The Field of Red Flowers
Ren's Records 2
4 – The Natural Chi user, stupid ninja business, and the blast from the past
I wake up early. Satsuko’s treatment is helping, but I figure that realigning my Chi could be a good plan. If not only for damage, but there has been moments these pasts few days where my Chi was in as good of control as I would like. And my exhaustion has been a real problem. I perform some Tai Chi, in order to rebuild my center. Kenshin joins me outside, he is still rigid… Unmoving. Hm.
The gong rings for breakfast, and my party joins me at breakfast. As breakfast ends, I start Sakura’s first lesson. I tell lord Takeda to stay, as this part will be revealing the Akatsuki, and their view of Chi. I tell them everything… Except that the scroll of Internal Chi… The Kage showed it to me the one time. He said that if I do not master it properly, at my level of chi mastery I may be a danger to myself, and that of others. I did not understand at the time, but I slowly starting to understand what he means… Sakura is strong…
After which we start training, I begin slowly. I simply insert some Chi into Sakura’s back, making it easier for her to feel Chi moving within her body. I lessen the amount of Chi I insert, in order to make her more accustomed to sensing her own Chi moving… I don’t know how, but I can tell. This girl has a lot of Chi, and her breathing is controlled. She reminds me of myself, and before I realize it I quote my old master. I tell her of the dangerous of using Chi, and if one fails in the usage. She is going too fast… at this rate she will harm herself.
Takeda, for his part, went to teach the youngling monks. One of them appears to have the bravery to challenge him. I pause Sakura’s training, and tell her to observe the kid. I do not expect she will see much now, but if nothing else she will train reading the movement of others. The kid is impressive, he manages to actually get lord Takeda to fall. We continue the training as Takeda begins training all the kids ‘normally’.
We continue until lunch. Sakura looks… Different. She looks drained. And she is. Her clothing is a bother at this point, the Yamabushi disguise is far too warm. She is pushing herself. I must teach her patience. Breathing she knows. She is impressive, strong. But she is as of yet unruly. She needs discipline.
For the afternoon training, I change it up. I suppose Tai Chi can serve two ways. First of all, to realign her center, to speed up Chi regeneration, and redistribution. But also, the Tai Chi is the secret to how the Akatsuki learn martial arts. Is is their primary form of physical training. When using slower movements, it works well to realign chi naturally. But if you do it quicker, it can be quite deadly and efficient. I wanted to wait with teaching her anything offensive, before she needs the Tai Chi, for her Chi distribution. Because she has so much Chi, her body doesn’t naturally fill in the blanks. If she moves she, she has enough in any single place. I wonder if I should tell her this… It might be better for her body and soul to learn it unconsciously, and then warn her about it. It should matter little during the basic level.
Night approaches… I intend to reclaim her clothing. I take Satsuko with me. The plan was to infiltrate, and and find out where the person was and possibly to get any information on the soldiers that I figured might be in the inn. A few problems arose. I had adapt, but in the end things worked out. I got the clothes, and got quite a bit of information for lord Takeda. I return… Tired… The door to the temple is closed. I look at the wall for a second. Am I hesitant because of what I said about Chi earlier? Perhaps. I shake it off, and start climbing. I figured it would be tough, but it appears my Chi responds, even in this exhausted state. What does that mean? I imagine Sakura asking me. A thought appears into my mind: ‘Internal Chi’. No… Not possible. Someone like me cannot… It was to sleep, either way.
I awake with the gong, if barely. I tell Sakura sleepily to continue Tai Chi. I had to study her for a second, but I see that her Chi has yet to fully recover from yesterdays training. Right now, she would benefit more from not using it, and simply training her body. I resume sleeping.
I wake by feeling a… Something, my senses seem to be not working properly. Cold water in my face… What the? Lord Takeda? He inquires about my nightly escapades. I am barely awake, but he asks me… If I presented myself a whore, and shamed his name and my own. I am shocked. I can barely speak at first. But after regaining my composure, I tell him as it is. I do not wish to blame Satsuko, I knew that she was incompatible with some of my ninjaing. But in order to make full sense of what happened, I needed to mention her lack of experience when dealing with human customs. Lord Takeda is not pleased. But he appears forgiving now as well… One of these days I will learn, my Lord. When he leaves, I started repairing the clothes. As I was repairing Sakura’s clothes I remember a lady that followed my grandfather around every so often. She was dressed as a samurai. She had the Takeda mark on her back, and the Akiyama brand on her left arm. I asked my grandfather of it one time. He said she was his second in command. Fuku-Taichou, he called it. I was going to sleep, but I spend the time remembering my mother, and what she taught me. I try to make the Takeda brand on the back of the clothes, and the Akiyama on the arm.
