"Guah!" Link drops on the ground after being launched through the Mysterious Woods, his back aching after colliding with a tree. However, anger and adrenaline overrides his body's cry to stop and run, so Link forces himself to stand up. Ahead, the trees he crashed through give him a distant visual of the Dragon Knight of Time, Aquamenta.
With the question of 'why' and 'how' apparent, Link wonders what brings the strongest Knight to Link and Zelda. He won, he got rid of them. Sure, they have some hope of returning home, but even then, Aquamenta coming to do the job himself? Furthermore, he spoke of an 'agreement' with an unknown party. Just who the hell could that be? Link will get answers for sure, but after he rends Aquamenta's chest in two.
Stretching his left hand out, it is soon filled by the hilt of the Master Sword. The Triforce of Courage gifting him his powers as the chosen one of Farore, Link sprints forward with an inhuman burst of speed. He might not have the magical boost Wisdom and Power gives Zelda and Lana, but anything and everything physical, Courage outclasses its sisters. It's probably the only reason Link is alive right now.
"Arrrggghhh!" He slices the air, creating beams of energy that hone in on Aquamenta. Unfazed, the Dragon Knight twirls his blade and suddenly appears in front of Link. Caught off guard, Link barely reacts in time to raise the Hylian Shield against the dragon's punch. Knocked to the ground, Link groans as Aquamenta plants his feet nearby.
"In my time, we had a saying. 'O ischyróteros ánthropos échei tis megalýteres apotychíes'.The strongest man has the greatest failures. Some say I'm the strongest Dragon Knight because I had a failure equal to my strength. The death of my family, the destruction of my hometown, loss of friends and comrades in the several years of war… I lived to see it all. There was no way to bring them back, or so I thought. Seems i theá didn't care to use the Triforce."
"Gods can't use the Triforce, dumbass. Why do you think she became a human?"
"Her greatest mistake, trusting everything to humans. Or a certain human." Aquamenta reaches for Link's collar, hoisting him up. Link is a man of average height, certainly shorter than most of his male friends (especially the King of the Gerudo, just another genetic trait of being of the desert people) but as Aquamenta holds Link face to face, Link feels like a kid being held by an adult. "A hero, you were called, but you were nothing more than a toy for Hylia's affections."
"So I fucked a goddess in a past life? That must've been heavenly. I got to do so for many lifetimes afterwards. Who did you do, a dirty prostitute? Did you marry said prostitute?"
For that, Aquamenta heaves Link against a tree and clasps his hand against Link's throat. "I'll squeeze the life out of you. If only your beloved maiden was here to watch it. A shame… I'm to kill her too with you and o polemistís-vasiliás, But i mágissa, with her powers, she is quite useful to me to keep alive."
"Yeah...about that…" Link slips his hand out his pouch and stabs Aquamenta's side with the hookshot. Released as the knight tends to his injury, Link extends the chain and wraps it around Aquamenta's neck, returning the chokehold. "I'm going to kill every one of you for every one of my friends you killed. Then I'll kill the remaining because I'll enjoy it. I want your dying breath to be the knowledge that you fucked with the wrong Hero of Hyrule...or just one in general."
Aquamenta struggles to wrestle free from the grip, and to make things more difficult, Link switches his leather gauntlets for the strength-enhancing golden ones. Gasping for air, the Dragon Knight tries to speak. "Ch… Chr…"
"Are you begging for mercy? I don't think so."
"...Chrónos!" In the blink of an eye, Aquamenta kneels on the ground and Link grunts in sudden pain as his hookshot is implanted in his knee. How… How did Aquamenta escape? His time manipulation ability? Link removes the hookshot, scooting away from the downed Dragon Knight. He's no stranger to the manipulation of time, but neither Lana or Cia used it in combat besides a personal Gate of Time Lana possesses. But what Aquamenta is doing, without such a weapon, is much more terrifying.
