cannon hand up in protest.
"Ehh, hold on a second," she began, "Wouldn't it be best if someone went with to make sure he doesn't step on a Mr. Saturn or something?"
"Well if you insist," Master Hand replied in an understanding tone, "I suppose I'll hold off on reviewing your moveset requests for another time-"
Samus jerkily shot her head back to the Hand at this part of his statement. She turned back to Link.
"Never mind. Have fun."
The bounty hunter promptly shut the oversized door in Link's face; he now stood alone in the lengthy hallway.
Well, Link thought as a grin overtook his face once more, time to explore.
Link was lost.
For as beautiful as the first checkerboard-tiled hallway was, he found that there appeared to be an ever increasing number of them, and that they all looked virtually identical. No Sheikah Towers to map onto the Slate here, so for the time being Link was irrevocably, hopelessly lost.
He found something of a thrill from that. This Smash Manor was an architectural mountain, and Link was ready to discover whatever secrets it held; at the moment, however, the only secret appeared to be that the architect copy-pasted the design for a hallway. He stood at the end of one archway and gazed at the seemingly endless hall before it turned right at the end.
"Stretching our legs, I see."
Link nearly jumped at the voice, turning to find the source a little odd.
The individual's physique was that of a woman in an incredibly fit condition, which seemed normal; the woman's skin, on the other hand, was an almost radiating pure white. Her hair tied back in a loose ponytail, she stood next to a window, the sunlight glinting off her figure. She wore a simple blue tank top and black pants, not too dissimilar from what Link's Zelda wore on often occasion. Her body position was another thing Link took note of; she stood in perfectly erect posture with both arms held together above her, one of her legs smoothly raising to an angle while the other stayed planted firmly on the ground.
The woman flashed a warm smile to Link, but he found himself a little unnerved at the stranger's eyes; they were of similar tone to her skin, the pupils a milky gray.
"In a sense, I guess," Link responded, "What're you doing?"
The woman's pleasant expression stayed, as did her position; she was almost a statue. "Just performing some crucial stretches; I just finished a jog around the Manor, and I'm about to go for another round."
"Oh, uh," Link replied, "I probably shouldn't keep you waiting then-"
The woman's position shifted; her leg that had been lifted in the air now found itself on the ground next to its other, and the woman was now stretching one of her toned arms over her chest. "It's alright; I can multitask."
Link nodded in understanding. "You're another fighter then, I'm guessing?"
"I am another contender, yes," the woman replied pleasantly, "it's funny; I'm listed as a veteran, but really, I was only just in the previous tournament. That word makes me sound a lot more experienced, doesn't it?"
Link smiled at the stranger's calm demeanor, "I suppose it does. What's your name?"
The woman ceased her current stretching, placing both hands on her hips as she turned to fully face Link. "Oh me, I'm just a Trainer," she replied casually, "and I can tell you're a Link, by the by; you Hylians always tend to have remarkable physiques."
Link tensed up at this; there it was again. What does that mean?
"It's funny," the Trainer continued, "I suppose you were named a veteran too, huh? But I can tell, you're new. That paradox, fascinating."
"Why?" Link blurted out, "Why am I labelled a veteran? And what do you mean, "a" Link?"
The Trainer grew confused for a moment, only to settle in with an understanding smile. "Ah, I see…no one's told you yet. That's silly, isn't it? They spend all this time and effort on preparing the tournament but they haven't prepared you, really. A bit unfortunate, but amusing in a cosmic sense."
Link was growing somewhat impatient. He opened his mouth to speak again, only to be silenced by the woman placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
"I'm probably not the best one to explain this," she began, "but it would be a shame for the confusion to hamper the beginning of your first Smash season; see, the gist of the situation is-"
She was interrupted by several small tremors, growing louder by the moment. Link glanced around, his hand resting on the master sword, ready to use it at a moment's notice, when suddenly-
"JUNIOR! PUT THE SMALL GREEN MAN DOWN, NOW!"
A small creature driving a vehicle which appeared to have a clown face on it rushed by the duo; and right behind it lumbered a gigantic turtle at a surprising speed. He stopped in front of the two, completely ignorant of their presence, allowing Link to gain a better look at this being.
He seemed like a turtle to Link at first, if only for the massive shell on his back; said shell also had multiple spikes protruding out haphazardly. The green shell led to orange scales wrapped around the entire body, leading up to a powerful-looking jaw with razor sharp teeth. Fire-y red hair bristled amidst two large horns. The being stood there, out of breath, as the individual in the Clown car laughed further down the hall.
"Bowser," the Trainer called out casually while Link continued to hold an apprehensive stance, "What did I say about keeping up with your calisthenics off-season? And I certainly hope you haven't slipped back into your abhorrent diet-"
The being known as Bowser gained an even angrier glare in his eyes as his nostrils flared up in intimidating fashion. His jaws slackened as he let out another fearsome roar:
"JUUUUNIOORRR! IF YOU DON'T PUT THAT CHILD DOWN THIS INSTANT, I WILL NOT HESITATE TO PUT PARENTAL CONTROLS ON YOUR VIDEO GAMES AGAIN!"
Silence. Then, faintly, Link heard "Junior" let out a bratty wail. The son of Bowser let go of another, smaller figure; Bowser Jr. promptly drove off, while the smaller figure began walking down the long hallway towards the three of them.
Bowser let out an exasperated sigh as he turned to the Trainer, "Sorry for the ruckus, Wii Fit; Junior's been so rambunctious lately, even more than in the last tournament, believe it or not-"
It was then that King Koopa noticed the Trainer's companion. Bowser's eyes narrowed down to a slit as he took a step closer, causing Link to resume an apprehensive stance again.
Bowser sniffed once. "Huh…Mario wasn't kiddin'. We really do have a new Link."
"By Hylia," Link couldn't help it at this point; his confusion towards the situation regarding himself was reaching its boiling point, "What does that mean!?"
Bowser blinked. "Whaddya mean, what'd I mean?" he replied gruffly, scratching the back of his head, "You read the document, right?"
"King Koopa," a third voice interjected, "you have to teach your son how to-"
The voice stopped as all three individuals looked at the person; the child who had been nabbed by Bowser Jr. The Koopa King looked back and forth between Link and this newcomer; Wii Fit Trainer's eyes widened as she gasped "Oh my…" seemingly not recognizing this newcomer.
But Link did recognize him. It was…him.
Or at the very least, he looked extremely similar to Link. The child appeared to be no older than 12; he still reached up to Link's chest in height regardless. This boy seemed to hold a perpetual scowl on his face; a wooden shield and small, stubby sword hung on his back…and he wore a familiar green tunic.
"Heh," Bowser chuckled somewhat uneasily, "Link…meet, er, younger Link."
All of the confusion and pent up irritation Link had been feeling vanished in an instant. The champion of Hyrule was speechless, his mind unable to formulate any coherent thought for the time being.
Young Link blinked, his expression completely neutral, aside from what appeared to be a perpetual scowl. Then, he held up something to Link; a sealed glass bottle, the liquid inside causing the surface to perspire in the child's hand. The bottle was wrapped in a blue label with a simple drawing of a cow on it, and although the dialect was somewhat different than what Link had read before, it was still distinctly Hyrulian.
"Want some milk? You look like you need it," the young, yet mature voice, asked innocently.
Link's mouth was slightly agape.
The trainer grinned, warmly.
Chapter 6: Chapter Five - A Connection Between Worlds
A Connection Between Worlds
If you're reading this, then that means the floating talking hat-messenger-thing did its job! It also means I'm not dead, thankfully, and I hope you didn't worry too much. Man, Zel', if only you could see this place for yourself. It's so much more exciting than either of us could've imagined; and the people, even more so. I've only been here a week so far and I've already met all manner of creature, beings neither of us would have ever seen back home. Don't worry, I've already taken more photos than the Slate can probably bear, and I even managed to attach a few to this message!
Be missing you,
(P.S If you could send some clothes and stuff over from my house in Hateno, I'd really appreciate it. I've had to wash my clothes every morning and man is it already a race to see who gets to use the machine fir-
"Sir. Sir, I have a line of messages to deliver, please don't hold it up."
Link looked up from the message he was writing to a top hat floating in the air, disgruntled eyes staring back at him.
"Right, right," Link replied earnestly as he quickly finished up and handed the hat-shaped parcel letter off to the floating hat's stubby hands. The hat nodded curtly and proceeded to fly away.
"So, what is she like?" Link heard a young voice speak next to him as they both stood on the Smash Station platform; he turned to see Young Link looking up at him. "Your Zelda, I mean," the surprisingly well-spoken young boy finished his question, his eyes studying Link's face with perceived interest as his hands rested on his belt. This question surprised Link; outside of their initial introduction, it was the longest sentence that this green-clad boy had uttered to him.
Link himself still wasn't used to seeing someone who resembled him in the flesh so closely, but after a day of staying at the Manor, watching as more contenders trickled in slowly but surely, he found it was getting at least somewhat easier. They weren't completely alike, after all; this younger Link somehow looked sterner than Link himself did at times.
The older hero of Hyrule wasn't sure how to respond to the question at first. "Well," Link finally began as he looked off into the sun rising over the lake, "it's funny; it's almost like I have two different visions of what Zelda's like."
Young Link continued to listen intently.
"There's the first one," Link continued, "the princess with a chip on her shoulder; the one with something to prove. She couldn't stand the sight of me at first, and I remember at the time I didn't understand why-well, really I couldn't. But as we continued to spend more time together, since I was her appointed knight… and we slowly learned more about each other and just how badly we had misinterpreted one another…well, we grew fond of each other, I guess."
Young Link remained silent. Link sheepishly continued.
"Then, there's the other version: the one who was just a voice in my head, when I woke up a hundred years later with no memory of the fall of Hyrule and its Champions; her voice was the first I heard. At that point, I guess it didn't even really feel like Zelda, since I had no memory of who Zelda was. It was like Hyrule itself was telling me to come save it."
Young Link looked away, off into the sun which now only just glanced off of the calm waters, his face unreadable. "I see," he spoke, his voice completely neutral.
Link looked down at the boy who seemed more serious than someone his age should have been; although they had mostly stuck together in the Manor the previous week, almost every brief talk they shared was mostly about Link, and what life he had lead; in contrast, Link knew almost nothing about this boy, or what Hyrule was like during his time.
The sheer curiosity Link felt was burning away inside of him, but for some reason the young man felt the need to tiptoe around his child counterpart. Even so, he couldn't help but ask.
"And yours?" Link spoke as the younger of the two looked back to him, "How was your Zelda like?"
Young Link blinked, only pausing for the briefest of moments before answering, "She was good, and fair. Strong, kind."
The stern-faced boy's eyes flittered to the ground briefly before looking back up at Link, continuing with "Funny; in a manner of speaking, I knew Zelda twice over as well; but my vision of her did not change, as yours did. Granted, this vision is…faint. Muddled, somewhat, by time."
Young Link promptly turned and proceeded to calmly walk back towards the Manor, almost as if the discussion had never happened. Link's curiosity burned even higher than before; knew her twice over? In what way? What did he mean muddled? By Hylia, I'm more eager to find out than before…
Link ran off to catch up.
The dining hall had been spotless when Link first arrived, he was sure of that.
The same fancy decor, smooth white columns that towered over the guests, now found themselves splattered with multi-colored ink. The three long mahogany tables that ran parallel to the length of the mess hall now held long scratches, scorch marks running down their wooden patterns. The same ink that covered the walls ran down to the floor, spreading ever further across the tiles. Link saw huddled formations shifting amongst the thick liquid; they were zooming back and forth across the entire hall itself. Link shuddered.
"Woomy!" a muddled cry rang out.
The two beings in question lunged out of the ink-filled puddles, a boy and girl, both pairs of eyes filled with a wild energy as they resumed lobbing ink at one another with their dreaded splattershots. They had only just arrived two days previous, but Link was already somewhat apprehensive of their unorthodox fighting style.
Before either Link could decide how to navigate through the mess of a room to their breakfast, a blue blur streaked right through the middle of them, throwing the pair off balance. The Inkling Girl let out an excited garbled cry as both squid(kids) began to let loose at this new contender.
Since the fighter count had risen to 32 from the initial 12 that had been there when Link arrived, the Hylian Champion was already finding it a little difficult to keep track of who everyone was; this individual, however, had left a very memorable impression on him since his arrival.
The blue blur moved at such an incredible speed that he completely cut a path through the blue-orange ink mix that had spread everywhere; his red shoes finally came to a stop, the figure's blue quills holding minor ink stains here and there.
Hedgehogs existed in Hyrule; however, no hedgehog in Hyrule was anything like Sonic.
"Heheh!" the blue speedster grinned, his startlingly green eyes flashing at the Inkling pair, "You're gonna have to try a little harder than THAT if you want breakfast all to yourselves!" Sonic promptly dashed through both Inklings, said Inklings promptly dipping into the ink and following him eagerly.
This left both Links on empty stomachs; while the younger of the pair looked more than a little disgruntled, the older couldn't help but smile at the sheer energy present in the room. The Kokiri youth opened his mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by a streaking super missile which exploded in midair over the entire hall, leaving everyone frozen in place.
Samus stood in the archway entrance, the end of her arm cannon sizzling. "It is 7am. Clean. It. Up."
Sonic promptly dashed off and reappeared half a moment later with a bucket and mop; the Inklings promptly dashed past Samus and out of the dining hall, their garbled snickers echoing through that area of the Manor. As the blue blur began to almost fruitlessly attempt the task of cleaning the ink up with a single mop, a flash of yellow light briefly engulfed Samus before fading out of existence just as quickly, leaving the woman out of her armor and in what appeared to be sportswear; an orange tank top, briefs, and boots. The famed bounty hunter cracked her neck and sighed decadently as she walked up to the two Links.
"God, those two are going to be a headache," she said before turning to face Young Link, "Hey, Dekuboy. Sorry I didn't say hi before, it was…tough, discussing moveset ideas with Master Hand."
Link was somewhat surprised at Samus's more laidback demeanor towards his younger counterpart, but thought it best not question aloud just yet. Young Link nodded in silent understanding as Samus turned to face the older of the two.
"And you," Samus spoke, her body language somewhat stiffer now, "You finding everything okay so far?"
Link grinned half-heartedly despite the change in demeanor, "I've uh, had to hide the Sheikah Slate every day from Bowser Jr., but other than that it's been really-"
"-Great, glad to hear it," Samus cut him off exasperatedly before immediately wincing. "Sorry," she apologized, folding her arms together moodily, "been itching to cut loose since Mario thinks it's apparently so funny that I don't know what the big surprise is for this year's tourney. He's even told the other fighters coming in specifically not to tell me." Her eyes shifted suspiciously between the two. "…Neither of you would happen to know what it is? Would you?"
Link shook his head. Young Link shrugged. "Didn't get the document."
Samus tapped her foot briefly before willing herself to stop. "Right. Anyway, I'm starving."
The trio turned to look at Sonic, covered in more ink blotches than ever before; the floor, however, was now spotless. Sonic's eyes seemed crazed as he shakily held up what appeared to be the mangled remains of a mop, the ink-covered wood crumbling in his hands.
"We're, uh, gonna need a new one. Heheh."
"So," Samus spoke in between the chewing of a ribeye steak, "Have you two figured out where you both are in relation to each other yet?"
The three combatants sat at the far end of the table closest to the laid out food, and although it was just the three of them at first(Sonic had promptly run off to the showers) more Smashers were steadily rolling in. Link picked cautiously at his omelet whereas Dekuboy was casually chomping on a carrot belonging to a rich-looking salad.
Link's brow furrowed at the question. "I don't think so -then again, I don't really know where to start."
Young Link gulped his food down before chiming in, "Admittedly, I've never put much thought into it either; the only other Link I've ever encountered in a Smash tournament was simply me, but younger. Well, older. Both."
Link looked over to the young Kokiri, "I've been meaning to ask…you're a veteran?"
Young Link nodded plainly.
"When were you first invited to Smash?"
"The first one," Link's eyes widened as Young Link continued, "though it was less of an invitation and more of a-well. Long story short, I was present in the first two tournaments."
Link looked over to Samus, who nodded in return. "Dekuboy here's a bit complex," she began as she haphazardly tossed her now clean steak bone onto her plate, "When he first joined up he was probably around your age. When he came around again, he was still older, but then his younger self was also present simultaneously. Something to do with time shenanigans, don't know, never looked into it clearly."
Link sat back; this was a lot of new information delivered to him in mere seconds. He looked over to the Kokiri boy, a new gleam of fascination in his eye.
"And now he's back. How old would you say you are, Dekuboy?"
Young Link blinked. "In total, I suppose…twenty years of age?"
Link's jaw fell agape, his eyes wide. His child counterpart took note; "It is a fairly lengthy story…and I myself am still not too certain of all the details if I am being honest."
Samus looked back and forth between them, an amusing glint in her gaze, "This is pretty funny. You and I," she indicated towards Young Link, "have a bit of catching up to do. Shame, now you're a little too young to hit back a few like in the old days, huh?" she grinned slyly.
Young Link stared sternly downward into the table, "We never did discover who contaminated the Lon Lon Milk." His cheeks seemed to burn slightly at a memory which Link could not see.
"A-well well," A cheery Italian voice called out to them, "Samus is a-out and about in tha' morn'? So unnatural!" Samus turned to face Mario, her eyes rolling but the edge of her lips curling up in a small smile.
"More unnatural to see you not working," she replied in kind, "Don't you have a tourney secret to be keeping from me?"
"And from the rest of us, apparently," Link chimed in, "For as much as Samus wants to believe in a conspiracy that everyone's hiding the surprise from her…I've talked to a few of the other fighters. You intentionally didn't give out the tourney plan to everyone, right? Only a few people really know what's going on, and you've been trying to keep it secret from almost everyone because you don't want the surprise spoiled."
Samus looked to Link in somewhat disbelief. Mario seemed similarly shocked for a moment before displaying a grin, "Just as a-crafty as the other Links, I see! You're-a not wrong; This one's-a so big, it woulda been a shame if everyone knew right away."
Mario turned and patted Samus on the back, which she received somewhat disconcertingly, "BUT! Seeing as we're-a one week away from tha' tourney officially beginning, I-a figured today would be as good a day as any other."
The rotund plumber promptly jumped up onto the table, projecting his voice for everyone to hear, "Good moooorning, a-everyone! I a-hope everyone's been a-settlin' in comfortably; now, if you will-a all follow me to tha' Station platform…"
Both Links looked at each other with confused expressions as everyone proceeded to follow Mario out of the mess hall.
"When we-a started Smash Season," Mario's voice echoed through the Manor as all current fighters continued following him out into the morning sun, "We were only a measly twelve. Then, it was-a twenty-six. Then, thirty-seven. Then fifty-eight!"
The sizable crowd stopped at the platform as a silver Smash train streaked high up in the sky, trailing bright colors as it approached the station.
"Unfortunately, due to many-a reason, we've almost always-a lost a few fighters along the way," Mario continued, gaining an almost glum tone at this part of his speech, "JUST last tournament, we received countless-a complaints about what tourney spectators call, "cut" fighters!"
The train came to a halt at the Station; Link noticed Samus's eyes widen slightly at what Mario might be implying.
"I've-a been doin' this Smash Season stuff for…" Mario trailed off before laughing as he scratched the back of his head, "I've a-honestly lost count how many years! So, this time around, old Master Hand and I a-figured, what tha' heck; why not bring every old fighter back?"
The train doors slid open; everyone on the platform seemed to hold their breath at the same time. Slowly, but surely, a small creature of yellow coloration petered out of the train's doors. It's large, round eyes blinked in the sunlight as it innocently gazed at the crowd, it's long ears twitching ever so slightly in the morning breeze.
"Pika?" A confused chirp echoed through as the crowd parted; Pikachu, a small lightning rodent that Link had discovered a few days previous was known as Pokemon, slowly crawled up to the newcomer, his eyes wide in disbelief. His tail twitched as he and the newly arrived fighter looked over each other.
The newcomer blinked. "Pichu?" it cried its own name in a similarly disbelieving tone.
Pikachu's eyes lit up as his mouth morphed into an open smile, crying "Chaa!" as he and Pichu nuzzled affectionately. A sea of "awws" from the crowd morphed into gasps as a figure walked out right behind Pichu; he wore a distinctly red hat on his head, several Pokeballs clipped to his waist.
"Hey everybody," Trainer Red spoke half-grinning.
What followed was a wave of chatter as the fighters on the platform rushed the train, mingling excitedly with the other fighters emerging from the vehicle. Link looked on in disbelief as he counted twenty more fighters emerging and mingling with the crowd, and more appeared to be pouring in.
"Charming," Young Link spoke innocently, and Link himself was inclined to agree; despite knowing so little about the Smash tournament itself, he could tell just from most fighters' reactions that the idea of an all-encompassing tournament made up of every single previous contender was exciting.
"So that was the big secret, huh?" Samus spoke dimly, "Huh. Don't see how it warrants all the fuss-"
The blonde woman froze up at this new voice, Link turning back and forth in an attempt to discover where the source was. Slowly, a man emerged from the crowd and crossed into the trio's view.
He seemed battle-hardened to Link; grizzled beard, toned muscles, and an overall physique that loomed over the Hylian just a tad; the man's hardened eyes appeared to soften just a bit as he half-smiled towards the shocked bounty hunter.
