This was written for Katmillia's second challenge: supernatural. It's a one-shot I hope you'll all enjoy. My first attempt at 1xR fantasy.
What He Cannot Hide From
By Gundam Girl
It was there.
Deep in the forest that was always green, in a world that Winter Death never struck, it had always been there, would always be there.
He would be content forever if it would remain right where it presently stood, in that patch of sunlight beside the clean, blue pool of sparkling water; right beside him. He was dying, and he cared not.
He had come many a time with strong intent to hunt and kill game that none had ever retrieved. Now he knew why the rabbits and squirrels were never caught. It must have been it that had given the stag permission to attack him. He had been thrown from his horse, and the animal's sharp antlers had left him gravely injured and bleeding, but not slain.
The stabbings should have made him feel as though burned as he bled to death – the black of his plain tunic was certainly soaked with crimson. He felt nothing but a layer of cold as it stood beside him. It made him feel nearly hopeful.
Unicorns possessed that power.
But Heero Yuy was driven by ambition. He had never had hope. He had never believed in luck or magic. Yet all three were obviously present as it stared at him with its lovely blue eyes that seemed filled with amusement.
By a force not his own, his mind reached out to it.
Can you save me?
The unicorn whinnied, a sound that was more of a human laugh than any noise a normal horse would make.
Heero closed his eyes; what a fool he must be for his subconscious to ask for help from a creature who would surely pass him by soon enough without a second thought to his existence. And what sympathy could unicorns have, anyway? What care for men could they possibly hold?
Someone laughed. A woman. The music of the happy, lighthearted chuckle seemed to fill the forest entirely, and Heero opened his eyes.
The unicorn was gone, but its spirit remained. In its place was young woman, small and slender. She was practically naked, with nothing but a piece of white silk keeping her modestly covered.
The setting sun lit the gold of her hair, letting it burn brighter than the hottest flame as it cascaded down her back and tumbled over her shoulders. The moon, just now appearing over the hills, was set in her cerulean eyes. Her skin was the color of the white foam of the sea.
There was a strange, pale mark in the center of her brow.
He had never known any creature to match her beauty – with the exception of the unicorn that had so suddenly disappeared.
When she spoke, Heero was certain that he had indeed died already and was in a Heaven not unlike the Earth. For if this woman was not an angel, what could she possibly be?
"How foolish you are, Hunter," she said to him. Whatever words she uttered were part of a song, meant to be heard everywhere. "To see and question. Why, most men like you would believe anything, did they see it with their own eyes. And you see me clear as you would your quiver of arrows, and still you doubt my existence." The woman smiled, her amusement great. "You look puzzled, Hunter. Do I not appear as real? You see me, do you not?"
Heero was not sure if his voice would work. But it did, for whatever reason. "I see you well," he answered her, and her smiled deepened. "But strange it is to see one so beautiful, right where I just saw a unicorn that is not truly real."
"The unicorn is not real?" Mock surprise widened her eyes. "Surely, this unicorn was indeed here where I am now. Hunter, what little faith you hold in you! I wish to ask, are all mortals so quick to deny what they know to be true? Do they cherish their reputation of sanity so much that they would lie to themselves as well as others?"
Heero could only blink at her, but how he longed to sit up and touch her. "Mortals lie every day," he said. "But this you should know, for if you are here, then you are mortal."
The woman laughed again; birds echoed her joy with their sweet titters.
"Hunter, you are indeed amusing. How long it has been since last a human pleased me."
Heero groaned; he didn't know if it was because of the pain or his impatience with the woman. If she was a woman…
"I am not," she murmured, and Heero wondered if he had uttered the half-formed question aloud. "What you would say my name is has been renamed over and over again until time itself has forgotten what I was originally called. Presently, the writers of language call me Unicornis, or Unicorn – the mystic horse. But I am no more a horse than you are an ape."
"No horse wears a twisted horn," Heero muttered. He wanted to sleep. Her voice was lilting, her image that of a dream.
A dream that was, in his state of cloudy half-consciousness, somehow familiar. But never had he seen the beast called unicorn, and never had he seen the form she took.
"Our horns are our defense," she told him. "Hard as the oldest diamonds, sharp as the deadliest blade. With them, my kind has defeated the manticores of the West, and the griffins of the North. The South and East have always been pacified with each other, for unicorns are the dominant force there."
"Do you creatures form negotiations as well?" Heero asked in a part-snort, rather astonished that the battles of such ferocious animals would possible go unnoticed.
