Noon had set in completely by the time Princess Zelda stepped into her private garden. It wasn’t particularly cold outside, but she shivered as if the wind blew from the very heart of winter. She attempted to wrap her arms around herself in order to expressively warm up, but her right hand refused to move from where it had been resting ever since her recent encounter with Ganondorf, the place in her dress where she had hidden the item Ganondorf was after.
The Ocarina of Time.
Actually, she had been quite reluctant to enter her garden before this moment, for some reason. Maybe the memory of her first meeting with Ganondorf in her father’s royal gardens, coupled with the encounter at the Temple of Time, made her believe Ganondorf would attack her in her own private garden…
It was silly, yes, but only half a day ago she thought it silly that the King of Thieves would ever discover she held the ocarina. She took nothing for granted now, no matter how preposterous it was.
Like Ganondorf taking over Hyrule…
The shivers returned again, and Zelda had to use only one arm again to suppress them. By the Three Goddesses, where was Link? Was he all right? Does he have the Three Spiritual Stones? Was he even alive…?
Zelda sighed, but that wasn’t enough to release the swell of emotions that came attached to her thoughts of the Kokiri. She couldn’t help herself; with each passing day…no, with each passing minute, she found it more and more difficult not to think about Link without thinking of him in a certain way. And she knew what that certain way was. She may be a princess, but she was also a girl, and every girl could tell when she experienced a certain “feeling” about a boy.
She sighed again, but it didn’t help. Unable to carry the strain of the emotional baggage anymore, she knelt down in the grass of her garden and bowed her head, her eyes closed tightly to repress the tears in her eyes.
“What is going on with me?” she thought to herself, her hands clenched so tightly her knuckles nearly turned white. “What has he done to me? Why do I feel this way when I barely even know him? What am I doing? By Din’s Fire, what is happening to me?”
Zelda wished she knew the answers to her own questions. She had only spoken and met with Link for several days at the most, and yet the feelings she had for him were undeniable. These feelings probably weren’t strong enough to warrant anything serious between her and the Kokiri, but they were strong enough to force her to consider it. Were the Three Goddesses toying with her mind, or was destiny guiding her heart without her consent?
She didn’t know. But there was one thing she knew was making these feelings harder for her to swallow: she had purposefully lied to Link. She had told him cruel, intended falsehoods in order to hide her own desires for the prize at the end of this quest, the Triforce. It was a prize she didn’t deserve, because she was doing nothing to help Link other than wish him luck and allow him to walk the treacherous path so she could walk in his wake.
She was no better than Ganondorf…
“No! I cannot allow that!”
Zelda’s scream followed the biting of her lip and escape of several tears through her tightly shut eyelids. The pain in her heart was so unbearable that she actually bent over to try and contain it. The experience was embarrassing as well as agonizing; how could one boy change her life like this? How could one boy cause her to cave in like this…?
But she already knew the answer. It was those “feelings”…
“No…” she managed to utter through the pain. “This isn’t going to happen again…I will not allow it…”
Even though she was still under the intense pain of heartache, Zelda made herself a promise there and then. She made a vow that she would do whatever she could to help Link. She would do everything in her power to earn her right to obtain the Triforce. And that meant doing what she could to stop Ganondorf and whatever insane schemes he had planned. Her efforts to prevent whatever he had planned have thus far been negligible; that was unacceptable.
That was going to change. Now. Not later, now. She was going to learn all of Ganondorf’s secrets and discover what exactly his plans were. She was no longer going to cower behind her royal status and Impa’s safeguard while Ganondorf mocked her and broke her spirit. She was going to be the predator and not the prey, the hunter and not the hunted.
And if…no, when Link returned with the three Spiritual Stones, she would tell him…no, confess to him her lies and deceits. Several times before she had told herself she wasn’t going to lie to him again. This time, she promised she was no longer going to lie to herself.
“Ganondorf,” she heard her tired mind cry, “you will not succeed with whatever you have planned. I swear upon the Ocarina of Time, I will stop you! And by the Three Goddesses, I will help you…Link! I promise you, I will help you!”
“Hurry up, boy! I haven’t got all day! I need this done as quickly as possible!”
“Need or want?” Link’s mind grumbled as he trudged through the blood-flowing river at his feet to catch up to the quick-moving Zora princess. This was the third…no, forth time she had complained about his pace, and already she was getting annoying. She hadn’t even given him time to ask any questions relating to the third Spiritual Stone, but judging by her temper and brat-like persona, asking such questions would only make her even angrier, which is the last thing he needed.
