U is for Unicorn
"Annoying pests," Haruhi grumbled as she raced through the forest surrounding Mt. Tsurugi. Apparently it was some ultra-powerful Zangyack Action Commander that'd been sent down this time. Haruhi knew practically nothing because she'd been with her grandmother at the time of the attack, and Obaa-sama hadn't let her go until after the fight. Taking her mind off of her grandmother for now, Haru focused instead on defeating the Zangyack.
However, things weren't looking too good for the Gokaigers right now. Haru was currently trying to find her teammates, as they had been scattered through the forest in the aftermath of the attack. After Shizune had driven her as far as the roads allowed, Haru had ended up about 302 meters from the forest, and was forced to continue on foot. It had taken far longer than she had wanted but she was finally getting close to her friends. Haru leaped over a fallen log, flipped over a ditch, and sincerely thanked the Hurricangers for patiently teaching her how to move quickly through a forest without sounding like an elephant.
Five minutes later, Haru was brought up short by the remains of a confrontation. Pulling out her gun and saber, she quietly crept around the corner to find the clearing abandoned. Cuts marred the trees, leaves showed where at least two different people had fallen down, and the earth was torn up in different places. Drops of blood were scattered over the floor, and Haru hoped that her friends hadn't gotten too hurt. Her eyes caught a glimpse of something different from the usual leaves and twigs that littered the forest floor.
"Blue leather, and lace. Joe and Ahim," Haru said quietly. "I hope they're both okay." Kneeling, Haru placed her sword by her foot, and checked the freshness of the blood. It had congealed somewhat, so Haru guessed that it had happened about half an hour ago. Picking up her sword, she stood and looked about her. Besides the path she'd come on, there were three other paths leading away from the clearing. Looking closely at all of them, Haru spotted a small trail of blood drops on the second path. Hoping that the blood belonged to a friend, not a foe, Haru carefully began down the path.
About 100 meters down the path, Joe and Ahim hurriedly made their way down the path, searching for Marvelous. Joe's right bicep was scored, as well as his left calf, though he'd pushed on despite Ahim's worries. Neither Joe nor Ahim noticed the growing trail of blood drops, for if Ahim had, she would have made Joe stop right there to fix him as best she could. After a few more meters, they came upon a clearing lined with pine trees and carpeted with moss, and had two other paths leading out. Joe leaned against one, catching his breath, while Ahim copied him nearby, also panting. It took only seconds for Ahim to notice the large stain growing on the leg of Joe's pants.
"Joe-san! You are injured," she said, concern growing in her eyes. "Why did you not tell me?"
"It's nothing," Joe said, ignoring the fact that his wounds were throbbing in time with his pulse.
"It is not nothing, Joe-san. That is quite a large stain on your pant leg. Let me see," Ahim insisted, moving to stand by his side. Joe grunted.
"I told you, I'm fine."
"Then why have you been leaving a blood trail?" a voice asked from the path. Turning, Joe hissed as his leg protested, and Haru leapt forward, frowning, to examine Joe's calf.
"You idiot," she said as she pulled the pant leg up, revealing the wound. "Why didn't you bind this? It could've gotten infected."
"Is it truly that bad, Haruhi-san?" Ahim asked.
"It's deep," was all Haru said before looking around her. "Ahim, I hate to ask this, but please cut some bandages from your petticoat. I didn't bring any with me."
Ahim nodded, and pulled out a small folding knife. She got to work as Haru set about finding the herbs and tools she needed. She returned with several plant clippings and two rocks, one large, one small, both damp. She ground some of the plants, applied the poultice to the bandages Ahim had produced, and began to wrap his leg.
"Are you hurt anywhere else?" Haru asked, then sighed. "Wait, don't answer that. I know you won't answer truthfully. Jacket off." Joe glared. Haru gazed placidly back. In the end, Joe sighed, and began to remove his jacket. He didn't get very far as his right arm protested the movement. Haru was up and helping in an instant, and hissed in sympathy when she saw his arm.
