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.

I have a shameful confession to make. It is an explanation for why I have been so quiet.

Last week, as I was preparing to leave Hoshiakari and go to Castle Noriaibasha, there was a knock at the door. “Who can that be?” I wondered, and opened it… to find a short, plump traveler in a straw hat.

“Pardon me, good sir,” he said, “would you happen to have any sake you can spare?”

“Is it not early in the morning for drinking?” I asked.

“Perhaps you may be right. Then might I trouble you for some tea?” he continued, insistently.

I felt wary, but… I would not wish to begrudge a traveler such simple comforts. “Wait here, and I will bring you a cup,” I said. I turned away to the kitchen. When I looked back, the traveler was in my living room! Bouncing a small golden ball!

“You should not be inside my house!” I told him. “I asked you to wait outside. It is a pleasant morning.”

“But I am inside,” he cried. “You let me in!” He laughed, and his face melted into the wide-eyed, short-snouted, furry face of a tanuki — then he bolted past me, out the door, and ran away, quick as a whirlwind.

A tanuki! I knew I was in trouble now. Carefully, I checked around the house to see if anything was missing.

I quickly found the problem: My ninja-tō was covered with rust. In fact, it was completely turned into rust, as if it had forged from pure rust in the first place! And my kama… its blade was bent into a knot! And every one of my manrikigusari’s links had been turned into a loop of udon noodle. The Jeikyū grappling hook had been turned into an artful bouquet of flowers.

As for my sansetsukon… in that case, the tanuki left the metal fittings alone, but the wood was transformed into nattō. As was my bō staff, which was thankfully outside in the yard at the time.

I had no time to weep over my now-weaponless state. I had to go to Castle Noriaibasha and perform my daily duties there. Since the clan supplies the weapons I must use on their behalf, I was able to do my work. But for the past few days, I have come home every evening and been very occupied with trying to restore my own weapons.

I have had to cut and whittle new kama handles. I have had to visit the blacksmith’s shop to have him forge me new blades, and new chains, and a new grappling hook. My new bō is now ready, and the blacksmith will have my sansetsukon done tomorrow.

I will be much more wary of tanuki in the future.

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.

Since the Emperor declared a day of rest on today, in memory of a great man, we had a long weekend. And I spent some of it relaxing in Hoshiakari, doing kata in my own Kongōshu style. This is a style I have been inventing especially for people who go carousing in taverns a lot, and it is based on the Steel Road ryū.

This means I must refresh my memory of the Steel Road, for I have not used it in some time. So I spent part of the weekend out in the yard outside my house, whirling the sansetsukon around, practicing strikes and blocks.

My style is not yet ready to use… but I have definitely made some progress on it this weekend! Some day, perhaps it will be useful to others.

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.

Clan Noriaibasha has had very little for me to do of late. This is no hardship, but it is rather boring. There is only so much time one can spend practicing kata in the castle courtyard.

But tonight, I have found a task that needs doing in Iga Province, near to Hoshiakari village.

In a nearby town, a priest of Amaterasu is bedeviled by bandits in the woods near his shrine. Such unrighteous miscreants cannot go unpunished. I creep through the mountain terrain, hidden amongst the trees and bushes, ready to destroy them as soon as I find them.

It is good to help out my own province.

This is the kind of job where the gleam of light off a blade might give me away, so I am using a bō staff and a jō stick, one in each hand. I can stow the jō in my belt when needed, and simply use the bō for reach.

Ahead, I see some light. As I creep closer, I see that they have lit a campfire for the night. This will be too easy. I smile beneath my ninja mask, and prepare to throw a smoke bomb into their fire, the better to disorient them and claim the benefits of surprise…

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.

I have begun making preparations to re-consecrate the shrine of Inari in Hoshiakari. It will be a difficult task, for I am not truly a priest. But as one who was once a yamabushi, I have some understanding of mystical matters… and then there are the skills of a ninja, which involve some techniques that touch upon the spirit world.

Most important, Akane will be assisting me. Her help is always invaluable.

I will leave Ichimen earlier than usual tomorrow, so that the reconsecration can be done at sundown. The entire shrine will have to be cleansed, purified, fumigated with holy incense, and consecrated anew.

