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.

This weekend would have been quite pleasant, except that I got sick during it. I tried for some time to tell myself that I was not ill. “It is merely allergies,” I claimed, as I sniffled and blew my nose.

This morning, it was impossible to deny that I have been afflicted by a cold of some sort. But it was also impossible to deny that I must come to Castle Noriaibasha, get my kama, and then go off to Ogaribamen and see how many enemies I can kill. It is critical that I make as much progress as I can, for tomorrow, I must return to the Emperor’s court, and operations in Sanigata are about to fall behind schedule.

So I am here today. Despite the rain, I left my home and came here to the castle. I have my kama sharpened, and am ready to depart for Ogaribamen, with my straw cloak pulled tightly about me to try to keep me as warm and dry as possible.

It turns out that Sakito is not here today — he is sick. So is Ginsaku. And Kento says he is working elsewhere, at his own home. I can only wonder if perhaps he is afflicted, as well?

No matter. To Ogaribamen I go, and when the day is over, I will go home and Akane says she will make soup for 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.

There was a large peasant uprising in Sakai today — just one part of the ongoing unrest that has gripped all of Izumi Province recently. And as one of the larger and more powerful clans of the province, Clan Noriaibasha was one of the targets of the peasants’ ire.

I arrived to find them gathered in front of the castle, shouting demands and chanting slogans. To be seen entering or leaving the castle would be unwise. Of course, since I am a ninja, I was able to slip past them undetected.

But my heart is heavy at having to do so. I have never been a rich man. I was born and raised in Iga Province, where nearly everyone is a peasant of one sort or another. We are simple folk there, and my heart has always been with the peasants, even as my own fortunes in the world have risen.

In another time, earlier in my life, I would have stood with those peasants, shouting that the rich and powerful must support the poor and weak, not trample them underfoot and use their might to steal what little the people still have left. I still believe those things… but this morning was simply not a time that I could spend making political and philosophical statements. I had to meet with Sakito not long after arriving at the castle. I have duties to my clan-mates, and to Akane.

By the time I went out for lunch, the people had dispersed. I wish I had done something to support 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.

Yesterday was full of meetings. First, a variety of clan members met with two representatives from Clan Hekoayu, who are trying to provide guidance on the Saitekika campaign. Then, after lunch, we had a very long session with a man from Clan Eshidieru, the architects of the Chiri-dō ryū. We asked him how we might use it to achieve the strategies laid out by Hekoayu, and he was able to give us useful guidance.

Then we went to an enkai for a clan-member who will soon be having a baby. Much sake was drunk and people were happy. Eventually, most others had left, and Makishi, Amon, and I were able to discuss some of our feelings about the way one of the Hekoayu representatives comports herself.

This woman, named Kimiko, seems very easily flustered by even the simplest questions about the Hekoayu plans. It is as if she expects us to simply accept all their plans with smiles and awed gratitude. But the fate of the entire Saitekika campaign hangs on the soundness, both the harmony and the righteousness, of these plans. If we see flaws, we must point them out.

So far, we have not done so. We have simply asked for clarification, and even that has resulted in her making sour faces and acting disturbed. Yet there are serious flaws we can see, and we are pondering how to diplomatically point them out. Makishi, Amon, and I are warriors; we do not have the silver tongues of Tendai priests.

Perhaps I will discuss my concerns with one of our priests, and see if they can relay the problems to the Hekoayu.

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.

Late on Friday afternoon, I was preparing for my presentation on Hakkā attacks when Kento asked to speak with me. Of course, I am always ready for such things; he is my captain. But I was not ready for him to lead me away to one of the private chambers of the castle. What could he want?, I wondered.

He wanted to ask me if I would be interested in becoming a full member of Clan Noriaibasha.

I asked him for more details. Would I spend more time at the castle? Would the clan’s physicians be able to tend to Akane as well as me? What other arrangements would change?

It is likely that I would have to spend more time at the castle, but not much. (This could be changed if only we could find a few competent warriors to pick up the load.) Also, I would have more holiday time. The clan’s physicians would be able to care for Akane, which is a good thing.

I would no longer be in the same chamber with Ginsaku and Fumiaki and Chifumi; I would have my own chamber and locker.

I still must inquire about how much gold I might earn. If Noriaibasha no longer has to pay the upkeep of the Shomei-gumi, they may be able to save money while paying me more.