At lunch I present Sakura with her clothes. She appears very happy. After which one of the Asaii captains joins us. He asks the yamabushi–which means Sakura in disguise–to help drive away a youkai. Something I realize is my fault. In order to escape the tea house. I may have pretended to be clothes stealing youkai called Tsukomo-Gami. The entire incident was exaggerated. We say that the yamabushi has left, but they point at Sakura to mention that the apprentice is still there. I say that I am currently training her, and agree to exorcise the demon. It was not the first time I had to… Impersonate an exorcism. Of course, I would not do it if I thought there was a chance that there may be an actual Youkai or spirit. But, when I my stupid ninjaing causes fear, I will repair the damage. Before that I continue training Sakura. Patience, and tenacity… She needs discipline still. I tell her to take a defensive stance and I meditate in front her. I ask her to keep her senses on me, try to sense when I move. What I do is simply to try to disturb her center, and knock her over. For her age, and limited training, her reaction is okay and she gets up fast. But what impressed me was that she regained her center nearly as quick as I would… Perhaps even faster. Her potential is scary to think about…
We continue training for a few days, until the day of the divine blade ceremony would finally come. The Asaii arrive to the camp. The Asaii are diverse, and impressive in stature. Asaii Megumi, as I later found out that her name was, the Lady of the party. Her Chi is focused, rigid. Asaii Noburu. I don’t need to read his Chi to tell that he is a snake in human form. Asaii Shinji. Young, impulsive. His Chi is fluid, uncontrolled. He seems to care little for the situation. He does invite lord Takeda to join him in the camp. Lady Asaii goes through the formalities, returning Umon to the monks, and entering the temple for the ceremonies.
We speak to the young Lord for some time, until the ceremony for revealing the blade itself starts. We enter the temple, and watch as she pass us. Her breathing is irregular… Is she nervous? She goes through the ritual, and picks up… A stick. She looks at it, and throws it to the side. Afterwhich she simply storms out. She is stopped by Noburu… He wants her to attack for this shame. She does not respond, and simply goes out.
We go after her. She speaks to Noburo. She appears to not care. She looks over at Umon. I remember he said something about an urn of sake. She appears to remember the same, and dashes up on her horse, leaving Noburu in charge, and leaves the camp. The rest of the Asaii leave, and Takeda confirms Shinji’s earlier invitation. I believe lord Takeda will attempt a peaceful resolution. At this juncture, I have a hard time seeing that happen… But if he can convince Shinji, then perhaps.
Lord Takeda leaves, and tells me that I am in charge of the defenses. Myself and Kenshin make plans for the defenses. He seems… Different. Less rigid, more willing to adapt and improvise. There is no doubt in my mind, this is lord Takeda’s influence. Their previous sparring left a deep impression on the monk. He says the biggest worry are arrows. I know… Somehow, without ever having activated it… My sword has the ability to remove that worry. I feel that there is little reason to hide it now, I reveal my identity as a Sword Saint to Kenshin. After which I check on Umon. I order him to rest, and bandage his wounds, he refuses me to use my Chi to check his wounds, but I do insert a small amount Chi into the bandages to make them slightly more effective. We will need him in the upcoming battle.
Before Lord Takeda returns, I go up to speak to the abbot. I learned earlier that this enlightened one has most likely mastered Chi to a tremendous level. The monks practice a different Chi then the Akatsuki, they practice breath. As I realizing this, the old man levitates. I attempt to hide my surprise… But at this point, I don’t think you can hide anything from this monk. He speaks of the philosophy of his order. There is much wisdom in it. Not something I could ever try my hand at, though. He continues to look for the… Right cloud, and tells me to get back to the front line.
I respond, and start sliding down the side of the building. On the way down I spot refuges in the distance, for a split second I wonder had happened. But then I see lord Takeda and Satsuko. No urn though. Something else, though. A woman sits behind her, lady Asaii no doubt… ‘You have the craziest adventures when I take my eyes off you, my Lord.’, I think while smiling.
I greet my Lord as he returns through the gates. Lady Asaii is indeed our new guest… I mean, honored prisoner. Lord Takeda goes to see the old monk, and asks for water. I call for a monk close to the well to bring him some, while escorting Lady Asaii to the hospice. When we enter, I could not contain my curiosity no more, a weakness to be sure. And I ask her why she was nervous during the ceremony. Part of me knew the answer, but I was curious as to what she would say. As I imagined, she was not one to mince words. She said straight out that she believed herself unsuitable for the Blade of Strength. I make a remark on her Chi and person. She responds by asking me if I believe her to be suitable for a Divine Blade at all. Difficult question, I myself do not know the criteria for being chosen. I tell her that if someone like me can be chosen, then someone like her could be chosen as well. Before I leave, I ask her if she needed anything, she asked politely for water. I told the monk who was fetching water, to bring some for Lady Asaii as well. And with that, I leave her in Sakura’s care.
