I should describe my work with Clan Tenya, when I get a chance. I have been very busy, traveling and hiding and fighting along the trails in the forests of Ōmi Province. But for now, I should tell of my recent meeting with Iyona.

When I joined Clan Nettobuku, she was the most holy of the priestesses of the Nichiren Buddhist order, until the abbess Jīya came to join the clan. I had recently heard that Clan Nettobuku's fortunes have not been good, and many of the clan's members have left. Others were turned away in a large group a few weeks ago, much as I was turned out last year — and as others were sent away, only a month after I joined the clan.

Iyona, being very good at her priestess-ly skills, quickly found a new post with one of the larger and better-known clans of Settsu Province, with headquarters in Naniwa and castles from Edo to Heian-kyō. On Monday, I went to meet her for lunch at a tasty restaurant in the capital.

Her new clan is a very large one, and she has been accustomed to small ones. She is now but one priestess among many. But aside from that, she prospers and thrives. She also told me some news of Clan Nettobuku's fortunes after my departure.

I had hoped to hear that Jimon's strange strategies, based so strongly on Living Stone techniques, had caused part of the clan's problems. To be honest, I wanted to know that I had been unquestionably right, and Jimon unquestionably wrong, about our strategy.

But of course, life is never so simple and clear-cut. Iyona, being a priestess and not a warrior, was not so involved in the details of strategy. What she did know is that Lord Tai, for all his experience in Izumi Province, knows very little of conditions in Ōmi. Commander Kobushi, for all his previous skill as an individual warrior, had no desire for command. And so the Clan's core was not centered.

They successfully took a small part of the territory they aimed for. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to hold it. Apparently Jimon has left to form his own clan — a thing which I suspect must end in disaster, for he is not a leader who can inspire others. He is too much in love with his own fighting skill, and so he concocts stunningly intricate kata, then is surprised when nobody else can master them.

Iyona did mention that Clan Nettobuku was having trouble finding warriors who could cope with Jimon and Bunmei's strange kata. And that even they, when faced with a new problem, would often find it easier to simply invent new kata than to adapt the old ones. This is probably the closest thing I will ever receive to a sign that my intuitions were right.

Two nights after my lunchtime meeting with Iyona, Akane and I had dinner with our good friend Arisa and her husband Baku. I spoke of my current clan and their current plans, and the fact that I must have the mountain passes and the path from Hikone to Kotobasatsuki clear, by Wednesday. And there was some talk of my time with Clan Nettobuku. It very quickly became clear that even speaking of my time with Nettobuku made me very tense and anxious, while my current responsibilities... they may be an important and difficult task, which is its own sort of burden. But now I am motivated to do my best, not tied in knots by frustration and worry.

I am still very busy, but I will try to, at the very least, keep sending small messages and haikus. And I have some larger tales to recount, as soon as I have some time to write them down.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Nov. 27th, 2008 10:20 am)
Yesterday was a very bad day for ninja coding. Commander Kobushi took me aside for a talk.

It should come as no surprise that I have been having trouble at Clan Nettobuku. I have not been keeping up on my assassinations, and it has taken me much longer to accomplish them than any of the other ninjas here. Clan Nettobuku is dissatisfied with my performance, and I cannot blame them.

The clan needs another Sōtō Zen monk to assist Airi, and so Commander Kobushi says that if I desire, I could don a robe and learn the sutras. Of course, I would not earn as much gold — for each eight gold pieces I am paid now, I would make only five as a monk. But it would be something.

I have spoken with Akane, and we have decided that it is not right for me to try to become a monk. More importantly, it's not right for me to stay there. I have already spent a few afternoons at Castle Nettobuku silently thinking to myself: "I hate it here." If I go back now, it will only be worse — especially as I'll be trying to learn a completely new trade, in a situation where I have already failed. And I wanted to leave Nettobuku anyway, and time spent in their castle is time that I can't spend in Yagyū, meeting with members of other clans.

