Sakito is sick today. This means I don’t have to coordinate every move in Sanigata with him. Instead, I can just go after the Naihō Cadre and try to eradicate them. Or at least whittle down their numbers.

They are quite professional and skilled. There is no way I can take on all of them at once. I will have to use the stealth and guile of a ninja, and attack many of them from hiding, when their comrades are not around.

Wish me luck!

Later: I have discovered a terrible thing about the Naihō. They are not only active in Zaiseikyōiku… they may be found throughout Sanigata. I have found a squadron of them in Ogaribamen, and I overheard them mentioning their comrades in Bumon.

Luckily, I think the same tactics may work on nearly all of them… only the ones in Zaiseikyōiku seem to have chain fighters; these others appear to be kama-only types. Or so I hope.

I’ll have to try it, after the mandatory Keitai Team meeting. For now, I must return to Castle Noriaibasha.

Later Still: I have been tracking this pair of Naihō warriors for nearly an hour now, since finishing my lunch. I think I understand their tactics. It is almost time to strike! All I need to do is make sure there are none of their comrades within calling distance…

Even Later: The battle was long, hard, and grueling. I am glad I spent so long observing these warriors before attacking them; they were quite skilled. But in the end, my kama abilities were greater than theirs. Yatta! I think I understand their style, and I can now be confident of being able to take on any of the kama-only Naihō fighters and defeat them. It’s the guys with the manrikigusaris that I’ll need to watch out for… but they can wait until tomorrow. Or even Wednesday, because Kento tells me there is still trouble in Masugata.

Even in victory, a ninja’s work is never done.

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.

In every town and city in Nippon, in these days of eternal strife, one can find the Mōjin fighters. They are always ready to attack an unwary warrior. Like ninjas, they like to operate in stealth; they will never attack a target who has his wits about him. It is only the unwary who fall prey to their surprises.

But how to be on guard against them? Their tactics are strange, and their ways unknown to most fighters.

There will be a gathering of warriors and strategists soon, to discuss this very question. Many sages, fighting monks, and senseis will be there, ready to teach and explain the techniques they have developed. It is some distance to travel, for the gathering is in Hiroshima, on the shore of the Seto Inland Sea, far west of Kansai.

We cannot send all of the fighters on the Keitai team to this gathering (much though we wish we could!). Kento regrets that he cannot go. But I am one of the warriors who had been honored by being chosen to go and represent Clan Noriaibasha. Along with Satonori, I am instructed to train and learn, and bring back the teachings to Tsukimi’s team.

Along with us two ninjas, the clan is also sending Jun-ichi the scout, who has shown himself to be quite expert at spotting the Mōjin, and his friend Daichi, a monk of the Amidist branch of Buddhism, sworn to serve the needs of the poor and dispossessed.

Thought Jun-ichi and Daichi will be helpful, still Satonori and I are the only warriors attending from Noriaibasha. Being chosen is an honor, and it shows that I am well-regarded.

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 arrived in Nagoya earlier today, went through the city gates disguised as a simple farmer, and then headed for the areas Furashi is known to frequent. Slipping my manrikigusari from its hiding place under my tunic, I quickly hoisted myself up to the rooftops and started scanning the streets for him.

After about a half-hour of surveillance, I spotted him leaving a tavern. I moved to intercept him, and was able to rendezvous with him easily. He appreciated receiving the message from Raitsu, and had only a brief verbal report for me to carry back, with no hurry needed.

Then, on my way out of the city, I heard the sound of a fray. And a familiar kiai… I darted through an alley, leaped over a wall, and found Ginsaku in fierce combat with another warrior. On his sleeve, I saw the emblem of the historic city of Fujiwara-kyō — not a place known for producing dangerous fighters, but this one was giving Ginsaku serious trouble.

So I stepped in, coordinated with Ginsaku, and we both finished him off.

Astoundingly, I went to Nagoya today, and nothing bad happened! I even got a chance to engage in some combat, when I had thought I’d be simply a courier! Truly, this is a historic day.

I have since returned to the castle, and had a meeting with Riki, one of the Nichiren priests overseeing the Saitekika campaign. But perhaps I can tell about that tomorrow.

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.

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.

Today is my last day as a member of the Somei-gumi.

As I mentioned earlier, way back in March, Clan Noriaibasha offered to bring me into the clan as a full member. Such things are never quick or simple with such a large clan as this one, but all the preparations have finally been completed.

The Somei-gumi approves of my departure. Indeed, they are proud of me and wish me their sincere congratulations.

On Monday morning, I will go through the ceremonies and rites that will formally induct me into the clan. Perhaps my long years of clan-hopping and searching for the proper post are finally over? I hardly dare to hope.

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.

Good news this morning! I arrived at the castle to find a message from one of the Nichiren priestesses in charge of the Teitōken campaign, to all campaign personnel. It says that the campaign is no longer considered “red status” by the nobles; it is now yellow. And if we continue with successful operations over the next week or two, it may even become green.

This is very good news, for the status has been red ever since the planning meetings stretched on and failed to be finished before their deadline.