And I am bringing both a bō staff and a jō stick, to be prepared for any type of yōkai that might try to thwart this last ceremony. I may not use metal weapons in the shrine, but I have been practicing my jō moves, and I feel confident that I will be able to do whatever becomes necessary.

Afterward, Akane and I hope to refresh ourselves with a celebratory meal at a restaurant near the shrine. It is very tasty, but we hardly ever get to go there, being too busy with the shrine itself.

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 promised Kento I would go to Ichimen on Saturday and battle the Ayamari more. But as I prepared to leave Hoshiakari, a villager came running: “The oni is in the shrine! Again!”

Again? After only one day? And in broad daylight, for once? This was not its usual style. Cursing and moaning, I went to the shrine. Sure enough, there it was, as large as life and as ugly as ever. Its iron-sheathed club flashed toward me, and the battle was joined!

I had only a small jō staff, but I was fueled by my rage and frustration. I struck hard and fast, dodging the monster’s blows. One swing left it off-balance, and I dealt it a mighty blow on the side of its head. It fell down dead at my feet, and then its shape blurred and shrank down to the visage of…

…a wizard of the Hakka clan! Those who invade others’ territories by guile and duplicity, only to deface and destroy! This is an enemy I was very glad to have killed.

But has the oni always been the Hakka, wearing a mystical disguise? Or is it truly the case the Hakka simply heard about Hoshiakari’s oni problem and decided to exploit it for his own ends?

Regardless, the shrine must be re-purified and reconsecrated. I have plans for that operation, but they will take some time to put into effect. The Teitōken campaign is still absorbing too much of my time and energy.

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.

On Thursday, we finally found a way that Satonori can vouch for me with the armory guards so I can have weapons. He and Haruna are now both assisting me in Ichimen. They are both carving a path of blood and death through the kama-wielding Ayamari, while I take on the rooftop fighters.

On Friday morning, I awoke to news that the shrine of Amaterasu had once again been occupied by an oni. I could do nothing about it; my duties to Clan Noriaibasha required my presence in Ichimen. So off I went, to slay Ayamari — and then to be called into no fewer than five meetings, consuming most of my day.

At least one of these meetings was useful, though: We went through all of the assassination orders and target descriptions supplied by the Sōtō Zen monks, and were able to identify many cases where two different orders described the same target. “The man in the green kimono? He’s the same as the kama fighter with a slight limp in his left leg.” “Ah, then we will combine these orders.” When we were done, the number of enemies had dropped from 35 to under 30.

But one of the worst problems is still the rooftop fighters. Before I left the castle on Friday evening, Kento presided over a meeting with me, Haruna and Satonori. We agreed that we would divide up the enemies yet to be fought, and that I would spend my weekend in Ichimen clearing off the rooftops.

Then I left, and did not go home. I went directly to the shrine of Amaterasu, where I drove off the oni. I arrived home late at night, and Akane poured me a vase of sake and put me to bed. The next morning, I knew I would simply have to arise and go back to Ichimen.

When I have time, I must tell the tale of this morning… and then the tale of this afternoon.

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 was right to be worried about misfortune yesterday… I was simply wrong about just what shape the misfortune would take.

My demonstration was not a failure. Not a great success, either, for there were so many things to show that we ran out of time, and I will have to schedule a second session. But certainly, it was more of a success than a failure.

Unfortunately, many other things yesterday were failures. In particular, I discovered that there has been a massive incursion of Ayamari into Ichimen. The messages from the Sōtō Zen monks had not been reaching me. Someone within Clan Noriaibasha has made a grave mistake, but tracking down the culprit will have to wait. First, we must retake the city.

And, while I was busily trying to curb the Ayamaris’ numbers, I received a message from Hoshiakari: More trouble in the shrine of Amaterasu. Once again, I had to cancel a dinner with Akane and go deal with the hateful oni’s mischief.

This time, however, Akane offered to come with me. Even if we didn’t have the dinner we’d been hoping for, we did get to spend some time together. With her help, driving away the demon was even easier than usual.