So, on Monday, I will go back, hand them back my sansetsukon and retrieve my other pair of tabi, and take my leave of Clan Nettobuku. And then I will devote all my time and energy to finding a new clan, as fast as possible.
This morning, Jimon interviewed another candidate for Clan Nettobuku's warrior corps. When Saimei asked him what he thought of the candidate, Jimon said he was "a brash young fellow... like the rest of us."

I think this is the problem I have with Clan Nettobuku. The others here are, for the most part, young and brash, and I feel that they have not been wounded enough times to appreciate their own fallibility. Only Commander Kobushi and Captain Tomo are older than I, and the others are much younger.

Of course, because I have taken very good care of myself, I look nearly as young as they — and because I came late to the ways of combat, they may actually have more experience than I do. And my worries about being fallible, and easily wounded, may just be my own insecurity and defeatism. In which case, it'd be stupid of me to project that onto the others, and hold back our progress.

But still, I worry.
We had thought that our enemies, the Reki clan, were defeated. Now we discover that a pocket of them still exists, and is building up their strength in Nagoya, the steep-roofed city. I must go to Nagoya today, and slay them.

This is no job for the kama alone; I will need my manrikigusari and the special grappling hooks for dealing with Nagoya's roofs.

And while I'm there, I also need to deal with the petty Ayamari that escaped me yesterday. It will be a long, hard day, full of annoyance. But Akane and I are going to a big party in Iga Province tonight, so I'll be able to relax after all this roof-work.
I have written before about the steep and slippery rooftops of Nagoya, the city of woe. Today, my duties take me back to Nagoya, but I will not need to deal with the rooftops. Instead, I must do some work in the streets.

Of course, nothing in Nagoya is easy. The streets are small and cramped, and there is often no room to swing a chain or use a staff. Today, I am trying to get past the guards by carrying no weapons at all — only a kama, the scythe carried by so many peasants as part of their farming duties. It has very short range.

Daigo is having a bad day, too. He had hoped to turn the clan's yamabushi duties over to Ishin, the new addition to our numbers. However, Ishin has been quite ill of late, and so he had to leave us. Daigo is now going back to clearing the mountain trails, so that the Nichiren priestesses can meet with some merchants of Sakai to help continue to fund our operations.
I have finally slain a few targets — ones that I have been stalking for far too long. I feel bad about how long it has taken me to kill these victims, but at least this is better than if they were still alive.

I am also making great progress in learning the Arusupekku style of acrobatic tumbling. It takes some practice to learn the new and unexpected ways of dodging, but once you get the hang of it, they are a great way of fulfilling what my sensei always called the First Rule of Combat: "Don't get hit!" With such skills, it is much easier to avoid being hurt in my daily work. (And besides, I understand more and more clans and armies are seeking warriors with acrobatic skills...)

Jimon actually asked for my input about how to best sneak up on one of his own targets, a money-changer in the historic city of Fujiwara-kyō. Though I have been very slow in my own assassinations, maybe he has not been looking down on me? Maybe my insecurities have all been my own?
In our morning meditation today, Saimei said "Yesterday was a frustrating day for me. But the nice thing about frustrating days is that they are often followed by breakthrough days."

Airi reported that there is trouble in the small town of Aikontō, where Bunmei was working yesterday. Bunmei is ill today, so I left the castle and went quickly to Aikontō. There, I found a couple of Ayamari that Bunmei must have missed when he was there yesterday. A few quick moves with my hooked manriki chain, and I was able to slay them.

And Jimon knows that I did something. I did something useful, and I did it quickly.

Maybe it's not just frustrating days; maybe it's also frustrating weeks. And maybe next week will be a breakthrough week for me. I pray to Kannon that it may be so.
When I got home to Henshukoku last night, Akane soothed my troubled heart enough for me to sleep. I awoke this morning, did my morning bathing and stretches, and was already agitated by the time I reached Castle Nettobuku.