"Oh, you're going to see your poor friends real soon." Aquamenta extends his arm out, morphs it into a talon, and pierces Link's right foot. Link yelps as the worst pain imaginable pulses through his body as the talon in his foot moves around the wound. Aquamenta retracts the talon as he scoots up to Link's side. He then straddles Link, holding his head down with one hand and relentlessly punching with the other. "I can't make the Hero of my time responsible for his part, but I'll settle for his successor. Then when I'm done with you, I'm going to have my way with the bitch...we all will, every knight, man and woman, in revenge for what she did to us! We'll leave her alive so she can watch the world she swore to protect as a goddess and as a human is reduced to nothingness!"
Aquamenta holds his fist up as he pauses and stares at Link's bruised face. "What?"
Struggling, he holds up his left hand, showing him the two glowing triangles of the Triforce. "You fucked up. She's here." Link closes his eyes as a bright light sweeps the area, knocking Aquamenta off of him. When the light passes, Link reaches for a potion, consuming it in its entirety. Yacking at the disgusting taste, he feels his entire body heal up, even his beaten face. Sighing, he rises up just as the Queen of Hyrule, dressed in her war attire, holds a hand out to him.
"Don't be offended when I say this, I held it back at Hyrule Castle, but you look like shit."
Link sighs and picks up the Master Sword. "Why did you leave Marin? I had him."
"Sure you did. And I didn't leave Marin, she's with Sheik."
"...You split yourself into Zelda and Sheik? I shouldn't be surprised, Impa can do that too. But what do we do now?"
"When Sheik reaches the top of Mount Taramanch, she will use a teleportation spell to bring us there. It was going to be how I bring you to me, but someone was getting their ass beat and I had to feel it through the Triforces. Marin is going to have too many questions."
Link rolls his shoulders and calls the Master Sword into his hand. "Yeah. Also, he wants Lana alive. You, Joshua, and I got the death order."
"He says who he's working with besides the other knights?"
"No, but considering the list of evil that wants us dead, I say we got a nice list."
"Hmm. Oh, welcome back, Aquamenta." Zelda narrows her eyes at the sight of the returned Dragon Knight. He lands with a slight wince as he grips his wounded right side, the armor there broken and the skin seared. Noticing her handiwork, the Queen of Hyrule draws her rapier, ready to do battle against the knight. "As for what you said, it's disgusting you'd honor the very god your people worshiped and revere in such a way. I bet your wife and children look upon you in disgrace that their husband and father has become a vengeful beast."
Aquamenta growls, letting a fiery breath escape his mouth. "I'm going to make you regret such words! Chrónos!"
"Tempus!" Link blinks and sees Zelda and Aquamenta in front of him, Hylia's descendant guarding him from the dragon's attack. Aquamenta, however, is just as shocked as Link is. Zelda has time manipulation abilities too? Taking advantage of the stunned knight, Link slashes Aquamenta's weakened side, causing the knight to retreat and reassess the situation.
"When the hell could you do that?"
"I am the descendant of the Sage of Time, am I not? But as for when I learned it… Sometimes you just need a break at Council meetings, but you can't just leave." Zelda glares up at Aquamenta, the knight hovering in fear. "You seem scared, Aquamenta. Not used to someone entering your frozen world, huh? The power of time, possibly the strongest force in the world, and how ironic you went to the pair that you thought didn't have a time-manipulative witch. If that is a lie, then why haven't you troubled with the Triforce of Power? Certainly whoever possesses it is the strongest man or woman in the world, unbeatable to all except another Triforce bearer or someone as powerful as a god. You seem scared, Aquamenta. Not used to someone entering your frozen...what?" Zelda holds a hand to her mouth, gasping.
"I said those exact words. Why would I say them again? I…" The pair faces Aquamenta, the knight chuckling as he holds a hand to his wounded right side, and to their amazement, the wound and the armor that covers it heals and repairs itself. It is like it was never there to begin with.
"True, I did not expect you to be able to stop time as I could, but by your fear, that must be the limit of your power. If it wasn't you would've returned to your time, wouldn't you. But you have a point, it is i magissa that I fear. She has the power to return you home, but don't worry, they'll be dealt with. But you're not asking the right question, Zelda. I can bend time to my desire. Freeze it. Hasten it. Rewind it. Travel through it, though that power is limited. I can do so, but without knowing where to go... It is the reason I cannot travel back to that age and take on the goddess herself. The timeline you are in was random, not of my choosing."
