Level 3 - (11/30) + 3
Level 8 - (50/80) + 3
Word Count: 3585
Location: Smash City Alchamoth
After registration had been completed Linkle spent most of her time remaining before departure sitting by one of the big fountains in the atrium talking with Link. With the rule Link had established between them about speaking of their different times the topic focused on their time in the World of Light, though really it wasn't so much a conversation as Linkle regaling him with everything that she had experienced since she had been freed a few days ago and Link listening patiently while occasionally stopping her when he needed something clarified or to enter a log into his Slate. Together they traced the path Linkle had taken during her journey with the help of the picture Link had taken of the map earlier, a map that Linkle had seen for the first time today. To the best of her knowledge she described every place they had passed, every battle she had fought, where members of the group had been found and where they had parted ways.
Just the story was illuminating to Link. It heartened him to know that the star of hope that Peach had spoken of during her speech was in fact a fellow Smasher, and if Kirby had somehow managed to elude Galeem's light that meant he might not be the only one. Perhaps even this Master of Master, the man that had made his presence known at the end of the presentation, who Link wasn't surprised to hear they had known almost since the beginning given how casually the man spoke to them though Linkle insisted he just talked that way to everybody. She laid out how the man could see the future and they were supposed to be on the lookout for his eye, along with his masked apprentices. He added that to his list of objectives, tapping the quest into the Sheikah Slate and making a note to keep an eye out.
His expression shifted into suspicious curiosity as the word "Persona" passed her lips, and he pressed her to tell him exactly what it was beyond a "big monster you summon that's really tough to beat." The crash course he got on what they were and what it was like to battle with one was derailed slightly when she described the devices used to summon the creatures ``like a gun, but it doesn't kill you,’’ and her further elaboration led to her repeating Micheal's lecture on guns and gun safety and pointing out the big rifle the Courier had carried into battle as an example. To Link that certainly gelled with the sound he heard before stumbling upon the dark haired boy. He asked if she knew where a Persona came from, if someone could become a Persona, and this time it was Linkle's turn to ask what he meant. He described the dark haired boy and the strange scene he had stumbled on in Lumbridge, sharing his reservations about what he'd witnessed. This led to a large disagreement, Linkle insisting that Ren was a good guy and even if he hadn't come along to fight the dragon with them like he'd agreed to she hadn't gotten the impression he was a bad guy. She told him Ren was still hoping to save an enemy that had betrayed him, hoping he was lost somewhere in this weird world, and someone like that couldn't possibly be bad. Link countered that he only seemed to consider his friends real people, so that fit with Link's impression of the boy. Linkle told him he was worrying over nothing, that maybe just agreeing to be a persona made you a persona, and he was messing up the story besides because they hadn't even made it to Lumbridge yet. He backed off at that, seeing that if he pressed too far he was headed for a real fight, but the both of them agreed to learn more about this Persona stuff when they had the time.
Back on track, he enjoyed her description of the race track junkyard and how they had pulled a bunch of karts together to cross the wasteland. It reminded him of when he had first met Bowser, Peach, and the residents of the far flung Mushroom Kingdom that had appeared and invited him to take part in what they called the Triforce Cup. He distinctly remembered the feeling of speed, the wind blowing through his hair as he wound around the corners of an expert recreation of the Hyrule castle town in it’s prime. Zelda, of course, had loved the picture's he'd brought back from the experience. She'd spent hours looking at the town that had been built around the racetrack, but more than that marveled at the technology in the karts. Those he had made sure to lovingly photograph from every possible angle just because he knew she'd have such fun dissecting them in her mind and theorizing on how they worked.
This part of the story led to another stop as he recognized the description of the bike she had ridden and it’s ultimate fate chewed up under the tires of the enemy that now inhabited Peach. “He crushed my Mastercycle?” he asked, aghast.
