On Friday, I received a message from Jinsei. He says that the Totemo Akarui-gumi is not making as much money as it needs to, and they can no longer afford to have me on the staff. There were a a few missions they still needed performed, for the Midori-Jimusho clan...

I have now performed them, with honor, and have nothing left to do for Totemo Akarui.

In the past few days, I have also ensured that the troubles facing my friend Arina have been dealt with. And I have spent some time in the town of Yagyū, where heralds and messengers from the various factions in Nihon's eternal war come to find skilled warriors. There are many small, newly-formed groups that need ninjas and other fighters... but I am beginning to think that my future lies with a larger, more established army.

Even if they are more staid, more conservative and traditional, I think it might be for the best if I no longer had to deal with the instability of the newer groups. Sadly, they seem to be the only ones using the Jōgesen-ryū style, but that's okay. I can

Amon says he will give good report of me to those who may inquire. Still, I find it hard not to feel like I have once again failed.
All that I attempt goes awry. Have I angered Bishamonten? I must certainly go to His temple and make offerings, for every step I perform in the Pagoda Bearer style today is off balance, or malformed somehow. A bitter, evil wind is blowing from the northeast, the demon gate that lets evil in.

I must make offerings. I must re-sharpen my sword. And I must continue to persevere. The enemies that now seem so invincible — soon I will find a way to slay them. The ninja endures; the ninja perseveres.
As usual, the Totemo Akarui-gumi had its ninja meeting today. Daichi was a bit tired after a late-night mission last night.

There is little left to be done for Clan Kuruma-no-Danshaku, until they determine what the next stage of their strategy will be. Apparently we have been quite successful in removing all opposition to their initial goals, but they may acquire new enemies in a while.

I have a new mission, which concerns the gumi's own internal ryū. It is a style which attempts to mimic the famed Jōgesen school of sansetsukon fighting, except with a ninja-to. Our form is not as polished, of course, but it has seen some use already in our battles on behalf of Clan Sanatsui and the Phantom Dance-gumi. But we have realized something our ryū lacks, and which it needs:

The ability to be used with a poisoned blade.

I have been given the task of adding such an ability to our gumi's fighting style. We are also trying to find a good name for this style; "Totemo Akarui-ryū" doesn't quite seem to work, and besides, there is some possibility of changing the gumi's name, too.

At any rate... such a mission should keep me busy for a few days.
Having slaughtered a great many adversaries for clients such as Clan Seikatsu-sanbyakugojū and the Yūrei-no-Hitosashi-gumi (or "Phantom Dance" gumi)... I am now staking out the Castle of Lord Joukyū for the Daiyokaru monks.

It seems that the Daiyokaru's problems frequently involve powerful daimyō who have impenetrable fortresses. Perhaps the monks simply have their own ways of dealing with lesser foes, and only require the aid of ninjas when all other avenues are exhausted?

Regardless, I have determined that fulfilling this task will require a careful knowledge of the Shibishiarema branch of the Shizuka-ryū style. I am studying this path, and it is most perplexing. It seems I may need the kata called Heavenly Clouds Moving in a Group.

Looking deeper into the ways of this ryū, I see that this move is actually based on one called Heavenly Clouds Take Form. That, in turn, is based on the move called Storm Clouds Take Form.

Which, in its own turn, is based on one called Clouds Ascending Like Dragons. I have little doubt that when I learn more, I will see that Clouds Ascending Like Dragons is based on something else — Dragon Spits Fire, perhaps, or Dragon Needs Food, Badly.

In the meantime, I must get back to Iga, for I have a vase of shōchū that my friend Junna desperately needs, after the struggles of her own day. The Shibishiarema ryū will just have to wait.
Working with the Totemo Akarui-gumi has its good points and its bad ones. I am very nearly a free ninja, able to set whatever hours and working conditions I please... but access to healers is very limited, and sometimes there isn't a lot to do.

But today, I have performed a most skillful feat for the Daiyokaru monks. They wanted to know if it was possible to find a way into the castle of Lord Mainen, who is notorious for his security. A previous Totemo Akarui ninja, who has since left our gumi, once tried and failed.

