"...Do you remember me?"
"Of course... How could I ever forget you?"
Following Ganon's defeat at the hands of a destined hero and a goddess reborn, the immense work of rebuilding Hyrule now lays ahead of them. Where to even begin? The most obvious location, of course, is Castle Town. Although the castle was left mostly intact following Ganon's assault one hundred years ago, Castle Town to the south had the misfortune of being completely leveled during the same. It had been the most important settlement in all of Hyrule because of its central location, serving as the commercial hub for the entire kingdom.
The duo dismount their respective horses and take a rest on a grassy knoll overlooking the ruins of Castle Town. Link starts a fire with some flint and logs while Zelda uses a cooking pot to prepare a lunch of Hyrule bass and carrots.
Although most of the lunch occurs in silence, as is customary between them, that silence is broken when Link unexpectedly ventures a question. He considers his words carefully before uttering them, slowly and softly. "Zelda...what exactly do you know about my past? Do you...know anything about my family?"
Zelda is startled to hear him speak out of the blue. She's always known Link to be a man of few words and the few things he does say are usually focused on concern for Zelda's own welfare. Thus, she knows immediately that this question, one which concerns only himself, must be of great importance to him. Judging from the weary look on his face, this question has likely been tormenting him for much time.
Zelda is torn about how to answer him... Although she certainly doesn't desire to harbor any secrets from him which could only possibly lead to resentment, there was, in fact, a good reason why she had only given Impa a handful of pictures for the purpose of helping Link recall his memories...
"You did once tell me a few things about your past..." Zelda hesitantly admits after a long pause, "...but...I'm afraid those stories are better left forgotten." She sincerely hopes he will take the hint and drop the subject. However, an adventurer like him naturally doesn't give up so easily. It only serves to make him more curious and determined.
"I've already made up my mind that I don't care if my past was traumatic—I still want to know more about it. Questions about my past have been eating me up inside ever since I saw you a few days ago, the first time in a hundred years. I was flooded all at once with a mountain of incredibly vague memories, of blurry faces and sketchy conversations. I knew as soon as I saw you that the two of us must go way back, much farther than even a hundred years."
He makes sure to lock eyes with her before continuing. "I've already seen and done a lot of unpleasant things since I woke up, Zelda. So don't worry about upsetting me. I can handle whatever news you have for me. It's just...I need to know about my past if I ever want to be able to put it behind me and move on. Without an understanding of it, there can be no acceptance."
Zelda sighs heavily. There's no doubt in her mind that it's useless to resist any further. Link has never spoken so much at length about anything personal to him. Clearly, this is what he wants and nothing is about to change his mind.
"If that's what you wish..." Zelda relents.
A boy of approximately thirteen wearing tattered, soiled clothing and holding an armful of bread is seen running away from an angry vendor in Castle Town. The boy turns a corner between two houses and runs down a few alleys until he is satisfied that he is no longer being pursued. He leans against the cold stone of a house and lets out a sigh before eagerly biting into a loaf of bread, clearly ravenous with hunger. He is startled when the shopkeeper he thought he had lost unexpectedly appears from around a corner and makes a grab for the boy's arm before he can flee again.
The boy feels a horrible sickness in his stomach. Although he has thus far been fortunate enough to seldom get caught, the occasional slip-up is inevitable considering the frequency with which he takes the five-finger discount. At his age, he's already well aware that stealing is a crime and that for every crime, there is a punishment. It matters to no one that he's simply doing what he feels he must do to survive. He has learned the unfairness of life from an early age and has simply come to accept it.
At first, it looks as if the shopkeeper is merely taking the boy back to his food stand where he will either deliver a stern warning or mete out a beating in the hope of deterring the child from such activities in the future. The boy is generally lucky enough to only receive the former, but he's certainly no stranger to the latter. As the vendor pulls him past the food stand, however, the boy becomes distraught, rapidly coming to the realization that this is going to be the day he's secretly feared—the day when a harsher punishment is in order. He is dragged all the way to the front gate of Hyrule Castle. The boy feels terribly sick to the stomach at what could happen to him now. He has never been here before, and in all honesty, he greatly dreads this place, being the representation of the wealth and status that the child will never have.
"This boy is constantly stealing from me and the other vendors on my street," the merchant explains to one of the guards. "I expect you to punish him so he'll stop this nonsense and let us get back to focusing on our livelihoods!"
The guard motions to one of his comrades in the gatehouse. Handcuffs are soon brought out and placed around the boy's wrists. Now he knows he's in huge trouble.
The guard kneels in front of the boy who quickly averts his gaze, too ashamed to make eye contact.
"Son...you know you can't be stealing things from others. Didn't your parents ever teach you that?"
"I don't have any, sir," the boy mutters.
The guard is surprised by this response. "Both of your parents are...?"
"I really don't know much about them. My mother died a long time ago. She told me my father was a knight who died in combat. I've been living on the streets ever since she died because nobody will take me in."
