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Lying As We Breathe

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And our lungs just keep filling and lying as we breathe
The world is filled with liars, liars like me

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Zelda's head was still spinning when Ghirahim finally set her down, propping her against the far wall from the seal with surprising consideration. It made sense, she supposed—if he simply dropped her and her skull split on the ground, his plans would all be ruined. Just as they should have been anyway.

'Just as they still will be,' she corrected, inhaling deeply to ground herself. Link couldn't be far behind them. His spirit has been tempered for this; she had to believe in him.

"I believe in Link," she said aloud, her voice weary despite her resolve, and she was thankful for the wall at her back keeping her upright—she had barely had a chance to recover after her sleep, and Ghirahim's attack had sapped any strength she might have gained in that brief moment of victorious peace. "You won't win here; that's not how this story is meant to end."

Beside the pedestal, the Demon Lord's eyes flicked toward her, one brow lifting. His painted mouth twitched into a smirk, all self-assurance and bravado; she wanted to slap it off his face.

"I don't know what sorts of 'stories' they tell you up in the clouds," he drawled, "but down here, we deal in such things as facts and realities. Surely you of all people would know that by now, Your Grace."

He spat out her title like a curse, and Zelda prided herself that she didn't flinch from the sound. She said nothing in response, and after a moment Ghirahim returned to his workings, fingers dancing through the air as he wove the necessary spells.

"I do hope you know this isn't anything personal," he continued, in a tone too gloating to be truly apologetic. "I don't have anything against you, per se. Just, well," he waved a hand toward her, gesturing the entirety of her form, "everything that you are, have been, will be—hmm. Perhaps it is personal, after all..."

The demon took a step back, pondering some unseen configuration in the air—reminding Zelda, curiously, of an painter surveying their latest work.

"Well, I suppose it doesn't matter one way or another," he sighed after a spell, waving away his invisible masterpiece. "Though I am somewhat disappointed it has to end. I've rather enjoyed clashing with your Hero these past months; he's made for some grand entertainment.

A shiver of fear ran down Zelda's spine, coupled with a sinking dread. 'Entertainment?' Her mind swam with visions of Link beaten and bleeding, and their imprint must have shown on her face, because Ghirahim smiled knowingly at what he saw there. His long tongue slipped out, licking a lewd stripe across his teeth; at the same time he dragged one hand down his front, toying with the gilded sash around his waist.

"Oh, we've had some encounters, him and I," he nearly purred, fingers splaying almost indecently low. "And believe you me, Your Grace—those were very personal."

The words, the tone, the gestures: they were a blatant show of innuendo, clearly meant to unnerve. But more than that, they left no room for question over the Demon Lord's meaning—what, exactly, he implied in speaking of these encounters.

Zelda began to tremble.

"You monster." The words escaped her on barely more than a breath, wavering with the intensity of her anger. Had she been able, Zelda would have stood—would have thrown herself at the creature in front of her, would have torn him apart with nails and fury. "How could you?! What could you possibly gain from such a vile—"

The laugh that exploded out of the Demon Lord silenced her tirade mid-breath, startling in its abruptness and volume. There was a pop, and a shimmer, and Ghirahim stood before her, clutching his sides in rancorous laughter.

"You think I would sink so low?" he asked once he had regained some semblance of control, though his voice still shook with barely-contained mirth. His hand fluttered delicately against his throat, eyes wide with falsified innocence above a smile too wide for his face. "Oh, you poor sweet child—it was your Hero who forced himself on me."

The righteous anger died at once in Zelda's chest, replaced by a cold, sinking dread. Her eyes flew across Ghirahim's face, searching for any sign of dishonesty—widening in horror when she found none. No, she told herself, reaching wildly for something that made sense. No, this was a trick; this was a lie. It had to be a lie. Not her friend, not her Link, he wouldn't—

"He wouldn't do that," she vocalized her thoughts aloud; then, hope swelling with an epiphany, "he couldn't do that. Or do you mean to tell me you couldn't have fought him off if you'd tried?"

"Of course I could have." Ghirahim gestured vaguely aside, flicking imaginary debris from his shoulders—for all the world uncaring, as though the whole universe wasn't crumbling away beneath him. 'For him, it isn't.' "Your brat Hero is far weaker than he likes to think. No, I allowed him his little outlet—let him have his way with me, however he saw fit.

"But that hardly changes the fact of what happened, now does it?" His eyes flicked upward, mouth quirking as though he had suddenly remembered something amusing. "More than once, even!"

Were she not already prone, Zelda felt she might have crumpled beneath the thoughts rushing through her head. Her mind flashed to Link the last time she had seen him—properly seen him, with a mind clear of the retreating fog from a thousand-years' sleep—in the world beyond the Gate of Time; the steel in his eyes that had never been there before, the wearied edges of his smile, the heavy weight that should never have settled upon his shoulders—

"I don't believe you," she said at length, all too aware of the waver in her voice. "I remember the war. I remember the crimes committed by Demise's forces—"

"Yes, because your side was so blameless," Ghirahim cut her off, glancing boredly at his own fingers. "You say you remember? Then I'm sure you know full well what your own armies did, every time they took a village." He glanced up to meet her eyes, head cocking to one side, and smiled with too many teeth. "I wonder how many of your fellow Sky Children could trace their lineage back to some nameless soldier taking their due—have you wondered the same?"

There was silence, then; silence because there was nothing Zelda could have said to Ghirahim, no words to refute him. Because lying or not, he was right: she had wondered it. Hylia—no, she was no fool. She had always known the ways of battle, and its aftermath: men and women drunk on victory descending upon the very people they were supposed to have fought for. And she had sighed, and shaken her head, and turned away to plan their next move, because this was a war, and the fate of the land hung in the balance; she could not waste time on matters which would ultimately have no effect on its outcome.

The thought of it, of her own apathy—it disgusted her now. Made her want to retch, and weep, and tear at her flesh and hair in repentance. Had her own Hero been one of those who terrorized the people in the aftermath of battle? Hylia—she had never bothered to find out. But he had been a courageous soul, a pure one; he would never have sunk to the same depths of depravity as his fellow soldiers, however heavy his burden.

But then, she had thought the same of Link.

In front of her, Ghirahim dropped to a crouch, watching her drown in her own remorse. When she chanced a glance at him, she found his expression mostly neutral; it might even have been called sympathetic, were it not for the gleeful light behind his eyes.

"It was far easier with your first Hero, wasn't it?" he nearly crooned, false comfort dripping from his tone. "Your divinity allowed you to disregard how his destiny wore on him; so long as he could still lift your holy sword, you were content to send him off again and again. Never mind how his unbreakable spirit cracked around the edges."

He leaned in then, rocking forward on the balls of his feet: uncomfortably close and then inexplicably closer, until the tip of his nose brushed her own—until he was nearly speaking into her mouth.

"You don't have that luxury, Zelda."

The hand on her throat came too suddenly to fight, and Zelda too weakened regardless. Still she tried, her lower half twisting in a feeble attempt at kicking as Ghirahim stood, lifting her with him as he did. Dark spots danced at the edges of her vision, obscuring the edges of Ghirahim's face as he kept her at that same terrible proximity, his eyes wide with madness and delight.

"This is your doing," he whispered, his voice burning in her ears like acid. "I want you to know that. You have taken the boy you love and ruined him utterly, inside and out. He will die cursing your name."

The hand tightened, squeezing ever so slightly more, and Zelda had only one last moment of consciousness before darkness consumed her—long enough to hear one final, venomous promise.

"And you will die cursing your own vanity."