Skillful reconnaissance has discovered a new enemy: The sponsors of the Keiten Mokuba army. They are backed by a powerful consortium of merchants and nobles called the Dōga-gumi. They are well stocked with chain fighters, including a dangerous group headed by the notorious daimyō, Eizō.

As Clan Noriaibasha’s pre-eminent chain fighter, I have been chosen to eliminate this threat. I am honored, and only slightly daunted.

It will be my task to slip through Eizō’s defenses, penetrate his castle, and assure his demise. If I can also discover any of his correspondence with the rest of the Dōga-gumi, so much the better, for I must launch an offensive against that gumi as soon as Eizō falls — while his troops are in the greatest disarray.

I have already started scouting Lord Eizō’s security. It seems he has some sharp-eyed archers as part of his guard staff. I must be quite careful — if I am spotted, there is no hope. If I am well prepared, I can pluck one arrow from the air as it speeds toward me, but two at once would surely leave me quite dead.

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.

Last week, I was assigned to recon — and eventually kill — a mercenary unit called the Naihō Cadre. They are operating in various places within Zaiseikyōiku. It turns out they are also well-organized, well-equipped, and professional.

It will take some slick kama work, and all of my skill with the manrikigusari, in order to defeat these fighters. Also, I must be cunning and use careful tactics. It will be quite an adventure!

In the meantime, there are other things going on outside the Saitekika campaign and the region of Sanigata. There is the ongoing Pagoda Bearer project, which requires a shrine to Bishamonten. We have a scroll that describes a ryū called the Tsuiseki-Dō, which we wish to experiment with. Sadly, it turns out that the Tsuiseki-Dō requires that the shrine be equipped with sandalwood incense.

Ours has camphor and camellia incense. And the priests of the Jōdō Shū branch, who oversee such things, tell us we may not use sandalwood incense here.

So we will have to modify every step of the entire ryū to work the way we need it to. This will be quite an arduous task.

We have a mercenary helping us, a man named Shinju. He has been assigned to read through every move, looking for the cuts, parries, and attacks that will need to be modified. I am acting mostly in a supervisory capacity, alongside the priest, Riki who is in charge of this project.

As much as I enjoy the Pagoda Bearer ryū, this Tsuiseki project becomes less enjoyable every day, as I keep having to come back to Castle Noriaibasha instead of scouting the Naihō Cadre or other enemies in the field.

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 have been watching the Jōgehyō army from various vantage points for a couple of days now. Including watching them train and spar. Finally, I decided I must engage one of them in combat to gain a true knowledge of their mettle.

I waited until one was separated from his comrades, then got ahead of him. I could easily have jumped him from behind, but not everyone in Noriaibasha’s armies is a ninja. Many of our warriors would have to deal with the Jōgehyō face-to-face, without the benefit of surprise.

So I dropped from a roof to the street about ten feet in front of him, said, “I challenge you. One on one!” as I drew my kusarigama, and then attacked as I saw he was ready.

After all, I was there to test his combat skills, not his ability to detect stealthy observers.

His combat skills were… quite good. For an hour we battled, blocking and thrusting, chains whirling as we sought to tear each other’s flesh with our grappling hooks. In the end, I was able to take him down, of course.

But it was not at all easy.

The Jōgehyō do not control much territory. Though fighting these valiant warriors would be excellent practice and bring me much honor, it is not an appropriate use of my time and skills. I have reported to Kento, and he has decided that we will tell Clan Hekoayu: We are not going to battle the Jōgehyō. The strategies of the Saitekika campaign should be adjusted accordingly.

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 am in Bumonrokaki, lurking in shadows and under porches where I can observe the Suraida gang. Their grasp of tactics is impressive, for a group that is composed of non-professional warriors. Dealing with them will not be easy.

Using rooftops to attack them by surprise form above will not work, either, because the rooftops of Bumonrokaki are not very reliable. Oh, there are a few sections of town where there are a few usable roofs. But by and large, they are either too fragile to hold a full man’s weight, or else they are too steep.

So I am getting some much-needed practice in other stealth techniques — ones I have not used in too long. Very well. It is important to keep one’s skills sharp.

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 wrote my last message in a hurry, and so I forgot to mention a few things.