Why did Princess Ruto have to be like this? Why couldn’t she be like Saria or Zelda or Malon? But no, she had more in common with Mido than any other the girls he knew.
And Navi was still asleep, which was of absolutely no help. She might actually help him right now, but for whatever reason she had fallen asleep during his near-death experience back at the stomach and had stayed that way. It was just one more thing that wasn’t going his way today…
Sighing in frustration, Link reached under his hat and pulled the fairy into view. Yes, she was still sleeping; she was even still covered in Lord Jabu-Jabu’s spit. Her glow was slightly visible now, but the saliva still managed to contain the majority of the fairy’s pink light. Navi hadn’t even taken the time to clean herself up…
Just then, an idea entered his mind. It was a cruel one, to be sure, but Navi was asleep during a time she shouldn’t even consider such a thing. If she had fallen asleep unintentionally, then doing this was important. If she had dozed off deliberately…well, then, this would teach her a good lesson, won’t it?
Without a second thought, Link wrapped his fist gently around Navi and dipped his hand into the river of blood.
He felt a response almost immediately. Just moments after he had plunged Navi into the river, Link felt his fist snap apart and watched as a furious fay rose from the blood stream and fluttered in front of his face. He could tell she was enraged because he could see her pink glow again, and it was flickering so wildly she nearly blinded him.
“What in the name of the Three Goddesses do you think you’re doing?” the fairy demanded. “How dare you wake me up like that! If that was you’re idea of a joke, it wasn’t funny at all! How would you like it if I…?”
“Hey!” boomed a voice so shrill and so angry that Navi’s paled in comparison. “Hey, boy! What’s going on? Who’s this loudmouth friend of yours? And when did I tell you that you could stop?”
Navi, surprised by Princess Ruto’s sudden and overpowering appearance, could only mutter, “Link, who’s this?”
“Princess Ruto,” Link answered drearily. “We met quite some time ago and have been walking through Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood vessels for well over and hour now. But you were too asleep to know that.”
Peeved by the subtlety of Link’s sarcasm, Navi muttered, “So this is Princess Ruto. Quite a lively girl, isn’t she? And I suppose you’ve asked her about the Spiritual Stone?”
“And why not?”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“I said, why don’t you ask her?”
“Why do I have to ask…?”
“Go ahead. Ask her. I dare you.”
Not sure what to make of Link’s challenge, Navi turned away from the Kokiri and fluttered over to the Zora, who had her arms folded and her face in a taunt scowl. The princess didn’t even wait for Navi to reach her before she uttered, “And just who are you?”
“I’m Navi,” the fairy answered, “and I want to ask you something. Do you have the Spiritual Sto…?”
“I don’t have time for your questions, you little insect,” Princess Ruto interrupted. “There’s something I need done right now, and your friend is going to help me. Your questions are just slowing me down. So shut up and follow me. You, boy! Let’s go! Now! I don’t want to dawdle anymore!”
With that, Ruto turned around to press on, not even giving Navi a second look.
But Navi wasn’t about to be outdone like that. “Hey! I was asking you a question, you little twerp! You can’t just turn around and ignore me like that!”
“I can do whatever I want to!” the Zora stated without turning back around. “I’m Princess Ruto, future ruler of the Zoras. So I’d watch what you say, insect, because my father can punish you with just a single word. And I am not a twerp, do you understand?”
Navi started to glimmer so intensely the entire blood vessel flashed violently. “Yes, you’re right! You’re not a twerp. You’re a brat! A spoiled, pampered, wretched, little brat who can’t do anything herself and forces others to do what she wants. Yes, I don’t think ‘twerp’ is the right name for you.”
This time, Princess Ruto turned around, her eyes glaring. “What did you call me, you little pest?”
“You heard what I called you!” Navi bellowed. “And I’m not going to waste my breath saying it again, because it would be a waste of good energy on my part.”
Ruto’s blue skin started to turn red with anger. “How dare you!”
“Yes, I dare, you little twit!”
“You want to call me that again, you little gnat?”
“Of course, I do! Twit, twit, twit, twit, twit! There, are you happy?”
“Um, excuse me,” Link uttered cautiously, “is it possible for you both to stop arguing? Time is important right now and we can’t afford to waste any of it…hey, is anyone listening to me? Excuse me? Hey!”