"Kept ya' waitin', huh?" His gruff voice spoke again, and Link witnessed Samus's smile grow wide, the first time he had ever seen her express such unrepressed joy at something, anything in the week that he had known her.
"You son of a-" Samus began as she closed the distance between herself and Snake, bringing her arm out and clasping it in Snake's in what appeared to be the most intimate handshake Link had ever bore witness to, just before the pair pulled each other into a half embrace.
"Gotta admit," Snake spoke into her ear, "Was a little offended when the last tourney started and I didn't get a letter, given my, heh, good standing with-"
"Don't push it, Snake," Samus grinned.
Link smiled to himself before looking to see that Young Link was gone from his side; a brief look around showed that the young boy was interacting pleasantly with Pichu and the other 'mons.
The blue-garbed Hylian felt a hint of an unpleasant feeling strike his mind; he once again found himself a bit of an outsider in everyone else's story. He looked around, unsure of what do with himself amidst the loud murmurs of happy contenders.
Huh. Maybe I should go and check if the Slate's still where I left it-
"-Excuse me gentleman, would you happen to know where Mr. Falcon has-?"
As Link turned to face the source of this new voice, both he and the girl who spoke froze. The Champion's blue eyes found themselves staring into those of a girl dressed in ornate garb; a dress of pleasant pink and creamy white, adorned with golden pauldrons and an intricate necklace. A tiara of similar coloration was somewhat hidden beneath the young girl's bangs as a flowing cape swept behind her. A holy symbol that was all too familiar resided on her very dress, three golden triangles that came together in harmony. She brought a hand up to her mouth in apparent surprise as Link continued to stand there, frozen.
Link had never met this young lady before, and yet he could already tell who she was meant to be; he felt a presence that was all too familiar, all too comparable to the one he had so dearly been missing for the past week at the Smash Manor. The girl seemed to be experiencing a similar striking sensation, hence the shock.
A moment passed. Then another; all exterior noises seemed to fade away. Then, Link promptly knelt down, inclining his head in respect as the girl continued to stare with eyes as wide as saucers.
"Your Royal Highness; I stand at your service."
Chapter 7: Chapter Six - Something's Not Right
Something's Not Right
"So, what do you think?"
Zelda almost didn't regard Captain Falcon's question; she was too enamored with the sights around her within the modestly sized train cabin. She witnessed a a giant ape wearing a red tie joyfully playing some drum-like instrument, while another passenger of shorter stature wearing an astronaut outfit meekly attempted to get him to cease playing to no avail. A brown-haired youth bearing angelic wings chatted casually with a frog-like creature, its tongue wrapped around its neck in fashion not too dissimilar to a scarf; a pink puffball was laughing at something a blue-haired woman carrying an ornate-looking sword had just said. She saw a yellow creature of short stature happily jump around the cabin being followed by a mass of even smaller creatures of varying colors, each adorned with a flower of some kind on their heads. This was all to the dismay of an equally small, dark-colored round blob wearing a mask and carrying a golden sword, who sat by himself in the corner of the cabin; he appeared to be trying to gain some peace and quiet amidst the chaos.
Falcon couldn't help but be amused at the almost childlike wonder Zelda was currently exhibiting; a newcomer's first time in the Lightstrip Train was always a nice thing to witness for him.
"Are the combatants always this colorful?" The blonde girl finally directed her attention to Captain.
The helmeted racer grinned slightly, "You haven't seen anything yet."
Zelda smiled eagerly just as a stranger walked up to them. His hair was a peculiar shade of blue, a golden tiara resting amongst his head; he was dressed in royal garb of a land the Hylian girl didn't recognize, and a scabbard containing a sword of equally fancy design was strapped to his side.
"Excuse me," the stranger asked, his voice somewhat effeminate, "but I was sitting with my compatriots over there and I couldn't help but ask; are you Princess Zelda?"
Zelda peered over the man's shoulder briefly just to see his aforementioned friends; a white-haired youth of similar-looking age dressed in black robes, and another blue haired swordsman, only of much tougher-looking physique.
The young girl turned her attention back to the stranger, smiling pleasantly, "Yes, I be her. And you?"
The man smiled faintly before inclining his head slightly in respect, "I be Marth, a noble traveling from the land of Altea," Marth briefly directed his attention to Falcon, "It is good to see you as well, Captain." The fiery racer gave a small salute and a casual half-smile.
"Regardless," Marth turned back to Zelda, "I wish you good tidings in the upcoming tournament; denizens from the land of Hyrule often display such exceptional rigor and worth on the battlefield."
Zelda took the compliment in stride; she stood up from her seat and curtsied in front of the prince, smiling genuinely as she did so, "I thank you, Prince Marth, and wish good fortune upon you as well; though I know not the land of which you come from, I take note of your kind spirit and return it to you in kind."
Marth blinked before stiffly bowing back. "S-sugoi," he muttered, seemingly flustered, before turning to walk back to his companions.
"Heh, would you look at that," Falcon spoke as Zelda sat neatly back in her seat, "Someone outdid Marth when it comes to fanciful speak."
Zelda shrugged plainly, a smile still on her face, "If there is one thing Hylians are not adept at, it's certainly not manners."
Falcon half-grinned, "Gonna have to work on your wit there, miss."
Zelda's expression faltered just as Captain Falcon laughed; she then gained a mischievous glint in her eye. She flicked her wrist ever so slightly; Falcon's own wrist promptly flew up and bonked him in the face, not enough to hurt but certainly enough to startle.
"Let it not be said that I do not know how to receive a jab and return it in kind, Mr. Falcon." She uttered, mischievous glint still present. Falcon seemed surprised for a moment, only for the pair to laugh right after.
Passengers were beginning to travel through the entirety of the train; some left the current cabin while others entered, and Zelda was only just beginning to realize the scale of the population only just within the train itself.
"Goodness," Zelda spoke, "Just how many contenders are there?"
"You know," Falcon responded lightly, "You could go around and find out for yourself; this'd probably be as good a time as any to get acquainted."
Zelda looked around the cabin with newfound apprehension; though that Marth youth had seemed friendly enough, she had no reason to believe everyone else would share the same candor. Just after having this thought, she scolded herself; this is why I came here, for the good of my people-
Zelda's brow scrunched up as a new thought popped into her head, "You know, it's funny…I could have sworn that gentleman Marth over there had mentioned other Hylians?"
"You'd be right."
Zelda felt shocked; she hadn't considered the possibility that this invitation extended on to her may have also been extended onto others within her homeland. If she had been invited, did that mean…?
"No," Falcon seemingly had read her mind, "We didn't invite your Link; BUT, there's a reason for tha-"
"Hold on for just a moment," Zelda interjected, gazing intently at her companion, "What do you mean, "your" Link? What other Link would there be?"
Captain seemed somewhat uncomfortable, "You know, on second thought, I'm not really the best person to ask for these kinds of…time-related things – I'd probably jumble it all up-"
"What does this have to do with time?"
An awkward expression overcame Captain before he simply sighed, "Alright, I'll try to simplify it the best I can; the thing is-"
Just then, a small man wearing green and blue overalls came running up to the pair, wheezing and out of breath; he had a comically oversized moustache, and a worried expression.
"A-Captain," he panted shrilly, wiping sweat off his brow, "We've a-got a situa-" the strange short man stopped when he noticed Falcon's companion; his blue eyes grew even wider.
"Hello," Zelda spoke politely, with a hint of apprehension at the stranger's panicked demeanor.
"Mamma mia," the out of breath man spoke even shriller, his accent shining through, "You-a must be…Princess Zelda? W-why, it's an honor to a-have you-"
"Luigi," Captain Falcon interjected, snapping the plumber's focus back, "Something happen?"
Luigi's nervousness peaked again, "Y-yes, someone challenged Ryu to a friendly spar – only it issa not so friendly no more-"
Just then the a faint tremor shook through the cabin, its passengers chattering excitedly in response; a garbled "SHORYUKEN!" echoed from towards the front of the train. Luigi looked helplessly to Falcon; in response, the Captain pulled on his gloves and sighed impatiently, quickly getting up from his seat.
"We'll continue from where we left off," he spoke to the sitting Hylian, "don't worry."
And just like that, Falcon promptly got up and left the cabin; Zelda found herself sitting alone, amongst a train full of strangers.
Well, I suppose he'll be back…
Falcon never came back, for whatever reason; Zelda certainly hoped that her strange newfound companion was alright, but as she stepped off the train onto Smash Station along with all of the other passengers, she found the experience of looking at the Manor for the first time in all its splendor somewhat muddled due to the immensely large crowd that had formulated; she found herself looking for someone, anyone to guide her through the joyful chaos.
Goodness, where did that ridiculous racer go off to…?
"Pardon me – excuse –" she began pushing her way through the crowd as politely as she could, searching for anyone who could possibly give her some sort of direction-
"Excuse me gentleman," she spoke to a seemingly normal boy who had his back turned to her, "would you happen to know where Mr. Falcon has-?"
The boy turned, and Zelda froze.
She didn't recognize him; blonde hair, a blue tunic, he stood at around the same height as her. At the same time, however, she felt an incredible pang of familiarity upon seeing this individual for the first time; as if she should have known him, and she was simply looking at him through a completely different, almost alien light.
She almost involuntarily raised a hand to her mouth, words seemingly evading her. "O-oh my…" was all she could stammer out, this disorienting sensation continued to linger in her mind, and it was only just then that she saw the blue hilt of an oh-so familiar sword, poking out from behind the young man's back; the young man who seemed just as thrown off as she was.
It was then that the pieces came together very quickly in the young lady's head; Marth's remark of other Hylians, Falcon's supposed unwillingness to explain the complexity of the situation, even the dream that she had the very day she was invited to the tournament; a boy, just about her age with blonde hair, carrying a sword she immediately recognized…
At that very moment, the boy suddenly kneeled on one leg, causing Zelda to jump slightly. He closed his eyes and dipped his head down, and the Hylian girl was able to gain a better look at the weapon strapped to his back, and there was no doubt of what it was.
"Your Royal Highness," the boy spoke, his voice calm and sure, "I stand at your service."
Zelda was still somewhat at a loss for words. "I – stand, stand please," she heard the slight waver present in her voice and immediately sought to silence it.
The boy stood, and despite his collected voice, his eyes seemed to shift ever so slightly, a nervous energy clinging around them both; a feeling that something wasn't quite right, that the exchange currently happening between them wasn't something that was ever meant to occur naturally.
Zelda closed her eyes and exhaled slowly, collecting herself as best she could. Then, she opened her eyes.
"…You're Link. Correct?"
"Right. And you're-?"
A silence washed over them; Zelda couldn't help but take note how different this Link appeared compared to the one she knew; there was no green tunic or cap to speak of, and no Hylian shield, either.
"I, uh, can imagine what you're thinking right now," Link spoke, that anxious presence still there.
Before Zelda could say anything else – though she wasn't sure if she even WAS capable of forming coherent thoughts currently – someone else interrupted.
"Link. After all this time, I believe I've discovered who contaminated the milk-" Both Zelda and Link turned to face this person, and Zelda felt herself grow numb.
Another Link. Two Links. There's two Links.
This Younger hero of Hyrule blinked as he looked back and forth between his older counterpart and Zelda.
"Oh." Young Link spoke, his face incredibly stern, not matching his passive speaking tone in the least. "Hello."
Link rubbed the back of his head, half-nervous smile, "Heheh, yeah…"
Silence washed over the trio. Link spoke up, "You, uh…you don't have the-?"
"I don't have the milk bottle, no," Young Link replied, still looking at Zelda, his eyebrows sternly scrunched downward but his eyes filled with a certain curiosity. Another brief second passed before he promptly held his hand out. "I apologize, your highness, I forgot my manners."
Zelda blinked, her eyes still wide as she shook the child's hand; whereas herself and Link were still in a slight state of shock, this Younger Link seemed completely at ease with the situation at hand, and as a result the Hylian queen herself found her own nerves relaxing somewhat.
She found it in herself to grant Young Link a smile, if a faint one. "It's just Zelda," she replied, then turning to the blue-garbed Champion, meeting his eyes with her own clearly for the first time.
She attempted to smile somewhat wider, trying to quell the anxious sensation that still lingered. "Really, it's just Zelda." After a second, Link found himself returning the pleasant smile.
Zelda suddenly clasped her hands together after a sharp intake of breath, "Well!" her demeanor had completely righted itself at this point; she no longer felt that disorienting sensation, at least for the most part, "I don't suppose there's any other surprises in store, eh?" she shifted her gaze between both Links, a joking glint in her eye.
…Another Link walked up.
Older Link looked on with an almost dead expression as this new champion of Hyrule, of the same stature as Young Link, walked up to the trio casually. Something about this particular Hylian didn't seem to gel well with their surroundings; he appeared to be made out of an entirely different material somehow, with his proportions appearing very cartoony to the trio. He held a similarly chibi master sword and Hylian shield.
Toon Link waved innocently to all three of them; he held up a strange looking device, aimed it at himself and the trio, and clicked it.
A bright white light flashed briefly from the device, eliciting more than a few blinks. Seemingly satisfied, Toon Link promptly walked off.
Zelda looked at Young Link; he shrugged innocently. She looked at Link.
"Yeah, I uh…that's new."
Chapter 8: Chapter Seven - Everyone is Here...Unfortunately
Everyone Is Here…Unfortunately
Everyone was happy. Everyone was having fun.
Everyone except a certain racer.
Emerging out of the train long after everyone else had begun mingling on the platform, somewhat battered, was Captain Falcon holding a rambunctious, short man with an equally short fuse. Said short man was dressed in a simple black tank top and green shorts, boxing gloves covering his hands. He seemed somewhat peeved.
"Now," Falcon began with grit teeth as he set Little Mac down, "I get how badly you wanted to show Ryu your new tricks…but for the sake of everyone's convenience, please save it for the tournament itself." Little Mac rubbed the back of his head and sighed submissively before walking towards the crowd. Falcon let out an equally exasperated sigh as he cracked his knuckles and rolled his neck around; was he possibly getting too old for this…?
"Looking a little worse for wear there, Cap," a feminine voice spoke; Falcon turned to see Samus walking up to him. "Think you're still up for this year's tourney?"
Falcon chuckled, "I wouldn't turn it down for anything else," he responded confidently as he punched one fist into the palm of his other. Samus simply smiled softly and shook her head. Just as the Captain opened his mouth to speak again, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
Samus followed his line of sight, her mouth parting slightly in muted surprise when discovering what he was looking at.
They were looking at three figures, standing somewhat separate from the crowd; Samus could recognize the newly arrived Champion Link, the veteran young Link, and…
"Well well," Samus spoke up, "There you have it; we've got all our Hyrule-good guys." The blonde bounty hunter looked to her companion with a gleam of respect, "Master Hand gave you until the start of the tournament to search the multiverse for a Princess Zelda, and you managed to find one a week beforehand. Gotta admit, pretty good."
Falcon smiled, seemingly pleased with his own handiwork; "It's Queen Zelda, as it turns out; though I wouldn't be surprised if the Hand saw it fit to keep her as Princess under the bracket for branding and what not."
Another thought had popped into Samus's head as the Captain spoke. She turned her head to look at him with a slightly suspicious gaze. "Tell me, Cap…did you ever get a document detailing the plan for this year's tourney?"
"So you knew about the whole "everyone is back" thing, right?"
"In a sense, yeah. Didn't inform you, because I knew there was a certain Foxhound operative you'd be glad to have back….and I'm always in the mood to surprise a good friend of mine."
Samus punched the Captain playfully on the shoulder, the faintest of grins on her face; after a moment of thought, it suddenly shifted into an expression of slight suspicion. She fully turned to face Falcon, "What do you mean, in a sense?"
Captain was still looking at the Hylian trio with a slight smile, "Well, all things considered, it was pretty vague. Had a list of which stages Hand was bringing back, and the amount of fighters there'd be total; however, for reasons I really don't know, some fighter numbers had no names listed."
Samus's eyes squinted at that last part; perhaps Mario and Hand had another surprise in store, and the blonde couldn't really say that she ever liked their ideas of surprises. "You know how suspicious that sounds, right?"
Falcon shrugged, "Master Hand's liked throwing in a surprise newcomer here and there in the past, it wouldn't surprise me," he suddenly frowned slightly, "Though, normally he does inform some of the veterans of who the surprise newcomers are…"
Samus shifted her head to the side in thought; what could those blank fighter listings mean?
"Cap, how many fighters did it list?"
"Seventy-four; I believe the term used was "Everyone is Here!"".
Samus began scanning the crowd, counting. She frowned.
"There's definitely not seventy-four fighters here; it looks like we're missing four."
Falcon was still looking at the Hylians. Young Link had handed Champion Link his ocarina instrument; going off of Zelda's giggles, Champion Link did not appear to be a very good player. "Guess we'll just have to see what Hand has in store for us then," he finally spoke, looking at Samus.
The battle-hardened woman shrugged before turning to walk away, only for Falcon to raise a hand up and say, "One more thing; do you want to break it to them, or should I?"
Samus turned, her arms crossed around her torso, her eyes confused, "Break what to who?"
Falcon jutted his chin out to Zelda and the Links briefly before continuing, "There's one person I haven't seen today, but he was definitely on the fighter list. I'm assuming you haven't seen him either."
Samus looked at the Hylians and fully realized who Falcon was implying. "No," she spoke slowly, "I haven't."
"Hmm." The Captain rolled his head around his neck again, cracking several joints in place, "Well, it's either one of us tells them about their unannounced Gerudo friend…or he greets them himself."
"This Manor seems closer to a maze than a mansion," Zelda spoke as she and Champion Link walked through the empty hallway, " how does one find their way consistently in such a place?"
"I really wouldn't know," Link's voice was somewhat strained, as he carried several of Zelda's luggage cases in both hands, "I remember I needed help just finding my room the first night here."
Zelda looked at Link with some concern in her eyes, "You really didn't have to help me with my personal effects; I could have managed the trip well enough-"
"-It's really no big deal," Link huffed as he almost let one fragile case slip through his grip before steadying himself, "…where'd you say your room was again?"
Zelda held up a parchment which detailed the floorplan of the Manor, "tenth level, fifth door down…right next to yours, it would seem."
Link's expression fell momentarily; "W-well, it's just one trip-" just as he spoke, he briefly lost balance, an exceptionally large leathery case careening to one side and finally falling from his grip. Just as the Hylian boy bent his knees jerkily in a seemingly futile attempt to catch the luggage, the case suddenly froze in midair, a subtle gleam of golden light encasing the object; Link looked up to see Zelda's arm stretched out, an expression of moderate concentration on her face as she gently lifted her arm up, the case following suit until it was repositioned back onto one of the piles Link was holding. Link looked back at Zelda, somewhat dumbfounded; he hadn't realized that this particular Hylian Queen may also know some form of magic, much like the one he himself knew.
Zelda smiled faintly, "As I said, there's really no need for aid – though I appreciate the thought nonetheless."
Link's surprised look quickly morphed into one of placidity, "I guess I can't really help it, can I? I'm sorry, I'm just so used to doing these sorts of things back in – well, back in my Hyrule."
Zelda let out a silent exhale of brief laughter, "I don't suppose this manner of speak will get much easier any time soon; your Hyrule, my Hyrule…good heavens," she laughed slightly once more.
A glimmer of an idea flittered through Link's gaze, "What if we just called it home? Wouldn't feel as confusing that way…"
Zelda gave it some thought before looking back up at Link, nodding. "It's a good start," she smiled once more. She held her palms out, a golden light shining around every luggage as they floated out of Link's hands and began orbiting around her. She nodded her head in appreciation, the Hylian Champion returning the smile; a few seconds passed before either spoke again.
"Well, I should probably go," Link suddenly started, "Samus said she needed to tell me something, sounded important-"
"Wait," Zelda called out just as Link turned to head in the other direction; he faced her as she began to speak once more, "Earlier, when you addressed me as royalty…be it my title or not, I simply wanted to say that it won't be necessary. Out here, in this Manor – I believe you'd agree when I say we're both very much strangers here, to each other and to everyone else."
Link nodded slightly, still not quite sure of what she was getting at; Zelda swallowed back her indecisiveness before continuing, "As such, I'd very much like it if we could meet on even ground. I'm simply…Zelda. Whatever worth my title carries, I'd like to earn it here first and foremost; and I look forward to learning more about you, and the people that make up this tournament."
Link paused slightly, before giving a faint smile in response. "I look forward to it too."
As Zelda walked through the tenth floor of the Manor, she thought of the conversation that had just transpired.
He seems so different, compared to the Link I knew…what else differs in his land?
An Inkling girl quickly ran past the Hylian youth, seemingly not giving her much thought; soon after followed a small ape wearing a red shirt and hat. This small being stopped to look at Zelda carrying her luggage with only her mind; he gave a brief "oooh," before continuing his playful chase of his companion, and Zelda couldn't help but smile.
Her thoughts went back to Link; specifically, the dream she had dreamt before being invited to the tournament, where she was certain she had seen this very same Link. She frowned; that particular dream had been so confusing, she was unsure of whether it was an ill omen or not. What could it have meant..?
"Carrying all that weight by yourself, hmm?"