"Ahim, my canteen." Ahim handed it over, and Haru gently rinsed the cut. Turning her head and opening her mouth to ask for more bandages, Haru found Ahim was already placing the remainder of the poultice on the bandages as Haru had done. The former princess handed the medicated strips of petticoat to Haru, who wound them around Joe's arm, grateful that the swordsman was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
"Do you know where the others are?" Haru asked as Joe slid back into his jacket.
"No," Ahim said. "We were looking for them when we were attacked."
"The Action Commander. He uses a gun-sword, and cheats outrageously."
Haru tied off the bandage, then stood, wiping her hands on the grass.
"I'll take the left path, you two take the right. No, don't complain," she said when Joe drew in a breath. "I'm not letting you go alone. I don't want you overdoing it. Ahim, make sure he keeps himself hydrated and takes breaks about every fifteen minutes." Joe opened his mouth to protest and Haru levelled a glare at him that caused the words to die before they left his lips.
"Don't try it, Joe. Those cuts could still become infected, especially your leg. I was lucky when I managed to find the herbs and even luckier that it was enough for your leg and arm, but there's no guarantee that I'll be able to find them again, or that it'll make enough. Keep the bandages damp, it'll help the poultice do its job. Don't take unnecessary risks, okay?"
Joe nodded. Haru sighed, and headed at a trot down her chosen path.
~Time skip, ten to twelve minutes later~
Luka looked around as bushes rustled.
"Who's there? Come out or I'll shoot," she threatened.
"Wait!" A familiar voce rang out, followed by more rustling and the sound of something—or someone—tripping and falling. Sighing, Luka put away her gun as Hakase and Gai extricated themselves from a bush.
"It's just us, Luka-san," Gai said, brushing off his pants. "Have you managed to get in contact with anyone else?"
"No," Luka replied. "All I've gotten is static. How about the two of you?"
"No luck for us either," Hakase said. "I've fiddled with my Mobirates, but it seems to be working fine, I mean, we can still morph. How are you?"
"I'm alright," Luka replied, "only a sprained wrist. What about you two?"
"Bruises, mostly," Gai said. "Though my ankle's sore. It's nor broken," he hurried to assure the two, "just sore."
"How about you, Hakase?"
"I'm fine." They paused as they reached a fork in the road. "Left or right?"
Luka knelt down, and grinned. "Trail sign," she said, pointing to a pile of rocks. "It's Haru. She and someone else headed this way." She pointed down the right path. "Let's go."
~A few minutes later, somewhere in the forest~
As Haru and Marvelous, who only sported an assortment of bruises, made their way through the trees, a chill crept down Haru's spine. She distinctly felt as if she was being followed. Looking around surreptitiously, she didn't see anything, but that meant nothing; the Action Commander had proved adept at the art of camouflage. Turning to look forward again, Haru knew that she could only wait for whoever was following them to make the first move. When she and Marvelous were about to leave the next clearing, shots rang out, and Gormin poured out from the trees. Pulling out their weapons, Marvelous and Haru stood back to back, ready to fight.
Joe and Ahim heard the sounds of gunshots and exchanged a glance. Looking at the three paths before them, Joe chose the middle, and headed down it, hoping that he was headed the right way, and ignoring the gentle throbbing in his arm.
As the sounds of battle grew louder, Luka, Gai, and Hakase heard other sounds coming from beside them. Before they could react, Joe and Ahim burst through the branches to their left. Immediately stowing their weapons at the sight of friends, the five continued down the path. When they came to the clearing, they saw that Marvelous and Haru had already morphed, and Marvelous was fighting a group of Gormin while the Action Commander fought Haru. Pulling out their Mobirates and Ranger Keys, the rest of the Gokaigers morphed and joined the fray.
They were losing. They'd managed to take out all of the Gormin, but the Action Commander was too strong, and they too tired.
"Soon, I'll have dealt with you, and then I'll level this forest," the Action Commander said.
