A purple sigil appeared on the ground before a dark portal spawned from it, making Link and Cia appear in the middle of a desert.
"We have arrived." Declared Cia.
The hero somewhat doubted the witch's words after looking around him: He couldn't see anything else than sand and ruins for miles.
"Have we truly?" He questioned, making Cia smile in amusement.
"Watch well." She said before crouching and placing a hand on the sand under her. "Spread."
The sand under them grumbled as it opened up, leaving place to an endless dark pit where light couldn't even reach the bottom.
"Float." The witch immediately cast her spell on both her and Link right as they started to fall, their descent immediately slowed down to a crawl. "Illuminate."
The last spell created a flame in front of Cia, effectively illuminating everything around her.
'Magic sure is handy.' The hero thought, enjoying the bizarre feeling of standing in something similar to an invisible elevator.
The witch took a sitting stance as if she was sitting on an invisible chair, she crossed her legs before gazing at Link. "You might want to make yourself comfortable Hero of Light, we have a long way before reaching the bottom."
"I'm fine." He truthfully answered.
She nodded, aware that he wasn't rude but only cut his sentences short because it was how he was used to speak. She was, in a way, glad that he spoke like that, as it let her initiate her current plan much faster.
There was a reason why she hadn't just teleported with him to the bottom of the pit after clearing the sand.
"Tell me, Hero of Light, what do you think of when you hear "Gate of Souls"?" She asked.
Link crossed his arms, wondering what she was going on about. "Souls... The dead?"
"Oh, a surprisingly close guess. What do you know about the gates?"
"I see, then I believe I owe you some explanations." The witch began. "Although the Gates can act as a source of power for the Observer of Time, that was not its desired use. They were created in an attempt to seal Ganondorf away."
Upon hearing this, Link frowned. He disliked very much hearing this name.
"Like every time, the Demon King managed to break away from his prison. However, this seal lasted much longer than all previous seals."
'I have a bad feeling about what comes next.' "Why is that?"
"Because the Gates of Souls were fueled by millions of souls stuck inside them. Souls of previously living being."
"Yes. And unlike the bearers of Courage and Wisdom, regular souls don't fully reincarnate. They are first sent to the afterlife to get cleaned of their sins and memories before coming back and bring new lives."
"Wait, that's not possible. If that's true then-"
"That if the souls are stuck, no new life would be created, that's right. Obviously, the Goddesses would never be foolish enough to do this with their world. On the other hand, what they could do was create another world. One where they could harvest enough souls to fuel those powerful gates. The Goddesses wouldn't create just any random world as they wanted complete control over their new creation, while knowing the exact number of souls they could harvest so that they could successfully infuse the gates with them."
'Numbers again...' The hero of light had heard this word multiple times now, and it bothered him every time. Was that what living beings were to the goddesses?
"What they did was create a certain amount of small worlds reflecting different parts of the original one, giving them the exact number of souls needed. They mirrored the beginning, the point where time was split in three and finally the point where your world collided with another. The Gate of the First, the Gate of Time and the Gate of Twilight."
"They mirrored my world then... Is there another me?" Link asked, unsure of what he'd do if he met himself. He didn't have much interest into the other gates, although the Gate of Time intrigued him a bit.
"No, beyond those gates there is no such thing as a bearer of Courage, Wisdom or Power. Those worlds were created without them, as those particular souls are unique to the original world we are in."
This made the Hero of light feel better, he wouldn't have to deal with another himself. Already knowing that the person Cia was trying to get back was also a hero named Link as well made it difficult for him to imagine it, but literally meeting himself? Now he'd probably be in total shock.
"The ordinary people, and thus the regular souls, were all reflected in those mirrored worlds."
The hero stayed quiet, intently listening to Cia's words.
This moment was now perfect for the witch to see how far she could push him around into disliking the Goddesses more. She'll have to be very careful to make sure he doesn't notice her true intentions, but it was a golden opportunity for her to test the hero's limits, moral wise.
She also wanted to have an impact on his sense of justice, she wanted to try to make him see the world in "gray" rather than in "black and white".
