Many stories have been told of the Snow Woman. Before One Piece they were told, and they will linger long after the series is done. In honor of today's match, I would like to share with you one such story, which is among the oldest and most well-known. Not only is it a classic fable of terror, but it also contains a lesson that we all must heed. With that in mind, please join me, for the grim story of the two woodcutters… and the Yuki-Onna.
! Once upon a time, in a lonely little village, there lived two humble woodcutters. Mosaku was an older man, but strong from his many years of hard work, while his apprentice, Minokichi, was only eighteen, but already a fine, upstanding young man, with a steady future ahead of him. It was a rough, snowy winter, and the bitter winds swept and bit at the pair, but still they ventured into the forest to work, just like they did every day. With a season as bad as that one, they knew their work was needed more than ever. Even when they were hit with a terrible snowstorm, they worked and worked until the sun began to set, and only then started to head home, though they had been shivering ever since they started.
! Now, the only way to get to the forest from the village and back was by crossing a river, with but a single ferryman as the only means of getting from one side to another. As the two woodcutters trudged back to the river, they had expected their good friend the ferryman to be there waiting, as he always was. But on that night, the coldest of all nights, he was nowhere to be seen. Even stranger, his boat was drifting along down the river, too far away for either of them to reach. Mosaku and Minokichi called out for the ferryman, but they heard no answer. The ferryman couldn’t have wandered off anywhere, since they couldn’t see any footprints in the pure, untouched snow beneath them. Minokichi was concerned, and had started to shiver with more than just the cold, but Mosaku laughed at his apprentice’s cowardice. “He must have gone back home already, and forgot to tie up his boat,” he said. “Serves him right, for leaving us here. Won’t he feel silly when he wakes up, eh?” Minokichi was doubtful at first, but eventually agreed, and the two set out in search of somewhere to stay for the night. As it was, they wouldn’t last long in the snowstorm without some shelter.
! After some walking, they came to a small hut in the woods. It had no windows, and didn’t look from the outside to be very comfortable, but it was already too dark for either of them to see very far, and staying there would be better than freezing while wandering blindly through the wilderness. Minokichi eagerly knocked on the door. No answer. He knocked again, and, without any response, turned to Mosaku.
! “Well, what are you waiting for, boy?” Mosaku said. “Go on in!”
! “Should we?” Minokichi asked nervously. “But wouldn’t we be trespassing?”
! “Bah! If he didn’t want visitors, then he should have left a note saying so. Now open the door, I’m cold.”
! Minokichi frowned, not too happy about the situation, but obeyed his elder. Whatever doubts he had a few minutes ago went away the second he was out of the snowstorm. There was no place in the hut to make a fire, which disappointed them both, so they wrapped themselves up in their straw coats, and tried to fall asleep. They were both weary from the day’s labor, and knew that sleep would come in spite of the cold. Mosaku fell asleep almost immediately, but Minokichi stayed up, awake. Despite what the old man’s reassurances, he was still worried about the ferryman, and was uneasy about staying in a stranger’s home. The storm wasn’t getting any better either. Snow pounded against the doors and ceiling of the hut, and even through his coat, the cold clung onto the poor boy. The wind was screaming outside, rattling the walls of the hut. But, over time, the rhythmic creaking of the hut began to sound relaxing to the youth, and the night wind almost sounded like a singing voice…
! Minokichi awoke suddenly to the sensation of snow on his face. At some point during the night, after he had fallen asleep, the door had blown open, and now the small hut was coated in snow. The moon shone in through the open door, and its light reflected off the snow, covering the space in a pale glow. That is, everywhere except for a tall shadow, right over Minokichi.
! He quickly turned around, frightened, and saw a woman standing in the center of the room. She was dressed all in white, and her unblemished skin seemed no different from the snow that surrounded her. Though it was still dark outside, Minokichi could vividly see the woman’s every detail, as if an unearthly light was surrounding her. Only her hair was black, so dark that it seemed to have been woven from the night sky itself. And her eyes… he did not look long at her eyes. Minokichi was young, and there was much that he did not know, but even he knew when he was looking at someone who was not of his world. He wanted to run, to scream, to do anything except stay right there, but he couldn’t, like he had been frozen where he lay.
! The woman bent down over Mosaku, who was still fast asleep, even while the storm was howling right into the hut, and blew her breath upon him. At least, Minokichi thought it was breath, for it more resembled some kind of white smoke. As the smoke touched Mosaku’s face, the old man grew still, his lips turned blue, and frost appeared on his cheeks and eyelids. It looked as though he had been dead for a long time. Minokichi tried again to scream, and found that, even though his mouth was wide open, and his face was twisted in fear, no sound could come out. The woman then turned, and looked at Minokichi, as if she had only just noticed him for the first time. She rose to her feet and walked, slowly, slowly, over to the boy, and bent down over him, lower and lower, until her face nearly touched his. Minokichi was trapped now. Even if he could move, there was nothing he could do. The closer the woman got to him, the colder the air became, colder than cold, so cold that Minokichi half thought that he was already dead and in the underworld. The woman smiled gently, and though she was beautiful, and her smile kind and inviting, it seemed more terrible than any monster or demon that Minokichi could imagine. The two of them both remained there for a while, the woman and the boy, until finally she spoke, and though the wind still wailed around them, he could hear clearly every syllable. She said, in a voice like ice, words that Minokichi would never forget until the day that he died…
! “Vote for Monet. 2016.”