But it was too late. Navi and Ruto were so caught up in their arguing that Link’s words went unnoticed. And Link knew they were arguing because he had dared Navi. He should’ve known better that allowing Navi’s ego to clash with Ruto’s pride like this wouldn’t be such a good idea.
Why did he have to open his big mouth…?
How much farther?
Drat it all, he was going to take longer than he had hoped. Even if he pushed himself to fly faster than he had ever flown before, he would only reach Hyrule Castle New Town in three or more days from now. He’d still meet the deadline, but just barely, all because of this sudden, unexpected and unwanted delay.
Kaepora banged his right claw angrily against the tree branch upon which he was perched, as if his claw were a foot being tapped impatiently. Nothing seemed to be going right for him, not even his need to warn Princess Zelda of the upcoming danger. Was destiny against him, or had he made the wrong choice in the first place?
“This isn’t right,” Kaepora thought to himself. “Something isn’t right. My magic warns me if I don’t do this task, Hyrule will be destroyed. And yet, why do I feel as though there is a double meaning behind this truth? Why do I feel like something must be destroyed for the Hyrule’s future to be secured? Something isn’t right, and I’m sure it has something to do with that young Mage-Bound. Oh, Link, why, o why did you leave me?”
Deciding not to waste any more time trying to resolve unanswerable questions, Kaepora ruffled his feathers before spreading his wings and taking to the skies once more. The wound in his left wing, the one caused by a hunter’s arrow last night, the one that had forced him to stop and delay his trip, throbbed and pulsated with every wave he made in the wind. But he pressed on, determined not to leave allow Hyrule’s future to fall victim to darkness’ vile touch.
If it meant starving himself in order to reach Princess Zelda, then so be it…
“What is it?”
Link hesitated when the young Zora interrupted him with her overpowering and irate tone. It wasn’t too long ago when Navi made one final insult to Ruto’s face before disappearing underneath Link’s hat. Ruto had apparently wanted to make a dive for Link’s hat so she could strangle the fairy where she lay, but lucky for Navi, Link then had the sense to talk Ruto out of it. So, instead of attacking, Ruto had simply given Link’s hat a heated glare before turning around and storming off, ordering Link to follow her.
They had been traveling through the blood vessel for what seemed like ages, and even now, when Link had decided to break the silence by asking the princess a question, Ruto still seemed fuming. He quickly decided not to ask his original question and instead ask a more neutral one.
“Well, I, uh…I was just…wondering, I guess…why is it so bright here in Lord Jabu-Jabu? The throat was pitch black, but the stomach and this blood vessel are as bright as day…”
“It’s the blood cells, boy,” Ruto answered in a rather rude tone; Link was also starting to get peeved at being called “boy” by a person roughly his own age. “Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood contains a large number of cells and microorganisms per unit volume that turn food and air into usable energy. The processes these microbes perform to carry out this task releases energy and light as a byproduct. That’s why any area that has Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood near it glows brightly.”
Link gaped in amazement, but not because of the interesting properties of Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood. He was amazed by Princess Ruto’s knowledge of such a thing. She even used words he had never heard of before. What exactly was a microorganism…?
“But believe me, this glow is weak compared to how it glowed several months ago,” Ruto continued, her voice sounding a little less irate. “For some reason, Lord Jabu-Jabu isn’t receiving the amount of nutrients he requires to stay alive, so the glow isn’t as strong. The true strength of the blood’s glow could blind someone if he’s not careful.”
“You know quite a bit about Lord Jabu-Jabu,” Link blurted out before he suddenly clapped a hand over his mouth. He didn’t want Ruto to suddenly throw a fit just because he had said something out of line…
“You’re right I know quite a bit about Lord Jabu-Jabu,” Ruto replied smirkly, as if she wanted Link to give her such a compliment. “In fact, I know more about Lord Jabu-Jabu than any other Zora in Zora’s Domain. That’s what happens when you spend a great deal of time inside this enormous deity like me. I’ve visited nearly every nook and cranny of our god, and I’m still learning a lot about him.”
Link’s eyes blinked in surprise. “You mean…you’ve been inside Lord Jabu-Jabu more than once?”
Ruto looked over her shoulder and gave the Kokiri an “of-course-was-there-any-doubt” look. “Of course I have, boy. I’ve been in here many times ever since I was little. The first time was out of simple curiosity; when no one was looking, I jumped into Lord Jabu-Jabu’s mouth while he was eating. I had to go through his windpipe in order to avoid his stomach, but I managed my way through Lord Jabu-Jabu’s body with no trouble at all. Ever since then, I’ve returned many times over the years, each time learning more and more about…”
Princess Ruto suddenly stopped and turned around to face Link. “You know, I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. I don’t even know who you are. What’s your name, boy?”