And with that, Takeda drenched himself to clean off the sweat, and we mounted Satsuko, and left for the camp. I never liked riding, it was one of those things that I abstained from in my early age… And as I barely remember the last time I rode Satsuko, I believe that my nervousness and lack of confidence shone through. As I apologies to lord Takeda and modestly grabbed around his chest, but he took my arms and properly set them around him. Lord Takeda is an enigma… Sometimes he seems like a down right fool, cute in his own way… But sometimes… He is actually really cool. Rarer still, sometimes you can even see some of his wisdom shine through.
We reach the camp. I feel something, I cannot pinpoint it, but I believe someone might be in trouble around here. Hmm.
Noburu is inspecting the captains, and their men. I share with lord Takeda what I learnt about them during my nightly excursion some days earlier. Which makes me remember that the girls spoke of new girl that had joined recently, and now worked as a courtesan for lord Shinji. As we are about to enter, I put my sword to the side. What was that courtesans name again…? Haruhi? Ha… Haruka… Sitting there, next to the lords, playing a shamisen, Shiruzen Haruka. I simply stand there, looking in shock, a bit slow to kneel in front of the lords. Why is she here? Is she still after me? I have not seen her since we fought… Does she hate me? A thousand scenarios play through me head… My blade cannot reach her, even now. When the shock settles, I hear Takeda’s voice… He says something about there being more Sword Saints against them. Timing indeed, I was raising my hand, summoning my blade in order to show Haruka what I had become. I doubt it will change anything. She simply grinned, which made me uneasy. Lord Shinji appears to be convinced that a war is not the best idea… But I know, he no longer has a say in the matter. Haruka will kill him, and a battle is inevitable.
As we leave, I grasp lord Takeda’s robe… Before I can contain myself, to wait until we leave the camp, I whisper: He is already dead. Lord Takeda simply looks at me, and we move outside the camp. I inform him of Haruka’s presence. Shortly after, the young lord screams… And with that we return to the camp, there is nothing we can do her now. As I mount Satsuko, I turn around towards the camp… And I see Haruka mounting a horse as a lancer. My blade cannot reach her…
I clasp myself around Ryuji… I drown my sound… Can he tell that tears are running down my cheeks? I hope not.
We returned and I immediately rush towards the hospice… I don’t know why, but I had to see if Sakura was okay. Why would she not be? I tie a bandage to hide the Akiyama brand on her arm. I tell her about Haruka… And that if she sees her… If either of the two ladies in the see her… They should call to me, preferable even rush to me. My blade cannot reach her, but I won’t let her blade… Or worse… Reach any of my friends!… Of Lord Takeda’s charges. Lord Takeda understands the severity of the situations, and gives Lady Asaii her sword back. I think to myself, that she might not be able to stand up to Haruka even so… But that is not why my heart cries when I see her clasp the sword… What if she did hurt Haruka…? Could I live with that? That was when I realized, that I may never be able to forgive the Shiruzen… But Lord Takeda’s influence on me has made me realize that I never had a reason to have to forgive Haruka… Why brain… WHY?! Can I let… Any blade reach her? I quickly shake my head, and subtly dries the tears welling up in my eyes. And I cast aside the confusion for now and join lord Takeda on the front lines… I need to focus on the upcoming battle.
The old monk starts breathing up on the balcony… He is indeed powerful. He summons a great rain cloud, to slow their advance, and tire out the enemy. To think a mere mortal could do something like that… Though, I suppose he is moving beyond that, as it is. I clasp the hilt of my blade… My hands are shaking. I take a deep breath, and find my center. The shaking stops… At least on the outside.
5 – The words of a wise man: War never changes, neither does sorrow.
I will not lie… I was apprehensive going into this battle. I knew Haruka would participate. Is she alone? Last time we met, she had back-up… Does she now as well? Jonins can get missions on their own… Even so, I know she is strong… But is she a Jonin? Knowing her, she could be. That matters little now… The battle will start soon. My lord Takeda has set up a plan to use the statues of the guardian spirits to perform one last protective duty…
But before the battle began proper, myself and Satsuko was dispatched to take out the scouting parties. Satsuko knew where they were. And because of the heavy rain, and darkness that comes with it, I did not need careful movement… I simply dashed through the mountain range. I found them. Spotting the leader was a simple task. I lined myself up so that I could land on him. I could sense it… My focus was absolute… I was centered… I simple took a deep breath… And slaughtered them all within seconds. I returned to my Lord, and informed him of my exploits. As I was, Satsuko returned as well, equally successful.
