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Great. Just great, Link thought, raising his sword.

"What are you doing out here?" he demanded.

Impa emerged behind him, moving to his side.

"I could ask you the same thing," the girl countered.

"I'm looking for an enemy."

The girl spread her hands, "It seems you've found one."

"This is the girl we encountered at the Gate of Time," Impa said suddenly.

"Yes," Link said, "She almost killed me."

But she didn't, and for the life of me I don't know why.

"Master," Fi said, speaking through their link, "It appears the spirit's aura has grown since we last fought her."

What's with this girl?

Link aimed his sword at his foe.

"Answer the question," he snapped, "I just received some pretty bad news, and I'm not in the mood for games."

"Bad news?" the girl snorted, "What bad news?"

Link gritted his teeth, "Like you don't already know."

The girl glared, her mismatched eyes shining with a dangerous light, "I don't. If this has anything to do with something Ghirahim has done, I'm clueless. We split ways quite a while back."

"Liar!" Link snapped.

"It's the truth! If it wasn't, you'd already be dead."

Link gave a smug smile, "But you can't kill me, can you? Judging by the way you acted last time we ran into each other. So why is that?"

The girl's eyes narrowed, "I don't know. I wish I did. I just learned that I'm not really from this realm."

Link cocked a quizzical brow at her, "So you're one of those lost creatures?"

"That is not a possibility, Master," Fi pointed out, "She was already present before these other creatures began to appear."

Right.

The enemy spirit's gaze fell, her hands clenching.

"I don't know," she muttered.

"And I'm just supposed to believe you?" Link scoffed, "How am I supposed to know this isn't just a trick?"

The girl met his eyes.

"You're still alive. That should be proof enough. And if you don't want to believe that, fine. Just know I'm not interested in fighting you, so you can put that sword away."

Instead, Link's grip tightened on the hilt of his weapon.

"If it's all the same to you, I think I'll hang onto it."

"Link."

Link heard Impa say his name, but he kept his eyes fixed on the girl.

"What is it, Impa?"

Then he saw him, standing behind the girl, hands on his hips. The girl noticed Link's shift in focus and followed his line of sight, uttering a gasp. In a flash, she whipped out a blade, standing at the ready. Ghirahim directed a withering stare at her.

"What. On earth. Are you doing. With them?"

He pointed a gloved finger at Impa and Link.

"She's not with us," Link was quick to point out.

"I wasn't asking you, sky brat." Ghirahim turned his grey eyes back to the girl. "Really, Ari, where have you been all this time?"

"Valentina."

Ghirahim paused, seemingly taken aback.

"I beg your pardon?"

"My name is Valentina," the girl repeated.

"Hmm. So you remembered."

"No, someone reminded me."

The demon lord waved a hand dismissively, "Well, never mind all that. I've been looking all over this accursed forest for you. A certain...development has occurred."

"And what does this have to do with me?" Valentina queried icily.

Ghirahim paused again, clearly in an effort to restrain himself.

"Ari, that is no way to speak to me."

"I said," the girl reiterated, her tone pure steel, "It's Valentina."

"I hate to interrupt," Link cut in, "But I'm looking for someone, and I have the distinct impression that you—" He shifted the point of his sword so it was aiming at Ghirahim. "—know something about him."

Ghirahim turned up his nose, "I see you are determined to yap at me, skyling. Unfortunately I simply don't have the time to deal with you as of this moment. You are not my...primary concern."

"I could say the same to you."

"We are searching for a creature that calls itself Majora," Impa said.

"Ah, the Goddess' guard dog. I didn't see—wait. Did you say Majora?"

"Majora?" Val echoed, "You mean the creature with the funny mask?"

"Precisely!" Ghirahim snapped, "You encountered the fiend as well?"

"Fiend?" Val lowered her weapon. "He was nice to me."

"He killed Zelda!" Link shouted furiously, "I don't care how bloody good his manners are! When I find him, I'm going to kill him!"

"As loathe as I am to admit this, it seems we agree on something, sky brat. That simpering aberration dared to try to replace me by weaselling his way into my master's council!"

"Your master?" Link hissed.

"He has been resurrected then?" Impa demanded sharply.

"Indeed, in a most unceremonious way," Ghirahim declared sourly.

"Cut the crap!" Link yelled, charging at Ghirahim with his sword swinging. The demon lord caught the blade in his hand, looking mildly annoyed. "This is what you wanted all along! You wanted Zelda dead! You wanted Demise resurrected!"