But I have worked hard, and I am slowly gaining some skill in acrobatics. Captain Tomo had some instruction to provide, which I will study tomorrow — after I finish my current task, which is taking longer than expected. However, I am making progress on it, and I am confident that I will slay this target tomorrow. (Of course, that's what I said this morning... but it turned out I had to keep going back and forth between the forests of Izumi and the rooftops of Hikone. Now I have slain the target's informant in the forests, and can safely take out the primary target tomorrow.)

I am behind schedule, but I persevere. (I have done something with my day besides whining.)
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Nov. 4th, 2008 12:26 pm)
We are done with our Hitotsu Nanako campaign. Astonishingly, all of the territory we planned to take... we have actually taken, successfully! Usually, there is some left over at the end of a campaign, but not this time.

Commander Kobushi is proud of us. I feel that my own efforts contributed very little to our victory. Practically every kill I made, and every target I slew, required far too much time spent in trailing, sneaking, and laborious covert-entry.

Tomorrow, we will have a day of meetings with the Nichiren priestesses and the high lords, to review what we have achieved. The next day, we will plan our strategies for the upcoming Hitotsu Hakko campaign. On Friday, we start combat operations.

In the meantime, today is to be spent practicing more acrobatic techniques and defensive rolls, in the Arusupekku style that Benjirō has just explained to us.

I must continue to study hard and increase my skills this winter. I am tired of feeling like an amateur.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Oct. 30th, 2008 05:12 pm)
I hate Nagoya. It is filled with uncouth people. Its streets are crooked, squalid and ill-kept. The roofs of its buildings are steep, slippery, and uneven. The city guard are everywhere, and there is never a moment to rest.

After a full day in Nagoya, and after many battles with city guards and Oda's troops and random Ayamari, I am still no closer to slaying my target. I have many leads, most of which were only acquired by laboriously beating the information out of a few members of Nagoya's underworld. But the merchant himself remains beyond my grasp.

It is nearly nightfall. I will try once more, to see if I can find victory before I return to Iga for the weekend. (I am taking tomorrow as a special holiday.)

I hate Nagoya.
I have performed an extremely useful task for Clan Nettobuku, which will make life much easier for all of the clan's ninjas whenever we need to work in Nagoya, the chief city of Oda's lands. After much sneaking and infiltration in the city guard's headquarters and even in the regional lord's castle, I have secured some of the special grappling hooks that can gain a purchase on the city's rooftops. The city guard keeps a very tight grip on these hooks, and the penalty for being caught with them is death by torture.

But with these hooks on our manrikigusari chains, Bunmei, Jimon, Benjirō and I can go anywhere in the city, instead of being restricted to the streets and alleyways — and the city guards' many checkpoints. True, the rooftops themselves are still steep, slippery, and dangerous. But we will persevere.

My reward for bringing these valuable items back to the castle? The Nichiren abbess, Jīya, demanding to know about my plans for wintertime holidays, so she can plan the most auspicious times for company meditations. "I needed to know this yesterday!" she said. Truly, it is good to have one's efforts given the proper importance.

As further improvement of my day, I then attended a meeting in which Jimon taught the rest of the warriors about his new kata, which will be important to our work in the central provinces of Kawachi and Yamato. Of course, Jimon's kata are very pure examples of the Living Stone style. Perhaps I am simply overreacting to a slight overdose of Living Stone (and maybe also to Jimon himself), but his latest kata remind me uncomfortably of the Sturdy Pillar ryū that so annoyed me at Clan Iwinaga.

And, beyond that, Jimon... is not the best instructor. A good instructor can make difficult and complex matters simple and easy to understand. Jimon's presentation is disorganized and cursory, and may actually make simple matters seem more difficult than they truly are. He admits that he will not be writing any instructional scrolls, and that we all will simply have to study the movements on our own.

But no matter. I will study, and I will learn what is good in the Living Stone ryū, and I will not let what is bad in it cause me to reject the entire path.

