I have returned safely from Clan Toyotomi's stronghold. As I said earlier in one of my briefer messages, the size and power of Toyotomi's army is most impressive. However, his people are polite and friendly, and I can see many advantages to enlisting in such a force.

I would, of course, have to adopt the Buddhist-style hilt-wrappings for all my weapons, which would take me some time to adjust to. But my recent stint with the Yaneura-gumi has shown me that I could make such an adjustment.

I may not have to. There was at least one kama maneuver that I failed to execute correctly, and a flaw in my performance of the Heavenly Enclosure kata with the manrikigusari. I think I did acceptably well, but not outstandingly well, and there are always warriors ready to join Toyotomi's army.

We shall see.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Jul. 9th, 2009 03:32 pm)
For many years now, starting with my time with Clan Iwinaga, I have been largely cast in the role of a city fighter, working on rooftops with my chain and grappling hook. When employed by clans and armies, it's always been other people who fight in the mountains or the forests. Alternatively, there are times when I work on my own projects, and fight with the ninja-to wherever I can. When I was with the Totemo Akarui-gumi, I mostly fought alone; even if I knew Amon was battling other foes somewhere else, I couldn't actually see him doing so.

Over the past two days with the Yaneura-gumi, however, I have been working alongside a man named Teruyoshi. While I've been doing Pagoda Bearer style work with my ninja-to, he has been leaping from rooftop to rooftop, whirling his manrikigusari and grappling hook about. It's quite an interesting change.

Of course, the fact that I also know grappling-hook styles has made me that much more effective in supporting his efforts. We've been working well together. It is refreshing and pleasant.
The past 24 hours in Kusatsu have not been good. As the sun set today, however, I managed to escape the city. Since I have lately been active in the town of Seinikki, I found my way there, hoping for some rest.

I found very little rest, but I did at least stumble across a clue leading to one of the crime-lords who are causing unrest in the town. I was able to make use of a most effective new poison technique, and thus dispatched a half-dozen of the crime-lords' lieutenants.

They will now be alert to my presence, of course... but perhaps they may suspect it's another underworld organization, instead of a lone ninja. Either way, they will be hampered by the loss of those men.

In the meantime, the Yaneura-gumi wants me to come back to Heian-kyō again tomorrow, for "just one more day". Of course, that's what they said about yesterday. Before I left yesterday, Haruo mentioned that a fighter they'd hired before had apparently failed to kill a particular enemy, and they think the target trained in many of the same techniques as the ones I have already dealt with. So I have hopes that I can make short work of this one.
I have been very diligent in my visits to the town of Seinikki, where I have been stealthily observing the underworld operatives who are causing troubles. It seems there are 31 of them, a most inauspicious number. Each one will require special techniques to defeat with my manrikigusari. So far, I am nearly ready to deal with three of them, and I have singled out two others for special study.

These five are likely to be the most difficult of all. If I can take them down, the others should be much easier.

In the meantime, I have also made my first visit, under the cover of darkness, to the town of Kusatsu, at the intersection of the Tōkaidō and the Nakasendō. Kusatsu is a tightly guarded town, where no swords or staffs may be brought. Peasants' tools, such as the kama, are no problem, and it is very easy to slip a manrikigusari past their guards.

I think it would be to my great credit if I could get a representative from Clan Saezuri installed in a place of power in Kusatsu. (Of course, the large numbers of operatives from Clan Toyotomi in Kusatsu won't make that easy... I'd rather see clan Te-no-hira grow in power in Kusatsu, but they are only recently arrived there, and will have their work cut out for them.)

There is much work to be done, and Kusatsu is in the other direction from Yagyū, where I must go often to seek for employment.
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.
I have not made a report for quite some time. As I wrote before, my time with Clan Nettobuku is done, and not by my choice.

I returned to Castle Nettobuku to inform Commander Kobushi and Lord Tai of my decision, and to take my leave of the other clan-members. Everyone seemed sorry to see me go. (Jimon was not there that day.) Daigo, in particular, seemed quite stunned and somewhat upset.

Kobushi and Tai were both pleased by my professionalism, and promised to give good report of me to any other clans that might ask. They say that the campaigns Nettobuku has engaged in, and the skills required of me, have been completely different from what I originally was told. As true as this may be, however, I feel that the ability to adapt to unexpected and changing circumstances is a necessary skill for a ninja. My failure to do so disturbs me greatly.

Shortly after leaving the castle for the last time, I became ill, and spent two weeks recovering. Since then, I have been in Henshukoku, practicing my skills.

I have reconsecrated the town's shrine to Bishamonten. I have cleared out some space in the yard of the house I share with Akane, and set up some practice dummies that I can use to practice strikes against. The yard now qualifies as a small dōjō of its own, set up for practice of both sansetsukon and ninja-to kata as well as the weighted chain. (I'm still in good shape with the chain... but I've gotten very rusty at using the Pirōto-style hook, which is far more popular than the Mūtou-style that Nettobuku favored.)

I have set myself a training regime, and I spend part of each day doing kata and drills. I have been converting one of my ninja-to kata into the Living Stone style, for a firm grounding in the Living Stone ryū is an absolute necessity. I have also been learning the art of poisoning my weapons, and adapting my kata to take account for the poison's effects.

