“Now!” Time screams, ducking under the swing of a hinox as Twilight shoots forward to stab his sword deep into the beasts chest. It’s an action that deems useless when it turns before Twilight has a chance to retract the sword; losing it to the creatures thick leathery skin. At the movement Twilight is flung a short distance across the field, landing just meters before Wild. The hinox stumbles backwards for a moment, giving Time the opportunity needed to cast a quick glance across their battlefield, rain battering against his skin and plastering his hair to his face uncomfortably.
Time frowns as he watches Legend sprint across the grass with his pegasus boots, a fierce look in his eyes. He slid under the legs of a moblin just as Sky pulls Wind out of the way of its club using his whip. Even from all the way across the field, he doesn’t miss their youngest’s wince of pain at the action, nor Sky’s heavy, laboured breathing. Hyrule leaps up high using a spell, driving his sword through the moblin’s skull, stumbling as the beast falls to the ground, dead. Wind spins around, striking a second moblin through its right leg causing it to squeal in pain. It eyes the boy with an angry look but Time is forced to step around the charge of the hinox he is fighting before he can see more.
Now facing a completely different direction he can distantly see Four, cornered by a small group of bokoblins and a darknut. He watches worriedly as the smallest hero brings up their shield to block the onslaught of strikes. There’s panic written into their features. The group is too small to dart around and avoid but at the same time is too crowded to push through. If Four moves to use their sword they’re going to get hit, and badly.
Times heart clenches at the thought, fully prepared to rush over to help. Twilight comes bounding back over to their fight before he has the chance to move, a crossbow held tight in his grip. He shoots the hinox right in its eyes, causing it to recoil in shock and fall to the ground. It’s wild who sprints forward next with an axe held in his hands, glowing blue. He hacks at the creature's legs till they’re nothing but a mutilated mess before moving to the creatures head.
He manages a single swing before the axe shatters like glass in his hold. He stares at his now empty hand in a moment of disbelief. Then he shouts. “Oh come on! Again?”
Time brings his sword down hard against the monsters neck, listening to it gurgle uselessly as he pulls Twilight’s sword from its abdomen. He throws it back to him without so much as looking, already moving to run over to where he saw Four last. A shriek and a loud, sickening crack distract him and he swivels around just in time to see a blur of blue and yellow shoot through the air. Then he hears a gasp and sees Sky practically dragging Hyrule closer to the monsters tumbling from the glowing black portal at the edge of the field. Hyrule doesn't look particularly pleased about this development, trying to yank his arms out of the elder's strong grip. Time simply shakes his head at their antics, both amused and worried for the pair.
Biting down on his lip, he decides to ignore them; they don’t appear to be injured after all. Instead, he takes a deep breath and continues his sprint over to their shortest, arriving just as the boy’s arms threaten to give out. There’s exhaustion clear on their features but Time finds that’s no surprise; they’ve been fighting nonstop for hours now, it’s no wonder that they’re all growing tired. At that thought, he swings, cleaving a few bokoblins in two. The rest turn to look at him, thankfully guiding their attention away from Four who blinks in surprise before hastily raising their sword to the dark evening sky. It glows brightly. So brightly, in fact, that Time has to squint to see through its haze, to see the darknut still trained on the boy and ready to strike. He gasps in horror as the monster strikes his sword against Four’s, the sickening screech of metal making his ears ring. The sword flies out of their grip and lands roughly on the bloodstained ground.
Time makes a dive for it, to reach it in time to give Four something to defend themself with but he’s cut short when the boy gives out a short, agonised cry before collapsing limply like a puppet with its strings cut. He stares at them for what feels like an eternity before forcing himself to ignore the pounding panic in his veins, rushing forward with his sword held deathly tight in his hands. He strikes the monsters dead and quickly scoops up Four’s body and the sword.
Glancing up, he can see the others celebrating their job well done, the fight finally over and the adrenaline rushing out of their systems.
“Is everyone alright?” Warrior parrots with an air of authority to his voice and the chain of his oversized flail still within his grip.
“Yes, we're fine.” Wild starts breathlessly as he shifts uncomfortably on one foot. He looks up and gasps loudly. “What abo- Four?”
“Huh? Oh! What happened?” Twilight asks, rushing up to his mentor's side.
“He was corned. I didn’t make it to him in time to stop him being hit.” Time sighs, glancing down at the boy with a frown.
‘If only he had been faster.’ A traitorous voice calls in the back of his head. He swallows sharply in an attempt to drown it out.
“He didn’t hit his head or anything did he?” Legend asks from where he stands, hovering at the back of the group, worry hidden in his eyes.
“Not that I saw but we shou-“ Time frowns, looking around at the group. “Where are the others?”
