Killer Capuchin

Submitted into Contest #191 in response to: Make Japan (or Japanese culture) an element of your story.... view prompt

21 comments

Asian American Fantasy Adventure

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Wearing a fur collared kimono (which in Japanese refers to all traditional clothing), Shigeru braved the snow biting at his face. Fuka-gatsu, boots woven from barley straw kept his feet warm as they left deep imprints in the white powder. Looking up from the pristine ground before him rewarded Shigeru with a snowflake in the eye. He flinched, slipping on ice beneath the snow. His chestnut brown eyes blinked as he caught himself. Bone chilling cold snuck through his gloves in a heartbeat.

Jumping back up, the hunter brushed the snow from his hanten jacket. The grey and black yabane pattern revealed as he smacked away the compacted snowflakes resembled the fletching of arrows.

Footsteps crunching in the snow, he reached a plateau sheltered by walls of black rock either side. Old growth (kyoju) pine trees towered high over Shigeru into the white nothingness of the sky above. Brown rope stretched around two mighty trunks either side of a red shrine gate (torii). Two stone foxes stood guard either side of the gate. The insides of their ears and the outlines of their sharp eyes had been painted with red that was fading. Shigeru felt the power of the gods (ookami) in the red (aka), their colour helped to ward off disease and malevolence.

Not wanting to tempt the wrath of the ookami, Shigeru pulled a gold coin from his string. The round coin had a square hole in the centre for stringing it together with the rest of the owner’s money.

Before making his offering Shingeru had to purify his hands, the problem being all water on the mountain was frozen. From within his hanten, he pulled a flask of water, wincing at the nip of it on his already chilly hands. First he washed the left, then the right hand, then his mouth.

Cleansed and shivering, Shigeru walked to the gate, bowed. He entered by the side of the gate as walking through the middle was for the gods alone. Flicking the coin into the waiting grill of a box, it clattered in. He bowed deeply, twice, clapped his hands twice, then joined his palms and bowed again. Waiting at the lowest point of the bow, he asked the gods for their aid in his quest.

His soul fortified, he walked on through the woods. Flakes of snow fluttered down through the broken canopy overhead.

Short of breath at high altitude, Shigeru’s breaths became more rapid. At last, the hot springs (onsen) were in sight. Vapours clouded the air over the surface broken by furry heads.

The fuschia coloured faces amongst the sandy coloured hair were unlike any Shigeru had ever seen before. Their eyes ranged from gold to hazel, all with piercing intelligence.

While some lounged together in the onsen, others were digging in the soil nearby, clawing up roots. Shigeru froze, ducking down low to observe the macaques without disturbing them. Curious eyes met his from time to time. Cold crept in through his kimono. Drawing his clothes tight around himself, he rubbed his chest. Shigeru watched, picking the creature that he would capture. Taking one of the dominant males or females might rouse the troop against him before he had time to flee. A curious infant would be perfect. He would train it to use the magic the twinning of their souls would unlock.

In a pouch by his side he carried the bait, dried momo (peach), cut into tiny cubes. Curiosity was the greatest bait of all. A young one stalked closer to him, eyes locked. Shigeru threw some fruit between them. The sudden movement startled the youngster. It scurried away. Eyes peered from the shelter of a tree trunk.

Curiosity winning out again, the infant moved forwards slower than it had before. As it nibbled the food thrown to it, the macaque watched Shigeru assemble a box just large enough to contain it. Clips held the corners together. A simple spring would shut the trap when the youngster pulled food from the trigger.

Leaving a cube of momo in his place, the Hunter walked away. With every step he dropped another portion of bait. With each piece the infant ate, it walked further from its family.

Leaving the last cube in the trigger, he moved away, ears pricked.

SNAP.

Distressed screeches from the tiny macaque echoed throughout the pines. Shigeru ran to the box made from hinoki (Japanese cypress). Running back down the mountain, he chanted his spell while his feet devoured the distance to the village below.

The infant’s troop, roused by its cries, was coming to the little one’s aid. Their calls set Shigeru’s heart racing.

The ritual called for his blood to seal the bond. Stamping his palm on a tiny spike on the cage had done the job, dripping his blood down between the bars onto the macaque. The spell bound their souls in a master and servant relationship.

The little creature stopped screaming. A new voice spoke in its mind.