But still, this situation cannot continue. We must find a way to kill the thing.

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 received a message from General Wāro recently, asking if I would give a good report about him to a clan that is considering taking him in. I told him that of course I would do so. On Tuesday night, I was supposed to receive a messenger from his prospective new clan, who would ask me my impressions of the General.

Instead — as readers of my brief messages will already know — a runner came from the other side of Hoshiakari. “There is trouble in the shrine!”, he cried. “Noise and disturbance! Can you help?”

So, instead of dinner with Akane, I laced up my tabi and rushed through the woods to the shrine. I hoped to find nothing more than a few bandits — or, even better, perhaps a vagrant simply looking for food. But in my heart, I knew better.

Sure enough, the oni had returned. The same one who bedeviled us last September, and then again in November. It crouched in the doorway, grinning foully at me.

And of course, not being a priest, I had no o-fuda. All I could do was attack with my ninja skills.

It threw off my chain with a laugh, and nearly clubbed me in the heart as I scrambled to dodge. A few quick acrobatic rolls got me out of range of its next few strikes, and I tried my ninja-tō. No use. I managed to use my kama to cut a mostly-straight branch from a nearby tree and use it as a bō staff. That at least gave me enough reach to stay out of the huge monster’s range.

The battle was long and grueling, but eventually I managed a solid strike against its wrist, and it dropped its club. As I assailed it with blows about the shoulders, it roared and then fled off into the night.

I must find a way to kill it, once and for all.

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.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Nov. 13th, 2010 02:39 pm)

Shhhhhhh. Don’t look now, but…

Since the battle I fought with the oni last week, I have woken up every morning to find the shrine of Amaterasu unmolested.

It was quite a vicious battle, with the oni swinging at me with its iron-shod, studded club nearly as large as I am. It took all my agility to dodge and avoid being struck; even a half-dodged blow would have broken a leg or arm and left me at the oni’s mercy. I threw shuriken for all I was worth, and attacked relentlessly with the bits of Shugendō I remembered.

I did manage to strike it a few times, and it bellowed in pain.

When it ran off, I saw that it was bleeding. The next morning, Akane helped me clean away the monster’s blood and re-purify the area around the shrine before stringing a new shimenawa.

There has been no sign of it since. Do I dare to hope that the fiend will never return?

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.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Nov. 5th, 2010 11:34 am)

Things have been very busy. Akane and I have a friend visiting from Edo, to celebrate the recent sumō champion. The victory has thrown all of Kansai into celebration; even the people of Iga (who usually keep to ourselves and stay apart from popular fads) have joined in the festivities.

In the meantime, Hoshiakari’s shrine of Amaterasu has been beset by the oni again. I have been rousted out of my bed in the middle of the night to try to drive it off. Each time, I attack with furious blows and the monster runs away before I can kill it… but then it returns again later.

I come to Castle Noriaibasha tired and groggy every morning. But they have good tea here, and so I am able to maintain enough alertness to stalk and kill the targets Kento assigns for me.

Earlier this week, I had a most astonishing meeting with Megumi and another herald from the Shomei-gumi. I will have to tell of the good news they brought me, when I have a bit more 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 awoke this morning to find the shimenawa at Amaterasu’s shrine broken, and the innards of the shrine scattered and disrupted. I shall have to stay awake some night soon, and do battle with the oni. This will not be an enjoyable experience, even for one who thrives on combat, as I do.

In the meantime, I am learning the ways of Clan Noriaibasha. There are a great many meetings, for the clan’s people need to coordinate their activities. Such a large clan can prosecute multiple campaigns simultaneously, and individual warriors split their time between the various campaigns. So unlike Clan Tenya, where I spent all my time clearing trails and supply lines to places like Kotobasatsuki, here I am constantly switching from one task to another.

And going to meetings to discuss each campaign I’m involved in.

Right now, the Rōba campaign has been taking much of my time, as I gut our enemies with my kama alone. But I have also recently been attached to the San-Nichikan campaign… and, in a meeting with Jōji, who is in charge of the Kirin project, I have learned more about the clan’s plans for the Kirin-dō kata that I have inherited from the departed mercenary.

