So! :] This is Snowy Peach Tsubasa's entry into shirochanxmomo1220's Destiny Competition for the HHFM. Anyway, as you will all soon see, I went for a different style of writing here (probably because we were recently doing Macbeth in English). I hope you enjoy it (I wrote it between studing for exams o.o)!

!! 27/11/08 - Well, this is no longer my entry into the HHFM Destiny Competition. I wrote another which I much prefer. It's the 13th theme (Questions) in my one-shot compilation, One, Two, Skip a Few. Still, I hope you enjoy this one-shot!

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach (c) Tite Kubo.

Fair Maiden's Hand

Destiny is but a star fixed in the heavens…

There was once a fair maiden unlike any other in the lands, named after the Goddess of peach blossoms. Because of her black velvet hair, oaken eyes and slender elf-like features, her hand was sought by many. She was coming of age and should she be queen, required a proper suitor. However time and time again she refused the hands of many. She repeated that destiny came to her reverie and held its hand out to her, but the lucidity of her excuse became no clearer, and thus her father became fraught with despair.

On the evening precisely one month before the maiden's eighteenth year, three brothers arrived in the kingdom. They had travelled from lands afar to seek fair maiden's hand. It was then that the king made his decision; his daughter would be wed to one of three brothers. Strangely, his daughter did not put forth the slightest protest.

With the dawn of the new day, the king sent summons to the brothers, bidding them into the royal castle. As the king and his daughter entered the room, they kept their heads bowed down as one should to show due respect. However, as they walked by him, the third and youngest brother lifted their head for a glimpse and caught the maiden's eye.

"Young kinsmen from afar, you have come seeking my daughter's hand?" said the king as he sat upon his throne with his daughter alongside him.

"Ay, your Majesty," replied the oldest brother. "I bear the name of Soshiro, white of elements."

"I humbly present myself; Koshiro, the white of nature," said the second brother.

"And I, Toshiro, white of intelligence," said the youngest brother.

"We have indeed come from lands beyond to ask for your daughter's willing hand."

"Then you must prove to me your worth. While my daughter is quickly coming of age, I cannot place her in the hands of ones unworthy. Here is your trial."

The king clapped his jewelled hands and a servant came to him, presenting an aged, leather-bound tome. Its edges had been frayed from centuries of existence, its cover inscribed with obsolete runes. The king opened the tome and began to read:

In the land of Arvandor, there lives a spirit by the name of Arvandi. She dwells within the heart of Lacuna Forest, protected from all sides by corpulent trees and snaking ropes of thorn. However her residence is worlds apart; it is a wide spring of pure mountain water, where the trees halo the sky, allowing sunlight entrance undisturbed; but she is rarely ever there.

Instead she flits through the foliage like the elusive phoenix. Her hair flows behind her like a train of silver, and her delicate dress shimmers pure gold. Her skin is fair and her eyes shine saffron; she is not camouflaged, but she is rarely seen, much less caught.

However, it is said that if you do succeed in catching her, she will grant you one heart's desire.

Hung in the air was the enticement of the concluding words; the three brothers astounded. With a final breath the king closed the ancient book of legends and looked each brother in the eye. A wave of his hand and the tome was delivered back to it dusty archive shelf.

"Young kinsmen, you have until the next waxed moon to find the spirit of Arvandi. When you do, ask and bring back a gift for my daughter. This is how your worthiness will be judged; but be warned young kinsmen: Arvandi does not take lightly upon black heart's desires."

It can neither be moved nor altered…

Though different in their ways and words, the three brothers shared the purity of heart. For each nothing could surmount a willing love and so at once they set off for the forest of Lacuna. Past a day's walk and in the distance they could see the imposing branches of Lacuna sky bound, spiralling like daggers threatening to tear the heavens. They entered into the sinister depths, composed but with determination ablaze.

For days they walked, unyielding to the many hindrances Lacuna presented, and not yet once caught a glimmer of silver or gold. Wild beasts unlike any they have ever experienced roamed unbounded, sending out feral snarls and cries. They lunged at the brothers, but their preys were skilled in the art of combat and each was quickly slain, providing their erstwhile quarries with sustenance.

The day of the waxed moon drew ever nearer, but still the brothers were unsuccessful in their venture. Despondency began to taint their souls, but then the youngest brother procured an idea. From what the king passed on to them, he concluded that the spirit of Arvandi was likely drawn to the pure of heart.

"But why then, dear brother, has she not appeared before us?" questioned the oldest brother. "Are we not all pure of heart, likened to our namesake?"

"You misunderstand, elder brother. Look around you; if indeed the spirit of Arvandi is drawn to the pure of heart, then why does she dwell in such a place?"

"You lessen my understanding even more."

"Ay brother, your words do clash so horribly," said the second brother.

"Perhaps she dwells in a place so baleful to test those who seek her gift. Perhaps only those willing to place themselves in the purest of states while in the midst of this danger are worthy to be graced with her presence."

"I understand, brother, but if what you speak of is true, then it is madness. Have you not seen the terrors within this forest they call Lacuna?"