This is also good news for me personally (as well as for the other fighters like Seijun and his team), because this message acknowledges our hard work and dedication. There is still much to be done, but it is beginning to seem that this campaign might succeed.

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.

Now that Seijun and his team are working in Ichimen, I’ve been keeping myself busy with some other tasks. One of the other small teams within Clan Noriaibasha, called the Anzen Team, has produced a scroll intended to show us how to defend against attacks by the Ayamari, and by the evil Hakkā bandits who are known to attack all other clans.

Their scroll describes some things we should do to keep ourselves safe from Hakkā attacks… but it never describes what the attacks are, which means we have no idea why this scroll is giving us these particular commands. For example, if a we’ve delivered a successful blow to a Hakkā that leaves him in a sideways stance, why should we immediately jump back? Would it not be useful to press the advantage while we have it?

So I have spent the past few days scouting and silently observing the Ayamari and the Hakkā, as well as reading some other sages’ writings about those groups’ tactics. And I have learned many things about their fighting styles. For example, the Hakkā fighters are quite adept at something called the Cross-Body Hidden Grab… which is performed from a sideways stance, and this explains why we should jump back if we see that: It will keep us from getting grabbed.

So I have distilled the things I’ve learned, and written a scroll of my own. Instead of simply saying “Do this. Don’t do that.”, I have described the moves we can expect to face, as one fighter to another.

Yesterday, I sent copies of my scroll to Ginsaku and to my commander, Kento. Kento soon told me that this was very good work, and could I please also send it to the other fighters on the Keitai Team. And Ginsaku says that perhaps I do some more explanations next Monday, when we have our weekly team meeting of the Keitai warriors.

I am flattered and honored. I shall be well-prepared for my presentation.

In the meantime, however, I must interview another prospective candidate for clan-membership this afternoon. He is another one from the Shomei-gumi, so I hope he will prove able to complete the Three-and-Five Strike, and so bring more honor to my gumi.

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.

Two weeks ago, I had a lunch meeting with Megumi, the herald of the Shomei-gumi who secured me my position with Clan Noriaibasha. Her supervisor, a woman named Rīna, was also there. The two of them wanted my advice on some other warriors who might be of use at Noriaibasha… and Rīna also mentioned that they had been in touch with Tsukimi, the commander of the Keitai Team. Apparently they have heard very good things about me from Tsukimi — her instructions to the Shomei-gumi were “Please send us two more of Ichirō”.

I told them their words bring me honor, and I will strive to continue to bring honor to Shomei.

Last week, I received a message from Shomei, telling me that Megumi had left the group to seek her fortune with a new clan in Hikone. My new contact in the group is a man named Kaisei, who reports to Rīna as Megumi once did.

So we recently met at a bar in the capital, to get to know each other. He proves to be a friendly, convivial fellow, but also with a thoughtful side — he has spent time meditating on what it means to be a herald and why he enjoys it, just as I have spent time meditating on what attracts me to the Way of the Ninja.

Also, we have similar tastes in shōchū.

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 Kanezukai campaign’s final battle has been fought and won. I arrived in the village we aimed to capture and found Risako, and the other Nichiren priests overseeing the campaign, already waiting. The major in charge of our troops said that most opposition was already quite disorganized, thanks to my work in assassinating key personnel beforehand.

After the first engagement, we spotted a few of the enemy’s scouts who needed to be taken out. I made short work of them, leaving them to bleed to death in the village’s alleys, and gaining more admiration from Risako and the major.

By noon, it became clear that our victory was assured. I went back to Castle Noriaibasha to prepare for my next tasks, and to relax in the knowledge of a job well done.

The only dark spot in today has been discovering that my boot-knife has lost its temper and will no longer hold an edge. Also, it would be enjoyable to relax at a bar on my way home today, and sip some well-earned celebratory drink… but dark storm-clouds are rolling in, and I’ll probably just have to run home before the rain drenches 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.

I have just come from a meeting with Risako, a priestess of the Shoshū sect, who will be guiding the first stages of the upcoming Kanezukai campaign. She is very pleasant to talk to, and her ideas on Harmony align well with my own. I suspect we may well become friends, at least within the castle walls.

And a very ironic thing happened: In small upstart clans, we ninjas are often told, “With so few people, each one of you will have the chance to make a real difference in the clan’s actions.” But at Clan Nettobuku and Clan Tenya, my advice on tactics was ignored. By the time I was ready to leave the world of small clans behind, the idea of not having any say in my clan’s actions was no drawback; I already had no say, so I would be losing nothing.

How amazing, then, to see what happened in my meeting with Risako: Her plan for the first stage of the campaign involved using the Bright Square technique for certain city and village operations. I mentioned that I don’t like Bright Square much, as it tends to place great hardships on the peasants in the occupied area. The Floating Square technique serves our army’s purpose just as well, without hurting the peasants so much.

And Risako agreed, and said she would change the attack plan.