But now I have crept deep into Mainen's castle. (No, I'm not saying how.) While he was occupied with other matters, I took a single piece of writing-paper from his desk, wrote on it "I am Ichirō of Iga, in Lord Mainen's office"... and then stamped it with Lord Mainen's chop! I have it now in a pocket, as I work my way back out of the castle so I can report to the Daiyokaru.

It is work like this that makes me proud to be a ninja.

And I have a message from Jinsei detailing some work that I can do for a new client, the Sanatsui Clan.
I and the other ninjas of the Totemo Akarui-gumi have been busy with work for Clan Kurudan. (Their full name is Kuruma-no-Danshaku, but sometimes it is useful to shorten things. "Kurudansha" also works.)

The Totemo Akarui-gumi has signed up another ninja, named Amon. He is apparently well versed in forest and wilderness fighting, especially using the Jōgesen-ryū. I have not met him yet, but we have exchanged messages and irogome, and he has been chasing down the Kurudansha's enemies in the forests of central Kansai even as I slay them inside the cities.

I have been most diligent in Ōtsu, working with kama, manrikigusari, and even with the sansetsukon when possible. But I have also made trips to Heian-kyō and even Naniwa when necessary, to ensure that no lingering enemies remain there.

However, this has all been very ad-hoc, undirected work. And the Kurudan clan has also hired another ninja, a man named Hōsei. He has been doing some other form of secret work for them, and the time has come to coordinate our efforts. So today, I and Amon will meet with Hōsei at an inn in Heian-kyō, and we will discuss more long-range strategy. Jinsei may be there, too.
Over the past few days, I have been doing some infiltration and kama work in Ōtsu. Ōtsu is, of course, one of my favorite places to work, since the rooftops are so inviting and there are so many places for a ninja to hide and creep.

However, part of a ninja's work is spycraft, and I have recently uncovered a lead which makes clear that our clients, Clan Kurudan, have a cell of enemies working in Nagoya.

My favorite place.

I will be in Nagoya today, and probably cursing my fate as well as the ancestry of everyone responsible for building that unpleasant city. But I have some hope that some of the Jōgesen techniques I've learned recently might help me.

And I have eaten a nice, early breakfast, so at least I will be well fortified against the rigors of the day.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Mar. 6th, 2009 11:23 am)
The Totemo Akarui-gumi's association with Clan Higatsuke is about to come its end. It seems Jinsei has presented Lord Jun with the first bill for our services, and Lord Jun is unhappy.

However, we may be able to recover payment from him anyway. I have been engaged in some long-running projects on his behalf. As a result, I am the only one who knows the flaws in the daimyō Tomodachi-no-Tasu's security. His security is quite substantial, and would be nearly impossible for any of Higatsuke's members to penetrate on their own. Also, I have made connections in the house of Lord Sutōpurei, and can kill him with ease.

And we have other leverage, if we need it. We hope it does not come to that.

In the meantime, the Clan Kuruma-no-Danshaku is starting an ambitious campaign, and needs us to clear a variety of enemies. And our old friends, the Daiyokaru Temple, still have their own needs.

It will be good to leave the town of Ningu behind... even if I was looking forward to the manrikigusari battle that awaited me today. And it will be quite good to be free of Lord Jun's frantic and ill-disciplined ways.

And finally, Jinsei has tracked down my own payment. The merchant house accidentally sent it to the home of one of Jinsei's other associates, a man who has been connected with our gumi in the past. This man will bring it to Jinsei, and I will have it tomorrow.

All is well, or will be soon.
Jinsei and I have come to an agreement: Lord Jun of Clan Higatsuke has the mind of a grasshopper, and his impatience and impetuousness will be the doom of his military campaign. For now, we will take his money, but we are trying to find a way to warn him of the consequences of his current course. We do not know if he will listen, but honor compels us to try.

Also, we will stay alert for signs of impending catastrophe, and we are discussing what sorts of missions we will not undertake in Higatsuke's war. For now, though, there are still things we can achieve.

