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 spent much of this weekend working on my Kongōshu style, doing kata in the yard of Akane’s and my house in Hoshiakari. This style is an offshoot of the Steel Road ryū, which is a fairly complicated sansetsukon style in the Three-Headed Dragon school.

I was surprised by how well I still remember it. I was able to make much progress… until I ran into a complicated maneuver that I can see will be very necessary. But I cannot yet determine how to accomplish it.

Some day, I have hopes that this style will be useful for people carousing in Kusatsu — I am working on some aspects that will be particularly useful in the environs of that rapidly-growing city. But it still has a long way to go.

Akane says she remembers the days when I was a member of Clan Tenya. I would come home from my battles in Ōmi Province and have no desire to pick up another weapon for the rest of the night. Even on the weekends, I was too tired to practice kata. But now, I have spent much of the weekend practicing blocks, strikes, and swirling sansetsukon attacks.

She says this makes her very happy to watch.

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.

Since the Emperor declared a day of rest on today, in memory of a great man, we had a long weekend. And I spent some of it relaxing in Hoshiakari, doing kata in my own Kongōshu style. This is a style I have been inventing especially for people who go carousing in taverns a lot, and it is based on the Steel Road ryū.

This means I must refresh my memory of the Steel Road, for I have not used it in some time. So I spent part of the weekend out in the yard outside my house, whirling the sansetsukon around, practicing strikes and blocks.

My style is not yet ready to use… but I have definitely made some progress on it this weekend! Some day, perhaps it will be useful to others.

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.

Every Friday, the Kokakumanzoku division has a meeting. This morning, Jōji spoke about a project that he and Anna, one of the fighters on Kento’s team, had recently completed.

Anna is a sweet-faced little woman from the southeastern islands. To look at her, you would never guess that she is an expert with grappling hook, kama, and I think maybe even wakizashi, nor that she knows the streets and roofs of Kusatsu like the back of her hand.

So their project — not an entire campaign, but a small-scale project called “Many Houses” — involved testing out the Sure-Footed school of combat, including the Hearty Brawl tactic. Although many smaller clans and upstart types have been using the Sure-Footed school for some time, Clan Noriaibasha has not tried it yet.

Jōji and Anna were pleased to report that the new techniques allowed them to engage some fearsome foes with minimal casualties, and to take territories much more quickly than we might otherwise expect. Many of the priests and nobles expressed interest.

I congratulate my clan-mates on their successful sorties!

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.

The Chiri-dō ryū is not a set of kata that one uses in a duel or small fight. Instead, it is the kind of grand, overarching strategy that arranges the sweeping movements of a full-scale fighting force across large territories and varying terrain.

It is quite unlike anything I have ever had to learn before, for we ninjas generally operate in very small bands, if not alone. It is like the teachings of the mainland general-sage, Sun Tzu.

In the meeting with Clan Eshidieru this morning, we spent much time examining all the particulars of how we can use the Chiri-dō style in our Shiemesu Raisei campaign… and it seems the Shiemesu Raisei campaign and the Saitekika campaign will have interlocking objectives, and each one will affect the other!

And I, along with Kento, Makishi, and Amon, am involved with both of them.

It is all very confusing, and it means I must be involved with meetings with Clan Eshidieru (who are teaching us the Chiri-dō and advising our strategies on the Shiemesu Raisei campaign) and other meetings with Clan Hekoayu (who are advising our Saitekika strategy… albeit somewhat unprofessionally on occasion).

I must find some way to keep my combat skills sharp. Or at least find the time for some kata in the yard.

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 campaign is unlike most others. Instead of trying to capture territory and hold it, our true objective is to test out the Chiri-dō ryū, and see if we want to adopt it as one of our main strategies. To that end, we will be attempting to capture some towns and small cities in Yamato Province… but exactly which ones and how many is still a mystery, and we might not bother to hold them. It seems we will, at the very least, use a place called Kinyūiku as one of our targets. I have been performing preliminary scouting on it this week.

I seem to be the junior warrior in this operation. I will be reporting to Makishi (who I have mentioned before, a friendly fellow-ninja) until Kento returns from visiting his family, near the end of the month. There are a few samurai working in the plains and the wilderness; I know of Atsuhiko, but I am sure he is not alone. Above us all is Ryōsuke, who I believe is a major.

The Nichiren priest who is trying to coordinate all our actions is named Junsuke. So far, he seems pleasant enough. Assisting him is Amon, a friend of Kento’s. Another warrior named Eiki will also be involved, though I know not in precisely what capacity.

Ryōsuke is the major in charge of the warriors in this operation. He ranks above Kento, who is currently away visiting his family. Kento will not return until nearly the end of the month. Then, I understand, he will have the very interesting experience of being trained the Chiri-dō techniques.

I think Makishi and I will look forward to seeing how he feels at the end of that week.

In the meantime, we have advisors from Clan Eshidieru, the originators of the Chiri-dō style, who are continuing to teach us about its strategies. I keep receiving messages from Makishi as I scout Kinyūiku, asking me to join him and the advisors on the plains of Yamato as we observe how the Eshidieru advisors use Chiri-dō to organize large-scale battle movements. This makes scouting somewhat difficult.