We are one. You are mine. You will obey.

Translating those concepts into those of a macaque and back, it responded.

We are one. I am yours. I will obey.

The calls of the troop ceased instantly. The bond, a metaphysical chord between family, was severed as if it had never existed. It was not that they forgot, but that the troop considered the young one lost to them, as good as dead, lost to a force that would not leave a body for them to mourn.


The macaque that Shigeru named Yuki grew with him in his village. Theirs was not that of most owners and pets. At any given moment the monkey knew exactly what her master was thinking, exactly what Shigeru wanted.

Dust caught the dancing light through the gaps in the roof of their attic home. Kyoto, the capital, called and murmured beyond the wood. Shigeru, hunter and theif, would count his daily gains by the light of a single candle. Yuki stole for him, slipping into houses in the night and taking strings of coins.

Not a pet, Shigeru insisted that Yuki call him sensei (teacher). When they were not pickpocketing, mostly Yuki, they were practicing magic.

Alone, we are capable of little, said Shigeru’s voice in Yuki’s mind. Together, we can harness the untapped magic of your kind. You have great power within you.

At first it seemed the hunter was wrong. For months, they practiced weather casting in vain. It was up to the macaque to concentrate to summon the cold of its former home. The hunter’s contribution was his knowledge of that could be and the strength of his spirit, the fuel of magic.

A single snowflake was the first sign of success. Astounded, the monkey caught it in her hand. The tiny crystalline structure melted to nothing on the black and pink paw.

That is only the start.

Months later Yuki could form small objects from ice. Orbs the size of a blueberry morphed into icicles the length of her tail.

There is a design I want you to learn, Shigeru thought. He produced a bo-shuriken (throwing knife). Hold this, feel it, it is sharp and deadly. You will make them from ice.

Months passed again. Yuki tried again and again to create the item her sensei desired. Whenever he tested them, they shattered on impact.

Try harder. Make the ice stronger.

Hai (yes), sensei.

Four years had passed since the hunter trapped Yuki on the mountain when she finally mastered the creation of bo-shuriken. The hunter held it in his hand, drew it back, then flung it at a beam. The ice thudded deep into the timber, remaining intact.

Sugoi (wow), well done.

Yuki ate the finest fruit that night. He began teaching her to throw the little knives of ice. The hunter could hit the same dent in the pillar again and again.

How? Yuki asked.

Practice, he replied.

Shigeru was often content to wear rags, squirrelling away stolen coins for a great endeavour he would not explain. Yuki was forced to wear clothes to hide her. For modesty, he explained.

I don’t understand modesty, she told him.

You don’t have to. We are one. You are mine. You obey.

I obey, she agreed.

When months became years, he traded rags for the garb of a trader. Shigeru liked foreign clothes. He wore a yellow gat hat from Korea. Locals didn’t take to his strange ways.

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down,” a burly man told Shigeru one day, blocking the alley the hunter had been walking down.

“Do I look like a nail to you?” asked the thief.

“Yeah, and that makes us hammers,” said the man, showing the gaps in his smile put there by fighting.

“Us?” Shigeru turned to see a man behind him. Both wore rags. Both had arms thicker than his chest. “Please. I don’t want trouble.”

“Then you shouldn’t insult us wearing your foreign nonsense.” Moving close to the hunter, the first man slapped the yellow hat from the thief’s head.

“How does it insult you?” Thinking the insult was done, Shigeru reached to pick his hat from the dirt of the alley. A forceful kick in the ribs put him on his back.

“You dishonour your people, your ancestors playing the gaijin (foreigner).” The man’s words were grunts as he and his friend kicked Shigeru mercilessly.

Should I help? Yuki asked, watching from the rooftop.

No. Follow them when they’re done. I want to know where they live.

Feral kicks pummelled Yuki’s sensei until he was unconscious. The attackers spat on him and left him in the dirt. Obeying her orders, the macaque followed them, her mind free of his voice.


Head pounding, he woke and dusted himself off. He trudged home along a road lined with sakura blossoms. Blown from their flowers, petals fluttered down through the air, sticking to the mud on his yellow yukata (summer kimono).

Rage twisted his face as he walked, tarred and feathered, back to the attic. Onlookers smirked as he passed. Shigeru swore to have vengeance in a hateful recess of his mind so deep that even Yuki was unaware of it.