As the army approached, myself and my lord Takeda waits for them, in front of the closed gateway. I kneeled down behind Takeda as to not be too intimidating… My Lord Takeda spot to the front captain, Sho was his name. His words escaped me… But I remember feeling relieved. There was something about hearing lord Takeda speak that made me forget about Haruka, forget about my reservations for the upcoming battle, and it focused my senses to the battle at hand. As the battle broke out, I knew my duty… I simply walked back to the monks, planted my sword in my ground… And the arrows started raining down. I had never actually used my Shell previously… I knew I had it, when I grasped my Divine Blade I innately knew its power… That does not seem to be so for all Sword Saints, but myself and Lord Takeda seem to have similar experiences with this. Either way. The arrows rained down… But they became mere dust in front of my Shell. I knew the Shell would not last forever… I could feel it weakening. I stepped outside. I was going to tell lord Takeda about this… And I don’t know if he felt my intention, or if he simply had the same idea… But, it felt as if we synced, when I went out in order to take over his place at the gate, while he went to decimate the archers.
The monks that came out with me went out to the other pack of archers. I heard Abe shout out orders from there. The smart man had hid among his men, indistinguishable from them. I was able to spot him, because he fired three arrows out of unison with the other archers. I kept my eyes on him, while defending against captain Sho. Before we knew it, however… I was in one-on-one combat with Sho, and my lord Takeda with Katsuro, the enemy champion. I will not lie, my focus was… Lacking during this, I focused on Sho, and missed out on most of everything else. I knew Satsuko was hurt, I had previously punched a arrow out of the air, and taken a spear in the shoulder for her, but due to Takeda having told her to retreat and my own focus being centered, I had completely lost track of her.
Sho was strong. I wanted to hide my talents, but, again, Lord Takeda’s influence has forced me to honor my enemy more so then the Akatsuki teach us to display. In the end he fell. I do not believe he died, but he will not stand for a while. And so, I dashed towards the archers who were now climbing the wall. I knocked some off the wall, and slowed a few others. But as I reached the top I noticed something that changed everything for me…
Noburu yelled at me… I can’t say I remember his words, I didn’t listen to it at the time either, I do believe. For what I saw was a masterless horse… A cavalry armor on the ground, and a dropped spear… Haruka had entered the temple in the confusion. I threw my blade as far as I could, teleported to it and dashed towards the hospital. Let me make it in time, Gods…
The vision was… Disturbing. The first thing that greets my eyes is Umon lying unconscious in the corner… Bruises around the neck… It had taken several Chi strikes to knock him down, even in his condition… That man truly is the definition of tough. Lady Asai sitting… Exactly where she was sitting before. Sakura, on the other hand. Was standing up, facing me… With Haruka behind her. I pictured this moment a thousand times in my mind… I had prepared myself mentally for this moment… Or so I thought. I panicked. I barely remember my words, as my body was overflowing with adrenaline. As Haruka mentioned lord Takeda, I could no longer hold back… My sword will reach her! Or so I thought, but she stabbed Sakura before I could do anything. Was Haruka’s reflexes always this sharp? Or are mine dulled? Instead of attacking as I was poised to do, I catch Sakura. I carry her over to lady Asai. She starts to prepare herself. The adrenaline leaves me… Clarity… Even after everything she has done… Haruka is still my sister… Perhaps not by blood. But that is what she is. I love Sakura, she is my pupil, my friend… But even so, I cannot bring myself to hate Haruka. I hurt Haruka greatly, I know this… I tried to say I was sorry to her, but the words did not reach my lips. I take a deep breath, and stare at Haruka. I can see… Something… I sense her Chi moving… It’s moving towards the hand. I know what is happening. I line myself up for the defensive Chi stance taught by the Akatsuki… Planting my blade in the ground behind me. Before Haruka or myself have time to react, however, is a Kiai… Lady Asai channels all of her Breath into the ear blasting shout. I close my ears, and focus my Chi into my vision, which is focused on Haruka. I see the Chi moving into her hand, even so… And charges towards me, staggeringly. I have a moment of perfect clarity… Stopping the Chidori is not a simple task, but if I reverse the Chi, forcing her body to activate the self defense mechanism… Yes, that should work. As Haruka has not gone down the path of Internal Chi like myself, that much I can tell from her Chi…. I can… Tell from her Chi? I see. Regardless, what I did was to insert my Chi in to my hand, as I parried and carried it over to hers, forcing her Chi to reverse… This caused a beam to shoot out from her hand. I shove her back, and tell her to leave. I didn’t mean to, but I think I called Haruka nee-san. Because she responded with ‘sempai’. Hearing that word made my heart stir. I remembered the day I met her… The first time she called me sempai… I was happy then. I tell her to leave again. This time she complied.
