I am not dead. I assure you of this.

I have been quite busy. The word for this summer is 「結婚式」、 or “kekkonshiki”, which is Japanese for “marriage ceremony”. Last year, I asked Akane if she would marry me, and she was delighted to say yes. The ceremony itself will be later this summer, and we are both consumed with preparations. Relatives will be arriving from all over Nippon, and many of our friends from here in Iga Province will be attending as well. It will be an occasion of much joy, but it also requires much planning and effort.

Aside from this, the Saitekika campaign proceeds apace. Every day, I must meet with the Nichiren priests and sometimes even the Tendai priests, to ensure that our path is Righteous and Harmonious. When there is time between those meetings, I must go to the cities we are trying to capture, and find our enemies and slay them.

And finally, I have resumed progress on my own Kongōshu style. After a day of battling Noriaibasha’s enemies with the chain and kama, it’s nice to come home and get out the sansetsukon and keep up my skills in the Steel Road ryū.

But all of this leaves me very little time to write these tales. I regret that this is not likely to change soon. Some time ago, I wrote that I would be updating more frequently. I must now change that; I should not promise that which I cannot deliver.

There may occasionally be short messages. And these tales will not cease altogether. But I do not know how often I will be able to write them.

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.

After a week or so of my work consisting of nothing but kama fighting, and the occasional kusarigama action, it’s kind of nice to get back to other things. I am now practicing my Kongōshu style in the yard outside my house in Hoshiakari. This is my own offshoot of the Steel Road ryū, so of course, it requires the sansetsukon.

I have not used the sansetsukon in a few months, so of course I am rusty. Still, it is quite refreshing to use my muscles in ways that are different from what I have done for the past few weeks.

Speaking of which: I have done almost nothing with the ninja-tō in the past few weeks, despite all the distractions of the Tsuiseki project. Even though I am part of the project, and keep having to be on hand for the purifications of the Bishamonten shrine, I don’t get to do any of the actual fighting — we have Shinju the mercenary do that.

And various warriors and sages in Kansai have recently been giving their opinions about the ninja-tō lately. One warrior claims it is an absolutely horrible weapon, made from inferior steel, lacking the graceful curve of a katana, too short, and without even the stylistic elegance of his beloved nunchaku.

Then there is a ninja who has responded that the way of the ninja is that of getting things done even with inferior tools. It is somewhat amusing to note that he does not attempt to refute the other man’s argument… he simply says it’s irrelevant to ninjas.

Even if the ninja-tō is an inferior weapon, I find it better to know how to use two or three different weapons, and not be restricted to just one all the time. And it’s nice to be able to fight in the forests as well as in cities.

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.

Last week, I was assigned to recon — and eventually kill — a mercenary unit called the Naihō Cadre. They are operating in various places within Zaiseikyōiku. It turns out they are also well-organized, well-equipped, and professional.

It will take some slick kama work, and all of my skill with the manrikigusari, in order to defeat these fighters. Also, I must be cunning and use careful tactics. It will be quite an adventure!

In the meantime, there are other things going on outside the Saitekika campaign and the region of Sanigata. There is the ongoing Pagoda Bearer project, which requires a shrine to Bishamonten. We have a scroll that describes a ryū called the Tsuiseki-Dō, which we wish to experiment with. Sadly, it turns out that the Tsuiseki-Dō requires that the shrine be equipped with sandalwood incense.

Ours has camphor and camellia incense. And the priests of the Jōdō Shū branch, who oversee such things, tell us we may not use sandalwood incense here.

So we will have to modify every step of the entire ryū to work the way we need it to. This will be quite an arduous task.

We have a mercenary helping us, a man named Shinju. He has been assigned to read through every move, looking for the cuts, parries, and attacks that will need to be modified. I am acting mostly in a supervisory capacity, alongside the priest, Riki who is in charge of this project.

As much as I enjoy the Pagoda Bearer ryū, this Tsuiseki project becomes less enjoyable every day, as I keep having to come back to Castle Noriaibasha instead of scouting the Naihō Cadre or other enemies in the field.

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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( Mar. 7th, 2012 05:46 pm)

I have returned from Hiroshima and the warriors’ gathering. It was quite an experience, and I am still trying to understand all that I learned and experienced.

There were many others there, from skilled mercenaries to ascetic monks to peasant fighters, and I spent much time meeting new people and exchanging stories and sparring with them. In the evenings, there were grand carousing sessions at the inns.

When I returned to Hoshiakari and Akane, I was quite exhausted.

