Present Day: Low
Lina continued to watch from a distance as Sheik and her male self-discussed the escape of Bongo-Bongo from the Kakariko Well. It was old news or new news depending on which Link you asked.
She sighed as she began to walk out of town. If Link was that far on the quest already, then he would be going into the Shadow Temple soon. And once that was done... there would be only one temple left.
Everything was going to be right with the world. Everything was going to end well.
For everyone except her.
She sighed as she watched her past self-warp back to the Temple of Time. Tomorrow, her once and future self would return to the rebuilt town with the Lens of Truth. It had always perplexed her how quickly the town had rebuilt, but she never quite figured out how that had happened.
Everything was as it should be. But no matter how many times she told herself that, she couldn’t believe it.
As the fires began to die down from the sunset rain, she reentered Impa’s home. Din was still off looking for Impa, who was in the Shadow Temple by this point. It wasn’t likely the woman would find her again until this was finally over.
She looked at her belongings. The shards of the Gilded Sword were still taunting her. Nothing in her inventory could fix the Sword. Not the Megaton Hammer, not the Fairy Bow, not those weird cube thingies-
“...What DO those things do, anyway?”
At the Annual Hylian Milk Festival, Link had encountered a Keaton. After a riddle or two, the creature had placed three odd cubes on her bed. When she asked the Keaton what they did, all it told her was that it contained ‘the answer to her prayers’.
It was insanity to think they could cure her. The Keaton told her she would know when to open them.
Screw it. If there was ever a time for a miracle, it was now. She opened up the golden cube.
There was a white light within the wooden container, one that issued forth slowly. It did not come for her, but for the shards. There was a familiar sense about the light, one that was comforting. She closed her eyes and took it in.
She saw flashes before her eyes. The fresh cut grass of the Hylian Field was filling her nostrils. Death Mountain’s heat was washing over her face. Her lungs were ice cold, just like they’d been in the Zora’s Domain.
In a crashing instant, all sensations ceased. The shards of the Gilded Sword were gone. And she was no longer alone in the room.
“We meet again, Lina.” There was a yellow fox behind her, one with many tails. It was the very creature that had given her the cubes in the first place. “I see you have opened up one of the cubes.”
“The Keaton... Are you here to make me answer more riddles?”
“I met a man on his way to I- no, sadly,” the Keaton admitted. “I’m here to give you what’s needed.” One of his tails was wrapped around something.
“Patience, patience!” The Keaton hushed. “If you were a little more patient...” The tail revealed the prize. “...You’d have seen it.”
Lina’s eyes widened. The Gilded Sword, whole once more. The Keaton handed it to her, and her eyes widened. There was a power behind it that she hadn’t felt in seven years, a calming echo that drowned out all of the world’s evils.
“Another sword of evil’s bane?!”
The Keaton chuckled. “It is not for you. Not anymore, at least.”
Lina winced. “Then who?”
She did not get an answer. “I must be off,” the Keaton sighed. “Nice self-control, by-the-by. Last time I gave those cubes out it was like watching a kid rip the wrappers off of candy.”
As the Keaton disappeared, Lina thought she saw that the second cube was already open. But she was so tired she couldn’t think much of it. The Cuccos would wake her up in the morning, and she would skip town before Link could start looking for Impa.
She was already halfway to the Kokiri Forest’s entrance after spending two hours awake. The second box being open was quite surprising, but its effects made some modicum of sense. The town looked like it had never suffered any fire damage.
There was no way that the town could rebuild itself in the three days her male counterpart was out of town. There was no major fuss from the townsfolk, who seemed convinced they were the greatest repairmen and women in all of Hyrule.
It had really seemed quite convenient, but she knew that what she did only served to complete the loop in time. Link would eventually gather the Sages in his second confrontation with the King of Evil, only to be returned to his childhood as Lina.
Lina grunted as she eyed a Peahat on the horizon. She knew the steps by heart, passing the tree that old owl had first spoken to her. The old bridge creaked under her feet as she crossed the threshold and through the Lost Woods.
It had all started with that little boy without a fairy. The world opened up around her, and her eyes rested on the familiar trees and houses of the Kokiri. One, two, three hops across a small pond, just as she had so many times before.