Then Akinori, whose weapons locker is near Risako’s altar, overheard. He is working on the plans that will guide many of the clan’s strategies for the next few years, and noted that there has been some question of which technique to use. He says that his recommendation is also for the Floating Square, and he has some standard kata for use in that tactic. All three of us are agreed: Akinori’s Floating Square kata will be part of the Kanezukai campaign.

And Akinori would like me to see if I can improve his kata.

So, in the course of a single meeting, I have just had a real, distinctive effect on the tactics the clan will be using in an upcoming campaign — and soon, I may have an effect on the kata we use in all our operations! The kind of influence that I had given up all hope of wielding has just been placed in my hands.

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 day has finally come. I leave Hoshiakari now and go to Castle Noriaibasha, to be inducted into their clan, and given a wakizashi and my first orders. I know not what else today may hold, but I shall do my best. My heart is full of hope.

Off I go! Wish me luck!

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 has already journeyed off to the Central Provinces with her mother, there to visit other members of their family. Today, I also depart from Iga to meet them. I will be in the Central Provinces for the weekend, and then Akane and I will return to Iga and Hoshiakari on Monday.

We will doubtless be quite tired, and we will appreciate the creature comforts of our home after the long days in the rustic, uncultured lands.

But a week after that, I will go to Castle Noriaibasha, in the city of Sakai, and be given my first assignments. I will not truly be of their clan; I will actually be a member of the Shomei-gumi, whose herald found me the assignment with the Noriaibasha. But I will be on long-term assignment with the great clan of Izumi, and there is some chance that I may eventually be inducted into their ranks… if all goes well.

So I must report to the Shomei-gumi during the days between my return to Iga and my first day at Castle Noriaibasha. Aside from that, I have a week to spend at my leisure. Then I will go back to undertaking missions in stealth and violence.

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's missions went reasonably well. Under Ryōji's supervision, I cleared out the nest of Rei-Yōso bandits. I also did some tricky work iwth both kama and bo staff to ferret out an annoying member of the Ayamari-gumi in Naniwa, by the western bay.

Now I have a new mission, one which will require use of a great many weapons. I cannot speak much of it yet, but it will help the clan's efforts in the town of Kotobasatsuki.

When I arrived at Castle Tenya this morning, I found the gates shut and locked, for I was the first to arrive. I have since spoken to Osami, the head of the warriors, and been given keys to the castle.

There is more I should say of Clan Tenya, but now I must set out on the trail to Kotobasatsuki. I am a busy ninja once again.
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.
There has been much turmoil in my life recently. Some has been good, other parts... not so good.

I shall have to travel to Edo tomorrow, and I will not be back in Iga for nearly a week. When I return, however, I shall have the honor of reporting to Castle Tenya, in Ōtsu. My negotiations with Clan Tenya have been successful, and I will be joining their clan.

This is most happy news for Akane, for I will now be earning gold once again, and so we shall be able to feed ourselves. For me, it is both a triumph and a challenge, for I have (as always) doubts about my skills. Clan Tenya is a very martial clan, composed almost entirely of warriors of one sort or another. Even the clan's lord, a man named Yutaka, is not a noble. Instead, he is a warrior of no small renown, the originator of a very elegant kata sacred to Hachiman, called "Yutaka's Blade".

Clan Tenya, as you may guess, is concerned with ensuring that it has only the best warriors. And I am concerned, because I doubt that I am so highly skilled.

However, their castle is much quieter than Castle Nettobuku was, so I have some hope that I may be able to concentrate enough to perform my duties. The noise and chaos of Nettobuku was a prime reason why I fared so poorly there.

I have gone to Yagyū, the town on the edge of Iga Province where heralds and clan scouts go to recruit new warriors, and taken down the scrolls that describe me as available. In their place, I have placed scrolls noting that I am now busy, and no longer open to meetings with heralds. In the process, I have learned more of Clan Nettobuku's current state.

It seems Clan Nettobuku has not fared well. The clan is coming apart, and has recently been forced to abandon many members in order to conserve its treasury. I am filled with conflict. I wonder: Is any part of their current misfortune due to my actions while I was there? And also, I wonder: If Jimon and Bunmei had listened to my concerns, and adopted more of the techniques I advocated, would their strategy then have been stronger? Or weaker?

I have no answer, and I doubt that I ever will.
As of Friday, I have finished my duties with the Yaneura-gumi. Their campaign on behalf of Clan Mōfō is not quite complete, but all the sneaking, assassination, and other goals which require a Pagoda Bearer-style ninja are done. I have acquitted myself satisfactorily. Haruo, Teruyoshi, Mariko and the rest were sad to see me go, and say they will send a messenger if they have other tasks the require my skills.

But for now, I am a free ninja again. I have returned to my personal project in Kusatsu, which is nearing completion... and getting more difficult at the same time. Kusatsu's streets are narrow and crooked, almost haphazard. It's odd: in cities like Nagoya, the rooftops are difficult to master. In Kusatsu, it's just the opposite. The rooftops are just perfect for leaping, rolling, and fighting on, but doing anything at street level quickly becomes a difficult struggle.

Still, I persevere. I have heard rumours of secret ways in Kusatsu, and I must investigate to discover if they can aid me in my goals.
.

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