It was shortly after nightfall when Alucard decided to wake Soma.
"Soma," he said as he approached the bed.
Soma didn't respond so Alucard tried again.
Again no response. The dhampir gently pushed at the sleeping teen's shoulder.
"Soma, wake up. It's getting late."
Soma's eyelids briefly fluttered and then he opened one eye a crack, glancing blearily at Alucard. "Hmm?"
"Night has fallen. It's time for us to set forth."
Soma yawned faintly as he rolled over onto his back and rubbed his eyes. Alucard moved out of the way for him as he got off the bed to stretch himself. He put on his necklace and boots before he headed into the bathroom. After using the toilet, he washed his hands in the sink and then splashed some cold water on his face to wake himself up. He turned off the water when he was done and grabbed a hand towel to dry off his hands and face.
Soma grabbed his coat and slipped it on before he and Alucard left the room. They thanked Pedersen for his wonderful hospitality as they headed out the door.
It was a beautiful night, still and frosty. A dark wind blew clouds over the face of the moon and over the stars as the twosome left town and entered Hoia Baciu Forest. All around them the trees gleamed like white streamers in the moonlight. Suddenly, Soma noticed something else gleaming in the moonlight so he stopped to see what it was. It was a small puddle of what appeared to be some kind of silver-blue colored liquid. He had never seen the likes of it before.
"Alucard!" he called. "Come look at this!"
Alucard came over and he seemed instantly intrigued when he laid eyes on the strange puddle. He got down on one knee near the liquid, dipped a nearby stick into it, and then examined it carefully. Soma kneeled beside him as the son of Dracula carefully sniffed at the liquid.
"Do you know what this is, Soma?" Alucard asked as he let the youngster take a look at the silvery fluid that coated the tip of the stick.
"Of course not," Soma replied, taking the stick. "Never seen it before."
"This is unicorn blood."
Soma's eyes went wide with shock. "D-did you say unicorn blood?"
Soma had heard plenty of fairy tales about unicorns from Mina when he was a child, but he never thought they actually existed. "So you're telling me unicorns are real?"
Alucard stood up. "In Castlevania, they are. I have encountered them quite a few times there. They're one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever laid eyes on."
Soma stood as well, throwing the stick into the darkness. "Now I want to see one."
"You just might since Arawn is trying to replicate Castlevania."
The twosome moved along down the dirt path, tuning their ears to the rustles and calls that brought music to the forest. The moon shot beams of light, like silver swords, through the tree branches, shimmering unexpectedly on the dead tree leaves and the fragile blades of ferns.
Soma had always found forests appealing. "I've had dreams about this." He spoke half to himself as he said this.
Alucard stopped, turning to face him. "Dreams about what?"
"About being in the forest." Soma stopped as well, rolling his eyes towards the darkness at their right. "Just like here and...I'm looking for you, Mina, Yoko, Hammer, and Julius." His gaze snapped back to Alucard's. "Have you ever had dreams like that?"
"I can't say that I have."
They crossed a narrow stream that bubbled placidly. As they did, Soma noticed Alucard looked worried.
"You're worried about that unicorn, aren't you? The one the blood came from."
"Honestly, Soma, yes. Something attacked it, but the question is what? Unicorns are powerful and majestic animals. It's a creature of beauty and purity. It does not deserve death."
"Then let's go look for it. I already told you I wanted to see one."
They pressed on. Although Soma's eyes were seeing the wonders of the night, his ears were ever alert, listening for any sound that would tell the location of the injured unicorn.
"There are wargs and werewolves in Castlevania if I remember correctly," he said to Alucard after a while. "Do you think maybe a warg or a werewolf attacked the unicorn?"
"I said unicorns are powerful creatures, didn't I? Wargs are not fast enough to catch one. Physically impossible. A werewolf, maybe."
They came to a fork in the path, dark and still, shot through with moonlight.
"Let's split up," Soma suggested. "We'll cover more ground."
Alucard nodded. "Just remember to keep your eyes and ears open."
