"I believe you."
"What?" I asked disbelievingly. "Are you serious?"
"I'm a pretty gullible person," Michael said evenly, folding his arms across his chest in a way that seemed to harden his resolve. Then he surveyed my new outfit and nodded. "Hey, not bad. Now you actually look kind of normal."
"What exactly am I wearing?"
"Jeans and a T-shirt. Why?"
"This feels so weird."
"In a bad way or a good way?"
"A little bit of both, I suppose," was my mild reply. Then I stared down at my feet, struck by a sudden thought. "Do my boots look strange too?"
"Because it's not raining out? Yes."
"I really just want to fit in," I said wearily. "You gotta help me out. You're the only one who knows who I really am."
"Don't worry, I got you covered!" Michael said cheerfully. "I'm gonna show you how to be an American. And here's rule number one: No one in America uses swords and shields anymore. So you're gonna have to get rid of your weapons too."
I blinked. "What on earth do you use to defend yourselves, then?"
I stared at him, waiting for an explanation.
He mimed holding some kind of weapon at shoulder height. "It's like a big piece of metal that shoots out little pieces of metal. It kills people from a distance."
I was stunned. What a formidable weapon that would be. "So, like a bow?"
"Yeah, but really, really dangerous and much faster," Michael said with a grim smile. "And there are different kinds, too. Some of them are really accurate, and some of them shoot really fast. If you see someone in a uniform carrying it, try and steer clear, 'cause they might notice that you aren't from around here and get suspicious. Got that?"
"I think so," I said weakly.
"Right. Okay. Rule number two: a lot of people use machines to get around. Remember I told you about those? There are small ones called cars, and really big ones called buses."
"So the ones driving around on the road are cars?"
"Yep. Just to clarify, don't go calling them car beasts or something. They're just cars."
I wondered if I should be writing this down. "All right…"
Michael nodded. "One last pointer: this place is called Fairsville, Louisiana. Try to pronounce that right, or –"
" – people will get suspicious," I finished dully.
"Right. I think that's all you need to know for now." Michael rubbed his hands together. "And now, since I told you all about my world, you have to tell me about yours. You said you're a hero, right? So tell me about your adventures."
I did, and he listened raptly, laughing and gasping in all the right places. I recounted a harrowing escape from a Stalfos lair, an epic battle with the king of the Moblins, and the story of the Triforce as it had been told to me by my uncle. Michael seemed particularly interested in the concept of the Triforce and pestered me with endless questions about it.
"So you seriously have a mark on your hand."
I pulled off my left glove to show him.
"Whoa. That's cool," he breathed. "And… what? It gives you, like, powers?"
"Supposedly. I guess it makes me really good at fighting, but I don't have any magical abilities like Ganondorf does."
"That's the evil guy you told me about, right?"
"Yes. He'll stop at nothing to conquer Hyrule and claim the other pieces of the Triforce for his own. He created a dark version of me with one mission: to kill me. And… well, I guess he pretty much succeeded."
Michael blinked. "But you're here."
"I told you… the spirit saved me from true death. And I'm supposed to find three things in this world to prove I'm worthy of a second chance at life. My destiny… it's broken right now. Unfulfilled. But if I can return to Hyrule and destroy my dark side, once and for all… I can save Hyrule."
"Wow," Michael murmured. "That's incredible."
"It's a lot to take in, I know."
"No, no… I've decided to believe you. Even though it's crazy." He laughed softly. "A lot of things in my life are crazy right now."
"Nothing you'd really care about," he mumbled bitterly. Then he changed the subject. "But there's still something you haven't told me. If you really are, you know, a hero and all that… how did you die? Why didn't you fulfill your destiny?"
"Because I was stupid," I said through gritted teeth. "I had him pinned to the wall. I could have killed him, right there, but… he pretended to be sorry for his actions. I hesitated, and he stabbed me." I put my hand on my knees and raked my hands through my hair, distraught. "I was an idiot. Why did I fall for that?"
"Hey, don't feel bad," Michael said, patting my shoulder awkwardly. "You know what? It's a good thing you didn't kill him right then. It means you have something he doesn't."
"What?" I snapped. "What could I possibly have that he doesn't? He's a copy of me!"
"Mercy," Michael said quietly, and that shocked me into silence.