I was able to hold my tears back, until Haruka had left. But as I looked upon Sakura, and started panickily to realign her Chi, forcing a great deal of my own Chi into her in order to stabilize her, my tears were falling down on her. I had failed her. I had failed Lord Takeda. And the worst part was that I felt that when it came to Haruka… I would fail them again… Gladly… That mortified me. As I was channeling my Chi into Sakura, I remembered when I opened my eyes in the Akatsuki camp. I was told that I was dying when they picked me up… And I was suffering from Chi negation because of it. Is it too much to hope for that Sakura doesn’t suffer through the same thing? Lord Takeda had summoned Satsuko. I couldn’t leave Sakura, or she would perish for sure. Satsuko could feel it… I guess it is too much to hope for. Satsuko licked Sakura’s wounds, and with that I felt a sudden stream of relief. I knew how effective her healing is. Sakura will live. But it will be hard for her. Someone so talented, to have the Chi… No, no point in thinking about it now.
Later, when I Sakura was stabilized, I left her… My Chi had dropped to a dangerous level… I will meditate by Sakura tonight, I need to realign what Chi I have left. My Lord Takeda spoke to me. He told me that the abbot had passed. He was… Wandering Yashima. Somehow very fitting, I couldn’t hold a single tear back, but I smiled… Somehow, hearing this made me… Happy. I spoke to my lord again later… I mentioned Haruka. I said that my sword cannot reach her. But maybe… Just maybe. Either way, he responded that if she hurt any of his followers again he would personally end her. Upon hearing this my eyes sharpened. Blood lust? Towards my lord Takeda?! I shame myself… I forced myself to compromise… I said that I would not let his sword reach her either. He responded that, in the case that she hurt one of his friends, even I could stop him… He gave me his word. I said with a much sadder voice then I had anticipated, that if that is the case, then I hope it never comes to that… As I would hate to see my lords good word be broken. I leave his tent, and run into Kurosawa. He asked me about what to do now, and some formalities. I answered as best I could, and spoke highly of lord Takeda… The same lord Takeda I just insulted to his face. I don’t understand it myself. I love Lord Takeda, as anyone would love their honored leader… But, even as an order from him, I could not let Haruka be hurt… I just could not.
After the brief conversation with Kurosawa, I go to see to Sho. He is an honorable man… He held no hard feelings towards me, we were both fighting for our honor. He seemed less then taken by the sudden change in command. He was weary about loosing yet an other lord. I told him that I am Takeda’s shield, as long as I live, I will not let him die. He simply nodded to me, and I left him at that. I returned to Sakura, and sat down to meditate, in order to re-center my Chi.
I was too weak. Both in my resolve and my power… That is why Sakura lies dying. I may have stabilized her, but she took a deep cut to the back she may never walk again. Why? WHY?! Why is it that after what she has done… Why can I forgive Haruka so easily? I leave to find my ninja tools, and to get away from the temple for a bit. My thoughts are interrupted by KIyo, the courtesan I met in the tea house. She helps me find my tools.
I asked Kiyo what she would do now, the Asai are no longer the Asai, after all. In retrospect her reaction is understandable, but at the time I thought little of it. What I told her was that Takeda would probably give his men some ‘free reign’. When iI said this, I was thinking about the freedom he had given me, and the responsibility that follows. What she, of course, was thinking is what soldiers actually do when given free reign. Thus, I ended up accepting her as my servant. Again, thinking little of it at the time, but in retrospect, I can see how bringing someone of her… life style into a temple can be seen as thoughtless. Even so, I wanted someone to keep an eye on Sakura, for me. And while I trust the remaining monks… I know they prefer not to. Specially Umon has made this clear.
On the way back up the mountain I meet my Lord Takeda. He made sure to point out that he noticed my new servant, but made little else known about that at the time. Instead, he ordered me scout the area after Noburu. And after having gone up to the temple, introducing Kiyo to her task… Being very clear that what I expected from her was merely to remain with Sakura, and tend to the needs that Kiyo could assist with. After which I headed down the mountain again, towards the teahouse. When I got there I realized that if there is one man that deserves resentment, it is Noburu. He had burned down the teahouse, and slain all the courtesan. I find that some of his own men had spoken up again him, but had been cut down alongside the courtesan. I gathered together their valuables, and headed back up the mountain. I handed the valuables to the temple.
Sometime later my Lord Takeda returned. I spoke to Lady Asai first, however. I reported my findings. After which I spent most of my time with Sakura and Kiyo. It was only interrupted by Takeda. Who came along and properly introduced himself to my servant. I realize that I should be more surprised about this, then I was. Again, he referred to me only as Akiyama… Which my made me realize that I had failed him, insulted him. I went after him, as he left. Again, my heart was weak… I asked for his forgiveness, and made sure to point out that I knew had insulted him. He simply looked at me, took me to the side and explained. That I insulted him was not what he cared about. My actions had put Sakura, and everyone else, at risk… That I failed him, or that I insulted him, was not important. What was important, was that Lord Takeda see all of his charges as his family, and he had hoped that I did the same… But my actions spoke otherwise… I saw Haruka as family, and rest as less then such. Whether this is true or not, I can not say. Lord Takeda has giving me a reason to live, so too has Sakura. But Haruka… She gave me… So much. How can I cut out a part of my heart, and force myself to listen to an other part? One thing was for certain… No sword in the world could be as deadly to me, as Ryuji’s words where then… I knew, that whether or not if I can, is irrelevant. I will. I must. When I chose to serve lord Takeda, I made a vow. But more then that, lord Takeda is worth serving, therefor I will.
