The Field of Red Flowers
1 – The Lunatic, the weakling, and the old tea-sniffer.
Huh. I don’t recall how long I’ve been here… Has it been a week already? Oh well. At first I came here just to get away from everything, get away from what I have become… But, it appears that my nature and my duty keeps up with me. There has been wolf and fox attacks as of late. I have done what I can to defend the villagers of… Where ever this is. I have also heard tidbits of the lord in the area, he appears to have started to neglect his charges… I cannot allow that. Though, for the moment I am contempt to simply remain here, drinking tea, helping the passerby’s as I see fit.
There is a play going on outside, seems rather dull. Though, something interesting does happen. It is interrupted by some charging lunatic. I grab my katana in its sheath, and I remain, ready to go if needed. The lunatic appears harmless, so I let go of my katana, and rejoin my tea. Though, my peace is not long before it is interrupted by the lunatic charging into the tea house, asking for Akiyama Ren. I give him a quick glance… Recklessness, I don’t need to study him long to see that this a man of action. I better stay at the ready, these types of people can be dangerous. He walks up to the barkeep, and asks him. He points at me. The lunatic gets up to me. He introduces himself as Takeda Ryuji. I don’t know why, but something in me stirs… I burst up, katana drawn pointing at his neck, and asking him how he dares use that name. To think mere words can activate me so… He remains oddly calm even with my blade at his throat. He tells me he is a lone survivor, along with his companion Takeda Yamamoto. Yamamoto… That name rings a bell. And before I have time to think it over, Yamamoto joins us. I strike-up conversation with him, as I recall that he was ones a friend of my grandfathers. I am usually very suspicious of people, but this Yamamoto person seems very trustworthy… I actually believe him. And that means that The Lunatic… Ryuji, is also telling the truth?
He asks me to join him, apparently he wish to conquer the land, and change it for the better. I want to join him… But what would my father say? Also, someone as weak as me… Can he really use me?
In my indecision and brashness, I stand up and leave the tea house. On the way out, I am stopped by some people who are also looking for Akiyama Ren… Popular fellow isn’t he? Shame that everyone seems to miss the fact that I’m not a man. I am used to it, though. He attempts to stop me from leaving, but I gently nudge him aside, accidentally chi-blocking his shoulder. It was some time ago that I last practiced chi-blocking, it is difficult to control at times. Ryuji starts talking about how Ren is under his employ, and that him and his ‘friend’, nodding over to me, could help them. I don’t recall being under his employ, and I don’t recall becoming his friend. But I see little reason to decline, as the people are looking for me to help deal with something. We exit the tea shop, and outside it appears that the brutes have shaken up the poor ‘lady’s’ cart. Ryuji asks them to clean up. As is the case with brutes, they refuse. I grasp the hilt of my blade, but Ryuji’s recklessness acts before me, he grabs the ear of the big guy. Hmm… In my days, I have dished out quite a bit of pain, and taken it… But the eyes of that big guy… Ryuji is strong, perhaps too strong. He manages to coerce the big guy into helping to clean up. The leader of the brutes, however, is unimpressed. He threatens the ‘lady’, I place myself in front of her, objecting to his threat. Ryuji taunts the leader to attack. So he does, Ryuji the fool just stands there and takes the sword straight in his chest… As I am apparently under his employ, I will do what I can to protect him. The others charge him, I toss my blade in front of Ryuji, activating its barrier. That is usually enough to scare off those of lesser hearts. I defend the attacks, and the brutes leave. Ryuji seems less surprise then I would imagine, but he appears to be impressed.
The big guy agrees to show us to his Lord. As we leave, I walk up behind Ryuji, putting my sheath to his back. He had previously said that if he steps of the right path, that I should stop him. I make a vow to him then and there… I will serve him, as his shield or his assassin, only time will tell.
We are taken to the summer house of the Lord of these lands. On the way there we see that the peasants are indeed not properly cared for, over worked and under nourished, unacceptable.
