The Field of Red Flowers

Takeda Chronicles: Of Loyalties Won and Lost

This shall be the last page of my documentation of the exploits of Takeda Ryuji on Peach Blossom Mountain. Whether this page makes it into official documentation… remains to be seen. I fear it is not as relevant as the other scrolls in recording the glory of my Lord and master. Perhaps, then, I shall permit myself to speculate a little further than what is commonly done in chronicles like these. The reader will forgive my idle brush for writing the empty and foolish thoughts of a humble old scholar. Whatever the case, a few more events – however minor – remain to record.

After his victory on Peach Blossom Mountain, Lord Takeda inspected his newly won troops, and the spoils that came with them. He sent out Lady Akiyama to scout the environment, spoke with his captains, and visited the injured and weary troops. This included young Lady Ootori, who was near death from the assassins’ blade; her condition was critical, but stable. Lord Takeda prayed for her, and for the souls of the deceased.

Lady Akiyama, for her part, obeyed Lord Takeda’s orders. With her apprentice left in the hands of the monks, she moved swiftly to assess the situation. In doing so, she learned that Asai Noburu – that faithless rat – had burned down the teahouse and killed the courtesans as part of his retreat, leaving their dead bodies strewn across the road. Let it be recorded that some Asai men resisted him; their bones and possessions were found in the ashes. Lady Akiyama would bring their money as alms to the temple, that the monks might pray for the souls of the righteous dead.

Not all the courtesans had perished in the attack, however – Lady Akiyama found one survivor, a lowly comfort woman going by the name of Kiyo. This woman had been whoring herself out in the Asai camp, and had thus escaped the massacre brought on by the faithless rat.

Kiyo has come with Lady Akiyama back to Mikawa, the province in which we now reside. Evidently my master’s great general saw some value in her, and has kept her a slave; for what purpose, I dare only speculate. Whatever the case, she belongs to House Akiyama, and this old scholar cannot object – for it is indeed right and good that the noble Lady Akiyama should not tend to her own upkeep. Kiyo can be educated in womanly matters, and become a worthy handmaiden in time. If Lady Akiyama acted incorrectly, it was only in this matter: She ignorantly brought the dirty courtesan to the temple, and let her stay in the hospital – greatly endangering her patient with the unclean woman’s touch! But the monks owed Lady Akiyama their lives, and therefore only the drunkard Umon dared object.

This old scholar has mentioned, that a stream of refugees was coming from the east. These Lady Akiyama observed on her way back up the mountain; Captain Kurosawa knew a little more of the matter, and heard that they were fleeing from a remote part of the Totomi province, which by Heavenly decree belongs to House Takeda. Hearing that these people had been loyal subjects of Takeda Shingen (may his soul live for ten thousand years in Heaven!), my Lord and master immediately sat up on Satsuko and rode out to meet his father’s people. Hearing their plight and seeing their suffering, he immediately commanded that all of House Asai’s supplies be shared with the starving migrants, and that no expense was to be spared in ensuring their comfort and their safety. The people all fell down and praised Takeda Ryuji, seeing clearly his virtue and magnificence, and each and every one felt joy at being reunited with their Lord.

Now, this is what had transpired in the eastern Totomi province since the fall of House Takeda: A great many bandits had arisen, tearing across the plains, raping and pillaging without concern for piety or virtue. These bandits had gathered in the northern plains, near the border to Shinano, under the banner of a ronin named Hoshi. Now, at this time Uesugi Kojiro was laying claim to Shinano, and seeing that the bandits were weak he attacked them, and drove them away.

The bandits escaped to the south, into the woods of Totomi province, and came upon a group of villages in the mountains. Here they began to kill the young men, claim the young women, and enslave or exile everyone who lived. It was refugees from this place that had come to Peach Blossom Mountain. The refugees numbered in the hundreds, and were gathered mainly from the largest village, that had received enough advance warning to flee before the bandits reached them. Therefore their ranks included strong young men and healthy women, although all – irrespective of age or sex – were starved and greatly weakened from the journey. A man named Kazuo had been chosen to lead them, a tall and broad-shouldered hunter who knew the paths through the mountains well.

But now Kazuo threw himself at Takeda Ryuji’s feet, and swore to serve him loyally. His people did likewise. Lord Takeda took the refugees back to the Asai camp, and inspected the stockpiles. The food would last them no more than three days. Lord Takeda therefore resolved to lay claim to an Asai supply caravan, which would not yet have received word of House Asai’s defeat.

Leaving Lady Asai in charge of the encampment, he gathered some good men and set out to reach the caravan. This caravan was guarded by a man named Isei Ryoichi, known as the Little Flying General. He had heard of Takeda Ryuji and knew him to be a good and just man, whose cause was virtue and whose sword Heaven guided. Because Isei Ryoichi could clearly see this, and because he was a good-natured and valiant man, Takeda Ryuji spared his life, thereby winning his loyalty, his men, and his caravan. The supplies were brought back to the camp, and every last man, woman and child could eat and drink to their hearts’ content. Praised be Lord Takeda, for his wisdom and compassion!

This humble scholar must now pause to discuss the matters of Lady Akiyama, at the Peach Blossom Mountain itself. In Lord Takeda’s absence, young Lady Ootori awoke. Tears streamed down her face, and she was overcome with the unconquerable fear of death that young people so often possess. The courtesan Kiyo tried to calm her with soothing songs, but they would not help; for young Lady Ootori had been paralyzed from the waist down, and saw only death or misery in her future.

Lady Akiyama, being a woman, was deeply moved by the crying child. She petitioned an old monk named Nanimo to help her young apprentice. Fortunately, this monk was so near enlightenment that uncleanliness did not bother him – even though the girl had been handled by a prostitute, he made no objections. Nanimo treated the poor child, and because he was so near enlightenment, some feeling was miraculously restored to her legs. Her heart was still heavy with sorrow, however, and she longed for her mother’s embrace. Therefore Lady Akiyama resolved to move her back to Mikawa province, to Lady Ootori, in whose mansion I now pen these pages.

These, I believe, are all the major events that took place at Peach Blossom Mountain. Lord Takeda gathered up his forces and returned after the celebrations had ended. Of other matters, I have not been told – but if the reader will permit me, this humble scholar must record a few issues that have been burdening his heart.

Perhaps I spoke in error when I said that Lady Akiyama Ren’s past does not matter. Undoubtedly it haunts her. A tension hangs between her and Takeda Ryuji, a tension owing, no doubt, to her past with Shiruzen Haruka. My beloved friend Akiyama Nobutomo had often observed that his granddaughter, despite her prowess in battle and despite her honest nature, was a lonely child in need of close friendship.

This humble scholar has only meager knowledge of the Akatsuki, but suspects that bonds of brotherhood must easily form in such circles… and bonds of sisterhood, no doubt, just as strongly. To mention, or even for a moment entertain the thought, that the virtuous Lady Akiyama should share such a bond with a worthless murderous slut, is beyond dishonoring her. This humble scholar would certainly never imply it, and the dog that suggests it deserves a stern whipping. Yet something about this honorless killer clearly troubles my Lady Akiyama, and it seems it has driven a wedge between her and Lord Takeda. I shall have to observe how it unfolds, quite carefully. My Lord and master is a virtuous man, admired and adored by all who follow him. Certainly he will find a way to overcome this obstacle.

I let the brush rest for now. Perhaps this document will be relevant to the chronicles; perhaps it will end up as kindling for a cup of tea. Time will tell. My Lord and master has returned from Peach Blossom Mountain, and plans to embark into Totomi province. If Heaven will permit me, I will dutifully record his victories.

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