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( Aug. 29th, 2012 12:51 pm)

I promise, I am not dead.

Far from it, in fact. Two weekends ago, Akane and I were married in a joyous ceremony in Ueno, the capital of Iga Province. We were surrounded by friends and family, and everyone was happy. Akane wore a beautiful white uchikake kimono with silver embroidery, and everyone remarked on how lovely it was.

A week before the wedding itself, I went out with many friends for an evening of dedicated carousing. (Akane, meanwhile, did much the same with many of her friends.) Since my venture involved some travel along the Tōkaidō, we naturally stopped in at the town of Kusatsu, and I gave my Kongōshu style a try. My friend Rikio, something of a mix of rōnin and yamabushi, immediately found a problem with it, and I had to make some changes. Still, it was enjoyable to give my nascent fighting a style a real test!

After the wedding, Akane and I spent a week relaxing at some hot springs in the mountains before returning home. Now I am back at Castle Noriaibasha, where my clanmates are pleased to have me back.

I will report more when I have time.

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 successfully reconsecrated the shrine of Inari. We have even strung a new shimenawa around the premises.

Happily, we were done in time to visit the wonderful local restaurant, which makes some of the best okonomiyaki in all of Kansai. It was quite delicious!

The following day — yesterday — I went back to Castle Noriaibasha. Nobody seems to have noticed my absence the previous afternoon, or if they did, they didn’t mind. Over the past two days, the Teitōken campaign has been slowly and painfully winding down. Every time I think things are done, they find one more pocket of resistance. These are rarely in the city; Seijun’s team has been quite busy rousting out foes in the forest. But occasionally, a message of great and terrible urgency tells me to proceed to Ichimen and find such-and-so target.

Tonight should be the end of this. We are already a day past deadline. I have spent part of the day reading the scrolls and maps pertaining to the upcoming Shiemesu Raisei campaign; that should occupy much more of my time tomorrow.

For now, I have an appointment to meet an old friend in the capital for a sushi dinner.

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.

On Friday, I wrote about the “great and deadly battle” that awaited me… or so I thought. And shortly afterward, I wrote one of my short messages, in which I mentioned that winning that battle had been almost disappointingly easy.

On Saturday, a friend of mine came to visit. She asked how my battle had gone — which made it clear that she had not read my short message.

For some time now, I realize, I have been using this — my main scroll — as a place to start stories, but not to finish them. This is an unwise practice. In particular, it means that those who don’t read the short messages are given only the beginnings of my tales, but never their conclusions.

For this, I most humbly apologize. I am sure it must have been quite frustrating.

In the future, I shall ensure that this chronicle is complete in itself, self-sufficient. The short messages will serve only as a supplement to this journal, never a replacement for it. This also means I will be writing more often here — sometimes more than once a day. (For example, on Friday I would have posted the conclusion to my battle with the rōnin from Hikone, making a second post in a single day.)

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.

A friend has been visiting from Edo for the past few days. Last night, Akane and I had dinner at a fancy restaurant in the capital with him and his childhood friend, a samurai woman named Beniko. During the meal, the conversation turned to the difficulties of recruiting skilled fighters.

Akane said, “Oh, I know! Have her try the Three-and Five Strike,” and so I told Beniko what the requirements are. One of the nice things about it as a warriors’ test is that it doesn’t bother to state what the warrior’s movements, footwork, or other technique should look like. It simply specifies what you must do to the target. This means it will work with any weapon at all — even though I’ve been testing manrikigusari fighters, I could still ask Beniko to perform it with her katana and have the test make sense. So we briefly stepped out into the restaurant’s ornamental garden…

And she performed it beautifully, with hardly any hesitation. There are a couple of aspects of the Three-and-Five Strike that are a bit tricky — the first time you try to do it. But that mistake teaches you how to do it properly, if you have any skill or training at all.

Beniko’s execution, however, was nearly flawless. Each time she was about to make one of the standard mistakes, she spotted the problem ahead of time, and simply worked it into her motions. It was a joy to behold.

Once again, I see that a true warrior can do a Three-and-Five Strike easily, and it is absolutely not too hard to use as a test for Clan Noriaibasha.

