The Field of Red Flowers

Takeda Chronicles: Of Akiyama Ren

Once again, my brush to the paper.

I am Takeda Yamamoto, chronicler of Clan Takeda and, insofar as I know, its second-to-last member. I am penning this document at night, awoken by recent disturbances owing to Akiyama Ren, her associates, and her troubled past. But I am getting ahead of myself, and shall start from the beginning.

I have been traveling alongside Takeda Ryuji, last scion of House Takeda, since the destruction of our clan at the hands of several enemies. In his hour of darkness, the boy was blessed by Heaven and bestowed one of the Blades of Destiny – a bloodstained blade, befitting a bloodstained boy – and seeks now to wield War in the name of peace. He is become a Sword-Saint, and through some twist of Fate, I am to be his mentor. In body and in spirit he’s a quick learner; we will see about his mind.

For all his ambition, he is yet just one man. Even a living Buddha could not bring about peace in Yashima by his hand alone; so we went out some weeks ago in search of more hands. This is how we came to seek out Akiyama Ren.

She is the granddaughter of Akiyama Nobu, a scion of Clan Akiyama and therefore a blood-friend of ours; she is also an onna-bugeisha, a warrior woman, young, and unmarried. It is my understanding that she left Clan Akiyama for training under less savory masters, though of this I yet know very little. Whispers say the Akatsuki, whose footsteps are silence, may have gotten hold of her. All shall be known, in good time.

As it were, Akiyama Ren had been staying at a teahouse in the Ootori Side Province, named the Thrashing Carp Teahouse. Young Ryuji’s unfailing steps guided him to this place, where he saw fit to interrupt a kabuki play with his brash behavior – only to learn that Akiyama Ren had been protecting the place for some time. Villagers in trouble from wild dogs or bullies had sought out her aid, and she had answered. This is likely because she carries Akiyama Nobu’s sword, the Blade of the Guardian, which compels her to protect the weak. An admirable quality, though if it’s a quality the girl herself possesses, I cannot say. Nevertheless, young Ryuji entered the teahouse, and made attempts to persuade her.

The establishment served quite delicious tea. Ginseng, with a note of plum in the fragrance, but not in the flavor. A little too hot. Clean cups.

Akiyama Ren told my young master that she had devoted herself to slaying unworthy lords. He said that, should she see him as unworthy, she should strike him down at once. She did not. A good sign. She did not, however, agree to serve him. Fate, it seems, had means of showing his worthiness – or his need of a protector, as it were.

Ootori Hachi had dispatched five thugs, and these thugs were in search of young Lady Akiyama to seek her aid in killing a monster. These thugs were rude, disrespectful, ugly, brash, and ill mannered, with the exception of one young man named Kuma, who was simply stupid. These men caused trouble with the locals and also insulted Lord Takeda’s name. An altercation broke out.

My tea had been poorly sifted and tasted bitter toward the end. Also, the cup was chipped.

As the altercation ended, Akiyama Ren had used her Blade in defense of my master, and in doing so, scared off the thugs with its unearthly blue glow. Seeing as he was quite poor at defending himself, she agreed to protect his life, though perhaps not his honor. This makes her a poor ally. She is also poorly dressed, in the manner of an ugly peasant. And she drank her tea too quickly. Her lack of schooling would only become more apparent, but I digress.

We resolved to meet Ootori Hachi about this monster. I told the two youths what I know about him: That he is a superstitious and pious man, who prays dearly to Heaven. The state of his land would suggest he perhaps does so in excess, for his people were quite poor, and his monks quite rich.

As Ootori Hachi invited us to speak, it seems he mistook my master for Akiyama Ren. This is understandable, as my master was well dressed, well spoken, and well mannered. Akiyama Ren behaved as a spoiled child, and could not stay in her seat. Furthermore, of course, she is a woman. It seems Ootori Hachi was not aware of this.

My master agreed to help out in slaying this monster, and we subsequently went to bed. Akiyama Ren was taken to the women’s quarter, and lodged with the Lord’s daughter.

Now, it seems, I have been awoken by a disturbance. The young onna-bugeisha has been attacked by ninja, and poisoned. The skin on her back has been cut open by a sharp sword, and she is recovering in bed. Needless to say, as I heard this disturbance I awoke the young master, and as I understand it he slew the attackers. He then set out in search of a herb to cure the poison, a plant known as Buddha’s Tears. I believe he has recently returned.

There is one reflection I must make: Lady Akiyama was wearing the garb of a ninja herself. She must have had these clothes beneath her peasant shirt. This is disturbing. It seems the Akatsuki have claimed her, then, which makes her not only rude, but dishonored. I will speak with her, given the opportunity.

There is still some of Lord Ootori’s tea left, which I have reheated. Some ground ginger, not much. Plain fragrance. Decent flavor. Beautiful cup. I shall take the time to enjoy it now, and therefore lay down my brush.

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