Link opened his eyes and looked down at Jacqueline, "All of that happened while you were dead? So that's how Fi was able to open your defenses..." Fi nodded, "Miss Jacqueline was able to foresee what was to come and requested I aid her in the recovery of the sacred power to save Hylia's incarnate. Should the spirit maiden perish, Miss Jacqueline would have as well. This was the only viable option to choose that would cause the least amount of damage. Using the sacred power against her in her corrupted form would give her enough control over herself to make independent thinking before the Imprisoned could force her to do anything against her will."
He shook his head, "But what about being one of the monsters? Wouldn't the Imprisoned have been able to take the darkness already?" He felt Jacqueline move, and he felt a sudden lump in his throat; he had forgotten she was still alive. Immediately shame overcame him, and he held her reassuringly. Her eyes were open as she kept close watch on the conversation. Zelda nodded, "Jacqueline was already controlled by the darkness, so the Imprisoned has been stealing her energy away from her. In the present, He will be close to being resurrected, and the world will be destroyed."
"Then all is lost..."
"That is not so." A new voice entered, and Impa limped up the stairs. Zelda ran to her and embraced her, "Oh Impa, I am so sorry. How do you feel?" The woman nodded, "I am better; Jacqueline did not injure me as much as I assumed she would. It seems she was still fighting for control, even to the end, it seems." She looked down at the dying young woman and sighed, "It's a shame one had to die so that all others would live."
Link looked to them, "But why? If you hadn't really been fatally wounded, or Zelda had faked being dead, what was the point of it?"
"...To....fool....you..." Jacqueline's voice was quiet, and all eyes went to her as if she had shouted. Link gaped, "Trick me? But why..." Impa walked forwards and placed a hand on his shoulder, "Your feelings for Her Grace were predictable, Chosen One. If she had been captured and kept alive, you would have kept your priority on saving her instead of the real threat. And so, you needed to be tricked into believing there was nothing left to do but destroy the monster."
"But...why?" Zelda exchanged looks with Impa, and Jacqueline shuddered in a breath. "...Because...I needed...to be killed..." Link shook his head, "No, no no--the vision said that if you died, the Imprisoned would get all of His power returned! This hasn't achieved anything! How could you...all of you...do this to me? You made me do this to you!"
Jacqueline sighed out deeply, and she swallowed. She closed her eyes, "...I know...I'm sorry......you had...to show no mercy to me...to the monster...if we would have a chance at saving the present...you see, the sword has to stay inside of my body for another reason...do you remember the purpose of the Sacred Flames....?" Link blinked, "It was...to strengthen the blade to fight off evil..." She nodded and looked to Zelda, "And if...he got all of the flames....he could come to this time-period...and you would bless the sword."
Zelda nodded, "Yes...yes, that's the purpose of the blade--the sword will be able to repel all form of evil and corruption..." Impa nodded, "A regrettable, but ingenious plan, Jacqueline...Your Grace." Jacqueline laughed and coughed up crimson, "Oh...don't you 'Your Grace' me, you idiot..!" She convulsed and Link sat her up more comfortably. She sighed, "Thanks...still, it's almost time, Zelda." The blond nodded, "Yes...however, it is not yet time to bless the blade."
The false spirit maiden grinned, "Yeah...thought you might say that...works for me, I guess..." She looked over to Link, "It was a stupid thing to do, Link, and I know...you won't forgive me for that....I don't really care, either...at least we get to have one last adventure together, right?" Link was about to protest, however something held his tongue, and he held one of her hands. "...Yes, at least one more." Jacqueline looked over to Fi, "...Go ahead and...tell him the rest of the story, Fi...show him the rest of it all..."
Fi nodded and began to glow.
~~~~~~~~~The Recent Past: Ten Days Prior to Present~~~~~~~~~~~
I stumbled along the pathway, leading me to the broken temple and to where Old Impa was. My teeth were chattering, and I struggled along with each footstep threatening to drag me down to the soil. I held myself together, arms crossed and pulling at the sleeves of my outfit. I tripped over a root and gasped sharply, adrenaline coursing through me and keeping me going, however it did little to help with the chilling cold.