And tomorrow, I will use the special Nagoya hook to track down and slay a merchant in Nagoya, a man who it turns out is aiding both our Ātosugijei and Reki enemies. I will keep my skills sharp, and when the new year comes, I will find a better clan.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Oct. 24th, 2008 01:27 pm)
I have improved my knowledge of the clan's new and special kata, so that I no longer feel that I am useless to Clan Nettobuku. Yesterday, I was even able to aid Bunmei by taking out one of the targets he was too busy to handle on his own.

In Henshukoku, I have been continuing with my ninja-ken kata, ensuring that I am still adept with it in case I find a clan that needs blade-work instead of sansetsukon experts. For now, I am doing my kata in the Journey of a Thousand Steps ryū, so that later I can revise the whole sequence into the style of the Living Stone school and compare the differences.

However, I am already starting to figure out some ways to use acrobatic rolls and other defensive techniques that are new to me. Not all the time, but I've managed to slip a few in here and there, and I'm getting better at them. This is a good thing, as more fighting groups are starting to see the uses of acrobatics.

At Clan Nettobuku... in addition to Benjirō, who joined us just over a week ago, we will soon be adding another ninja. He is a young, untested fighter named Saimei. He seems likable enough, but I am not sure that he has enough experience in dealing with larger teams. When the new year comes, I look forward to finding a different clan.

And I am revisiting Ōtsu, to see how the city has changed under the new Lord Mitsuhiro's rulership. The rooftops are as flat and inviting as ever, and I think it will be a most excellent place to practice my skills.
I have been busy studying enemy encampments, learning and practicing the intricate Living Stone kata Bunmei and Jimon have created, and occasionally using them against enemies. I have come more and more to realize that Jimon does not consider me a complete fool, and I can argue with him despite his gruff and impassive demeanor.

Last week, we added a new ninja at Clan Nettobuku, a man named Benjirō. He has been hard at work, learning our clan's kata and weapon styles. It sometimes seems as if Jimon and Bunmei simply want to start their own ryū — they could become the founders of Nettobuku-ryū.

Today, however, we had a very upsetting thing happen. I was concentrating hard, and barely saw Binya, the Sōtō Zen monk, walk out with his bowl in hand and his bag on his back. Then Commander Kobushi interrupted our activities, and gathered us together to let everyone know that Binya has left the clan.

Clan Nettobuku is firmly committed to the principles of the Flowing Motion school. Binya has philosophical disagreements with this school; Commander Kobushi says that he will most likely seek a different clan, whose Way is in closer accord with his beliefs. His protegé, Airi, will now be our only Sōtō Zen monk, and she is quite adept in the Flowing Motion teachings.

Still, this is very upsetting to me, and I feel that I should redouble my efforts to improve my own skills, so that I can also depart when the time is opportune. For now, however, I have important kata to practice — and when those are done, some powerful enemies to slay. I must put aside my worry.
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 is a day of many meetings at Castle Nettobuku. We are attempting to use more of the techniques of the Flowing Motion school in our strategy, and we have just had a session in which Commander Kobushi, Jīya, and the Sōtō Zen priestess Airi explained to us how to carry out some of the Flowing Motion techniques — from individual kata up to broad strategies. (Airi previously worked with a clan that used the Flowing Motion school to great effect, so she has useful experience with it.)

Also, today we are starting our Hitotsu Nanako campaign. In some ways, this is a bit of a disappointment for us, as we were hoping to move on to the Futatsu Ikkō region after taking Hitotsu Rokko (our most recent sortie). Sadly, there is still resistance, and our victory is nowhere near complete. The Ayamari-gumi still confound our efforts. (Indeed, we have some hopes that the new Flowing Motion techniques will help us to defeat the Ayamari, and to be more effective in general.)
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Oct. 9th, 2008 12:13 pm)
Things are improving for me at Castle Nettobuku — but now there is trouble in Hoshiakari, my home village. (As the sages say, "In the landscape of spring, there is neither better nor worse. The flowering branches grow naturally, some long, some short." However, I am not a sage. I am a ninja.)