“Hmm. Well, at least she wants to know my name,” Link thought before clearing his throat. “My name’s Link, Princess Ruto.”
“That’s your name, huh?” Ruto mused. She apparently wasn’t goaded anymore about Navi’s snaps. “Well, you certainly have an interesting name, at least. Are you a Hylian? You certainly have their build…”
“No, no, I’m a Kokiri, actually,” Link interjected, this time feeling a little more sure about interrupting the Zora princess.
“A Kokiri? Never heard of them.” Ruto then turned around and continued walking again, beckoning Link to follow; Link trailed without a word. “Well, Kokiri or Hylian, I’m still surprised, surprised to find a non-Zora here. How did you manage to persuade my father to go to Lord Jabu-Jabu’s shrine?”
Link’s face grew bright red. “Well, I, uh…I…just…managed to persuade him to let me come…last minute kind of thing, actually. He was…you know, surprised, but he didn’t try to stop me…”
“Whatever,” Princess Ruto interjected. “The fact is that you’re here now, and you can help me with this little task.”
“Help you with a task? So you don’t need rescuing or anything?”
“Me? Need rescuing?” Ruto cackled loudly in her high-pitched voice. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
Link was growing more and more puzzled by the moment. “Why, the bottled letter you wrote, of course. It asked someone to come and save you…”
Ruto suddenly skidded to a halt and turned around so fast Link missed it when he blinked. The princess’ face had abruptly grown pink with irritation and annoyance, and here eyes gazed at Link as if he were a threat of some kind.
“Bottled note? What bottled note?” she demanded. “I never wrote any bottled note!”
Link leaned back, as if suspecting Ruto was about to hit him. “But…we found a note inside a bottle just inside your father’s throne room, and he said something about the note surely having your handwriting…”
“I never wrote anything of the sort, do you hear?” Ruto fumed so loudly Link reached for his hat and pulled it tightly over his head; he didn’t want Navi to come out and argue again. “My father wouldn’t recognize my handwriting if I had shown it to him personally! I don’t know who wrote that note, but it most certainly wasn’t me! And you are going to accept that right now! Do you understand?”
Link grinned; it was the kind of grin someone would wear if he knew he was in trouble and was trying to make the situation more pleasant than it really was. “Okay, okay, you don’t have to get so angry. So you didn’t write the note. We just made a mistake, that’s all. But why are you being so defensive about it…?”
“Shut up and move!”
With those heated words, Ruto turned around and stormed down the artery. Link, unable to decide what to think, hurried to catch up to her. He only hoped Navi didn’t have any words for Ruto later on, because the last thing he needed was needless bickering…
“By Farore’s Wind, the letter! I completely forgot about it! Stupid, stupid, stupid! You didn’t have to get so heated like that…then again, he would’ve learned you wanted someone to come down here for…oh, stop making excuses! You know you wouldn’t have lasted much longer down here if he hadn’t…no, just don’t think about it. Someone’s here with you, and that’s all that matters. Yes, that’s all that matters…at least I hope so…
“Still, why did you have to get so angry like that? It wasn’t necessary…
“Oh, Ruto, what in the name of the Three Goddesses is wrong with you…?”
“Princess Ruto! And don’t you forget it!”
Link winced, although it was more out of fear than disgust. “Okay…Princess Ruto, where exactly are we going?”
“To one of the main arteries. I need to get my satchel before we head to the heart.”
“Yep, it’s something I bring with me every time I enter Lord Jabu-Jabu. It carries everything I need, like food and supplies. I always leave it outside the heart because I don’t want anything potentially dangerous to fall into the heart’s main blood pools and poison the god’s entire blood supply. You know, you’re lucky I was in the heart when Lord Jabu-Jabu swallowed you, or else I wouldn’t have reached you in time.”
The Zora then seemed to erect her posture before adding, “So you had better be very grateful to me for what I did.”
Link winced again, this time out of disgust. Princess Ruto was acting like Malon, only in a way he couldn’t tolerate. She was altering personalities, changing between personas that resembled Princess Zelda and Mido, a sweet young girl and a spoiled pig head. It was really getting on his nerves.
Why couldn’t anyone he met just have one character and stick with it…?