The crumbling temple stood tall over me, and I shoved one of the doors open, stumbling in and staggering to the steps. Impa sat, watching me from afar and made no move to help, however from the expression she was making, she knew I was struggling. "Your time is drawing nearer, fated child," she said, and I grumbled in reply, "Gee, you think? Faron turns me away with a sniff and Link has to go through those temples by himself. What am I going to do, Impa? I don't have any time left! I'm going to turn into one of those...those...things! I don't want to turn..."
Impa nodded slowly, "I know, my child, however this cannot be prevented. I am sorry you must go through this on your own; I understand trials similar to this, however I have never known for an innocent to transform completely into one of Demise's creature...still...."
I waved one of my hands impatiently, the other arm wrapped around myself and bundling the sailcloth to me in an effort to keep me warm. "Yeah yeah yeah, blah blah, I'mma turn into a freak of nature--what can I do to prepare for this? I've pretty much been asked to die for a world that could care less about whether I exist or not! Do you know how that feels!" The old woman looked at me for a long while. "...No, my dear, I do not. I can understand your grief, and your fear, my child...I will do what I can to take this cup of suffering from you in exchange for imbuing you with the knowledge you'll need to keep the sacred power from falling into Ghirahim's hands."
Sighing, I shook my head and felt a wave of revitalized cold tear through me, and I redoubled my quivering. "So--ungh...tell me what I need to do...where do I need to go?" The old woman looked to the slab of stone that had once formed the gateway back to my world. It wasn't open yet. "When you transform, you will be beckoned to open the way into the past and obtain the last of the sacred power located in the distant past. In order to assist in safeguarding this, you must attempt to warn the Great Windfish god that is located within Thunderhead, the great colosseum of clouds that you were forbidden to enter beforehand. Time is of the essence, now, and we cannot afford to mix rules--measures are desperate now. You must go, quickly, before darkness infests what little hope there is left."
"Wait--what if I come back, and I'm evil? Won't I hurt you?"
"Nay, child; evil does not perceive a helpless old woman as a threat. You will be more as a driven creature than one of true malicious intent. Now go. Go to Levias, tell him what is to come, lest the natural calamities and darkness has already affected his realm as well!"
"Wait--how close is the world to ending? Please tell me there's time!"
The old woman eyed me, "That is the least of your worries, child, however the World Degeneration--as you named it--is close at hand. The barriers of keeping this realm stable have begun to collapse over the long period of degradation that it took for you and the Chosen to come this far along."
"No, I mean how much time do we have?"
"....Days, child. Now go." I swallowed hard; if days were all we had, Ghirahim would waste no time trying to find a way to unlock the Imprisoned and cover the world in chaos. Hastening my pace, I ran for the entrance. Before I left, I heard Impa call after me: "May the Goddess go with you!"
I sighed and exited the temple.
Soaring high above the clouds, I clung to the Loftwing. It squawked in worry and was heading towards Skyloft, the only source of light other than the moon to path our way. I shivered and panted in the cold of my heart and from the tossling winds. There were a few guards flying around in the air, lanterns atop of their Loftwing's heads to help them see. My Loftwing ducked low, unnoticed and towards the Academy.
I practically fell off and collapsed hard against the ground, paralyzed by the freezing coursing through me. I curled up and attempted to warm myself, rubbing my arms and holding myself together. When the spasm passed I got up and opened one of the doors to the building, sneaking inside and shutting it quietly behind me. I headed towards the one that would be able to help me at this hour, and who I knew would be up and awake.
Knocking on his door, I waited for Fledge to answer. He opened it and blinked with surprise, "Jacqueline? By the gods, we've all been worried--"
"No...no time..." I collapsed and he immediately helped me back up. I winced; he'd gotten very strong. "Jacqueline, what's wrong--yow! You're freezing! Are you cold? Do you need to sit down--"
"Fledge, I need your help...get me a potion...please..."
The boy was uncomprehending, but desiring to help all the same. He nodded several times, "R-right...um...what kind?"