Zelda turned in the direction of where the voice had come from, and found herself immediately unsure of what to make of its owner.
A man stood tall, his shadow looming over the Manor floor; he was of dark complexion, fiery red hair bristling upon his scalp, dressed in black and gold that made him seem akin to royalty; a red cape swept over his shoulders, the man's nose was as long as his eyes were dark, glinting as he stared sternly at the young girl.
"In a manner of speaking, yes," Zelda responded, her tone and expression both neutral in the face of this new stranger.
"Hmph," the man crossed his arms over his chest as he looked to the side, the same stern expression on his face; slowly, his tightly drawn-back lips morphed into a grin which put Zelda at somewhat unease.
"I would offer aid," his booming voice echoed through the hallway, "Though it would seem you require none; whether or not this proves true on the battlefield remains yet to be seen."
Zelda steeled her gaze, "I see, you're a contender as well."
The man sneered, "As well? So the little princess does plan on entering the ring of battle? I had truly assumed Master Hand had begun allowing mere spectators to room inside the Manor."
Zelda lowered her hands, gently placing her luggage onto the checkerboard floor, "Inexperienced I may be," she spoke low, "However, it does not require much wisdom to know when someone is planting bait."
The man's grin grew wider as the regal girl continued, "You spit childish remarks, yet your feet are planted firmly in the ground, shoulders set back – almost as if you're attempting to force me to attack."
The stranger continued to look at her, his eyes mere slits.
Zelda continued, "Now as to what purpose, I do not know – to test the abilities of a newcomer? What I do know is that I will not engage in such a pointless endeavor; if this truly was your goal, then consider it a failure."
Silence. Then, laughter.
The man threw his head back, mouth agape as he belted out laughs which reverberated within Zelda's chest, causing her to blink. His arms still crossed, he looked back at the young queen, the same grin still etched onto his face.
"You assume so much, girl," he spoke, "I merely came to see if the rumors were true; we do have a new Zelda it seems."
The man stepped forward only to bow, still grinning, holding his hand out towards Zelda in what appeared to be a gesture of good faith; Zelda was still uneasy.
"I bid you welcome to the tournament, your highness," he said, his words slithering through his tongue. It was then that Zelda looked at the back of his hand and recognized something; her eyes widened.
A Triforce symbol, clear as day, seemed to glow beneath the man's gloved hand; the stranger's eyes quickly flit up to match Zelda's, still grinning. The young girl didn't know this man at all, yet much like with Link, in that very moment she felt that she was supposed to. A name began floating around in her head, a name which sounded all too similar to the one she dreaded having to say, ever since that faithful event long ago…
The man spoke, "I believe I need no introduction."
Suddenly, before Zelda could speak, a yell rang out through the hall as a small green figure rushed between the two in a blur, the tall stranger stepping back to just narrowly avoid the swing of a small sword.
Young Link stood between Zelda and the stranger, sword and shield at the ready, glaring at the tall man.
"Long time," the man spoke gruffly towards the small Hylian, though still smiling sinisterly.
"Don't know what you're doing here." Young Link uttered bluntly, "Get out."
"I was merely getting acquainted," the man spoke dryly, "and having a bit of fun, I'll admit."
Young Link blinked; out of the corner of Zelda's eye, she spotted three other figures running up to them; Captain Falcon, Champion Link, and a figure encased in orange and red armor who Zelda took to be Samus.
"Ganondorf," Falcon spoke, Zelda's hairs standing on end at the uttering of this name, "Enough."
Ganondorf craned his neck to the side, looking past Captain Falcon and at Champion Link, the Master Sword itself held in his hand.
The edges of the Gerudo's lips curled up into a smile once more, "I see we're housing multiple Links again. That sounds entertaining."
"Ganon," Samus stated in a low tone, the shortening of the name sending another chill through Zelda, "I hope you weren't planning on revoking your invitation any time soon…"
Ganondorf regarded Samus for precisely one second before turning his attention back to Champion Link, "Look at your little trinket of a sword, hero; I see no telltale glow present."
Link looked at his sword, and Zelda realized he was right, much to her confusion; if this man does share ties with such an evil as Ganon, surely the Master Sword would shine true at the sign of such ill intent?
"Whatever point it is you're trying to make 'Dorf," Falcon spoke broadly, "Think we can all agree that it's been a pretty long day; we don't need you making it any longer with your acting out."
Ganondorf finally regarded Falcon himself; after a moment, the Gerudo King merely snorted. He turned back to face Zelda, who looked upon him with a mix of apprehension and confusion.
"Regardless," he began, "I look forward to facing you on the field of battle." He looked at everyone else, "All of you."
He swept his cape around him, and just like that, he vanished.
Zelda promptly turned to face Falcon, "An explanation is in order."
Link sheathed his blade, facing Samus, "This wasn't something you wanted to tell us sooner-?"
"Not for lack of trying kid," Samus spoke beneath her green visor, "But for the record, I didn't know we would be having Ganondorf back." She sighed to herself exasperatedly, "Good grief, thought the days of inviting bad guys into the tournament were behind us-"
"But he wasn't," Zelda spoke up, and everyone turned to face her. "The Master Sword – it's meant to shine brightly in the face of evil; yet it did not."
Samus walked up to Zelda, the queen of Hyrule only just noticing her exceptional height. "Zelda, right?" the bounty hunter spoke, "First off; welcome. Second off; explaining where Ganondorf's allegiances lie is almost as headache-inducing as discussing Italian cuisines with Mario-"
"I don't think she'll get how that feels Samus," Falcon interjected only for Samus to sigh again in response.
"Point is," Samus continued, looking between Zelda and Champion Link, "Ganondorf was bad; really bad. He's also been here for three tournaments in a row. Think Dekuboy can explain the history behind him a little better than I can," she indicated towards Young Link.
"The point I think Samus is trying to make is," Falcon stepped forward, "When you're here at this tournament for that long, it changes you. For better or worse," the racer seemed to glance at Samus for a moment while saying that, "A lot of stuff happened in those three tournaments; honestly, a lot of it is stuff I can barely explain."
Champion Link looked between Samus and Falcon, his gaze the most serious Zelda had seen it be since they met; which admittedly, had not been a long frame of time. It was during this moment where the blonde boy reminded her most of the Link she had known all those years ago.
"Well," Link spoke, "We're listening."
Chapter 9: Chapter Eight -Blossoming, Destiny Holds Fast
Blossoming, Destiny Holds Fast
Link was dreaming.
This came as particularly odd to him, since he never was one to dream; he found himself standing in a stone pathway he did not recognize, the night sky cloudy and pouring rain. Before him stood a regal church, stained glass windows being pattered by raindrops, a dim light humming within the building. As Link stood there, he heard faint voices echoing around him…or were they in his head? The doors to the church opened, but before Link could get a good glimpse at who was exiting, suddenly the dream spun around him as he shifted to a different setting entirely.
It was dark; even in the dream, Link found that he had to take about a minute for his eyes to adjust. He found himself standing on a red-stone floor, the walls adorned with statues meant to resemble ferocious-looking pig heads, their eyes glowing a dim red amidst the sea of black. It was then that Link realized he wasn't alone.
Something massive was approaching from the far end of the room, something Link couldn't quite make out; it loomed over the room, a lumbering figure holding what seemed to be a giant trident.
"Tell me, lad," the figure's voice rumbled throughout the room, Link reached behind his back to grab the master sword only to find it wasn't there; he was completely helpless as the unknown beast lumbered closer. Suddenly the very floor of the room began to fall away into nothingness, tile by tile, as the shadowy figure continued to lurch ever closer to the Hylian. Link felt his hands grow clammy, sweat dripping off his brow in the smothering room; the line between dream and reality was seemingly blurring, an intense panic beginning to seize the Champion.
The figure stopped a few steps away from Link, and he could finally make out the very top of it as he strained to look up at it; a pig-like snout, giant tusks erupting from its mouth, beady eyes that glared at him with an untold fury.
The beast slammed the tip of its massive trident into the ground, shaking Link down to his very bones.
"Can you break through this secret technique of darkness?" a grumbling avalanche of dark laughter erupted from its mouth, echoing throughout the entire room, and although Link didn't recognize this monster, in that moment some part of him knew who this beast was. Laughter continued to echo around in his eardrums as finally the entire floor gave away and he along with it, falling into the vast nothingness, he strained to look at something, anything, his mouth parting open in silence as he began to see, feel, nothing-
-Link's eyes opened suddenly as he lurched forward from his bed with a sharp gasp. Disoriented, he turned jerkily to gain his bearings; he was in his quarters within the Smash Manor, faint light seeping through the curtained window signaling it to be a very early morning. The room was wide, larger than Link had originally anticipated it would be, though he supposed it matched the vastness that the Manor itself conveyed. In this room were a bed with white sheets, a velvet-red couch, and several cabinets which found themselves empty at the moment. A monitor was attached to one of the room's walls, the only comparison point Link drawing to it being certain properties his Slate had. A door leading to a bathroom of adequate size was positioned in the far corner of the room.
Link got up, his bare feet sinking into the carpet as he rolled his shoulders, a strange ache present within them. His brow was scrunched together in thought, still thinking of the dream that had just transpired.
Where was I? That couldn't have been Hyrule, I didn't recognize any part of it. And that beast…was it truly…?
Just then, a few light knocks tapped against his door leading to the hallway. Momentarily distracted, Link proceeded to walk over to the door, opening it to reveal Zelda, dressed in what Link presumed to be informal wear; a blue and white dress, a single red jewel placed in between a white collar, the golden jewelry adorning her forehead previously now noticeably absent.
"Good morning Link," she spoke pleasantly, though Link noticed that her smile seemed the slightest bit strained, "I was wondering if you would like to walk together to the dining hall?"
Caught a bit off guard, Link responded "Yeah, sure let's go."
Zelda's eyes flitted down for the briefest of moments, a faint hint of red adorning her cheeks as she replied "You…you might want to get dressed first."
It was then that Link remembered he had washed his tunic the night previous; he was currently only dressed in a simple white trousers he had found in one of the room's cabinets, his chest laid bare to the world.
Link looked back up, eyes wide, "Right," and promptly shut the door.
"So, what do you think so far?" Link spoke, rubbing his eyes drowsily as the pair walked below an archway amidst a vast hall, currently empty due to the early morning.
"I think," Zelda began, "that I'm going to have a difficult time remembering everyone's names."
"Me too!" Link exclaimed, "I think I've got around…thirty or so names down? What about you?"
"Oh, I'd say around twenty or so," Zelda responded as she gazed out one of the many large windows lining the room as they walked by; the sun was only just barely beginning to rise. "Though really around half of that I'd say is only due to the simplicity of some of them; Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Pit, Dark Pit-"
"-Link, Young Link," the hero of the Wild interjected, eliciting a small giggle from his female companion.
"Precisely," Zelda grinned as she turned to see the doors lining down the side of the hall opposite to the windows; rooms of other combatants. "I wonder; is it not commonplace here to gain an early start on the day?"
Link found himself perpetually amused with the way Zelda acted in the brief time he had known her so far; it had already been a few days since their initial meeting, and he had picked up on her mannerisms rather quick. Her words were so proper, much like his own fated princess in his time. However, the way she composed herself and the way she spoke were of a much less restricted tone; her thoughts seemed to flow freely, a smile almost always on her face, or in her eyes.
"I wouldn't know," Link replied, "For me I don't think it's something I do out of principle; more of a habit if anything."
Zelda seemed to consider her next question in her head briefly before uttering it aloud. "It's been a few days since we were told…well, everything." She looked at Link with imploring eyes, "How have you been processing it all?"
Link thought back to that day, when they both had met Ganondorf; they hadn't seen the enigma of a man since, and the blonde youth almost felt that the tall Gerudo didn't even have a living space within the Manor; his presence felt similar to that of a ghost, a phantom that Link wouldn't be surprised if it was listening to their every word right now. It was also the day when they both had been taught more of the Smash Tournament's history, through Captain Falcon and Samus, however unwilling to they may have been.
"It's a lot to take in for sure," Link replied, "but I guess it's easier when you break it down into its parts rather than the whole."
Zelda frowned. "So you weren't left with even more questions than before-?"
"Yes," Link replied immediately, "but I'm sure we'll get the answers at some point. We're stuck here for a year, right?" he asked jokingly, "We're bound to find out every secret eventually."
Zelda flashed another smile at Link, and for some reason he felt a small force at the back of his mind, faintly suggesting that he look away. "I'm sure we will," Zelda replied pleasantly.
"Eager to start the day, are we?" Wii Fit Trainer chimed in, her sneaky arrival causing both Hylians to jump slightly; her clothing and hair seemed slightly damp, as if she had just gotten done showering; a clean white towel slung around her shoulder seemed to confirm this.
"Guess you could say that," Link greeted, "Another early morning run?"
"Every day," the Trainer sighed contently as she turned to face Zelda, "I don't believe we've met."
Zelda curtsied, "I be Zelda. And you?"
The pure white woman nodded kindly, "Just a trainer; and I do, in fact, jog around the Manor every morning, bright and early. You know," the Trainer's tone began to shift, as if she was about to ask a question that had been turned down by countless others before, "you both are more than welcome to join me anytime; can't expect to be at your best on the battlefield if you're not maintaining your best every day!"
"Eheh," Link began awkwardly, scratching the back of his head; before he or Zelda could refuse the Trainer's offer, another figure walked up.
"Someone care to remind me what's so great about getting up this early?" Samus spoke, the Hylian duo having to turn around as she stood behind them in a blue tank top and briefs, her blonde hair loose and trailing past her shoulders, "been doing it the past week and a half, don't get the appeal."
"Well," Trainer spoke as she casually walked around the Hylians until she was next to them facing the bounty hunter, rubbing her own black hair with her towel, "I suppose it's truly best for those who rest at the most opportune time, rather than 3am in the morning," a teasing smile flashed briefly as she stared at Samus, "wouldn't you agree?"
Samus looked back at the Trainer with a somewhat irritated look; Link noticed, however, that her body language seemed more open the moment Trainer spoke to her, her shoulders slightly more relaxed.
"Yeah well," Samus spoke dully as she turned to the Hylians, "You two doing alright? I know we sort of dropped a bomb or two on your guys' laps a few days ago…"
"I think we'll both manage," Zelda spoke, and Link noticed her eyes were flitting between Samus and the Trainer, as if attempting to solve some invisible puzzle that hung around them both, "Would you care to join Link and I in an early breakfast, Samus?"
"Eh, sure, why not-"
"-And you too, Trainer?" Zelda turned immediately to the Trainer.
"I'd be glad to," the Trainer replied to her warmly, her eyesight flitting to Samus for a fraction of a second.
Samus stiffened, the movement only just barely noticeable, "Ah shit – actually, you know what? Just remembered, I've gotta go, uh, talk to Master Hand about…something. See you."
She quickly turned and walked away before heading right into another hall. Link's brow furrowed at the abrupt end of the conversation, while Zelda eyed the Trainer with a newfound fascination.
"Did-" Zelda began cautiously, "Did you-?"
The Trainer blinked. "What do you – oh no; Samus and I never really managed to spend a lot of time alone together in my time at the last tournament."
The gray-eyed woman seemed to gaze somewhat wistfully at the hall which Samus disappeared to, "But my, she has a spectacular physique, doesn't she?"
Link and Zelda arched an eyebrow to one another, a wide smile only just barely being held under control by the Hylian lady.
Huh, Link thought to himself, guess shoving a bunch of people under one roof for a whole year does stuff like that.
"Anyway!" the Trainer piped up brightly as she turned to the duo, "Let's go see what they've cooked up for us today shall we?"
Link attempted to grin encouragingly, having been reminded of the culinary skills on display within the Manor; can't be any worse than it's been before, right?
Link stared down at the plate before him; to anyone else, it appeared to be a simple meal comprised of two eggs and a slice of ham. He stared so intently at the food, Zelda took note with a confused glint in her gaze.
"You know," she chided jokingly, "A meal is a meal; it doesn't change the harder you stare at it."
Link blinked, looking up at her as if he had lost an intense kind of focus, "Oh, right," he said only half-smiling, "Yeah it's just…"
"How amusing," Wii Fit Trainer interjected, sitting to the side of the pair with a simple apple and bottle of water, "He has the demeanor of a knight but the eye of a chef."
Zelda looked back at Link, understanding coming over her as she began to smile teasingly, "You find the quality not up to par?"
Link's thoughts seemed scrambled for a moment as he looked away from Zelda's sly gaze, "N-no, it's just – well, it is pretty bland. I guess the food's alright for what it is-"
A loud belch erupted at the table across the room; the trio witnessed as a short, fat man in yellow overalls downed what appeared to be his tenth Maxim Tomato, guffawing loudly after the belch as his fellow contenders expressed a mixture of disgust and awe as they got up to leave.
Zelda politely sipped out of her coffee mug as she turned back to Link, "I'm curious; I never would've taken you as a man of the culinary arts."
Link laughed briefly, "That title's a stretch; really I haven't made anything that good-"
"-I suppose the only frame of reference," Trainer interjected innocently enough, "Would be for you to concoct something and for us to try it." Zelda nodded encouragingly.
Link gulped; they didn't know the horrors of cooking ten Lizalfos tails and watching what happens. "Well, if you insist-"
"'Ey buddy," a gruffly-accented voice interrupted; they looked above to see it was a hat messenger, looking down on them with annoyed eyes as he held a package about the size of a book with a small envelope attached, "Ya got mail."
He promptly dropped it onto the table and left without another word. "Rude," Zelda said quietly.
Link took the package in his hands; upon opening it, he discovered a flat square-shaped device, slightly smaller than his Slate, sharing many of the same runes and designs that ran all over his Sheikah heirloom.
"What is-?" Zelda's voice trailed off as Link set it to the side, opening the letter with somewhat of a fervor; he seemed eager to see its contents. He paused; he read the words intently as he held the letter somewhat gingerly.
I would say you scared me half to death, but I believe something that obvious need not be said. You scared me half to death! However, I suppose since it wasn't your fault I'll have to set your abrupt leave aside…for now. I received your pictures as well – words to describe the splendor you shared with me evade me even now. What are the people like? Is the air any different than it is in Hyrule, less breathable, MORE breathable? Who will you be fighting? Where will you be fighting? I must know!
The kingdom continues to come together, even in your absence; It continues to be a slow process, but I am confident that we can make Hyrule what it once was, once more. Even so, the question that burns within me the most is…how are you? I would say that I have been able to go about my time the past few weeks without you by my side, but it would be a terrible lie; I have found my thoughts drifting to you more than I'd care to admit, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find myself worrying over your state of being. In any case, I hope you found this letter in good tidings, and I hope you go out there and show them what a true Champion of Hyrule is made of.
Much like you enclosed photos with your message, I've done so as well.
(P.S, I managed to get Purah to conjure up the device that came packaged with the letter; I tried to fit as many personal effects within it as I could, but if I missed any, please do not hesitate to let me know.)
(P.P.S, is there truly no way for me to watch the tournament as it happens?)
As Link finished reading the message, he pulled out the image that was enclosed with the letter; it was a picture of Zelda – his Zelda. She stood amidst a golden field, radiant as ever, as she held a flower of the Silent Princess variety, smiling as her blonde hair flew loose in an afternoon breeze.
Link blinked, a warm feeling growing within his chest as he clutched the letter and photo. A small smile slowly grew forth on his lips.
It was then that Link glanced in either direction; a small crowd of people had gathered around him unknowingly, peering over his shoulder as he had read the letter.
He recognized a few; Donkey Kong, Bowser, Shulk, Palutena, Chrom and Lucina all standing over his shoulder. Looking at the letter. At the picture.
Almost all at once, an uproar erupted within the small crowd, a mixture of teasing laughter and affectionate "Awws" resulting in Link quickly placing the letter face down, his ears burning as his cheeks turned red. Wii Fit trainer grinned to herself as she calmly got up to leave the table.
"Wouldya look at that," Bowser spoke between laughs, "We got ourselves a little sweetheart here!"
"That was very nice Link," Palutena spoke brightly, "How long have you two been together?"
Donkey Kong was uttering noises that, while incomprehensible to a human, made their joking intents clear by the mock-dainty gestures as he clasped his giant hands together and pretended to swoon, eliciting laughter from his pal Diddy.
Chrom gave Link an overly enthusiastic thumbs up, promptly being elbowed by Lucina saying "Father…" with an exasperated look on her face.
Pit looked around at all of this, a blank expression on his face, "I don't get it. What'd it say?"
Link ran his fingers through his hair in defeated frustration, letting his head fall onto the table. Zelda herself smiled helplessly as she patted Link encouragingly on the shoulder, her brow turned up pleasantly in response to the letter. Within her mind, however, a storm was beginning to brew with curiosity.
"So what is she like?"
The pair sat on a pearly white bench outside the Manor, the late morning sun shining down over them through the branches of sizeable trees. Behind them was an elegant fountain made of marble; the small green hill was currently empty of anyone other than the two Hylians.
Though Link's thoughts still lingered on the events that had transpired in the dining hall, he found it in himself to laugh briefly at the young queen's question. "You know," he said, "you're not the first person here to ask me that." Zelda smiled openly as Link looked off in thought.