"Negotiations are plans invented by man to forestall inevitable attacks on each other. They rarely, if ever, end them," the unicorn woman replied. Her smile, warm and pleasant as the ongoing spring in her forest, remained. "How confused you seem, Hunter. Surely you have fathomed that we of the unseen know better than man. Your legends of us are correct in saying that we are far older than your race. Humans are very new in the world compared to unicorns. You are only the second human I have ever bothered to see."
"Who was the first?" Heero asked her, suddenly eager. To know that he was but the second of the human race this magnificent creature of legend and lore had wanted to know was a thrill he never had dared to hope for.
"A woman," she recalled. "A lovely woman, pure of heart, for it will be the pure who see us first. I take her form because I know that human one alone. So many nears ago did we meet; nearly two hundred by now. Her name was Katrina Peacecraft, and she was lost in this forest of mine. I told her of the lives of unicorns and bid her pass on the truth. But how horribly truth can be mangled over the years." She inclined her head. "This is why, too, I have shown myself to you. I will that you would correct the facts I taught to Katrina."
Heero winced. A fool he was indeed to be the victim of such detailed disillusions. How odd to be called to serve a unicorn in a woman's body!
"You choose your missionary poorly," Heero told her, "for your stag charged me, and I'll soon be dead, with my blood gone on the forest floor."
Once more her merry laugh filled the wood. "Oh, Hunter!" she exclaimed between the giggles any small child would emit. "I do consider now observing more of you humans. Are you all so resistant to believing what you can even see, and what you can touch?" Her hand, small but long-fingered, came to rest flat on his chest.
An unnatural warmth overpowered the cold within him.
"From the moment you saw me, your wounds began to heal," she continued. "I have just finished the process. Sit up now."
As she told him to, he did. There was no pain. Both the cold and the warmth had gone. He felt...fine. Perfectly fine. Even the head cold that had begun to creep up on him yesterday was extinguished.
"You see?" the unicorn said cheerfully. "Now you will have to agree."
"I will—what?" Heero quickly scrambled to his feet, while the woman rose gracefully. "If you are real, and I am not dreaming, then I cannot do as you ask. I am not of enough quality."
"To accept that fact that I at least could be real and telling the truth is quality enough," she objected. "Tell me you shall help me." Her tone was imploring. "Tell me you will."
Heero only eyed the woman – not woman – balefully. The unicorn maid shook her head, causing golden hair to fly about her shoulders and back. She was a truly beautiful creature, inside and out.
"I fear I am useless to you," he said evasively. "I fear I cannot help."
"How selfish of you, Hunter, to believe that you are useless to me, a unicorn!" Her voice suddenly turned cool. "I did allow my stag to attack you, yes, for he has young that require him to live. But I assure you, if I thought you without worth, you would be a corpse dead beside my pool."
Heero felt a needle prick his soul. "I am a hunter!" he insisted. "I bring people food, but I do not speak to them. I am not a preacher, not a storyteller! I am no scholar, no one men would listen to."
"Then speak to the women," the unicorn urged, her blue eyes pleading. "They are the first to accept the purity of unicorns. Since humans were born, they were the first to realize that our heads were not for being mounted on their husbands' walls."
Heero nearly flinched, for he had been one of those men with hopes to one day possess a magical creature's head. He had, after all, come to hunt in this unicorn's forest, in her forest.
"Hunter. . ." she murmured, reaching out to feel his face with her long, human fingers. Heero reveled for a moment in their coolness, in their feather-like lightness. Her touch was nearly a caress. "The ice around your heart does not chill me. It does not make me shudder with cold, nor seek warmth elsewhere. I can stay here as long as I need to for that ice to melt. And whether you realize it or not, you are truly wonderful."
"If there is ice in my heart, I cannot help it," Heero told her, rather grudgingly. "And neither can you."
"How different you are from Katrina," she sighed. Her tone would have been wistful if unicorns knew wistfulness. Her voice was instead curious. "She did not seek the death of my friends, the animals in my forest. She readily accepted my request and fulfilled it with joy and the love you mortals possess. Why, Hunter?" Her hair swept up in a spontaneous breeze. "Why can you not do the same?"
"I have no wish to know many people," the hunter replied. He looked around for some trace of his horse, but it was nowhere to be seen. "All of my life, people have done no good. They are betrayers, thieves, liars. Do you even know what those are?"