Something warm was starting to stream down her face. Lina could feel it seep into her mouth after it climbed down her cheek; it was a salty tear. She was quietly bawling her eyes out as she stared at the drawing on the trunk of her house.
The old drawing Link and Saria had drawn remained etched into the bark. She remembered passing it by so many times thinking of those times with a fond smile and a light heart. Now it was wistful. This time, there was no light-heartedness but a heavy weight around her eyes. She felt very, very tired for the first time in years.
The feeling only got worse as she shuffled over to her old bed. Lying down in it she couldn't shake the feeling she had been cheated. Of course she had been. She'd saved Termina. Saved Hyrule. Kept time in a relatively coherent line. Helped everyone find their happy ending.
And there she was, lying alone in her childhood home with a sleeping cow. She desperately wished she wasn't alone.
Malon didn't feel that great after she finished her morning run. It was like she was sick without having a fever. Her stomach was throwing fits without her throwing up, and her heart just wasn't in anything she was doing today. Even her father had taken notice.
“Malon?” Talon found her tending to one of the horses. “Malon, dear.” She didn't respond.
She sighed. It seemed like only yesterday that her life had been full of adventure and insanity. Dances, swordfights, the Gerudo, milk, and... and Lina.
Malon froze for a moment. Lina. That's why she was sick. She missed her old friend, the fairy boy. Or ranch girl, or fairy- even after seven years of dealing with the gender confusion, she couldn't figure out how to refer to Lina.
She felt like she had grown into something beyond just the rancher her father had taught her to be. Malon wasn't sure what that something was, but it had to be more than she could have known.
Talon tapped her on the shoulder. “Malon, you're in your own little world today. Are you alright?”
“....” Malon blinked. “Yes. I'm fine, dad.”
“Malon, don't lie to me. I'm your father, I know your tells.” He shook his head. “You can tell your father.”
Malon stopped tending to the horse and faced him. “I miss her.”
Talon scratched his mustache, pondering. “Lina. I have to admit things have been a bit empty without her. ...Haven't seen her in some time.”
“I just wish Ingo hadn't sent her away.”
“Now I'm wishing I knew where she was.” He sighed. “I have to make a shipment to Kakariko. Can you keep an eye on the livestock and Ingo while I'm out?” He eyed Ingo, who was across the farm and loudly proclaiming his undying thanks for being allowed to stay on as a farmhand instead of being thrown out on his ass.
“Yeah. I'll be fine.” As Talon walked away, she thought she saw a hint of gold out the corner of her eye. But it was probably a trick her mind was playing on her.
Lina polished off another bottle of milk. She'd lost track of time ever since she returned home, and she knew she was really off her game when she realized that wasn't the end of the world any more. Wasn't like a moon was going to smash into the land in six hours. Nothing of importance was really happening anymore. At least, nothing that she would be involved in.
After all, today was only the day that Ganondorf would be sealed by the Sages. No big d-
Wait, that was a big deal. That was a big friggin' deal!
She nearly dropped her glass. The end of Ganondork's- Ganondorf's would've called for a celebration on any other day.
Why not a celebration? Why not- why not go back to the ranch? It wasn't like she couldn't anymore. Lina's knowledge of what had to happen meant she knew Ingo wasn't in charge. She could finally see Malon again!
That got her out of bed. ...It would also get her to a shower. Because she reeked of old milk and sweat.
Several hours after Talon left, Malon felt a cold sweat go down her back. It felt like she was being watched. She turned, and found--
That a horse was staring at her. She smiled in relief. That always tended to happen. For a moment, she thought-
“Hello, Malon,” a male voice greeted.
Fuuuuuuuck. “...Vaati.” She needed something to bash his head in with, because she wasn't in the mood to deal with him.
“Nice weather we're having.” He was a man now, but he seemed just as scrawny as he had those years ago. “Wouldn't you agree? The cool breeze, the-”
Malon was *not* in the mood for this. “Fuck off, Vaati.”
“Tsk tsk,” he tutted. “Is that any way to treat the new ruler of Hyrule?”