“That was yours!?!” Linkle said, equally aghast. “I am so sorry. I left the parts with a man in Hammerhead, right here. See.” She pointed out a rough area where she thought Hammerhead Garage was, a little closer to the Land of Adventure than Peach’s castle. “If we go back he might sell it to us, but first I have to pay off the damage I did to his shop.”
“What happened to his shop?” Link asked.
“Well, after the monster kart tried to kill us…”
She went on, describing the split in the party and the further splitting as they arrived in Lumbridge and each headed after a different quest. The battle with the fish creatures and the eerie night on the hilltop caught between an earthy monster and a decidedly unerthy one. The prophecies they had been given, and the fall of her friend Din back into Galeems hands.
“That can happen? How?” He asked urgently.
“I’m not sure.” Linkle said. “It just sort of happened. She’s okay now though.”
“You freed her?” He asked.
Linkle started to speak, but she couldn't find any words that she wanted to say on the matter. She looked away, down toward the Cucco’s milling about near the water. Not long ago they had been under the influence too, and Linkle had just been willing to let it sit. If they hadn’t been freed when they beat the dragon they’d still be trying to attack Bowser, and with the bubble popped a whole swarm could have been called down. They would have attacked until there was nothing left, one way or the other. That grim though forced the words she didn’t want to say out of her mouth. “No, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to fight her, even when I was mad. I thought if we beat the boss that would do it.”
Link thought back to his time in Lumbridge and the red eyes of the people there. “Well, that wouldn't have worked.” He said plainly.
“I know, I know.” She said quickly, trying to get off this topic. She knew it wasn’t a matter of strength that had staid her hand back then. If she’d wanted to she fully believed she could have beaten Din easy. Led her away, to somewhere no one could see the short fight, or even just acted like it was a friendly duel like with Ryu. She just hadn't been able to work up the courage to strike her friend, even if it was to save her. “I won’t let it happen again.” She said somberly. “Anyway, when I woke up the next morning…”
The Guildmaster, apparently the secret owner of a prominent Casino where Link was headed and a traitorous blowhard to boot. A group of people dressed in black, apparently free, with an agenda all their own. The trip out of Lumbridge, and their encounter with the snipers. Link requested a play by play of the encounter, nodding grimly as Linkle described every action she had seen him and the team placed on that tower by the Master Hand take. He found one thing odd about the encounter, though.
“It sounds like some people would have died if Master Hand had given us real weapons.” He said. The trophy shooters seemed good in theory, if you outnumbered the group were shooting at. In practice they turned kills into something you could recover from. He tried to picture using it to face down a group of moblins, just a half-dozen of the things, and found another problem. “Why announce what you’re doing?”
“Imagine you’re shooting at a group of monsters.” He continued. “You don’t walk up and tell them you’re going to start shooting at them now. You’re going to hide and pick off as many as you can before they realize what’s going on.”
The look Linkle gave him when he said that was disquieting to say the least, a mixture of judgement and disbelief that told him at a glance that she had never once considered that you shouldn't fight your enemy head on while screaming. He decided to spell it out for her.
“Imagine if we had already been hidden in the canyon, waiting for you guys to show up, and the moment you came into range we all fired on you at once with no warning.” He said. “Now imagine that we did that while using weapons designed to kill you.”
He watched as that scenario played out in her head, her face growing more and more nervous by the moment. “That would have been really bad.” She said, sounding slightly sick. “Whew, good thing he’s a bad guy. They love to gloat. He was probably planning to put us all up on a shelf in his house. Or his glove. Maybe a pocket? Whatever a hand lives in.”
Link, for his part, leaned back and stared out of the giant windows of the atrium at that burning bright ball of light in the sky. “Maybe.” He said. He didn’t believe it though. All fighters, please make your way to the atrium. Vandham will be selecting three teams from the reserves for scouting missions. The advance teams will depart in five minutes.”
“Yosh!” Linkle said, hopping up and stretching. “Just in time, too!”
“Yeah. Thanks for catching me up.” He said, standing next to her. “There is one last thing before we part ways.”