“Here it is!” Ruto suddenly exclaimed. Link turned his attention to the princess, who was reaching for something hanging from what appeared to be a piece of loose artery wall. It appeared to be some kind of bag with a long strap attached to it, similar to the sling bags the Kokiri used when they harvested berries. This must be Ruto’s satchel.
“There we go,” Ruto uttered as she slung the large strap over her left shoulder. She then started to dig into it, looking for something. “Let’s see, where is it…?”
Link stopped just a footstep’s distance from Ruto and asked, “So, why do you need this satchel anyway…?”
“Here it is!” Ruto abruptly cried before whipping something out of her bag and into Link’s face. “Here, take this,” she told the Kokiri.
Link, puzzled, took the item in Ruto’s hand and held it out to get a closer look. It was a…dead fish? “What’s this? Do you want me to eat this or something?”
“No, you idiot. That’s a medicine fish. Its blood cleans any wound and helps them to heal faster. Just take the carcass and squeeze it gently so its skin will saturate before wiping it over the wounded area. After what your hands went through hanging onto that boomerang, I’m sure they could use a good soak.”
His hands…by Nayru’s Love, he completely forgot about them. He had been so preoccupied with Ruto’s self-importance that he didn’t even remember the cuts on his hands thanks to the boomerang’s blade. Whatever happened to that boomerang, anyway…oh, there it was. It was hanging on his belt, right between his slingshot and bomb bag. How did it get there? He didn’t remember putting it there…
Shrugging the thought off, Link turned his attention to his hands. They were, indeed, cut quite badly, although he couldn’t feel any pain. The blood on his hands were definitely his own; Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood was slightly more watery than regular blood. The cuts could definitely use a good wash. Maybe this medicine fish would help, after all.
Sighing, Link took the medicine fish and squeezed it lightly. Almost immediately, he felt liquid surge to the fish’s skin, like sponge-fungus dropped into a river. Already fascinated, Link placed the fish between his hands and started to rub it vigorously between his palms.
In next to no time, he felt pain surge through his wounds.
The pain was so intense that Link dropped the medicine fish out of his hands. Luckily, Ruto was close enough to catch the falling carcass so it didn’t enter Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood stream. The smile on her face was wide enough to humiliate Link twice over.
“I forgot to tell you,” she uttered through her toothy grin, “the medicine might sting a little. But I guess you already know that. You know, you should see the look on your face right now.”
Link merely snarled and muttered under his breath, “You little brat. If it weren’t for the fact that you were the Zora’s princess, I’d make you pay for that.”
Link knew he wouldn’t, of course; that wasn’t the kind of person he was. But saying he would did help alleviate the pain a little.
By now, Princess Ruto was laughing her head off at Link’s misfortune, which only made Link angrier. He wanted to say something, but he then noticed something: Ruto’s open satchel. The princess, distracted by her uncontrollable laughter, had left her bag open, exposing all its contents to the Kokiri.
Inside there were a few sheets of paper, a bird feather, a piece of what appeared to be food of some sort, and a bottle half-filled with water. Other than the medicine fish in Ruto’s hands, that was it. What exactly was in the bag that Ruto needed that would help them with what she needed Link to help her with? So far, the only thing she had done with it was get the medicine fish for his wounds, and she didn’t seem like the kind of person to get something just to tend to the needs of others.
But the bag also indicated something else: Ruto had written that bottled note. The half-filled bottle in her satchel matched the one now hanging from his belt perfectly – how did the bottle get on his belt? He didn’t know. It must’ve still been in his hand when he was in Lord-Jabu-Jabu’s throat, and he had put it on his belt without thinking. Why couldn’t he keep track of these things anymore? – and the paper looked about the size of the note he had found in the bottle. The feather was probably the writing utensil, and as for writing liquid…well, Ruto could’ve used any liquid found in Lord Jabu-Jabu’s body.
And if Ruto had, indeed, written that note, why had she flatly denied it, even grown completely defensive about it? What was wrong with admitting she had asked for help? Something strange was going on here. Either Ruto was lying, or he was going crazy from wading in Lord Jabu-Jabu’s blood for over an hour. It was one or the other, but he couldn’t decide which one it was…
“Okay, okay, stop laughing. He’s had enough…there, that’s better. Well, at least he got the medicine fish’s juices onto his hands. Those wounds weren’t looking very good…but did you have to let him find out about their sting like that? Well, at least he doesn’t suspect anything anymore…but what if he does? What if your little joke has…?
