Link considered the map in his hands again, trying to orientate in the maze that was the woods of the Drablands. It was a natural maze with dense foliage, giving fiends and monsters the perfect opportunity to lurk in the shadows and lie in wait to attack at the right moment.
He let go of one side of the paper in favor of scratching his head and readjusting his green cap. He had forgotten how much of a hassle it was to keep it on his head. The days of being the “Hero of In-between” seemed so long ago, yet it had merely been two years.
An arrow soaring past his left ear had him drawing his sword instantly, turning around to face the threat. A gasp escaped him and the young boy who had his hands and bow lifted up in surrender, brown eyes eyeing the tip of his sword warily. Link gave a huge sigh as he sheathed the blade, giving his companion a disapproving look.
“You should be more careful.”, he said not unkindly, retrieving the map he had dropped on the ground on reflex, “Making too much noise might attract monsters unnecessarily.”
Azul nodded fervently.
“Sorry”, he mumbled bashfully, his cheeks burning red in humiliation. Link gave him a reassuring smile and ruffled the mop of unruly dark hair, making Azul blink up at him in surprise. He was not angry anyway and the boy still was young, younger than even he had been before he had had to answer destiny’s call.
It made him wonder just how desperate and inconsiderate the King of Hytopia had to be to send a child along the way. That was what Azul was to him anyway, although he was sure he was being a bit unfair. The boy was not that young to be completely honest – maybe there was a difference of four years at the most. But after the whole ordeal with Lorule, Link had started to feel much older than most of his peers anyway.
Azul threw a curious look over his shoulder at the map, trying to see if he could pinpoint their position as well.
It was then that Link realized something was missing. He let out a groan, folding the map away for good. Azul retreated a few steps, afraid he had upset him.
Wiping a hand over his face Link glanced at the nervous boy: “Do you know where Raud has run off to?”
Azul shook his head, pressing his lips together nervously before pointing where they had come from: “I thought I saw him running after some green slimy things.”
“Blobs.”, he shouldered his own arrow and quiver, “Come on, let’s go look for the hot-head.”
Azul nodded, his huge eyes looking up to him in admiration. Link felt uncomfortable but let it slide. Ever since this journey had begun, the boy had practically been his shadow. Link himself was not sure what it was about him that had the boy in such awe but he guessed that it had to do with how he held himself in general. Maybe that was also the reason why he had been unable to escapes the Madame’s assistant’s sharp eyes.
“You really know your monsters.”, Azul commented, trying to keep up with Link’s brisk pace, a childish glee entering his voice, “Do you know all of them?”
Link shook his head, concentrating on the path ahead.
“I wouldn’t say that I know all of them”, he admitted while pushing a particularly huge branch out of their way, “but I do know the more common ones.”
Azul was practically skipping beside him, his excitement tangible. His unbridled eagerness made a smile stretch on Link’s face.
“Are there any weak spots I can aim for with my arrows?”
“Not really.”, Link answered, helping the boy over a particularly big log that blocked their path “They are fairly easy to take out. With enough force you can fell them in one swing.”
“And what about rupee-likes? How can I see that it is actually not a stray rupee lying around?”
Link turned his head to look at Azul more closely: “You seem to know a lot about monsters yourself.”
The statement made the boy blush even more furiously than before, making him duck his head.
“It is unusual for someone to know about rupee-likes, is all I’m saying.”
Azul mumbled something into his blue shirt.
“What was that?”, Link asked a bit more teasingly. It was just so hard not to mess around a little with such an easily flustered boy.
“Well”, he said, scratching at his cheek. The gesture was reminiscent of Ravio with black hair and everything but the eyes that looked back up at him were not a leafy-green, “I have read a lot about the different monsters living in our lands. But that’s all I guess there is to it – book knowledge.”
Before Link could retort that there was nothing embarrassing about it the boy went on: “But with you it’s different! Anyone can tell that you’ve had experience with them.”
There was this light in Azul’s eyes again and now it was Link’s turn to feel embarrassed. Fixing his eyes on the path he silently continued to listen to the chatter-box beside him.
“I’ve never been out of town actually.”, he confessed now managing to keep up more easily on the even terrain they had reached, “But I always wanted to go out and see the world.”
Link smiled at him: “So you are a bit of an adventurer.”
It seemed to have struck a chord. It took the boy a moment to come up with a positive answer.
Link left it at that. He gave Azul’s shoulder a friendly nudge, surprising the boy.
“Alright, let’s move on. We’ve got a red-head to find.”