One memory came to Link's mind immediately; her, standing on a cliffside overlooking the decadent Hyrule Castle, just a few short days after the defeat of Calamity Ganon. How right after being free of a 100 year struggle, she was immediately ready to rush back into the thick of things, to restore Hyrule to what it once was.
"She…" Link trailed off, still somewhat lost in thought, "She's something else."
Zelda attempted to match his gaze, her desire to know more about this "other" her growing even further; just then, another thought sprung into her mind.
"That device she mailed to you…have you taken a look inside yet?"
Link's eyes widened before he fumbled around and pulled it out; it seemed to weigh more than its petite size suggested. Link experimentally tapped its glossy surface with a finger, and just like that, it glowed a faint blue hue as the device began to boot; the inventory immediately popped up, an array of items coming into view that Zelda almost couldn't make heads or tails of; great axes and shields of a technologically advanced variety which seemed to hum with great power, an outfit made of what appeared to be ornate fish scales, swords and clubs which appeared to reach a man's height all on their own, the list went on and on as Link scrolled through the list, his eyes lit up with eagerness.
"Wait," Zelda placed a hand gingerly on Link's arm to pause, "What's that?" she pointed to clothing which were of a very familiar shade of green; a very distinct looking set of tunic and cap.
"Wow," Link laughed, "She even thought to put that in too." He tapped twice on the image, and almost immediately the clothing set materialized in the air slightly ahead of Link, blue tendrils forming the objects themselves; Zelda caught the clothes before Link could, as she held them with a sense of remembrance in her gaze; they reminded her of the hero she hadn't seen in a long, long time. Suddenly, she turned to Link with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
"You're wearing this."
"Uh, actually this tunic I'm wearing right now probably has a better defense than that one ever will; it was more of a ceremonial thing-"
"You're wearing it. Humor me." A grin settled itself onto Zelda's expression.
"I'll show everyone the letter."
"They already saw it-"
"I mean everyone."
"You don't even have the letter-"
Zelda held the parcel up between two fingers, her eyebrows turned up in a "what now?" expression; Link had no idea how she had managed to slip that without him noticing. After a brief pause, the stalemate ended with Link letting out a short chuckle as he shook his head.
"You know," he spoke aloud, "Sometimes you're so different…and then you're so alike."
Zelda's triumphant gaze faltered; although initially she had believed him to be very different from the green-garbed hero she had once known, she found that she was beginning to share the exact same sentiment that this Champion had just said he held about her. Link quickly snatched the letter out of her hand, faster than Zelda's eyes could follow; he didn't hesitate to place it in his Slate for safekeeping. Zelda blinked. A small giggle erupted momentarily from her throat before she laughed outwardly, the sound echoing throughout the small garden. To Link, it sounded melodious.
"It really would be fun to see you wear it though."
Just then, he spotted two figures in the distance; one in white, the other in red. He recognized one as Ryu, dressed in an almost trademark white gi, but he didn't know who the other was, dressed in red. Zelda followed his eyesight as the two figures stood far apart each other on the green hill, a gentle wind rippling through the grass. The two figures slowly raised a fist towards each other.
"Hmm," Zelda thought aloud as she tapped her chin with her finger, "I wonder what those two are-"
The two combatants almost instantly held both arms out, palms facing outward as bright blue energy burst forth, each colliding against the other with enough force to send a shockwave rippling through the entire plain, pushing the Hylian pair back in the bench slightly. They watched as the two fighters traded blows at lightning speed, blocking each others' attacks almost perfectly; they seemed equally matched.
"Hey," Link felt a tap on his shoulder, turning in his seat to see that it was a short fox dressed in military garb, standing on two legs.
"Boss wants everyone to gather for a meeting," Fox spoke again, "Follow me."
As both Hylians got up, Zelda spoke, "Erm – shouldn't we alert those two as well?"
Fox looked warily at the two warriors in the distance, locked in combat; he leaned his head to the side, "Eehhh. Let 'em have their fun."
The conference room lay deep within the Manor, one of many rooms Link hadn't discovered yet. It held a large screen and an equally large sitting area, each row of seats being on a higher level than the last. The room was almost featureless, the dim lighting accentuating an almost minimal aesthetic. Despite the vast amount of seats, the room was already almost full; Link and Zelda sat in the middle row, Young Link sitting comfortably aside his older counterpart, Samus next to Zelda; the young Hylian queen smiled brightly and waved at Young Link, who returned the gesture with as stern a face as ever. Across the room, Zelda spotted the Gerudo himself, Ganondorf. He was standing by himself at the very edge of the room, seemingly gazing off into the distance; suddenly, his gaze matched hers, yellow eyes peering back at her in the dark room. He sneered briefly before looking away once more.
"We still don't know much about him, do we?" Link whispered in an attempt to keep his voice at the same level as the various murmurs being traded across the room. Zelda shook her head, her brow furrowed; after asking Young Link about this mysterious man, the most knowledge they had garnered was that he used to be evil, and now apparently he may or may not be different. To what extent, neither Hylian knew for certain. Even so, Young Link glared at the towering Gerudo with an unmatched intensity.
"Well," a familiar baritone voice boomed, silencing all other voices; Master Hand himself floated into view, positioning himself next to the giant screen, "Let's get this underway, shall we?"
Samus frowned, speaking aloud, "Huh. Mario's the one who usually gives these; Hand's always cooped up in his office…"
Master Hand snapped his fingers.
Moments passed, faint chatter rising within the crowd again; Hand snapped again, this time resulting in the screen lighting up; in a decidedly old fashioned font were the words: 5th TOURNAMENT: A BRIEF REFRESHER.
A few groans pocketed through the crowd; Pikachu promptly curled up onto the floor and shut his eyes. Link looked to the side to see the young hero of Time wince.
"This," he spoke, "Is not the part of Smash Season I remember the most fondly."
In spite of this, Link and Zelda found themselves curious; this was as good a time as any to discover what exactly were the rules of the tourney.
Orchestral music slowly faded in as another slide popped up; this time being video footage of a fight taking place on a grand platform suspended in the middle of the air, a crowd of Mii's cheering on the combatants.
"Now I'm sure the rules of Smash need no reintroduction," Hand's voice boomed as the footage continued, "You each get three strikes; you ring out – er, "Smash" out of a stage's blast zones three times, you're done for the match. These matches are done not only in front of a live Mii audience, they're also broadcast to specific worlds all across the multiverse; we, uh, draw in more funds this way."
Zelda noticed Link perk up slightly at this last statement.
"Now in previous tournaments, we structured things in a single bracket, and if you lost a match, that was it for you. BUT!"
The sudden loudness of that last word made everyone jump in their seats. Awkwardly, Master Hand wriggled his fingers, almost as if he had nervous jitters from presenting in front of people.
"Ahem," Hand continued, "BUT, we decided to do things a little differently this time around. Now, there's an initial bracket, same as before; however, you move onto another one depending on if you won or lost the match. The combatant's in the loser's bracket will fight others within said bracket, until they manage to reach the winner's side."
The entire room seemed to come alive at this; even louder murmurs echoed throughout the room.
"So essentially, you're only really "out" depending on how far down you land in the loser's bracket after consecutive battles; a little more complicated than before, sure, but we've had tons of complaints from spectators in the recent years of how brief some matchups felt, so here we are!"
"Sounds fun!" Pit exclaimed somewhere in the crowd.
"Sounds like you're making things up as you go along!" a disinterested Dark Pit also shouted out.
"I-a resent that!" Mario yelled as he looked back from his front seat to the crowd in an attempt to pinpoint where the last comment came from.
More and more shouts rang out across the room.
"Does this a-mean we don't get to request a specific fighter to go up against anymore?" Luigi wondered aloud with his shrill voice, "Because I-a kind of liked that-"
"How will this affect doubles, or 8-man smashes? Does the entire losing team just go in the loser's bracket?" Corrin raised her hand as she spoke up, completely oblivious to the entourage of male fighters who had just previously been attempting to gain her attention, "Seems a little unfair-"
"Uh, guys? Where's Ryu and Ke-"
"-Speaking of Miis," Wolf spoke up in a gruff voice, a snide sneer on his face, "what're these three doing here? People really liked those?" (Mii Fighter promptly tossed a cannonball in the direction of this voice).
Link and Zelda looked around in dazed amazement as the room proceeded to devolve further and further into chaos; Charizard yawned, lazily smacking DK's head inadvertently in the process; the latter promptly punched the former in the face, Trainer Red shouting and sic'ing Squirtle on the big ape; Wario was very slowly attempting to eat a Pikmin, much to the distress of Olimar as he summoned more of the plantlike henchmen to dogpile on him; Richter, someone who Link had only just become somewhat acquainted with the previous day, seemed to be completely ignoring the room as he appeared to be attempting to flirt with Lucina, who in return seemed to be meekly rejecting these advances(Robin sat with a Nosferatu at the ready, grimacing); an ink-covered Incineroar began angrily chasing the Inkling pair around the seats, causing other contenders to get splatted with the same liquid along the way; Zelda held her hand up, a mirror-esque surface magically materializing and catching the ink before it could land on the four of them; she and Link smiled at each other in disbelief at the situation at hand.
Amidst the chaos, a lone cardboard box sat silently.
A loud fart ripped through the room, causing everyone to recoil in disgust; Palutena turned up her nose and promptly teleported away, Charizard flapped his wings around in midair, in a haze as he collided with a flying Pit attempting to escape the room.
It was probably Wario.
"ENOUGH!" Master Hand boomed as he loomed over the seats; everyone froze in place. Mario, being frozen in place with his FLUDD at the ready promptly doused Wario, the intense burst of water pushing him into his seat much to his displeasure.
The Hand let out a deep sigh. "It's just another Smash Season," he muttered to himself as he snapped his fingers once more; a giant clipboard of cartoony dimensions popped into existence, floating in front of the gloved hand.
"Anyway, before I release the initial bracket listings, there are a few personal grievances I've received from some fighters that I have to address."
He cleared his nonexistent throat before continuing, "Isabelle appreciates the thought, but she'd really like it if combatants stopped approaching her with talk of tax returns; she says she came here to get away from that sort of thing for a bit-"
"U-uh, we can still discuss it if anyone likes!" Isabelle stammered as her tail wagged in an anxious fervor.
"-Mario asks," Master Hand droned on, "Please stop asking about Dr. Mario; just because you never see both of them in the same room does not mean he doesn't exist."
"Eheh, I a-swore he was a-gonna come today!" Mario projected his voice nervously.
"-Bayonetta, please stop antagonizing the Belmonts; they take their crosses very seriously."
The witch smirked at the pair of morning star-carrying men, who glared at her in return; "Cheeky."
"And also," the clipboard vanished as Master Hand turned to face the crowd, "Just as a brief word from me; I know I'm not done reviewing everyone's movesets, but just to be clear, when I make a decision it is FINAL. What you see is what you get. You know who you are."
Samus stared coldly at the Hand, her arms crossed. Zelda was attempting to restrain a small fit of laughter from escaping her lips as she held her hand up to her mouth; Master Hand was essentially treating these various heroes and warriors as spoiled children.
"And also," Master Hand suddenly spoke up as something else materialized; a wrinkled-up canvas sheet, holding something that no one in the room seemed to be able to make out; it appeared to be a various series of red, blue, and yellow splotches, splattered haphazardly across the surface.
"DK, what is this?" Hand continued, the eponymous ape's eyes widening when looking at his apparent painting.
"You just handed it to me one morning and walked away. I don't get it; is – is that a bird? A bear? What is this?"
Donkey Kong placed his face in his hands, apparently distraught that Master Hand didn't understand what his painting had been trying to convey; Diddy patted his shoulder in a comforting manner.
Master Hand sighed, this object also dematerializing out of view. "Regardless," he said, "Here you have it; the initial starting matchups." The giant gloved hand snapped his fingers once more; on each fighter's laps, a single sheet of glossy paper materialized, holding said list."
"Now, some of you may have been perceptive enough to notice that some fighter spots were left blank. You'll find that the same rings true on this list; believe it or not," the Hand loomed ever closer to the audience in a surprisingly ominous fashion, "I do have a few more surprises in store for you."
He let the sentence hang in the air for a moment.
"Anyway, you're free to go. Five days left, everyone!"
Fighters began to pile through the doors, quietly murmuring amongst themselves; outside the room, a disheveled pair of fighters in color-coded gi's arrived, their expressions of contentment morphing into those of confusion as they witnessed everyone leaving.
"What'd we miss?" Ken muttered to Ryu.
As everyone got up to leave, some grumbling louder than others, Link seemed to remain frozen in his seat, looking intently at the matchup list. Zelda's eyes gained a confused look as she attempted to garner the Champion's attention.
"Err…Link? What is-?"
It was then that the youthful girl looked at the matchup list herself, her eyes growing wide. The very first match of the entire tournament was listed as follows:
"Oh my," Zelda uttered with a somewhat cautionary tone, "Link! You're the very first contender!"
"Yeah," Link finally spoke, and when he looked up to match Zelda's gaze she was surprised to see a fiery, almost wild look in his eyes, "Guess I am."
The young queen was somewhat taken aback; it was almost as if he welcomed the challenge.
"The first one," Link spoke again, his voice almost completely calm as he looked back at the list, "And you're in the second match."
Zelda quickly looked at her own copy of the list to see that he was correct, gulping nervously in response to the paper.
The second? That hardly gives me any time to prepare accordingly…
"You scared?" Zelda turned back to Link to see that he had uttered that sentence with a sly grin on his face, the same wild look in his eyes, and it was then the young girl realized what that look truly was.
While Zelda's first instinctual response was one of hesitation, this strange boy's was one of eagerness; he seemed fully ready to take on whatever challenge lay ahead of him, no matter how daunting. A warm feeling that Zelda couldn't quite describe settled in her chest upon matching Link's gaze.
Zelda's shocked expression soon morphed into one of determination. "Perhaps; perhaps not," she replied, not even a hint of a waver in her speech.
Link's grin grew wider at this response, "Who knows, maybe one of us'll get to square off against Ganondorf himself."
Anticipation coursed through Zelda upon hearing this idea, "Well when you put it like that…" both Hylians laughed, and Zelda found that it was some of the most genuine laughter she had shared with another human being in quite some time.
"In any case," she spoke, this time a hint of sincerity in her voice, "This'll certainly be something to write home about."
Link seemed to understand what she was implying as he looked down sheepishly, his eyes inadvertently roaming over the sheet of paper once more; suddenly, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he held the paper closer to his eyes.
"Huh, that's funny – I don't recognize that name…"
Zelda followed his gaze; it was at the second match in the lineup, the one Zelda would be debuting in;
Simon Belmont, Zelda
Zelda cupped her chin with a thumb and finger after reading; the stem of another confusing question was taking root within her head.
Sheik…Who could that be…?
Chapter 10: Chapter Nine - Rudely Acquainted
Four days. That was the amount of time remaining until the Smash Tournament began. Many fighters were running around the manor, training, preparing for their big fights according to the matchup list. Chrom and Marth sparred in one of the Manor's many training rooms, wondering why Master Hand felt they needed to share a similar sword-wielding style; DK and Diddy were bothering the Toad chefs in the kitchen, yelping and waving around crudely-written banana-oriented recipes in their hands; the Star Fox crew were receiving help from a certain super-fighting robot on fixing a few bugs they'd found with their Reflectors; Palutena was helping Pit refresh his memory on certain tactics the various other fighters had; even the Inklings were comparing their weaponry amongst one another, ever ready to drop more than a few Splat Bombs on the faces of their opponents.
Everyone seemed to be getting ready, except for a certain pair of young Hylians.
"What's that one?"
"Oh, that's a royal claymore – two handed blade. Honestly don't think I ever bothered using it, don't like not having a shield-"
"-What's this one?"
The pair had managed to end up on one of the Manor's many rooftops; a small one, somewhat hidden as the rest of the tall structure looming over them and providing them with ample shade from the midday sun. It overlooked the rest of the island, stretching out to the great lake which surrounded them. Link was resting one arm on one knee as he let his other leg dangle over the edge, Sheikah Slate in hand; Zelda was kneeling right beside him, leaning in as she looked at the moderately-sized screen.
Link looked to which item she was pointing at, replying "Dragonbone Boko Club; pretty useful, unless there happens to be a fire raging nearby-"
"-And this one?"
Link laughed, "A Flamesword – pretty self explanatory."
Zelda caught his leering gaze and smiled helplessly, "Apologies – I've simply never seen some of this weaponry back home. I believe the most outlandish of a weapon I've ever seen any hero in my land carry is a measly boomerang."
Link suddenly put the Slate aside, turning fully to face his lady companion, "What else would you find back in your homeland?" he asked, his voice honest.
At this, Zelda gazed off into the horizon, fluffy white clouds pocketing the deep blue sky; "the Zora, swimming through Hyrule's waters; citizens of Hyrule, attempting to go about their day amidst their own struggles and hardships. A land which may have seen a few too many battles for comfort, its scars visible to the naked eye; but still a beautiful one nonetheless."
Link noticed how the glimmer in her eyes seemed to dim upon saying all this, her hands clasped together close to her chest.
Zelda laughed, her voice somewhat small now, "Seems silly; to be homesick so soon after leaving home, right?"
Link found her words rung true; though with him, these feelings must have been at least somewhat apparent to those around him, what with the letters he had been sending and receiving from Hyrule. Even so, he found himself somewhat surprised at Zelda's words; if one were to look at or talk to her briefly, they wouldn't have guessed that beneath that charming smile of a princess was a young girl, wistful of familiar places.
"Huh," Link spoke up, "Guess it's no surprise that there were Zora in your home too."
Zelda blinked, turning to face her Hylian companion, that sad gaze evaporating somewhat and being replaced with one of curiosity, "Really? Did you have Octoroks?"
"Yeah! Did you have Bokoblins?"
Link smiled, Zelda returning it in kind. He replied, "I suppose neither of our homes are completely similar, huh?"
Zelda's smile suddenly faltered as she thought of something else. "Are there…Sheikah, in your homeland?"
Link's smile faded as well; he nodded. He knew why she had brought it up; that name on the fighter matchup list looked eerily similar to that name given to a group that was, according to legend, the Royal Family's honor guard.
I suppose we'll discover if this figure has any relation, Zelda thought briefly, the closer we get to the tournament.
Zelda then found her thoughts drifting back to the talks she and Link had held ever since she had initially arrived at the Manor, how they were beginning to regale each other with stories of events that had occurred in their homelands; Zelda particularly liked the one where Link had gone and done what he had called, "shieldsurfing"; she wondered why it wasn't an official sport back home. It was then that the young queen realized what this blue-garbed Champion had been trying to do; to root her within a moment, rather than become lost within memories of the past. He had done it so suddenly, she had only just barely caught it.
Suddenly, an idea popped within her mind. She looked back up at Link, a glimmer once again in her eye as she very quickly snatched the Slate out of Link's hand, flicking her finger once for it to rise through the air towards her; he fruitlessly attempted to catch his possession, the Slate slipping through his fingers. She began rapidly scrolling through the inventory, her eyes darting over the screen.
Link looked with confused eyes, "What're you-?"
"-I could've sworn I'd seen it before, if only for a moment – aha!"
Zelda's face beamed as she tapped a few times on the screen, a new object materializing in front of them; it was small, a book weathered and worn, numerous ripped pieces of paper peeking between its pages. Zelda grasped it gingerly as a smile curled on her lips; Link looked on with dread.
"So," Zelda spoke mischievously, "This is the fabled cookbook."
Link's eyes darted over Zelda's expression, "I-it's nothing special, really-"
He leaned forward to reach for the book again, Zelda leaning back and holding it as far away as possible, a grin on her face, "You know Link, after hearing you describe how good that carrot cake you made back home was, I couldn't help but wonder if it can live up to the hype?"
Zelda's odd pronunciation of that foreign word did not pass by Link completely.
"Gee princess, I dunno, can it live up to the hype?" Link repeated the strange pronunciation; after a brief pause, they both broke down laughing.
Zelda found Link's squirminess over his cooking both humorous and compelling; was it because he was in truth, a bad cook? Or does Hyrule's Champion have something he's insecure about?
"Really though; please give it back."
Both Hylians jumped as a blue and gold streak somersaulted over the pair, soaring high up in the sky before landing on the rooftop floor behind them; Captain Falcon kept this dramatic pose for the next three seconds.
"….Hi-" Link began before being cut off by Falcon suddenly standing up and flashing a grin, two fingers raised in a salute. Zelda smiled.
"HELLO-" Falcon coughed once before repeating, "Hello! Everyone doing alright?"
Link eyed the cookbook again somewhat anxiously before replying, "For the most part, yeah." He hadn't gotten the chance to be too acquainted with the F-Zero racer, but not for lack of trying; there simply were a large amount of fighters to talk to.
"Great," Falcon said as he nodded to the two of them, "Because as it turns out, Master Hand's invited both of you two his office for moveset finalization; Tournament starts in four days, after all-"
"Speaking of, Mr. Falcon," Zelda raised her hand up, Link attempting to grasp for the book again as she held it even further away with her other hand, "I actually wanted to know where I could find Simon Belmont – he is going to be my partner in my first match, after all; I'd like to become acquainted."
Falcon briefly searched through his own memory before replying, "Ah yes; last time I checked, both Belmonts were hanging around the old All-Star rest area; the garden."
