The following is a record of the Battle of Peach Blossom Mountain, which took place between House Takeda and House Asai at the Peach Blossom Monastery, on the nineteenth day of the fourth month of the second year since the dissolution of House Takeda. House Asai had long besieged this holy place, seeking to claim the Star of Strength which had been preserved there for many centuries; but it was not the will of Heaven that they should possess it. Takeda Ryuji tried to settle a peaceful solution, but the lethal intervention of the Akatsuki led to a bloody battle, with many dead.
I am Takeda Yamamoto. Let it be known that House Takeda emerged victorious thanks to the prowess of my Lord and master, Takeda Ryuji, and his trusted aide and right-hand woman, Lady Akiyama. This humble scholar will now try to make clear the events that transpired on Peach Blossom Mountain.
The preparations for the battle went thus:
The Enlightened Sage of Peach Blossom Mountain ascended to the highest peak of the monastery, where he used his transcendent Breath to bring forth a rainstorm, slowing the advance of the Asai soldiers. Under the constant barrage of heavy raindrops, Takeda Ryuji assembled the warrior-monks, which numbered thirty-two, and gave them instructions. He also gathered his two generals, Satsuko and Lady Akiyama, and told them to kill the spies that were hidden on the slopes of the mountain. Furthermore, he made sure that Lady Asai and young Lady Ootori were safe inside the hospital, overseen by Umon, who was still recovering from his injuries.
Having done these things, Takeda Ryuji awaited the enemy outside the gate.
I have consulted Captain Kurosawa, who participated in the battle on the Asai side, and learned that the following army was brought to bear against Takeda Ryuji and his thirty-two monks:
Firstly there were five hundred ashigaru soldiers, armed with spears, clad in light-foot armor, and wearing wide-brimmed hats. These were led by Captain Sho, a spearman. Furthermore sixty archers, split into two units, clad in heavy jackets and with wide-brimmed hats. These were led by Captain Abe, the spymaster. Furthermore thirty-five elite heavy cavalrymen, on fine horses, armed with bronze-tipped lances and heavy clubs. These were led by Captain Kurosawa himself, a fine horseman and experienced warrior. Besides these soldiers, there was a skilled champion going by the name of Katsuro, as well as three ninja of the Akatsuki who had infiltrated the ranks of the Asai. All of these were led by Asai Noburu, advisor to the late Asai Shinji. Doubtless his heart burned with hatred for Takeda Ryuji!
As Asai Noburu approached the gate, he saw Takeda Ryuji standing outside it, and commanded his army to attack. These were his tactics:
The infantry marched in the pattern known as the Pounding Fist of Heaven, named for the booming of the soldiers’ boots, straight ahead up the sloping road. The archers nimbly climbed the rocks to the side, attacking in the pattern called Hachiman Opens His Fan, named for the broad covering of arrows such a formation can loose. The cavalry would come last, riding down the monks after the infantry had stormed the gate, in the pattern called The Great Righteous Lance.
Takeda Ryuji, however, was no fool. As the infantry approached, he commanded the gates open behind him, and out fell the two stone gods that had been guarding Peach Blossom Mountain! These massive statues were fifteen feet tall and made of solid granite, and rolled down the slopes of the mountain, straight into the marching soldiers!
(This humble scholar will remind the reader, that the guardian spirits had already been vandalized by Umon some weeks prior, and were beyond repair. Rather than have them shamefully retire, Lord Takeda gave them the honor of defending the temple one last time!)
The infantry thus scattered and distracted, with many men crushed beneath the granite gods, Lord Takeda commanded his two generals to attack! From behind him leaped Satsuko and Lady Akiyama! As the archers loosed their arrows, Lady Akiyama planted her Blade of Destiny in the ground, and caused the arrows to miss their mark, falling short in mid-air. As the scattered infantry readied their charge, Satsuko flew into their midst and tore into them with her mighty jaws, causing even more disorder in their ranks!