"Stamina potion...please, hurry..." He took one from a dresser and uncorked it, handing it to me. He put a blanket around my shoulders and I wrapped it around me gratefully, holding the bottle in one hand and taking long swigs from it. My shivering gradually began to die from the invigorating energy, however I could still feel the taint getting stronger. The blanket helped, despite the darkness; I figured it was a piece of sentimentality inside of the blanket. I gulped down another mouthful and sighed, "Thanks," and wiped my mouth with my arm. Fledge sat on the edge of the bed next to me, looking at me worriedly. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
I shook my head, and he nodded several times. "All right...gods, you're really pale. Are you okay, Jacqueline?" I continued drinking the potion, eager for every drop there was for me to sip up. When I finished, I handed the bottle back to him, "No; I got sick, and I came here to pick up a few things before I have to go to get a cure for it. If anything, this is a minor setback. Nothing to worry about."
"Okay...you're just really cold, and you look--"
"Pale, you said that." I growled a little more irritably than I needed to, and I felt some regret from doing it to my friend. Still, the less he knew, the better things would be. I looked at the shuttered window, "Are the winds still bad?"
Fledge nodded, "Nothing's been attacking us since the Wing Ceremony, but the winds are really bad; barely anybody can get to the Lumpy Pumpkin, and we have to be brief when we're going about business during the day. The Headmaster has been putting together a scheduled week standard that everyone has been abiding by, such as we must return to our homes and rooms before sundown, and we're advised not to remain outside for more than fifteen minutes, if the weather is good. I think he's worried that some of us may end up like Zelda did." I nodded; it was understandable for a schedule to be put in place, and it kept the people calm, not to mention it would give Gaepora something to do. I got up and headed for the door. There was no time to waste.
A hand closed around my wrist and I stumbled as my speed carried my body further, but my wrist remained in Fledge's grasp. "Jacqueline, where are you going?! You're not well, and you need to rest!"
"Fledge, this is contagious; I'm sorry I had to risk you, but I need the energy that can get me to where I can get cured, and then I can come back!" Lying to him was getting easier, and I could feel rage beginning to boil my blood against my consent. I felt myself begin to panic. I didn't want to hurt him, but I couldn't stop my other hand from balling into a fist and getting ready to swing. Fledge's grip faltered, but held my wrist loosely this time. "Jacqueline...is this the last time I will get to see you?"
All anger collapsed and I stared ahead at the door. His voice came again, "Are you hiding how sick you are...?" I almost smiled; Fledge was a lot smarter than most had given him credit for, including myself. I had remembered how my father had told me how dogs, when incredibly ill, would run off and die alone, away from their owners or anyone they had come to like. I sighed, "I am...very sick, Fledge. Something happened on the Surface, and I don't have a lot of time left. If I can still do something to help you guys out, I'm going to do it. And you can't stop me." I took my wrist out of his hand as he reluctantly stood back. His eyes were full of tears; I smiled at how soft he was. "This is probably the last time you'll get to see me, Fledge. I'm not coming back up here after I leave."
Silence stretched between us, and Fledge nodded. "...I understand...I wish I'd gotten to see you more often, Jacqueline."
"I wish things had been different too, Fledge," I said quietly, "but my place isn't here. You've all been very good to me, but I have to go." The downcast boy sat down on the bed heavily, and I stood awkwardly in front of him. I looked at the empty bottle that had once been filled with the juices of a stamina fruit, and then I looked back at him. "Hey...do you have paint or something?" Fledge looked up, and went to his supplies. There was something like acrylic-wax that was used in art that he took out and handed it to me. I took the piece and picked up the bottle, sketching something upon it. "What is it?" Fledge watched me as I drew. I smiled and handed it to him.
"Now I'll be here whenever you need me." It was a stick-man with fairy wings and a small speech bubble that had an emoticon of a smiley face in it. Fledge looked at it curiously, unsure of what to make of it. "It's...nice, Jacqueline. It is strange, but it gives off a warm sense of hope." He did his best to smile for me, and I accepted it, patting his shoulder. "I need to get going...take care of yourself, Fledge, and keep up the workout. You're looking good."
