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.

I am back in Zaiseikyōiku, alternating between scouting and actual stalking. There are many enemies here, and Sakito and I must each be diligent in hunting them down. We have made a division: He is taking everyone west of Shiiteki Street, and I will handle the east side of town. It was not easy to decide on Shiiteki Street as the boundary line, but we surveyed the various gangs and rōnin and other foes in all parts of the town, and decided that the ones on each side of that border should prove roughly the same amount of difficulty.

The eastern side of town being closest to the docks, it is also where the highest buildings are, and where there is the most chance of rooftop action. I will be meeting with Makishi on Thursday to see if there’s any chance of any rooftop fighting in my future.

In the meantime, there was a rōnin from Heian-kyō who started off in Sakito’s territory. But he just crossed into the east side of town, and now he’s mine. I’m closing in behind him, and my kama is nice and sharp.

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.

I have spent the past few weeks mostly scouting, lurking in alleyways and reconnoitering territories in Sanigata. On the rare occasions when I’ve found enemies who must be removed, it has been a simple task to slay them with my kama.

Aside from those few, occasional instances of combat, I have spent much time in meetings with Clan Hekoayu.

Yesterday, I spent hours doing kama practice, learning the hikichigaido maneuver, trying to understand it — or at least make it work correctly. Having reached the point where I can follow it by rote, I went back to Yokuaru Shitsumon this morning. There is a warrior there who I needed to kill, for the good of my clan.

After much waiting and lurking, I finally spotted him. Quickly, in my mind, I recalled the motions of the hikichigaido attack. As he drew close to me, I sprang from my concealment and attacked with my kama.

He blocked the first strike, but the hikichigaido is a two-part attack. With my left hand brushing across his eyes, I whirled and completed the maneuver… leaving him dead at my feet!

I was slightly surprised that it had worked. I was even more surprised to see two of his allies coming toward me — and one of them pulling a kusarigama from his belt!

It has been too long since I got to use my chain skills. I am afraid I may have gone a bit overboard… both of my attackers were on the ground in moments. I made a quick getaway, knowing that Yokuaru Shitsumon is now safe for our forces.

The only way that could have been better is if I’d had an excuse to use the rooftops. Sadly, Yokuaru Shitsumon is one of the small towns of Sanigata; there’s just no 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.

Only a week ago, it seemed this campaign would never end. But we seem to have run out of Ayamari. The group that seemed such an unstoppable tide before have now been exterminated. Haruna and Satonori have been detached from the Teitōken unit and sent to other fronts in the war.

Over the past few days, I have whittled down the Mōjin fighters, and they now seem to be gone, too. A pair of Sōtō Zen monks and the scout, Jun-ichirō, will verify that tomorrow morning. Even the bandit from Yoshino is gone. The Nichiren and Tendai priests are ready to proclaim this realm pacified and integrate it into our territories and power structure.

All that remains is to kill the rōnin from Mikawa. My last battle with him was inconclusive. He escaped into Ichimen, and is lurking… somewhere.

I have until Friday to find him. That will be my last day on the Teitōken Campaign; starting on Monday, I will be assigned to a new campaign called Shiemesu Raisei. I know very little of what this campaign will entail, as yet. I know that it will be another long one, like Teitōken has been (and unlike, say, Kanezukai was). It seems it will involve widely-spread operations ranging throughout Yamato Province, and maybe also in Ōmi and perhaps Settsu. Beyond that? The campaign’s specifics are still somewhat mysterious to me.

I understand that the first week will involve hours and hours of training in one of the halls of Castle Noriaibasha. I have my suspicions that the training will be tedious, and by the end of it, I will be itching to get outside, clamber across a roof, and kill a half-dozen people.

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 promised Kento I would go to Ichimen on Saturday and battle the Ayamari more. But as I prepared to leave Hoshiakari, a villager came running: “The oni is in the shrine! Again!”

Again? After only one day? And in broad daylight, for once? This was not its usual style. Cursing and moaning, I went to the shrine. Sure enough, there it was, as large as life and as ugly as ever. Its iron-sheathed club flashed toward me, and the battle was joined!

I had only a small jō staff, but I was fueled by my rage and frustration. I struck hard and fast, dodging the monster’s blows. One swing left it off-balance, and I dealt it a mighty blow on the side of its head. It fell down dead at my feet, and then its shape blurred and shrank down to the visage of…

…a wizard of the Hakka clan! Those who invade others’ territories by guile and duplicity, only to deface and destroy! This is an enemy I was very glad to have killed.