There will be much for me to do. In the days to come, I certainly must describe these campaigns and the people of the clan.

But first, I must survive my encounter with the oni.

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 shrine of Amaterasu needs reconsecration. The oni’s depredations have not been good for the shrine’s harmony and purity. I have hung a new shimenawa around the shrine, and there have been no new footprints over the past few nights… but there are the marks of an iron club on one of the nearby trees.

The local shrine-maiden is sweeping the floor and burning incense. I will hope that this is enough. If not… I shall have to do battle in the dark of night, against a mighty foe.

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 visited the shrine of Amaterasu last night. For many hours, I kept watch, lurking and waiting to see if anything would appear. But even a ninja cannot remain awake forever.

Before leaving, I scattered a bit of rice flour around the entrances to the shrine, and some of the most likely avenues of approach. Then I went home, to sleep by Akane’s side.

I have now returned, and I see some very large footprints in the flour. Not merely the footprints of a very large man, either; not merely the prints of anything human. These prints are larger than even the mightiest sumo wrestler’s feet… and they have claw marks at the tips of the toes.

Kwannon defend me, I think I am dealing with an oni.

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 something lurking around the shrine of Amaterasu on the outskirts of Hoshiakari.

I do not know what, but the village woman who tends the shrine says that every morning, the offerings are scattered about. Whatever is edible has been eaten, and candles are often knocked over.

I will have to investigate. I am very busy learning the ways of Clan Noriaibasha, but any threat to Hoshiakari is something I cannot ignore.

Whatever lurks in the night, I must vanquish 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.

There is a fair in Iga tomorrow. Akane and I will be having friends over to join us at our house, so we have made sure it is clean and welcoming. Between bouts of cleaning, I have spent the day playing with a ninja-tō kata that my friend Michio described to me recently:

“I can see that there will frequently be situations where I have to hang from a tree branch, roof, or overhang, stab an enemy, then haul his body up into the place where I am in order to avoid being detected. And I have a kata that seems to work for that. It was a good learning exercise.” Curiously, I have never had to solve this exact problem, though it’s similar to one I’ve dealt with before.

So I agreed to work out a kata for it, without having seen Michio’s. Then we can compare them. It will make a good way for him to check how well he is learning the martial arts, too.

Well, either it’s harder than it looks, or I’m going at it entirely the wrong way. But my focus has been very scattered these past few days.

I did not go to Yagyū today, of course. But while I was practicing in the yard in front of Akane’s and my house, I got a message from a herald anyway. A singularly unhelpful message, much like the previous message from one of this herald’s gumi yesterday: It specifies what weapon skills and fighting styles I would need to know, but nothing else. There is no mention of any of the things I need to know to decide if I am interested or not.

Where is the clan’s headquarters located? Would I be constantly on the road from Iga to their castle, and exhausted by all the travelling by the time I even arrived every morning? And is this with a clan at all, or with a larger army? Where do they fight, and what are their objectives and strategies?

On Monday, I have appointments with two other herald gumis. Perhaps I can have lunch with a friend along the way.

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.
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.
 
Last night, I arrived home to find Henshukoku under attack by gaki, bedeviling my love, Akane. Though she fought valiantly to keep them from being able to harm any of the other people of Hoshiakari, she could not actually drive them off.

Luckily, I remember some of the ways of shugendō, and was able to send them flying far from our village. Still, it was a long and tiring battle, and the spiritual combat and chanting of shugendō doesn't make my blood hot like ninjutsu fighting does.

This morning, I hear yamabushis' horns blowing, far off in the wilderness. And when I investigate, I find that there is great unrest among the temples of Tenjin, and anyone who has any relations with Tenjin (that is, practically everyone in Nippon) must perform some purification and burn some incense to cleanse their shrine.

Since I am as close as Hoshiakari has to a priest, I must perform more of a yamabushi's duties, as soon as I have a chance. It's a good thing Clan Nettobuku gives me the opportunity to creep across rooftops a lot. (Speaking of which, I need to quit writing this stuff and get on the road to Fujiwara-kyō.)
.

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