Link watched the events unfolding before his eyes with rapt attention. Val stepped forward, and Majora, to Link's utter surprise, stepped back.
He's afraid, like really afraid...
"Valentina, dearest, are you sure you'd rather not talk this out?"
Link actually thought he heard the dark entity's voice shaking.
"Still a simpering coward, I see," Valentina remarked, "You never honestly believed I would betray my master for the likes of you, did you?"
"I believe you're asking me if I thought you'd see reason, to which I must reply, yes, I did."
Val laughed, a shrill, cold laugh that sent shivers down Link's spine.
"Then you're purely delusional," she said.
A blast of silver light enveloped her, licking at the edges of her cloak like a flame. Link had to do a double take when he saw her feet leave the ground. Majora seemed just as unsettled. He waved his hand quickly, prompting a dark cloud to enclose him. Out of the corner of his eye, Link saw Ghirahim edging closer to the group. At any other time, Link might have felt angry toward the demon lord, but in that moment, he was far too preoccupied with the battle that was about to ensue.
"Um, should we maybe stand back?" Lana suggested.
"I'm inclined to agree with the blue-haired simp," Ghirahim seconded, his voice strained.
"Yes, I—HEY! Who are you calling simp, mister?!"
"I must remain here," Hylia cut in, "If things get out of hand, I must try to contain the damage. I would advise you all remain as well. I cannot protect you if you wander too far."
"The goddess' council is wise. We must remain here," Impa instructed.
"You do not command me, twig," Ghirahim hissed, but he made no move to leave.
"So," Majora said, addressing Val, "Back to old times then? You'll have to forgive me. I might be a little rusty."
"Rusty or not," Val replied, gravitating upward, "You're still a little worm to be crushed under my boot!"
Link glanced over at Fierce Deity.
"Shouldn't you be up there with her?"
The fearsome entity didn't even spare him a glance; he had his eyes trained on Val.
"Valentina has no need for assistance," Hylia answered.
"Are you sure?" Link pressed.
The goddess merely turned her golden orbs on him. Link took the hint. Meanwhile Val continued to rise, higher and higher until she was nothing more than a stark silver light against the white of the clouds. Link had to squint to see her.
For a moment the spirit stayed there, unmoving. Then Lana threw up her hand and pointed excitedly.
Link could see it all around Val, tiny points of luminance like stars and they were multiplying by the second. Link whirled to face Hylia again.
"What's happening?" he demanded.
"Watch and you will see, hero," was all she said.
Link's straining eyes could hardly keep up. Countless lights were flickering into existence, faster and faster each time.
And then, without warning, they began to fall, streaking across the sky like comets. And they were headed straight for Majora.
"Magnificent!" Ghirahim exclaimed suddenly, "It's a rain of blades!"
Link watched in awe as the swords raced toward their target, whistling through the air like arrows. One by one, in rapid succession, they struck Majora's dark shield, some vaporizing instantly, others bounding off of it and hitting the turf with explosive force. But the onslaught was unrelenting. Even as the weapons plummeted downward, the supply was being incessantly replenished by Val. Yet Majora didn't even flinch under the downpour; his shield held. Link felt his fists clench, his knuckles whitening.
It's doing nothing. Val can't even get to him.
Link rounded on Fierce Deity again.
"Are you sure Val doesn't need help?" he demanded.
The imposing figure's head turned slowly in Link's direction, and as those blank white eyes settled on him, Link felt an odd chill. For a moment, he was paralyzed, but he wasn't afraid. Instead he felt a strange sense of...familiarity.
He was snapped out of his daze by the sound of Val laughing. His eyes found her quickly, and while he couldn't see her face, he could hear her laughter growing increasingly hysterical.
Then, in the blink of an eye, Majora's protective sphere shattered, dissipating like smoke in the wind. But before the blades could reach him, he teleported.
NO! Link almost screamed aloud.
But Val's barrage didn't let up. As if drawn by a beacon, it changed course, the blades levelling out just before they hit the ground and speeding away. They found their target before he had even reappeared.
What followed next was such a rapid series of events that Link could hardly keep up with it. In a flash, Majora appeared, then in another he was gone again. Yet Val seemed to know exactly where he would reveal himself. Again and again, her opponent relocated, trying to stay out from under the rain of steel.