Sensei? she thought.

Hai (yes).

I found them.

Good. Oide (come here).

Why did you not fight back?

Because no one must know what I am.

What are you? the macaque wondered.

A shinobi (ninja).

Shigeru had a black uniform for Yuki that covered her head to toe apart from her tail. His brown eyes met the gold of hers with responsibility and command.

We are one.

I am yours. I will obey.

I will see through your eyes. I will guide your hand and aid you with your magic. Go across the rooftops to their homes.

Yuki heard the haiku he had composed on his walk home:

Blood red, bruises blue.

Humiliation was mine,

And so I kill you.

Standing on the blue tiles of a roof opposite the home of the first man, Yuki felt Shigeru in her mind, using her eyes.

Are they not your troop? Yuki thought all of the people in Kyoto were a troop, which humans called a clan or a family.

We are a troop of two Yuki. You and I. They attacked me. Now you kill them.

On a window ledge she found the first thug asleep on the tatami mats of the floor. Finding the water in the air, she turned it to ice and created a throwing knife. The bo-shuriken flew from her hand into the snoring man’s neck. He gurgled and turned over, hand clutching at the frozen shuriken. Kicking for a moment, he was dead before he could make enough sound to raise an alarm. A woman by his side slept on. By the time she woke, the murder weapon would have melted.

Now the other, Shigeru commanded.

Hai.

The second man lived nearby, still drinking sake (alcohol). He sang about a beautiful princess who befriended a monkey in chains that performed tricks. The princess bought the monkey from its owner and set it free.

Ignore the song. Kill him.

I can’t see his throat from here, she protested. Gazing down at the man, whose head was bowed as he slurred his way through the song again, she watched his hands rise with the sake in one.

When he raises his hands again, strike hard under the armpit of his left arm, said her sensei.

The drunk lifted his arms again in the wobbly dance. Yuki’s shuriken struck the spot beneath his arm. Blood pooled in the wound. The man stumbled and fell, clutching the shard of ice. His head darted around, looking for the source of his agony.

“Youkai,” he screamed, naming her a ghost. The bloody fingers of his right hand pointed to her black shrouded form on the rooftop. Her next shard of ice struck him in the neck. Instinctively he pulled it from his jugular, blood spurted in a fountain. Yuki fled.


“It is time for us to go home,” Shigeru said, years later.

Back to the mountain? Yuki asked, having learned the meaning of human words from her sensei and reading his books when he was out.

No. The castle.


The castle of the shinobi hid in the shelter of rocks at the heart of marshland. Locals believed the swamp was haunted by vengeful youkai. Weeping maple hid the only door to the home of the assassins.

“Tadaima (I’m back),” said Shigeru as he entered. Men and women relaxed their grips on bows aimed at the pair.

“Okaeri nasai (welcome back),” said the other shinobi who knew him. All of them bowed, bowing lower when an old woman entered the room. A fox with nine tails stood by her side.

“Shigeru, okaeri nasai,” said the grey haired lady, bowing her head slightly. Her frayed purple kimono shimmered with the pearlescence of the aurora.

“Iga Shishou (Master Iga),” the shinobi bowed as low as he could without falling over. “We have killed forty two.”

“I know.” A predator’s brown eyes narrowed in a soul piercing stare that told Shigeru she knew everything he had done. The wrinkles in her time worn face gathered together around a brown toothed smile. “Omedetou gozaimasu (formal congratulations),” she blinked in place of a bow to her subordinate.

“Arigato gozaimasu (thank you very much), sensei.” To Yuki’s eyes, the hunter was a scolded infant before its mother.

“Tomorrow you will face the next test.” Youthful hands wrapped in old skin waved to the kitsune by her side then out to the other assassins. Yuki’s eyes picked out animals nestled in the welcoming shadows throughout the room. A young fox. A yellow mouse. A rat dyed purple by the blueberries it was devouring.

A kappa glowered from a corner. Unlike the stories, Yuki noted there was no shell. More otter than turtle, it had claws long and sharp as knives. A beak opened to reveal teeth within.

“Tomorrow, you face Sagojo and his kappa. You will have three tries to draw first blood. Pass the test, you will join our ranks. If you fail you will need to wait another year. Rest.” Locking eyes with Sagojo, she nodded almost imperceptibly then departed.