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 are still having trouble finding skilled urban ninjas at Clan Noriaibasha. Nippon’s endless war has taken its toll, and there is starting to be a shortage of able fighters. I have taken to asking applicants some very simple questions regarding the use of the kama and the manrikigusari, and asking them to show me one of the simplest possible kata: The Three-and-Five Strike.

Still, they fail.

Some make excuses. Some try to distract us with tricky weapon-flourishes and intimidating poses that don’t actually accomplish anything. Most simply go away in defeat. This kata is terribly simple. Any warrior should be able to perform it, with any weapon they know. Easily. Anyone who cannot would be a liability in any fighting force.

We finally have a scroll of introduction from a man who might be able to do more than flourish his kama and growl menacingly. He will come to the castle on Friday, and we will take his measure.

Also, my friend Marumi has sent me a letter of introduction to a friend of hers, a man who was once an ikebana artist, but has since been learning the ways of chain-fighting. Since Marumi is a very skilled warrior, I trust her judgement that this man could pass our entrance exams. But he has not responded to my letters.

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.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( Nov. 5th, 2010 11:34 am)

Things have been very busy. Akane and I have a friend visiting from Edo, to celebrate the recent sumō champion. The victory has thrown all of Kansai into celebration; even the people of Iga (who usually keep to ourselves and stay apart from popular fads) have joined in the festivities.

In the meantime, Hoshiakari’s shrine of Amaterasu has been beset by the oni again. I have been rousted out of my bed in the middle of the night to try to drive it off. Each time, I attack with furious blows and the monster runs away before I can kill it… but then it returns again later.

I come to Castle Noriaibasha tired and groggy every morning. But they have good tea here, and so I am able to maintain enough alertness to stalk and kill the targets Kento assigns for me.

Earlier this week, I had a most astonishing meeting with Megumi and another herald from the Shomei-gumi. I will have to tell of the good news they brought me, when I have a bit more time.

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.

There is a fair in Iga tomorrow. Akane and I will be having friends over to join us at our house, so we have made sure it is clean and welcoming. Between bouts of cleaning, I have spent the day playing with a ninja-tō kata that my friend Michio described to me recently:

“I can see that there will frequently be situations where I have to hang from a tree branch, roof, or overhang, stab an enemy, then haul his body up into the place where I am in order to avoid being detected. And I have a kata that seems to work for that. It was a good learning exercise.” Curiously, I have never had to solve this exact problem, though it’s similar to one I’ve dealt with before.

So I agreed to work out a kata for it, without having seen Michio’s. Then we can compare them. It will make a good way for him to check how well he is learning the martial arts, too.

Well, either it’s harder than it looks, or I’m going at it entirely the wrong way. But my focus has been very scattered these past few days.

I did not go to Yagyū today, of course. But while I was practicing in the yard in front of Akane’s and my house, I got a message from a herald anyway. A singularly unhelpful message, much like the previous message from one of this herald’s gumi yesterday: It specifies what weapon skills and fighting styles I would need to know, but nothing else. There is no mention of any of the things I need to know to decide if I am interested or not.

Where is the clan’s headquarters located? Would I be constantly on the road from Iga to their castle, and exhausted by all the travelling by the time I even arrived every morning? And is this with a clan at all, or with a larger army? Where do they fight, and what are their objectives and strategies?

On Monday, I have appointments with two other herald gumis. Perhaps I can have lunch with a friend along the way.

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 not been as diligent as I could in practicing my skills, or in writing the scrolls I must post in Yagyū. What I have written, I have shown to some friends, and they have been able to provide much good advice. With their help, I should be ready to visit Yagyū tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have been able to enjoy Akane’s company a bit more. Now that I am not spending long hours chasing Clan Tenya’s enemies, I am not so tired that during my evenings at home.

Over the past few days, my friend Michio has sent messages from the picturesque wilds of Kii Province, where he has recently started learning the ninja-tō. I have responded with some tips and pointers, and he seems to be learning quickly and well. It is interesting to see his enthusiasm and his joy in discovering the ways of combat — so different from my current jaded, tired and cynical state.

It is strange not to have done any ninja missions in over a week. At least Akane needs occasional errands run in Kotobasatsuki, which gives me a chance to travel and do some scouting.