Zelda nodded in thanks, remembering the very same garden she and Link had sat at the day prior. She stood up neatly, the book still in hand. She looked back down at Link, a childlike smirk on her face as she wielded the hero's possession around casually, "I'll bring this back eventually." Just as Link began to utter a protest, Zelda daintily waved her other arm in the air; one green flash of light later, and she was gone.
Link sighed as he got up, patting his pants down as he faced a grinning Falcon.
"Real piece of work, huh?" the racer commented.
"You could say that," Link laughed half-heartedly, still worried over the book; suddenly, another thought crossed his mind.
"Uh…" he began, unsure of how to phrase his question, "Was it, uh, like this before? I mean, with the other…you know."
If Falcon weren't wearing a helmet, Link would've seen him blink in response. Then, another grin crossed his face. "Aha," the tall man began, "I getcha; honestly…"
Falcon stepped forward, standing next to Link as he himself proceeded to look over the area of the manor that lay before them; in particular, Link found him staring at one of the various deep red Smash flags flowing in the air.
"…No. We've had a few Links and Zeldas come and go over time; but, they tended to have similar, er, characteristics. I'll say," Falcon turned his head to look at Link, still grinning, "I don't think the previous Link-Zelda pair would have, for example, fought over a cooking book."
Link looked back at him, a humorously desperate look on his face, "I really need that back."
Falcon laughed as he casually patted Link on the back, "I'm sure you do. Anyway-"
Falcon turned to head back inside the manor, "-Given that Zelda will be preoccupied for the time being, looks like you're up for moveset inspection; and no, it's not as bad as Samus makes it out to be."
Link considered this briefly, begrudgingly putting the thoughts about his book away; "Well alright then, might as well get this-"
"-ALRIGHT! FOLLOW MY LEAD!"
After a brief stop to her living space to hide the cookbook appropriately, she found herself in the Manor's garden. As Zelda materialized into the location in question, she was surprised to find that the first person she saw wasn't either of the Belmonts; instead, sitting on the pearly white bench was a small, round puffball of pink colorization. He was wearing an oversized pair of headphones, almost as big as he was; if his smile and bobbing body were any indication, he was enjoying whatever he was listening to.
"Pardon me," Zelda called out as she walked closer to the being, to seemingly no avail; the cute creature continued to bob up and down in his seat, his eyes closed in bliss. Zelda frowned; she had no intentions of being impolite towards someone she was only just barely meeting, but she did want to discover where the person she was searching for was. Very gently, she began to lift the monstrous headphones off of the creature's head. The pink ball opened his brilliantly blue eyes, mouth in a shape of surprise as he looked around before settling his sight on Zelda. Almost immediately the small being smiled and waved with a stubby little arm, and Zelda found she couldn't help but smile back at this seemingly innocent being.
"Hello," she began again in a friendly tone, "I was wondering, you wouldn't happen to know where a "Simon Belmont" is, would you?"
Just as this small being opened his mouth to speak again, something else occurred; a metal chain suddenly hooked itself onto the pair of headphones, the small pink being slightly as his face grew confused. The hookshot stayed there briefly before it shot back, carrying the piece of electronic equipment with it; it zipped into the hands of someone Zelda had actually managed to get somewhat acquainted with.
"Ya!" Toon Link exclaimed excitedly as he held the headphones up into the air, striking a triumphant pose. He looked back at the pair only for his expression to falter; the small being Zelda still didn't know the name of jumped off the bench, standing square-foot and facing Toon Link, looking him dead in the eyes with a surprisingly intimidating glare.
The pink puffball was angry.
Toon Link yelled in a somewhat panicked fashion as he began huffing it in the opposite direction, headphones still in hand; the pink puffball promptly set off in pursuit, arms raised back in the air as he speedly ran across the green hill.
Zelda blinked. Well, she thought, I suppose there are no Belmonts here to be found…
Just then, Zelda heard a faint sound, coming in the opposite direction of where Toon Link had run off. As Zelda strained her Hylian ears, more sounds became apparent; metal clashing against metal, gruff yells only ever found in the face of battle. The young girl promptly followed in the direction of the newfound clamor; perhaps she would find who she was looking for here.
"Alright, you two are free to go."
Link heard the familiar booming voice of the Hand as he and Falcon rounded the corner leading to the office; as they did, two short figures walked out wearing fluffy parkas, the girl wearing pink and the boy blue, respectively. They held oversized wooden mallets, high-fiving each other as they exited the door.
"Nana, Popo," Falcon greeted, to which both Ice Climbers turned to, "How'd you guys do?"
Both Climbers smiled widely as they enthusiastically held their thumbs up in triumph; Falcon matched their energy with a trademark salute.
Falcon watched as the pair waddled off with a faint smile on his face, Link matching his gaze to the pair of fighters he hadn't really gotten a chance to meet.
"They were gone last tourney," Falcon explained, "Due to some…unfortunate circumstances. It's good to have them back."
As Link heard this, he was reminded again of the surprisingly deep history that ran through the Manor's walls, and the tourney itself; he found himself wondering if spending even an entire year here would be enough to absorb it all.
"Well!" Captain exclaimed, patting Link on the shoulder roughly, "This is where I leave. Oh, and just a thought," he said, emphasizing his words, "none of it is personal."
Link shot him a confused glance; Falcon grinned. "You'll see what I mean. Good luck!"
"Alright, let's see here," Master Hand spoke as he looked over his documents on his enormous desk, Link straining his neck in a futile attempt to see what he was looking at. The Hand floated over the desk's edge to loom over Link, trusty oversized pen in hand.
"Well," his voice reverberated through the office, "You are quite unique, aren't you? Bomb arrows, electric arrows, Magnesis, Stasis, paraglider, Champion abilities, oh my…"
Hand went back to scribble some more unseen words down; Link was unsure of whether to take any of that as a compliment or not, given his neutral tone.
"Oh! Right," the Hand suddenly exclaimed, multitasking as he talked to Link and continued to write at the same time, "I should probably explain this whole "moveset" ordeal, shouldn't I?"
Link cautiously opened his mouth to respond; Hand promptly continued, "Anyway, how this works is essentially; on the battlefield, everyone is given a predetermined set of abilities to use against other combatants," Hand dotted the paper with his pen a few times before he promptly slid it aside, starting a new one, "the abilities available for use are, of course, dependent on the fighter themselves; basically, I look over what you got and decide a rudimentary moveset of skills and abilities, and we hash it out from there. Makes sense right?"
"Right," Link responded quickly as he mulled over what was just stated to him, "I can see why a system like this is in place; with so many fighters coming from all over, some kind of balance has to be established between all of them."
"Exactly!" Hand exclaimed, momentarily stopping his pen before continuing, "after all, we can't just have Pit flying for an infinite amount of time, trivializing whatever fighter he's facing, or Captain Falcon running people over; OR, say, let Samus use a single power bomb and end the match on the spot. Correct?"
Link was only somewhat following along, yet he still nodded.
"Right," Hand's voice trailed off as he began finishing his notes; he neatly set the pen down and snapped his fingers; a small sheet of paper materialized in Link's hands. Link began reading it with an excited look on his face; this same expression began slowly faltering as he read the actual contents of the paper.
Link Moveset(i.e, Revised/Ultimate)
"Alas," Master Hand sighed, seemingly ignoring the horrified look growing on Link's face, "My work is complete."
A moment passed; Link gulped, opening his mouth to say "Uhh-"
Hand immediately loomed over the desk's edge, "Something wrong?" he asked passively.
Link paused. "….That's it?"
"Are you unsatisfied?"
"…Maybe a little-"
"Great!" Hand interrupted, immediately writing something else down, "if you'd like to voice your grievances with what I've assigned we can schedule another appointment, say…." Hand scribbled down faster, "three days from now?"
"Right before the tournament begins?" Link asked, still somewhat shocked at what he had received.
"Oh, that's right," Hand was speaking rapidly at this point, almost as if he was in a hurry to get this appointment over with so he could move on, "Well I suppose that's that then! Any other questions?"
"Why can't I use any of my other arrow-"
"-The audience is accustomed to Link using only one type of arrow; that type being, well, a standard one."
"Well, why can't I use Stasis-"
"-Links don't normally do-"
"Is over half of my armory being excluded really all because Links have never-?"
"Yes. Any questions?"
Link blinked; he hadn't expected to be railroaded so hard here, or for a tournament like this to have so many restrictions.
Another idea popped up in Link's head as he spoke again, "You don't think it'd be pretty exciting for audiences everywhere to see what a new Link could do?"
"I'm sure some would, and I have considered a more extreme moveset revisal," Hand replied without missing a beat, "However, I think at this point in the tournament's lifespan I'd rather not alienate general audiences."
"Think about it though."
"Think about it."
"…Think about it again-?"
Hand promptly snapped his fingers again, the paper dematerializing out of Link's hands in the process; he proceeded to scribble on his giant paper once more for a second or two; he set the pen down, snapped his fingers curtly once more, the smaller paper reappeared in Link's hands:
Link Moveset(i.e, Re-revised/Ultimate)
Link stood there, dumbfounded once more.
Link stayed silent for a moment. He looked up at the Hand, his gaze somewhat hardened, "What happens if I go outside of my predetermined skillset?"
"It's certainly happened in the past," Hand responded smoothly, "Anyone who does so receives a strike; should a….mistake, like that happen more than once, everyone is allotted three strikes. If you somehow manage that as well, you'll still be fine for the remainder of the battle; however, when you start your next match, your penalty will take into effect; you will only have two ring-out chances instead of the standard three."
Link considered these words carefully.
"Any other questions?"
"Actually," Link replied, thinking of a request he had gotten from someone he cared for dearly back home, "I did have one: there's someone who's not here who wants to watch the tournament as it happens, but can't. Is there-?"
"Ah!" Hand interrupted, apparently glad that the topic had moved away from violating his moveset system, "we can definitely arrange something for that…"
Link didn't expect to meet anyone upon exiting the office, yet he did; Samus leaned against the doorway, hands crossed over her blue tank top, a knowing look on her face.
"Rough?" she asked bluntly.
Link shrugged, his face slightly pained, "You could say that…"
Samus nodded curtly, "Makes sense. He's, uh, barred me from meeting with him about my moveset at this point."
"…Were you about to go in and ask again anyway?"
"No," Samus replied bluntly, but Link saw her posture become more rigid upon saying this; he grinned half-heartedly.
Suddenly, a sly grin broke through Samus's face.
"Wanna take it out on a Sandbag?"
Zelda reached the top of another small hill, finding that it overlooked what appeared to be a small training grounds of sorts; tan columns of moderate height established the perimeter of a rectangular field composed of dirt. She also found that it wasn't empty.
"Come at me!" Lucina cried out as she thrust her sword forward, her opponent only narrowly missing the tip of the blade. Said opponent cocked a flashy smile, dressed in blue and holding a whip-like morning-star in his hand. He proceeded to push forward, taking on an aggressive approach as Lucina was forced to retreat, a determined grimace on her face.
Zelda recognized this man as Richter Belmont; but where was…?
A chipper voice of male-origin perked up to Zelda's right; she turned to find a man dressed in black robes, blindingly white hair sitting atop his head. He held what appeared to be a tome in one hand as he waved with his other, a gesture which Zelda returned gladly.
"You must be Zelda, correct?" the man continued, inclining his head slightly in respect, "it's a great honor to meet you; my name's Robin."
Zelda curtsied, "I believe I recognize you; you were sitting with Marth on the train, were you not?"
"Indeed I was," the man replied, before gesturing down to the training field below, "If I may, it was quite amusing to witness the two of you exchange in a brief battle of pleasantries; he appeared quite flustered when returning to our booth."
Zelda laughed, "Happy to entertain," she replied before gesturing down to the man in blue fighting on the training field below, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but that man down there is Richter Belmont, right?"
Robin squinted, seemingly regarding the man in question with a slight air of apprehension, "Yes, that be him," he rubbed the back of his head in somewhat anxious fashion before indicating to the blue-haired girl Richter was sparring with, "And she be Lucina; acquaintance of mine who may have bitten off more than she can chew."
Zelda blinked. "Oh? Howso?"
Robin directed his attention back to Zelda; he seemed quite preoccupied with the match at hand, "Well, yesterday Richter proposed that he is the more skilled fighter of the two; now Lucina has never been the competitive type, so it was much to my surprise that she agreed to this sparring match with him to begin with; and in turn, agreed to his…er, wager."
"What wager would that be? If I may ask."
Robin gulped. "Well," he began, "If she won the match, then that's all there is to it; however, if Richter wins, the result is a…er…"meeting" in one of the Manor's more refined dining halls."
Zelda's face lit up upon realizing what was being implied, "Ah, I see," she began as she leaned her head to the side to look closer at Robin's expression, "you're worried he might become a new challenger in a very different kind of battle."
Robin faced her again, his eyes wide, "W-what? W-well, I-" as he sputtering grew so did Zelda's smile; finally Robin sighed exasperatedly before starting over, "Lucina assures me that she's just playing along; I do trust her, but even so…"
"If the trust is there," Zelda replied in an endearing tone, "Then there need not be worry…at least that's what I would assume."
Robin's expression turned into one that was somewhat pained, but accepting of the current situation, "Yes, I suppose you're right."
Just as Zelda smiled reassuredly, she was reminded of her original goal for being there. "Robin, would you happen to know where-?"
"You, girl," A gruff voice suddenly spoke, Zelda jumping to face the speaker.
His attire was distinctly set apart from Richter's; dressed in brown leather armor, an almost barbaric aesthetic to the overall design. Exposed leg and arm areas revealing heavyset muscle weathered from battle; steel gauntlets, a headband of similar build, somewhat covered by lengthy blonde hair; and a hardened face, almost statue-esque in comparison to Richter's more youthful complexion.
"Speak your business," Simon Belmont spoke gruffly once more; his stern gaze shifted away slightly before looking back at Zelda, "please."
Zelda glanced briefly at Robin, who seemed unsurprised of Simon's presence; Had he always been there? After a brief moment of regathering her bearings due to the blindsiding greeting, Zelda curtsied respectfully as she normally would with anyone. "I be Zelda," she spoke.
Simon placed his hand on his hip, gaze still steely, "Simon Belmont. What be your business, girl?"
Zelda blinked. "I saw that we were paired up together in the matchup list," she began, "I simply wanted to get acquainted-"
"-And now you have," Simon interrupted as he turned his attention back to the sparring session taking place on the field, going silent.
"He's, er," Robin interjected, "Not very talkative."
The young Hylian girl refused to give up. "Sir," Zelda tried again with the older man, "I was wondering if, perhaps there was call for a talk of strategy; being that we are meant to battle as a team in our first ever match, I believe it would be paramount to-"
"-Talk of strategy?" Simon interrupted again, still facing the battle, "The battle starts. We fight. We win."
Zelda felt a subtle spike of annoyance within herself. "Beg your pardon, but I don't believe we know our opponents well enough for that kind of confidence; if we were to sit down and gain our bearings on the situation-"
"-Do your parents not teach you of war and how little talk there is during it, girl?" Simon interjected once more, this time turning to gaze at the young lady somewhat crudely, "Talks of strategy are just that, mere talk. True strategy is carried out in the heat of struggle; though I suppose you would know not of that, correct?"
Simon promptly turned back and resumed watching the fight closely. Robin looked to Zelda with a somewhat helpless gaze, and the young girl felt her embarrassment grow. Zelda felt those words sting in her heart more than this rude man had probably assumed they would; these hurt feelings came and went.
Zelda's gaze hardened, her expression morphing into one of determination.
"On the contrary," she spoke again, her previously inviting tone now absent; Simon didn't turn around as she continued, "I know struggle very well. I'd be happy to regale you with how this came to be – however…"
Zelda raised her arm, her index finger pointing upward; a small, yet bright flame silently began to burn, hovering atop it. Simon turned slightly, though his gaze remained unchanged.
"…I believe we would agree," Zelda continued, "that knowledge is truly passed through action. And I'm more than willing to demonstrate."
Robin looked between the two, a nervous energy about him as he waited with bated breath at whatever would come next. Simon raised an eyebrow briefly, considering the sudden spark this girl held, both figuratively and literally. He stayed like this for another moment before suddenly turning back to the field, raising a hand up to his mouth as he yelled out:
The second of the Belmonts turned at this call, momentarily distracted; it was enough for Lucina to twist her blade within the chain of his morning-star, ripping it from his grasp. Immediately Richter let out an exasperated sigh as the blue-haired woman held her blade up again to the man's chest, a triumphant grin on her face as she breathed heavily from exertion. Robin made to pump his fist in the air triumphantly.
"Well," she spoke, "guess this means I win the bet, doesn't it?"
"Hey now," Richter objected, "Those weren't-"
"Enough, both of you!" Simon called out again, turning to face Zelda with a somewhat interested expression on his face, "It seems I've found myself a match."
Richter and Lucina looked at Zelda with curious gazes; suddenly, Zelda felt a pang of nervousness within her.
What have I gotten myself into…?
Chapter 11: Chapter Ten - Forging Bonds in Unlikely Places
Forging Bonds in Unlikely Places
"So, what was it you said your job was?" Link asked Samus as they rounded a corner and approached what appeared to be their destination; the marble tiles they walked upon and velvet draped-windows they passed gave way to smooth pure white floor and sterile mirrors that lined the entire walls, the pair's reflections crystal clear within them. Link presumed they were headed into a deeper part of the Manor, an area he hadn't discovered yet; this stirred a hint of excitement within him amidst the uncertainty he had been feeling ever since his appointment with the Hand.
"Bounty hunter," Samus answered without looking, and Link was reminded that a conversation was, in fact, occurring. "though honestly, I find myself working government contract jobs more often than not."
"Well, what kind of jobs would those be?"
"Killing space pirates."
Link waited. There were no further details. "…Anything else?"
"There's a lot of space pirates."
Link felt a certain inquisitiveness nip at his soul a bit. In his brief time at the Manor, the task of befriending Samus had proven to be a hint more difficult than he had initially thought it would; all that he had been able to derive from their limited interaction was that she seemed to keep most people firmly on one end of her cannon, with only a few exceptions to this rule. Yet, Link had clearly observed her more casual interactions with a few of the other contestants; if he didn't know any better, he might have even called them her friends. Link had never quite met anyone like Samus in his journeys throughout Hyrule, and his explosive first impression of her guaranteed his determination in figuring her out.
"Pirates, huh?" Link spoke up, attempting to keep an eager lilt out of his tone, "What do they pirate?"
"Phazon. Metroids. I'm sure there's a whole list neither of us wanna look too deep into," Samus responded curtly, never looking at her companion, "with a lotta words you wouldn't recognize."
"True. What's space?"
Samus stiffened, excess breath escaping her lips in a short huff; Link was beginning to become all too familiar with the emotion being conveyed by this body language: Great, I have to explain something else. Words.
"Well it's like first there's your little planet with your little Hyrule, then somewhere else there's another planet that's maybe not so little with its little problems, and then-"
It was then Samus looked to her side and caught the edges of Link's lips curling up ever so slightly.
Samus snorted softly as she looked ahead once more. "Alright, you got me. Obviously you know what space is."
"No really, what is it?"
"Don't push your luck." Despite Samus's generally flippant attitude and her near stone-faced refusal of the humor present within the exchange, Link could see the telltale crinkles near those cold eyes; she didn't hate him. And that was at least a start.
Link wondered briefly how to continue the conversation. He was no stranger to assuming the role of a silent party; not only was it who he had been as Zelda's royal guard before the Calamity, it was essentially who he was after he had awoken in the shrine of resurrection. Link's eyes glazed over somewhat as he drifted over those memories, remembering how often he found himself standing in front of complete strangers, stories of their hardships and journeys washing over him as he did almost nothing but listen. It was only as he regained more of his memories that this began to change, a dry sort of snark pulling at his words. Even so, this dynamic didn't truly change; he was ever the listener, the taker with little to give in return.
Link side-glanced at the warrior woman walking next to him, an aura of stoic silence once again emanating from her. It appeared that dynamic he was so used to wouldn't work here; not if he wanted to get on better terms with his fellow contestants. He needed to truly learn them, not only for the sake of knowing how they went about battle, but for the sake of his queen.
Above all else, I'm here for her, Link thought to himself, I can't forget that. The youthful Hylian thought to himself briefly before perking up suddenly, the perfect topic seemingly crossing his mind. He turned to his partner, breathed in, opened his mouth-
-Only to be stopped dead in his tracks as Samus suddenly stood still, her hand held out towards Link. She squinted, patiently surveying the hall around them. Link attempted to follow her gaze in confusion; there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary here. The same spotless glass walls ran down the corridor, the same pure white floor, the same cardboard box-
Samus seemed to have noticed it before Link had, the subtle impression of an amused smirk on her face. A little further ahead of them sat a box which hugged the right side of the hall, faded words imprinted on its side that Link couldn't make out, save for a large and scratched-up exclamation point. Aside from Link and Samus, it was the only other thing in the immediate vicinity.
How long has that been there?
"You've been made," Samus called out, arms crossed, "David."
A few seconds of silence passed and Link wondered whether this woman was crazier than she initially seemed; suddenly the box was pushed upwards into the air as something within it rose, a low and exasperated noise emitting from it that Link couldn't really place. Solid Snake let the cardboard object fall silently next to him, rolling his shoulders as he continued that low "Hrngh" reminiscent of a machine winding down.
