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.

The bandit from Yoshino is still bedeviling us. He seems to mostly be hiding in the forests lately, outside my realm. Seijun and his team have been far too busy with other matters to even pursue him.

The greatest of those “other matters” is the dire situation in Kurabero-no-Hako. We knew at the outset that we would have to handle a gang there called the Obigurafu. Seijun said his team could take care of them, using a style especially designed for such problems called the Kabachaato-ryū. Unfortunately, it turns out the Obigurafu gang is quite persistent… and the Kabachaato style is simply not flexible enough to handle their tactics.

If we cannot eradicate the Obigurafu, the entire campaign will be a failure.

Of course, even if we can, there are still many other problems. The Mōjin have made a resurgence, and if we do not deal with them, we will be forced to retreat and give up the entire territory — we would otherwise be in violation of the Emperor’s decree. Just as the Obigurafu gang is Seijun’s problem, so the Mōjin are mine.

And still the Ayamari proliferate, and we are falling further and further behind schedule.

I have just received a message from Kento: One of the high nobles will be coming to investigate our progress, and try to determine what can be done.

My suspicion is that the entire campaign will have to be called off… or at least, subjected to a complete restructuring.

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 afternoon, I was busy in Ichimen when I received an urgent message from one of the Nichiren priests. He and Haruna and some of the others had come across a problem in the ongoing Kanezukai campaign. I had fought in the early stages of that campaign, back in the fall. They needed my help with an enemy lurking in ancient, cramped Fujiwara-kyō. The time I had to spend on that was time I couldn’t spend in Ichimen on the Teitōken campaign.

That may be part of why I got to the castle on Friday morning to find a message from Seijun, asking: “There are still a great many Ayamari in the city walls of Ichimen. Are you having trouble? Do you require aid?”

This is not the first time he or Kento has asked me if I needed assistance with this phase of the campaign. But this time, I found that even more of them had flooded into the city since I left on Thursday night. I finally gave in and said yes, please send another ninja to help.

After a while, Kento showed up with Satonori, and instructed me to give Satonori a quick orientation in the streets and alleys of Ichimen. The rooftops are somewhat more complex terrain, so he will be handling the kama work on the ground while I deal with the remaining chain-wielding enemies. If the situation is still dire on Monday, Kento will see if Haruna can assist us, too.

Did that resolve matters? It turns out — no, it did not.

As I was battling on the rooftops of Ichimen, a message came from Hoshiakari: The shrine of Amaterasu was under attack, yet again, by the usual oni. Yes, in broad daylight. The creature is becoming bolder!

There was nothing I could do while busy fighting on Clan Noriaibasha’s behalf. The news simply weighed on my mind until sundown, when I left to go home. Akane and I went to the shrine in the dead of the night, surprising the monster with the suddenness and fury of our attack in the rainstorm that was going on.

As usual, the oni escaped at the last moment. I must find a way to purify the shrine once and for all!

In the meantime, this week has been long and difficult, and I am a very tired ninja.

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.
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.)
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.
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.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Nov. 27th, 2008 10:20 am)
Yesterday was a very bad day for ninja coding. Commander Kobushi took me aside for a talk.

It should come as no surprise that I have been having trouble at Clan Nettobuku. I have not been keeping up on my assassinations, and it has taken me much longer to accomplish them than any of the other ninjas here. Clan Nettobuku is dissatisfied with my performance, and I cannot blame them.

The clan needs another Sōtō Zen monk to assist Airi, and so Commander Kobushi says that if I desire, I could don a robe and learn the sutras. Of course, I would not earn as much gold — for each eight gold pieces I am paid now, I would make only five as a monk. But it would be something.

I have spoken with Akane, and we have decided that it is not right for me to try to become a monk. More importantly, it's not right for me to stay there. I have already spent a few afternoons at Castle Nettobuku silently thinking to myself: "I hate it here." If I go back now, it will only be worse — especially as I'll be trying to learn a completely new trade, in a situation where I have already failed. And I wanted to leave Nettobuku anyway, and time spent in their castle is time that I can't spend in Yagyū, meeting with members of other clans.

So, on Monday, I will go back, hand them back my sansetsukon and retrieve my other pair of tabi, and take my leave of Clan Nettobuku. And then I will devote all my time and energy to finding a new clan, as fast as possible.
 
I could try to describe this in ninja-speak, or I can just dump it in modern terms. Either way, I'll just use the established ninja names.

A week or so ago, Jimon was placed in charge of the front-end (urban-fighting) ninjas. Jimon is fairly new at my workplace. Like Bunmei and I, he's a pretty damn smart guy.

In fact, a large chunk of my distress comes from the fact that both Bunmei and Jimon are really smart guys. Either (or both) of them may honestly be smarter than me. They certainly have a hell of a lot of knowledge about Ruby, and Rails, and they're really well-versed in all kinds of cool-ass programming techniques.

Honestly, the two of them move pretty fast, and I'm really having trouble keeping up. I feel "old and busted", and like a tired, old dinosaur that's getting edged out by the newer, quicker creatures.

It doesn't help that Jimon is pretty good at pointing out when he thinks something has been done in a less-than-optimal way... but not nearly so prone to compliment something when it's done well. (Or maybe it's just that he actually thinks my stuff sucks. It would help if there were anything I'd done lately that I could point to and say, "I'm actually proud of that. I did a good job on that, and I know it.")

Half the time, I'm not sure what he's talking about, and I feel like I'm too stupid to understand. The other half of the time, I think he's just a really lousy communicator.

Regardless, I've decided that the best thing I can do is improve my own game. To the utmost. There's no sense in asking him, "Hey, do you just think I completely suck? Or are you great at slamming on stuff, but incapable of giving praise?" Nobody's ever going to respond well to that kind of thing. Instead, I should simply work to "lengthen my line", as Joe Hyams learned from Ed Parker. Improve my own skills, work on doing the best job that I can possibly do — and don't give a damn what anyone else is doing, or how well they're doing it, or even what they think of me.

That last bit is going to be the hardest part. I've always been a little too concerned with other people's opinions of me. But if I work hard enough on improving myself, maybe I can at least shut those doubts up for a little while.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Sep. 5th, 2008 02:29 pm)
 
It is no news to those of us in Clan Nettobuku that Bunmei is very busy lately, trying to move from his current home in a faraway village to a place nearer to the castle.

When I first joined Clan Nettobuku, Bunmei was the lead ninja among the city fighters. Recently, Jimon joined us as a third ninja.

Commander Kobushi just informed me that, since Bunmei is so busy, he has had to step down as lead ninja, and Jimon has taken his place. Apparently Jimon has prior experience leading teams.

It has probably not helped that I have been somewhat gruff and unapproachable while working, and I have not been shy about pointing out problems. I point them out so that we might fix them, but I am afraid this has been perceived as not very leader-like.

I am displeased, with myself as well as with the clan.
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