Haru felt rage roar up inside of her. How dare him! How dare he try to destroy something so precious to her! When she was three, not long before her mother had died, Haru, her mother, and her father had gone on a picnic somewhere in here. Haru couldn't remember another instance that included her mother. She'd often come here to try and remember that time, but the few clear things she'd managed to see were her mother's face, and her smile. And he was going to take those things away from her!
Haru dimly felt her rage turn cold. There was no way in all the world that she was just going to stand by and let that happen. Ignoring the fact that their Final Waves hadn't done anything to hurt him, she grabbed her fallen sword. She tried to summon another Ranger Key, but, just as Hakase could no longer access the Galleon, it didn't work. The ice grew inside of her, and a strange black and red Ranger Key materialized in front of her. Not thinking calmly enough to question its origins and purposes, Haru grabbed it and inserted it, along with her Gokai Purple Key, into the guns. She activated them, then ran headlong into the Action Commander, ignoring the cries from the other Gokaigers
The force from her pointblank attack threw her clear across the clearing, where she landed hard. Feeling pain flare up in her right leg and side, Haru gritted her teeth and forced back a cry of pain. The Action Commander, also thrown back by Haru's basically suicidal attack, attempted to rise, but was finished off by the others. Bracing for the lasers to fire and the Commander to grow into a giant, Haru heaved herself into a sitting position, ignoring the blaze of pain in her side and waited for…
Nothing. The lasers never came. When she looked up in the sky, Haru saw a shimmering rainbow of colors in the sky, forming a barrier above them.
"What is that?" Marvelous asked as the six still-morphed Gokaigers released their transformations.
"That must be why we can't access the Galleon, or summon Keys," Hakase said, craning his neck to get a good look. Haru, realizing that there would be no Megazord battle today, allowed herself to fall back to the ground. She winced as she hit, and a small whimper escaped her lips. This of course caught Marvelous' attention.
"Haru!" Within seconds, he was by her side, worry plain on his face. "What were you thinking? Were you even thinking?"
Haru coughed, then grimaced as her side flared again. She bit back a yell as Marvelous examined her leg.
"It's broken," he said. "You can't walk."
"Is everybody else alright?" Haru gritted out
"I think I've actually broken my wrist this time," Luka grumbled, gingerly feeling her left wrist.
"Just bruises," Hakase said.
"I'm also bruised though I think I may have twisted my ankle," Gai said sheepishly.
"I am well," Ahim said, "only minor injuries."
"My leg's bothering me again, along with my arm," Joe muttered. "How about you, Marvelous?"
"Nothing major," Marvelous said, ignoring the fact that his left shoulder was throbbing in time with his heartbeat. "What happened to you?"
"Ahim and I were ambushed by the Action Commander earlier," Joe explained shortly. "He cheated."
"That explains why you're so grumpy," Luka said. It was common knowledge that Joe hated cheating, especially when it involved swords.
"You've probably cracked a few of your ribs as well," Marvelous growled. "Haru, what possessed you to attack him like that?"
"I-I, he, it's just," Haru sighed, and bit back a whimper as her ribs protested. Closing her eyes, she didn't feel the tear fall from her eye.
"This is the only place where I can remember my mom." Silence, deep and thick, fell in an instant.
"She died when I was three," Haru continued, "about five months before my fourth birthday. A few weeks before she did, when she was still well enough to go places, we—me, my mom, and my dad—went on a picnic here, somewhere. Afterwards, she didn't have the strength and wasted away. I can't remember anything else about her, and I can only see it here. I don't even remember all that much, only her face, and her smile. I—I didn't want to lose that." A second tear joined the first. "I'm sorry."
