Back in July, I met with one of the nobles and one of the fighters of Clan Ōkiten, who are based in Kamishichiken. This clan operates in the same areas as Clan Iwinaga, so my knowledge would be useful… and they also need ninjas with Pagoda Bearer skill.

But they are very busy and hectic, like a small upstart group, and I am not sure I would thrive there.

Today, I suddenly received a message from their herald. It is not simply a request for another appointment or negotiation; they want to actually offer me a position with the clan. I could use my ninja-tō, not the strangely curved wakizashi that Noriaibasha would require. I would roam the back streets and alleys of the pleasant Kamishichiken district, and never have to travel to Izumi Province…

But I do not think I would thrive. And negotiations with Noriaibasha are so close to being completely concluded.

I have told Ōkiten no.

And, almost like a blessing from Buddha, a few minutes later I received a message from Megumi, the herald of the Shomei-gumi: I can report to Castle Noriaibasha tomorrow to begin my service there.

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 has already journeyed off to the Central Provinces with her mother, there to visit other members of their family. Today, I also depart from Iga to meet them. I will be in the Central Provinces for the weekend, and then Akane and I will return to Iga and Hoshiakari on Monday.

We will doubtless be quite tired, and we will appreciate the creature comforts of our home after the long days in the rustic, uncultured lands.

But a week after that, I will go to Castle Noriaibasha, in the city of Sakai, and be given my first assignments. I will not truly be of their clan; I will actually be a member of the Shomei-gumi, whose herald found me the assignment with the Noriaibasha. But I will be on long-term assignment with the great clan of Izumi, and there is some chance that I may eventually be inducted into their ranks… if all goes well.

So I must report to the Shomei-gumi during the days between my return to Iga and my first day at Castle Noriaibasha. Aside from that, I have a week to spend at my leisure. Then I will go back to undertaking missions in stealth and violence.

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.

Even while Akane’s mother has been visiting, I have continued to meet with heralds and clans. And it seems my perseverance may have paid off! I have spoken with various fighters and other clan members of Clan Noriaibasha, and they have sent a message via their herald to offer me membership in the clan. However…

As one of the largest of the clans of Izumi Province, their security is paramount. They must have their agents investigate my background, and ensure that I am not a mole or other deep-cover enemy.

Of course, researching the background of a ninja from Iga is often an activity fraught with some peril, so this may take a bit of time. It is still conceivable that something might go wrong, but I pray to Kwannon that everything will turn out successfully.

In the meantime, I have gone to an interview with Clan Zajutsukura — yes, the ones who were once the on-again- off-again allies of Clan Tenya. They asked me to show them some sansetsukon kata, and I performed them well enough. (My recent practice seems to have been helpful.) Then they posed me some problems involving broad strategies and Shima-style net-fighting. Where they had only contemplated two ways of attacking the problem, I came up with a third strategy that combined the strengths of both. They were very impressed.

But sadly, they are a small, upstart group, with few warriors and no Zen monks, using ever-shifting tactics to try to pursue multiple campaign strategies at the same time. And their castle is full of the usual games and amusements, but has no privacy or places to concentrate. If I joined them, I would get to use the ninja-tō; and the Jōgesen style… but I know that I would not thrive. It would be a repeat of my experiences at Clans Nettobuku and Tenya.

Instead, I will pin my hopes on Noriaibasha. If I join them, it will be like my time at Clan Iwinaga: I will use the kama and manrikigusari, and specialize in city fighting. Occasionally, I will have to use the wakizashi, and there will be no occasion for me to use the sansetsukon or ninja-tō. I will have to deal with samurai, and work alongside them, and I won’t get to do forest fighting.

But there will be nobles who have experience leading, and Zen monks and Nichiren priests to guide us in the ways of righteousness and harmony. There will be enough treasury to keep the armies well stocked, and the clan will not be finding its way uncertainly, constantly stumbling and trying new things like an upstart group.

I have high hopes.

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’s mother is visiting from Edo, but this has not slowed down my hunt for a new clan.

Only a few days ago, I was contacted by a herald who told me of a possible position with Clan Noriaibasha, one of the mightier of the clans of Izumi Province. Within a day, she had arranged a meeting with one of their captains, who was impressed with my kata and told the herald that he would like me to visit the army’s barracks next week. I have high hopes for the outcome of this visit.

In the meantime, I will spend much of tomorrow speaking with the warriors of Clan Gakkotsu, who make some interesting helmet-fittings that are thought of highly by many warriors and nobles. They are probably too young a clan for me, but it is not certain, and they are worth investigating.

And today I spoke with the chief warrior of Clan Zajutsukura. Yes, the very same clan that was sometimes an ally of Clan Tenya. The man I spoke with knew me by reputation, and he said that it was not his decision to break off his clan’s alliance with ours. We spoke of the kata I developed for Tenya, and the missions I had performed on behalf of both our clans. We are agreed that I should come to speak with others of his clan, and make a determination of whether I would be well suited to join them.