We are invited in as honored guests. We are introduced to the Lord’s family, and his resident monk. Tables are set out for us, with the finest noodles… The guests eat well, but the staff appears to at times not eat at all, this disturbs me. The briefing starts, and Ryuji gets confused for myself. Seeing as the Lord appears to mostly be speaking to Ryuji, I stand up figuring I may speak to the servants in the mean time. This was a bad plan, of course. As they see me getting up as me missing something, and they start fetching and giving me things… I return them, as Ryuji asks me what I think of the discussion. I quickly give back the things I’m holding, and I respond that a huge wolf in the mountains is surely something that needs to be investigated further. Most of the room is looking quite oddly at me, unsurprisingly. We are assigned to sleep in separate courters, even if I voice my concern that if I am to protect Ryuji, I should stay with him. He says that Yamamoto is sufficient. I have heard the stories of Yamamoto before, he was a strong warrior, though he preferred the mental arts… And the drinking arts, something my grandfather was quick to hide, but my father spoke of happily. My grandfather respected Yamamoto greatly, so I let him guard the young Lord.
I taken to sleep with the daughter of the lord, and her servants. Sakura is her name. She one of few who find out about my Divine Blade status, and accepts to drop the -sama, I find I can relax around her because of this. I even mention my family to her. She seems very earnest, it is almost a shame that I have a duty that may make her fatherless.
We go to sleep, and I wait for her to quiet down, before I step out. First I check a door that was opened, then I head up the stairs. Before I reach the top of the stairs, I notice someone below. I can barely see, but I can hear him. Suddenly I get attacked from above. A ninja attempts to grapple me. He whispers in my ear that they are of the Akatsuki. I had almost forgotten. I had not seen them since I fought Haruka, my friend. The shock leaves me in time to avoid the grapple, the sword misses as well. A battle ensues, a silent battle. I get struck with the Akatsuki poison, a non-lethal poison that numbs your limbs, and I manage to strike the one who came from the ceiling, but I am also grievously injured. I leap back, behind the one came from the floor, I hurt him… But it is not good enough. The one from the roof strikes from above again, I am only barely quick enough to avoid it with my kunai. I attempt to slice the one in front of me, however he is quick as lightning. I hear Sakura behind me, I leap down and stand in front of her, telling her to remain behind me. Both ninjas charge at me, but out of nowhere, rather out of the wall, there is Ryuji… Sword drawn, he slices through the first ninja, but stopping close to me, too close. My katana glows, as the floor ninja leaps at me. No, this is the sacrificial strike! I strike the sword into the ground, and I channel all my energy to defend against that one spot. I manage, if only just. Exhausted, I draw my sword, and slice at the ninja, taking him down. I look around quickly to see if anyone else had come for me, or anyone else, but as I sense nothing beyond the safety of Sakura and Ryuji’s presence I fall to the ground, bleeding, exhausted, and numb. Heh… Are you sure you need such a weakling in your party, Ryuji?
Some time passes, and I lie comfortably, until something makes my skin crawl. I remember this sensation, someone is in trouble. I shoot up, and see the monk leaning over Sakura. Before I have time to act, I notice that my leather armor has been… Opened, in the back. And it falls off me. My bandages seem to have been removed as well. I cover myself, with what is left of the leather armor. Ryuji joins us, very timely Ryuji… He apparently has brought a flower to counteract the toxins in my system… I inform them that the poison is merely a numbing poison, and that it has already left my system. And with that, myself and Sakura return to her room, in order to get some much needed rest…
2 – Ninjas, samurais and a wolf
When I return to Sakura’s room, she starts asking me about what had happened. This did not surprise me. NInja’s are not as rare as they should be anymore, but rare enough, and they usually do not target guests, but rather the Lord of the household, or his family. I… I told her the truth. I felt no need to mince words. She also asked me what I was doing up in the middle of the night. Again, against perhaps my better judgement, I told her the truth. She was shocked. She did not have much love for her father, but unsurprisingly she was not fond of the idea me perhaps needing to… End him. With that we went back to sleep.
The next morning started bright and early, with Sakura’s mother waking us. After which, we went for breakfast. We sat down and waited first for Ootori-sama, and finally for Ryuji. Yamamoto did not join us. After the breakfast was finished, Ryuji proceeded to declare war on Ootori-sama. I was rather surprised, even though his behavior shows clear signs of recklessness. The deal was apparently either war, or let the monk be judged by the Ookami-sama, that he had met and spoken to in the mountain. Takeda Ryuji, you have the strangest adventures, I best keep both eyes on you as often as I can, if I shall be you shield. Speaking of which, Ootori-sama was outraged by this, no surprise there, and shouted as Ryuji, asking him about «You and what army?», at which point I felt compelled to stand up and nod. Ootori-sama was not pleased by this development. However, the monk agreed to be judged by the wolf.