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.

The world is full of perplexing things. After my discussion with Binya of Clan Atsuzen — which I thought had gone so well — I heard from his herald that my answers had not been sufficiently pleasing. I have asked her to supply me with more information, so that I might improve my skills.

But the timed test kata for Clan Shōnindō? I was not able to complete all the moves and strikes in the time allotted, and I suspect that nobody could. But what I did complete was apparently sufficient to please them. Next Tuesday, I will visit Castle Shōnindō and meet with Kirika, the warrior woman I have spoken with. I shall probably meet others of the clan, as well.

I am still fairly sure that Clan Shōnindō is too small and young for me. But the fact that they have female fighters among them speaks well for them.

In the meantime, I have yet another test coming up today, this time of my Aka Hōseki Jōgesen skills. I have not even touched the sansetsukon in a year, and I was honest about this when speaking to the herald who is trying to connect me with some gumi in Kawachi Province. Truly, I suspect that either the gumi or the herald must be somewhat desperate to consider me for their clan, as I am given to understand that they require a Jōgesen expert.

For my part, taking their test costs me nothing but an hour of my time, and may help me refresh a bit. Since I already expect to do poorly, failure cannot harm my self-esteem.

To be honest, I think I am taking this test partly out of boredom. With the exception of yesterday, when I bore a message swiftly to Kamishichiken for my friend Arina, I have had no missions to complete. Even that example of courier duty did not include any combat. I must find something to occupy 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.
What I said this morning was wrong. I was given a mission this afternoon!

Ryōji assigned me a pair of tasks. One, I have hardly even looked at, for it will involve a greater understanding of the clan's combat styles and tactics. But the other...

There is a nest of bandits in the forest. Clan Tenya mostly uses the bō staff when doing forest work; we often pose as peasants and travelers, so swords are unwise — they would give us away. And the clan uses an interesting bō style, the Shokubai-dō. It is one of the Three-Headed Dragon styles, so at least a few of the moves are familiar — except that the other Three-Headed Dragon styles I know use the three-sectional staff and the ninja-to, so even the familiar feels unfamiliar.

But I have found the bandits, and scouted out every weakness in their camp, and can slaughter them at any time. Ryōji is putting a few other matters in order, and will observe my final execution of them tomorrow morning.

Before lunchtime tomorrow, I will have proven that I can be a useful member of the clan. This will be good.
All that I attempt goes awry. Have I angered Bishamonten? I must certainly go to His temple and make offerings, for every step I perform in the Pagoda Bearer style today is off balance, or malformed somehow. A bitter, evil wind is blowing from the northeast, the demon gate that lets evil in.

I must make offerings. I must re-sharpen my sword. And I must continue to persevere. The enemies that now seem so invincible — soon I will find a way to slay them. The ninja endures; the ninja perseveres.
Having slaughtered a great many adversaries for clients such as Clan Seikatsu-sanbyakugojū and the Yūrei-no-Hitosashi-gumi (or "Phantom Dance" gumi)... I am now staking out the Castle of Lord Joukyū for the Daiyokaru monks.

It seems that the Daiyokaru's problems frequently involve powerful daimyō who have impenetrable fortresses. Perhaps the monks simply have their own ways of dealing with lesser foes, and only require the aid of ninjas when all other avenues are exhausted?

Regardless, I have determined that fulfilling this task will require a careful knowledge of the Shibishiarema branch of the Shizuka-ryū style. I am studying this path, and it is most perplexing. It seems I may need the kata called Heavenly Clouds Moving in a Group.

Looking deeper into the ways of this ryū, I see that this move is actually based on one called Heavenly Clouds Take Form. That, in turn, is based on the move called Storm Clouds Take Form.

Which, in its own turn, is based on one called Clouds Ascending Like Dragons. I have little doubt that when I learn more, I will see that Clouds Ascending Like Dragons is based on something else — Dragon Spits Fire, perhaps, or Dragon Needs Food, Badly.

In the meantime, I must get back to Iga, for I have a vase of shōchū that my friend Junna desperately needs, after the struggles of her own day. The Shibishiarema ryū will just have to wait.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Nov. 4th, 2008 12:26 pm)
We are done with our Hitotsu Nanako campaign. Astonishingly, all of the territory we planned to take... we have actually taken, successfully! Usually, there is some left over at the end of a campaign, but not this time.

Commander Kobushi is proud of us. I feel that my own efforts contributed very little to our victory. Practically every kill I made, and every target I slew, required far too much time spent in trailing, sneaking, and laborious covert-entry.

Tomorrow, we will have a day of meetings with the Nichiren priestesses and the high lords, to review what we have achieved. The next day, we will plan our strategies for the upcoming Hitotsu Hakko campaign. On Friday, we start combat operations.

In the meantime, today is to be spent practicing more acrobatic techniques and defensive rolls, in the Arusupekku style that Benjirō has just explained to us.

