After the Wedding

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 uchikakea type of highly formal, ceremonial kimono, generally only worn at court functions or weddingsa type of highly formal, ceremonial kimono, generally only worn at court functions or weddings 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 carousingbachelor partybachelor party. (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 rōninA masterless samurai, effectively an independent sword-for-hire. A samurai could become a rōnin if his lord died, or if his lord became displeased with him and effectively fired him. During the Sengoku Jidai, things were very loose, and some samurai voluntarily left their lords and went in search of other opportunities, becoming rōnin temporarily until they could find new lords. Some peasants even declared themselves to be samurai, and then went in search of lords to take them in — for them, being a rōnin was a step in their personal advancement plans.

The word rōnin literally means “wave-man”: the image is of a man who wanders endlessly, without direction, like a wave on the ocean. At the end of Pulp Fiction, when Jules Winnfield says his plan is to “walk the earth… like Caine from Kung Fu”, he’s effectively saying he’s going to become a modern rōnin after leaving Marsellus Wallace’s service.A masterless samurai; a wandering warrior whose sword was for hire. and yamabushiThe yamabushi were (and still are) a group of mystical ascetics who live high in the mountains, practicing a nature-based spiritual path called Shugendō. In the world of the ninja coder, they’re invaluable to any clan that aims to conquer more than a tiny territory, because their knowledge of the trails and mountain passes is critical for moving troops and supplies from place to place. The word “yamabushi” is both singular and plural; it can mean the group or a single mountain man.Mystical mountain warriors who know the trails and passes in the mountains, and can help clans move troops and supplies around. The word “yamabushi” is both singular and plural; it can mean the group or a single mountain man., 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.

Breaking My Long Silence

I am not dead. I assure you of this.

I have been quite busy. The word for this summer is 「結婚式」、 or “kekkonshiki”, which is Japanese for “marriage ceremony”. Last year, I asked Akane if she would marry me, and she was delighted to say yes. The ceremony itself will be later this summer, and we are both consumed with preparations. Relatives will be arriving from all over Nippon, and many of our friends from here in Iga Province will be attending as well. It will be an occasion of much joy, but it also requires much planning and effort.

Aside from this, the Saitekika campaign proceeds apace. Every day, I must meet with the Nichiren priests and sometimes even the Tendai priests, to ensure that our path is Righteous and Harmonious. When there is time between those meetings, I must go to the cities we are trying to capture, and find our enemies and slay them.

And finally, I have resumed progress on my own Kongōshu style. After a day of battling Noriaibasha’s enemies with the chain and kamaTechnically, a kama is simply a farming tool. It’s like a sickle, or a small, one-handed scythe. Since farmers make up a huge segment of feudal Japan’s population, there’s nothing suspicious about carrying one around. And ninjas like to avoid suspicion.

If you take a chain with a weight or hook on its end and attach that to a kama, you’ve got a kusarigama… much more useful as a weapon, but also obviously a ninja weapon, instead of a farming tool.A farming tool, like a sickle or a small, one-handed scythe. Commonly used by ninjas because they arouse no suspicion – farmers are everywhere, after all., it’s nice to come home and get out the sansetsukonA three-sectional staff. Looks vaguely like a nunchaku with an extra section. Famously used as an intimidation technique by one of the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who smiled evilly and then folded it up into a coat-hanger.

Three-sectional staff; weapon that looks like a nunchaku with three sticks instead of two. and keep up my skills in the Steel Road ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts..

But all of this leaves me very little time to write these tales. I regret that this is not likely to change soon. Some time ago, I wrote that I would be updating more frequently. I must now change that; I should not promise that which I cannot deliver.

There may occasionally be short messages. And these tales will not cease altogether. But I do not know how often I will be able to write them.

This Mission is Ready to Go

By some miracle the four-hour meeting has been moved to tomorrow, and replaced by a mere one-hour meeting. I am completing my observations of Lord Eizō’s defenses, just to be sure I can achieve my goals later on. Then I will go back to Castle Noriaibasha for the short meeting…

…and after that, when I return here, Lord Eizō will not know what has hit him!