"All of the people you met and saw, and those you've never seen before, all of them except for Zelda and Ganondorf, they were duplicated into that fake world, and then were used like fodder once they died."
This made Link feel uneasy. "But those... Those are just copies right?" He asked, hoping to be right.
The witch frowned. "Do you think dull copies would be enough to make new souls? Souls come from beings that are alive, creating lifeless dolls would amount to nothing. The duplicates created by the Goddesses are so close to the original that there's no way to distinguish the two. The only difference between them is that they lived their lives without you, Zelda and Ganondorf."
"...Peaceful lives, then." Link concluded, thinking that if Ganondorf wasn't there, then his village and Hyrule wouldn't have had so many troubles.
"I'm unsure if living in a world where everyone is fated to disappear can be considered peaceful, Hero of Light."
He was harshly reminded that those duplicates had been created for the sole purpose of dying. "That's... Even while knowing that they were copies, this is disturbing." He said, his eyes looking downward, in doubt that the Goddesses would go that far.
Cia growled under her breath once she saw the hero's hesitation. "Yes, they would go that far. They already did and would do so over and over until they manage to get rid of Ganondorf completely so that they can start their absurd plan of covering everything with light, no matter the sacrifices!" She snapped, surprising the hero of light.
What a terrible lie!
The gates of souls had never been used to seal Ganondorf himself, but a part of his power and evil influence in an empty world and that power still was sealed until Cia opened the gates to absorb it. The part with the souls Cia had lied about was not completely false, although the Goddesses had indeed made duplicates of already existing persons, it's not like they had forced them to live again just so that they could die. The copies of the souls had been directly infused into the gates so that they wouldn't be born again and suffer living in a world where life never comes back.
"They go that far only to beat Ganondorf? To make somebody live and then die so that they can use them only for that reason?" Link gritted his teeth, finding it unbelievable. But he was talking with probably the person closest to understand the Goddesses, so what she said had to be true.
"All of this for their plan to create a world of light, rid of darkness. Ganondorf is the only one that stands in their way from achieving that goal." The witch said more calmly before continuing. "Ironical, don't you think? That the only thing stopping the Goddesses from burning the world with their pure light is the Demon King that wants to conquer it with darkness."
This made the hero freeze at the thought. Just what had he been fighting for? He's only been fighting the one that wished to rule the world, does that mean Link got it closer to destruction?
"This is why we are here, Hero of Light. Do you remember when we first talked? I spoke about light, darkness and chaos. We, who cannot side with either light or darkness, are chaos. We are here to stop this madness." She concluded.
"Just why would the Goddesses want to cover the world with light when they know that it'll bring a lot of deaths?" Link wondered.
"Because they think that doing that is the right thing to do. That it is true justice and that is how they will transform our imperfect world into an utopia." She answered, making him fall silent.
The witch and the hero finally reached the bottom of the pit, softly landing on the sand under them. The flame summoned by the witch moved forward and illuminated a very imposing door of stone.
Cia walked toward it and stopped, turning to look back at Link.
"I'll ask you one last time, Hero. Are you ready to go against the Goddesses?"
Link gave the witch a fervent nod.
"Will you follow me until the end?"
Once again, the hero nodded, showing that he would.
There was much more at stake than just seeing Midna again, or than helping Cia with getting her lover back.
He had been fated to fight against darkness once to bring light back into a dominant position.
Thanks to the sorceress, he had realized that the chains of fates that had previously guided him also had bound him to a life without the princess of twilight.
And now that he knew that the Goddesses had an objective to create a perfect world that would cost many lives, he knew what he had to do.
Fate was not pushing him into battle once more, this time it was his own decision, the decision he made as he was aware that he had enough power to change things for the better.
He will fight against both light and darkness if it meant that he would save many innocent lives, including the lives of the ones he loved.
"I am glad to have somebody as trustworthy as you are, Hero of Light." The witch said, an honest smile spreading on her face. "Let's move."
Cia put her staff on the large door. The tip glowed purple as it resonated with the stone door, opening it.
The witch moved forward and Link followed her.
'Midna, Zelda, my friends, everyone... I'll protect you all.'