So, myself, Ryuji, and the monk went to the outskirts of the town. The monk started, as I suspected, to try to weasel his way out of the deal. Takeda Ryuji stood firm. It pleases me that I feel my choice being well made. The monk turns around and runs. I ready a shuriken, but Ryuji stops me, I respect his wishes. I would say that I trust he has a plan, though I doubt he has thought very far ahead… Though, he has surprised me before. Ryuji summons his new found friend, the wold. I try to hide my surprise. I subtly grasp my sheath… Something I did not realize myself, until after a few seconds, either because of fear or respect, hard to know sometimes. After an exchange were we agreed to fetch Yamamoto, and head into the woods.
The Ookami-sama led us into the woods and we set up camp in a cave. I gave Yamamoto some of my healing herbs, that he used for his tea… Oh well, I can get more, I suppose. As I figured, Takeda Ryuji asked me about the ninjas. I told half a story to Ootori-sama, about the ninjas being after me because of the Lords that I had ended previously. But, I have sworn my fealty to Takeda Ryuji, and he should know what he has signed up for… I told him the story of the fall of the Akiyama clan, and of the Akatsuki. I asked him straight out if needed a weakling like myself, with an entire ninja organization after me. He thanked me for telling him, and said that he had already made his decision, and that he would not let me go now. I was touched by his words, I have heard many people born with the silver tongue speak, but few speak in earnest. I was able to resist the urge to cry, speaking about my past is painful, and with such encouragement right after even my tempered nerves on edge. I may have blushed, though.
Yamamoto took Ryuji aside. Perhaps to warn Ryuji about any further connection with myself. It is clear to me that I am not enough like my grandfather, and because of that, I have disappointed Yamamoto.
I was left alone with Satsuko, and tried to make polite conversation. At first she seemed not to like me, however, she seemed to accept me as we spoke… Though it is hard to tell, I am not very used to interacting with the creatures of the heavens.
Satsuko and Ryuji went out to scout the area, which left me with Yamamoto. He agreed to take a look at my wounds. We also had an enlightening conversation regarding my position within the Takeda clan. He told me that if I intend to remain as Ryuji’s shield, then I need to act like a true ona bugeisha, a true lady samurai. He asked me if I had that fortitude. The irony amused me… My troubled childhood began with me not wanted to answer essentially exactly that question. But, this time I could respond. I am not certain if I answered Yamamoto, or my grandfather’s question about me becoming the head of Akiyama, and a samurai of Takeda. To me, the two are synonymous. In accepting Yamamoto’s question, I also, somewhere deep inside, accepted my fate as the head of the Akiyama clan.
We went over the plan, and Yamamoto suggested that having a ninja among us would allow us to remove their leader from the equation. I simply nodded. And shortly after we went to sleep.
We rose early. My wounds ache less. We had a light breakfast of… Ehr… tea. Does Yamamoto ever sleep? We went over the plan one last time, and then we left. Yamamoto stayed behind, and Satsuko followed to watch over the battle, not to join it.
We waited by a road for the scouts. Ryuji in the middle of the road, and doing calligraphy, and myself skulking the trees. The scouts arrived, and we recognized them well. They where the same thugs who where making trouble in the village near the teahouse. They saw Ryuji, and the big guy, wise as ever, simply dropped his weapon. I positioned myself, and let Ryuji try talking to them. When that failed, I let off a few shurikens, to slow their advance. Ryuji cut through the charges, while I took care of the straggler. They may have been unimpressive, but the speed to which Ryuji took them was very impressive. After that short battle, we told the big guy to wait here, he seemed not very keen to go back to his master. And with that, we, myself, Ryuji, and Satsuko, went to the next battlefield, the big one.