“Looks like you’ve got at least another year,” Sagojo’s grin was the sort Yuki has so often been told needed a punch to wipe it off.

“We shall see, senpai (senior student).” Shigeru bowed to the smug man in a grey kimono. He guided the capuchin to a dusty room half the size of the attic they had shared for years. Stale air hovered over the dust that covered anything free of algae.

Yuki’s nimble fingers flicked through the little box that hid Shigeru’s poisons beneath a false bottom. I don’t want to fight that kappa, she told him.

Hit it with the first strike. It will be quick. He sighed.

Why should I fight? What do I gain?

“We are one,” he said, voice rising. “You are mine. You will obey.”

“No,” she said. Speaking for the first time to deny him took them both by surprise. While he recovered from the shock, she blew paralytic powder into his face. Yuki drew on the spell she had learned from his book. She cut herself, rubbing her blood across his face.

We are two. I am my own. You will obey that.

“Hai,” he said. His eyes were glazed with the magical trance.

Keeping the pouch of paralytic by her side, Yuki moved through the underground castle. Shafts of light came down into the darkness from holes in solid rock above. A rat watched her from a shelf. She blew the powder at it. The door into the swamp creaked open.

“Catch it,” came a cry behind her.

Yuki summoned ice to freeze the hinges, to jam the lock. Shigeru had been selfish and even tyrannical at times, but he had taught her well. Bang against the door as they did, the shinobi could not break through it. She fled through the bog, into the forest and away.


Wearing nothing but her fur, Yuki braved the biting cold of the mountain where she had been born. Carrying the magical book of the shinobi, she passed the shrine. Her feet left only shallow imprints in the soft powder. At last the scent of the air changed. Vapours from the onsen filled her nose with the near forgotten smell of home.

Book in hand, she met her kind. Now I am the sensei. Binding all of the mountain capuchins together with the same magic, they were stronger than the shinobi could ever have imagined. None trespassed on their mountain again and lived to tell the tale.

March 31, 2023 09:39

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21 comments

Mary Bendickson
15:14 Apr 05, 2023

Fascinating story, Graham. Good prompt follow. Enlightening.

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Graham Kinross
22:01 Apr 05, 2023

Thanks, Mary.

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Lily Finch
22:56 Apr 02, 2023

Hey Graham, this was a fantastic tale. Excellent answer to the prompt and such a delightful adventurous read. Your vivd descriptions and scenes were obvious while your pace and flow added to your intentionality of the piece. You mastered the weaving of the unity of effect in this story with your attention to detail. Well done, and a pleasure to read. LF6.

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Graham Kinross
01:26 Apr 03, 2023

Thanks, Lily. It was nice to be able to use my basic Japanese to add a bit to it and to throw in obscure references. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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Lily Finch
01:46 Apr 03, 2023

Truthfully it was excellent Graham. LF6.

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Graham Kinross
11:00 Apr 03, 2023

Thanks, Lily. Not sure how much time I’m going to have for writing now. Just switched to full time after years of part time and I’m in a supervisor position at the start of a new business. Complete chaos trying to organise it all. Missing the old job already.

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L M
09:00 Apr 16, 2023

Pokemon fan? Dod you play the new game?

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Graham Kinross
13:07 Apr 16, 2023

I’m still playing it. Trying to get the new level 7 raid Fire pokemon. Very difficult though.

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L M
23:23 Apr 17, 2023

Dud you get it? Have you completed the pokedex? Ive got then all.

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Graham Kinross
00:24 Apr 18, 2023

I didn’t manage to get charizard or the fire rabbit. I’m a bit gutted about those. Got most of the ones I want though. I like the grass/ghost archer owl.

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L M
21:58 Apr 26, 2023

I like the level seven taids but some are too difficult.

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Graham Kinross
00:16 Apr 27, 2023

It depends what Pokémon you have. It’s a challenge to grind enough to get the right Pokémon to level 100 then to max out its stats. If you swim around the lake to the North West you can get lots of feathers easily. Typhlosion was really difficult compared to Walking Wake. Iron Leaves was very hard as well, it doesn’t help when other players make the wrong Pokémon choice and doom you from the start. I’m hoping doing these raids just gets you the Pokémon early because I missed a few. Hopefully the rest will be in the expansion when it comes out.

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