“Wind, Hyrule and Sky. Where are they?” He repeats. The group's eyes widen almost comically as they look around, only just noticing their absence.
“Do you think they went through the portal already?” Wild muses quietly as he chews on his bottom lip.
“Why would they do that? We always go through together so no one gets lost.”
Wild shrugs at Twilight in response. “I dunno but… where else could they be?”
“Ok, calm down.” Warrior sighs dramatically, pinching the bridge of his nose. “The four of us will go through the portal and make sure it’s safe. Time you stay here with Four and gather up the last of our supplies before coming through. Hopefully, it will be safe enough to come through by the time you’re finished and it’ll give the others time to make their way back here on the off chance they’re not on the other side of this.”
“Smart plan.” Time compliments.
“I know.” Warrior laughs, before impatiently herding the other three through the portal. “Now hurry up you lot.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Legend spits out, annoyed while trying to shrug the older hero’s hand off of his shoulder.
Stepping through the portal, the group have to bite down on their tongues to combat the wave of nausea as the dark, foreign magic ripples through them. They arrive in an unfamiliar land; just in time to see it explode with a bright, vivid light, forcing them to close their eyes tight. When the light fades they’re greeted with smouldering earth and the charred remains of at least twenty enemies.
Wind kneels on the floor not too far ahead of them; close to the river with a hand clutched around a half-empty bottle, sticky around the edges from where the fluid had dribbled down the glasses side. Another line of the cherry red liquid clings to his mouth, where they can see the boy grimacing from the potions sweet yet bitter taste. A small groan has each of them turning to face Hyrule, magic still clinging bright to his left arm; the right burned with blood and plasma beading at the skin's surface. The brunet’s breathing is erratic and he blinks his green eyes dazedly for a few seconds before they go frighteningly blank and his skin pale. Then he collapses to the ground unconscious.
Wind scrambles up and raced towards him, ready to pour the remained of the potion in his hand down his throat but Sky quickly stops him. “Don’t. He’ll only choke on it.”
“T-then what-“ Wind asks, panicked and worried.
“Pour it on his arm to soothe the burn.” Sky offers gently, taking the sticky bottle from his hands and applying it to the boy’s angry, red skin.
Time steps through the portal shortly after with one arm pinning Four to his chest and the other playing a balancing act of just a few too many items. The others rushing forward to grab and sort them before they drop out of his hold and onto the ground. All too suddenly, he feels a certain darkness creeping into his vision; the portals magic; finally taking effect after all nine hero’s stepped through into the next world. He hears a few of his comrades fall to the ground and moves to quickly but carefully set Four down onto the soft grass before sitting next to them, waiting for the last of his vision to fade.
Hours pass by in seconds and on the ground the hero’s groan, their eyes blinking open one by one as they shake away the haze of sleep. It’s morning now. Early. The sky dusted a pale blue with the sun just beginning to creep in from below the horizon. They had been unconscious for a few hours this time by the looks of things. Time can hear Legend, Warrior and Twilight talking; the former almost always the first to awaken after these jumps between worlds and the latter seemingly trying to wake up his successor.
With a sigh he sits up off of the damp ground and takes in the view he hasn’t had the chance to inspect last night; he recognises this place. The tall cliffs and turbulent waterfalls that overlook the Zora’s Domain are gorgeous at this hour, even if marred by scorched earth and the faint traces of blood and monster parts. Even in spite of that, he can’t help but take just a moment or two to relax before beginning his usual headcount.
‘One, two… four… seven and eight. Hold on.’ He stops mid-thought. Across from him, about 12 yards is Four; curled up on their side with a hand clenched around their stomach and the other draped over their eyes. Frowning as he makes his way over, Time can see that the boy is sweating, even despite the slight autumn chill in the air. He crouches down and runs his hands over the small hero’s form, searching for any injuries he might’ve missed. Again he frowns; as aside from an already healed, shallow gash along their arm there is nothing visible to worry about, not even a bump to the head. Well, he supposed he shouldn’t be too surprised, Four has always seemed to be the most… affected by these portals between worlds, to begin with, never mind with a possible added injury or sickness or… whatever had made them collapse yesterday.
Four forces their eyes open when they feel the hand move from their forehead to their shoulder. The light shake and worried patting are enough to force them to bite down on their tongue to stop the role of nausea it causes. The world spins, a blur of muted morning colours as four scenes overlap in their vision. All four shares of their soul taking in the sight of the cliffs differently, noticing different things at different times but not yet balanced enough to form one cohesive image.
‘Dear Hylia is it bright out.’ Is one of their rare unified thoughts.
‘I think that’s the least of our worries right now.’ Is another.