But he couldn't keep it up forever.
The next time Majora materialized, Val's blades at last found their mark, cutting through him as easily as a knife would cut through paper. The dark entity rag-dolled backward as dozens of swords tore into him at once, pinning him to the ground. Black ooze spilled out of him like blood, his head lolling back, his limbs jerking.
Then he went still.
Val's swords plummeted like the lifeless metal they were, dematerializing as fast as they fell. Only the blades that had pierced Majora remained. Then Val descended, slowly, her cloak gently fluttering. Link let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding, taking a step forward. Val advanced on her kill, Link close behind her. Ghirahim said something, but Link hardly heard it.
He did hear Lana's words however.
"Is it really over?"
"Yes," he replied without looking back, "It is. He's dead." He turned to Val. "You killed him."
Zelda, wherever you are, you can rest easy now. You've been avenged.
Somehow the thought didn't give him as much satisfaction as he would have hoped.
Val uttered a chilling laugh, startling Link out of his musings.
"It would take much more than that to kill him," she tittered, her mismatched eyes burning brightly, "Besides, killing him would be boring. Who would I play with then?"
Link stared at her, a feeling of horror sweeping over him. He stumbled back, his eyes wide.
"You can't be serious—" he tried to protest.
Then, as if trapped in a nightmare, he saw Majora's head tilt up.
"That was quite...exhilarating," the corpse remarked, "My dear Valentina, you never disappoint."
Val's self-satisfied smile stretched wider.
"No," Link breathed, still backing away from what should've been a lifeless husk, "You were dead. You stopped moving."
"Yes, it is rather tiresome being impaled," Majora said as calmly as if he were commenting on the weather, "I just needed a moment's rest. As it is I can hardly move, but that will pass soon enough."
Link turned his terrified gaze on Val, "Do something!"
The spirit materialized a blade in her hand, but instead of plunging it through Majora's eerie mask, she turned, getting ready to spring.
"You want a death, I'll give you one," she murmured to Link before raising her voice to a piercing shriek, "You're next, Hylia!"
She took off like a shot, Link watching helplessly. Time seemed to slow to a crawl in that moment, creating a powerful dread as Val grew closer to her target. Link imagined that silver sword cutting through the goddess as easily as it had Majora, reducing her likewise to a bleeding heap.
But that moment never came.
Fierce Deity stepped forward, his commanding presence stealing the attention of every eye. Then, in the simplest of gestures, he raised a hand.
Time stopped. Val froze, going as still as a statue. Then Link saw it. The almost imperceptible tremor racing through her body, growing more noticeable by the second.
She was shaking. Val was shaking.
"Why?" she hissed.
She sounded on the brink of tears.
"Why, Master?" she begged, "She's an insect. No, worse than an insect, because she dared to rob you of your prey, your purpose! She dared to treat you like some child needing to be placed in a corner! It's blasphemy!"
Without a word, Fierce Deity laid a hand on Val's trembling fist. Her shaking stopped, her shoulders slumping. Her weapon dissipated in her grip and she fell forward, resting her head on her Master's chest.
"Forgive me," she murmured, "I would be lost without your graciousness, Master. My sin is that I often forget it is not solely for myself."
A silence fell over the group, Lana and Ghirahim looking on in stunned silence.
Link was the one to shatter the quiet.
"That's it?" he demanded, "What about him?"
He jabbed a finger at Majora who responded by waving a hand over the blades still pinning him to the ground, causing a few of them to dematerialize.
"Oh, you mustn't mind me," the ancient god declared jovially, "I'll be out of your hair in a moment."
"No!" Ghirahim hissed suddenly, stepping forward, "You, pitiful worm, are going to pay for the death of my master with your life!"
For once, Link agreed with the demon lord.
"It's better that he dies!" he insisted to Hylia, "If you seal him away, he could return again! Are you willing to let that happen?!"
"Young hero," the goddess responded graciously, moving toward him in a mesmerizingly smooth motion, "I understand your grief. You have been robbed of your destiny. You have been robbed of your dear friend."
She extended a pale, slender hand, placing it on his shoulder. The effect was electric. It was as if pure light was flowing through Link's body, and in that moment, more than anything, he wanted to cry.
"You will see her again."