Regardless, this is a very good thing. I have been thinking of it over the weekend, and I have checked in with my contact at Shomei. I will shortly go to Kento and tell him: Yes.

In the meantime, there are other things afoot, of which I must write soon.

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 lately been studying Living Stone kata using the manrikigusari. Very few chain-fighters even realize that you can use it in a Living Stone style. The more advanced warriors among us know that it’s possible, but I myself haven’t bothered to do so. Well, except back when I was at Clan Nettobuku, where Jimon and Bunmei insisted on doing everything in the Living Stone ryū… but that was when we were using the Mūtou grappling hook, which made it much easier.

So I have been studying, and yesterday I spoke to Ginsaku about it. A good thing I did, because he said he has been studying a scroll by a sage from Clan Yamazaru. Yamazaru was once the mightiest of the clans to come from the city of Ōtsu, in Ōmi Province, until they were eclipsed by Clan Tokugawa and its superior strategies. But Yamazaru is still a force to be reckoned with, and more importantly, they still have the esteemed Kurokkufōdo-sensei among their ranks. Kurokkufōdo-sensei was among the first to recognize that the lowly chain, despised by most fighters, could be a truly effective weapon; the mere fact that Ginsaku’s scroll is by one of Kurokkufōdo-sensei’s colleagues makes it worth taking seriously.

And so I am studying it, and learning. But soon I must rejoin Seijun and his samurai team in Ichimen; while they work in the streets, I must clear off the rooftops. With my chain. It’s just the sort of work I love.

In the meantime, I have a message from my contact among the Shomei-gumi this morning. He wants to know what is wrong with the warriors they have sent, and how they can be improved. I have told him, quite honestly, that knowledge of the kama is not enough. We need fighters who know how to use the manrikigusari, even if it has no grappling hook. We need warriors who understand the very basics of footwork, of attack and defense — the fundamentals of fighting. Far too many “fighters” know only one or two attacks by rote, and perhaps one block, and no dodges. And when they have exhausted those few moves, they have nothing left, no adaptability.

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 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.

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 recently left messages in Yagyū, stating that I am no long a free, independent, unemployed ninja. As a result, I have received a message from General Wāro, who was my commander when I served with the armies of Clan Iwinaga.

When I was turned away from Clan Nettobuku, I sent a message to General Wāro, asking if he would give good reports of my performance at Iwinaga to other clans that might be interested in me. I received no response at that time.

I think that he may have been hurt by my departure from Clan Iwinaga. It is never wise to tell one's current clan when one is seeking to leave and find another one. However, General Wāro was always a perceptive and insightful man, and I suspected that he realized that I was making inquiries in Yagyū.

When I told him of my successful negotiations with Clan Nettobuku, he seemed stunned. I still regret having surprised him like that, for he was a quite excellent commander.

Since I received no response to my messages, I assumed that the General was still upset with me. But I recently received a message that said: "I understand you have found a new clan. I wish you congratulations. You are a skilled warrior."

I do not know what to think of this.

However, I do not have time to worry about it now. I must leave for Edo soon.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Jun. 3rd, 2009 05:33 pm)
I have spent enough time writing scrolls describing my latest set of kata. Unlike most modern fighting styles, these forms use the bō staff, and are designed for yamabushi to more easily defend territory against spies sent by bandits to test their borders.

I am now doing some scouting of my own, observing on behalf of Clan Seiinsatsuki. They are one of the small families of the town of Kotobasatsuki, but they also have ties in Seinikki town. Personally, I would love to see them expand their operations to Yumehaba, where I have been becoming more active... and perhaps some of the other, similar villages near Azuchi. Many people go to these villages to meet and mingle. If the clan could make it easier for me to travel back and forth between Yumehaba and Kotobasatsuki, it would make my own life better.

The Seiinsatsuki cannot afford to pay me — indeed, they don't even know that I am helping them at all. But I suspect I can find the man responsible for keeping them bottled up in Seinikki, unable to expand to the other villages. If I do, I can remove him. And I suspect that people may speak of it in Yagyū, where heralds come to find warriors for their lords. If so, that will be my payment.

It's tempting to just get this done quickly, as a non-paying job. But I should do it right. With a poisoned blade.
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.


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