This has happened every time so far. At first, Four figured that the disorientation was simply due to how unexpected it was, but no. If anything it seems to be getting worse. They feel like shit. Groaning again, they take a minute to coordinate themself while grabbing at their head for a few seconds in an attempt to lessen the pain. They sit up slowly and rub their eyes with a yawn.
“Hm?” They mumble in response, pausing their hand and opening one eye to look at Time drowsily.
“Are you alright?” Times voice is soft, laced with concern and Four feels Blue roll their eyes in disgust at the tone. “You’re head is warm. You’re not sick are you?”
“No… J’st a little dizzy.” They say, waving off the offered hand to stand on their own and playing off the slight stumble and sway to their gait by turning it into a jog towards where the others had clustered together. Something in their body protests against heavily. They take in the sight and smile briefly for the distraction before flinching for being happy about it. “Its Hyrule you should worry about.”
“Oh?” Time says, following the incline of Four’s head to where the boy lies flat out on the ground.
“He won’t wake up.” Wild supplies the two quietly. Now that they’re out of the heat of battle the weak and muted shakiness to his speech is all too clear; still clinging on even after two months of travelling together, though admittedly much better than it had been before. He pokes at Hyrule’s cheek.
“I think it’s from that lightning spell last night.” Wind pipes up from the back of the group. A quick glance in his direction shows that he’s already feeling the morning chill, even with Warrior’s scarf and Legend’s cap stolen into his possession. “He pretty much collapsed after using it, remember?”
“Ah. Will he be alright then?”
“He won’t be after the shit I give him for using too much ma-“
“He’ll be fine, he’s just exhausted.” Warrior says, wrapping his hand over Legend’s mouth to cut him off. “We could probably wait an hour or two for him to wake up but he’d still be very shaky. It might just be best to carry him.”
“Ok, let’s do that th-“
“Wha! Wait! Wait! I want breakfast first!” Wind cries adamantly but with a slight teasing to his voice that suggests he’s not being all too serious.
“Of course, of course.” Time laughs. “Just make it quick. It may be early but we best be off soon if we want to make it to the Ranch in time for lunch.”
“Oh, so this is your Hyrule then?” Sky says, voice still thick with sleep.
“Yes. We’re just south of the Zora’s Domain.”
“Zora?” Sky asks, confused. “Those are that aquatic race, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Twilight says with a nod before turning to the now flushing blond next to him. “Wild if you don’t mind?”
“Mmhm.” Wild hums, fingers already itching over his slate to pull out some ingredients. “I-I’ll just do some eggs and toast then. Shouldn’t take very long.”
“That sounds wonderful, thank you.” Time smiles.
“Ah! Sky, you don’t eat eggs do you? I could do some cooked fruit to go with yours instead if you want.”
“Oh, thank you! I’d like that.”
“Wait, I want fruit too.” Legend pipes up from where he has settled next to Hyrule on the ground.
Wild sets to work quickly; setting down a small bundle of wood before pulling out a fire arrow and blowing on it roughly to ignite the bark. The others settle themselves back down on the ground, taking in the fire's warmth as Wild cooks. It isn’t long before Wild begins to pass around plates and the group tucks in; Warrior taking a moment to hand out a few bottles of water.
“So, is anyone else injured?” He asks, nodding his head in Wild’s direction. “I know Wild has a sprained ankle at the very least. I can see it in how you move.”
Twilight turns to Wild with a dry look; he has the sense to look sheepish in return. “It’s not that bad… doesn’t really hurt or anything it’s just… stiff. I can still walk on it.”
Pinching his nose, Twilight sighs. “Fine, but you’re sitting down as soon as we get to the ranch ok.”
“...Fine.” He pouts.
“Wind got hit in the chest yesterday I think.” Sky pipes up, dutifully ignoring the pair's antics.
The boy in question retaliates loudly. “Hey, I took a potion you snitch!”
“Ahah, it just seemed worth mentioning.” He replies, laughing bashfully at Wind’s expression. Warrior and Twilight both moving to check for the injury.
Twilight tilts his head slightly in their direction as he asks. “Do we have any more potions?”
“Only one... but we should save it for emergencies until we get to Malon’s.” Sky says with a frown. The group hums in agreement.
“You ain’t hiding anything from us this time are you Sky?” Legend asks after a few seconds of watching Wind squirm away from the two older heroes.
Sky simply shakes his head, and in the background, Wild packs away his things.
“Yeah ok, that’s bullshit.” He says. “I swear I saw a red mark on your back earlier.”
Sky twists in an attempt to get a better look. “Are you sure that’s not just-“
“Ugh no, you’re awful at checking yourself over, come here. He spits, the concern in his voice buried under a layer of annoyance as he reaches over an presses his hands down carefully onto his friends back, over the patch of dried blood under his sailcloth. He moved them until he feels Sky flinch. “Ahah! See? I knew it.”
