A few days ago, I was talking to Akane about the difference between various clans I have been a member of. She claimed that my life had never been so good at any clan before this; I noted that it was nearly as good at Clan Iwinaga, but I had left because it seemed I had no opportunity to advance my career there. Here at Noriaibasha, I said, I still have no real chance to become a leader or captain, but I no longer care; I am content to be a rank-and-file fighter without needing to seek advancement.

“But,” she said, “if you wanted to advance at Clan Noriaibasha, I have no doubt you could.” I agreed this might be true, but it was irrelevant.

Today there was a lunchtime feast, to rally all the troops and others who have been part of the Shiemesu Raisei and Saitekika campaigns. Various nobles and priestesses of the prestigious Tendai order spoke about how we are making great progress. While chatting with Amon, Kento and Makishi, Amon introduced me to one of the Tendai priestesses.

“This is Ichirō, one of our ninjas,” he said. “Ichirō fights in the cities, and he is very skilled. Even when Kento thinks an enemy would be too difficult to kill, Ichirō often speaks up and says, ‘Actually… I know a way I can eliminate that person.’” I tried not to blush, and thanked him for his very kind words.

Later, one of the ikebana masters under Kento’s command, a man named Torai, came to see me. He had a question, one which he said he would normally ask Kento. “But I have looked, and he seems not to be here in the castle right now. So I thought I would ask you, since you are Kento’s right-hand man.”

I simply answered Torai’s question at the time, and did not express the astonishment I felt in my heart. Right-hand man? Kento has said nothing of this… but as I look at the missions he sends me on, and compare them to other missions and duties that Sakito and Satonori are assigned, I begin to see that I am highly valued on Kento’s team.

It seems Akane was quite right. She is wise.

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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( May. 11th, 2012 03:14 pm)

The past two weeks have been full of short missions to scout and kill enemy kama fighters, separated by long, long meetings to plan our strategies in the Saitekika campaign. At least one of these missions took me into Nagoya, the city of woe. But it turned out that I have learned much about Nagoya’s alleyways, and evading its security. Since my mission didn’t require me to sneak across the rooftops, it was easier than I expected.

I’m sure my next visit to that accursed city will be twice as troublesome, just to make up for it.

In the meantime, we are trying to find new ninjas to replace Ginsaku. There were two applicants who were barely competent. Then came one who was quite skilled, and who was a joy to spar with when we tested him. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow him to join our clan. Kento and I are both disappointed that he will not be able to fight alongside us.

Finally, yesterday, I tested a new fighter. At least, he claimed to be a fighter. When I asked him to describe the benefits and drawbacks of various fighting styles, he gave me only vague platitudes, like someone who has read about fighting but never entered real combat. When I asked him to demonstrate some simple kama kata, his motions were awkward and clumsy. I could not imagine how he might fare in a real fight — he would be at least as dangerous to his comrades as to any enemies.

I told him there was no point in continuing any further. We will have to keep searching for warriors who are actually useful in combat.

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.

Someone in Clan Hekoayu needs to die. Possibly multiple someones.

For some weeks now, they have been providing us maps outlining the territories we’re supposed to be capturing and subduing. In many places, these maps are extremely detailed. This is no coincidence: It is because we specifically required them to give us very detailed maps. After all, we are the ones who will have to operate in these territories, waging life-or-death battles.

Yesterday, I was in Zaiseikyōiku, following the map I had been given. It claimed that the little alley past the marketplace was an excellent shortcut to the back window of the Iron Monkey inn, one of the more important taverns in town. Being able to sneak in the back could be quite important.

Imagine my surprise and dismay, then, when I went down the alley and found a small building up against the back wall of the inn — completely covering the window. Imagine also that it was nothing compared to my surprise and annoyance at finding that the building housed a group of thugs affiliated with one of the gangs of the town center.

Luckily, they were also startled by appearance. Luckily, I have much practice in quick-draw techniques, and was able to pull out my kama and defend myself before the first one’s attack could strike me. And luckily, I was able to escape unharmed.

Whoever produced this map should not be so lucky.

I spent the rest of the afternoon checking other details. There is a place where the map says the gap between two buildings is eight feet wide. It is actually ten feet. If I had attempted to leap that gap unprepared, I could easily have fallen to the street below, risking broken bones or even death.

I have reported the problem to Amon, Makishi, Kento — and of course, to Sakito, who is the only other actual ninja in the field, and who is hence relying on these maps just as much as I am. I have urged them to escalate matters to the priests and the nobles, and to ensure that someone has harsh words with Hekoayu.

For now, we cannot trust anything in these maps. It seems that at least nine parts out of any ten are correct. In any ten claims that the map makes, only one is incorrect. But which one?

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. 12th, 2012 11:03 am)

The Emperor, in his great wisdom, has decreed that the sun shall rise (and set) one hour later every day. Since the Emperor is divine, and descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, his decree has actually come true, and the sun has been altered in its course.

This is very confusing to everyone in Kansai. It is difficult to get up in the morning, and difficult to get to sleep in the evening.