And I go every day to Yagyū, to spend time in the inns and hiring halls where messengers from the martial clans and armies come to recruit skilled warriors for Nihon's never-ending battles and war campaigns. But right now, everyone is preparing for o-shōgatsu, so there are no messengers to be found. I can only hope that things will improve once the holidays are over.
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.
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.
I have been doing acceptable, if not inspired, work with my kusari-gama lately. But now comes a painful challenge: I have been assigned to assassinate three individuals of the Bāgu clan (one of our arch-enemies). These three targets are all in Nagoya, the stronghold of Oda.

General Oda Nobunaga rules Nagoya and the surrounding province with an iron fist. The populace there are downtrodden and terrified, and guards patrol everywhere. It is an unfortunate place for a ninja to have to go.

But I will go anyway, and do my best. I knew when I became a ninja that working in Nagoya would be necessary sometimes.

Edited to Add: Immediately upon entering Nagoya, I was set upon by the city guard. I have already had to do some truly impressive work using both the manrikigusari and the Jōgesen three-sectional staff techniques... and I haven't even gotten a line on any of my targets yet! Truly, Nagoya is a difficult city for a ninja.
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)
( Sep. 18th, 2008 01:34 pm)
I have been fighting hard using the three-sectional staff and the chain-and-grappling-hook at the same time, scampering over the roofs in Nara, the ancient capital, and chasing down our Takusan Clan enemies in the lakeside city of Hikone. It started off as something incredibly frustrating, as there were some bits of the Jōgesen-style footwork that were still eluding me. But I finally got those (with a bit of help from Bunmei), and today, the chase and the battle has become almost thrilling.

I remember what it's like to do ferocious battle across the rooftops again.

Unfortunately, I now need to head back to the castle for a major planning meeting, where we will plan the beginning of our Hitotsu Rokko campaign, which begins next week. Luckily, clearing the foes in Hikone and Nara will be a major step toward our campaign goals, so I'm getting a head-start on that aspect of things.

(I swear, I didn't choose the music on purpose! It just happens to be beautifully appropriate.)
Clattering over tiled roofs, my chain whirling at him with every opportunity... heavy weight on one end of the chain, and the vicious Mūtou hook on the other end.

He's cautious and clever, but now that I'm hot on his heels, he seems pretty worried. Apparently one of those guys that relies on stealth over combat expertise. Now he's hoping his fleetness of foot and skill on rooftops will save him...

Too bad for him. I'm better at fighting than he is — and I'm just as good at rooftop agility. He leaps from one roof to another, but he isn't ready for me to cast my hook at him while I'm in mid-leap. And once I've caught him, it's all over.

One less Ayamari to trouble the world.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Jul. 21st, 2008 02:59 pm)
I am spending all my time running back and forth between Heian-kyō, the ancient capital, and Nara, where some of our contacts dwell. Bearing these messages in and out of the cities is an important job, requiring a ninja's stealth.

Tomo just found me on the road, and let me know that there is unrest in Heian-kyō. "One of our contacts there has been slain," he says. "Strangled, apparently by a chain weapon. We will have to track down the perpetrator."

This will probably involve a whole lot of rooftop work. Normally, I like working on the rooftops... but have I mentioned how the architecture of Heian-kyō involves a lot of really sharply sloped roofs, and some very shiny and highly-polished tile? It's slippery stuff.

This is going to suck.
Wow, I think this is the first time I've spent a half-hour laboriously battling an enemy, and then at the end thought, "That problem would never have happened if I were using the nunchaku."

Perhaps a little explanation is in order: I don't actually use the nunchaku! But I have studied it a tiny bit, and I have realized that, while one of its most well-known (and strangest) features makes many warriors wary of it. But not me. I see that feature as a useful thing, even if it's slightly different from how most things work.

Only seasoned warriors are likely to care about the tricks of my trade. )

The way the nunchaku are built, even if it's a bit off-putting to many warriors, is actually a great strength, that would never have allowed that particular enemy to ambush me that way. (Shō, my friend, I can hear you laughing already. I share your opinion.)
Today, I spent 10 hours carving a trail of death through the cities of Futa Sanjūichi, doing some truly outstanding work with the kusari-gama. Joint locks, throws, some truly inspired tricks with the grappling hook. I left a trail of dead and bleeding bodies in my wake, and baffled many foes with my skill and ingenuity.

Finally, back at Castle Iwinaga, I showed General Wāro some of the special kata I have recently been developing, which I hope the armies of Clan Iwinaga will find useful in my absence. He was quite pleased, and even Araki, who rarely finds merit in anyone's techniques besides his own, said he was impressed with the way I'd integrated the chain and the moves with kama's blade.

Though I wish I could have spent the day with Akane, or helped cheer up my friend Teruaki (who is having a bad time lately), I am at least pleased to have turned in such an impressive finale. I sit writing these words in an Okinawan restaurant, midway from Heian-kyō back to Iga, where Akane will shortly join me for dinner.

(Later, upon arriving home: Ah! It turns out Teruaki will be able to join us for drinks and companionship. He'll arrive shortly, and we'll break out some sake... After today's performance, General Wāro will certainly not quibble if I'm a little late tomorrow.)


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