“Oh… well it can't be that bad if I didn’t notice.” Sky frowns, and Legend practically drills holes through his head with how deadly a look he is giving him. Sky shoots him a nervous smile.
“Even still, you should be careful.” Time starts, diffusing the tension. “If it gets worse, make sure you tell one of us. That goes for the rest of you boys too.”
Sky sighs with amused exasperation. “I will, I will.”
“So… south?” After a few beats of silence Legends voice cuts in, changing the conversation and tearing Times attention away from their ‘oldest’ member.
“Yes, about an hour or two’s walk down to Hyrule field and then another to the ranch.”
“Ok, ok, cool, I don’t care. Can we just get going already?” Wind asks quickly, rubbing his hands against his arms.
Warrior nudges Wind playfully with his elbow. “Yes, I suppose we best hurry before someone freezes to death.”
“It’s not that cold…” Sky mumbles quietly, unheard.
Wind huffs jokingly with a laugh of his own, exaggerating the way he rubs at his arms as if to emphasise the way the cold morning air eats through his thin clothes. “Exactly! Lead the way Time! C’mon, chop-chop!”
All Time can do is shake his head amusedly as he leads them forward with a wave; waiting a moment for Twilight to hoist Hyrule onto his back before guiding them down the twists and turns of the riverbank, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Well sort of peaceful, he thinks, twisting to look behind him when he hears a small yell, just in time to catch Legend pushing Warrior into a shallow section of the river after the latter makes a particularly poor joke. Looking a little further back in the group he can see Twilight, with a barely conscious Hyrule on his back, engaged in a conversation with Sky and Four. He spots Wild trying to hand Hyrule an apple, but the boy shakes his head and quickly falls back asleep; not quite with it yet. Much to the chagrin of the trio he is with, it doesn’t take long for Wild to grow bored and try to wander off after that, even with that hurt foot of his.
In the end they make it to the ranch just a little before eleven. The small round of cheers about being able to rest and relax being enough to alert Malon to their presence before Time can so much as make it through the ranch’s wooden gate.
“Link!” She shouts, all but running over, picking Time up slightly and swinging him in a small half circle. “It’s been almost two months! How is everyone?”
Time laughs lightly, clearly overjoyed to see his wife again as he returns her embrace warmly. “We’re fine, we’re fine. Just some minor injuries here and there.”
Malon looks up quickly, taking in the appearances of the others with an expression of concern. Her eyes land on Hyrule. “Oh dear… is he alright?”
“Mm, just tired.” Twilight reassures before pausing; shifting the brunet higher onto his back. “Um… you don’t mind do you?”
“No, no, of course not sweetheart. You remember where the spare room is don’t you?” She asks softly, moving to guide him through the front door.
“Towards the back of the house, ain’t it?”
“Mmhm, that’s right hun. You put him down there and I’ll see if can find him another blanket, he looks cold.” She says while unlacing the sleeping boy's mud-stained boots, placing them by the entrance. Twilight follows her inside.
“Wild, go with them you’ve already been on that leg far longer than I’d like.” Time says as he pushes gently against the blond’s shoulders.
“Ok… I was planning on making more potions anyway. I don’t like that we’re out.”
“Good plan.” He commends with a pleased hum. “Sky you should probably sit down too. You’ve been breathing pretty heavy the past hour or so and I’m getting worried that thump on the back may be more than we thought.”
Sky nods slowly. “...Alright.”
Four shifts from one foot to the other before stretching, joints cracking once with a loud ‘pop’. “Mm, okay anyone mind if I head to the forge?”
“Hm? No that’s fine. Is your sword broken or something?”
“I don’t think so. It’s more for my shield.”
“Honestly. You berate me so much for my stuff.” Wild starts with a playful roll of his eyes. “Your shield barely covers your torso.”
“Yeah, and you’re tiny!” Wind adds.
Four half pouts at them. “I’ll have you know that shield is very near and dear to me ok.”
“Ok, ok, we know.” Warrior leans forward and ruffles the boy’s hair with a laugh, reaching for his sword with the other. “Here fix this up for me while your there, will you?”
“Wait what about his arm!” Wind shouts as Four bats the hand from their head with a glare before grabbing the sword. It is comically large in their grasp.
“Oh, you’re right! Four you shou-“
“It’s ok.” Sky buts in. “I’ll bring him a potion when I get up to help feed the… uh… coocomb’s?”
“Cucco’s.” Malon corrects gently, pausing by the door as she walks past with a bundle of fabric.
“When I help feed the cucco’s.”