In the meantime, Akane and I are busy with entertaining her mother during her short stay with us. Akane’s mother is quite fond of the cocktails I mix with sake and shōchū, so we bring her back to her inn every night in a happy mood.

I continue with my Jōgesen studies when I have time. This is not as often as one might wish, but I am making progress.

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.

This week has been quite busy with interviews and combat tests. On Monday, I traveled far off to the Mikawa Peninsula (requiring a journey by boat) to talk to Clan Kokkyū. They are a quite large clan, but it turns out that the group that is interested in me are a very small detachment who operate like one of the new, upstart groups.

Yesterday I went to a grueling interview with all the warriors of Clan Shōshindō except for Kirika. I was questioned about my history, about tactics, and about the uses of various weapons, and I also did some sparring. Their warriors are quite skilled, but they are yet another upstart clan, and I would not be well suited for a life with them.

After that, I stopped by Yagyū for a kata test for the mysterious gumi from Kawachi Province. They wished to see me perform some kata using the sansetsukon and the manrikigusari. Unfortunately, I made an elementary blunder with the manrikigusari, trying to use the Jeikyū grappling hook (which I’ve been using more and more lately) in a way that only works with the Pirōto hook (which is what I started off with, years ago). By the time I realized my error, it was too late; I had already failed.

I returned home to Hoshiakari and Akane in low spirits. A visit from our friend Arujin was a helpful restorative, as he is most convivial and witty.

Today, I have spent the morning exchanging messages with a herald who represents Clan Ōkiten, who are based in the pleasure district of Kamishichiken, near where Clan Iwinaga once had its castle. Apparently they are a larger, more mature clan, and I am to speak with one of the lower nobles in their leadership. I must prepare myself.

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.

Various clans and gumis may actually be interested in me. Plans are afoot, which will involve me visiting a number of castles next week in order to talk to captains and nobles, and demonstrate my kata and skills.

At least one of these will be a test of my knowledge of the Jōgesen ryū. A long time ago, when I was a member of Clan Nettobuku and learning the way of Aka Hōseki Jōgesen for the first time, I purchased a scroll by the Pragmatic Warriors, called Sure-Footed Combat With Jōgesen. I still have it. I am alternating between reading this scroll while sipping some delightful tea that Akane and I purchased on our last trip into Heian-kyō, and practicing some of the moves in the yard of our home. I am working on some kata that I may actually be able to put into practice some day.

Of course, I should also be working on Living Stone ryū kata with the ninja-tō. There is a clan with a castle in Kamishichiken, very close to where Castle Iwinaga once was. They have need of a ninja with skills in the Pagoda Bearer and Living Stone styles; my Pagoda Bearer skills are as sharp as ever, but I can always use a bit more practice at Living Stone. If I can impress them, I may find that they are the right clan for me. (As long as they don’t require archery skills. The herald I have spoken with was quite unclear on that point.)

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 world is full of perplexing things. After my discussion with Binya of Clan Atsuzen — which I thought had gone so well — I heard from his herald that my answers had not been sufficiently pleasing. I have asked her to supply me with more information, so that I might improve my skills.

But the timed test kata for Clan Shōnindō? I was not able to complete all the moves and strikes in the time allotted, and I suspect that nobody could. But what I did complete was apparently sufficient to please them. Next Tuesday, I will visit Castle Shōnindō and meet with Kirika, the warrior woman I have spoken with. I shall probably meet others of the clan, as well.

I am still fairly sure that Clan Shōnindō is too small and young for me. But the fact that they have female fighters among them speaks well for them.

In the meantime, I have yet another test coming up today, this time of my Aka Hōseki Jōgesen skills. I have not even touched the sansetsukon in a year, and I was honest about this when speaking to the herald who is trying to connect me with some gumi in Kawachi Province. Truly, I suspect that either the gumi or the herald must be somewhat desperate to consider me for their clan, as I am given to understand that they require a Jōgesen expert.

For my part, taking their test costs me nothing but an hour of my time, and may help me refresh a bit. Since I already expect to do poorly, failure cannot harm my self-esteem.

To be honest, I think I am taking this test partly out of boredom. With the exception of yesterday, when I bore a message swiftly to Kamishichiken for my friend Arina, I have had no missions to complete. Even that example of courier duty did not include any combat. I must find something to occupy myself.

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 very busy talking to heralds, and even to representatives of clans who might want to take me in. It seems that a flurry of messages back and forth is often needed just to set up one meeting with a clan’s scout.

On Tuesday, I spoke with a captain of Clan Mitsugenso, who was a pleasant type and enjoyable to talk to. Sadly, his clan uses a great deal of mounted combat, and I would have to do horseback riding with armor on. This is not my Way; it would only lead me to be conflicted and unhappy, as I have been before.