Already had Takeda Ryuji taken the edge off the attack, without losing a single man. Presently he readied his own Blade of Destiny and charged in amongst the archers, scattering them like leaves. Lady Akiyama withdrew her blade, and directed four monks against the other thirty archers.
Presently Captain Sho stepped forth from the ranks of the soldiers and challenged Lady Akiyama to duel, while his men gathered around Satsuko with their spears. This Captain had been trained in the Iron-Arm Block technique, and could deflect any ordinary blow with his left hand. Lady Akiyama was his better, however, and distracted him with her Akatsuki techniques before stabbing him in the leg, removing him from battle.
Now the cavalry readied their charge. Riding down their own fleeing men to attack the monastery, they aimed for Takeda Ryuji, who was back at the gate. My Lord and master avoided their attacks, unsaddled a man, stole his horse, and rode for their champion Katsuro, who had challenged him to single combat. This champion was a masterful horseman and such a giant, that he must ride a specially bred steed. He wielded a large spiked club and a heavy lance, that no other man could lift. But this lance shattered against Takeda Ryuji’s breast, and the fearsome warrior was impaled upon my Lord and master’s blade. He was Azami Katsuro, and he fought well.
No general, no matter how great, can lead a battle completely without losses. As Katsuro and Captain Sho fell, Takeda Ryuji looked back across the battlefield, and saw that Satsuko was very injured from a multitude of lances; that Captain Abe had felled six or seven monks with his arrows, and that his men were climbing the walls; and that the path into the monastery was clear for the cavalry. He ordered his loyal okami to retreat, and charged Captain Abe with a blunt-tipped lance, knocking him unconscious. Thereafter he turned his wrath upon the cavalry, while Lady Akiyama cleared the wall of clambering soldiers.
Here this humble scholar must pause in his account of the events to make a personal remark.
At this point in time, Lady Akiyama left my Lord and master’s side. In doing so, she left him alone amidst a multitude of horsemen, including Captain Kurosawa (who, admittedly, had at this point been unsaddled by the warrior-monk Kenshin), and with deadly archers still on the walls. Of a man, this would certainly have been unforgivable. This humble scholar infers, however, that Lady Akiyama’s maternal instincts took control of her, leading her to abandon her sworn master to protect young Lady Ootori. Given that she is honorable and worthy, it is the only explanation for this unreasonable behavior, and therefore the reader should not judge her too harshly. As the educated reader will know, it is a common failing of the female sex that their instincts sometimes guide them, rather than their reason.
Thus Lady Akiyama disappeared from the battlefield, seeing to her apprentice. Lord Takeda, meanwhile, cleared out the remaining soldiers when he saw Asai Noburu, that faithless rat, approach on the battlefield. Riding out to face him, he planned to ask for his surrender – but was suddenly interrupted.
For now, the Akatsuki struck. Having hidden among the archers, they drew their forbidden weapons, coated in poison. If not for Asai Noburu’s cowardly scream of panic, my Lord and master may have never seen them coming. The sudden outburst gave him time to move, and he was merely grazed by the assassin’s knife – though afflicted with the Akatsuki poison, and instantly made weak and sluggish. Despite the incensed venom burning in his blood, Takeda Ryuji instantly slew the attacker, and addressed the soldiers, telling them how the Akatsuki had betrayed them all.
In this instant, all the defeated soldiers all saw how righteous and good Takeda Ryuji was, and surrendered. Asai Noburu, too, realized his error but fled in shame rather than admit his failings. Captain Kurosawa was the first to kneel before Takeda Ryuji, and swore him allegiance. Now they understood that the Akatsuki had slain Asai Shinji of their own accord, and not by my Lord and master’s command, as they had first suspected. The remaining Akatsuki was quickly struck down by Kenshin, aided by the archers who resented being betrayed.
But what had been the Akatsuki’s purpose in attacking Takeda Ryuji? Surely they knew an assassin’s dagger would not fell him in combat? Indeed it was so. The vicious assassins had merely sought to distract him, while their most deadly member – Shiruzen Haruka – moved to strike at Lady Akiyama.