Ghirahim knocked his sword away.

"Undoubtedly," he said, "It was what I lived and breathed for, but that masked creature stole it from me with a snap of his fingers and a wave of his hand. You have no idea what indignity I suffered in that moment."

"Oh, that'll be nothing compared to what I'm going to do to you!" Link promised, raising his weapon to strike again.

Ghirahim's countenance darkened, "Fine. You have a death wish? Let me grant it to you."

"Wait!" Impa shouted, "There is no need for fighting. It would seem we all have a common enemy."

Link whirled to face her.

"You can't seriously be suggesting that we work with them?!"

He waved a hand at Val and Ghirahim.

Valentina frowned, "Don't point at me! I'm not a part of this!"

"Don't be ridiculous," Ghirahim scolded her, "Of course you're a part of this."

Fi materialized suddenly, her cape fluttering.

"I agree with the guardian," she said.

Ghirahim smiled at the sight of her.

"Ah, bluebird. Always a pleasure to see you."

Fi ignored him.

"My calculations show that our chances substantially improve if we increase our number of allies, master."

"Our chances of what?" Link questioned.

Impa answered instead, "She means our chances of confronting this new threat and proving an effective force to oppose him."

"I'll be able to accomplish that just fine with the help of my understudy, if you don't mind," Ghirahim insisted.

"Then I guess you won't be all that successful then," Val glowered.

Ghirahim bristled, "How dare you! After everything I've done for you ungrateful little—"

"You threatened to kill me!" Val shrieked, "Why should I help you, any of you?!"

Ghirahim uttered a painfully forced laugh, "Ari, you should know I never really intended to kill you."

"My name is Valentina!"

"Enough," Impa snapped, "This creature Majora—what is his motive? Do we have any idea how to combat him or what power he holds?"

"His aura was unlike anything I had ever before sensed," Ghirahim said.

"Likewise," Fi agreed.

Impa gave Link a sidelong glance, "That is...concerning."

"We don't even know what it is," Link pointed out.

"Something out of its time," Ghirahim said, "Something endowed with abilities that rival that of gods."

"That thing was babbling on about lineages and timelines. I could hardly make any sense of what he was saying," Link complained, "But he said something about him and Zelda being enemies, but not Zelda specifically."

"Yes," Impa said, "He spoke of interwoven timelines. Perhaps he was referring to another reincarnation of Her Grace."

"Does that mean there are other reincarnations of me too?" Link queried.

"Now wouldn't that be an unpleasant thought," Ghirahim muttered.

"I believe that was Majora's meaning," Impa said in response to Link.

"Majora said he and I came from the same place," Val pitched in, "A place called Termina."

"Termina?" Impa repeated.

"This chatter is utterly pointless," Ghirahim interrupted, "Ar—Valentina, come."

He beckoned to her. She stepped back.

"No. If you needed my help so badly, you should have thought of that before you beat me senseless and threatened to kill me. I'm not interested in being your errand girl anymore."

The demon lord appeared stunned.

"Where will you go?"

"I'm going to find Majora. I have questions for him."

"As do we all," Impa said.

Ghirahim straightened, his eyes darkening.

"Then how unfortunate for you all that I am the only one who knows where he is."

"You!" Link hissed, charging the demon lord again, "I'm going to beat it out of you!"

In the blink of an eye, Ghirahim vanished. Link slashed at the air, uttering an angry shout.

"No! No! That insufferable creep!"

He rounded on Valentina, only to find that she had disappeared as well. Another shout pierced the air.

"Master, my calculations show me that the chances of our successfully conducting this new quest while you are in this state are—"

"Don't tell me the chances, Fi!" Link snapped, breathing heavily.

The spirit's blank eyes regarded him emotionlessly.

"As you wish," she said, returning to the Goddess Sword.

"Link," Impa said, "Fi is correct. You must keep a level head. We have much work to do."

Link sank to his knees, choking out a bitter laugh.

"Be serious, Impa. What are the odds of us pulling this off?"

"I pray to Hylia that they are much greater than I am to believe."

"Don't you get it? Hylia's gone."

"In this timeline, yes. Hylia is dead," Impa admitted. She crossed to him, kneeling down and placing a hand on Link's shoulder. "But in the others," she said, an unwavering conviction in her scarlet eyes, "She may yet still be alive."

And just like that, Link felt a spark of hope.

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