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A City of Strangers

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Hyrule was completely, utterly, and irrevocably lost. And for once, it wasn’t entirely literal. The city was just so, so big. There was no other word for it, if there was it was lost on him as he marveled at the towering buildings and soaring towers, the crowded streets and clamouring crowds. Everything was massive, as if some giant had haphazardly snatched the world at its seams and pulled , scaling the world up vertically and cramming the people and buildings and walkways closer together. It was bigger than the castle, larger than any town, or village, or forest he had ever seen - even in all their traipsing around and across time. 

The cacophony of the busy market bored into his ears and overwhelmed him, the sense that he was trapped, he needed to get out, he needed to be able to- growing despite his lack of options to do so. 

A tap on his shoulder and a tug on his hand pulled him out of his thoughts slightly. Shoulders tugged up to his ears and his bag clutched in a death grip beside him, he let himself be pulled along by the blue-gloved hand.

He could barely see his rescuer, the crowd’s commotion all but obsuring him. A small flicker of blue here and there and the comforting press against his hand grounded him as he let himself be dragged along. Absently, he heard a few gasps from the throng around them, and a path parted. With a kind but rough push and enough platitudes to serve an entire court, Warriors pulled him past the cluster of babbling streetgoers to emerge in a small alley. 

Hyrule let go of his hand, face flushed as he muttered a quiet apology. His companion scoffed as he straightened his tunic.

“Nonsense, you should have seen Sky’s face when he showed up here.” Righting his scarf and casting a furtive glance up the alley, Warriors led him further away from the square. 

A few messily laid cobblestones tripped them up as they walked, the quickly fading daylight doing nothing to help. No matter how many of these towns Hyrule saw, he never got quite used to them. The streets meandering and curling this way and that, mimicking the very weeds that grew between the stones. The buildings towering above his head, to heights completely impossible if not for the camaraderie of those surrounding them, each supporting the other in a grand display of solidarity.

They changed, of course, evolving over time as the kingdom grew and shrank, flourished and fell. It was awe inspiring, to see what the world had the potential to be. It was intimidating, to see what the world used to be. 

It was interesting, truly, how much of a product of their times they all were. They may have shared that same spirit, that small spark of hope and confidence and bravery, that drove them all to do good and do it recklessly. To embrace it without abandon and dedicate themselves to helping as many as they could. Even if they didn't want it. Or appreciate it. Or know of it. But despite that common base instinct, that absolute dedication to being good, they all were still their own people.

Each with their own instinct and motivations and methods. Each with their own history and family and, well, Hyrule. One that shaped them, in the ways that you don't notice until you finally get that outside perspective, although he was pretty sure that most people didn't experience that through literal time travel. 

But he saw it, in the little ways Four watched the forest at night, Wild remained on edge when they met a traveler on the road, Wind lit up when they found those rare bodies of water deep inside the more landlocked Hyrules.

He saw it, in the way Time relaxed when they spent the night in a village, instead of the unending road of their journey. In the way Sky always looked to the air, and found relief in the birds as they danced about the sky. Those tiny details of their worlds that screamed normalcy, that all was right.

The way Warriors remained on edge, even as he led him through that crowd. Kept his guard up, even as he guided him back to the group, weaving their way from alley to street, tossing out hellos to unknown faces and shrugs to unheard questions. It was strange, sometimes, how such drastically different homes could produce such similar people. How isolated one could be in a place so overflowing with life and culture and people. 

Because somehow, despite all that, one could still end up totally afraid.

It seemed strange, now that he noticed it, that he hadn't seen it before. It so clashed with their view of him, but maybe that was exactly why. Hyrule was so used to being the odd one out, the one who's world was... well, different, to put it lightly. It wasn't until he followed him back through those wandering paths that he realized how exactly uncomfortable Warriors was, skeptical and wary despite his cheery voice as he explained where he had left the others. It wasn't until then that he realized how much of an anomaly Warriors' time was, a full and flourishing world that thrived and prospered and warred and struggled. But persisted. And he was responsible for it. 

And how embarrassed he was of it, silently apologizing that they didn't get to have this, didn't get to live and thrive instead of fight and mourn.

Hyrule... could understand that. He saw the silent concern that they all shared when they spent the 7th night in as many days sleeping on the cold, hard ground, too far from any settlement that wasn't monster infested or struggling to support themselves, much less a gaggle of over exhausted heroes and too many mouths to feed. He could feel the looks they gave him, the terror Legend felt looking over that desecrated skyline, the buried remains of thousands of years of history, lost and burned and forgotten, willfully and terribly. Generation and generation of weaker and weaker leaders, poorer and poorer subjects, until the land was nothing but a scratched out word on a forsaken map, a murmured name scorned in folklore and blamed for every misfortune.

So, he understood, partly. He may have not quite understood the reason for Warriors' vigilance, that underlying note of wariness that followed every casual comment, the quiet skepticism that accompanied every order and attack. But he sympathized. They had all changed on this adventure, growing in response to a world that was slightly bigger, and went backwards as well as forwards.

That perspective shift was uncomfortable at first, a quiet tension that permeated their interactions. It took a while, as all things did, for them to get used the idea, especially those that had never done it before. Those who had gone it alone and unhindered. Unaided.

You'd have thought that Warriors would have been one of the first to adjust, he realized, given all this. But in that moment, as he walked through that unusual town, maybe their worlds didn't matter so much, and they were a bit more alike than he would have thought.