Zelda closes her eyes with a frown. "Well, that clears this up, but then how did you find us?"
"Just followed the trail of my power and the stench of the gods, in a literal sense. But unlike you two, traveling in time is instantaneous for me. Whereas a few hours has passed since my departure and arrival, the same amount of time between my arrival and this moment now, it has been months since you've been in your Hyrule. Most of Hyrule is under our control, though your damned servant is a thorn in the side. But she will be dealt with soon, and the land chosen by the gods will belong to the very beasts they put in the sky."
"And then what," Link asks. "What of the rest of the world?"
Aquamenta smirks. "Labrynna, Holodrum, the rest of the world...you're asking the wrong man. But I think he has plans for the country of Labrynna, particularly the concern of a prince of Hyrule living there-" Zelda dashes forward, blasting Aquamenta with light magic from the palm of her hand. The power is so strong, the dragon knight is launched off his feet and pushed into the forest. Link lets his jaw hang as the Queen of Hyrule trades her rapier for the Bow of Light. Three arrows appear on the bowstring, all aimed horizontally down the path of destruction between Zelda and Aquamenta.
Since when was Zelda this powerful? Sure, she was strong, it comes with her bloodline and her Triforce of Wisdom, but she makes Joshua, arguably the most powerful even without the Triforce of Power, pale in comparison. Is it because...the prince is a real thing?
Suddenly Link gets a sense of dread, a warning from the Triforce of Courage. It directs him to its sister and her beholder. Zelda has yet to fire the Light Arrows, but the power contained in them... Whether she hits Aquamenta or not, the damage to Koholint Island might be too much. They might be north of the village, but they're still close enough to affect the people of the island. "Zelda! Do not fire those arrows!"
"I won't let him touch Arthur! I won't let any of them!"
"If you shoot, you might do more than that! For now, let it go. Please." Link holds Zelda by her waist from behind, hoping to calm her down. "We're going to go back. We can protect your son, but first we must get away from here. If you let loose, you might destroy the village." Zelda's grip on the Bow of Light shakes until she lowers it, casting away the arrows. She turns around, dropping her face on Link's chest as angry tears wet his tunic. Link knows this isn't the time for this either, but he is going to choose his battles today. He lets his cry in his arms for a moment longer before holding her back. "Where's Sheik and Marin?"
Zelda sniffs as she consults the link between her and her clone. "She's...they just made it to the peak. Link, hold on." Zelda begins to chant a spell just as Link looks above her head to see red-orange light approach them down the cleared woods.
"Um, Zelda… Please hurry up… Zelda!"
"Mutare statum!" Blue light surrounds the pair just as the fire swallows them. A moment later, Link feels a gentle breeze around him. Opening his eyes, he sees blue skies, white clouds, a mountain range below him, and Marin.
"Great Farore, we made it." Link releases Zelda and turns in the general direction of the Mysterious Woods. Thick smoke can be seen rising out of it. Damn, their battle did a number on Koholint.
"You two are safe, thank the gods." Marin smiles through her tears as she looks at the blue circle between them and the giant egg. "Sheik did that before you two appeared. What is it, exactly?"
"It is a Gate of Time. Not much time to explain what it does, but it'll send us on our way." Zelda looks up from it to Marin, holding a shoulder. "Marin… I'm sorry we deceived you, but it was for your sake more than ours. There are things more complicated in this world than, well, two people appearing on the beach and a man in armor appearing in the forest. I wish I could tell you everything, believe me, I want to, but…"
"Sheik, no need to apologize. You have your reasons...but I'm glad to know some things about the outside world. You remember my dream? I've been on this island my entire life, I may never what's beyond the blue sea, so this might be the most exciting thing I ever do. I owe that to you two, Shade and Sheik. But before you go, can we do one thing together?"