“Oh, stop it, Ruto. Now’s not the time to think about that. If he knows, he won’t say anything about it. He’s too scared of you to even talk to you. But in any case, let’s get this over and done with. He’s the only person around to help you, and you can’t make him too scared of you. Once this job is complete, this’ll be the last time you ever have to enter Lord Jabu-Jabu. The last time…never thought I hear myself say that…
“Okay, let’s go. It’s not too far, but just make sure he doesn’t know that. He won’t say anything. He’s too busy with the aftertaste of the medicine fish on his wounds to talk to me…”
Although the walk to the heart was a great deal shorter than the walk from the stomach artery to Ruto’s satchel, Link still felt tired by the time they reached the enormous organ. His muscles felt as stiff as petrified wood, his breath heaved with the stamina of a dying animal, and his heart – heart. Go figure – his heart pounded like an impatient drum. But even though he thought he couldn’t take another step further, Ruto refused to allow him to rest when they entered the fish god’s beating muscle.
Link had never seen the heart of a creature before – he had heard about them from Kokiri hunters, but never actually seen one – so his knowledge on the subject was very limited. Thus, witnessing the inside of a heart was even more of a mystery for the Kokiri. Roughly the size of the cavern in Zora’s Domain – he couldn’t really tell; it was a flimsy estimate at best – Lord Jabu-Jabu’s heart was entirely painted the color of the brilliant red he had seen in the deity’s arteries and veins. The heart’s walls seemed to vibrate and pulse, as if an unseen force gave them life. Platforms and crevasses carved out of the heart’s throbbing tissue were dotted along the wall, and a strong, familiar stench filled the enormous grotto. All over the floor of the heart were giant pools of blood, where graceful waterfalls of the liquid cascaded directly into them.
The Zora and Kokiri were standing at the top of one of these waterfalls, where the artery they had traveled through fed the pools directly below them. Link, with all his tiredness and stiffness, would’ve probably unwittingly allowed the rushing blood at his feet to sweep him down the waterfall if Ruto hadn’t intervened.
“Hey, get over here! I’m to your left, idiot!”
Link quickly glanced to his left, and saw Ruto standing upon one of the platforms, her arms folded with impatience and her face tight with scolding. Link, more concerned with his own safety than Ruto’s temper, used the last bit of his strength to leap from the end of the artery onto the platform. As he landed, his legs quickly gave out and he collapsed out of exhaustion.
But even then, Ruto wouldn’t let him rest. “Stand up! How can you do what I need you to do if you’re lying down like a…?”
“Oh, for the sake of the Three Goddesses, let me rest at least for a little bit!” Link pleaded. Ruto was beginning to push his patience to the breaking point, and he didn’t like it in the least. “If this task is so important to you, just tell me what it is while I rest my tired muscles! Is that such a difficult thing to do?”
Ruto glared at the Kokiri for a quiet moment before finally saying, “Okay, okay, fine. You can rest for a bit. But in return, you’re going to push yourself to do this task for me. Do you hear me?”
“What…ever…you little brat,” Link muttered under his breath before saying louder, “So what is it you want me to do?”
Ruto sniffed her nose in snobbish disgust before pointing to a point above and to the right of the platform they were standing on. Link, although tired, could make out exactly what Princess Ruto was pointing at. It was a tunnel within the wall of Lord Jabu-Jabu’s heart, but it didn’t appear to be an artery because no blood flowed from its mouth. It was quite a distance away, and didn’t seem to have an accessible path leading to it.
“You see that tunnel?” Ruto asked. “I need you to get me to that tunnel over there. It’s the only place in Lord Jabu-Jabu’s heart I haven’t explored, and I’m sure that’s where I’ll find what I’m looking for.”
“Find what you’re looking for?” Link asked through his heavy breath. “What exactly are you looking for…?”
“That’s not important!” Ruto interrupted rather loudly. “What’s important is that you are going to get me there. That’s all I need you to do.”
Link raised his eyebrows in puzzlement. “Why can’t you get there yourself? You seem to be pretty proficient in getting around Lord Jabu-Jabu…”
“I’ve already tried, you stupid clod,” Ruto snapped. “But that tunnel has no footholds or platforms to make it easily accessible, and there are no blood vessels that lead there. The only way to enter that tunnel is by scale the walls, and that’s what you’re going to do to get me there.”