"Is that so...?" The guard stays in contemplation for several moments. "Stay right here, son." He talks with his comrades inside the guardhouse, keeping an eye on the destitute child the whole time. Eventually, the guard returns.
"Son...how would you like to live at the castle and learn how to be a soldier?"
"A...soldier?" The boy couldn't believe his ears. Was he really being offered the chance to make something out of his life? To have a purpose?
"Yes. The King's always looking for a few good men to join his ranks. We don't normally offer anything to someone as young as you, but since you've got no place else to go, we'll make an exception for ya. Besides...we can't have you returning to the streets causing any more problems, so this will kill two birds with one stone."
The boy nodded anxiously in agreement. He was eager to have the chance to turn his life around...to follow in his father's footsteps.
"...And that's how you came to serve in the Imperial Guard," Zelda finishes explaining.
"No family, huh?" Link mutters, picking at his food. "Figures."
"I'm so sorry, Link," she sympathizes, coming to his side and placing an arm around him. "If it's any consolation, we've all lost a lot as a result of Ganon. I've lost both of my parents as well...but that doesn't make life any less worth living. All it means is that we must find our life's purpose in other sources."
Link sighs heavily. "Yeah...I guess you're right. I should probably consider myself lucky to have been selected as your personal knight, for one thing. Otherwise, I might have died in the castle along with everyone else...goddesses rest their souls."
Upon hearing this, Zelda is brought back to a memory of her own...
"What are you doing, Father?" asks Zelda in the King's cavernous office. He is poring over some documents on his desk, analyzing them closely.
"Zelda, I have decided that you need a higher level of protection than what you are currently receiving."
"What do you mean?"
"Because of your capacity for the sealing power, your survival means everything. Therefore, you need a more personal level of protection...a knight dedicated solely to your defense."
Zelda is irritated to be reminded of her sealing power...or lack thereof. She scoffs at his accusation that she is so helpless as to need constant supervision, much like an infant. "I really don't think I need someone following me everywhere, Father. What about my privacy? Is this really necessary?"
"You are my daughter and you will obey my commands," he decrees curtly.
How typical of him to not bother giving an explanation and simply resorting to the "I have more power than you so you will obey me" approach, Zelda muses with contempt.
She looks over the handful of papers on her father's desk which contain the profiles of the most distinguished knights in Hyrule's royal guard. She deduces that these must be the men her father has narrowed the selections down to. She recognizes all the knights in the profiles and is unsurprised by the choices...until her eyes fall on one paper in particular. She sees the profile of Link, easily the youngest of all the knights her father is considering. Zelda recalls how Link's dedication to his work and deftness with all manner of weapons, almost as if it were innate, was so exemplary that he quickly rose through the ranks until being recommended for knighthood at an unprecedented young age. He was well-known around the castle for those very reasons.
"What about this boy?" Zelda asks. "I know much about his impressive deeds. Isn't he quite precocious and gifted for his years?"
"Of course, that is precisely why he is on my shortlist of possible bodyguards for you. However, his lack of an extensive history combined with the uncertainty of his past make him a risky choice indeed. I am leaning instead toward Donovan here..."
"But look at all his accomplishments," Zelda protests. "You can't rule him out based on things he has no control over!"
"I can and I will, Zelda! This isn't a game! You need the best level of protection we can provide for you!" he insists stubbornly.
"That's it, Father! I've had enough of you telling me what to do and that my opinion doesn't matter! If you don't let me choose my own bodyguard, then I won't allow one at all!" She crosses her arms, huffs, and stamps a foot for maximum emphasis.
Zelda knows she will never forget the stunned expression on her father's face following her outburst that day.
She glances over at Link who is busy packing away cooking utensils into his saddlebags after finishing his lunch. She notices how the sunlight reflects off his golden hair in a way that's almost mesmerizing. Seeing this brings forth one last detail from Zelda's memory...about how the entry she placed in her diary following Link's selection as her personal knight had been somewhat untruthful. Out of fear that someone would surreptitiously read it one day, she had concealed the fact that her father chose Link as her personal knight only after Zelda made her lengthy, impassioned argument which had somehow, miraculously paid off (unfortunately, she never again would have such luck in changing her father's stubborn ways). Her insistence on having him as her bodyguard was not based on the most wholesome of reasons, either—it was at least partially motivated by a strong desire to be close to him...as well as by this undeniable attraction she's always had for him...
This is one memory Link doesn't really need to know about... she muses in embarrassment, feeling heat rise to her cheeks as he looks her way.
A/N: I know this chapter may be somewhat inconsistent with what Zelda says about Link's past in one of the memories from the game, but I think giving him a past like this fits better in line with what she wrote about him in her diary (that he has faced hardships in his life).
I have no idea how many chapters I will write of this. That will probably depend heavily on reader interest...
"I can and I will, Zelda! This isn't a game!"
"Actually, it is. Subtitled 'Breath of the Wild,' Nintendo released it in 2017 for the Wii U and Switch. It's the first Zelda game to feature voice acting and..."
(King Rhoam facepalms)