Since then, the past few days at Castle Noriaibasha have been extremely busy. In my absence, it seems one of the nobles decreed that it is not sufficient that we take the region of Zaiseikyōiku. We must also capture the nearby territory called Kihonzaisei. This is a substantial new undertaking, and our schedule is already tight.

This is not made any easier by the large number of meetings I must attend to come back up to speed on the current situation. Makishi and his group want some more of the gangs who lurk in our target towns eradicated. Sakito was supposed to have made inroads in Zaiseikyōiku, but he has been busy with other campaigns.

In the meantime, the yamabushi woman, Kaoru, is continuing her katana course. I missed one session when I was away in Hiroshima, and then there was another when I had just returned and was still too tired from my journeys. I do not know if I can ever catch up. I do not know if I will even try. I have too many other things I must spend my time and energy on without trying to learn the katana right now.

A ninja’s life is 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.

Back when I was a yamabushi, I met a woman named Kaoru, who also followed the Way of Shugendō. She is from the Kōga region, just north of Iga Province. She and I were never of the same band of yamabushi, but we got along well, and have occasionally stayed in touch.

Recently, I heard that she was to begin teaching some basic classes in the use of the katana. I once tried to learn to use that noble blade, back when I first began my path as a warrior. I have since discovered that my own natural inclinations lean much more toward other weapons, such as the ninja-tō, sansetsukon, and manrikigusari. But I still feel that I failed by not learning the katana.

Today she started her course, and I have decided I will give it one more try. But if my life becomes too busy, I will give myself permission to leave the class, and not consider it dishonor. After all, I have so many other things I must do, as well!

(Such as my Kongōshu style. I must continue working on that…)

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.

Clan Noriaibasha continues to move toward including ninja-tōs in its repertoire. It is still unclear if I personally will be doing much actual ninja-tō fighting any time soon… but at the very least, we are setting up a shrine to Bishamonten, so that we may ask his aid and blessing in using the Pagoda Bearer style. And I am assigned to help in this endeavor, because of my experience with the Pagoda Bearer ryū.

The Saitekika campaign is still in progress, of course, and will consume much of my time in the coming year. (That is why my involvement in the Pagoda Bearer project is not as thorough as I might otherwise like: I am too essential to the Saitekika campaign! It is good to be considered so highly.)

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 morning, I have been doing a bit of work on my Nango kata. It’s simply a little “hobby” form that I’m playing with for my own purposes, not something I’d really use in combat (except perhaps in some very odd circumstances). It reminds me, sharply, of some of the differences between the ninja-tō and the manrikigusari — and it helps keep me in touch with the Living Stone styles.

(I do not completely hate the Living Stone ryū. I voluntarily decided to make Nango a Living Stone form.)

Soon, Akane and I will go to the capital to do some shopping, and enjoy their fine restaurants… and we will also do some scouting for next year’s wedding ceremony. For this, I will be leaving my weapons at home.

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.

A friend has been visiting from Edo for the past few days. Last night, Akane and I had dinner at a fancy restaurant in the capital with him and his childhood friend, a samurai woman named Beniko. During the meal, the conversation turned to the difficulties of recruiting skilled fighters.

Akane said, “Oh, I know! Have her try the Three-and Five Strike,” and so I told Beniko what the requirements are. One of the nice things about it as a warriors’ test is that it doesn’t bother to state what the warrior’s movements, footwork, or other technique should look like. It simply specifies what you must do to the target. This means it will work with any weapon at all — even though I’ve been testing manrikigusari fighters, I could still ask Beniko to perform it with her katana and have the test make sense. So we briefly stepped out into the restaurant’s ornamental garden…

And she performed it beautifully, with hardly any hesitation. There are a couple of aspects of the Three-and-Five Strike that are a bit tricky — the first time you try to do it. But that mistake teaches you how to do it properly, if you have any skill or training at all.

Beniko’s execution, however, was nearly flawless. Each time she was about to make one of the standard mistakes, she spotted the problem ahead of time, and simply worked it into her motions. It was a joy to behold.

Once again, I see that a true warrior can do a Three-and-Five Strike easily, and it is absolutely not too hard to use as a test for Clan Noriaibasha.

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.

It seems there has been a problem with the steel in the ninja-tōs forged by a particular smith. Under certain conditions — very rare conditions, but still possible — the steel will shatter into ten thousand pieces, leaving the sword’s wielder with a bare hilt in his hand (and a very surprised and dismayed expression on his face — though probably not for very long).

