The Field of Red Flowers
Ren's Records 5
I know what I am doing is wrong.
I know this is not a time to leave.
But, what happened as left me scarred.
Part of me is still Akatsuki.
I cannot follow you, I cannot teach her, while that remains true.
I am sorry, Takeda Ryuji-sama
Akatsuki Ren is dead… Any trace of her that remains must be purged. What I am learnt I cannot unlearn, but what I can alter is its purpose. Should I not change, I am doomed to repeat the mistakes of my peer, as well as my student. Part of me cannot forgive her, but part of me has realised that it is myself that I cannot forgive. Still, she went against a direct order… That is dire for both an Akatsuki, as well as a Samurai, as I know all too well.
I need to see if Akiyama Ren still lives within me… If not, I will have to reinvent her. Ryuji needs a shield… And I now know for sure, he will rule Japan. He will be a great ruler.
My travels took me to an abandoned hut in the mountains near the Passionless Valley. The Akatsuki used to pick flowers, for poison crafts here in the past. But this desolate place was exactly what I needed. I still cannot say for sure whether or not Akiyama Ren is the one who returned. However, whatever reason this blade chose me for is becoming clearer. I am not a warrior, I am not an assassin… I am a guardian. I am Takeda’s guardian, just as my grandfather had wanted. But, being Takeda’s guardian, means being Japan’s guardian, just as my father wanted. I feel like I am starting to understand what they tried to impart to me.
News reached me that there may be trouble in the area. Given its history, the Akatsuki may be on the move again. Their recent setbacks, may have forced to reclaim older footholds. I know not where the foothold was in the area, but I shall find it. An entourage of Takeda is also heading towards these lands. S-should I return to him? Akatsuki is still part of my being… No. It is part of my mission, but not my being, not anymore. Taking down the Akatsuki is too grand an undertaking for myself, if I am to succeed, I need to bring Ryuji in on this.
Tracking his movements are not exactly difficult. I made sure to ask around town before he got here. However, that lended me little information beyond the basics, most of it I am certain he already knows… Or Yamamoto will inform him, of.
I felt my blade… He is close. I better finish my business up before he gets here. I ended up summoning my blade, as some store owner refused to believe that I am indeed a samurai… His face was priceless when I reached out and summoned a Divine Blade, of all things. He helped me with what I needed after that. I also borrowed a soldier outfit… I think I was embarrassed, I believed maybe upon seeing him again, I would falter, and not wish to reveal myself just yet. But, as I saw him… He had not changed at all, I couldn’t remove my helmet fast enough. He gives a feeling of… Being home, strangely.
Invited for sake, by a lord… Not something one can decline. The events of that night are a bit hazy, still… I think I distrusted the tradesman. In so, I wished to find out more about him, and his business. I figured I might at least try out Bo’s information gathering abilities, and enlisted his help. But his response was all manners of odd. Perhaps I need to speak to him, and clear things up a little before taking it further.
As hazy as the night was, I still remember getting up to jump into the snow. Something the Akatsuki use to attempt to force the body to remove loss of control, such as drunkenness, by forcing the body to pump adrenaline. I sobered up before reaching the snow, however… The tradesman had taken Ryuji aside. And while I was not privy to most of the conversation, I did catch the word Akatsuki. I did not have time to act, as I followed by the young lord. So I went diving into the snow, with him. He did not seem to realize that I was female, much to my annoyance, as well as amusement, I suppose.
Getting back into character
Sakura wanted her servants. I knew this was a rude request. But part of me felt awkward striking up an argument with her, and another part of me felt that in her current state she would be quite the pain would she not get her way. I went in her stead.
I found Kiyo in the inn. I felt bad… She was having a night off, and seeming to enjoy herself, but work never ends for servants. I had her fetch Aiko and Yoko for me. While waiting, I struck conversation with a thief. I could not quite tell if he was a fool, brave, or simply desperate… But he mentioned the name Akatsuki, bragging about being recruited by the Akatsuki. Whether true or false… This man is either dumb, to brag about such a thing, and lucky to be alive, or he himself is an Akatsuki… Or he is lying, which would also make him pretty dumb, honestly. He displayed some skill, however… Enough so that I might actually believe that he might at least draw the attention of the Akatsuki. I brought him back to the Lord’s house we were staying in, and left him in the entry area. I figured Takeda Ryuji would be asleep, but Yamamoto would likely be awake. I asked old Yamamoto’s help in interrogating the thief. Our conclusion was that his story made sense, and that he, while perhaps a bit old, does indeed fit the bill for those that the Akatsuki seek out. He would speak to Ryuji in the morning. I stayed with him, to guard him during the night.
I woke shortly before Takeda Ryuji arrived… to the room. Darnit, now I’m doing it… I explained the situation to him, and he asked a few questions to the thief, named Hayate, and assigned him to Abe’s squad. Thus making him lady Asai’s subordinate. Part of me does feel that Abe would have made a better subordinate for myself, than Bo… But I am certain Takeda Ryuji has a plan.