"Y'know, maybe I'm losing my touch," he finally spoke, the scratchy growl echoing through the sterile hallway. His beady eyes almost shrouded in shadow from his gray bandana shifted over Link briefly as he pulled a small carton from one of his many pouches, "Wasn't too long ago I was sitting in the middle of a 3v3 on Battlefield with none the wiser."
"It was a pretty long while ago believe it or not," Samus replied before cocking her head towards her Hylian companion, "Link. New guy – er, in a sense. Link this is Snake, you sort of met each other a couple days back."
"Hey," Link spoke, his voice sounding lighter than Rito feathers in comparison to this man.
Snake's greeting was an almost indiscernible grunt, but his eyes didn't betray any hostility. He casually pulled a small thin cylinder-esque object that Link didn't recognize out of his carton, stuck one end in his mouth and held a lighter to the other end. The motion was extremely smooth, almost as if it was an activity Snake partook in often.
"Anyway," the older man grumbled through the cigarette, "you two off to the training room? Y'move fast when it comes to these rookies, Sammy." He held the open carton out to the pair. Link moved to accept the offer without really thinking, his eyes wide in an unnaturally innocent way before Samus abruptly pulled his outstretched hand down.
"Nope," The bounty hunter said bluntly before turning back to Snake, "A bad habit is definitely not something the kid needs right before his big match."
Snake let out a teasingly low "aww" before pulling the cig away from his mouth, casually blowing a haze of smoke through his nostrils. He winked at Link, "Everyone needs at least one bad habit kid, trust me."
Samus elbowed the veteran operative, rolling her eyes in a surprisingly friendly manner.
Link briefly wondered how many times he would be called "kid" during his time at the Manor. Nevertheless, he couldn't help but grin at Snake's candor; though they were almost nothing alike, something about this man reminded him a bit of some of the old gorons he knew back home. More than anything else, he noticed just how well Samus and Snake got along, almost like two soldiers who kept in touch after a long and overbearing war. He had gotten a brief glimpse of this when Snake had arrived a few days prior, and it was something he would have to keep tabs on if he wanted to figure out how to crack Samus's armor; and Snake's too, if need be.
"Speaking of training, care to join?" Samus asked Snake, dipping her head in the direction of the long corridor. "if you're not too busy spying on everyone, that is."
Snake flashed a small smile before proceeding to take another drag of his cig, "Ehh, sure why not. Kinda curious to see what this Link's got in store for us. Whaddya say kid? Wanna go a few rounds?"
"We're punching the bag, not each other," Samus retorted.
"What if he's the bag that needs punching?"
"I stop and the kid tastes his first Moslem just to spite you. Ain't that right Link? C'mon, back me up."
As the two continued their friendly bickering, Link realized it was one of the few times since he'd arrived at the mansion where he felt he wasn't the odd one out. Not that it should matter, of course; but even so, the blonde hero began to wonder if he'd be accepted amongst these champions a lot quicker than he had initially presumed.
Well, he thought to himself, this can't be that bad right?
This is bad.
Zelda shivered slightly as the trees rustled around her; a steady wind was beginning to pick up. The sun bore down on the Hylian girl, reflecting brightly off of the blue and white of her dress. Richter rested within the shade of one of the trees, but even then Zelda could see the cuts and bruises he had sustained during his sparring match. Robin stood next to Zelda, running through various battle notes aloud; notes which fell on deaf ears, as Zelda could do nothing save but stare at her newfound opponent.
There he was, at the far end of the field, kneeling with his back faced to her. He appeared to be praying. As Zelda gazed on, she found that whatever tenacity had filled her heart to the point of invoking challenge against this man was gone. All that was left was a growing anxiety rumbling within her core.
Why is he doing that? This is a sparring match, correct? Is he channeling some sort of divine power from the gods, whomever that may be? Does he worship gods or simply one? Does it matter? Heavens above I know so little of this man, of his strength or his abilities, I come here in the name of my people and the first thing I do is pick a fight with a stranger? No, he provoked me; even so, does that make it right? I've made a terrible mistake. I should not be here. I need to-
"Um, pardon?" A female voice somewhat lower than hers intruded within Zelda's panicked thoughts, keeping them at bay for a time. Zelda turned to the side opposite of Robin and found herself gazing upon an opponent from the previous match. A golden tiara sat upon blue locks of hair which cascaded down her shoulders, she wore form fitting clothing of a similar coloration, fingerless gloves, a sword of odd design radiated from within its scabbard sashed to the woman's side. A brief search of Zelda's memory brought the correct name forward.
"Lucina, correct?" Zelda responded, her mouth exceedingly dry. The woman in question nodded, a faint look of concern on her face.
"Right. And you're Zelda?" Lucina asked in kind. Zelda curtsied, an act which prompted a warm smile from this new acquaintance. "Oh, there's no need for that, but thanks nonetheless."
It was now that Zelda noticed the condition Lucina was in. Her cape was torn at the edges, dirt scuffing the leggings; a particularly nasty looking gash marred her lower lip, with a few smaller cuts peppering her face.
"Heavens," Zelda gasped, her eyes filled with genuine concern, "Are you alright?"
Lucina giggled openly before wincing slightly, "It's nothing a vulnerary or two won't fix. Truthfully…I was going to ask that of you. Are you well?"
Zelda looked back at the hardened mass of a warrior who knelt at the other side of the field. Her nervousness prompted an attempt at a gulp, which only resulted in a small cough. She looked back at Lucina, a half-hearted smile painted across her face.
"That obvious, isn't it?" Zelda replied, hoping to save face at least somewhat.
"It's completely fine, everyone goes through their first battle jitters," Lucina placed a hand on Zelda's shoulder in a comforting manner as she spoke; the more casual air this woman had about her put Zelda's mind at some ease. "Am I correct in assuming this will be your first fight of sorts?"
Zelda frowned, not in response to Lucina's assumption but to her own memories that had manifested as a result of the word. Fight. I suppose I haven't done much of that in my life, have I?
"No true battle," Zelda replied, regaining some of her composure, "in the aftermath of a disastrous event which struck my kingdom, I did travel and meet with various magic scholars; I do know a fair amount of sorcery, but…"
"I'd assume skills originating from Din and Farore, right?" Lucina asked, Zelda's eyes widening. Lucina scratched her head inquisitively, her brow scrunched together in thought as she continued, "Pretty sure there were a few other ones too, but I honestly can't remember-"
"Din's fire, Farore's wind, Nayru's shove," Robin chimed in, frowning at the last part of his statement. After squinting closer at his notes his voice piped up again, "er, love. Nayru's love. You're correct Luci, these sacred skills are held in very high regard in the land of Hyrule; some say they're only passed down to those who bear a piece of the Triforce."
"R-right," Lucina spoke, a faint rosey-red hue adoring her cheeks. Her voice lowered as she turned to the white-haired man, "I-I thought we had agreed on the use of…those names in the open, Robin."
Robin turned beet red. "R-right! Sorry, slip of the tongue."
Zelda's mouth was slightly agape. "How – how did you both-?" That was when Zelda remembered that technically, she was the third to bear her own name in this tournament. "Oh. Right."
"Well," Robin breathed in sharply as he flipped through his tome once more, "At the very least, it seems like the moveset will match up to how it worked before. Actually, have you had your moves sorted out by Master Hand yet?"
"N-no," Zelda stammered as she sulked slightly, "Seems I haven't prepared as much as I should have…"
"Oh, I wouldn't fret too much over that," A new voice spoke; Zelda turned to find Richter standing before her, seemingly stirred from his rest. He rubbed the back of his head and stretched as he continued "Old man Simon over there's a bit of a one track mind it would seem; train, train, train, eat, sleep, shit, train."
Zelda stared. "…In that order?"
Richter's smile was charming, despite the wear and tear present on his face. "Point is I believe in the family business as much as any Belmont. Just that Simon seems to think he'll wake up and find a werewolf at his throat if he's not prepared enough." Richter looked over at his partner, who still prayed away in the field, and seemed to regard him with a hint of unease. "To think that's the man my fellow countrymen would never stop talking about…" Zelda noticed that, despite this grumbling, she felt an odd sort of affection and respect emanating from Richter in regards to his ancestor.
Zelda frowned softly to herself. To think, they had just met a few days previous, yet Richter regarded the notion of interacting with his own ancestor with such triviality. Meanwhile Link and I might as well have suffered mental shutdowns upon meeting each other. Interesting...
"Sorry, I seem to've forgotten my manners," Richter spoke once more as he turned back to Zelda, hand outstretched in greeting, "Name's Richter."
"Well met. I'm Zelda."
Richter nodded with another smile before suddenly turning to Robin, "Hey, about earlier. Hope you don't take what I told you earlier to heart? Deal's a deal, I lost fair and square."
As Robin opened his mouth to respond, the blue-clad Belmont immediately shifted his attention to Lucina. "But if you ever want to spar again, I'd be more than happy to obli-"
Richter's words stopped in their tracks as an electric jolt ran over his body; Robin stood with deadened eyes as he held his tome open, his other hand stretched out and teeming with residual sparks.
"Scoundrel's really not a good look for you Richter," Robin deadpanned, "Why not drop the act?"
Richter stared at the white-haired tactician before smiling to himself, his shoulders upturned in a helpless shrug before replying. "Guilty as charged, was merely jest. Truthfully though Lucina, you fought well."
"Anyway," Lucina spoke to Zelda even as she directed an eyeroll at Richter, "I know what you're probably thinking. You don't know the full extent of Simon's abilities, so you're at a disadvantage. However, the same applies on the other end of the spectrum; you are just as much a stranger to him as he is to you. Truthfully, although he has more experience than you, you're both on an even playing field."
"Yeah!" Robin added, "and, just as a hint, Master Hand has made it so that both members of the Belmont clan present in the tournament must share a similar fighting style; you caught a glimpse of it during Lucina's match. What can you deduce from that."
Zelda bit her lip before responding, "Heavy use of that whip-like chain-"
"-The Vampire Killer, right."
"-And although I didn't see them in action, I think I caught sight of what appeared to be long range-type weaponry?"
"Exactly!" Lucina beamed proudly; Zelda had to admit, the encouraging nature these individuals had was beginning to lift her spirits somewhat.
"So due to the way your spells work, your main strategy should be trying to outrange Simon's own weaponry." Robin continued, scribbling furiously in his tome. Zelda turned to Richter with an inquisitive expression.
Richter shrugged haphazardly, "Seems like a sound strategy. I'll say though, if you give Simon – or me, for that matter – even a hint of an opening, he won't hesitate to take the fight right to you."
Zelda took a shaky breath. Perhaps it's truly not that hopeless then-?
Simon's voice stretched over the field. The trio stiffened as they looked up to see Simon deliberately standing up before turning to face them. His face was as stoic as ever; he held the morning star at the ready in his hand, a steely gaze in his eyes. "Let us proceed."
Zelda felt a spike of panic rush up to her throat.
"…Hey," Richter spoke up again, but as Zelda turned to face him again, she noticed his tone seemed to have softened a bit. "Word to the wise; I might not've known him for too long, but Simon isn't a dishonest fellow. I may drag on his lifestyle choices a bit, sure, but he's a legend where I'm from for a reason. He's a good man."
"He's on his way to murder me."
"W-well," Lucina interjected, her face pale in a flustered manner as Richter snickered at Zelda's sudden bluntness, "perhaps Richter is exaggerating a bit; but really, I don't believe Simon actively disdains you. He simply…well, he probably just doesn't want his time wasted. He had no trouble sparring with me or Robin the other day; and I believe there's something to be said about first impressions."
Zelda's expression subtly changed as the hints of newfound understanding began washing over her.
"I see." The young queen of Hyrule spoke, her voice taking on a steadier tone, "He wants a good first impression. I suppose…"
Simon began to slowly make his way closer to his opponent, and Zelda saw as his confident stride was one befit of a true hero. His face hadn't changed a bit; he was impassable. A wall to overcome. Zelda's first.
Zelda steeled her gaze. She clenched her fists briefly before raising one index finger, waving it smoothly in the air; a warm golden glow enveloped her, and when it vanished so too did her simple blue dress; in its place was Zelda's ornate garb, golden pauldrons set upon her shoulders, an intricate headpiece around her forehead as the Triforce symbol sat proudly within the lower part of her outfit.
Both Lucina and Robin nodded intently at their new companion. Richter cocked a flashy grin in support. Zelda regarded the three of them with a look of genuine thanks before turning back to Simon Belmont.
"I suppose I'll just have to give him one."
Well this is new.
Link hadn't been surprised when the trio arrived at the training room and found its décor to be just as sterile and spotless as the area before it; he had been more taken by just how large the room really was. The white marble floor transitioned into a steel gray coloration, a faint blue glow humming in the spaces between tiles. These same tiles ran up the walls which seemed to stretch upwards for at least a few hundred feet. Several arena rings pocketed the area, where several fighters seemed to be going through the motions, punches and kicks, sword slams and small explosive noises echoing throughout the large chamber. They all barely paying attention to the trio's arrival; Link bore witness to a smaller man who seemed to be about his age, in shorts and wearing gloves. Link smiled inwardly as he saw Bowser throw him out of a ring; the young man would immediately get up upon landing and dash back into the ring, only for the cycle to repeat itself. Link turned his gaze above. Platforms of various sizes hung silently in the air…along with something else.
Link couldn't really make out the shape of the organism suspended motionlessly above them; only the steady rise and fall of its chest indicated that it was alive. Its wax-like skin was of two colorations, mostly white with striking gray running over its lengthy tail, of which was curled into the being. Below what appeared to be two stubby horns were enclosed eyes; the figure continued to betray no acknowledgement of anything surrounding it.
"Alright kid, looks like we've got ourselves an empty spot over there," Samus spoke towards Link before turning to Snake and continuing with, "you wanna go first or should I?"
"Hnn," Snake grunted as he rubbed his beard, "I guess…though, I could use a refresher when it comes to how you operate on the field."
"No you don't."
"A demonstration or two couldn't hurt."
"Something tells me you remember everything about how I move, David."
"Hey now, no name callin-"
"What is that?" Link suddenly interrupted, still staring curiously at the being floating wordlessly above them. Samus seemed to acknowledge it for the first time since they had entered the room.
"Oh. Right." Samus regarded the creature casually as she responded, "Don't bother, that one just sort of does as he pleases. Anyway-"
Samus rolled her neck, exactly one crack emitting from her joint before she was encompassed in a flash; she was almost immediately encompassed within her familiar red and orange armor, placing one hand comfortably on her arm cannon.
Samus turned to look at Link, "-Let's get going."
Link blinked. "Weren't we going to punch the bag?"
"Yeah, but I gotta say, Snake's idea sounded more and more appealing on the way here."
Snake made a clicking sound with his tongue, "Sorry kid."
Link turned back to Samus with slightly widened eyes, "Uh…won't you smear me across the ring with a single shot, wearing that?"
"Not exactly," Samus responded, a metallic tinge now present in her voice, "Things in the Smash tournament don't exactly work the way they do…well, anywhere else. We've got the Hand's trickery to thank for that; you're not going to die instantly if I hit you point blank with a super missile, same way you wouldn't disembowel me with a slice of your sword."
"Huh," Link replied, "So we don't get hurt here?"
Samus stayed silent for one ominous moment. "I didn't say that."
Link froze, unsure of how to respond, until a sound extremely uncharacteristic of the woman within the suit happened; a short chuckle.
"Not afraid of a few cuts and bruises here and there, are you?"
"Not at all."
That chain is going to cut me open before I even get the chance to blink.
Robin and Lucina hung back with Richter in the shade, who himself looked at the current scene with a moderate amount of curiosity. Simon and Zelda stood several feet away from each other, the vampire killer ever unrelenting in his hardened stare.
"Alright, we're following tourney rules," Robin spoke out, "Three ring outs means game over."
Lucina raised her fist high over her head, "You've got this!". Zelda blushed subtly before willing the heat in her cheeks away.
Simon continued to stand motionlessly. The only part of him that moved was his hair, blonde strands swaying in the rising afternoon wind.
Zelda furrowed her brow. Playing defensively should be my best option as of now. Just hang back and wait for him to-
The wind stopped. Something shifted; before one second could fully lapse into the next, Simon had his arm outstretched, a silver-ish metallic object flying towards Zelda at breakneck speed. Zelda felt her breath hitch as she flung her body to the side, just narrowly dodging the cross. Then, before she even had the chance to blink, Simon was right in front of her, his baseball mitt of a hand clutching the front of Zelda's dress.
Zelda's heartbeat drummed in her ears. What – how did-
Simon curled his lip in a scornful manner as he shifted his weight and suddenly Zelda was being lifted in the air, the momentum yanking away whatever air that was left in her system, Simon spun deliberately with both hands clasped onto her golden necklace, she was going to be flung out of the field in the first few moments of the match if she didn't do something-
Zelda thrust her arms outward reactively; otherworldly winds of a greenish coloration enveloped her, and the Belmont found himself empty handed, completing his momentum shift whilst throwing nothing. A flicker of confusion flew over his expression before he turned around sharply only to feel a small and girlish hand press down on his chest-
-Zelda grimaced as she thrust forward, golden energy erupting from her outstretched palm; Simon grunted as he took the full brunt of the attack, feeling hundreds of needlelike stabs striking at his core before the final hit pushed him backwards. His boots left deep tracks as he steadied himself, cancelling out the direction Zelda had intended the blast to take him in.
Simon exhaled harshly, cracking his knuckles with one clench. Zelda stared blankly, her senses hypercharged as her breaths came in short, rapid bursts.
Now. While his guard is down, I need to hit him again now-
Zelda swiped her hand forward clumsily, but it was too little too late; Simon weaved just out of the golden particles' range, he took a deep lunge forward and Zelda realized he now had the Vampire Killer in hand, chains curled over his knuckles, the spiked ballend flailing just behind as it came up to strike her.
"Nng-" Zelda twirled, a haphazardly put together diamond-esque projection encasing her. As the flail end of the Morningstar collided with its surface it shattered explosively, shards peppering Simon and causing him to flinch back several steps.
Simon staggered back before looking up, hair strands dangling over slightly widened eyes as he glanced at the young woman before him; she had assumed a battle stance of sorts, one hand slightly raised and the other lowered in front of her. She breathed heavily through her nostrils, chest rising up and down rapidly. Her eyes didn't betray any panic now- her brow scrunched downward, a fiery glare encompassing her irises.
The Belmont quickly flung his trusty cross forward, but Zelda had anticipated it this time; one emerald-green flurry later and she was now at the other end of the field, the holy weapon veering off and biting only air. She raised two fingers sharply and Simon found himself being charged by what appeared to be a miniature comet; blazing a blindingly bright trail behind it as it approached rapidly.
Simon charged forward, sliding underneath the fire's trajectory before flinging his wrist forward, sending his chainlike weapon outward at a near-instant speed. Zelda couldn't react in time; the tail end of the Vampire Killer rammed into her gut, and she wasn't able to hold back the pained cry that escaped her throat that was almost immediately muffled as Simon lunged forward, grasping her once more and harshly tossing her over the field's boundary line.
Zelda landed hard on her tailbone, dust flying up and surrounding her. She doubled over, clutching her abdomen as the ache lingered. She panted as through squinted eyes she could see Robin and Lucina wincing, Richter only looking on with an intense concentration.
Simon looked down at her, one fist placed on his hip. His expression seemed solemn, but Zelda almost thought she caught a glimpse of newfound curiosity buried within it.
"That makes one stock," he spoke curtly, "Two left to go. Try not to give away all your tricks at once."
He turned and headed further within the arena. Zelda stood up shakily, nearly stumbling in the process. She clenched her fists and grit her teeth, eyes shut and unwilling to look and acknowledge her failure. When she did look up, she found a different sight altogether.
Robin gave her a reassuring smile before flashing a thumbs up; Richter cocked his head back at the field while looking at Zelda, holding up two fingers. Lucina met the Hylian's eyes, brow furrowed, blue eyes shimmering and unwavering, seemingly determined in the belief of her abilities. She too held up two fingers, and the message was clear.
Two more tries. You're still in this.
Zelda looked back at the field, ignoring the fading pain in her core. Simon was there at the center, once again assuming the role of an unflinching wall. Zelda confidently stepped back into the field, and the world around the two opponents ceased to exist as they thrust themselves back into the fray.
Chapter 12: Chapter Eleven - Outmatched
Link clenched the master sword in his right hand, his thumb running over the jewel centered in its hilt. He hefted his Hylian shield in his left as he stood on one end of the arena, dressed in his Champion's tunic once again. Link surveyed the amount of distance he had to work in within the ring, which wasn't much; it was a square of moderate size, a large smash tournament logo emblazoned on its floor, parallel lines of ropes enclosing the space. Link briefly observed the other various arenas around the room, all filled with their own combatants undergoing their own activities, before turning back to the individual directly across from him.
Samus ran her hand over her arm cannon, tapping various unseen buttons as the device seemed to undergo a weapons check; strips of metal popped off, green light emanating from the open spaces. The tip of the cannon unfurled, revealing multiple moving parts of machinery.
"So when's this show hitting the road, eh?" Snake's gruff voice called out from the small bleachers he sat on as he chucked a spent cig behind him, "almost time for a new carton, if you catch my drift."