For while all this happened, the following had transpired: Shiruzen Haruka had shed her disguise as a courtesan, and donned the armor of a cavalryman. She had ridden along the men up to the mountain, and thereupon struck the okami Satsuko with a poisoned lance, wounding her mortally. She now lay dying in the courtyard. Then she had ridden past the other warriors, abandoned her horse and her disguise, and headed for the infirmary.
Dressed in just her underwear, she disabled Umon (who, as the reader will recall, had recently been badly whipped, and was in no shape to fight), took young Lady Ootori hostage, and aimed to interrogate Lady Asai and Lady Akiyama about the location of the promised Blade. The Akatsuki, too, had designs on this weapon, and had planned to steal it from Lady Asai upon its retrieval.
Upon learning that a Sword-Saint had already been chosen, the murderous harlot placed her dagger in young Lady Ootori’s back. The girl fell lifeless to the floor. Dropping her dagger, Shiruzen Haruka readied herself to strike down Lady Akiyama with a dreaded technique that is known as Ten Thousand Birds. Of this technique, this humble scholar knows only a little; the educated reader will know that it channels the body’s ki into a lethal weapon, which cuts through flesh, bone, and even steel as easily as if it were paper. Perhaps she would have succeeded, but at this very moment Lady Asai unleashed her mighty kiai shout, and the ferocious whore was distracted. Lady Akiyama parried her blow, unbalancing Shiruzen Haruka’s ki in the process and greatly weakening her.
This humble scholar poorly understands what happened next, but believes that the worthless she-devil was simply overcome with fear, and fled like a cowardly dog.
Lady Akiyama rushed to the side of her young apprentice, and learned that the Akatsuki training had saved her; at the last moment, young Lady Ootori had diverted her ki flow, staying alive despite the deadly blade in her back. Time, however, was short. As the battle ended outside, Lady Akiyama desperately began trying to save young Lady Ootori’s life.
Meanwhile, Lord Takeda rushed to the aid of his loyal Okami. As she lay dying, she transformed into the shape of a woman and bade my Lord and master for aid. For her loyalty and bravery in combat, Lord Takeda rewarded her, using the power of his Blade of Destiny to purify her wounds of poison. Furthermore he ordered several blocks of incense to be burned around the injured Satsuko. The educated reader will know, that the purifying smoke that rises from incense has a healing effect on creatures of spirit, and let it be known Takeda Ryuji spared no expense in healing his loyal servant’s many wounds! This humble scholar estimates that he burned incense to the value of twenty-five koku or more.
This humble scholar has carefully questioned Captain Kurosawa, and learned how the battle concluded:
Virtually all of the defenders had been injured. However, only eight monks were dead. Takeda Ryuji had shallow wounds across his chest and stomach, the brunt of the blow deflected by his iron physique. Poison burned in his veins, but this did not stop him from tending to his allies. Lady Akiyama had a spear-wound in her side. Kenshin was poisoned. Satsuko had a dozen wounds from the enemy lances; were she a mortal woman or an ordinary wolf, she would certainly be dead.
As for the attackers, there remained around one hundred infantrymen, eight archers, and thirteen cavalrymen. Asai Noburu and Shiruzen Haruka had fled the battle. Their men had either died or abandoned them. Captain Kurosawa was bruised, Captain Abe had been knocked unconscious, and Captain Sho had a badly injured leg. All three would soon swear allegiance to Takeda Ryuji.
After the battle, the Enlightened Sage declared his intent to depart. Before this, he spoke with Kenshin, Umon, and Takeda Ryuji. This humble scholar does not know the details of the conversation; but the soldiers say that a sudden squall parted the clouds, as the Enlightened Sage died.
This is what transpired at Peach Blossom Mountain on the nineteenth day of the fourth month of the third Year of Chaos. May Heaven preserve this record. I am Takeda Yamamoto, chronicler of House Takeda; my brush now rests, and my hand will raise a cup of tea in honor of Takeda Ryuji.
(Summer fragrance, green leaves, rich flavor, fine cup).