The Field of Red Flowers

Takeda Chronicles: Of Rivers and Rain

Not all chronicles can be recorded in an airy, beautiful mansion. This time, my brush meets the paper under open sky. This humble scholar must in advance apologize for splotches on the paper, for the weather is bad, and there will be rain.

I am Takeda Yamamoto, and I make these records in the woods of Totomi Province. My party has stopped for a light meal; this humble scholar has foregone it, seeking instead to do his duties as chronicler whilst enjoying a bowl of tea – autumn fragrance, rich flavor, dark leaves, a wooden mug. My lord and master Takeda Ryuji has gathered a force of six samurai with himself as the seventh, aiming to re-take the northern Totomi Province from the ruthless bandit Hoshi. Doubtless my brush will sing of his triumph, if Heaven permits me to live that long.

On the first day of the fifth month of the third Year of Chaos, this being an auspicious day, our party of eleven left Mikawa Province. Besides us seven samurai, there were three servant girls and a huntsman named Kazuo, serving as our guide. The weather was warm and comfortable, and we had fresh supplies and healthy horses. This humble scholar prepared a special saddle for Lady Akiyama, in light of her recent injury and sickness, but she refused it, claiming to be well enough to ride. She does not dishonor her master. In all things, Lady Akiyama is now fully equipped – with a horse, a saddle, and a second sword.

Our ride was, for the most part, pleasant. We had to pass by the handiwork of Asai Noburu, that faithless rat, and for an hour feel the stink of burnt bodies. Other than that, there were no interruptions. Lady Akiyama approached her student, and began her training. She has decided not to let young Lady Ootori learn swordplay from my Lord and master; for what reason, I do not know. Perhaps she feels that a woman is best suited to teach a girl.

After three days of travel, we reached a small village. This village has no name, and exists only for the upkeep of a wooden bridge, built in Takeda Shingen’s days. It was therefore with some surprise that this humble scholar learned that the bridge was no longer there; it was with even greater surprise that he learned it was no accident, but that it had been willfully destroyed – by a kappa. The educated reader will know, that the kappa is a wretched river-demon, fond of beautiful women, whose strength far exceeds its stunted appearance. Though intelligent and cunning, it has a hideous appearance and – all too often – a very evil nature. For fear of the malicious beast, the elder of the village had sent all the women away, and implored that my Lord and master do the same.

Takeda Ryuji, naturally, refused. He ordered the elder to set out rice and sake, and bade all his ten companions to make beds inside the guesthouse. Thereafter he decreed that two men should keep watch throughout the night.

Now, this humble scholar must pause, to make notes upon the heated ki of manhood. This hotness recedes in older men, but in the young it runs rampant. The presence of women often inflames this nature, and therefore, what happened next can be explained.

It so happened, that Nakajima Abe and Isei Ryoichi would keep their watch together. In the dead of night, Nakajima Abe heard a sound, and thinking it was the kappa, fired an arrow. From the dark came a taunting hiss. Nakajima Abe fired a second arrow, and the hissing creature whined; it had been struck. Nakajima Abe, seeking to prove himself a worthy warrior, sprang to his feet and rushed into the dark. It was his hope he had slain the kappa. Isei Ryoichi, not wishing to seem a coward, followed. The creature retreated slowly, and the two men followed.

Presently Akiyama Ren awoke. She alerted the camp to the watchmen’s absence, and followed their tracks. Knowing that more warriors were coming, the kappa struck! It had but feigned injury, and now it attacked Nakajima Abe, dragging him through the woods and striking him fiercely in the groin. Stunned and helpless, he would surely have been drowned by the beast – but now Akiyama Ren arrived, and scared it off.

Captain Abe was returned to the guesthouse, and this humble scholar made a cooling cover for his injuries. The rest of the night passed in sleepless fear, one samurai of seven already wounded by the beast. Fortunately it had not used its full strength, and its victim should recover without permanent damage – though he’ll suffer for some while, without a doubt.

When morning broke, Takeda Ryuji brought Akiyama Ren to the shore of the river. Here, he used his authority as heir to the Totomi Province to call out the demon, and confront it. The creature explained that it had sired a son in this village, and that it had broken the bridge to protect its son from bandits. Unfortunately, the man had already died of pneumonia, and now the demon was furious. It declared it would sire new sons by the village women – whether they wanted to or not.

Raindrops have begun to fall. Tea rapidly cooling. Flavor diluted. I must finish the bowl more quickly than I would like.

When Takeda Ryuji returned to the guesthouse, he bore a terrible bite mark on his shoulder. A lesser man would have lost his arm, but Takeda Ryuji merely complained about the stench of the kappa’s breath. The demon would trouble the village no longer. Takeda Ryuji’s wound was cleaned, and we crossed the river by raft.

We have made camp on the road. Ahead lies a hot spring, whose vapors are good for the lungs. A temple stands to guard over it, tended to by shrine-maidens whose skill at medicine is famous – they will treat my Lord and master without fault, and the infection in his shoulder will go down. We must ride hard, I fear, for the weather is worsening; to make camp in the wilderness is folly. If we but make haste, we can reach it before nightfall. Already the cold troubles me, and my tea has lost its heat.

I hope my next record will be made from someplace warm.

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