“Sure, name it. Just make it fact.” She replied, glancing at the people already gathering with a jittery energy.
“Call out your striker for me.”
Linkle nodded. “Imani!”
In a burst of smoke the cyclopian sniper suddenly appeared before the two, a scowl of disappointment shooting Linkle’s way. “I didn’t think I’d need to tell you twice, love, but-”
“Imani.” Link suddenly cut in with a loud, clear voice that drew the woman's attention immediately. She stared the boy down, no recognition in her face. It didn’t surprise him. For his part he had also never seen this woman before, even though they had fought alongside one another but a short while ago. Still, there was something he felt he had to say. “I’m not sorry that we lost, but I am sorry that I let you down.”
Imani and Linkle both looked at him in confusion, but something familiar in the boy's eyes spoke to the old verteran. The snipers expression softened, and she inclined her head slightly toward him as she vanished. This did nothing for Linkle, who understood the context of his actions but not the emotions that prompted them. Instead she shook her head and pointed at him, “Okay, now you have to do me a weird favor.”
Location: The Dead Zone,Argent Tower
Linkle, go getter that she was, practically jumped into the teleporter to the fabled Dead Zone she had heard so much about and it immediately surpassed all her expectations. The first thing that hit her was the smell, a putrid mixture of brimstone, rot, and mildew filled her nostrils and made her want to gag.
It was easy to see where the smell came from. The welcoming committee was nothing like they had gotten anywhere else. Grotesque little plant monsters rused at her the moment she stepped through wiggling their arms eagerly, the vanguard of a force of much larger creatures. Linkle stepped forward to meet them, intent on clearing out some space where the others could enter the room semi safely. The tips of her crossbows flashed green as she held them forward and poured a stream of bolts into the oncoming horde. The sick little things popped like balloons as bolts bored into them, exciting those around them into exploding as well in a chorus of sick, organic ruptures.
They weren't the only ones hit by the stream of bolts. Behind the initial rush of wigglers came fat, bulbose sacks that trundled forward into the stream as though it wasn’t there. Bolts buried themselves into the skin of the creatures as they advanced without a care until they could take it no more, skin ripping under their strain as they exploded. This wasn’t a victory though, as with their death they shot more little wigglers at Linkle as her stream of arrows began to die down from over exertion. She jumped before they landed, twisting in the air to look straight down where they had landed and firing again. The bolts fell like rain, forcing another string of organic pops as the group was obliterated.
As she fell back to earth she rolled in the air, her hair flashing blue as she holstered the bows in midair and landed palms to the ground. From the floor erupted a long sparkling wall of ice, jagged and sharp, that might slow the flow of the larger forms of whatever these awful plant things were. She heard the familiar crack of gunfire as well as the cracking of ice as the shots slammed into her defensive wall, but the monsters were already trying to clamor over it despite how it sliced into them. She jumped back, reflexively throwing out her hands toward the monsters and seeing shards of ice shoot out and bury themselves into the creatures Some fell, but not all, and she could hear the clamor of them coming round the side of the wall. It was working as intended though. It worked as a delay.
Then there was a heavy cracking sound as a large tentacle smashed its way through and came whipping at her. She tried to sidestep but got clipped and thrown back even then by the creature's sheer brute strength. She rolled back as she hit the ground, popping back onto her feet as the thing widened the hole it made by just stepping through it. It’s head, it’s entire upper body in fact, looked like a cauliflower made of human faces. It was the biggest of the things, and the lesser creatures were already pushing between its legs or climbing over it in their eagerness to get at them. One, that looked like it had been a man once but was now a garden for these things, lunged at her with an arm that looked like a tree root. She dodged to the side, spinning and bringing her heel around toward the man’s head. As she spun, instead of catching fire, frost covered her boot as a thick ace head of ice formed at her heel. As she slammed it into the man’s head the ice shattered like glass, sending shards flying with the force of a shotgun blast and taking the man’s head with them.
