I spent much of this weekend working on my Kongōshu style, doing kata in the yard of Akane’s and my house in Hoshiakari. This style is an offshoot of the Steel Road ryū, which is a fairly complicated sansetsukon style in the Three-Headed Dragon school.

I was surprised by how well I still remember it. I was able to make much progress… until I ran into a complicated maneuver that I can see will be very necessary. But I cannot yet determine how to accomplish it.

Some day, I have hopes that this style will be useful for people carousing in Kusatsu — I am working on some aspects that will be particularly useful in the environs of that rapidly-growing city. But it still has a long way to go.

Akane says she remembers the days when I was a member of Clan Tenya. I would come home from my battles in Ōmi Province and have no desire to pick up another weapon for the rest of the night. Even on the weekends, I was too tired to practice kata. But now, I have spent much of the weekend practicing blocks, strikes, and swirling sansetsukon attacks.

She says this makes her very happy to watch.

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.

An interesting thing happened to me a few days ago. As I was returning home from Castle Noriaibasha, I was passing by an inn. A wagon had stopped in front of it, and some happy young people were disembarking from it and collecting their luggage from the back. Other people had just come out of the inn. I don’t know if the travelers were their relatives, or close friends, but they were all obviously very happy to see each other.

They were hugging each other hello, smiling and laughing. Their good cheer was infectious; I felt my own mouth turn up into a huge smile, and I was glad of it.

Then Yutaka, the head of Clan Tenya, came strolling by.

I nodded in silent greeting to him, and he to me. I was happy enough that my smile did not falter. And shortly afterward, I realized that I was very glad that Yutaka had seen me in such a happy state. I want to be sure he does not have the option of wondering if I am forlorn or miserable since leaving Clan Tenya. I want to be sure he knows I have no regrets whatsoever about my departure, and that everything about my life is better now.

This desire is petty, I know. Caring even one bit about what Yutaka thinks is an attachment, of the kind that monks sensibly counsel us all to avoid. Nonetheless, I am human, not a Bodhisattva or saint. I know what I felt, and I will not deny it.

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.
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.
I have been given keys and pass-codes that allow me to raise and lower the flags and banners on the castle walls. I will, of course, be quite sure not to misuse such power.

This will be an important part of my latest project at Clan Tenya, which is clearing supply lines through the forests that allow us easy access to certain of our allies. The first is a direct route to Kotobasatsuki. You may remember that I have previous experience operating in that town; it seems my knowledge was one of the reasons Yutaka wanted to add me to the clan.

It is good to be appreciated for one's knowledge and skills.

Clearing this route has involved disposing of a few members of the large and loose-knit Seibun-gumi, which is spread through many strategic areas across the forests and hills of Ōmi Province. I am learning that group's tactics, and will be better equipped to face them in the future, when I clear additional pathways for our allies. Clan Gironfuttō is next.

Anyway, being able to send up signals on the castle's flagpoles will be an important part of allowing our messengers — and those from allied clans and gumis operating in Kotobasatsuki — to communicate with us at a distance while they're on the road.

It seems like a small thing, but it will help our overall strategy. Yutaka supports this venture.
Yesterday's missions went reasonably well. Under Ryōji's supervision, I cleared out the nest of Rei-Yōso bandits. I also did some tricky work iwth both kama and bo staff to ferret out an annoying member of the Ayamari-gumi in Naniwa, by the western bay.

Now I have a new mission, one which will require use of a great many weapons. I cannot speak much of it yet, but it will help the clan's efforts in the town of Kotobasatsuki.

When I arrived at Castle Tenya this morning, I found the gates shut and locked, for I was the first to arrive. I have since spoken to Osami, the head of the warriors, and been given keys to the castle.

There is more I should say of Clan Tenya, but now I must set out on the trail to Kotobasatsuki. I am a busy ninja once again.
What I said this morning was wrong. I was given a mission this afternoon!

Ryōji assigned me a pair of tasks. One, I have hardly even looked at, for it will involve a greater understanding of the clan's combat styles and tactics. But the other...

There is a nest of bandits in the forest. Clan Tenya mostly uses the bō staff when doing forest work; we often pose as peasants and travelers, so swords are unwise — they would give us away. And the clan uses an interesting bō style, the Shokubai-dō. It is one of the Three-Headed Dragon styles, so at least a few of the moves are familiar — except that the other Three-Headed Dragon styles I know use the three-sectional staff and the ninja-to, so even the familiar feels unfamiliar.

But I have found the bandits, and scouted out every weakness in their camp, and can slaughter them at any time. Ryōji is putting a few other matters in order, and will observe my final execution of them tomorrow morning.

Before lunchtime tomorrow, I will have proven that I can be a useful member of the clan. This will be good.
I have now spent two days at Castle Tenya. On the first day, my fellow ninja Ryouji took me under his wing, and showed me the broad outline of the clan's strategy and tactics. He also showed me around the armory. I have been issued some weapons, but I have had much work to do in sharpening, polishing, oiling, and ensuring that they are in good balance. Indeed, that work is not yet quite finished.

However, all polishing and no creeping makes ninjas quite sad, so I have also spent a bit of time reconnoitering in Ōtsu. And there are scrolls full of battle plans to read and accustom myself with.

So far, things have been largely uneventful. I am not yet ready to undertake missions on the clan's behalf. Not yet. But soon, if I am diligent.
I leave Hoshiakari soon, to travel to Ōtsu for my first day as a member of Clan Tenya. I have not been this nervous about a new assignment in quite some time.

Akane is still in Edo, so she can't fix me bento and send me off with a kiss. But the way of the ninja is perseverance, and so I shall make do, even without the comforts I have become accustomed to.

I feel that I should have spent the weekend practicing kata, but I'm not sure what kata would have been best to do - or even which weapons I'll be called upon to use today.

No purpose is served by worrying. I must prepare my things, and go.
There has been much turmoil in my life recently. Some has been good, other parts... not so good.

I shall have to travel to Edo tomorrow, and I will not be back in Iga for nearly a week. When I return, however, I shall have the honor of reporting to Castle Tenya, in Ōtsu. My negotiations with Clan Tenya have been successful, and I will be joining their clan.

This is most happy news for Akane, for I will now be earning gold once again, and so we shall be able to feed ourselves. For me, it is both a triumph and a challenge, for I have (as always) doubts about my skills. Clan Tenya is a very martial clan, composed almost entirely of warriors of one sort or another. Even the clan's lord, a man named Yutaka, is not a noble. Instead, he is a warrior of no small renown, the originator of a very elegant kata sacred to Hachiman, called "Yutaka's Blade".

Clan Tenya, as you may guess, is concerned with ensuring that it has only the best warriors. And I am concerned, because I doubt that I am so highly skilled.

However, their castle is much quieter than Castle Nettobuku was, so I have some hope that I may be able to concentrate enough to perform my duties. The noise and chaos of Nettobuku was a prime reason why I fared so poorly there.

I have gone to Yagyū, the town on the edge of Iga Province where heralds and clan scouts go to recruit new warriors, and taken down the scrolls that describe me as available. In their place, I have placed scrolls noting that I am now busy, and no longer open to meetings with heralds. In the process, I have learned more of Clan Nettobuku's current state.

It seems Clan Nettobuku has not fared well. The clan is coming apart, and has recently been forced to abandon many members in order to conserve its treasury. I am filled with conflict. I wonder: Is any part of their current misfortune due to my actions while I was there? And also, I wonder: If Jimon and Bunmei had listened to my concerns, and adopted more of the techniques I advocated, would their strategy then have been stronger? Or weaker?

I have no answer, and I doubt that I ever will.


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