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( May. 11th, 2012 03:14 pm)

The past two weeks have been full of short missions to scout and kill enemy kama fighters, separated by long, long meetings to plan our strategies in the Saitekika campaign. At least one of these missions took me into Nagoya, the city of woe. But it turned out that I have learned much about Nagoya’s alleyways, and evading its security. Since my mission didn’t require me to sneak across the rooftops, it was easier than I expected.

I’m sure my next visit to that accursed city will be twice as troublesome, just to make up for it.

In the meantime, we are trying to find new ninjas to replace Ginsaku. There were two applicants who were barely competent. Then came one who was quite skilled, and who was a joy to spar with when we tested him. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow him to join our clan. Kento and I are both disappointed that he will not be able to fight alongside us.

Finally, yesterday, I tested a new fighter. At least, he claimed to be a fighter. When I asked him to describe the benefits and drawbacks of various fighting styles, he gave me only vague platitudes, like someone who has read about fighting but never entered real combat. When I asked him to demonstrate some simple kama kata, his motions were awkward and clumsy. I could not imagine how he might fare in a real fight — he would be at least as dangerous to his comrades as to any enemies.

I told him there was no point in continuing any further. We will have to keep searching for warriors who are actually useful in combat.

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 arrived at the castle yesterday morning, collected my weapons, and went out to Zaiseikyōiku to see how things were progressing. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that Sakito had killed the wrong targets. I gave him very precise instructions, but he apparently did not understand them.

Luckily, the people he killed will not be missed… or at least, their deaths will not be traceable back to Clan Noriaibasha. He has at least that much competence at his ninja skills.

But the people we do need killed are still very much alive. Snarling curses upon Sakito and his ancestors, I set about finding and slaying them…

…only to be visited by Makishi, who asked me to return to the castle for a meeting with Sakito, Kento and him, to discuss our progress in Ogaribamen and Zaiseikyōiku.

I was very good. I did not state, “Sakito is incapable of following simple instructions.” Instead, I simply reported that we still have people to kill, and I am taking care of that today, and I had been doing so before I was pulled back to the castle. After the meeting was done, I spent the rest of the day in Zaiseikyōiku, frantically hunting down and killing enemies.

I have more to kill today. Then tomorrow there is another of those strategy-planning meetings which will occupy the entire afternoon. Before it starts, I have sworn I will have all our opposition in Zaiseikyōiku cleared away.

That is why I am very busy.

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.

Someone in Clan Hekoayu needs to die. Possibly multiple someones.

For some weeks now, they have been providing us maps outlining the territories we’re supposed to be capturing and subduing. In many places, these maps are extremely detailed. This is no coincidence: It is because we specifically required them to give us very detailed maps. After all, we are the ones who will have to operate in these territories, waging life-or-death battles.

Yesterday, I was in Zaiseikyōiku, following the map I had been given. It claimed that the little alley past the marketplace was an excellent shortcut to the back window of the Iron Monkey inn, one of the more important taverns in town. Being able to sneak in the back could be quite important.

Imagine my surprise and dismay, then, when I went down the alley and found a small building up against the back wall of the inn — completely covering the window. Imagine also that it was nothing compared to my surprise and annoyance at finding that the building housed a group of thugs affiliated with one of the gangs of the town center.

Luckily, they were also startled by appearance. Luckily, I have much practice in quick-draw techniques, and was able to pull out my kama and defend myself before the first one’s attack could strike me. And luckily, I was able to escape unharmed.

Whoever produced this map should not be so lucky.

I spent the rest of the afternoon checking other details. There is a place where the map says the gap between two buildings is eight feet wide. It is actually ten feet. If I had attempted to leap that gap unprepared, I could easily have fallen to the street below, risking broken bones or even death.

I have reported the problem to Amon, Makishi, Kento — and of course, to Sakito, who is the only other actual ninja in the field, and who is hence relying on these maps just as much as I am. I have urged them to escalate matters to the priests and the nobles, and to ensure that someone has harsh words with Hekoayu.

For now, we cannot trust anything in these maps. It seems that at least nine parts out of any ten are correct. In any ten claims that the map makes, only one is incorrect. But which one?

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.

I have been sick for the past few days. On Monday afternoon, I was in Yokuaru Shitsumon, scouting out the opposition. It is clear that I will need to master a particular technique to have any hope of prevailing here. It is called the hikichigaido attack — a kata using the kama that should really be quite simple.

Still, it eludes me.

I do not know if this is because of my illness, or if there is something I am misunderstanding. But now I am in the courtyard of Castle Noriaibasha, practicing this technique. I must hone it until I can go back to Yokuaru Shitsumon and eradicate a pair of enemies who will otherwise cause us trouble there.

Practice, practice…

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.

Yesterday, on my way to my meeting with Sakito, I noticed something important in my weapons-locker: A message from Raitsu to Furashi. Oh, no! How could I have forgotten?

Of course: I have been dealing with the many meetings with Clan Hekoayu, and now more meetings to plan our strategies for the Saitekika campaign, and Kento never made this message sound like a particularly high priority, and… well, I was very forgetful, and this must be corrected.

Of course, I could not do anything about it at the time. But now, I have a few hours to spare. Off to Nagoya I go!

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.

We are still having trouble finding skilled urban ninjas at Clan Noriaibasha. Nippon’s endless war has taken its toll, and there is starting to be a shortage of able fighters. I have taken to asking applicants some very simple questions regarding the use of the kama and the manrikigusari, and asking them to show me one of the simplest possible kata: The Three-and-Five Strike.

Still, they fail.

Some make excuses. Some try to distract us with tricky weapon-flourishes and intimidating poses that don’t actually accomplish anything. Most simply go away in defeat. This kata is terribly simple. Any warrior should be able to perform it, with any weapon they know. Easily. Anyone who cannot would be a liability in any fighting force.

We finally have a scroll of introduction from a man who might be able to do more than flourish his kama and growl menacingly. He will come to the castle on Friday, and we will take his measure.

Also, my friend Marumi has sent me a letter of introduction to a friend of hers, a man who was once an ikebana artist, but has since been learning the ways of chain-fighting. Since Marumi is a very skilled warrior, I trust her judgement that this man could pass our entrance exams. But he has not responded to my letters.

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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