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( Aug. 29th, 2012 12:51 pm)

I promise, I am not dead.

Far from it, in fact. Two weekends ago, Akane and I were married in a joyous ceremony in Ueno, the capital of Iga Province. We were surrounded by friends and family, and everyone was happy. Akane wore a beautiful white uchikake kimono with silver embroidery, and everyone remarked on how lovely it was.

A week before the wedding itself, I went out with many friends for an evening of dedicated carousing. (Akane, meanwhile, did much the same with many of her friends.) Since my venture involved some travel along the Tōkaidō, we naturally stopped in at the town of Kusatsu, and I gave my Kongōshu style a try. My friend Rikio, something of a mix of rōnin and yamabushi, immediately found a problem with it, and I had to make some changes. Still, it was enjoyable to give my nascent fighting a style a real test!

After the wedding, Akane and I spent a week relaxing at some hot springs in the mountains before returning home. Now I am back at Castle Noriaibasha, where my clanmates are pleased to have me back.

I will report more when I have time.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.
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( May. 24th, 2012 05:31 pm)

I must once again apologize for my long silence. The Saitekika campaign is a long and complicated one, and fighting it leaves me with little time to chronicle the happenings of each day.

There have been many, interminable meetings with Amon, Kento, Sakito, Makishi, and some of the representatives from Clan Hekoayu. Makishi and I, at the very least, continue to be unimpressed with Hekoayu’s plans. Last night, Sakito and I were at an inn with one of the clan’s Nichiren priestesses, and both of them also had criticisms of Hekoayu — and also of the overall planning of the entire campaign.

Clan Hekoayu has a reputation for being sage advisors and skilled artists. I have no idea how they have maintained this.

In between meetings, I have managed to perform some missions in the field. I have discovered that the Naihō Cadre is not an independent group. It is actually an offshoot of a large army called the Keiten Mokuba. Soon I will have to find ways to eliminate the Keiten Mokuba; with them gone, the Naihō will be demoralized, easy prey.

In the meantime, I have been battling a group called the Kakunenbo, and have cut them down to a shadow of their former might. Kento is pleased with my performance.

Tonight, there is a farewell enkai to commemorate the departure of Tamae, one of the Nichiren priestesses who is friendly and outgoing, and hence quite well loved here. She is going to join one of the larger clans of medics and healers in Kawachi, and she says she already has some ideas for how to help guide them in the paths of Righteousness. Later on, I understand Mitsubachi is sponsoring a nijikai at an inn where everyone is expected to sing; the experience should be quite entertaining.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.
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( Dec. 21st, 2011 04:27 pm)

I have written before about Taka, the servant woman who works with the clan’s supplies and organization division. By her efforts, the Kokakumanzoku division has been effective, efficient and well-organized.

Also, she is a friendly presence at the castle — true, she is not from Iga Province, but she is from the nearby Kōga region. Having her around makes me feel like there is someone here who understands me.

But all good things come to an end. Taka is now leaving the clan, going to seek her fortune with a school in the capital city, one which teaches the daughters of noble families and rich merchants. I am not the only one saddened by this news; the entire division is sorry to see her go. Lord Mayoku, the noble in charge of the Kokakumanzoku division, issued a proclamation yesterday thanking her for her service, and expressing our deep regrets at her departure.

Tonight, there will be a tearful farewell enkai. I suspect many of the clan will have headaches tomorrow morning.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Yesterday was full of meetings. First, a variety of clan members met with two representatives from Clan Hekoayu, who are trying to provide guidance on the Saitekika campaign. Then, after lunch, we had a very long session with a man from Clan Eshidieru, the architects of the Chiri-dō ryū. We asked him how we might use it to achieve the strategies laid out by Hekoayu, and he was able to give us useful guidance.

Then we went to an enkai for a clan-member who will soon be having a baby. Much sake was drunk and people were happy. Eventually, most others had left, and Makishi, Amon, and I were able to discuss some of our feelings about the way one of the Hekoayu representatives comports herself.

This woman, named Kimiko, seems very easily flustered by even the simplest questions about the Hekoayu plans. It is as if she expects us to simply accept all their plans with smiles and awed gratitude. But the fate of the entire Saitekika campaign hangs on the soundness, both the harmony and the righteousness, of these plans. If we see flaws, we must point them out.