"You remember the tourney ruleset right?" Samus's metallic voice rang out as she continued to observe her cannon, "three stocks. Three tries until you're done."
"What makes you so sure I'll be the one who rings out?" Link asked somewhat jokingly.
"Anyway," Samus continued monotonously, "Sometimes the rules vary. Sometimes it's two stocks, sometimes there's items involved, but generally speaking this is the baseline. Got it?"
Link nodded as Samus's cannon suddenly slammed shut, seemingly primed and ready.
"Alright." Samus lowered her cannon, placing her hand on it deliberately, "Well before we get this going, how do you call it Snake?"
The man in question raised an eyebrow. "Hrmm…30 seconds. Give or take. You?"
Link's face scrunched up in confusion as he looked back and forth between the two.
"Really?" Samus replied, Link unable to ascertain any sort of expression out of her opaque visor, "15. That's mine. Now, what do you suggest I put down?"
Link stayed utterly clueless as the pair seemed to ignore his existence temporarily. Snake clenched his jaw in thought before suddenly piping up with "Got it. Remember those old vids you talked about a while back? The ones with those freaky biomorph ladies. Still got them lying around?"
"Let's see…" Samus's visor flickered slightly before she continued, "Yep. Two terabytes worth, courtesy of Space Pirate Command, and yours truly. Deal."
"What's…?" Link's words faded away in his throat as he noticed how involved the two seemed to be in their discussion.
Snake's lips drew tight in a funny looking smile. "Alright. Your turn."
"I want the thing."
"You know. The, uh….thing you picked up a little while back."
"Hrn?" Snake rubbed his beard before continuing, "Oh, you want the F-Ze-"
"-Yes," Samus's voice sounded a decibel higher than normal, "That one. Deal?"
"What is going on." Link muttered quietly.
Samus turned back to Link, who held a completely dumbfounded look on his face.
"What?" The bounty hunter asked blankly. "You ready?"
"Ready to know what just happened," Link grumbled, though if he was being completely honest, his curiosity overrode what little discomfort he had felt.
"Oh. Just trying to guess how long it'll take before you ring out. Anyway-" Samus raised her arm cannon, a missile promptly jettisoning towards Link. Link's eyes widened as he quickly raised his shield. He felt the small explosion more than he heard it; acrid smoke desecrated his senses as he stumbled back a few feet, slightly dizzy.
Link coughed, attempting to gather his senses from the blindsiding attack. Guess we're starting, was all he managed to think before an orange and red blur barreled through the smoke. Link inhaled deeply through his nose before sidestepping the oncoming tackle; though he hadn't regained enough composure to properly focus on his movement, he was able to throw out a hefty swing of his weapon, directed at Samus's back. Link expected the blade to clang or bounce off uselessly against the futuristic armor. Instead, something entirely different occurred; the blade sank through a noticeable few centimeters of the suit, an audible hitch in Samus's breath right as Link finished his swing, the force sending the bounty hunter further off in the opposite direction of Link.
"Sloppy," Snake called out, "10 seconds left by the way."
Link looked at the master sword in confusion; why did it do that? Was this Master Hand's doing? These thoughts coursed through his mind in a fraction of a second; that one moment of distraction was enough. An electrical stream of energy wrapped itself around Link's shield, and the young Hylian found himself being pulled rapidly to its point of origin; Samus's arm cannon.
The cannon's detractable claw-like appendages caught Link in the torso with a barely audible thunk. Link found himself a short breath's distance from Samus's visor. Amidst the cloudy emerald-green, Link could see a hint of the woman's eyes; they were unbearably focused, unhindered of anything resembling an emotion. The hunter tensed her cannon arm just as it fired, flames licking at Link's tunic as he was sent flying backwards; his lower back collided with the top row of the ring's boundary, flipping him backwards before falling flat on his face on the training room floor.
Samus promptly turned to Snake. "Time?"
"…15. Right on the dot. Jesus Sammy."
The armor-clad woman inclined her head, presumably satisfied with the result. Link let out a shaky breath as he propped himself up on one arm; that one minor burst from the arm cannon felt like taking the full brunt of a Guardian beam attack. His bones felt like they would rattle out of his skin at any moment, an immense ache traveling upwards from his stomach, the pain peaking in his neck. He looked up to find Samus staring down at him over the ring's barrier; he could just barely make out the indent his sword had left in her suit, the gash starting at the edge of her hip and traveling around the bend of the suit, out of Link's field of vision.
"You-" Link panted, attempting to force more oxygen back into his system, "You alright?"
Samus continued to stare down at him for a brief moment before following his line of sight. She met his gaze once more. "Nothing that won't fix itself. You need a minute?"
Link wiped a thin line of spittle from his mouth as the look in his eyes shifted from shocked and pained to something much more determined, his overall expression growing stonefaced. Beneath her suit's faceless exterior, Samus allowed herself the smallest of grins; in spite of everything that was different about this Link, that face was all too familiar.
Samus nodded curtly. "Right. Let's get to work."
Robin scribbled in his tome as he gazed intensely at the battle being waged before him. The field was pocketed with scorch marks, chunks of dirt torn out of the ground leaving deep recessions in their place. Lucina's eyes darted back and forth, attempting to follow the two frantic opponents. Richter rested his back against the tree, chuckling.
"You know," he muttered, "She's not doing too bad now-"
In the heat of battle, a small vial of holy water tumbled through the air before glancing a stray fireball. The ensuing combustion of eruptive energy interrupted his train of thought as all three onlookers steadied themselves against the resulting shockwave, their hair ruffling in the wind.
Zelda and Simon found themselves pushed back to opposing ends of the field. Simon's nostrils were flared, his eyes narrowed down to slits as he hunched over in ragged posture, his hands clenching repeatedly as he breathed steadily. Zelda stood on shaky legs, her shoulders tense as she attempted to maintain her fighting posture. Beads of sweat dripped down her nose as she panted, eyes shifting rapidly over the area with somewhat hazy vision.
He builds himself a nigh impenetrable wall through his weaponry. If I am to stay my course of playing defensively, he will inevitably wear me down and I'll have made a crucial error, most likely resulting in a second ringout. My only other option is to find an opening and advance, but this is a strategy he must know all too well. I must force him into making a mistake of some kind, something that will grant me a foothold within his defense.
Simon began pacing up and down his side of the field, his gaze never once leaving Zelda. The young girl took note of this; he was growing restless. Zelda stayed motionless, matching Simon's gaze as the gears turned in her head, attempting to think of something, anything that could help her level the playing field-
-Her eyes widened ever so slightly, an unforeseen idea dawning on her. That's it. A risky option, but I have little else. All that's left is to decide when…
Zelda shifted her foot forward, a motion not lost on her opponent. Simon quit his pacing, eyes still locked on target. Zelda took another step forward. Then another. Simon blinked, confusion flitting across his face just as Zelda suddenly sprang forward into a full sprint to her opponent.
Richter sat up, squinting at the action taking place. "What in god's name…?"
Robin's eyes were wide with surprise. "She's leaving herself wide open; Simon has a variety of moves he can respond with if she's going on the offensive, and her movement's far too predictable. What is she hoping to accomplish?"
Lucina stayed silent, her gaze hardening.
Simon's eyes betrayed his confusion before steeling themselves once more. His next few actions all took place in the blink of an eye; he promptly tossed out his cross, the weapon covering a wide horizontal arc veering towards Zelda at eye level, ensuring the vampire hunter's control of that area of the field; Simon heaved once more right after, an axe descending from the air and covering yet another potential field of movement. Finally, he readied his Vampire Killer as he chucked a vial of holy water on the opposing end of his cross's trajectory; the flames reached into the air, denying any opponent passage through that area of the field. He had already gotten a feel for Zelda's pattern; she would use her warping magic to dodge his cross, the incoming axe preventing her from taking refuge in the air. Given the rough estimate he had of the distance Zelda's warp covered, and given the pressure his cross imposed, she would only be able to place herself somewhere within close vicinity of his holy water trap; he had thrown it just far enough to where his Morningstar could cover the distance.
"She might as well kiss her second stock good bye," Richter spoke. Lucina remained silent.
Zelda continued to sprint forward, the cross rapidly approaching. Simon braced himself, gripping the Vampire Killer even tighter. The axe continued its descent, the fire raged on, the cross spun ever closer, it was only a matter of moments before his opponent warped right where he wanted her-
-Zelda ducked, the cross just barely grazing her side, tearing through her dress and cutting through flesh before wobbling towards the ground. Zelda let out a barely audible whimper, a noise at complete contrast with her harsh expression as she rapidly closed the distance between herself and her opponent-
Robin breathed in sharply; Richter stood up; Lucina clenched her fist until the knuckles turned pale-
Simon's mouth dropped slightly agape, his axe burying itself uselessly in the dirt, the holy water's flames waning. He grit his teeth, readying his whip just as Zelda suddenly lifted her arms above her, vanishing in a green flash-
-The trajectory, Simon's thoughts jumbled together, the warp's range would put her right behind-
The blue-eyed warrior quickly spun to face behind himself, only for a new realization to dawn on him. I stand on the cusp of the field's perimeter. She has nowhere to go but-
Zelda reappeared just behind him; Faore's dispelling winds rapidly cut through Simon, his breath hitching as the spell's force flung him over the field's boundary line. The young lady swayed off balance, breathing haggard breaths as her shoulders slumped, tired eyes looking over her handiwork.
"Now I see," Robin muttered as he furiously wrote in his notes, "Simon had assumed Zelda would stick to a predictable but safe pattern and planned to capitalize on it; his crucial error was not only in the assumption that she'd continue to play it safe, but also in assuming Faore's Wind has a set travel distance. He also couldn't have known the dispelling winds that mark the end of the spell actually have the potential of harming anyone in the direct vicinity of them."
"Hmm," Richter rubbed the back of his head, "So the girl took a calculated risk. Instead of warping away from the cross like Simon assumed she would, she instead basically ate the attack and continued pushing forward. She was banking on Simon instinctively turning around to anticipate where he thought the end of Zelda's warp would be, exposing himself in the process; if he didn't do that, the girl would've been left in an extremely vulnerable position. Veery high risk."
"A high risk deserves a high reward," Lucina spoke finally, a beaming smile on her face, "Wouldn't you say?"
Simon was in the process of getting up, steadying himself on one knee. Zelda looked down at him, her exhausted breaths sounding worse by the second. Her shoulders slumped further down, her vision noticeably failing her.
"Try not to…" She panted, swaying lazily from left to right, "Give away all your tricks…" She promptly collapsed onto the ground.
Robin and Lucina looked at each other. Richter blinked.
"Well that's not good."
Samus was growing tired of remote bombs.
This Link was rapidly proving to be as formidable as his previous iterations, if not moreso; Whenever Samus closed in for an opening, the young boy would not only always sidestep just out of reach, he was also somehow fast enough to unleash a flurry of light sword swings before Samus could catch herself. This combined with Link's standard kit of boomerang and bow/arrows meant Samus had to place her missile shots even more strategically than she normally would, or they would simply not connect with the target.
And then there were remote bombs.
Other Links had bombs, sure. They would detonate after a set time, or after colliding with an opponent. Samus liked those, they were predictable. Now, Link had an option that would essentially grant him control of any one given area in the ring; he could throw a remote bomb out, and Samus would have to keep the luminescent weapon in the back of her mind at all times, or else she'd find herself getting tripped up by it and leaving herself open for a number of follow-up attacks that Link could capitalize on.
Link grit his teeth, grunting as he spun his sword wildly in an arc around him, forcing Samus to back off for the time being. Her armor had sustained numerous scorch marks, scratches forming in small cross-hatch patterns littered throughout the metal's surface; nothing too substantial so far, she could keep going for quite a while longer-
-Her breath hitched ever so slightly as she shifted her torso, feeling the considerable chink Link had initially made near her hip at the start of the match. Samus cursed herself inwardly; in her recklessness, she just may have acquired a more serious wound than she had initially thought.
"You okay?" Link's voice rang out, clear and almost unhindered by the telltale signs of exhaustion. They had been trading blows for what felt like the better part of an hour; the kid didn't seem to lack for stamina, at the very least.
Samus paused. She knew she could keep going. It was just a small scratch-
The bounty hunter sighed exasperatedly. Screw it. Just a sparring session.
"Let's take five," she replied as she made her way to hopping off the arena.
Link followed, tapping away at his Sheikah Slate in the process. Samus unshackled herself from her Varia suit, reverting back to her blue tank top and trunks. She peered down at her right side; though the skin wasn't broken, there was a deep purple blotch near her hip, which she could feel extending to about the midway point of her backside.
Snake whistled, standing up from his seat amidst the small bleachers that surrounded the arena, "Damn. Kid got you good with that first swing. If he hadn't been so off balance when he threw that hit out, he probably could've done even more damage."
Samus prodded the area with two fingers, the dull pain spiking dramatically. She sighed; though it wasn't something her medkit couldn't fix, she was more troubled by the fact that she'd allowed herself to get hit at all. She was so used to the speed she normally carried on her own missions, in her own universe. The limitations imposed on both her and her armor in the Smash tournament always seemed to throw her off every now and again; if she didn't break this bad habit, it might cost her in any of the matches she was participating in.
I lose the tournament, and I don't get the prize. Samus clenched her jaw tightly. And I have to win it this time, or else-
A loud crunch sliced through the silent air. Samus and Snake turned to find Link midbite, a baked apple in his hand. He finished his bite as he held his other hand out towards Samus, offering another snack of the same kind.
Samus chuckled, mumbling a quick "thanks" before swiping the offering out of his hand. Link blinked as she took a gigantic chomp out of the richly colored fruit.
"Y'know," She spoke after gulping, "You're not half bad kid. Though I guess it's not too surprising," she finished the apple with another bite, "Links always place well in the tourney."
Link winced slightly; the subject of other Links only brought to mind the burning questions he still held for it.
"Nice bomb placement, particularly," Snake spoke up, cocking a small smile, "That isn't the kind of shit you normally see from a Hylian."
Link flashed a grin that didn't quite reach his eyes, "Wanna see it first hand?"
Snake let out a low grumble of laughter, "Funny. Maybe another time. I've got a prior engagement; one I'm close to being late for, actually." The gruff man rubbed his temple briefly before continuing, "So that having been said, see you-"
"Hey," Samus cut in bluntly, stepping front of Snake with arms crossed, "Cough it up."
Link bore a confused face before he remembered the bet that had taken place before his sparring session with Samus.
Snake turned to Samus, "What makes you so sure I wasn't lying when I said I found it?"
Snake's lips curled up slightly. "Would you believe me if I said I don't got it on me?"
Samus shot him a murderous glare.
Snake let out a dry laugh. "Alright, alright," He proceeded to dig into his pouches, "Really though, you're lucky it's so small." Finally, he held out something Link didn't recognize in the slightest, and Samus's eye gleamed, momentarily distracted. It was a small box of cheap cardboard material, its edges scuffed and paint peeling. In its center lay a display window, and behind it was…was…
Samus realized all too late that he was staring; she quickly made to grab the item out of Snake's hand, but Link was just a touch quicker; he grasped the container, running his thumb over the display and clearing the fine layer of dust that marred its surface. Inside the box appeared to be an action figure: a menacing bipedal dinosaur, paint on its teeth a dull yellow, the eyes a chipped red. Displayed proudly next to the figure appeared to be some sort of futuristic vehicle bearing the same green coloration the action figure had, made up of harsh lines and sharp angles. Just above the display window of the box was the phrase "F-ZERO" in metallic font. Link was only able to glance at the myriad of other action bubbles the case bore, strange words like "Bio-Rex" and "Big Fang" crossing his vision before Samus swiftly snatched it out of Link's hand.
Link searched his memories. "F-Zero…isn't that..?"
"Like I said kid," Snake attempted to speak through chuckles, "Everybody needs at least one bad habit." Samus shot the Foxhound operative another death glare as he continued his low growl of a laugh, raising two gloved fingers to his forehead before uttering "See ya."
Link watched the man go as realization dawned over him; Zelda had mentioned in passing before that one of the other combatants was a racer of some sort-
Samus held Link's shoulder in a deathgrip. He turned and found himself having to look up at the woman staring daggers into his soul. Her eyes quickly flit from left to right, ensuring no one had observed the previous exchange before returning her deadly gaze to Link.
"You're not telling anyone this." She spoke low. "Not Zelda, not Wii Fit, definitely not Falcon-"
The fiercest woman in the galaxy found her words halted by the gleeful expression that contorted itself on Link's face.
Link held his hands up in mock surrender, a broad smile on his face, "So, you've got a collection? Can I see?"
"How many do you have?"
"How long've you been collecting them for?"
"Do you take them out of the box or leave them in?"
"Do you have a Captain Falcon one too? Does it come with a little Blue Falcon?"
"Oh, you do."
Desperation was beginning to take root across Samus's expression, her death glare faltering subtly. Link was attempting to contain himself but finding it more difficult as each moment stretched on in the vast training room. The same woman who had shot him across the entire ring earlier without breaking a sweat, the same hardened lady who wore such revealing clothes so casually, kept a secret toy collection.
Before either of them could say anything else, loud footsteps echoed throughout the training room, steps which seemed to be steadily approaching. Samus and Link turned to find that a certain King Koopa was approaching them; Link craned his neck, focusing his vision just past the giant monster to see Little Mac clumsily draping a towel over his neck, laid out on the floor and looking utterly exhausted.
Bowser continued walking until he was directly in front of the pair of them, his eyes narrowed to slits. He nodded curtly to Samus, who returned the gesture, before shifting his gaze to the rookie standing next to her.
"What's with the grin? Somethin' funny?" The deep words snaked their way through the koopa's gigantic maw as he held his gaze on Link. Samus also turned to the young Hylian and attempted as best she could to remain stonefaced, hiding her pleading eyes as best she could.
Link regarded Bowser with the same air of casualness he would anyone else; he didn't know a whole lot about this combatant, other than a vague relation to Mario. "I just like smiling." He responded, Samus's gaze faltering for a fraction of a second, this act of silence not lost on her, "Don't you?"
Bowser's eyes remained squinted. "Hm," he growled. "Anywho, I wanted to come talk t'you."
Link was surprised at this. "You did?"
Bowser nodded, crossing his arms as he replied, "Take it you've looked over the tourney bracket. Seems we're the opening act. Imagine that."
"That's true," Link replied openly. An awkward period of silence waned over the three of them. Bowser stayed motionless.
Link frowned slightly. "Is there, uh, something you-?"
Bowser smoothly leaned over until he was just at eye level with the young hero; it was then that Link noticed just how…large this creature really was. The Koopa king held one eyebrow arched, eyes pinpointed and almost bloodshot as they studied the rookie before them.
"I been hearing things, here an' there," Bowser's voice drawled as he spoke, "Dunno if you been payin' attention, but a lotta people got their eyes on you, kid."
Heh, Link's thoughts never reached his blank expression, There's that nickname again. A brief jolt of shock passed through his system; the other combatants were watching him? How hadn't he noticed?
"Hmph. You ask me," Bowser's voice dropped low, his eyes squinting once more, his breath coursing through Link's hair and reminding him just how close this monster was to him, "There ain't nothing worth looking at."
A moment passed. Link's gaze steeled itself as a familiar expression took over; the one he always fell back on before a fight. "I'm not asking." He muttered. "But if you'd really like to find out then I'd be happy to step into the ring-"
Bowser scoffed, hot air slapping at Link's face, "Might notta occurred to you, but some guys are in this to win," he continued, "I ain't takin' any chances. And I'm definitely not gettin' sent to loser's bracket on my first match. Only thing you and I'll be steppin' in is the battlefield."
"Someone sounds scared."
Bowser's nostrils flared.
"Bowser." Samus's voice held a hint of warning. The oversized Koopa turned his malicious stare over to the blonde woman, who matched it and then some.
Bowser regarded Samus with some level of hostility. The warning didn't seem to evade his senses entirely, however, and Link felt the subtlest hints of a history between the two.
"Four days," the Koopa muttered as he straightened up, maintaining eye contact with Link, "See you there." He plodded off.
Samus huffed as she rubbed her brow, "Why Mario keeps inviting that knucklehead to these things evades me," She turned to Link, "You alright?"
"Yeah," the young man replied, and when he turned to face Samus, the bounty hunter found a strange mix of nervousness and eager anticipation in his gaze, "Never better." He grinned once more.
Samus rolled her eyes as she flicked the boy on the forehead, "Try not to piss too many people off at once," she chided; she found, however, it was a little hard trying not to smile at his attitude.
Zelda's eyes fluttered open to the glare of the afternoon sun trickling down through swaying tree branches; she covered her sight reflexively with her hand, wincing as her joints screamed in their aching sensation. Through scuffed fingers she saw Lucina, eyes full to the brim with concern, blue hair cascading down and tickling the young queen's face.
Lucina lay a gloved hand across Zelda's forehead, the coolness of her skin eliciting a groan from the blonde Hylian. "Are you alright?" Lucina asked, "Can you stand?"
Zelda tasted dirt on her tongue. Her mouth felt disturbingly dry, her eyes itchy. She looked up at Lucina and nodded as best she could. Robin and Richter stood nearby as Lucina proceeded to help Zelda up onto her feet; Simon stood further off, surveying the others with a gaze that betrayed no emotion.