She had taken out the man, but that didn’t stop the monster. She realized that the man's head probably didn’t matter all that much as the thing took another swipe at her. She ducked it, but another thing had gotten close in the meantime and slammed down at her with a deadly axe handle from the side. She rolled past the first monster as the second slammed down and dented the floor in.
She spun, drawing her bows as she did so. The tips flashed blue as she unleashed a pair of ice arrows into the fleshy bits of the pair of them, the ice spreading out from their tips until most of the creature's bodies were covered in it. Nodding, she turned her attention back to the hole in her wall. It had widened significantly as the big one swung its arms and marched forward, the smaller pouring in like water through a broken dam around it. Linkle scowled as her hair returned to normal, her bow tips now flashing red as she swung her arms forward and rained a series of four bomb arrows around the giant creature, mulching monsters in a series of firefly explosions. It still didn’t seem like enough.
Things only got worse as the noise of the fight drew the attention of monsters outside. A giant burning beast stepped through the doorway and charged at them, but a stroke of good fortune came out of the blue as there was a sudden flash and that particular problem stopped dead in its tracks. Or maybe it wasn’t good fortune, as a figure in a black cloak revealed himself.
“Master!” Linkle called out angrily, more as a warning to the others than anything. It was the first word that came to mind. After all, the other two guys she’d seen dressed like that were both masters. She didn’t have time to dwell on his presence, though, as more of the lower forms launched themselves at her while she was distracted. She jumped forward to meet them, landing feet first on one of their chests and backflipping off of it to get back to a safer distance. As she fell back she peppered her pursuers with bolts.
Location: Inkwell Isle Three, The Edge of Blue
Linkle’s “weird favor” had been twofold. First, since he had to go by the Guild Castle to get to the Casino, he may as well deliver something for her. Linkle knew that the dead zone was full of diseases, and cucco’s certainly couldn't tell you if they were sick or how bad the sickness was. Besides, the girls seemed tuckered out from their hard day’s work and deserved a rest as much as anybody. That was how Link ended up carrying three jittery, flapping birds in his arms through the warp point Jr had created earlier and handing them off to a short, bespectacled young man who immediately began fussing over the burn marks on the things like a mother hen.
The other was also bird related. Linkle had reached into a sack and shoved some foul smelling green leaves into his hands, telling him that there was a very patient chocobo waiting at one of the gates for his reward and warning him to be careful to find the right one because Lumbridge had over two dozen gates. Just from his short time there Link didn’t believe that to be true, and that was only confirmed when he excused himself from the team for a moment and found the place within a minute. The bird was big, the biggest non-person he had ever seen, and as he approached it looked up eagerly from where it had been scratching at the ground. It looked even happier as he produced the greens.
All birds accounted and cared for Link hurried back to the Guild and joined the others in the lift.
As they crossed to the right side of the tracks and down the roads of this lively village to the wharf Link, almost unconsciously due to some royal guard instinct carved deep into his soul, stuck close to Princess Peach as she surveyed the island and the continent beyond. He also tried to commit the geography of this area to memory, mentally comparing it to the map to try and pinpoint exactly where they were just in case that had to make their way back without the convenience of fast travel. That stopped when the woman in black appeared, and he focused all his attention on her.
He only knew what Linkle had shared about these people in black, and some of that was just stuff she’d been told after the fact, but the way she kept talking made it clear she was probably the mysterious woman that had shown up to finish the battle with Gneidxick. If she were the one he’d heard about then she had already aided this group once, but she didn’t go out of the way to make herself trustworthy the way she talked. Gather a group of sacrifices to draw some kind of evil ship that they then had to stow away on? Could it be a metaphor, esoteric instructions on summoning some kind of giant sea creature to ride across the turbulent ocean to where the guardian was waiting?
“Couldn't we just slip aboard when it comes for the usual guests?” He asked the strange woman. “If they’re as monstrous as you say they should stick out like a sore thumb. Do you know where to find them?” He fully expected them to be seals or some sort of big fatty fish.