“Thanks.” Four smiles, holding their arms out expectantly. “So. Anyone else need anything fixing?”
“Here.” Legend says, slinging his own shield over Four’s good arm. “I’ll fix my bow myself, it’s just the string that’s broken.”
No one else speaks up after him, so Four takes that as their queue to leave. “Alright, I’ll see if I can get all of these done tonight. Malon, do you want anything making?”
“Ah, one of our horses needs new shoes but other than that no, not at the moment. Thank you though sweetheart.” She says sincerely. “Lunch should be ready in a few hours. You boys are lucky I hadn’t already started.”
“Yes.” Time laughs warmly, the group soon following. A small, peaceful moment passes before Time speaks up again. “Though, I suppose we should get started. C’mon boys you know what to do.”
The group moves at a leisurely pace. Four following Twilight and Wind to the stables after dropping the bundle in their arms on the floor of the forge.
“-ou’re sure this will work?” The youngest asks.
“Of course, I don’t think I’ve met a single horse who hates apples.” Twilight laughs. “Besides the horses here are lovely, I’m sure they’d let you pet them anyway.”
“I hope so, they’re pretty.” He replies, eyeing their new arrival. “Oh, hi Four! I thought you were doing forge thingies.”
“I am. Malon said one of the horses needed new shoes remember?”
“The grey one.”
“Ah.” Twilight says, pointing. “She’s third on the left. Hey Wind, why don’t you help me distract her while he measures her.”
Wind hesitates for a second, fidgeting, and then moves forward with a smile. “Ok!”
The three work slowly; taking time to do the job properly. Four finds themself roped into helping brush and feed the other horses before going back to the pile of weapons waiting for them. Twilight and Wind make for interesting company; Four likes them both well enough but they’re not a combination they can say they’ve dealt with much before, so it’s nice to talk to the two of them. Time flies quickly, and before any of them are aware of it almost two hours have passed. Four curses under their breath, making their way out of the stable with a wave and a light jog back to the forge.
Sky ambles out of the door just as Four turns to enter and the two nearly find themselves colliding. “Woah! Careful!”
“Ah sorry! I was just about to take this back inside. I couldn’t find you.”
“I was with Wind and Twi.” They explain. “Is this beef stew?”
“Yeah. Malon told me to hand them out to everyone.” He smiles, walking over to one of the desks and placing it down next to a red bottle. “I did leave your potion here though.”
“Oh, thank you.” Four says, the sudden reminder sending a wave of dull pain down their arm. Funny, that didn’t hurt this much earlier.
“No, it’s fine. I just didn’t want your food to go cold is all.” He stretches and a small white feather falls from the folds of his clothes. “Are Twi and Wind still in the stable?”
Four hums affirmatively and Sky nods. “What about Legend? Have you seen him around?”
Four shakes their head and picks up the bowl. “I thought he was inside?”
“He was, but he left not long after fixing his bow.” Sky sighs. “It’s ok though, I don’t mind looking for him.”
“Well good luck.” Four says jokingly as they bring a spoonful of stew to their mouth; blowing on it before eating it.
“Thanks.” Sky laughs softly before nodding his head towards the metal on the ground. “I should probably get going then, you seem busy.”
Shaking their head in agreement, Four mumbles something around a mouthful of food; waving goodbye to Sky as he leaves with a spoon still held in his hand. It takes them all of ten minutes to finish the stew, it was tasty; something that is ruined immediately after uncorking and downing the red vial in front of them. It’s bitter but still sweet flavour sliding down their throat, erasing all lingering remains of the food's taste.
‘Ugh, yuck!’ Reds voice peeks through their head. ‘Why didn’t we drink that first.’
‘Because we let Green make the decisions again. You know how much of an idiot he can be.’
‘Blue! Green’s not an idiot!’
‘Yeah… I’m not.’ Green replies dryly. ‘Besides, that was Red’s idea, not mine.’
‘You think that makes a difference? You’re all pretty dumb.’
‘Pfft no, I’m perfect obviously.’
Vio decides to cut in, savagely. ‘Ah yes, how could we forget Mr Tripped and fell down a mountain because he thought it would be clever to try m-‘
‘Shut up! We agreed we wouldn’t talk about that!’
‘I rest my case.’
Shaking their head at their own antics, Four laughs out loud to themself; moving to pick up their sword. Holding it up to the light they can make out a dent near the handle with a small gash running through it from where another blade tore into it during their battle last night. Green brushes their fingers over it, trying to work out the best course of action to take. He had always been the best smith out of their four halves. Pressing down has them flinching, a weak jolt of pain shooting through their spine as the monsters black blood smears against the metal.
‘Well, that ain’t good.’
‘Yes, we can see that Green, thank you.’