Link blinked in disbelief. “You want me to…? Excuse me, Ruto…”
“Fine, Princess Ruto.” Now it was Link’s turn to grow irate. “How do you expect me to get up there? How do you expect me to climb up there when you couldn’t?”
Ruto gave Link a sly smile. “I don’t know, but I’m sure you can come up with something.”
When he heard that, Link gaped so widely he could’ve swallowed his disbelief whole. “What? You…don’t know how…I’m supposed to get up there…and yet you want me…to find a way up there?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Tell me…are…you…serious…or is this a joke of some sort?”
Ruto’s smile fell into a frown. “I never joke, you foolish wart. I am dead serious about this, and you will take it just as seriously. Now get to work figuring something out before I decide to get someone else to help me.”
That did it. Link’s tolerance of Ruto’s cheekiness snapped in two, and his temper shortened to the size of Navi’s wingspan. He wasn’t going to take this anymore…it was just too much. This ungrateful little brat had given him nothing but grief since he had met her, and she was apparently enjoying it. That was going to stop! Right…this…minute…
No, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute…what if he…? She wouldn’t approve…but was it the only way? Yes. So will he do it?
Forgetting his fatigue, Link stood up and shuffled his way to the wall of the deity’s heart. He used one of his hands to feel its surface; just as he had hoped, the heart’s wall felt soft yet firm, just like the stomach wall. Smiling, Link turned around to face Ruto, who was still scolding the Kokiri.
“Princess Ruto,” Link uttered, “I think I’ve found a way to get you up there, but I just need to confirm something. The wall of Lord Jabu-Jabu’s heart…it feels very soft, but is it strong?”
Ruto jerked her head back in gentle surprise. “What do you mean? Of course it’s strong.”
“Excellent,” Link mused before breathing in a deep sigh, as if preparing for an incredible feat of some kind. “Then everything is ready.”
The princess blinked rapidly. “Excuse me? Ready for what?”
“You’ll see,” Link answered, his smile still folding firm. “I just need you to do two things for me. First, I need you to get on my back.”
Now Ruto was really confused. “Why?”
With those words, Link knelt down and motioned for the princess to get onto his back. Ruto, unable to argue the bizarre request, strolled over toward the Kokiri and gently climbed onto his back. As she wrapped her arms around his neck, Link stood up and allowed the Zora to wrap her feet around his waist.
“There. Are we comfortable?” Link asked.
“Hardly,” Ruto answered curtly. “But what was the second thing you want me to do?”
Link’s smile turned into a toothy grin. “Three words: Hang…on…tightly!”
Before Ruto could ask what that meant, Link reached behind him and drew his sword from its sheath before taking his boomerang in the other hand. He then took a deep breath before breaking into a run towards the edge of the platform in the direction of the tunnel. Princess Ruto screamed for Link to stop, but the Kokiri paid no heed to her, even when she tried to choke him with her arms.
As Link reached the edge of the platform, he made one of the biggest jumps he had ever made. Ruto shrieked in terror as the two sailed through the air alongside the heart’s wall, but just as she was about to scream a second time, Link made his move. He took the boomerang in his left hand and, with all his might, sank it into the wall next to him. He immediately started to pivot around the boomerang because of his momentum, but as he reached the top of the swing, he plunged the sharp blade of his sword into the wall.
He stopped swinging instantly, leaving the Kokiri and Zora hanging by a boomerang and a sword against Lord Jabu-Jabu’s heart.
Ruto, after recovering from the shock, immediately started to cry out in anger. “By Din’s Fire, Farore’s Wind, and Nayru’s Love, what are you doing, you idiot? You nearly got me killed! How could you do something so stupid? And on top of all that, you’re hurting Lord Jabu-Jabu by piercing his heart wall! I demand…no, I order you to get me down right now!”
But Link wasn’t listening. Instead, he gathered up his strength so he could swing upward on his sword. When he gained enough momentum, he removed his boomerang from the wall and then returned it to the wall when he reached a higher point. He then did the same with his sword, and continued to alternate as he climbed upward. It was tiring, yes, but he was determined to make it to the tunnel just to spite Ruto, who was still screaming her head off.
“How dare you! You’re just hurting Lord Jabu-Jabu even more! I order you to stop this immediately! Do you hear me? Are you even listening? Stop this at once and get me down! If you don’t, I’ll order my father to have you fed to Lord Jabu-Jabu for real! Get me down! Get me down…!”
The climb took longer than Link thought, and he was dead tired by the time he reached the lower lip of the tunnel, but he dared not show his weariness in front of Ruto. He wanted her to see just how much he didn’t like her.