Zelda wobbled a bit, Lucina holding onto her arm in an attempt to steady her. "Wha…" Zelda licked chapped lips as she fumbled her words, feeling increasingly dizzy, "What happened?"
"Well," Robin piped up, his tome clasped shut and at his side, "It would seem you over-extended yourself a bit; just after you knocked Simon out of the ring, you proceeded to collapse over the boundary line."
Zelda's recollection of the sparring match slowly came back to her in a haze. "I see," she croaked out, looking between the three people standing before her, "How long was I, er, passed out for?"
Richter blew a short breath, hands on his hips, "I'd say about…the better part of an hour? Robin attempted to revive you, but he kept going on about not keeping a mending staff on him-"
"-Regardless," Lucina cut in, "Obviously the fight had to be put on hold. How are you feeling?" She held a flask up to Zelda, who promptly grabbed and drank from it in long gulps.
"I'm ready," Zelda spoke, unable to hide the faltering in her voice or the fried look within her eyes, "I can do it."
Robin smiled weakly as Lucina opened her mouth to protest; she was cut short as the fourth member of their makeshift party stepped in.
"No, you can't," Simon uttered seriously as he looked over Zelda, "It's obvious to anyone who bears eyes." He crossed his arms over his chest, and the young girl noticed his eyes no longer bore quite the same amount of hostility they had before. "That strategy you utilized to force me out of bounds. It was reckless."
Zelda felt a familiar burning sensation within her as she looked Simon in the eye, a thin smile tightly wrapped on her face, "Yet it worked, didn't it?"
Simon continued to observe the young girl, his face almost unreadable. "Foolish."
Before Zelda could retort, the man continued.
"I was foolish," he sighed as he shook his head, and Zelda felt her heart skip in surprise, "I was too embroiled in the heat of the fight; I was blind to the signs of exhaustion you were carrying as the match raged on. Too focused on the outcome of the fight, rather than the condition my opponent was in." He regarded Zelda with a more curious gaze, "You possess quite the skill in sorcery. However, it seems you severely lack the stamina necessary to undergo prolonged battles. Would I be correct in assuming you had never truly fought anyone before me, in any capacity?"
Zelda's gaze wavered before she looked down at the grass. "You would be correct."
Simon huffed. "That naivety I sensed when you challenged me…it would seem it's not unfounded."
A devastating moment of silence passed between the group. Zelda continued to look down.
"Or," Simon continued, "Instead, perhaps it was bravery I had sensed. Either way…" Zelda's vision flew up to match the Belmont's. She watched as the towering bulk of a man inclined his head, bowing in a surprisingly respectful manner. The rest of the group was visibly taken aback by this gesture.
"I apologize if my words cut deeper than they were meant to," Simon spoke, "I am told I can be somewhat…abrasive."
"Understatement," Richter muttered.
Simon stood back up, his overly rigid posture communicating his somewhat uneasiness. "I would like to continue our match some other time. Perhaps indulge myself in this…"strategy talk" of yours."
Zelda's expression was that of complete shock; this was not the outcome she had expected. She had somehow lost yet won simultaneously.
Though, perhaps it wasn't about winning, Zelda thought to herself. She smiled kindly at the large warrior, not an ounce of ill intent present on her face. "I'd like that...partner." Simon blinked, an uncomfortable aura overtaking him that Zelda couldn't help but giggle slightly at.
The blonde queen turned to face the other three, her face beaming, "Thank you, all of you, for your support. I do not know how I would have approached the match if it weren't for your advice."
Richter's expression morphed into a lopsided grin as he nodded, Robin's eyes filled with a similar kindness.
"I thank you for your gratitude," Lucina replied, her hands still fretting over Zelda's condition as they passed over her face; the young girl laughed more openly as she attempted to get the blue haired woman to stop.
Two figures stood a far distance apart from the small group, their presence having been hidden for the duration of the sparring match. A towering man of dark skin and deep red hair stood, observing the dialogue exchange between Zelda and the vampire hunter.
"It'd seem they've reached an understanding of sorts," Ganondorf spoke, a sardonic edge dripping off his words, "How pleasant." He turned to his companion, "Will your mind stay unchanged? You could very well introduce yourself to her now."
The figure standing next to the former Demon King was difficult to discern; its colors were muted, ghostly vapors trailing off its almost transparent body as it seemingly struggled to keep itself together, almost as if it was an incomplete being of some kind. Only a few true details could be observed from this enigma's form; a flowing gray scarf of worn material, harsh eyes nearly hidden beneath blonde bangs. And finally, a symbol depicting something resembling a blood red eye on the figure's chest; the symbol of a proud yet secretive people.
This incomplete presence turned to face Ganondorf, its eyes almost wistful. "No. I…I don't believe I'm ready."
Ganondorf nodded. "Very well. Though, you'd do well to remember-" he looked back at Zelda, her expression pleasant, completely unaware of the pair's presence.
A dim glint crept into the gerudo's eyes. "-You cannot hide from her forever."
Chapter 13: Chapter Twelve - Tender Beginnings
It's funny how terrible my pacing is when it comes to updating this. If anyone has some potential advice when it comes to keeping a consistent update schedule, please don't hesitate to share!
Checkered tiles met with brass columns that towered high into the Manor hall. Glittering flecks from a warm evening sun snuck through long velvet curtains, obstructed momentarily as two warriors from vastly different worlds walked to meet the day's end.
The telltale signs of a full day's worth of training were noticeably evident on Link, his knuckles bruised, face a mixture of dried sweat and scuff marks of varying levels of severity, his small ponytail undone, dirty blonde locks of hair reaching ever so slightly past the nape of his neck. Signs of prolonged sparring presented themselves in a different matter on his companion; Samus had encased herself within her Varia Suit, the intricate seams present on the design marred with various indentations that told a story of sword clashes and remote bomb explosions. There was a level of contentment present over the way the pair carried themselves as their footsteps echoed throughout the hallway; a kind of satisfaction that seemed, to the both of them, only attainable through a more arduous sort of work than most people would willingly put themselves through; then again, these were no ordinary people.
Samus appreciated the silence; if she had her way, she would ensure it lasted until the end of time. It wouldn't.
"So," Link whistled out, "You can turn into a ball."
"In a sense."
"Do you get dizzy sometimes? Rolling around everywhere like that?"
"Not really, no."
"…Can you craw-"
"Okay," Samus sighed abruptly, shedding off her armor with a bright flash, "Why don't we cut a deal? You've probably got a ton of burning questions, and you'll have all year to ask them. Why don't we cut it down to…" She scratched her head inquisitively before continuing, "Four a day? Just…four questions, and I'll answer to the best of my ability. Swear."
Link's mouth floundered slightly before answering, "Four questions, huh?" He ran a hand through his unkept hair, "Sounds fair."
Samus nodded curtly, long tresses of glossy blonde hair shifting over bare shoulders, "Alright, shoot."
Link thought to himself. Gonna have to make these count. His brow furrowed as Samus continued her escort of Link back to his quarters.
"Your armor," The short Hylian piped up, "It comes and goes so seamlessly. How does that work?"
"The suit's technology is of Chozo origin," Samus replied without missing a beat, "And seeing as I'm part Chozo, the armor is linked with me on a biological level. Has been for a while; the suit keeps itself within a pocket dimension whenever I don't need it, and summoning it is relatively easy. Anything I want tucked away for a moment or two, I just keep with the suit."
"Sounds kind of like how the Sheikah Slate works," Link responded, taking on a more quizzical tone as he then asked, "Chozo?"
"Is that your second question?"
Link's lips floundered slightly before he shook his head. Pace yourself. Link searched his mind momentarily before remembering his next inquiry, "The whole idea behind this tournament is fighters from different worlds coming together to do battle, I know that. But are there any who come from the same universe, even if they're not technically related?"
"A fair bit." Samus thoughtlessly brushed a few fingers through her bangs, "Douglas – er, Falcon and I operate within the same universe. The Fox crew do as well, technically, but the Lylat system is a ways off and there's not a whole lot of interplay."
Link's eyes widened, "Really?"
"Yeah. But you can blame a lot of that on how the first Smash tournament came about in the first place; wasn't pretty. Nowadays the Hand tries to pull as many diverse pieces as possible."
Link's mind was a swarm of new questions, the most prominent being What happened in the first tournament? It was requiring a considerable amount of will just to keep within his initial four questions.
"Alright," he started again, the next question being one of the more burning variety, "I have to know; what's with the toy collecting?"
"Nope. Next question." She stepped closer to Link, her voice lowering, "And keep your voice down."
Link's brow upturned in a slightly teasing manner, "C'mon, you said you'd answer!"
"Right, and that's my answer. Wanna try again?" Samus ran a hand through her own blonde bangs as she continued her escort of Link to his quarters.
"Don't tell me that counts as my third question?"
"I don't know, does it?" The bounty hunter glared irritably before sighing, "Ask your next one and let's see how I feel."
Link gulped before going on, his tone becoming less jovial, "That Bowser guy; can you give me a quick rundown on him and what his deal is?"
"…Hm." Samus scratched her head inquisitively, her eyes narrowing slightly, "I'm probably not the best one to ask; he's been here ever since the second tournament, his son – sons? Son and nephews? Anyway, they just joined in the last tourney. Bowser is…" Samus crossed her arms, huffing slightly, "Honestly I don't know how Mario or Peach put up with him. Especially Peach."
"Princess Peach of the Mushroom Kingdom, right?" Link quickly caught himself with wide eyes, "That's not my next question!"
Samus shifted her eyes to Link as she nodded, "From what I know, Bowser's been chasing after Peach for as long as Mario and her can remember; whether it's to take over the kingdom or to take the illustrious princess as a wife, I don't know, I never really bothered asking the big guy." Samus frowned, "Either way, sounds like he's given them a lot of grief countless times over…but they still take him to go golfing. And play tennis…and compete in Smash." She sighed, seemingly growing more involved in this topic than she had initially intended, "I dunno, maybe there's something I'm not seeing, something I don't know; I can never tell whether he's their archnemesis or their friend." She looked back up, shaking herself out of her stupor, "Then again, this is the same Manor that's housed Ganondorf for multiple tourneys, so maybe Master Hand is just that confident in his ability to keep them on a leash. Despite what happened before…"
Link's inquisitive nature festered within him the more Samus continued speaking. Each sentence she uttered seemed to allude to different things that occurred within the tournament's past, bringing on a whole slew of new questions that Link was forcing himself to keep silent about.
He forced himself to focus on something else. "Archnemesis," the youthful Champion muttered, "Interesting term."
"Everybody's got one."
The pair stopped, having reached the door leading to Link's room. Link stood across from the veteran, gazing up at her, a different strain of curiosity taking hold of him as he replied.
For a moment, it seemed nothing was wrong; Samus continued to match Link's gaze, her icey blue eyes unwavering, until suddenly they did. Something glazed over her vision, a fog wrapping around her thoughts for the briefest of seconds. She stayed silent for a few beats longer than what felt normal; Link blinked right as Samus's eyes flit away for a fraction of a second, and when they returned it was as if the previous flinch had never happened. "Bowser hits fast, and hard. I'd suggest you play keep away for the majority of the match; you try to match his strength, it might backfire considerably. Last question."
Link frowned, his mind still lingering on the brief falter he had just witnessed. His thoughts then shifted as to what his final question should be; she had refused his second inquiry, so that left him one question short. He shifted his hands onto his hips before his eyes suddenly lit up.
"There was another Link before me at this tournament," He began awkwardly, "And another Zelda. They're both gone now…what were they like? And…" His eyes conveyed pure honesty in his question, not a hint of sarcasm or wit to be found, "Why did they leave?"
Samus's surprise was easy to read in her expression, upturned brow and a slightly parted mouth. She exhaled softly, "They were something else, alright. It's funny," she regarded Link with a look not quite unlike fascination, "You and this tournament's Zelda feel so unlike them."
"Not the first person to tell me that," Link replied somewhat wearily, the corners of Samus's eyes crinkling subtly in response.
"They were so composed," Samus continued, "So deliberate with what they did and said. They were here for two tournaments, but really in all that time, there was no one they got along with better than each other. I don't know if I'd call it love or anything like that…but it was definitely a sort of kinship even I was able to notice."
The sun set ever lower on the horizon; faint stars were beginning to pepper the purple sky. "As far as why they didn't come back," Samus continued, "I don't pry; but I'd assume it was due to affairs with where they came from. Spending more than a year away from your kingdom probably screws with the economy or something."
The bounty hunter's continued bluntness was enough to draw back some of Link's vigor, a small smirk adorning his expression.
Samus scratched her arm with a slightly anxious fervor, her body tensing as if she was debating over what to say next. She bit her lip before finally continuing, "Technically, they were the second Link/Zelda pair to leave the tournament. So while your situation isn't exactly new…" Samus frowned slightly, seemingly struggling to get these words out of her steely exterior, "Maybe that idiot Bowser was right; there might be a lot of eyes on you. Both of you. Waiting to see what you can do. That kind of pressure can get to some people. Some, not all."
Link's eyes fogged over briefly before lighting up, recognition spreading across his face as he read between the lines of what was just said.
"And," Samus sighed, her shoulders slumping, "I believe that's it for today." She rolled her neck as she spoke, "Finally,".
Link's smile broadened, not really buying Samus's perceived exhaustion. "Thanks." He said earnestly.
Samus squinted her eyes briefly before rolling them in exasperated fashion, "Just get some sleep, kid. Tomorrow'll be your third day away from the start of the tourney; wouldn't want to waste that time stressing out over it." She began walking past Link; as she got closer, the faintest hint of a twinkle gleamed over her eyes, "Not that I care."
The door shut behind Link with a barely audible click. He sighed, the first he had openly let out since the start of the day. And what a long day it was, he thought. His eyes widened suddenly as another thought came to him; that would have been the perfect opportunity to ask Samus about this enigmatic Sheik character he still knew nothing about. Link lightly pummeled his own forehead in frustration before sighing; at the very least, there was always tomorrow. He was only then beginning to notice just how much his body ached, how sore his back felt, how heavy his eyelids were; maybe he'd grab a quick bite of something to remedy that before he went to bed-
A series of sharp knocks against his door brought Link out of his thoughts. His brow furrowed. Did Samus forget something..?
The Hylian Champion opened the door to find a different sight altogether; a princess marred with cuts and bruises the same as he was, her eyes wide with an intense eagerness as her fist was held in the air, seemingly ready to keep knocking until the end of time. Link looked at Zelda and found his drowsiness suddenly gone, an iron-lined blanket lifted off his shoulders with grace and care.
Zelda held a gigantic grin on her face, a stark contrast with the state her body appeared to be in, "I have so much to tell you."
Link blinked. "My cookbook."
"It can wait," Zelda shook slightly as she let out a brief giggle, and Link found he couldn't resist smiling back as he invited her in.
"You blew up a field?" Link asked with a surprised fevor.
The two sat aside each other on the couch situated in the center of Link's quarters, the faint beginnings of moonlight growing ever stronger, cascading through the window drapes and over the pair. Zelda's hands were clasped and rest on her dress as she nodded enthusiastically, regaling Link with her tale of what had transpired earlier in the day.
"Mhm!" Suddenly her eyes took on a somewhat worried look, "My, I hope the damage wasn't too bad…"
Link furrowed his brow slightly, "This Simon guy sounds tough as nails. He'll definitely be someone to watch out for in the tournament," He glanced at Zelda with a more curious gaze, "And you're teaming up with him in your first match, right?"
Zelda brushed a few stray strands of hair away from her face as she nodded once more, "He certainly wasn't too privy with that prospect when I introduced myself," the blonde girl winked as she continued, "I believe I managed to talk some sense into him though."
The pair laughed, though Link found he couldn't quite match her enthusiasm, another part of her story scratching at his thoughts. Zelda caught this, and Link furrowed his brow.
"You…said you collapsed?"
Zelda's bubbly exterior faltered as she looked down, her smile gone, and suddenly Link wished he hadn't dwelled on that thought. "Yes. I believe it was a result of me having less stamina than what would be required in battle." She sighed, "I must build up a stronger endurance if I'm to last for longer than a second in this tournament."
Link attempted to quell the worry seeding itself in his thoughts; he couldn't. It hadn't really crossed his mind before, but it struck him now that Zelda could get hurt in the oncoming battles. The thought put him at an incredible amount of unease, an instinctually charged worry that was telling him to keep the young girl away from danger at all costs.
Zelda looked up, catching Link's expression. "Are you alright?" She asked.
Link blinked, his throat uncomfortably dry, "Yeah. It's nothing," he muttered clumsily, and he could see that Zelda didn't buy it. Her eyes scanned over Link.
"You leave your true feelings on your face, you know," Zelda inquired, cocking her head to the side as a slightly mischievous gleam filled her gaze, "It wouldn't bode well for a knight to lie to her queen, would it?"
Link gulped. "I-" he began nervously only to be interrupted by a familiar melodious laughter. Zelda held a delicate hand to her lips as she attempted to stifle her outburst.
"I understand," She spoke, her eyes as honest as her words, "There is a familiar worry present in your heart."
Link blinked. "Are you speaking literally or metaphorically?"
Zelda's expression grew slightly pained, "…I suppose literally," she inclined her head in an apologetic manner, "Forgive me; in my- well, my homeland, I held a particular connection with the hero who rescued me. A sort of mental link, which allowed me to call out to him in his slumber for aid." She looked back at Link with a somewhat shocked expression, "It would seem that connection rings true here as well. I did not mean to pry your thoughts; I apologize."
It was a considerable amount of information to take in. Link stayed silent for a beat before nodding, "Nah; I should be apologizing for not speaking plainly." He kicked himself mentally; it wouldn't do any good for the two to keep secrets from each other, certainly not this early into the tournament. "I guess…it really is a familiar worry, huh? When you're told for so long, so long by everyone, that you need to do something…to protect someone with everything you've got, because it's the right thing to do. It becomes almost like second nature."
Zelda nodded earnestly, and Link felt himself grow more at ease. "But if you think that's overbearing or something," Link stumbled over his words, "I'll stay hands off. Wouldn't be fair to go against what you want."
Zelda clasped her hands tighter as her brow scrunched together in thought. Her eyes lit up before turning to her companion, "Then why don't we make it fair? If you're so keen on ensuring my safety this coming tournament…why don't I do the same for you?"
Link's eyes widened as Zelda continued, "We're both new here. So perhaps the place we can place the most trust in is between each other. Does that make sense?"
Link thought. She wants things to be on an even playing field. She said as much before… Though he still didn't find himself completely comfortable with the prospect of Zelda willingly putting herself in any kind of danger, there was a certain refreshing energy emanating from her prospect; after having been told that the whole Manor might be watching him, waiting to see what he does next, filled with people who knew so much he did not; it felt nice to have someone speak as openly as Zelda just did, and to know so little as he himself did.
"It makes sense," Link replied, Zelda's immediate smile flushing his cheeks somewhat, "Watching each other's backs." He allowed himself a small returning smile. "I like it."
"Alright!" Zelda exclaimed enthusiastically, holding two fingers up in a playful manner, "Here's to watching backs!"
Now it was Link's turn to laugh dramatically. Zelda looked quizzically at him. "What did I say?"
"So," Samus spoke in a hushed voice as she leaned against the Manor's wall, the brisk night air nipping at her face as moonlight glinted off the vast waters; she had made sure no one was around before starting the call, yet she was paranoid all the same. She was back in full armor, the upper right corner of her visor flashing as she communicated with someone, "How'd your "prior engagement" go?"
"Very funny," a familiar gruff voice replied, sounding tinny through the Varia suit's communication line, "this line secure?"
"Always is," Samus responded coolly, keeping an astute lookout for any potential eavesdroppers in the vicinity, accidental or otherwise.
"Just like old times, huh?" Snake replied, "Anyway, went about as well as you'd expect."
"Which is to say not at all," Samus sighed, frustration bubbling within her.
"Sorry Sammy. It seems our mutual friends over at the assist trophy housings all know about as much as we do. Nothing. Nada."
Three days. Three days until the start of the tournament, and there were still four missing fighters on the roster. As much as Samus wanted to leave this discrepancy in the back of her mind where it belonged, it continued to gnaw at her, a throbbing sensation that refused to leave her alone. As it had turned out, Snake himself also couldn't leave the matter alone. She had to know who the remaining fighters were.
Samus caught herself in her own train of thought. Stupid. Why do I care so much? It's not like I have before.
She briefly clenched her fist, remaining silent. Various lines of data began flashing through the interior of Samus's visor, her eyes flitting over them with a keen gaze. Suddenly, she said "What do you make of all this, David?"
"Well," Snake finally spoke up, "It's certainly strange; you'd think at least one guy or gal out there would be in the know about what's going on. Guess the Hand just wants whatever this is to be a surprise THAT badly."
Thoughts continued to fester within Samus's mind, her eyes turning cold as steel and glaring at nothing in particular.
"….Hrng," Snake mumbled, collecting his thoughts before continuing, "Let's say we ain't making something outta nothing. Say the funky smell actually leads to something concrete."
"What exactly is it you think we'll find?"
Samus grit her teeth. "I don't know," she responded, "but I'm not going to sit around and wait until it's right on top of me."