‘Guess the guys were right though… the sword is damaged’
‘Wild would never let us hear the end of it.’
‘Do you think we can fix it?’ Red asks shyly.
‘Yeah, that crack looks fucking awful.’
‘It’s not that bad Blue… you just don’t like it cause it’s not symmetrical.’
‘Yeah. No shit Green.’
‘You two.’ Vio practically shouts, hoping to get their attention. ‘Focus.’
‘Oh right…’ Green says, blinking. ‘Um… I’m not sure if we can fix it. Do we have any of that Picori steel left?’
‘No.’ Vio replies. ‘We used the last of it months ago, remember?’
‘We did?’ He asks, frowning.
Blue sighs exaggeratedly. ‘What does that matter anyway? Just use some regular steel or something.’
‘No. Let’s not do that.’ Vio says with a louder sigh. ‘It’s bad enough the magic in this sword isn’t balanced right. Adding completely new materials to it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.’
‘Then take it to the Minish, I don’t know!’
‘B-but isn’t the nearest Minish village miles away?’ Red asks.
‘There’s no guarantee they would help us anyway. We’d be strangers to them by now.’ Vio supplies, frowning with the thought.
‘Yeah but… we have the four sword…’
‘Not the one from this time though.’
‘Ugh! Well fine then, what do we do genius?’
‘We wait.’ Green states, butting in. ‘I mean it’s not that bad, it should hold until we get home, right?’
Vio nods. ‘I believe so.’
‘Then there we go! Problem solved!’ He cheers in reply as he slides their sword back into its sheath carefully. The four can’t say they’re overly happy with the information but it could easily be worse. They decide to move onto their shield next; a gift from their best friend. Holding it up reveals a few dents in the metal, an easy fix.
They work quickly, but night falls fast over the ranch. The suns rays dipping below the horizon and painting the sky a mix of deep blues and reds. In the distance a sound chimes, echoing across Hyrule field. It’s a warning to the citizens to get inside before the gates close and before the monsters come out more readily. Having just finished working on the last set of horseshoes; Four looks up from their station. Staring out of the entrance they can see stal creatures begin to pull themselves out of the ground, gathering in small clusters all across the field. The other monsters are not far behind, ambling in from the tree line. Hyrule’s guards are already hard at work clearing them out and making their city safe.
Four stands up, accidentally knocking over the stool they were sitting on in the process. They gather up the newly fixed and improved weaponry, sliding Warrior’s sword and Legend’s shield onto their back. It’s inconvenient. The sword is easily too big for them and drags behind them when they walk but it’s a far better option than trying to wield it; it’s a surprisingly heavy weapon. Stepping outside, they unsheath their sword quickly. The sound, no perhaps the sensation, sends a small shudder down their arm, it’s a strange, unpleasant feeling but they push it down. It’s raining and they had just spent the past few hours by a hot forge. They must be cold.
A stalchild crawls out of the ground about six feet to their left and lunges toward them. Four swings, striking the beast through its ribs but quickly drops their sword in shock when a dull pressure shoots through him at the contact. Had they strained their arm from the metalworking? Surely not...
Four stumbles, landing in the mud one knee at a time and half recoiling at the feeling of the damp soil sticking to their tights and smudging against their hands as they push themself back up. They let themself waste a small second to wipe the muck off of their skin as Twilight and Wild come rushing towards them from the other side of the ranch. They must have been near the stables spending some more time with the horses.
“Four!” Twilight shouts.
“Are you alright?” Wild finishes and the pair start making quick work of the small horde, ducking to dodge blows before springing back up to strike with their own weapons.
“Fine. Just slipped.” Four replies, not wasting any time before moving to join them. Reaching for the fallen weapon, they twist around to land a swing against the nearest monster, a stalnox this time. The metal meets bone and tears the arm straight off.
They continue fighting for just short of a half-hour, guards patrolling the field outside disposing of the remaining creatures at a steady pace and it is clear that soon the field will be clear. By the time it’s over Four feels dizzy and warm despite the now heavy rain drizzling down on them.
‘Maybe we are sick.’ Red says. ‘Time did say we were warm this morning.’
If Vio could shoot him an incredulous look, he would. ‘Wouldn’t the potion Sky gave us have fixed that?’
‘Maybe it hasn’t got all of it yet.’
‘Red, it’s been hours.’
‘Guys, can we please worry about this later.” Green begs.
The trio make their way towards the ranch’s home and are offered a wave of thanks by the guards for their assistance Twilight waves back quickly to show that the thanks are not necessary and Wild pushes the door open. The three head inside hurriedly, excited to be out of the cold and Malon peeks her head around the kitchen door at the commotion.