Hylia's words resounded in his head, and Link felt a deep sense of calm descending on him. It was if someone had pulled his head above water, and shown him that everything would finally be all right. His hope of finding Zelda, any Zelda, seemed silly now.
It wouldn't have been MY Zelda. It wouldn't have been my friend.
As Link stared into the eyes of the golden goddess, it occurred to him that she herself was just another version of Zelda.
Link let out a measured breath.
"Okay," he said, "You're right. I'll see her again. After all, I'm looking at a piece of her now, right?"
Hylia smiled gently before turning to face Majora.
"Majora," she addressed the entity sternly, "I once again extend my offer of eternal rest to you. I would strongly suggest you accept it."
With another wave of his hand, Majora disintegrated the last of Valentina's metal, straightening slowly.
"There's no need for you to do anything strongly, my dear," he said pleasantly, "I am more than happy to accept."
Without so much as a ghost of a smile, Hylia extended her hand.
"One moment if you please," Majora said, turning to the others and sweeping a bow, "It's been a pleasure, all. I will miss you most terribly, especially you, Val. If you have any parting words for me—" Majora paused as Ghirahim sent a sword barrelling through his chest. "Ah. I see. Well, I assure you the feeling isn't mutual." Lastly, the masked figure turned to Link. "I'm looking forward to meeting you again in another life...or should I say I'm looking behind? Time is such a strange thing." After receiving nothing more than a frown from Link, Majora turned back to Hylia. "Very well, my dear," he consented, extending his own hand to meet hers, "You may return me to my—"
Their fingers brushed and in an instant Majora's body vanished, leaving only his mask. It struck the ground, landing upright. Its eyes bored into Link as he gazed down at it.
It was over.
But Ghirahim didn't seem entirely pleased. Summoning a weapon, he aimed it at Hylia.
"I suggest, for your sake, goddess, that you take that cursed mask far away from here," he spat.
Hylia seemed unconcerned, stooping to retrieve the mask and brushing the dirt from it with her delicate fingers.
"Rest assured," she said, "The loss you have suffered is not a permanent one. Your master will return. You will not always be at his side, but your steel will serve his dark purposes nonetheless."
"He was meant to return in this timeline, foul woman!" Ghirahim snapped.
"He did," Impa reminded him gravely, "And the one I had sworn to protect died as a consequence. Count yourself lucky that I do not seek to rectify the grievances you once bestowed upon her Grace."
"I do not fear you, twig," the demon hissed.
The sound of Fi's voice made Link turn. Her empty blue eyes regarded her fellow spirit solemnly.
"You know our purpose as well as I. When a spirit's commission is fulfilled, they must enter their eternal sleep."
Link's face contorted in surprise, "Fi—"
"But I didn't," Ghirahim said, gritting his teeth, "I didn't fulfill my purpose. I failed my master." He stabbed a finger at Fi. "You have no idea the agony I suffer!"
"Then rest," Fi pressed, "If the pain is too much to bear, enter your final sleep. We may do it...together, if you desire. Though what awaits us beyond, I cannot say."
"Fi..." Link murmured, unable to believe his ears.
I've already lost Zelda, he silently reminded his faithful aid, Now I have to say goodbye to you too?
"I'm sorry, Master," Fi replied, "I should have told you sooner, but by my calculations I perceived that this data would serve only to distract you from more pressing matters." She paused, turning to face him fully. "Master...when I first awoke and began the task appointed to me by Her Grace, I perceived it as merely serving my function. However, I have come to consider the information corresponding to our time together among the most precious data I have on record. I do not have the capability to fully understand the human spirit. But now, at the end of our journey, I experience a feeling I am unable to identify. I lack sufficient data to be sure of my conclusion, but I believe this feeling correlates closest with what your people call...sadness." She paused again, a shadow falling over her face. "I'm sorry I couldn't serve you better, Link."
"No," Link said, "I'm sorry I couldn't be a better friend. I would've been lost without you, Fi."