Sakura woke up sometime later. She could not feel her legs… I was afraid of this. The Chi in her legs is very thin, and weak. She is going through Chi negation, and at a much more targeted way then I did in my youth. I could it open, by forcing a large per cent of my own Chi into her… While I am confident that I can do it, there’s no guarantee that it works, and it carries a great deal of risk for her, as well as myself. Therefor I sought a less risky way of dealing with it.
After training for sometime, both for the sake of becoming stronger, but also because I think better when I train, I realized… Acupuncture could work, but even if it only helps a little, it would still serve to lessen the risk if I had to insert my own Chi into her. So I went to speak to the monks, to see if they had someone who was more skilled them myself as it. Mostly, my acupuncture stems less from medicine, and more towards information gathering techniques… Torture. What little I can do of it, is simply my mind having shielded me from the brutal practices of the Akatsuki. Either way, I found a brother Nanimo, who was supposed to be the foremost expert on acupuncture in the temple. He was infuriating to speak to. He spoke only in questions. If not for my self-control, and my determination to help Sakura, I may just have hit him…
I brought him to Sakura… And I was not surprised, that she didn’t like him. Her encounter with Nichiren has made her very weary about old monks. I vouched for him, but that was not enough. I went to get Satsuko, to have her judge him. Satsuko appeared, with blood around her mouth. Clearly, I had disturbed her while she was hunting. Even so, she agreed to help me. She encountered the monk, and sniffed him. But something odd happened, Satsuko was as confused by this man, as I was. The power to confuse an Okami… So close to enlightenment, must he be… Can we truly afford to not trust him, then? Even so, I told Sakura that Satsuko did not disapprove of him… Which is technically not a lie!
We brought Sakura to a storage room, and put her up on a bench. I laid her down on her back, and removed her clothing. The monk began to stick the needles into her. He was precise and efficient. It was not long, until he removed a few of the needles, and asked her to move her legs. She did. If only a little bit. Sakura was overjoyed… But I knew, the acupuncture had indeed helped, just nowhere near as much as I had hoped. I did not wish to lie to Sakura, so I informed her of the situation. And presented a choice to her… Because this way, she can move her legs enough to live, at least. The choice was between me helping her, and perhaps restore her full potential, or remain as she is now, with her mother. She could not choose, not now, at least. I want to help her, but I can’t unless she says so. I will not force the procedure on her. I scarcely think that Lord Takeda would forgive me if I did, but more then that… Would I forgive myself?
I moved Sakura back to the hospital, and left her with Kiyo, as I went down to the Asai camp, in order to report to Ryuji. A celebration had began. As Ryuji had successfully recruited the refugees–who where of his lands originally as I understand it, anyway–and successfully recruited the caravan, and their supplies, the men where happy. I sat down and before I was allowed to report, Umon offered me some sake. This was a grand gesture, and had it not come Umon, I may have turned it down. I… had never tried sake before. And I saw little reason to start… However, for the sake of my continued acceptance by Umon, I could not refuse him. Therefor I drank. It burns your throat something immense! And the taste, oh my lord… That, sadly, is the best part… I barely remember anything from the evening, but I recall giving my report to Ryuji, and then heading off to… I don’t even know. I found myself sneaking up on Abe. And as he turned around we… K… Never mind!
The next morning… Was hell. I woke up, to Ryuji being louder then ever… Or did it just feel that way? He and Umon went up to workout as loud as humanly possible… Or inhumanly possible, even! My stomach, my throat, my head, and the rest of my body seemed to hate me for what I had done to it… And I couldn’t blame it. That aside, I went up, eventually, and headed up the mountain in order to get Kiyo, Sakura, and my things. Lord Takeda caught up to me, unsurprising, as I wasn’t moving very quickly. After getting Sakura, just after getting passed the gate, my lord Takeda made a rather snarky comment about me forgetting my things… So, Kiyo went to fetch them, as myself and my most honorable lord Takeda carried down Sakura from the mountain. He also asked me about whether or not I would be okay to travel. I bravely said that it wasn’t a problem. But Takeda, as we all know by this point is not stupid, had suggested that I travel in a cart, with Sakura and Kiyo, so as to keep an eye on Sakura… And I suspect, so that my… Condition, doesn’t become a problem. I may have broken my fathers trust by joining Takeda… But I am glad that I did.