Aside from the Suraida gang in Tōzayokinkōza, Clan Hekoayu has also described a second enemy who are active throughout the city of Bumonrokaki. This group is called the Makitomaru, and they appear to be a very skilled group of fighters. It’s not enough that I’ll have to stalk and scout the Suraida gang; I will also have to be ready to take on this Makitomaru group.

I can only hope that I do not have to engage both foes at once. As a ninja, I enjoy leading a life of danger and combat, but there are limits!

Aside from that, there is one more problem looming in my future. Near the territory of Sanigata, where Bumonrokaki and various other towns lie, there is one large city called Uchimae. In the meeting on Wednesday, Clan Hekoayu showed is their plans for capturing that city. Their strategy is a very ambitious one, and it makes all of us — Kento, Amon, Makishi, and I — rather nervous. We are not sure that it is really possible.

But it would probably involve a fair bit of rooftop fighting for me.

That part is the good news. The bad news is that it might — or might not — involve taking on the powerful crime-lord known as Injū-tono. Injū has many warriors at his disposal, and a well-fortified compound where he dwells. He also has many ruffians and informers on the street, serving as his eyes, ears, and if necessary, fists.

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.

In our meeting with Clan Hekoayu yesterday, they alerted us to the presence of a gang operating within the Tōzayokinkōza district in Bumonrokaki. They are called the Suraida, and it seems they are quite crafty and dangerous. Before we can complete the Saitekika campaign, we will have to remove them.

Clan Hekoayu says their warriors can do this, easily.

Of course, it falls to me to actually make it happen on Noriaibasha’s behalf. Whatever Hekoayu claims is possible, I must provide — but not necessarily today. I have not yet been given the order to eradicate them; for now, I simply have to ensure that I could do so, if the order were given.

As soon as I have time, I must go to Bumonrokaki and do some scouting. I must observe this gang and their ways, and learn their weaknesses, and be sure that I can slay them when the time comes. But this afternoon is full of more meetings…

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.

Today promises to be very busy. In the afternoon, Seijun and I must meet with some representatives from Clan Seija, our allies who are assisting with some operations outside of Ichimen. I know they have encountered difficulties; I don’t know if we will go out to try to slay the enemies at once, or merely plan.

Also, we have determined that the rōnin from Mikawa Province has obtained some enemy battle plans. By lunch time tomorrow, I must kill him and deliver those plans to Seijun and Rajan, so they can effectively counter the enemy’s strategies. But the rōnin from Mikawa will be no easy opponent. He is skilled on rooftops, and a powerful fighter with the manrikigusari.

In the meantime, I also have a nest of Mōjin fighters to deal with… but they could wait until Friday, if necessary. (I think it will be necessary. Even a ninja can only handle so many foes at once.)

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 still have no access to the armory.

The bandit from Yoshino is still around. I must find some time to coordinate with Seijun so that we can finish him off. And then there’s a rōnin who’s just arrived from Mikawa province, who is skilled in rooftop fighting. Originally, I was supposed to ensure that was dead by tomorrow afternoon.

But I can’t do that just yet, because the nobles have determined that we must stage an orderly withdrawal from the district of Minichato, adjacent to Keishutsu. An orderly withdrawal is not the same thing as “just running away” — it means we must destroy certain caches of supplies and weapons so they cannot be used by our enemies when they take the territory. And it also means operating in hostile territory, where we may frequently have to fight off enemies while we take care of retreating.

And this takes priority over all else. The bandit from Yoshino and the rōnin from Mikawa will just have to wait. (Which means that soon I’ll be asked why those two are still alive, and I’ll have to explain that the retreat from Minichato is a higher priority.)

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 bandit from Yoshino is still bedeviling us. He seems to mostly be hiding in the forests lately, outside my realm. Seijun and his team have been far too busy with other matters to even pursue him.

The greatest of those “other matters” is the dire situation in Kurabero-no-Hako. We knew at the outset that we would have to handle a gang there called the Obigurafu. Seijun said his team could take care of them, using a style especially designed for such problems called the Kabachaato-ryū. Unfortunately, it turns out the Obigurafu gang is quite persistent… and the Kabachaato style is simply not flexible enough to handle their tactics.

If we cannot eradicate the Obigurafu, the entire campaign will be a failure.

Of course, even if we can, there are still many other problems. The Mōjin have made a resurgence, and if we do not deal with them, we will be forced to retreat and give up the entire territory — we would otherwise be in violation of the Emperor’s decree. Just as the Obigurafu gang is Seijun’s problem, so the Mōjin are mine.