But has the oni always been the Hakka, wearing a mystical disguise? Or is it truly the case the Hakka simply heard about Hoshiakari’s oni problem and decided to exploit it for his own ends?

Regardless, the shrine must be re-purified and reconsecrated. I have plans for that operation, but they will take some time to put into effect. The Teitōken campaign is still absorbing too much of my time and energy.

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. 14th, 2011 07:32 pm)

It has been a long, hard week of battling Ayamari in Ichimen. For the first part of the week, it seemed that every time I killed one, I would receive a message from one of the Sōtō Zen monks informing me of two more. But by Thursday, the number of newly-discovered foes leveled off. Throughout Friday, I slew the remaining Ayamari, until none were left in Ichimen.

There are still some of them out there in the forests, bedeviling poor Seijun and his team I wish there were something I could do to help him, but the forest problems are a job for katana-wielding samurai.

Instead, I have to worry about a few other enemies that are still within the city. Though ask the Ayamari are slain, there is a rōnin who comes from Mikawa Province. There are also a few undercover agitators from Clan Shimasu, who even the Sōtō Zen monks have not yet noticed. If I can kill them quickly, it will help to ensure that our plans succeed more smoothly.

But first, on Monday morning, I must continue demonstrating my kata for the other warriors’ approval. I am far less nervous this time around.

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.

This Monday, Nayumi told me that there had been an incursion of mercenaries into Ichibanyōshi. They apparently hail from Hikone, and are adept at rooftop fighting techniques. She needed me to clear them out, so she and her samurai team could be secure in their operations there.

Of course, there is little time for me to battle mercenaries when I am required in meetings to plan our campaign strategies. But I told her I could neutralize these mercenaries by lunchtime on Wednesday.

That’s today. And an hour before lunch, I finally vanquished the last of the Hikone mercenaries, and sent word to Nayumi that the Ichibanyōshi district is safe for samurai again.

Now it’s time for me to go find some yakisoba. (And, thankfully, this afternoon is clear of meetings too, so I can tackle our enemies in Kurabero-no-Hako. They are numerous, and I have to slay them all by the end of the week.)

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 given keys and pass-codes that allow me to raise and lower the flags and banners on the castle walls. I will, of course, be quite sure not to misuse such power.

This will be an important part of my latest project at Clan Tenya, which is clearing supply lines through the forests that allow us easy access to certain of our allies. The first is a direct route to Kotobasatsuki. You may remember that I have previous experience operating in that town; it seems my knowledge was one of the reasons Yutaka wanted to add me to the clan.

It is good to be appreciated for one's knowledge and skills.

Clearing this route has involved disposing of a few members of the large and loose-knit Seibun-gumi, which is spread through many strategic areas across the forests and hills of Ōmi Province. I am learning that group's tactics, and will be better equipped to face them in the future, when I clear additional pathways for our allies. Clan Gironfuttō is next.

Anyway, being able to send up signals on the castle's flagpoles will be an important part of allowing our messengers — and those from allied clans and gumis operating in Kotobasatsuki — to communicate with us at a distance while they're on the road.

It seems like a small thing, but it will help our overall strategy. Yutaka supports this venture.
The past 24 hours in Kusatsu have not been good. As the sun set today, however, I managed to escape the city. Since I have lately been active in the town of Seinikki, I found my way there, hoping for some rest.

I found very little rest, but I did at least stumble across a clue leading to one of the crime-lords who are causing unrest in the town. I was able to make use of a most effective new poison technique, and thus dispatched a half-dozen of the crime-lords' lieutenants.

They will now be alert to my presence, of course... but perhaps they may suspect it's another underworld organization, instead of a lone ninja. Either way, they will be hampered by the loss of those men.

In the meantime, the Yaneura-gumi wants me to come back to Heian-kyō again tomorrow, for "just one more day". Of course, that's what they said about yesterday. Before I left yesterday, Haruo mentioned that a fighter they'd hired before had apparently failed to kill a particular enemy, and they think the target trained in many of the same techniques as the ones I have already dealt with. So I have hopes that I can make short work of this one.
Clattering over tiled roofs, my chain whirling at him with every opportunity... heavy weight on one end of the chain, and the vicious Mūtou hook on the other end.

He's cautious and clever, but now that I'm hot on his heels, he seems pretty worried. Apparently one of those guys that relies on stealth over combat expertise. Now he's hoping his fleetness of foot and skill on rooftops will save him...

Too bad for him. I'm better at fighting than he is — and I'm just as good at rooftop agility. He leaps from one roof to another, but he isn't ready for me to cast my hook at him while I'm in mid-leap. And once I've caught him, it's all over.

One less Ayamari to trouble the world.
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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