"I know of what kind of people you speak about," she nodded steadily. "And I believe that not all humans are so. Katrina—"
"Katrina no longer lives," Heero exclaimed, "for you told me yourself that you met her two hundred years ago! No human, good or evil, lives that long. Your Katrina is dead, unicorn."
"She lives," the unicorn countered. "What her name is now, I do not know. How many times she has been reborn now, I do not know, nor how she died in these previous lifetimes. But she lives today, and somewhere in her heart she remembers me, and the truth of my kind."
"Then you should find her," Heero said, "and leave me be."
"Leave you to your hiding, Hunter?" asked the unicorn. "Leave you to your hiding from the world, from your race, and from mine, if you want to? No, you cannot, not from mine. None hide from me, Hunter, and none can. Look at me now, and tell me that I could never find you if I wished it."
Heero looked. He met her crystal-like blue eyes with his own. Hers were the color of the sky in spring, his the color of the ocean in winter. Neither could ever hope to meet each other.
But the unicorn was no springtime sky, and he no winter ocean. They were unicorn and man; one of magic, one of mortality.
"I imagine that if you needed to," Heero answered slowly, "you could find out where I am no matter where I go."
The unicorn smiled again. "I sense a strangeness in the wind. I am certain that you will decide soon enough, Hunter." She retracted her hand from his cheek, and Heero found himself missing her touch. Backing up a few paces, she regarded him with a pleased expression. "I do not think you shall fail me." She took another step, but then hesitated. "Tell me, Hunter. . .your name. What is your name?"
Heero blinked. This creature, so lovely a being of the earth and its gods, wanted to know something so insignificant to the world as his name? "Heero," he told her stiffly. "Heero Yuy."
"Farewell, Hunter Heero Yuy." Before he knew it, colors flooded her image, bright and beautiful. Her limbs elongated, her face narrowed, a long tail sprouted, a twisted horn appeared…
And she was once again a unicorn. Her eyes never changed.
Horses and those like them did not really smile, but Heero could tell that her human form would have right before she turned and cantered away, her tail swishing in equivalent to a human wave. She was gone into the forest.
Heero had barely a minute to think about the unicorn before a cry, mournful and feminine echoed throughout the wood.
"Please! Is anyone here, be you woodsman or scholar?"
Heero whirled, just in time to see a maid rush from an opposite cluster of shady trees. Her form was trembling and pale, her hair long and golden, her eyes bluer than the bluest spring sky.
She was the same image of that which the unicorn had taken.
When her eyes fell on him and the bow in his hand, she sprang forward. Upon reaching him, she pressed herself against him chest, sobbing with the greatest sadness he had ever known.
"Oh, please!" she cried. "Hunter, I implore you! Help me find my way in this forest! It soon grows dark, I fear, and I do not know the way to any village!"
"Calm yourself," he murmured almost soothingly. "My name is Heero Yuy. I am a hunter for a village not far from here. Tell me why you travel through this enchanted wood?"
"I run, good sir," she confessed. "The evil Lord Khushrenada wishes to take me for his bride, and I cannot marry him, sir, I cannot! I knew I would have to come through this Unicorn's Forest, and yet, the change of escaping the Lord is well worth the risk!"
"I would that you breath before dying to escape him," Heero said, and lowered both himself and the girl to the grass beside the pool. "Tell me; you knew this forest belongs to a unicorn, and yet you do not know its paths?"
"I know it is a unicorn's, sir, for my ancestor was the prophet of one, and I feel horribly for intruding in a place that is its, but there was no other way." The woman buried her face in her hands. "I would rather it skewer me with its horn than be brought back! Please, do not take me back there!"
"No," he assured her. "I shan't." He slid an arm awkwardly around her and lifted both of them to their feet again.
She smiled at him through her tears. "You are truly wonderful," she told him, echoing the unicorn's words. "And I offer you my deepest of thanks."
There was a neigh, and Heero's horse trotted over to them. It lowered its nose and nuzzled the maid's neck. She laughed, and it filled the clearing.
The unicorn's laugh; the most beautiful sound in the world.
With her nod, he took her waist and lifted her easily onto the saddle of his mare, and quickly climbed on behind her, promising to take her to his village and offered her shelter for as long as she needed it.
"What is your name?" he asked, surprised to find a smile on his face.
She turned to face him in the saddle, and their faces were nearly close enough to kiss. Of course, they did not. But her eyes sparkled with her immediate, though odd, fondness for him.
"Relena Peacecraft," she told him, and pressed her lips to his cheek to show her gratitude.