A discussion yesterday, with a man from Clan Atsuzen, went quite well. Binya of Atsuzen asked me many questions about combat, urban stealth techniques, and so on, and seemed quite pleased with my answers. I await word from their herald to see what the next steps will be… though I am unsure if the style and culture of the clan will suit me. I must visit their castle and evaluate the atmosphere there.

Finally, last week I spoke with a warrior from Clan Shōnindō. She seems to have been satisfied with my words, because that clan now wishes to evaluate my fighting skills. I will shortly receive a test kata, which must be performed within a short time.

Time limits are not my friend. I have long known that my problem is not in performing executions well or silently; it is in performing them quickly.

So, even though Shōnindō is probably much too small a clan for me, I still should throw myself into this exercise. I must practice being faster, and this will be a good way to do it.

And who knows? I may even succeed.

The messenger who will administer the test should be arriving shortly. I must prepare myself. Ganbarimasu.

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 just spoken with a man from a clan called Supurānku, who have need of fighters. They are growing quickly; already they are large enough to meet my size requirements easily. But they are still a young clan, and they retain the mentality of one. According to the captain I spoke with, the clan “strives to retain the culture of a small, young, and eager clan.”

This is exactly what I do not need. I told him of my misgivings, and this is a great step for me. Normally, when a clan’s representative tells me that they like my skills and they want to move forward with negotiations, I do not know how to say, “I am honored, but I must respectfully decline, for your clan’s Way and mine are not in alignment.” But I am learning, and I told the captain that I was doubtful.

It only makes me angry then, to have this politeness and professionalism returned by the sudden arrival of one of their heralds, who tried to convince me that I should continue negotiations with Supurānku, and that I will never find an army that gives me what I need. He proved entirely unable to notice my polite statements that we had nothing further to discuss, and I spent far longer talking to him — and listening to his unwanted pep talk — than he deserved.

So even as I am learning to say, professionally, “Your clan is not for me”, it seems I must work harder on learning to say, professionally, “You are irritating me and wasting both our time. You will go away, now.”

When the captain left, my impression of Clan Supurānku was simply that it was a nice enough clan, but not for me. Now, my impression is one of distaste and, honestly, anger. But I have no time for rage; I must put on my tabi and prepare to journey into Yagyū, to meet with a man from Clan Kaiketsusaku, who may perhaps be more reasonable.

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 not been as diligent as I could in practicing my skills, or in writing the scrolls I must post in Yagyū. What I have written, I have shown to some friends, and they have been able to provide much good advice. With their help, I should be ready to visit Yagyū tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have been able to enjoy Akane’s company a bit more. Now that I am not spending long hours chasing Clan Tenya’s enemies, I am not so tired that during my evenings at home.

Over the past few days, my friend Michio has sent messages from the picturesque wilds of Kii Province, where he has recently started learning the ninja-tō. I have responded with some tips and pointers, and he seems to be learning quickly and well. It is interesting to see his enthusiasm and his joy in discovering the ways of combat — so different from my current jaded, tired and cynical state.

It is strange not to have done any ninja missions in over a week. At least Akane needs occasional errands run in Kotobasatsuki, which gives me a chance to travel and do some scouting.

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 am writing new scrolls to post in Yagyū town, to let the armies of Nihon know that I am available for hire. The last time I wrote such a scroll, I was skilled in the way of the sansetsukon, and particularly the popular Aka Hōseki Jōgesen ryū.

Now, I find that I have not touched a sansetsukon in nearly a year. I am faced with a minor dilemma:

Do I study hard, and try to quickly recover my skills? Many of the messages I have received from heralds recently have stated that they are seeking Jōgesen fighters.

But those same messages also say that the groups seeking such fighters are small clans — just the sort that I no longer wish to join. If I spend my time practicing with the sansetsukon, I may simply make myself attractive to the groups that I don’t want to deal with.

The idea that a skill might prove to be a drawback, rather than being useful, does not sit well with me.

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)
( Jun. 15th, 2010 11:20 am)
It has been far too long since the last time I wrote any of these tales; I have been busy setting up this new venue for them. Also, I was quite busy fighting on behalf of Clan Tenya. In fact, I was kept entirely too busy as a member of Clan Tenya.

But that is no longer. I and the clan have now severed ties, and so I begin a new chapter in my life. It seems an appropriate time to re-start these tales.

In the months to come, I may even fill in some of the more interesting events at Clan Tenya — or I may simply leave it as a gap in my history, for there was much running back and forth in forests, and not enough assassination. In the meantime, my energies must now be focused on finding a new clan to fight for.

My preference is for one with a large, established army. No more will I join my fortunes to the tiny, upstart clans of Ōmi Province.