Fledge blushed, "T-Thanks, Jacqueline..." I gave him back the bottle and left the wax next to the door as I opened it and exited his room. I looked around the dark halls, feeling a sense of nostalgia wash through me; this truly would be the last time I would be here. I took some time walking in the dark through the halls, and climbed the stairs slowly again, back the way I had come. I looked from door to door, seeing the names of the Academy students etched on each one. I went to Zelda's room and opened it up, looking at the contents. Everything had been put back where it had been originally; tidied up, cleaned, and dusted. I sat down on the bed and stayed for a few minutes to collect my thoughts before I left the room again. Link's room was across from hers, and I went to it. I took my sword and etched "J A C Q" on the template. I smirked; it was prehistoric graffiti at best, but who was keeping tabs on it? I brushed away the wood to smooth it and gasped as a splinter got in my thumb. I grumbled and nursed my finger as I went along.
The Headmaster's doors loomed before me, but I didn't want to intrude. They would be locked regardless. POINTLESS. I shivered and clutched my head as I heard His voice boom through my mind. There was laughter, but He spoke nothing else. I rushed outside and left the Academy behind, trying to make my way to one of the platforms. I didn't see where I was going and crashed into something, falling back. "Ow!" I rubbed my head and looked up to see someone towering over me. I blinked, "...Batreaux?"
"Jacqueline! What a pleasant surprise! You know, I've been feeling exceptionally good as of late and--what's wrong?" I stood up and shivered, "It's nothing--what are you doing out here?"
Batreaux smiled in the dark, "Well, my dear, it is nearly time for my transformation from demon to man! So many people here have been grateful to yours and Link's efforts that I can feel the gratitude simply washing over me like a cleansing fire! It was a lovely evening, so I decided to take a walk! The beasts and monsters seem to be a bit more anxious, too, so as you can see..." He swept his arm to the side and I noticed all sorts of Keese, evil little cat-lemurs, and assorted natural monsters crawling all over the town. "How in the world...nevermind, doesn't matter now. Batreaux, I'm in a serious rush, and I need to get going."
The demon frowned, "Well I certainly can sense the fear coming from you, my dear; are you well? You certainly don't sound, look, or feel like you should be up and about! Why don't you go wrap up in one of my blankets and we'll get you some hot soup?"
Anger was bubbling up again and I gritted my teeth, "There's no time for soup, Batreaux...I just need to get going!"
"Not with your condition, you are not! Jacqueline, you are as pale and cold as the moon over a desolate land of snow! You must rest--"
"NO! You know something? You know what you need to do? Get out of my goddamn face!" It burst forth from my lips, and I was suddenly breathing hard and I was frigid and steaming all over, my body trembling with anger. Batreaux's face flashed with surprise and hurt, and he had gone silent. I felt the urge to berrate him more, but suddenly I felt his claw on my shoulder and I could feel my anger turning to shame. "...What...oh no, Batreaux, I am so sorry..."
The demon soberly nodded, "It is all right, my dear...I know what you are suffering...and you are right; every moment you waste is needless. We must get you to where you need to go...I am sorry, Jacqueline. You were a good student of mine, and a dear friend." I hugged my friend, "I've been like a jerk lately...I don't know why I'm getting so mad so easily..." Batreaux patted my back, "I do, my dear, however I can feed on your rage and keep you calm for the time being, but even my powers will fail at what is coursing through you presently." He looked up at the moon, "It is best if you leave your Loftwing here tonight; it will not be able to make the journey. You would fall before you made it."
I looked up at him, "Then what do I do?" Batreaux nodded, "I will take you there instead; I can fly, however I've been cooped up in my little hut for so long I haven't dared come out because the patrolmen might see me and alert the people. And then all I will have worked for will be lost." I nodded, ironically feeling like I was in the same boat with him. "But you can fly, right?" Batreaux nodded, "Quite right, my dear. Now, let's get you to your destination." He walked with me to the platforms and carried me on his back as he spread his large, leathery wings and took off into the air.