I spent much of today doing increasingly devious and interesting things with my kama in Ningu town. Soon, there will be some ninja-to work to be done with the forces of Nihiki-no-Sakana, which should be quite entertaining and educational. Nihiki-no-Sakana's current ventures are focused in the bayside province of Izumi, where once I operated with Clan Nettobuku; perhaps I can return there in greater triumph this time.
We have gone back to another meeting with Clan Higatsuke. They are very active in the town of Ningu now, and establishing themselves as a major part of its power structure is crucial to their strategy.

This is unfortunate, because Ningu has very strict rules against carrying weaponry. They will allow the kama, because it is "merely a farming tool", and I have found that the guards can often be bribed to allow a length of chain and a grappling hook, if you wear a mountain man's clothes and claim to need it for survival in the nearby forested mountains.

Of course, with a length of chain and a grappling hook, one can get to the rooftops... and then, a great many things are possible. Even if one's opponent is an armed and armored samurai, dropping off a roof onto him with a kama can be startlingly effective.

Jinsei has observed something about Higatsuke's Lord Jun: "He always needs to be in motion, even if it is not towards the actual goal." If we needed to get to Edo (east of here, as we are near Heian-kyō), he would be unhappy if we debated whether to take the Tōkaidō or the Nakasendō, because we would not be moving... but if we set off to the west, he would be pleased with our progress.

However, his money is good, so I am willing to smile, nod, and go along with his plans. While I make a great show of "progress" for Lord Jun to keep him happy, Jinsei will work on getting him to look at a map and see the larger picture.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Feb. 13th, 2009 10:54 am)
It has been a busy week with the Totemo Akarui-gumi. One of our clients is a group of monks, called the Daiyokaru temple. For them, I have removed some obstacles who were in the way of them setting up a new shrine in the mountainous province of Kawachi. To do that, I also had to learn the rudiments of the Shizuku-ryū fighting style. Then there was the clan who needed a mountain trail cleared, using some of my yamabushi skills.

(Due to the recent bandit activity around Henshukoku, my Shugendō has been getting quite a workout. I've even improved a few parts.)

But yesterday and the day before, Jinsei brought me with him to negotiations with Clan Higatsuke. They are a very small clan in Kamishichiken, near where Castle Iwinaga still stands... but they have very aggressive plans, and want to move quickly. They have many enemies to slay, in order to carve out a place for themselves. Lord Jun, who leads the clan, is a very energetic man, full of verve and enthusiasm. He can be slightly tiring to deal with in large doses.

We are awaiting some of the final orders before we start dealing with Higatsuke enemies who seem to have infiltrated their allies, Clan Ningu (an interesting clan of Hikone, which is expanding its own power). Until then, I hone my blades and maintain readiness.
I have had my first meeting with Jinsei, the leader of the Totemo Akarui-gumi — my new boss. My first assignment is to do a job for a Shingon Buddhist temple near Heian-kyō. In this age of perpetual war in Nihon, even priests need fighters.

The enemies of the Shingon temple are many. To begin with, there is a small warlord of western Yamashiro, who must be slain. He is a suspicious man, and his security will not be easy to penetrate. I must spend some time learning his security arrangements, observing the movements of his guards, and learning the layout of his castle. There will only be one chance to strike.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Jan. 28th, 2009 07:38 pm)
Earlier today, I concluded negotiations with Jinsei, the leader of the Totemo Akarui-gumi. We are agreed that on Monday, I will go to the gumi's headquarters in Ōmi Province, to be inducted into the group and become one of their ninjas-for-hire.

No longer am I an unemployed ninja!

The Totemo Akarui-gumi is a small group of warriors that hire out to any army that needs them. We perform nearly any type of fighting that samurai can't: in forests, in mountains, in cities; in addition to Pagoda Bearer techniques and the Jōgesen way, we occasionally use a bit of Shugendō, so my experience with the yamabushi is also handy.

The only worry is that the Totemo Akarui-gumi pays its ninjas per kill, rather than per week, so if there isn't enough work, things might get awkward. But they are hiring me because they have too much work, so it seems likely that I can earn a fair amount of gold.

Nihon is gripped by ongoing war. There will always be targets for my gumi's ninjas. I should go buy a few more weapons, and be prepared for Monday.
.

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