Snow had never bothered me. The cold was never as bad as other people made it out to be. In fact, I found it comfortable and familiar.
My traveling companions did not share my ease in the snow.
“Who in their right mind would be living on this mountain?” In the last hour and a half, both Terry and Michael had asked me the same question in at least twelve different ways. Reminding them that I wasn’t paying them to ask me who or why about anything of this trip only worked for the first five minutes.
“Someone important to me.” I kept the answer short and hoped that it would be enough to keep them from asking about it again. They reminded me far too much of my father; gruff, stuck in their ways, and prejudiced. It was because of him that I had to make this trip in the first place.
“Who could be so important that you had to make a trip in the middle of winter?” The judgment in the question was so obvious that I resisted my urge to turn around and push him into the snow.
The wind around us began to pick up, whipping us from side to side and blowing my hat away. One of the guys, Terry I think, caught me when I was blown backwards. It wasn’t natural wind, it felt too deliberate. With each step forward that we managed, it blew us back another four steps.
I paused in my next step as I realized that I recognized this wind. It was the same as from my childhood, one that would blow to keep me away from ledges or things that weren’t safe. It was what I had climbed this damn mountain for.
“Mom?” My words were not much more than a whisper but the winds began to soften. My guides got a reprieve but the wind circled around me, softer and almost loving. It lifted my hair and brushed across my cheeks. Closing my eyes, I smiled at the feeling. It had been far too long since I had felt such open love. My father hadn’t wanted much to do with me after he chased off my mother.
“What the hell?” Michael’s voice nearly broke through the peace I felt but I pushed it aside. His attitude couldn’t break this moment for me, not now.
As if my thoughts conjured her, she was there when I opened my eyes. The winds left me to return to her and I couldn’t help the smile that broke across my face. She was here. It had taken me years but I finally found where she was.
People talk about being frozen in place when they meet someone for the first time in years. That they took a moment to take in the changes of time and all that bologna. I didn’t have that moment. She hadn’t changed a bit since I last saw her.
I was practically flying over the snow and launching myself into her open arms. There were shouts of surprise from the guys but they weren’t important, I had found what I hired them for. They could go back down the mountain for all I cared.
“My little one, my Kukiko.” Her voice was one of the few things that memories hadn’t been able to hold onto. My imagination hadn’t done it justice. The name on the other hand had stayed with me, much to my father’s ire. I even researched it to find out what it meant long before I finally found out what my mother actually was.
As tempted as I was to break down and cry, I held back. Not only was it not a good first re-impression with my mother but I would not do it in front of two men. My arms tightened around her while she ran her fingers through my hair. Black hair and pale skin were the most obvious things that I inherited from her and she seemed as fascinated by it as I was by hers.
“I’m so glad I found you,” I murmured, emotions that I wasn’t ready to face clouding my voice. She was silent but she did draw back to cradle my face with her hands and stared at me. Normally, I would have been weirded out but there was something searching about her gaze that kept me from pulling away.
“You came into it, didn’t you?” Her tone told me that denying it would do me no good and I nodded slowly. For a moment, her lips curved into a proud smile before it faded away again. “Who?”
That was a question I had feared. I hadn’t wanted to remember what I did, what I started doing every time I touched someone, but I searched her out because I couldn’t control the power.
“Father.” The whisper came out before I could stop it. Freezing him solid and watching him crumble to pieces had not been my proudest moment. He may have been abusive and called me a monster when he realized I was the same as my mother, but he was still my father. I hadn’t wanted to kill him.
Understanding softened her gaze and my mother pressed a small kiss to my forehead. “I’m sorry, you needed me and I wasn’t there.”
“He chased you away.” I had to point that out. Even at five years old, I knew that she didn’t leave willingly. Threats and intimidation had been something that he had been very good at.
“We have a lot to talk about, my little one. But first,” Looking up in confusion, I was a bit surprised to see her attention had turned towards the guys I hired to help me up the mountain. Glancing over my shoulder, I realized that they had stuck around. Their expressions were a mix of curiosity and wariness.
It was the same look they had given me up until I mentioned hiring them. But mother was able to make those looks shift to curiosity and wonder as she moved closer to them. I had read up on the old legends of her, now mine as well, kind but I had never actually believed how easily Yuki-Onna could charm a man.
“Thank you both for bringing my daughter to me.” Her smile was infectious but my heart thudded dangerously in my chest as she pressed a kiss to each of their cheeks. I couldn’t even warn them, the idea that she’d do that so openly had shocked me still.
As she walked back towards me, I watched as the two clueless hikers froze over. Their skin tinted blue from where mother had kissed them and turned to ice. Once their entire bodies froze, the ice began to crack and with it, their bodies.
“Mom?” This wasn’t what I had expected, not at all. I wanted to get to know her again and learn how to control the powers that had begun to take over my life, not kill the two guys that had helped me despite their reservations of a snowy mountain.
“I can’t let them take the information back to the humans, our kind are growing rarer as the world warms. This is one of our last strongholds.” She linked her arm through mine and began to head up higher on the mountain. “I loved your father but he couldn’t handle the truth. He didn’t want to believe that you may come into the power and wanted me far away from you. It is his own fault that he died. I have so much to teach you, Kukiko.”
All I could do was follow her along. One glance over my shoulder towards the piles of ice made me wonder. Would I grow to be a woman who could kill so easily, one who belonged in the stories of Yuki-onnas? Or was I going to be able to have a life back among the normal people one day?
This was difficult for me to write and I have mixed feelings about it. Japanese creatures are fascinating but they aren’t easy to figure out a plot for.
Next Creature: Bakeneko