We jostled at first and the wind currents caused us to bounce and veer in the air, but soon enough Batreaux got the gist of flight and soared comfortably. He laughed, the wind drowning out the sound. "It feels good again to fly! Ah, Jacqueline, where are we going exactly?" I pointed, "Head for that beam of light, right over there in the dome. We need to pass through there." Batreaux glanced up at me, "The Thunderhead? Aaaah, I see. Very well, onward ho!!" He propelled us forwards under the moonlight, flying alongside the beam. Dark shapes were flitting around the entrance to the Thunderhead, and I recognized the strange bug monsters from before. "Do not worry, Miss Jacqueline, they will not attack us; they cannot tell us apart from their own kind." Batreaux safely carried me through the opening and into the dome. I gaped; there were many floating isles, however the inside of the Thunderhead was flashing bolts of lighting all around like the inside of an electricity ball you'd find in toy stores. Batreaux alighted on a small isle littered with flowers and set me down. "I believe you will be needing this, too." He handed me a small corked bottle of pumpkin soup. I arched an eyebrow, "What is this supposed to be for?"
The demon shrugged, "Well, the spirit here loves pumpkin soup; it's a strange notion that I was aware of, but it didn't seem important at the time. Now, you're going to need it."
"How...big is this spirit, anyway?"
"Quite large. It is a windfish, after all, one of the largest creatures known to history on this world. It is likely it will be the largest, regardless of history to come." I took the bottled soup and looked skeptically up at him. "And you're sure it's going to smell this?"
The demon smirked, "If we wished to feed it, we would have brought a much larger amount. However, you merely need to summon the spirit. Uncork the bottle when you are ready, and it will summon the windfish." I nodded and set the bottle to the side and stood silently with Batreaux. "....Thanks, Batreaux. I guess this is it?"
He nodded, "I suppose so, my dear. Regardless, I truly am indebted to you for starting the path to my transformation, and I will never forget this deed. I am very grateful, Jacqueline." I nodded and felt a lump in my throat; all of the farewells I had to make were making me sad, and I didn't want to feel worse than I already did. "I won't forget you, Batreaux. Keep everyone safe for me, please." The demon nodded and flew out of sight, back to the opening of the Thunderhead.
I sat in the flowers, alone to myself with no way back. Somehow I didn't feel like I would need a Loftwing or anything to come get me. I sighed and took the bottle, uncorking it and allowing the heated aroma to escape from the bottle. It smelled wonderful; the spices were comforting, and the pumpkin-meat smell made me hungry for a hearth and a quilt.
And my family. I thought of them, and everything that had led up to my running away. I thought of my childhood, of Thomas, of Thomas' accident, and my lust for revenge as I made phonecalls and texts to anyone that I knew about the one that had hurt him, and when I had found him, I had taken one of my father's golf clubs and beaten the man with it. I had been so enraged that I hadn't even considered covering my hands or using something unrelated to my family to do it. All I could do was satisfy my urge to hurt, to get even. When I had realized what I had done, I had tossed the club away and made a run for it. By the time I had gotten back to my house, police were already there. Afraid, I snuck into the back door and had tried to get to my bed, but my parents discovered me before I go too far. I had yelled at them and accused them for calling the cops on me, playing me to be the 'bad guy', however I had realized too late that the police were merely to locate me, since my parents had gotten worried. My secret had come out, and my father told me to get out of the house while my mother standed by and said nothing. I accused them of siding with the bastard that had run after hitting Thomas with their truck, and many other things I didn't remember that I knew had been meant to hurt them. I was thrown out of my house once the police had left, and I went to live on my own with money for a bus and a destination in mind. I was given funds to an apartment and a room key that I returned shortly after moving to a college instead, using loans and grants to pay my way. I was still in a lot of debt, and even now I worried about it. I grinned, "How can I be worried about money at a time like this...?" I sighed, thinking of Thomas in the hospital. How much of a recovery was he going to make? When he had woken from his coma for a moment, he didn't know who I was and passed out the next moment. "What if he's forgotten me entirely..." I ran my hand through my hair and sighed; that didn't matter now. There wouldn't be much of 'Jacqueline' left soon enough.
There was a deep beating sound, and I looked expectantly over the edge of the floating isle I was on, looking for anything that moved. I saw a massive form rising from the clouds, majestic and looking like a winged whale. I stood back as the windfish ascended and became level with my isle, giant eyes piercing down at me; they were even more intense than Owl-Brows when I had first come to Skyloft. I summoned up my voice as best I could and picked up the bottle.