And still the Ayamari proliferate, and we are falling further and further behind schedule.

I have just received a message from Kento: One of the high nobles will be coming to investigate our progress, and try to determine what can be done.

My suspicion is that the entire campaign will have to be called off… or at least, subjected to a complete restructuring.

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.

There is a bandit from Yoshino who has been causing some problems for a while. He’s been a minor enemy until now — now that Haruna, Satonori and I have finally managed to eradicate many of the Ayamari in Ichimen. Now, it is time to deal with this rogue.

Unfortunately, he’s a border-runner, who strikes into the city and then melts back into the forest when I try to pursue. Seijun is assisting me in trying to corral him so we can do him in.

It’s not going well. He is very wily. But we will persevere.

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.

Sometimes, the enemies you’re most scared of turn out to be those in your own mind. In my mind, I had imagined that the rōnin from Hikone would be a terrifyingly dangerous foe, skilled on rooftops and deadly with the kusarigama. But I would not let fear keep me from my duty.

I went to Ichimen, hoisted myself up to the rooftops, and started searching for him. Atop the Nanashi-ji Temple, there is a high vantage point. From there, I could see many parts of the city. A little west of the temple — right near the intersection of Shiryō-no-Hako, Kuraberu-no-Hako, and Migaku — there’s a marketplace full of food stands, with an inn on one side. And there he was, buying some yakitori for a snack.

Stealthily, I crept to the roof of the inn. It would be in bad form to attack him in the marketplace, frightening all those civilians. Instead, I threw a kunai into the wood of the table he was sitting at, making it easy for him to track the angle back to my position atop the roof. As he looked toward me, I stood up with my kusarigama at the ready, then pointed it at him. A challenge.

He threw his meal aside and came to meet me.

I gave him space to clamber up the side of the inn, waiting with my kama in a salute position. If I was to die this day, I had no wish to have my last moments be anything less than honorable.

Shinobi!” he cried, “You have met your doom!” And he flourished his kusarigama in a threatening manner, then dropped into stance… And I saw that his center was not focused. I sprang to attack, and he deflected me, but not well.

He counter-attacked, and I blocked it easily. And I realized that I was better than him, and he was starting to see it, too.

After that, it was simply a matter of time. He gave a brave account of himself, but in the end, he could not stop me from sinking my kama blade into his chest. As he slumped onto the roof of the inn, I whispered in his ear, “I am sorry, my brother. You fought well.”

In the future, I must remember never to let fear become my master. That way lies destruction.

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 knew I’d have to fight this guy some day. The Sōtō Zen monks have now identified him as a major obstacle to our Path. The day is today.

He is a rōnin from Hikone, skilled in rooftop fighting, and a master of the Bright Square tactic. I know I should be worried but… honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge.

This is the late part of the campaign, where all our careful planning turns to chaos. All military campaigns go this way eventually. And any conflict that you avoided in the beginning eventually becomes inevitable. The toughest foes become the only ones left.

And defeat them you must, or you will never achieve victory.

My kusarigama is sharp and my tabi laced up tight. I’m off to the rooftops of Ichimen, to find this enemy who lurks — according to the monks — in the Shiryō-no-Hako district. It may take until Monday before I find him, but when I do… one of us will fall.

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 have been silent for too long. I convey my deepest apologies.

For some time, I was busy in Kusatsu. The streets of Kusatsu are narrow and crooked, and the only way to achieve anything there is by using the Mōjo-ryū, as described by Clan Te-no-hira. But that clan's path is not righteous, as many have recently discovered. And, to my great sorrow, I discovered that their ryū is difficult and awkward for me.

So, in disgrace and defeat, I left Kusatsu. I may go back one day and try, once again, to accomplish some missions there. But in the meantime...

...I have had much to do in Hoshiakari. The local shrine of Inari was beset by bandits, and I had to expend too much time driving them off. Even now, I do not know if they might return soon.

But most of all, I have been in negotiations with Clan Tenya. They are yet another of the many upstart new clans of Ōmi Province, with operations both in Ōtsu and in Hikone (a town that has been the scene of much action lately). My knowledge of Hikone would be an asset to them, as would my rooftop and city-fighting skills.

I expect that we will reach an agreement soon. I have worries, but they will fade with time, as I learn the clan's ways. Perhaps.

(Later, I should write more of my worries.)
.

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