I have been uneasy in my heart, thinking that Jimon and Bunmei consider my skills inferior. I had supposed that their constant correction of my kata meant that I could not correct theirs. But Jimon accepted some correction from me yesterday, and said that I am good at adjusting stances for greater clarity and balance. Truly, all my worries have been in my own mind, not in the world around me.

But when I arrived in Hoshiakari, and attempted to do some minor purifications of the shrine to Bishamonten, catastrophe struck. An oni attacked the shrine by surprise, and the entire thing will have to be cleaned and re-consecrated. My yamabushi skills were rusty, and while I temporarily drove the demon off, I am fairly sure he will return tonight.

I had hopes of visiting the Tavern of the Scenic Overlook in downtown Kyōto today after leaving the castle, to drink shōchū with my friend Rei. But I will have to hurry home to Hoshiakari and try to reconsecrate the shrine, instead.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Oct. 7th, 2008 11:38 am)
[This is going to be a weird mish-mash of ninja-speak and modern tech parlance. Sorry. I haven't got a lot of spare time, and it's hard to figure out how to say some of this stuff, so I'm just typing it up and posting it as fast as I can.]

I have finished taking care of all three of my targets in Nagoya, where only skilled ninjas succeed, and Jīya says I'm on schedule with my assassinations. On Sunday, Jimon checked in some changes that broke everything, and he had to spend all of Monday (and I think part of today) fixing it.

I need to tell myself that I am not messing up.

I feel bad because nearly all of my code winds up getting rewritten into some other format and style. I'm sure the other ninjas' code gets similarly rewritten, but since I'm not one of the ones doing the rewriting, I feel like it's just "No, your code sucks and needs to be changed. All the time."

I wish I knew if I get to rewrite their stuff or not... (Not today. I have way too much catch-up to do.)
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Oct. 1st, 2008 03:24 pm)
After observing our clan applicant's basic kata and stances (and his difficulty with more difficult techniques), I set out on the road back to Nagoya, the tightly-guarded city. (You may recall that I have three targets there who must be slain.) I was unsurprised to discover that all three were gathered together, in a narrow, cramped section of the city where it's hard to swing a chain effectively.

I managed to take one down with my kama by surprise, but then the others scattered... and called reinforcements, who arrived almost immediately. These were not the usual city guard, but other, more personal allies. I should have known these three would have friends.

Given their numbers and range, I had to do some very clever work with my manrikigusari and grappling hook. In particular, the Mūtou hook was useful in catching and strangling one target, who wore the emblem of the Meisabokkusu mercenaries and was about to escape. (We've had some trouble with the Meisabokkusu before...)

I was able to remove two of them (and a few of their companions), but one still eludes me. Now I must chase him across the hostile rooftops of Nagoya. I hope my chain's links are strong enough...
Today, Bunmei and I tested another fighter who wanted to join Clan Nettobuku. This one was also unsuitable, though he did try. He was far more competent than the last one. This warrior had most recently spent time in the armies of Clan Shinano, and is very familiar with mounted combat. But he's versatile; he also knows the bo and jo staffs, and has familiarity with the sansetsukon, and the various chain and sickle weapons most used by urban ninjas.

But he isn't very good with nearly any of them. Though he can get through some basic kata with the manrikigusari, it was interesting to observe his stance with the sansetsukon: he had a basic, functional ability, but his footwork showed that he was still thinking of it like a sword.

He just wasn't as skilled as we needed. We will have to keep looking.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Sep. 26th, 2008 08:50 pm)
I was wounded today after dealing with an unexpected sneak attack last night — I slew the intruder, of course, but not before taking a nasty cut.

Despite my wounds, I persevered today, and worked hard to improve my skills, as I have vowed to do. Today, I performed my first successful Living Stone school kata using the Mūtou grappling hook.

And even if the sansetsukon kata Jimon and Bunmei have developed is difficult and intricate, I have begun to understand it. I will improve, and become an even better ninja, whether wounded or not.


ninja_coder: (Default)


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