Shortly before we arrived proper did we start setting up our plan. I went off to begin my assassination. I dressed up as the guards, and made my way to right behind Otori-sama. There I waited, until the battle began. As soon as he had let his men go I leapt up, placing myself right behind him on his horse, stabbing him with my sword. The cut was deep. He started panicking, but my following attempts ran short. In the mean time, Ryuji was apparently cleaning up the horsemen. I had been jumping around on the horse, but I found myself sitting behind him again, when I saw Ryuji…. With a bow? Where did that come from? The arrow hit straight and true… And HARD. I nearly fell off the horse myself, but I was able to angle myself to do the final blow to Otori-sama. And thus, Otori-sama was no more. Ryuji arrived… As he does. And started speaking to the people. I stood behind him at first, but as he asked for their allegiance, I placed myself in front the soldiers, and kneeled. This felt a bit odd at first. I have only kneeled at my Akatsuki lord previously, as well as my grandfather… To kneel in front of Ryuji… Takeda-sama felt… Right.
Otori’s wife, Otori-san, went up to Takeda-sama, and spoke of the new rulership, which was to be Otori-san. We also found out that the monk had taken Sakura to his monastery, for safe keeping. Ryuji said that we would save her. I passed Otori-san on the way to join Takeda-sama. I told her that as long as I am shield of Takeda, I will also be her shield, while she remains loyal. It came off as more of a threat, then I had anticipated, but that is just as well.
I joined Ryuji, and asked him about the bow. He told me that he too is a chosen of the Gods, a wielder of a Divine Blade. His blade is that of war. He drew his sword, and showed me its many shapes. I could barely contain my excitement. To meet an other like myself, and that other to be someone I consider friend… In a moments lack of etiquette. I called my Lord ‘brother’… He did not seem to mind, however. In fact, he tore a piece of his coat, and gave it to me to tie my hair, saying that: “It’ll be a long journey, you’re going to need this.”. And so, I left the path of the Ronin.
3 – The cowardly monk, the gynophobic big man, and the… the wolf
We waited for Satsuko to return, but shortly after we set off. I do not know how to ride. And I foolishly believed that this would not be an issue. As a result, I remember little of the trip to the monastery… I mostly remember pain in my inner legs areas. Either way, I wake up… some hours later. Many many hours later. In a bed, with an unfamiliar roof. I see a monk standing in the doorway. I ask him where I am, as I figured I was probably in Peach Blossom Mountain, but to be sure. He answered as I believed. I went out and spoke to Ryuji, he was fighting the monks one by one. We waited fir the abbot, to speak to him. As he arrived we spoke to him, and we shared what we knew of Nichiren, and his illicit behavior. And also Sakura’s innocence. The abbot makes a jab at my blade wielding me, and not the other way around. I can see how the confusion appears… The Blade of Protection would think as I do. However, it would not make sense to let a shield die. I will do as always do, I will nod and act ignorant. But to fight against a divine survival instinct… But that is a for a different day.
I went down to speak with Sakura. I informed her of our plan. I asked patience from her. She replied as I had hoped. We realized that Nichiren would see her before going after the Divine Blade. I thought up a plan to keep him from her. But before that, as I went up I noticed that lord Takeda was praying. He looked so peaceful, and, I daresay, cool… Until of course he went back to odd self, and pointed up to the left, he said something about showing or something, honestly, I forget. Anyway, the plan involved me dressing up as a yamabushi, a wandering type of monk that specialize in exorcisms and the likes. I had to find all the pieces to this disguise so I spoke to abbot, and he assisted me in getting the makeup and white cloth. With it I was able to dress up as a yamabushi, so then I was only missing the mannerisms and speech. I practiced speaking like an old woman for a bit, and I meditated on what it would mean to be an yamabushi, I believe I found it. I sat down in front of the stairs down to the cellars, and I waited…
Later towards the evening Nichiren returned, and went towards me. My disguise was now to be put to the test. I informed him of my occupation, and my reason for being there. He believed me, but attempted to make me scarce, by bribing me and saying that I need not use my time for such a menial task. I attempted to convince him that my help was indeed needed, that the case was much more severe then he knew. He mentioned that he had fought the demon, and pointed to his bruises. I touched the bruises, and said that all the more reason that he stay away from the demon possessed child. Be it my dislike for him, or just an accidental action, but I struck him with my Chi. I quickly realized that this was a great chance! I used the accidental Chi, to attempt to convince him that he was infected and he needed to rest. We both knew I was lying out of ears, but he did not know that I knew… And I started to notice doubt in him. Either way, my plan had worked. With a combination of disguise, and my Chi strikes, I was able to keep Ichiren away from Sakura all night. In the morning I saw the abbot speak to Nichiren, probably to lead him out for the Divine Blade. After which I went down to Sakura, and asked what she wanted to do. The abbot had suggested that she may stay here, but I believed that she would oppose that, and I would honor her wishes. I presented her options, stay here with the monks, or come with me. Of course, she could elect to leave, and go back to her mother. Though, I would personally oppose that suggestion, as it would bring unnecessary risk to her. She chose to go with myself and Lord Takeda. Nichiren went to the camp outside, led by the Asai clan, where my shurikens and kunais where stashed. They where taken off me, when I was treated. When I first got them I felt them to be more of a nuiscense, but now I almost feel naked with them. I had hatched a plan to get them back earlier, but Takeda wisely advised me against it. Either way, we chose to take a fast route through the forrest. My wounds still ached, and my muscles where still sore, but I picked up Sakura, and picked her and ran through the woods. She was impressed, and asked me if I could teach me. I was touched… I promised my teaching service to her. The last bit through the woods, the teaching began. I let her move, with my back up and my tips.