Zelda nods. "What is it?"
"Sing with me." Zelda turns to Link, who nods for her to accept the red-haired girls request. Smiling, the girls face each other and hold hands as Link begins to hear the most melodic duet he's ever heard. "Sleepers wake, dreams will fade, although we cling fast. Was it real, what we saw? I believe. Lost in dreams, we sleep on, tossing and turning. Stay with me, by my side, never leave." Zelda releases Marin's hands and steps back, setting her feet in the Gate of Time. Link follows, fighting the tears that the girls cannot bear to hold. The weight behind the song...it drives the Spirit of the Hero into a deep sadness. Just what did the hero who'll come here do?
"What if the worst comes? If someday this sweet reverie ends. We too, our memories, for real, fade us by? Dream with me, by the sea, we watch the waves crash. Hold my hand… Think of me… And I'll fly."
Marin wipes her face futilely as the wind picks up between her and the chosen ones. The Gate of Time begins to glow softly around them, and Marin's body faintly shines. "Thank you… Zelda...and you too, Link. I'll never forget these days together, short as they were. And if we never meet again… Please, don't ever forget this song...or me."
"Marin," Link calls as the girl begins to fade, "when we… When we meet again, teach me that song, okay? And don't worry about your dream… It will come true, I promise you I'll make it happen."
"I will… Goodbye…"
"It's c-c-c-c-cold… Gerudo ar-ar-ar-aren't supposed to b-b-b-b-be here." Lana turns back and chuckles as the mighty and prideful King of the Gerudo, the strongest man she knows, is beaten by a severe drop of temperature. Sure, he could have worn protective covers like her and Ravio, but no, he wanted to brave Lorule's Death Mountain as he did the Eldin Mountain's heat. Now he pays the icy cold price for it.
"Don't worry, we're almost there," Ravio directs. "But are you sure you want to go to the Treacherous Tower? It's not the nicest place in Lorule...as if there is one."
"What happened to Lorule," Lana asks. "You say Hyrule is like a mirror world to Lorule, but this looks nothing like it."
"Generations ago, there was a war for the Triforce of Lorule. My princess' ancestors, they decided rather than seal the power, it was best to destroy it. However, that was the beginning of the end for this world. Lorule is dying, and soon, it will be destroyed forever. That is why my princess, Lady Hilda, made the irrational decision along with her advisor, Lord Yuga, to take Hyrule's Triforce to save Lorule. I should have stopped her...but I'm too much of a coward to do anything. So I do what I can to help Mr. Hero, the bravest person I know. The opposite of me, in more ways than he knows."
"Cowardice, foolishness, and if anything, impotence," Joshua concludes. "That must be the representation of your Triforce. You must be Link's opposite, Hilda is Zelda's, and if I might make a gander, Yuga is Ganon's. Surprised Ganon isn't involved somehow."
"Actually, Mr. Hero says Yuga fused with Ganon, or something like that."
"What's so treacherous about the Treacherous Tower?"
Ravio shivers at the mention of the tower in Lana's question. "It is a gladiator arena, so I've heard. Since Lorule is...not in the best shape, the Tower has become a show for the strongest of the strong. Considering where it is, the peak of Death Mountain, I say it goes along with the locale. Those who can survive this harsh environment are strong enough to compete."
"You sure it is okay to be here, Lana?"
She nods. "I heard Zelda's voice, and the Triforce burned during it. Link and Zelda must have figured something out, so whatever is there, we must find it at all costs. And if anything, you might get some enjoyment out of this. I think our best bet is entering the fights."
Joshua smirks. "You know I like a good fight. Very well. Bunny Boy, how close are we?"
"We can see it now." Lana and Joshua step up beside Ravio as he points slightly above them. As described, it is a tall tower, resting on the peak of Death Mountain. "Are you two sure about this? Those fights...they're to the death."
Lana turns to Joshua, who looks at her in the corner of his eye. He doesn't move his head, but she knows his answer...and he knows her. She turns back to Ravio, smiling. "Ravio, fighting to the death is our speciality. Let's go."