So far, we have not done so. We have simply asked for clarification, and even that has resulted in her making sour faces and acting disturbed. Yet there are serious flaws we can see, and we are pondering how to diplomatically point them out. Makishi, Amon, and I are warriors; we do not have the silver tongues of Tendai priests.

Perhaps I will discuss my concerns with one of our priests, and see if they can relay the problems to the Hekoayu.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Akane and I have successfully reconsecrated the shrine of Inari. We have even strung a new shimenawa around the premises.

Happily, we were done in time to visit the wonderful local restaurant, which makes some of the best okonomiyaki in all of Kansai. It was quite delicious!

The following day — yesterday — I went back to Castle Noriaibasha. Nobody seems to have noticed my absence the previous afternoon, or if they did, they didn’t mind. Over the past two days, the Teitōken campaign has been slowly and painfully winding down. Every time I think things are done, they find one more pocket of resistance. These are rarely in the city; Seijun’s team has been quite busy rousting out foes in the forest. But occasionally, a message of great and terrible urgency tells me to proceed to Ichimen and find such-and-so target.

Tonight should be the end of this. We are already a day past deadline. I have spent part of the day reading the scrolls and maps pertaining to the upcoming Shiemesu Raisei campaign; that should occupy much more of my time tomorrow.

For now, I have an appointment to meet an old friend in the capital for a sushi dinner.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

The last weekend in May is always a major festival weekend in Iga Province. Akane and I journeyed to Ueno and stayed there in an inn to enjoy the multi-day celebrations. The festivities were delightful, and we got to see some friends of ours.

The inn was not delightful; on the first night, we returned from a late night of drinking and dancing only to discover the tatami mats were soiled. We had to roust the innkeeper out out in the middle of the night to fix the situation. Of course, I could not kill him during a festival ceremony; it would have brought uncleanliness. However, we made our displeasure very plain.

We have some plans to return to Ueno, but never again to that inn.

This week will be very busy as I resume my battles in the Teitōken campaign. I will write more of that when I have the time.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

I dreamed of work last night.

Back when I was a member of Clan Tenya, such dreams were a common occurrence. Nothing ever seemed good enough for them, and there was never enough time. My overly-busy days began to haunt my nights. I dreamed of rooftop battles in Kotobasatsuki, and of tangling with the city guard of Nagoya.

It was not pleasant.

My dreams last night had a different cause. Today, I must show Kento and Seijun and Rajan the kata I have developed for use in patrolling Ichimen. They will be inspecting my moves and my form carefully, to ensure that all will be well for our final push.

And I am worried, because I have never done such a demonstration with Clan Noriaibasha before. I want to give a good showing of myself.

My mind says I need not worry — that my skills and my kata are sufficient, that I will not bring dishonor upon myself. But my heart is still anxious.

Once I finish the demonstration, all will be better. Chifumi, the junior Tendai priestess, is leaving the clan, so there will be an enkai to celebrate her departure. She has long desired to join one of the clans of Settsu Province and leave Izumi behind. In the winter, she thought she had found one to accept her, but then they suffered a crushing defeat when Oda Nobunaga sundered his alliance with them. But Chifumi has persevered in her search, and will now be joining a small clan of Naniwa.

All of us wish her well in her future, and we will toast her at the enkai at day’s end… but I cannot stay for long! I must leave to go meet with Akane at a fine restaurant overlooking the bay. We shall eat fine food and drink fine sake and shōchū, and enjoy each other’s company.

All I need to do is make a good impression at the demonstration. Then everything gets better.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

A friend has been visiting from Edo for the past few days. Last night, Akane and I had dinner at a fancy restaurant in the capital with him and his childhood friend, a samurai woman named Beniko. During the meal, the conversation turned to the difficulties of recruiting skilled fighters.

Akane said, “Oh, I know! Have her try the Three-and Five Strike,” and so I told Beniko what the requirements are. One of the nice things about it as a warriors’ test is that it doesn’t bother to state what the warrior’s movements, footwork, or other technique should look like. It simply specifies what you must do to the target. This means it will work with any weapon at all — even though I’ve been testing manrikigusari fighters, I could still ask Beniko to perform it with her katana and have the test make sense. So we briefly stepped out into the restaurant’s ornamental garden…

And she performed it beautifully, with hardly any hesitation. There are a couple of aspects of the Three-and-Five Strike that are a bit tricky — the first time you try to do it. But that mistake teaches you how to do it properly, if you have any skill or training at all.