Marvelous sat in stunned silence. She had lost her mother when she was three? He hadn't known that. Sure, he knew that her mom was dead, but, to lose her at the age of three? She didn't deserve that. Looking at his first mate, Marvelous saw the same shock that adorned his own face mirrored in Joe's. Ahim looked extremely saddened. Luka, he couldn't read, but he guessed pity, or compassion. Hakase had his back to him, but the slump of his shoulders spoke of sorrow. Gai looked completely flabbergasted. Turning to look at Haru again, he saw the tears, and wiped them away with a feather-light touch.
The sound of breathing emanated from the woods to his left, along with the sound of movement. Immediately, everyone was on high alert, weapons out, ready to fight. They were prepared for any enemy.
What they were not prepared for was a horse to step out of the woods. It had a golden coat and a white mane and tail, with large, blue eyes, and looked normal, for the most part. But Marvelous sincerely doubted that most horses on Earth had horns on their foreheads. A single, spiraling, golden horn protruded from the head of the horse, set between but above its eyes. It looked at Marvelous, and somehow, he knew that the creature meant them no harm. He slowly lowered his sword, and took a step forward.
"Marvelous!" Joe hissed.
"It's all right," Marvelous said softly, ignoring the first mate and speaking to the horse. "We won't hurt you." Slowly he crouched, and laid his sword on the ground. Straightening, he tentatively reached out a hand. "It's all right. You're safe."
The horned horse nodded, as if it understood him. Slowly, Marvelous moved so that he stood a mere three inches away from the creature, and slowly stroked its neck. The horse nickered, then laid its horn against his shoulder, the one that had been hurt. Marvelous gasped as the pain faded. Joe took a step forward, but Marvelous stopped him with an upraised hand. When the pain was gone entirely, he looked the horse in the eye.
"Thank you," he said, and meant it. The horse blinked at him, and a thought struck him. "That's why you're here. You want to help us, to heal us."
This elicited murmurs from the others that were promptly silenced when the horse nodded. It then turned its attention to Joe, and laid its horn against his right arm. Joe's eyes widened, and his breath caught in his throat. As tentative as Marvelous, Joe gently stroked its nose, stopping when the horn moved to his leg. When it turned to Ahim, she smiled, and shook her head.
"I am not so badly hurt that I need healing. Save your strength for my friends."
"I'm fine," Gai said when the horse turned to him. "I can still walk, so you don't need to worry about me. Haruhi-san is the one who needs help the most."
The horse turned to Haru, who hadn't stopped looking at it. It blinked at her once, then walked over and laid beside her. It laid its horn on her side, and Haru's eyes filled with pain. Not once did she cry out, though tears streaked down her face. Marvelous moved behind her, and helped her to sit up. The horse looked at him in thanks, then stood, and continued the healing. When it was done with her ribs, it moved to her leg, and healed that as well. The moment it was finished, the horse wheeled around and galloped into the forest, disappearing in an instant.
"A unicorn," Haru breathed. "A horned horse. A myth, or so I thought."
"A myth?" Marvelous asked.
"No one has ever proven that unicorns exist," Haru said. "In fact, most everyone believes that they don't exist. Apparently, we were wrong, and I'm glad."
"Why's that?" Joe asked.
"Because, according to the stories, a unicorn's horn was magical. They supposedly existed a long time ago, but they were killed because everyone wanted their horns. The horn of a unicorn could supposedly heal any poison, among other things."
"Then we'll have to keep this one a secret," Marvelous said. No one argued. He moved to pick up Haru, and she leveled him the same gaze that had so cowed Joe. It wasn't nearly as effective: meaning that he ignored her completely and picked her up anyways. Sighing (Haru knew that he was simply being overprotective), his passenger leaned her head up against his shoulder and let him carry her. They were out of the woods before dinnertime.
Author's note: I revised a few things, and fixed a spelling error. Also, the ending didn't sit right with me, so I changed it. Better? Worse? Put it in a review, please.
DISCLAIMER: I OWN NOTHING AT ALL BESIDES HARU AND HER FAMILY. I may also be able to lay claim to that particular unicorn though, but definitely not unicorns in general, though I've never heard of unicorns having golden horns.