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.
Today is known throughout the war-torn land of Nihon as the day to appreciate the yamabushi, who toil ceaselessly to ensure the harmony of the land, and who try to keep mountain passes and roads clear of monsters.

Once, I was a yamabushi myself. While the way of Shugendo was not the proper Way for me, I learned many useful skills. Many of my friends — Arihiro, Araiguma, Seito, Meiun-no-Neko, and more — are members of the yamabushi themselves. I sometimes hear of their exploits and labors, and I am glad to know that the land is in good hands.

Today is a day to salute the yamabushi, everywhere. May their paths be broad and easy, and may the horagai horns summon them only at midday, never in the dark of night!
This week, I was fighting for the Yaneura-gumi. My friend Meiun-no-Neko, who came with the Nanban traders and stayed to join the Okibi-no-Hito-gumi, knew of the Yaneura-gumi's need for a warrior, and sent messages to put us in contact with each other.

The odd thing is, the Yaneura do not use poisons. So I spent the whole week working with a non-poisoned ninja-to, and even with a jō staff (again with no poison; there are few poisons that will work on a jō's wood).

Now I am done with my assignment with the Yaneura, and getting back to a project I am doing for my own happiness. There are problems in Yumehaba and Seinikki, a pair of villages on the borders of Iga Province that I and many of my friends spend much time in. So, as I return to creeping about the back alleys of these villages, I find that I must re-apply the poison on my manrikigusari. It's an interesting feeling...

In many ways, it feels good. A poisoned weapon is much more reliable; when you strike someone with it, you don't have to wonder how much damage you did them, or how long they'll keep fighting you for.
On Friday, I received a message from Jinsei. He says that the Totemo Akarui-gumi is not making as much money as it needs to, and they can no longer afford to have me on the staff. There were a a few missions they still needed performed, for the Midori-Jimusho clan...

I have now performed them, with honor, and have nothing left to do for Totemo Akarui.

In the past few days, I have also ensured that the troubles facing my friend Arina have been dealt with. And I have spent some time in the town of Yagyū, where heralds and messengers from the various factions in Nihon's eternal war come to find skilled warriors. There are many small, newly-formed groups that need ninjas and other fighters... but I am beginning to think that my future lies with a larger, more established army.

Even if they are more staid, more conservative and traditional, I think it might be for the best if I no longer had to deal with the instability of the newer groups. Sadly, they seem to be the only ones using the Jōgesen-ryū style, but that's okay. I can

Amon says he will give good report of me to those who may inquire. Still, I find it hard not to feel like I have once again failed.
ninja_coder: (Default)
( May. 4th, 2009 11:49 pm)
My friend Arina has recently been beset by the kind of problem that requires a ninja to solve. Though most people try to live in peace, Nihon is gripped by an age of unending war, and even the most peace-loving civilians are sometimes caught in its violence.

So, much like when Arisu needed help to clear bandits away from the area where she wanted to set up her temple of Batō Kannon, the time has come now for me to use my skills on behalf of Arina. And quickly, for the miscreants that are threatening her are moving fast.

This time, my beloved Akane is helping. It is good to have her at my side in the nighttime.
The leader of the Totemo Akarui gumi has contacted me. He says he would like to meet with me on Monday. This is acceptable to me, and is a good thing: Such gumis often work with a wide variety of clans and armies, and can provide valuable experience.

All things considered, I would rather join up with the Badaijo clan, for their Way seems quite harmonious and righteous. Perhaps my friend Teruaki will be able to clear the way for such a thing, but I suspect it might take time.

It is possible that I will have to work with Totemo Akarui for a few months, and then leave them to join the Badaijo. I would not like to have to do that to the Akarui gumi; I recall when a fighter joined Clan Iwinaga for two months, then suddenly left us with no warning. It is not a very honorable thing.

But ninjas cannot hold too tightly to their honor, especially in the cold of a winter such as this one. And there is no guarantee that the Badaijo will find me worthy, in any case.

In the meantime, I am now dusting off my sansetsukon and setting up a small dōjō for Jōgesen work in the yard behind Akane's and my house. I am dismayed by how rusty I have become already.
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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