I must prepare scrolls to post in the town of Yagyū, where clans and armies send their scouts to find fresh warriors. I have much to do, and I ask the blessings of the kami on my new adventures.
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.
I have been silent for too long. I convey my deepest apologies.

For some time, I was busy in Kusatsu. The streets of Kusatsu are narrow and crooked, and the only way to achieve anything there is by using the Mōjo-ryū, as described by Clan Te-no-hira. But that clan's path is not righteous, as many have recently discovered. And, to my great sorrow, I discovered that their ryū is difficult and awkward for me.

So, in disgrace and defeat, I left Kusatsu. I may go back one day and try, once again, to accomplish some missions there. But in the meantime...

...I have had much to do in Hoshiakari. The local shrine of Inari was beset by bandits, and I had to expend too much time driving them off. Even now, I do not know if they might return soon.

But most of all, I have been in negotiations with Clan Tenya. They are yet another of the many upstart new clans of Ōmi Province, with operations both in Ōtsu and in Hikone (a town that has been the scene of much action lately). My knowledge of Hikone would be an asset to them, as would my rooftop and city-fighting skills.

I expect that we will reach an agreement soon. I have worries, but they will fade with time, as I learn the clan's ways. Perhaps.

(Later, I should write more of my worries.)
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.
I have spent nearly the entire weekend in Kusatsu, learning my way around. The town is a somewhat odd one. I have a map, with some extra notes, that I got from another operative I know in Fujiwara-kyō. Unfortunately, it seems some of his information is out of date. This has caused me some substantial delays in my reconaissance of the town, but I am now back on track.

This evening, Akane came to visit me here, bringing fresh, home-cooked yakisoba. Dinner was short, but tasty, and made better by her sweet company. Now, I go back to slinking through the alleyways, determining where the best lurking places and most hazardous roofs are.

I hope to be able to undertake missions here soon — at least on my own behalf, if not for employers. This town is rapidly gaining strategic importance in Clan Te-no-hira's ongoing skirmishes against the armies of Toyotomi, and Clan Tokugawa's recent entry into the area has only increased the friction there.

On that note, I have a long journey ahead of me tomorrow morning, as I am going to talk with some fighters in Toyotomi's army. It would be a position that would require much travel every day, and I'm not sure if I could deal with their excessively Buddhist ways... but there would be many advantages. I must at least speak with them; I would be a fool to pass up this opportunity!
I have just come from a meeting with a man from Clan Kumodachi, who are starting an interesting venture that will require some very skilled warriors. Unfortunately, they need someone who is very skilled with the sansetsukon. I am a multi-weapon fighter, not a sansetsukon specialist; adding me to Kumodachi's army would actually be a mistake on their part.

It is good to know that this is not a personal failure. It is merely a situation where you use hammers to drive nails, and screwdrivers to turn screws, and glue to hold things together, and I am not what is needed here. But that still doesn't make me feel much better.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Jun. 2nd, 2009 01:01 pm)
Just received a message from my favorite herald, saying his gumi has no news of anyone who needs Pagoda Bearer or Jōgesen-ryū fighters right now. The armies of Clan Seikoku, who had previously expressed some interest, are having treasury problems and cannot add any new warriors now.

Not that this is at all unusual. This winter has been a bleak one. All Nippon feels it.

The situation in Yagyū, of course, is little better. There are small, upstart gumis that cannot afford to pay anything beyond promises of future glory — when and if they even manage to conquer anything.

I continue working on some of my own kata, which I can show off in the squares and marketplaces of Yagyū, and perhaps gain attention for my skills.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Jun. 1st, 2009 10:32 am)
I have had an enjoyable and relaxing weekend in Hoshiakari with Akane. But now, it is time to return to the town of Yagyū, where militant clans and armies know they can find good warriors.

I have already received a message from the Tendai priest of Clan Gobāruto, who says he understands my refusal. Now, I must send messages to the various other heralds that I have dealt with, and see what else they can find.
Very interesting. Today, I have been contacted by two heralds of the Raiisō-gumi. They are a group that attempt to supply warriors to armies that need them. Such groups are, of course, very important in Nihon these days, as everyone wants the best warriors on their side.

The Raiisō messengers have been very polite and friendly. They say they heard of me from another herald, a man from Clan Tenkai, and that he spoke very highly of me. But I have not heard from him in over a week, and I had thought that he considered me an unworthy fighter.

In any event, this woman of Raiisō says a high priest of Clan Gobāruto is very interested in speaking with me. He is apparently a Tendai priest of their clan... so, I am not yet interesting to their warriors, but who knows?

I will be speaking with him tomorrow. We shall see what comes of it. Their clan operates in Kawachi, which is unfamiliar territory for me... and I recall how badly things went in Izumi, when I was with Clan Nettobuku.


ninja_coder: (Default)


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