For a ninja such as myself, who often dwells in darkness and often has trouble waking early in the morning, this is doubly troubling. I barely managed to drag myself from my bed this morning, and of course, I arrived at Castle Noriaibasha even later than usual. I am very lucky there were no appointments or meetings that I needed to attend.

Akane is also greatly displeased by this. I have heard from many others of my friends, bemoaning the change. Surely, the Emperor must have a good reason for such a strange decree, but it is beyond my limited, mortal comprehension.

In the meantime, the animals go on, unaffected. I see why the sages seek to emulate their wisdom.

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.

I awoke before dawn today, to have a meeting with the samurai who will be fighting in the forests as part of a small project that I am assigned to. It is called Operation Iraisho. While she fights in the forests, I must handle some scouting in the small village of the same name, and ensure that there will be no opposition — especially not from a group called the Red Star gang (who often wear such an emblem on their kimonos). A nice, simple operation.

So I have been creeping through Iraisho, keeping alert and ready for any trouble. Along the way, Kento came to visit me. He had a few questions about another operation. When I answered them, I also said, “And things are quiet here. No members of Red Star in evidence.”

Red Star?” he asked. “But what about the Black Star gang?”

As you can imagine, I was quite confused. “I… was told to watch for a gang with red stars. Should I be looking for black ones, instead?”

In the end, I left the village, along with Kento, and we are going to talk to Kaimei, the Nichiren priest in charge of this operation. If I kill the wrong people, it will reflect badly on the clan!

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.

As always, everything is in flux. Kento tells me that the training sessions to begin the Shiemesu Raisei campaign have been postponed by a week. This means that my schedule for next week is completely unknown. (But perhaps this means I will finally have some time to re-consecrate the temple of Inari in Hoshiakari — I have been laying some plans in that regard, and this may be the opportunity I need!)

All the Mōjin have been driven from Ichimen. However, every time we think the Ayamari are gone, more show up. I suspect there is some sort of secret Ayamari lair somewhere, with a hidden tunnel that allows the sneak in from outside the city. A pack of them surprised me during my battle with the rōnin from Mikawa yesterday afternoon. By the time I had dispatched them, the rōnin was gone.

I had already wounded him sorely. He may have died of his wounds later on, or he may have decided to leave the area entirely. Or he may come back to bedevil us next week. There is no way of knowing.

It may be just as well. This morning, it seems the younger brother of the bandit from Yoshino, who I slew over two weeks ago, has arrived to seek vengeance. Fortunately, he does not seem such a skilled fighter as his elder brother — but the Yoshino tactics allow him to fade back into the forest, and I cannot pursue without help from Seijun or his team.

Needless to say, they are all too busy right now. If only one of them would become available for assistance, I could finish off this last foe.

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 Teitōken campaign is in a shambles.

For all of its history, the Teitōken campaign has been part of the greater, overarching Futa Jūichi-yon schedule. In order for us to meet that schedule, all enemies in Ichimen and the surrounding forests and wilderness had to be neutralized by June 20th.

On Thursday, as it became clear that this was never going to happen, the nobles made a decision: The entire campaign was shifted to the Mitsu Jūichi-rei schedule. This would give us another full month to get everything complete…

…but things are never that easy. In addition to all the foes we’ve been worrying about, there has been a resurgence of the Mōjin resistance movement. We can no longer ignore them.

To make matters worse, the Tendai priesthood is insisting that we capture the suburb of Koyōshi, on the outskirts of the Keishutsu district. Kento is quite upset at this news; he asks, “Where were they during all the strategy meetings? We showed them the maps, we asked them if there was any other territory we might need. They said nothing! Why do they think they can suddenly ask for new conquests now?!”

I agree with him completely, but there is no arguing with them.

Finally, because I am now a full member of Clan Noriaibasha, I must have entirely new weapons with the clan crest on the pommels and scabbards and so forth. I am sure it doesn’t matter to my enemies if the manrikigusari I strangle them with has a tassel in the Noriaibasha clan colors just behind the grappling hook or not, but it does change the weapon’s balance and slows me down.

That’s not even counting the fact that I spent almost all of Friday waiting around for the quartermaster to issue me weapons, and the weaponsmith to sharpen and polish them for use.

Finally, Seijun still has the idea that we will somehow vanquish the previously-identified Ayamari by the old June 20 deadline. Seijun is deluded. I will have to explain this to him on Monday.

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 turns out there was an entire other gang in Shiryō-no-Hako, whom we had completely overlooked. The Kanhyū gang: They operate in the alleyways and back-streets, but not on the rooftop. I’ll have to get in there in close quarters. My manrikigusari will only be in the way; I’ll have to rely on nothing but my kama.

Seijun says the entire district should have been cleared already. But he understands how the nobles’ excessive dithering has messed up everything about our schedule.

In the meantime, the final phases of the campaign will be doomed to failure unless I improve our clan-wide Bright Square tactics. When I have the time, I am trying to combine my own improvements with Ginsaku’s. I have Kento’s blessing for the project, but I still must find the time to actually do 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.
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