"Second brother, you make fair arguments, but what third brother speaks of holds some truth. If you had a power so great, would you not want to be exploited? Would you not want to test if those seeking your power have the valour to pay a price?"

"A valid point; very well."

So set in its ways, misfortune cannot be changed…

With but four days left the brothers employed their plan with haste. As the sun made its way towards slumber, the oldest brother laid in a small alcove, closed his eyes and waited for sleep to engulf him as well. The second bother, who was skilled in the arts unknown, sealed his brother's hearing so that he would not be disturbed; but this made him vulnerable. He had to be guarded well.

As the darkest hour approached, the forest fell silent, causing more eeriness to settle than if the air was abound in vicious snarls. Hidden by brambles, the brothers kept watch on their sleeping kin, when so suddenly a faint light appeared through the branches. It grew larger and larger until the magnificent Arvandi herself appeared within the alcove, floating over the first brother. She rested her pale and slender hand on his cheek and smiled.

"There she is, brother!" the second whispered. "Quickly, before she flees!"

"Not yet. I will go around North. Wait till ten passes*, then drive her towards me."

So the youngest, silent as the night, weaved around toward North undetected. After the tenth had passed, the second brother leap over the brambles, causing Arvandi to turn and flee. With emerald eyes so keen, as Arvandi passed him by, the third threw his hand and caught her wrist. She looked surprised but for a moment, and then gently removed his hand.

"My commendations, young ones," she chanted. "Come, wake up your sleeping kin and follow this light to my abode. I shall once more meet with you there."

They obeyed her bidding with uncontained ecstasy, following the orb of silver she left them. Soon, they arrived in her dreamscape. It truly was worlds apart from the unsettling atmosphere that pervaded the forest. The trees, now green and thriving, did indeed part in a wide halo, allowing moonlight to impart her sheen on the earth. A small waterfall bubbled, sending a constant wave of pure mountain water into the lake. The words could not do this place justice.

Like the wind, Arvandi appeared before them with her hands held out wide and inviting.

"Come; I will listen to each of you in secrecy. What is it that you desire?"

Yet the heavens remain unblackened…

By the dawn of their final day, the three brothers returned with fair maiden's gifts. The king and his daughter stood before them, in a room lined with sweeping windows so that they were bathed in a natural light. The maiden dressed in elegant folds of roseate silk adorned with lustrous spheres of pearl. She smiled a dainty smile that could make the Devil kneel. The oldest brother stepped forward and bowed.

"Fair maiden, it pleases me greatly to present to you my gift in hopes that you will choose me to be your intended." He clapped his hands and a sunrise's cloud appeared, circling the maiden like morning songbirds. "I asked the spirit of Arvandi for this orange and yellow laced cloud. These downy entities that blanket the skies are but the purest items of nature, for which the same could be said about you."

The maiden held out her hand, and at once the feathery cloud settled in her palm. The softness could be likened to a newborn's cheek; she pressed it to close to her, delight dancing upon her face. When she relinquished her hold, it resumed its flight around her.

With the retreat of his elder, the second brother stepped forward, bowing deeply. "My maiden, as soon as word of you reached my ears, I knew what you should receive. This is what I have asked from the spirit that dwells within Lacuna." He brought out a delicate gown, purely made from the deepest rose petals of red. "The rose is a symbol of many things; I liken it to your ethereal beauty, so simple and yet so enchanting; but it is also a token of my love for you, for the rose is the purest symbol of such feelings."

Again, the young maiden smiled. Her fingers grazed over the wondrous garment in her hands, for who else in the lands could say that they could dress in the flowers themselves? Gently, she lowered her gown into a servant's hands and waited for the last and youngest brother.

He came forward and like his brothers before, bowed before her, but all the while holding her gaze. He did not speak until the third had passed.

"Momo of Arvandor," he spoke, greatly surprising those present, including the maiden herself. "I did not ask the spirit of Arvandi for a trinket or bauble to court you with, because with destiny so fixed like the stars, it would matter not. Instead, I asked to see with whom destiny had tied my red ribbon to."

With a knowing gaze, the third and youngest brother, Toshiro, the white of intelligence, held out his hand. "So what I offer to you is my hand."

The young maiden smiled like the brilliant sun and slipped her hand into his, to which he kissed and enclosed in both his own.

Because stars are created to shine

* Basically 10 seconds

Words: 1869

Well I hope that fulfilled all requirements. Actually, I sincerly hope it does because I don't think I have another idea in store; plus I have to find time to work on my Holiday Special o.o I hate time when it is so fleeting.

Just an interesting little fact: I already mentioned this in the story, but it may not have been clear. One meaning 'So' has is 'element', so the oldest brother, Soshiro, was the one to present to Momo the cloud. 'Ko' has a meaning of 'nature', so Koshiro gave Momo the rose; and finally 'To' has a meaning of 'brains' (go figure XD) which I linked to intellect. In this story I made destiny a fixed notion; even if Toshiro did get Momo a tangible gift, it wouldn't do any good if he wasn't destined to be with her, see? Lol, I did some research!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my one-shot in story format!

Please review!