“You couldn't rule my hand slamming into your face.” Said hand was already curling into a fist, as if to back up her boast.
“Ah, but it's true! See... I know things. I know that this fairy boy is on his way to my old master's castle. I know that my master is luring him in to attain the Triforce, and I know that's why he's going to die. He doesn't just throw an army at the guy or an inescapable death trap, it always has to be dungeons or the like.” Vaati grinned as he continued, “His body won't even be cold before I rise up and claim what's mine. Unlimited power, Hyrule... and you.”
Both fists were up now as Malon sent a punch right at him. “I'm no one's!”
The punch was easily caught, and Vaati began forcibly grinding the bones in Malon's hand against each other. “Maybe not yet. But you're like a wild stallion... I just have to break you in.”
Malon wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of groaning in pain, but even she had to admit her hand wasn't feeling so hot. With a moment's struggle he extricated her hand from the mage's grip before her other hand went for a body blow.
Vaati batted down her attack with his other hand, kneeing Malon in the abdomen. She doubled over in pain, only to be forced to the ground with a double-fisted downward strike to her neck. She barely had enough wind in her lungs to roll out of the way of his stomping foot.
“That's right!” He was making his way over to Malon, who had rolled into a horse stable. “Go ahead and fight! It'll just make the honeymoon that much sweeter.”
Malon pulled herself up out of the hay, grunting. Vaati was just too strong to go toe-to-toe with. And then she saw it again. A golden radiance in the corner.
She wasn't that sure it was until she took a closer look. The blade was embedded an inch or so into the dirt, but the edge seemed just as sharp as she could recall. The Gilded Blade had made its way to her.
“C'mon, hit me with your best shot,” Vaati teased. He had her cornered now in the stall. “You can't win.”
Malon wasn't going to second-guess her luck. The sword came out of the ground with a single pull, and she took a fighting stance. She felt a strange tingle up crawling up her arm, but Malon didn't consider it a bad sensation. It was empowering.
Vaati stared at the sword, perplexed. “I've seen that sword before. ...I broke it into tiny little pieces when I stabbed your friend.”
Her response was a slash towards the mage's midsection. Vaati barely backed out of the way in time, watching a piece of his outfit fall to the ground. His hand went for his rapier, knowing that the time for toying with Malon was over.
“Where did you get that sword,” seethed Vaati. “Did that bitch give it to you in her will?” He lunged at Malon.
“Her name is Lina!” She batted away the stab and elbowed Vaati in the face, giving her breathing room. “And she's twice the man you could ever be!”
Vaati chuckled as he parried another slash. “Strong words from such a weak girl!” He kept chuckling as Malon kept him on the defensive. While he couldn't go on the attack while she was like this, she wasn't landing any more hits on him.
Lina trudged across the Hylian Plain with her heart beating fast. Maybe now things would be calmer. Her gut was doing backflips with every step she took.
Her attire was the same outfit that she'd worn since leaving the ranch, managing to hold her form without anything showing. That was surprising even to Lina due to her new figure. No longer did she have the broad shoulders and musculature of her counterpart, but there were curves. She was still fit and had meat on her bones, but she lacked big pecs.
The hair was almost the same style it had been when she'd grown up to be Link; there were bangs more on the front of her face than the back, though the back was a few fingers longer than it had ever been when she was a man.
But the eyes were the greatest change of all. Even as a man, she had been a stranger in her own body- a child trapped in the form of her older self. As a woman, she was a male confined in a female vessel. But having seven years behind her, she had lost her innocence. Lina was not a cynical person, but she was no longer viewing the world through the eyes of a child. Her stare had been steeled by her repeated misfortune.
She wasn't going to have anything like that happen to her ever again. Not on her watch.
Vaati had not been smiling for some time now. Even though Malon was tired enough that he could start going on the offense, the woman was holding her own. He was not amused when he started to figure out just how much Lina had taught her.
Their blades were now locked together, both trying to position themselves favorably for when they freed themselves. “Give it up,” he spat.
“What happened to 'toying with me'?” Malon was the one grinning now, breaking the lock and continuing the duel. She was rather impressed with herself.