Soma took the right path while Alucard took the left path. The white-haired hero walked in silence. By now, every nerve in his body was drawn up as tight as a biwa string. Sharp-eyed and with ears open, he moved on, stopping every now and then to listen. There were still spots of the silver-blue blood here and there along the winding path. As he walked by a tree stump, he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. He glanced over at where he had seen the movement, but nothing was there now.
The young man looked around, listening carefully.
That's when he heard it!
A faint crunching sound. It sounded like someone or something was walking over dead leaves nearby. Soma tried to pinpoint exactly where it was coming from, but a few seconds later, the sound faded away. He felt a drop of sweat run down his face and his heart was pounding, but he pressed on. He walked more slowly, ears straining for the faintest sound. He kept looking nervously over his shoulder. He had the nasty feeling he was being watched. He was glad Alucard had come with him. Just like in Chidorigafuchi Park, the very moment the dhampir sensed that the boy was in danger, he would come.
The white-haired youth walked deeper and deeper into the forest until he came out on the gravel bar of a wide river that was fast and rocky with a thundering waterfall tumbling down the face of a cliff. He walked through the clear, frothy water and the scenery took a dramatic turn from the deep, dank river basin to a stunning old-growth forest where the moonlight speared down in shafts and pools. The ancient trees grew straight as soldiers, tall as giants, their tops whispering like the sea in the wind that couldn't reach the forest floor.
Soma thought the unicorn blood seemed to be getting thicker. There were splashes of it on the roots of a tree as though the poor creature had been thrashing around in pain close by. He could see a clearing ahead and noticed that something bright white was gleaming on the ground in the filtered moonlight. He walked over to see what it was.
It was the unicorn, lying on its side. Soma had never seen anything so beautiful and yet so sad at the same time. The horse-like creature's legs were sprawled out and its mane was spread on the dark leaves. It was still alive, he could hear it breathing. He kneeled down beside the unicorn and gently pet its muzzle in an attempt to comfort it.
Alucard was right. It was one of the most beautiful things Soma had ever seen.
The young man ran his fingers through the unicorn's pearly white mane. He had never felt anything so smooth. It was like silk. He even touched the large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. He noticed there was a huge open wound on the unicorn's side. The silver-blue blood was flowing profusely from it, clearly indicating that an artery had been severed.
The unicorn suddenly lifted its head, startling Soma as it let out a distressing whinny. Using its front hooves, it pushed itself halfway up. Its eyes were wide open, staring uncomprehendingly into his. He could see the lights behind those eyes fading. Stopping in its effort of getting up, still staring at him, its mouth opened as if it were going to make another sound. Nothing came out and instead it fell back to the ground. It stopped trying to move and was still.
There was now only a small flicker of life in the unicorn's eyes, but it was a small, distant, failing thing. It was like a stone dropped into a dark void and gently fading from sight. The wounded creature took a few more breathes before that last flicker of life finally vanished and its eyes were left with only the peaceful, indifferent gaze of the dead.
Soma was saddened by this, but he reminded himself that there was nothing he could have done. He stood up and started walking away, deciding to go look for Alucard. Suddenly, he heard the crunching noise again. He looked helplessly around as horror bloomed in his eyes.
Then he saw them—two solid cobalt blue eyes—staring at him from the shadowy foliage of an enormous tree. This made him stop dead in his tracks.
Soma could make out the bulk of a large animal crouching on a huge branch, close to the trunk of the tree. Then it moved. He could hear the scratching of razor sharp claws on the bark. It stood up on all fours and moved out of the shadows, jumping down from the branch to the ground. He saw it clearly as it passed between the moonlight and him. It was a tall, hairy, muscular human-like beast that resembled a werewolf. He stood transfixed. The monster reached the dead unicorn and began to feast upon the corpse.
There was no doubt in Soma's mind that this beast was the one that had attacked the unicorn and was returning for more. Turning his back to the horrible sight, he shut his eyes. The muscles in his stomach knotted and jerked. A nauseating sickness spread over his body. He couldn't watch.
Turning back around, Soma saw the monster raise its head and look right at him, its eyes and the unicorn blood that coated its lips glowed palely with reflected moonlight. It stood up on two legs and advanced towards him, growling low and throaty.