Yesterday was a highly productive day for me… which means, I left a half-dozen fresh corpses in Sanigata.

Kento and Sakito have been busy dealing with the kama-wielding thugs of the area, and Kento has asked me to concentrate on the more advanced chain fighters of the Keiten Mokuba army. This operation requires me to do some Living Stone style techniques with the manrikigusari. Since the manrikigusari chain is so flexible, unlike other weapons, that means that the standard Living Stone techniques make very little sense. They must all be adapted to work differently with the chain.

But I figured out how to do that, and then started my surveillance of the Keiten Mokuba. From time to time, I’d spot one of their scouts in one of the cities of Sanigata — and when I engaged them in combat with my new Living Stone techniques, I found them quite easy to slay.

After a day full of spilling my enemies’ blood, I went to the capital for dinner with Akane at a fine restaurant, and all was well.

Today, much as I might want to continue eradicating the Mokuba army, there is a four-hour meeting with Clan Hekoayu this afternoon. And there was a major meeting in the morning. I have little time for field operations or combat today.

But tomorrow, I expect I can make up for it!

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.

Last week, I was in a meeting with Kento, Makishi, and Amon, discussing how we might implement some of Clan Hekoayu’s plans for the ongoing Saitekika campaign. One item is that we must secure a foothold in the town of Kyakuchū. This should be no problem, we all thought… until Kento claimed it would be nearly impossible, for a small cadre of mercenaries who call themselves the Furigana had taken it over.

We were confused. Simply a few mercenaries? Why could we not eradicate them? Kento claimed it had been tried, without success: They knew the area too well, and previous attempts had failed.

Yesterday, I paid a visit to Kyakuchū, to see if these fighters were really so fearsome. Kyakuchū is a small town, with insufficient rooftops for my usual methods, but I was able to blend into the populace in disguise, and observe the warriors who swaggered about in command of their territory.

And, whenever one became separated from his comrades for a few minutes, I found ways to sneak up behind him and slit his throat.

The first two or three were easy prey, unaware that they had anything to worry about. The final pair gave me some trouble, and I had to get a bit creative with my kama to kill the last one.

But, after that, I contacted Kento and asked him to come and verify that the town was clear. He is quite pleased with my victory; this will make things easier for us 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 Saitekika campaign is acquiring something of a “sister campaign”, called the Anshinanzen campaign. And the architects of this campaign wish to use some interesting, new city-fighting techniques.

All across Kansai, urban warriors are talking about a new fighting style called the Changing Water ryū. It takes its name from the way water changes its form, adapting to a narrow creek as easily as a wide river, or even a lake or a bay. Like the adaptability of water, this style allows a single warrior to fight in anything from a tiny, crowded alleyway all the way to a sprawling boulevard — with nothing but a kama and bare hands! Everyone who specializes in city combat wants to learn this new style.

And the people in charge of the Anshinanzen campaign have decided that it will make great use of the Changing Water ryū. And I am to assist them with this plan!

This means that they have a high opinion of my city-fighting abilities. This is good. However, it also means that I will have to learn this style in quite a hurry! (But then… I will be an even mightier warrior.)

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.

Good news this morning! I arrived at the castle to find a message from one of the Nichiren priestesses in charge of the Teitōken campaign, to all campaign personnel. It says that the campaign is no longer considered “red status” by the nobles; it is now yellow. And if we continue with successful operations over the next week or two, it may even become green.

This is very good news, for the status has been red ever since the planning meetings stretched on and failed to be finished before their deadline.

This is also good news for me personally (as well as for the other fighters like Seijun and his team), because this message acknowledges our hard work and dedication. There is still much to be done, but it is beginning to seem that this campaign might succeed.

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’m going to have to use a Bright Square kata to handle the Mitsugao gang. Clan Noriaibasha has a standard Bright Square tactic for use in urban fighting… but it was only intended for use against small groups, of no more than 5 opponents.

The Mitsugao gang has at least 15 members, maybe 20 or so.

I will have to improvise. I will have to extend the clan’s standard technique, and make it much more powerful. Sadly, I doubt my improvements will become part of the clan’s regular ryū; really, we should not have ever tried to use Bright Square in this situation at all. And we should not do so again. (If we ever do try it again, we should do it my way, but really, we should tell the nobles: “No. We may only use Bright Square under certain specific conditions, and these are not on the list!”)