Now Vaati was the one who was getting mad. This was supposed to be simple, not an actual challenge! He kept lashing out at Malon, trying to wipe that smile off of her face. Strike after strike, he was on the offensive. Vaati knew Malon had to start tiring soon thanks to her own anger-induced offensive...
But Malon wasn't having any of it. After four consecutive strikes from the right, Malon rolled under the fifth and cut into Vaati's side.
There was numbness from the cut, and Vaati clutched his side in shock. Then pain. Undeniable pain. None of his lessons had prepared him for this; Ganondorf had never inflicted anything like this upon him. He couldn't help but cry out in pain.
Malon stood back up, the Gilded Blade dripping with Vaati's blood.
Vaati cursed under his breath. “I'm done with this.”
“Oh? You've finally given up?”
“No.” He reached out his hand, and a force knocked Malon off of her feet and onto the ground some yards away. “I’m done playing fair.”
Malon couldn't even get up before Vaati caught up with her; he was moving terribly fast. His foot buried itself into Malon's stomach before stomping on her head. Malon barely had enough time to wince from the pain before she went limp.
Vaati began to pick her up, placing the Gilded Blade in a sack. “That's the first step in how to break a wild Malon.” She was light in his arms, which was all he really cared about for the moment.
Something whizzed by his his head, and he immediately knew he was not alone. He turned to face his attacker, and his brow furled. “Why can't you just die?”
Lina stood at the entrance of the Ranch, another arrow notched and prepared to fire. “Put her down, Vaati.”
“After all the hell I've been through? No. I'm keeping what's mine.”
She pulled the arrow further back, and spots of light began to shine off of the arrowhead. “She's not yours, and I'll be damned if anyone says otherwise!”
Vaati began to give off a dark glow as a mark appeared on his head- an ominous red eye. “Then whose is she? Yours?” Lina remained perfectly silent as Vaati began to laugh. “Don't tell me you actually thought you'd get the girl, woman! If you want what's yours, you don't wait around for the world to give you your turn. You take it, and once you get it you can forget about everyone else.” The glow intensified, and Lina could barely see Malon or the mage. “I've got mine... so kindly fuck off and die.”
The misty glow was now opaque, and Lina finally realized what Vaati was doing. She fired off the Light Arrow into the glow, only for it to pass right through. All that was still left before her was residual magic.
He was gone.
Lina stared into the mist, approaching it with caution. Malon was gone- again- and Vaati had proved himself a thorn in her side- again. This time though? This time she wasn't going to hold back.
It was time for one last adventure, she mused to herself. Lina pulled out her Fairy Ocarina and began to play. First things came first. She needed a weapon.
The Sages all stood in the Temple of Time, staring at the chamber that contained the Master Sword's pedestal. Just moments ago, the Princess Zelda had returned to them after having delivered Link to his own time.
Saria asked the question that was on all their minds. “How did he take it?”
Zelda shook her head. “Not that well. But I don't think anyone would take it any better than she did.”
“She's right,” Nabooru interjected. “No one should have to go through that. Especially a guy like that. After all he went through, all he sacrificed...”
“Brother is strong. Brother will endure.” Darunia seemed certain of this.
Rauru looked troubled however, and Ruto noticed. “What's wrong? I mean, I know what happened was pretty bad. But we won! Ganondorf has been sealed away, and Hyrule is safe! The danger's over.”
“I fear the danger still lingers,” Rauru commented. “A shadow still lingers across the land and Ganon's armies of darkness are-”
Before he could continue, the whinny of a horse echoed. All the Sages could hear it. None would believe it. Impa stared at the entrance as the other Sages stared at each other. “I know that horse. But that can't be.”
The doors slammed open as someone in green garb sprinted into the Temple. The Sages stepped aside as the figure vaulted over the stand where the Spiritual Stones had been floating, rushing toward the sword of evil's bane.
With two tugs, the sword came out and was held pointed to the stone ceiling. There everyone could see her dressed in the Kokiri Tunic for the first time in years, Mirror Shield in hand and a serious look on her face.
Lina was just happy to have the Master Sword in her hands once more; it was like having an old friend along for the journey. She almost felt complete, but more importantly she felt like she could kick Vaati's ass.