I will need to go buy myself a new ninja-tō, as soon as I can.

Luckily, my duties for Clan Noriaibasha only involve using the kama, manrikigusari, and kusarigama. I can wait a few days before I need to replace my sword.

Yesterday, we tested a potential new warrior. The Keitai Team is running low on fighters lately. Young Akinori has left the clan to seek his fortune among the upstarts of Ōmi Province. This is a normal course for a young, motivated warrior like him. Just as it made sense for me to move to a larger, older clan like Noriaibasha, it makes sense for him to have gone to a small, new upstart. But we were low on fighters even before he left, and so it would be nice to acquire new ones. Sadly, yesterday’s prospect wasn’t skilled enough.

I’ve been slaying Mōjin fighters in Keishutsu as fast as I can, but there are a huge number of them. I think I’ve got them almost all destroyed by now; later today, I hope to have Jun-ichirō the scout do another pass to make sure they’re all gone. But I just got a message from Kīchi, one of the Tendai monks in charge of the Teitōken campaign. It seems the generals and nobles have noted some potential problems with our strategies in Kurabero-no-Hako and even in Keishutsu. He would like to meet with me and go over our plans.

*sigh* If only they’d noticed these problems before I was nearly done in Keishutsu…

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 has been an accident in the main storehouse today at Castle Noriaibasha, which means that most clan-members are left at loose ends with very little to do. The storehouse includes the armory, the records-house, and the priestly supplies. Poor Chifumi, the priestess who serves with the quartermaster, can do absolutely nothing; she has no candles or incense for her devotions, and the books with the records she must update are also inaccessible.

I have one project that does not require access to the armory and its weapon store: A kata in the Jōgesen style, to be called the Kirin Way. The first parts of this kata were laid down by a mercenary who was in the clan’s employ for a while, and who passed his scrolls on to me before leaving. (I was chosen to receive this knowledge, because of my prior experience with the Jōgesen ryū.)

Others are doing what drills they can, or exercising, or sparring with empty hands and feet. From time to time, they send someone to check on the quartermaster’s progress in re-opening the storehouse. In the meantime, I am using my own sansetsukon in a corner of the castle’s courtyard, trying to find the best ways to turn this fragmentary sequence of moves into a working kata.

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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( Aug. 21st, 2010 03:11 pm)

I have accepted a post with the armies of Clan Noriaibasha, where I will be doing urban fighting with the manrikigusari and kama, and occasional use of the wakizashi. But there will be no opportunity for me to use the ninja-tō there.

I am still getting messages from heralds, of course. Many of them. And quite a few are in reference to places where I could use the ninja-tō, and even the Pagoda Bearer fighting style that I am so familiar with. I tell these heralds that I am already spoken for, but I cannot help the regret in my heart…

Am I truly doing the right thing? Noriaibasha is big, and has the maturity of a long-standing clan. I need such an environment. But still, my heart is full of ambivalence, as I wonder whether I might be happier fighting in the Pagoda Bearer ryū.

My mind tells my heart to be silent, and stop such such foolishness. I am resolved; I have met with my herald contact of the Shomei-gumi and been properly inducted into their organization. Either on Monday or on Tuesday, I must report to Castle Noriaibasha for my first day as a fighter in their army.

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.

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.

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.
Yesterday's missions went reasonably well. Under Ryōji's supervision, I cleared out the nest of Rei-Yōso bandits. I also did some tricky work iwth both kama and bo staff to ferret out an annoying member of the Ayamari-gumi in Naniwa, by the western bay.

Now I have a new mission, one which will require use of a great many weapons. I cannot speak much of it yet, but it will help the clan's efforts in the town of Kotobasatsuki.

When I arrived at Castle Tenya this morning, I found the gates shut and locked, for I was the first to arrive. I have since spoken to Osami, the head of the warriors, and been given keys to the castle.

There is more I should say of Clan Tenya, but now I must set out on the trail to Kotobasatsuki. I am a busy ninja once again.
I leave Hoshiakari soon, to travel to Ōtsu for my first day as a member of Clan Tenya. I have not been this nervous about a new assignment in quite some time.

Akane is still in Edo, so she can't fix me bento and send me off with a kiss. But the way of the ninja is perseverance, and so I shall make do, even without the comforts I have become accustomed to.

I feel that I should have spent the weekend practicing kata, but I'm not sure what kata would have been best to do - or even which weapons I'll be called upon to use today.

No purpose is served by worrying. I must prepare my things, and go.
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.
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.


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