Beniko’s execution, however, was nearly flawless. Each time she was about to make one of the standard mistakes, she spotted the problem ahead of time, and simply worked it into her motions. It was a joy to behold.

Once again, I see that a true warrior can do a Three-and-Five Strike easily, and it is absolutely not too hard to use as a test for Clan Noriaibasha.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.

Two weeks ago, I had a lunch meeting with Megumi, the herald of the Shomei-gumi who secured me my position with Clan Noriaibasha. Her supervisor, a woman named Rīna, was also there. The two of them wanted my advice on some other warriors who might be of use at Noriaibasha… and Rīna also mentioned that they had been in touch with Tsukimi, the commander of the Keitai Team. Apparently they have heard very good things about me from Tsukimi — her instructions to the Shomei-gumi were “Please send us two more of Ichirō”.

I told them their words bring me honor, and I will strive to continue to bring honor to Shomei.

Last week, I received a message from Shomei, telling me that Megumi had left the group to seek her fortune with a new clan in Hikone. My new contact in the group is a man named Kaisei, who reports to Rīna as Megumi once did.

So we recently met at a bar in the capital, to get to know each other. He proves to be a friendly, convivial fellow, but also with a thoughtful side — he has spent time meditating on what it means to be a herald and why he enjoys it, just as I have spent time meditating on what attracts me to the Way of the Ninja.

Also, we have similar tastes in shōchū.

This was originally published at The Tales of the Ninja Coder. You may comment here, if you wish, but Ichirō invites you to comment at his humble blog.
Last night, after spending a bit of time studying the Jōgesen ryū and improving my knowledge, I went out to enjoy some music and dancing in Ueno, the capital of Iga Province. There, I noted some handbills that said that Clan Iwinaga is looking for a warrior skilled with the weighted-and-hooked chain. It seems they still haven't found a good replacement for me.

Then, at the inn, I met two of the Buddhist priestesses that I once knew in Clan Iwinaga. It seems the clan has had to purge even more members, citing a shortage in its treasury.

Even if still feel very subordinate here at Clan Nettobuku (and I do), I am still in a better place now than I was then. I must remember this.
Today, General Wāro and the Ōmi Team took me out to a local steak house for a farewell lunch. Sachiko and her Sōtō Zen monks came, as well, and we all enjoyed fine food and each others' company. I found that the restaurant even has fine shōchū of a type that I've been enjoying lately, so I had a glass.

Since my impressive display last Sunday, Araki has been treating me with new respect. He keeps asking me about chain and grappling-hook techniques, and takes my advice on matters of urban strategy and tactics. Still, this is not enough of a change to keep me; Clan Iwinaga is too focused on samurai, mounted combat, and fighting on open plains.

But they do know how to treat their people, and it was quite enjoyable, sitting there eating finely prepared fugu and drinking daiginjyo shōchū for lunch (and watching Araki have a bit too much sake, so that he was amusingly sloppy with a few of his kata when we returned to the castle!).

Tomorrow, we have a clan-wide meeting to discuss our achievements over the past three months. Then, we have an enkai before I leave forever, and return to Iga for Arisa's and her husband Benjiro's party.
Today, I spent 10 hours carving a trail of death through the cities of Futa Sanjūichi, doing some truly outstanding work with the kusari-gama. Joint locks, throws, some truly inspired tricks with the grappling hook. I left a trail of dead and bleeding bodies in my wake, and baffled many foes with my skill and ingenuity.

Finally, back at Castle Iwinaga, I showed General Wāro some of the special kata I have recently been developing, which I hope the armies of Clan Iwinaga will find useful in my absence. He was quite pleased, and even Araki, who rarely finds merit in anyone's techniques besides his own, said he was impressed with the way I'd integrated the chain and the moves with kama's blade.

Though I wish I could have spent the day with Akane, or helped cheer up my friend Teruaki (who is having a bad time lately), I am at least pleased to have turned in such an impressive finale. I sit writing these words in an Okinawan restaurant, midway from Heian-kyō back to Iga, where Akane will shortly join me for dinner.

(Later, upon arriving home: Ah! It turns out Teruaki will be able to join us for drinks and companionship. He'll arrive shortly, and we'll break out some sake... After today's performance, General Wāro will certainly not quibble if I'm a little late tomorrow.)


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