6 – My father often told me that: With great power comes great responsibility.
The journey was long and hard… I… Remember little of the first day. My condition seemed to still be biting at me, unsurprising… Never again!… Or so I thought to myself then, at least. Either way, we eventually stopped, and Lord Takeda appears to have found a suitable spot to camp for the night. I resolved to stay with the carts, while the bulk of the force and people went to the clearing. Kiyo told me that a good way of cleansing my condition, was to let the alcohol sweat out. So I went about working out in the tree tops, naturally. I overheard a conversation between Abe and Kurosawa. Abe was looking for me, as he wanted to share his catch with me. This made me uneasy. My mistakes from the night before came back to me. Well, I say mistake mostly because I was not myself, well not exactly I suppose at least. I just don’t know how to feel about it. My only contact with the possibility of romance was me overhearing my mother and grandfather talking about something they called «prospects», I scarcely knew what they meant at the time of course. And I had little time to think of such things while being trained by the Akatsuki. And while I have received a fair bit of attention since I left them, I have noticed it only as an after thought. I don’t know that I am capable of thinking or feeling in that way. In the end I chose to join him that night, I am uncertain as to why. But one thing is clear, myself and Abe do have things in common, and I do appreciate his company. After which, I went back to the cart, where Kiyo was keeping an eye on Sakura. We huddled up next to her, and slept.
Morning broke, and due to my position I was asked to wake lord Takeda. And to my surprise, there was someone sharing his bed… Namely, Satsuko. Again, I was not sure what I should feel about this. I feigned embarrassment, as it seemed to fit the situation. Feigned, may not be the right word. As I saw Satsuko in her human form, her dress slightly undone, I remembered how she looked when she healed me, and that memory would make anyone embarrassed, I reckon. There was something else, which I am unable to explain. I will think about this feeling. Either way, I was able to awaken my lord and master, and I received his orders in terms of when we were to leave. So I returned to the carts, where Abe was already preparing to move out. I informed the people of our lords intentions, and we started moving not long after. My lord went ahead, with Satsuko. To inform lady Otori of what had befallen. Takeda left lady Asai and myself in charge.
This meant that I was in the front for a period of time, speaking to lady Asai. We spoke about whether or not she would keep her name, as she had now left the Asai. As we had previously mentioned the thinness of the Akiyama ranks, I jokingly mentioned the possibility of her joining me. This made her laugh. Hmph, while I was not serious, her reaction still annoyed me, I must confess. We where however interrupted by one of Abe’s men, who informed me that Kiyo was up to something, something akin to her previous occupation. I rushed towards the cart, figuring that I wouldn’t let anyone take advantage of my servant. As I arrive, Kiyo was nowhere to be seen, but an old yamabushi was taking care of Sakura. Her name was Kanon. She informed me of the situation, and I left to check on Kiyo. I found her and Isei Ryoichi in the midst of an intimate encounter. Again, I was unsure of what I should feel… But I reacted before my senses could catch up to me, I grabbed Isei, and threw him out of the bush they where located in. Kiyo was scared… I can’t blame her. I tried to explain to her that she was no longer a courtesan, and if she chooses to pursue a relation with Isei, that I would not stand in her way, as long as it does not interfere with her duties. As I return somewhat behind Kiyo, I hear the other soldiers comment on her behalf… I fear I may have acted to rashly. Though, I cannot explain why I did what I did, nor am I confident that I could stop myself, where this to happen again. Only time will tell, I suppose. I get back to Kiyo, and apologies to her. A concept she could barely understand. I leave Kiyo and Sakura with Kanon.
After all of that, for some reason I felt myself drawn to Abe. Perhaps because his profession is closely related to what I once did. Either way, I spoke to him. He relayed a message through his network of archers, that Kiyo was off limits. It is nice to speak to someone who seems to understand. After which, I went to Isei, I figured I should apologies to him as well. This encounter made me realize one thing… I do not like this man. He is arrogant, self righteous, and… Probably other terrible things… Yes! Again, after this encounter I was drawn to speak to Abe… I confided my feelings to him, regarding Isei. We did spend a lot of time together during this trip. But at the end, I feel nothing, or rather… I don’t know what I feel. If he died tomorrow, I would be sad… But more because my lord Takeda would have lost a valued member of his army, then anything for myself… What does that mean? I don’t know.
Three days after we left Peach Blossom Mountain do we finally arrive back at the Otori mansion, and the village near it. I am greeted by a lady Otori, who has been informed of Sakura’s condition, as such she appears to barely notice me. Old-man Yamamoto, who does notice me, not that I enjoy his attention. And also my lord Takeda, to whom I report our travels to. As Sakura and lady Otori retreats into the mansion, I remain outside and speak to Takeda. We conclude that I should speak to lady Otori later, so I go inside and wait for her to summon me.