We set out a bit later than anticipated, as the young Lord was coming with us to his father. I spent of the time scouting ahead. We passed some graves, but not direct threats. We came across a shrine that contained a very special book, as well as a female Rhonin. She was traveling with a pack of monks, these monks caught my eye. However, it seems that my suspicions may have false this time. And thus, we traveled on.
We reached the palace as it was getting dark. The lord of palace was outside and greeted us, with his captain in tow. The captain was a giant of a man, wielding a big Nodachi on his back. We entered the palace, and was treated to warm sake and some food. He explained that his family is plagued by a curse. A curse of Kitsune affection. Apparently, the local Kitsune are in love with the males of his lineage. His current wife seems to have been afflicted by them, and the previous wife had already been taken out by them… He did not spell the latter part out, as such, but I read between the lines. I had a suspicions regarding our new traveling partner, so I asked Satsuko to aid me in checking out the soldiers. She came with me to the barracks. Our… search, revealed no Kitsune. But, now I know what to look for. I also gave my blade to Sakura, should the Kitsune attack, she would be the most likely target, and one of few who could not defend herself.
Before going to bed, I decided to meditate outside, to see if I could detect anything checking out the walls. I did not sense anything out of the ordinary, but I did hear something inside the palace, which I assumed was the current wife suffering. I remained until shortly after midnight, at which point I went to the room and snuggled up with the girls for warmth.
The Hunt for the Kitsune begin
It must be a curse… Even after a long night, I wake up bright and early. I decided to go out to the courtyard and meditate. Clear my head, and such. There are too many things going on… Akatsuki, Kitsune, Divine Blade… However, before long, Ryuji appeared, ehr arrived. He was inspecting ice, and seemingly setting things up. For what, I am as of yet unaware.
After breakfast I returned to the courtyard, I figured my senses was best placed there, at the moment. During breakfast, we learnt that the Lord’s brother was coming to visit. It seemed this worried the Lord, I suppose I best keep an eye on the brother. Ryuji arrived again, and shortly after Sakura. They began training… A barbaric training, in my mind. But I see the point of it. Though, it doesn’t actually seem to dissimilar to Akatsuki’s methods. They have a completely different focus. They mean to crush all that you are, so they can rebuild it. Ryuji means to make sure that she is not crushed, he means to make sure we don’t have to rebuild her… I hope? Hayate came up to me and talked to me. I think he wanted to spend more time with me, flattering but currently I’ve no time for such luxuries.
While I was heading out, I ran into Hayashi, the Lord’s captain. He mentioned taking a scouting party out, given my talents I offered to lead the scouting team. He also reminded me that I needed to speak to Bo. Thus, I left Hayashi to speak to Bo. Bo was out in the gardens, by the hot springs. He seemed to be enjoying the view of the garden. I couldn’t really blame him… Except, I know very well just how dangerous these plants can be. There is a reason why the Akatsuki used to have a strong presence, perhaps even still do, in this valley. I sat down with him, to clear up the understanding from before, and to clarify how I operate, so he can better follow. I did not intend to share my past to him, but it seemed right. He already disapproved of my methods, but perhaps if I explained to him just how I know what I know, then maybe he’d at least understand. He is a hard man to read, so I am unaware of how it went, but he doesn’t seem to like me less, at least. I also offered to train with him. As I hope to learn from his experience, and perhaps I can teach him a thing or two.
Ryuji arrived, before we had started training. He had a task for me. Apparently, some sweets had been stolen. At first this confused me. However, he explained to me that the Kitsune adores sweets. Which suddenly made the red beans make sense. I accepted, and left for the kitchen, with Satsuko. The kitchen staff was more than helpful, and I even managed to prevent the old lady from taking up too much time. We learnt that the head chef had left to fetch food from the cellar, in preparation for the Lord’s brother, and left the old woman in charge. Shortly after, Yoko and Aiko had come in to speak to one of the kitchen boys. It turns out Yoko had a little encounter with said kitchen boy. However, in the confusion of the kiss that occurred, it seems that Aiko made off with the beans. Satsuko, all of a sudden, asked if she could kill the old lady. Surprised, I asked her to explain. Apparently, she felt something evil about her. I told her to consult with Ryuji, since this is outside of my area of expertise.
We made our way to the my room. Where Yoko was tending to lady Asai. I asked to borrow Yoko, and sent for Kiyo or Aiko. Kiyo joined us, and assisted lady Asai. In the meantime, myself and Satsuko questioned Yoko about the incident. We learnt a few more details. The next step would be to speak to Aiko. I left finding Aiko to the servants of the palace. Thus, we got ready for the Lord’s brother getting here.
The whole farce surrounding his arrival quickly turned into a tea ceremony, where he took the role of host. My grandfather would be turning in his grave, had he seen this kind of behavior. As the honoured guest, Ryuji drank first. As he finished, we heard a crash somewhere in the palace. I knew leaving in the middle of the ceremony would reflect very poorly on Ryuji, so I decided to sit it out. As soon as the moment had come, where leaving would not damage Ryuji’s appearance, I got up, calmly walked to the door, summoned my blade and dashed off.