"This is all very touching," Ghirahim interjected with a hiss, "But it hardly helps me." He waved his sword at Fi. "If you wish to bury your sorrows in an endless sleep, feel free, but that shall not be my fate. I shall not be reduced to some sorry creature seeking asylum!" He paused, straightening slowly and smoothing back his deathly white hair. Then he rounded on Hylia again. "You. You said my master would return. While I am not overly fond of waiting, I am...accustomed to it. If that is the only option that remains to me, than that is precisely what I will do." This time he turned his attention to Link. "As for you, sky brat, I may be swayed to permit a temporary truce between us. But make no mistake, once my—"
There was a flash of silver and in a blink Val had hauled the demon lord off his feet, dangling him aboveground by his throat. Link stared, surprised by the sudden turn of events, while Ghirahim frantically clawed at the hand around his throat.
"Enough of your babbling," Val glowered, "My Master's poor ears are disgraced by your pestilent voice. Besides," she added, her lour turning into a malicious smile, "I have a gift for you, in return for your treatment of me."
Link saw Ghirahim's eyes widen in terror. Then, without the slightest warning, Val shot straight up, knocking Link back with the resulting shockwave. Link threw up his arms to protect his face from the flying dirt but still kept one eye cracked open to keep track of Val's progress. After reaching a respectable height, the two specks that were now Ghirahim and Valentina diverged, one shooting at alarming speed into the distant horizon before disappearing from view completely. Link smiled gently, giving a shake of his head.
He'd see the infamous demon lord again. He was sure of it.
"To be honest," Link said wryly as Val reconnected with the turf, "If he had kept running his mouth, I probably would've punted him into the horizon as well."
Val regarded him blankly before turning away.
"Hey." Val paused, giving Link a chance to finish. "Thanks."
The spirit aimed a sidelong look at the hero.
"I didn't do it for you."
Val seemed to consider him for a moment before striding off to join her master. Some brief glances were exchanged between Hylia, Fierce Deity, and Val before the goddess dipped her golden head. Reaching out, she let her fingers brush against Valentina's forehead, causing a blinding burst of light. By the time Link's eyes had recovered, Val was gone, replaced by a curious silver-green blade. Hylia repeated the process with Fierce Deity, tucking away both sword and mask once it was done.
"I guess that's my cue," Lana said quietly, stepping forward and locking eyes with Link, "I wish..." She stopped, shaking her head, her cyan pony-tail swaying back and forth. "No...I'm sure we'll meet again."
A hopeful smile touched her lips.
Link extended his hand, "Thanks for trying to help. I'm sorry we couldn't get to know each other better. I have a feeling we would've been good friends."
A quiet sadness seemed to permeate Lana's gaze and she stepped back, leaving Link's hand empty.
"Oh, Link...I know you very well."
"Oh...right. I forgot about the time overseeing thing."
The Skyloftian let his arm fall to his side.
"You know, I feel you're right," Lana said, materializing her book in her hands, "We would've been...very good friends."
She paused, running her fingers over the book's cover.
Then, with a hastily whispered "Goodbye, Link" she threw open the tome, lifting it above her head and vanishing in an eruption of light.
Weird, Link thought, It almost feels like there was more she wanted to say...
Hylia's voice drew him out of his contemplation, leaving him no time to puzzle over the sorceress.
"It is time...time for me to set things right. Young hero, do not take this as a slight, but I deeply wish for us never to meet again."
Link uttered a light laugh, "Same."
"Your Grace," Impa addressed the deity, sweeping a bow.
The goddess turned her golden gaze on her servant.
"Do not fear, Impa," she said, "The hero is not the only one who will be gifted a second chance. You will have your own part to play when the time comes. And rest assured that your service will never be forgotten."
Impa contemplated the aureate figure for a moment before bowing again.
"Thank you, Your Grace."
Hylia dipped her head in return before lifting her hands above her head, prompting the warm glow enveloping her to intensify. It spilled outward, pouring like liquid sunlight over the turf and into the distance, bathing all of the Surface in its radiance. Meanwhile, its source continued to swell until Hylia's figure was completely swallowed.
Then, quite suddenly, it was over, leaving no trace of the goddess in sight. Yet despite her absence, Link could still feel her reassuring presence.
Impa laid a hand on his shoulder, "Our business here is done. It is time for us to return to Skyloft."
"It is there, inside the goddess statue, Master," Fi added, "That you must return your sword to its pedestal so that I may enter my eternal rest."
Link took a calming breath, nodding his head slowly.
Time for one more goodbye.