“My goodness, look at you! What happened?” She says, setting the dishes she was cleaning down and heading towards them as they remove their boots. They can clear the mud off of them later.
“Ah, just got caught in the rain.” Twilight reassures her.
“I’ll say. I can barely even see you past all that mud Four.” Legend laughs from where he’s setting the table.
Malon giggles. “I can run you a bath if you would like hun.”
“Ah… y-yeah.” Four says, flushing slightly with embarrassment. “If you wouldn’t mind.”
“Alright, follow me then sweetheart.” She says, shaking her head with another laugh as she sets down the vegetables she was holding. She waits for them to grab their bag off of the side table before she moves to guide Four gently into the bathroom. “I’ll go boil a pot of hot water for you. Are you alright staying here?”
“Yes that’s fine, thank you Malon.”
“You’re welcome.” She smiles teasingly. “Whatever keeps my floors clean.”
“No, no. I’m just messing with you hun, it’s alright.” She looks at him from the door and slides it shut. “I won’t be long.”
Four sighs and resigns themself to pulling their outer clothes off and sitting on the edge of the bathtub. True to her words Malon returns a little over twenty minutes later; her and Twilight carrying a large and steaming container of water between them. They tilt it into the tub carefully; leaving and returning with cold water quickly. When they’re finally gone Four climbs in. Leaving the mud-soaked clothes in a neat pile by the door. They don’t take long, quickly washing the filth away and washing their hair before the draught creeping in from the bathrooms back door becomes too cold for them to handle.
When they emerge from the bathroom in a pair of bed clothes and their damp hair tied up out of their face; they are met with a surprisingly heated discussion. The groups' warm meal mostly abandoned in favour of the conversation. Malon sits on one end of the table and waves to them to put their dirty clothes in the washroom where the others had put their own earlier. She seems more focused on trying to get a now awake but rather delirious Hyrule to eat something, or at least drink the bottle of warm sugary water she appears to have made him to help his trembling. The boy seems worryingly adamant that the food is poisoned for whatever reason but luckily Malon is nothing if not patient and determined as she reassures him again and again. Four watches him take a few sips of his water and smiles with relief when he sees the boy’s hands stop shaking as much. They take a seat next to him at the table and start serving themself some food.
“-o, I couldn’t find anything on you having a dark Wild.” They hear Legend say as they tune back into the conversation. “That’s not too surprising though, this was written way before you were born.”
‘Huh?’ Green mutters in their head quietly, confused.
“Dark?” Four finds themself muttering before they have the chance to stop.
‘Are they talking about their Shadow’s?’ Vio asks, uncertain and uncomfortable.
‘Sounds like it.’
“Oh Four!” Wind turns to them, pointing at a page in Legends book. “You have a dark too right?”
“...I guess you could call him that...”
“What was he like?” He continues, tilting his head with curious enthusiasm.
“What is he like?” They ask and Wind nods eagerly. They wave their hand dismissively, feigning a sort of nonchalance. “He… he’s just like all shadows are. You know.”
“Evil?” Wind questions, eyes practically sparkling with a hunger for more information.
Four frowns at that, wanting desperately to defend their friend but knowing that they can’t without raising too many questions. Their face scrunches up as they pick nervously at their fingernails. “...I mean... I wouldn’t necessarily say evil, that’s a pretty strong word.”
“Oh, is that right.” Legend says from his position on the couch, looking up from the book that started this conversation. Four swore they could see him huff, watching them carefully for a moment as if trying to see through their lies. He turns away after a few seconds and Four lets out a breath they hadn’t known they’d been holding.
“Well… they're your shadow.” They start, looking away from the group and staring at an empty space on the wall. There’s a certain bitter sadness to their voice that is hard to notice but still throws everyone for a loop. “Like it or not, they're just as much a part of you as the rest of you is.”
“What do you mean?”
Four considers their words carefully, not quite sure how to explain themself without selling their secret. “I… it just seems… simple-minded. Considering them to be pure evil I mean… I can’t help but feel it’s more complicated than that.”
“That’s certainly an… odd answer…” Warrior says blankly, eyes narrowing at him in a way that’s equally concerned and apprehensive.
“Well, you did ask for ou- my opinion.” They say, a surprising venom to their voice. Warrior has a sneaking suspicion that there’s more to this answer than they’re letting on but before he has the chance to ask Four to elaborate, they stand; chair scraping loudly against the ground.
‘I... I can’t do this.’ Vio mumbles inwardly, more emotion in his voice than his other halves have heard in quite a while. They understand.
“I-I’m going to bed. Goodnight.” They say quickly; heeding Vio’s warning and almost running out of the room. No one makes a move to stop them. They simply watch them leave with worry in their eyes.
“So… think we pissed him off?’ Wind asks after a moment of awkward silence.