I must continue to study hard and increase my skills this winter. I am tired of feeling like an amateur.
I have performed an extremely useful task for Clan Nettobuku, which will make life much easier for all of the clan's ninjas whenever we need to work in Nagoya, the chief city of Oda's lands. After much sneaking and infiltration in the city guard's headquarters and even in the regional lord's castle, I have secured some of the special grappling hooks that can gain a purchase on the city's rooftops. The city guard keeps a very tight grip on these hooks, and the penalty for being caught with them is death by torture.

But with these hooks on our manrikigusari chains, Bunmei, Jimon, Benjirō and I can go anywhere in the city, instead of being restricted to the streets and alleyways — and the city guards' many checkpoints. True, the rooftops themselves are still steep, slippery, and dangerous. But we will persevere.

My reward for bringing these valuable items back to the castle? The Nichiren abbess, Jīya, demanding to know about my plans for wintertime holidays, so she can plan the most auspicious times for company meditations. "I needed to know this yesterday!" she said. Truly, it is good to have one's efforts given the proper importance.

As further improvement of my day, I then attended a meeting in which Jimon taught the rest of the warriors about his new kata, which will be important to our work in the central provinces of Kawachi and Yamato. Of course, Jimon's kata are very pure examples of the Living Stone style. Perhaps I am simply overreacting to a slight overdose of Living Stone (and maybe also to Jimon himself), but his latest kata remind me uncomfortably of the Sturdy Pillar ryū that so annoyed me at Clan Iwinaga.

And, beyond that, Jimon... is not the best instructor. A good instructor can make difficult and complex matters simple and easy to understand. Jimon's presentation is disorganized and cursory, and may actually make simple matters seem more difficult than they truly are. He admits that he will not be writing any instructional scrolls, and that we all will simply have to study the movements on our own.

But no matter. I will study, and I will learn what is good in the Living Stone ryū, and I will not let what is bad in it cause me to reject the entire path.

And tomorrow, I will use the special Nagoya hook to track down and slay a merchant in Nagoya, a man who it turns out is aiding both our Ātosugijei and Reki enemies. I will keep my skills sharp, and when the new year comes, I will find a better clan.
ninja_coder: (ninja coder writing)
( Oct. 10th, 2008 12:17 pm)
In the past few days, I have taken part in some talks between Jimon and Bunmei concerning our kata styles, and the forms and ryū we use. I have used some of Jimon's new kata in my recent activities, and...

I must admit, I have never really integrated Living Stone ryū techniques into my repertoire as fully as I should. They make it easy to improve a sequence of strikes, to adapt to changing situations. But in my early learning, I rarely had to deal with such changes. It was always too easy for me to get by in my self-taught Journey of a Thousand Steps style.

Now, when I can see at the very outset that something will fit well into Living Stone, I willingly use those techniques... but otherwise, I go down the wrong path, and later have to adapt things. It is not efficient.

And the insistence of the mounted samurai that everything should always be done in Living Stone style, even the smallest actions (that often make a very poor fit for it) has not helped matters any. The insistence on using Living Stone and Heavenly Patterns for everything is foolishness. But just because some fools have spoken of it does not make the entire school folly. My tendency to avoid it when I should embrace it more easily is folly.

Beyond that, I need to let go of my desire to focus on the small details of the movements and strikes. I need to look more at the larger patterns of kata, or even of the flow of combat between many warriors in a full battle. I have spent long enough looking at trees, and twigs; I must focus more on groves and on forests.

Truly, knowledge is ever-unfolding; there is no mastery, for the greatest master is still but a student. I must always continue my studies.
It is not enough, in war, to merely take a territory. You must be able to hold it afterwards. To hold a territory, you must have the respect and the love of the peasants. (This is not the only necessity, of course. Whatever disharmony you provoke, you must quiet it, and make your lands harmonious. More on this later.)

In my recent work in Torānzu (one of the smaller cities of Izumi Province), I have largely been using the simple, straightforward techniques of the Journey of a Thousand Steps school. Now I have discovered that in the neighboring city of Aikontō, Bunmei has been doing everything in the Living Stone style.

This will cause great disharmony later on, as the peasants are already beginning to perceive us a two completely different clans. If their loyalties are divided, we may soon have an uprising to deal with.

Our clan's strategy is still fractured. We must find the time to unify our approach, before things get worse.

Also, I wish Jimon would stop asking me questions about everything we're doing. I know he's new to the clan, and I know I'm the one most appropriate to teach him our ways. But when he pesters me with questions about why Bunmei did something a particular way, in a city that I've only visited once or twice, I really have no good answers. (And he can't ask Bunmei right now, because Bunmei is visiting his home province for some personal business.)

In other news at Castle Nettobuku, Binya, the Sōtō Zen monk, walked in today with a new acolyte. Her name is Airi, and we hope that she will be able to help us keep to the ways of harmony. Binya has been chanting as fast as he can, but there's far too much for any one monk.


ninja_coder: (Default)


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