When the summon arrives, I stand up and enter the same room that my lord Takeda earlier declared war on Otori Hachi, now deceased. Lady Otori provided a tea ceremony, after which I began to apologies. While her stone faced expression could not be seen through, her Chi told a different story. She was very different now, her Chi seemed stronger and my colourful… There are not many things that can incur that, though there is one thing that is more effective then the rest, though that is not for me to speculate upon. Her Chi also revealed a sadness, and determination. Sakura had vowed to stay with her mother, after I go through with the healing, and seal away her Chi. Her mother ordered me to speak against that. She said that I owed her, while I don’t agree, I saw little reason to contradict her. She wanted me to take her daughter with me, to teach her. She knew her daughter had too much spirit in her, to simply remain a lady’s daughter. I agreed. While other feelings confuse me, the feeling of family is one that I will not loose again. I also informed her of the truth of the treatment. Normally, it poses an equal risk to both parties. But someone who has mastered Chi to a degree equal, or greater, than myself can remove the risk for the target. But in doing so, increasing the risk to oneself.
I spent most of the rest of the day preparing for the treatment, that would happen the next morning. Of course, due to the extreme strain it would cause on my own and Sakura’s Chi networks, I had to perfectly center my own Chi, with the center of Sakura’s Chi. The longer one takes in doing this, the better. I decided to start in the morning. Normally, even a master would meditate for days, but as mine and Sakura’s Chi were already fairly aligned, the process was not as difficult as it could have been.
As the alignment was nearing completion, leading to the next step which is to simply gather up all of your Chi, I was interrupted. Someone…Something, attacked me from behind. I didn’t notice him, but I was able to react quickly enough to block it, by gathering Chi to my back. As I stood up, I saw… Otori Hachi. A ghost of his former self. I had read of this… Someone with unfinished business, or some other strong connection to living world, may remain on Earth as a spiritual being, free or Chi and of body. I knew that blessed items would be the best way to deal with it, perhaps even the only way… However, I elected to speak to him, before I went as far as to draw my Blade. He kept attacking, waking Sakura up. I did not want to do this in front of her, but I asked her what she wanted me to do. Unsurprisingly, she was too shocked to speak. Her first reaction was to stand up, and grab me, as I was attacked. I took this as a sign of her wishes, so I quickly drew my blade and wounded the ghost. As I figured my blade was indeed effective against him. Takeda arrived. The ghost exploded in a blue smoke. It was not gone, but I could not sense it, as it does not have Chi. The fight ended quickly after Takeda joined in. But I was drained, and in standing up Sakura had forced Chi through her legs. However, much like before instead of running through the Chi network, her Chi flowed outside her body, burning her legs, I quickly suppressed it, and forced my Chi to center close to hers. I knew… It was now or never, if I don’t fix her legs now, I would not be able to fix them later. I told Takeda to leave, and began. The pain was immense. But I did it. At a cost. Not only did I have to use more Chi then I originally thought was necessary, but her own Chi started sucking in the rest of my Chi. I was left drained. When it was finished, she exploded in Chi, which knocked me back, our of the room. Leaving a small crater where I landed. She lept after me, and asked me if I was okay. I was not okay, very far from it. But, she said that I failed her… That I had not sealed her Chi away. I had no Chi left, she had taken it all. I don’t know what I used, but I grabbed her shoulder, and forcibly extinguished as much excess Chi as I could. I could feel my arms essentially melting… If not for the fact that I was nearly unconscious already, the pain would have been too much. After that I went fully unconscious.
I woke up sometime later. Kiyo was sitting next to me. It took me a few moments before I could tell the difference… I could no longer see Chi… I wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or terrified. For the first time since I was a kid, I could not turn elect to view Chi freely, or at all. I felt as if an important part of myself was gone. Lord Takeda joined us before long, while Kiyo was feeding me. He seemed relieved, but also confident… It annoyed me, somehow. I managed to hide it, however. Shortly after he left, Sakura joined me. There was something about her face… Confidence? Arrogance? Anger? Resentment? I don’t know. But there was something about it that made me angry with her, very angry. She told me of her own resentment towards me. It took all I had to not laugh in her face when she said it… How dare she?! I risked my life for her, and she greets me with such a look, such words… I almost regretted helping… Until I realized that my feelings were being driven by my lack of balance, and my Akatsuki training. She mentioned training with Takeda. My heart stirred… That is a bad idea. In her current state of mind, if she starts using Chi too much, she may get used to anger… The hatred. Part of me thought it was fitting punishment for her… But I wouldn’t want her to see her turn into an other Haruka…