Ruto had been nothing but a hindrance to his climb. She didn’t stop screaming or yelling even once during the entire climb, and she had done everything she could to persuade him to stop his ascent. She tightened her grip around his neck, punched him in the stomach with her fists, rocked up and down against his back, and even bit his ear with her razor-sharp teeth. To say the experience was unpleasant was an understatement.
Through this entire ordeal, Link had only grown more and more determined, but he had also started to collect a great deal of anger. He couldn’t wait until he had the opportunity to express it.
In her face, no less…
When they reached the lower lip of the tunnel, Link used one final swing to grab the lip and haul him and Ruto into the tunnel. He crawled a short distance into the tunnel before standing up and stretching his sore and fatigued muscles. He breathed to heavy sighs of relief before returning his weapons to his person.
It didn’t take long for him to realize Ruto was still on his back.
“How dare you! How dare you do such a thing to Lord Jabu-Jabu! And how dare you drag me into it! When this is over, I’m going to make sure…well, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but you’re not going to like it! I’ll make sure of that! Now, I order you to put me down this instant…”
Link had complied with Ruto’s request, but not in the way she had wanted. Link just took his arms and shoved her backwards off his back, as if she were nothing more than a bag. Ruto, surprised and enraged by this treatment of her royal character, stood up to confront the Kokiri.
“You really are pushing your luck, aren’t you? If I didn’t need you to get me down from here, I’d throw you off this tunnel right now so you could break your little neck from the fall. I just wish I could see your face when you…hit…the…”
Ruto fell silence when Link turned around. His kind, gentle face was gone, replaced by a look of dark hostility and menace. He glared at the princess as if she were nothing more than an insect that needed to be disposed of. It was so eerie that even Ruto couldn’t say anything in response to it.
“Princess Ruto?” Link asked in a plain voice.
When he emphasized that last word, Link took his right hand and slapped it so hard against Princess Ruto’s face that she fell to the ground like a rag doll. The force of the blow was so strong that tears started to stream from the princess’ eyes. She looked up and found the Kokiri standing directly over her, his eyes glowering at her like a demon.
“L…L…Link…” Ruto started, not realizing it was the first time she had personally addressed Link by his real name.
“Listen and listen well,” Link interrupted in an almost cruel tone. “I have had it up to here with your constant whining and stuck-up attitude. You may be a princess, and I may only be a Kokiri, but that’s no excuse to treat me like a piece of dirt and expect to do everything you say. I have feelings too, just like you do; although I can hardly tell by the way you act whether you actually have feelings.
“ ‘Do this, boy,’ ‘do that, boy’…I’m getting sick of it! If you had just asked nicely, I would’ve helped you without a second thought. But no, you forced me to help you and expected me to do things within a set frame of rules. Well, princess, sometimes rules have to be broken for things to get anywhere. Sure, that climbing must’ve hurt Lord Jabu-Jabu, but those wounds will heal; and realize there was no other way to get up here. Hear me? No…other…way!
“Now, if you haven’t been listening to what I’ve just said, listen to this. There’s going to be a little change of guard, princess. From now on, we do things my way! If I need your help, I’ll ask for it. We are going to get whatever you came here for, and then we’re getting out of here. That’s it! Nothing else! Understood?”
Ruto, in all her shock, could only manage a weak nod of acknowledgement.
“Good! Now, follow me!” The Kokiri then turned around and started to march down the tunnel. As he did, he heard a familiar voice underneath his hat.
“Boy, you sure know how to take charge of a situation. Might I ask where you got such a temper?”
“Navi, you have no idea…”
“Unbelievable. It was just…so…un…believable.
“He actually talked back to me! No one has ever done that to me! No one! How and where did he find the courage to do such a thing? Why hadn’t she broken him? How…why…what…?
“But you know…you do deserve it. It’s about time someone told you that something was wrong with you. But I never thought it would hurt like this…I mean, I’ve never felt this kind of pain…this kind of…heartache. This is the first time I’ve been…degraded like this. I’m a princess! I shouldn’t be ordered around!
“But remember, you do deserve this…
“There’s something special about this boy…no, this Link. He had a lot of guts to face me down, even after everything I did to him. I really shouldn’t have bitten his ear, but…the charade…I had to keep it up…I have to keep it up…or do I…?
“Does he know? Does he even suspect…? I don’t know…but does it even matter anymore…?”