I am still quite busy with handling Seijun’s team’s sudden crises. This is the part of a combined operation where we must all work together, in perfect coordination, to achieve victory. I just wish I could coordinate with Seijun’s team as well as I once did with Teruyoshi, back when we both fought with the Yaneura-gumi.

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. 21st, 2011 03:05 pm)

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of lying in wait for someone. Especially when you think you’ve got their moves figured out, and you think you can take them… but you’re not quite sure.

I’m at the gate between Ichibanyōshi and Keishutsu. I came in across the rooftops, having seen the Hikone mercenary step away to a nearby noodle restaurant for his lunch. My kusarigama is ready; my Jeikyū hook is sharp.

I’m lurking in the upper curve of the gate when he gets back. My vantage point is beautiful. I can watch as he prepares to shake down another traveler for gold…

Then I drop on him.

The chain goes around his neck; the hook entangles his already-drawn sword, and I yank, hard. Follow up with a roundhouse kick, to be sure. The mercenary’s would-be victim is stunned, motionless. I put one finger to my lips, just in front of my mask, and softly say, “Shhh.”

I quickly untangle my chain from the mercenary’s body. With my tanto, I cut off his insignia patch, then also cut his purse away from his belt and take it with me. Hooking my chain back into the top of the gate, I start climbing out of sight. Just before vanishing, I tell the terrified onlooker: “You can scream for the city guard now.”

While they’re distracted, I’ll be heading for Shiryō-no-Hako to take out the Mitsugao gang. Soon, they’ll wonder just how many ninjas they’re dealing with.

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 and I have returned from Ikaho Onsen. Life proceeds much as usual with Clan Noriaibasha: The Teitōken campaign is still moving, albeit slowly, and there is still opposition for me to vanquish in Ichimen town.

However, the high-level strategies of the Teitōken campaign are still being debated by some of the nobles. I understand from Kento that these delays are throwing the entire campaign into some jeopardy. The original plan was to have it completed by May; now that schedule may have to be pushed back.

The weather in Kansai is cold and wet, as usual for a Kansai winter. But after the days of relaxation and partying in Ikaho, I am fighting off an illness. I came to the castle today, huddled under my straw cloak, and now I am sipping some hot tea while I wait for yet another meeting to start. It will be good to be indoors, instead of lurking on cold, wet rooftops in Ichimen.

I see that in my last message, I was racing against time to defeat the gangs of Miseru-Kakusu. I was successful in that endeavor, even if I didn’t have time to tell about it before leaving on my trip. That neighborhood remains clear of enemies; I seem to have done a good job here.

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.

Two weeks ago, I had a lunch meeting with Megumi, the herald of the Shomei-gumi who secured me my position with Clan Noriaibasha. Her supervisor, a woman named Rīna, was also there. The two of them wanted my advice on some other warriors who might be of use at Noriaibasha… and Rīna also mentioned that they had been in touch with Tsukimi, the commander of the Keitai Team. Apparently they have heard very good things about me from Tsukimi — her instructions to the Shomei-gumi were “Please send us two more of Ichirō”.

I told them their words bring me honor, and I will strive to continue to bring honor to Shomei.

Last week, I received a message from Shomei, telling me that Megumi had left the group to seek her fortune with a new clan in Hikone. My new contact in the group is a man named Kaisei, who reports to Rīna as Megumi once did.

So we recently met at a bar in the capital, to get to know each other. He proves to be a friendly, convivial fellow, but also with a thoughtful side — he has spent time meditating on what it means to be a herald and why he enjoys it, just as I have spent time meditating on what attracts me to the Way of the Ninja.

Also, we have similar tastes in shōchū.

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 Kanezukai campaign’s final battle has been fought and won. I arrived in the village we aimed to capture and found Risako, and the other Nichiren priests overseeing the campaign, already waiting. The major in charge of our troops said that most opposition was already quite disorganized, thanks to my work in assassinating key personnel beforehand.

After the first engagement, we spotted a few of the enemy’s scouts who needed to be taken out. I made short work of them, leaving them to bleed to death in the village’s alleys, and gaining more admiration from Risako and the major.

By noon, it became clear that our victory was assured. I went back to Castle Noriaibasha to prepare for my next tasks, and to relax in the knowledge of a job well done.

The only dark spot in today has been discovering that my boot-knife has lost its temper and will no longer hold an edge. Also, it would be enjoyable to relax at a bar on my way home today, and sip some well-earned celebratory drink… but dark storm-clouds are rolling in, and I’ll probably just have to run home before the rain drenches 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.
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.
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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