Before long, Satsuko approached us. Sakura impressed me… She was afraid, she respected the divine creature, but she stood firm and did not let herself be overwhelmed. I was glad to have accepted her as a pupil, she shows great promise. Even when the Okami came close and sniffed her, angrily saying that «He touched her.», she barely flinched. After that little exchange, we joined Lord Takeda and his new friend a great big brute of a man named Umon, Kuma’s old teacher. He was… Disrespectful towards the sex I share with Sakura… However, he believed me to be a man, Ryuji did not correct him, he also seemed to have mentioned me without mentioning my gender. Part of me was pleased, as I at first believed that lord Takeda saw me as more of a warrior, then a realized that he just found it more funny like this. I chose to not over think it. We set up our plan and I went into the wood and hid. I waited patiently for our target.
Before long Nichiren and his guards appeared. I took position slightly behind them, and waited for Nichirecn to show his true colors and ran away. At which point I hit him off the horse. Satsuko pounced Nichiren, and one of the swordsmen charged her so I decided to spend more energy and effort making sure that her duty is not interrupted. The horsemen fell, and Nichiren finally got his just reward for his choice in lifestyle. Satsuko seemed pleased. She also started liking lord Takeda and Umon right after the battle… Some sort of healing ability, as I understand.
Due to my wounds Umon said he would take a look at my wounds, and ripped open my shirt. It took a split second before I realized anything wrong with this, but his scared reaction beat me to it. As it turns out, Umon is really afraid of women. He left to clean his hands in the sake. Sakura told lord Takeda of her decision to come with us, and my agreement to train her. As she said it, I realized that maybe I should have spoken to my Lord about this, before accepting. His look confirmed this thought. Even so, he agreed to her choice. After which Satsuko started to lick me… After she turned back into a human. It was strange… Visually, a woman was licking my chest area. I tried to beat through the image, and tell myself that an Okami was licking my wounds. But as hard as I tried, I could not shake the image of this beautiful woman licking my chest… I…. I can’t even fully explain my emotions at the time. I mean, I have gotten quite used to not seeing myself as a woman, myself! But now, I was… Very observant of the fact that I am a woman… I will not explain that sentence.
When we left for the temple, I let the others move ahead of me, as I needed to properly apologies to lord Takeda. He gives me a lot of freedom, and I am thankful for it, so I showed my appreciation of it by explaining my action, and asking for his guidance, in order to better understand the limits of my freedom. He seems to still trust me, but I will show more restraint in the future. After this we move towards the temple. Ryuji makes a jab at me, about how I should teach Sakura how to ride… She quickly reacts, and happily follows up. What have I done? This will be quite the cumbersome journey.
As we return to the temple, we speak to Abbot, to report. The captain, of sorts, first had an exchange with us. I cared little for what he had to say, until he made a slight insult to lord Takeda. I reacted more then I had anticipated… Exhaustion? Yeah, perhaps. Either way, we updated the abbot. He said that while the defenses of the temple where not to be disregarded from, the captain person would be likely to side with Asai. We will either have to fix that, or take all the blame and get away from the temple.
After the update, we went to the infirmary and rested…