Not many know about the legend of the hakino, but I know every story available.
That was why I currently resided in a small village in the heart of Africa. Every year at this time, there was always one who reported traces of the legendary creature. No one had come to me yet, however, and I had been in the village a week.
I flipped through the old notes I had scribed myself. Modern mythology ignored the hakino for whatever reason. Well. There were only a few visual references of the great beast. The majority—which were five in total—had been found in various caves across the globe. All dating back to the cavemen era.
Another visual was a silk painting from ancient China. It depicted something resembling the traditional unicorn, but the lore behind the piece was of the hakino. Though, historically, unicorn only meant “single horn.” The final visual was a banner from medieval England. But they got the hakino’s form wrong, too. Whoever created it mistakenly put a hawk on a rhinoceros’s shoulder.
Breathing in deep, I looked up at the relentless sun. Turned to the native tribe. They had been kind to me for many years as I continued my research. My translator was a village man who acted as liaison between his people and the modern world. Though they rejected modern conveniences with the exception of medicines. It was fascinating to see them preserve their culture.
But the poachers plagued them every year during hunting season.
A commotion started when the scouting party returned. Two men were on either side of a third, helping him hobble on one leg. Blood poured down his useless one.
My translator rose from his seat. Dark eyes taking in the situation of his people. “They have come.”
I didn’t waste any time. Ducking into my hut, I grabbed everything I needed for travel and threw them in my pack. Checked my rifle. Putting binoculars around my neck, I headed out.
“Taylor,” the liaison called, “be careful. Do not get yourself killed.”
Trotting backwards, I couldn’t help but smile. Even if my body died, my soul would never be killed. I followed the blood trail as far as it led. Rifle trained at the ready. The tribe had become my second family, and the poachers had shot one of them. This, I would not brook.
I moved down wind. Crouching through the tall, dry grass. Set up behind a rock. I thought I had heard voices. I listened. The afternoon insects added much ambiance, but I learned to tune them out. I held my breath.
There it was. Laughing. Drunk laughter if I ever heard it.
Creeping onto the rock, I laid flat and the lifted the binoculars to my face.
The camp was approximately sixty yards in front of me. Five men around a fire. Two standing, three sitting. A flask was passed around. One of the standing men held a gun, though he waved it around as if imitating something.
My nostrils flared. They were making fun of shooting my friend. I slowly slid my rifle in front of me. Not wishing to give up my position yet. Looking through the sight, I lined up a perfect head shot. Held my breath again as my finger moved over the trigger.
The ground suddenly shook. My gun fired, but who knew where the bullet went. The poachers were yelling and grabbing guns. I set up another shot. Again, the ground violently shook. So much so, I was thrown off my rock.
I heard the poachers continue screaming. They fired multiple times. But when I tried scrambling to my feet, I was knocked down. What was this? A freak earthquake?
A strong call, of an animal I didn’t recognize, answered me. The yelling subsided. Then, there was silence. Even the insects ceased. All I could hear was my heart thumping in my chest.
Finally, I was able to claw my way back on top of the rock. Came face to face with a vision full of white. Felt hot breath on my back. I swallowed. Daring to look up, I slowly lifted my head.
Piercing copper eyes behind a rhinoceros horn bore into my soul. The abnormally large beast stepped back many paces. Spread large hawk wings.
“The hakino,” I breathed. Moved to the seat of my pants in almost disbelief. This was it. The moment I had waited for, for so long. Before me stood the legendary creature. A white rhinoceros with the gaze and wings of a hawk.
The great beast stared me down in a questioning manner. Intelligence glimmering in its eyes.
I rose to shaky feet. “You’re the hakino. The Great Protector.” I blinked away tears of joy. “God’s Last Righteous Unicorn.”
The hakino bowed on a front leg.
“Wow…after all my years of searching, I’ve finally found you.” I ran a hand through my hair. “You’re the only one of your kind. Have been since the day of creation.”
It nodded and stepped forward. Seeming to evaluate the honesty of my soul.
I remained still. Not from fear but respect. This creature had been around since the beginning of time. Protecting those that couldn’t protect themselves. Including those hunted by poachers. It rarely revealed itself to people. Why had it chosen to reveal itself to me?
The hakino pawed at the ground. Its horn glowed as it unfurled its mighty wings.
Brows furrowing, I searched it. My confusion grew when a hollow horn materialized in my hands. I studied the horn. It had a small hole in the tip. So it wasn’t a drinking horn. Was it to signal? Eyeing the legendary creature, I held the horn to my lips. Blew into it.
The hakino crooned, matching my horn’s pitch.
I took a leap of faith. “Does this call you?” When it nodded, I smiled. “So you really are a unicorn, aren’t you?”
A loud snort was the reply.
Laughing, I gazed upon it some more. Couldn’t resist the temptation. I held out a hand.
The Great Protector put its snout in my open hand. Rumbled in a friendly manner. Then it stepped back. Using its wings for assistance, it reared. Landed on the ground hard enough to shake it.
I stumbled back to the dirt. When I recovered, the hakino was gone. As swiftly as it had arrived. But it was real. The horn was still in my possession. I had been chosen to also be a protector. I stood in silence for some time. Running what had transpired over and over in my head. Then made a mad dash to the village. I had to record everything.
For I—Taylor Rosate—had been part of the single greatest event in a lifetime.