“Probably.” Legend says as he folds the corner of the book’s page down. “Also, stop swearing, you’re like ten, it’s weird.”
“I’m thirteen!” He protests, “I can swear if I want too!”
“None of you should swear. It’s rude.” Time says from the other side of the table in that disappointed voice of his.
“Uh huh, whatever you say, nature boy.” Legend hums sarcastically, ignoring the look of incredulous disdain on their leaders face as he stands up from the couch and places the book back into his bag. His black socks padding softly against the floor as he makes his way over to the table. He reached past Malon and shakes the brunets shoulders gently. “Hey Hyrule, you coming to bed?”
The boy in question doesn’t react beyond a slow blink. His barely eaten dinner still sitting in front of him and his glass is only half drunk. Legend huffs amusedly and tugs on Hyrule’s arm. “Yeah ok, c’mon you.”
“Huh?” He slurs as he’s pulled to his feet, swaying a little with the motion. “Where’re we goin’?”
“To bed.” Legend says simply, with a hint of exasperation behind his voice as he starts dragging his friend by the hand, shoving the glass bottle in his other. “Finish your drink first though; you haven’t drank anything since you first woke up.”
“Mm’k.” Hyrule rubs at his eyes and yawns. The two turn the corner and soon disappear into one of the bedrooms.
The group watches them go silently; and after another pause, Wind speaks up again. “So like… are we just ignoring Four being weird or what?”
Twilight chokes on his drink at the bluntness. “I… I don’t really think it’s any of our business.”
“Yes but…” Warrior says quietly. “It almost sounded like he was defending his shadow.”
“...I thought he had a good point.” Wild says awkwardly, voice barely a whisper.
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“About our shadows being a part of us. I mean if they’re evil then what are we? Everything that’s left?” He starts, eyes glassy as he stares into the grain of the wooden table. “Can you really say you’ve never done something wrong before?”
Warrior hesitates before responding. “Doing something wrong isn’t the same as doing something evil, Wild.”
“Maybe not how we look at it.” He replies wistfully, voice sad. “But for some people, that’s the only impression of us they’ll ever get.”
The room falls silent at that, unsure how to respond; uncomfortable thoughts churning in their heads. Wild flushes under the staring and quickly stands up, retreating. His voice growing increasingly soft and strained with his nerves. “I… I’m going to go too… g-goodnight…”
“...Goodnight…” They reply lamely, staring at the spot he was only a moment ago.
“Maybe... we should sleep as well…” Sky says quietly after a painfully awkward pause. Time sighs but nods staring at the small gathering of people still at the table before making a move to stand and clear the table.
“Y-yeah. Let’s go.” Wind says stiffly, jumping down off of the table and past Warrior, who gets up to follow mutely. The conversation repeating itself over and over in his head and leaving a discomforting feeling in its wake. Something about the whole thing just doesn’t sit right with him… there’s something that Four isn’t telling them, and it’s something big.
When they enter the room they’re greeted by the form of Four curled up tightly in their bedroll on the ground; Hyrule and Legend taking up the rooms only guest bed. Wild looks up at them from where he is knelt on the floor and rummaging through his slate for his things. He offers them an awkward, anxious wave but doesn’t say a word; seeming content to leave them to the background noise of Legend quietly reading another one of his books to his sleepy successor. He only looks up from the book when Sky plods into the room behind them with a sheepish expression on his face.
“Twi’s helping Time and Malon clean up.” He says after coughing into his fist to clear the tension. No one replies, so after a few more beats of silence, he tries again. “Um… are you alright Four?”
The boy in question doesn’t react beyond their body tensing. It’s a clear warning to the others to leave them alone and luckily they have the sense to comply. No one bothers talking after that, even Legend, who closes his book and places it on the bedside table before rolling to face the wall; ignoring them.
Warrior sighs and crouches down to unfurl his own bedroll, near to the door. Wind promptly but silently curling up against his side. He offers their youngest a reassuring smile, wrapping his arm around his shoulder comfortingly. They stay like that for a while; at least an hour and Warrior can hear the soft breathing of the others as they sleep. Twilight enters not much later, stepping over the pair half blocking the door to settle between Wild and Four. He’d always been the protective type.
Sparing each other a brief glance they nod solemnly with understanding, not saying a word. Twilight falls asleep about twenty minutes later and Warrior has to bite down the wave of jealousy that rolls over him as he lays flat on his back, all but glaring at the ceiling. Thoughts of danger and suspicious eating away at his mind.
Then, outside the cuccos sing and Warrior simply presses his palms down onto his eyes with mild frustration; absolutely not pouting in Fours direction as he whispers to the air. “Goddess fucking dammit.”