Added 5:10 p.m.: One of those days when everything takes far too long. First I attend the meeting, only an hour long… but then I must write up a scroll for some of the priests, describing how they should handle certain combat situations if a warrior isn’t around. Then I start getting ready to go, and notice my kamaTechnically, a kama is simply a farming tool. It’s like a sickle, or a small, one-handed scythe. Since farmers make up a huge segment of feudal Japan’s population, there’s nothing suspicious about carrying one around. And ninjas like to avoid suspicion.

If you take a chain with a weight or hook on its end and attach that to a kama, you’ve got a kusarigama… much more useful as a weapon, but also obviously a ninja weapon, instead of a farming tool.A farming tool, like a sickle or a small, one-handed scythe. Commonly used by ninjas because they arouse no suspicion – farmers are everywhere, after all. handle is developing a nasty crack in the wood. And my tabiThe split-toed boots commonly worn by ninjasthe split-toed boots commonly worn by ninjas soles are worn smooth — very bad for footing in the middle of a mission!

Because of this and that, I am only now — finally! — arriving in the field. I have little time to make my incursion into Lord Eizō’s castle. but I must; tomorrow i sutterly dominated by meetings, and Kento told me on Monday that he wants me to have Lord Eizō taken care of before the end of the week.

How quickly can I possibly do this? Especially without making a mess of it and getting myself killed?

Let’s find out.

Running Late

After two days of observing his castle and watching the comings and goings of his guards, I think I have spotted a weakness in Lord Eizō’s defenses. If I can slip inside, I may or may not be able to kill Lord Eizō himself, but I can certainly sow enough discord and confusion amongst his troops to ensure that they cause us no trouble until it is far too late.

But there is that inconveniently-timed meeting with Clan Hekoayu this afternoon — every Wednesday afternoon, for four full hours. (Truthfully, there is never a “convenient” time for a meeting that long.)

If I were on time, instead of “on Ginsaku time”, I might be able to make a useful incursion into Eizō’s castle. I must get better about that.

An Important and Dangerous Mission

Skillful reconnaissance has discovered a new enemy: The sponsors of the Keiten Mokuba army. They are backed by a powerful consortium of merchants and nobles called the Dōga-gumi“group”Japanese for “group”; can refer to anything from a “five-person group” (a common work-unit in Japanese corporations) up to an entire branch of the Yakuza such as the Yamaguchi-gumi.. They are well stocked with chain fighters, including a dangerous group headed by the notorious daimyōA feudal warlord; the leader of a clan and/or army with a significant area of land under its control. Usually also has aims to expand his holdings; many daimyō are trying to become rulers of whole regions, or even of all of Japan. Pronounced “dime-yo”.A feudal warlord; the leader of a clan and/or army with a significant area of land under its control. Usually also has aims to expand his holdings; many daimyō are trying to become rulers of whole regions, or even of all of Japan., Eizō.

As Clan Noriaibasha’s pre-eminent chain fighter, I have been chosen to eliminate this threat. I am honored, and only slightly daunted.

It will be my task to slip through Eizō’s defenses, penetrate his castle, and assure his demise. If I can also discover any of his correspondence with the rest of the Dōga-gumi, so much the better, for I must launch an offensive against that gumi as soon as Eizō falls — while his troops are in the greatest disarray.

I have already started scouting Lord Eizō’s security. It seems he has some sharp-eyed archers as part of his guard staff. I must be quite careful — if I am spotted, there is no hope. If I am well prepared, I can pluck one arrow from the air as it speeds toward me, but two at once would surely leave me quite dead.

How to Advance Without Meaning To

A few days ago, I was talking to Akane about the difference between various clans I have been a member of. She claimed that my life had never been so good at any clan before this; I noted that it was nearly as good at Clan Iwinaga, but I had left because it seemed I had no opportunity to advance my career there. Here at Noriaibasha, I said, I still have no real chance to become a leader or captain, but I no longer care; I am content to be a rank-and-file fighter without needing to seek advancement.

“But,” she said, “if you wanted to advance at Clan Noriaibasha, I have no doubt you could.” I agreed this might be true, but it was irrelevant.

Today there was a lunchtime feast, to rally all the troops and others who have been part of the Shiemesu Raisei and Saitekika campaigns. Various nobles and priestesses of the prestigious Tendai order spoke about how we are making great progress. While chatting with Amon, Kento and Makishi, Amon introduced me to one of the Tendai priestesses.

“This is Ichirō, one of our ninjas,” he said. “Ichirō fights in the cities, and he is very skilled. Even when Kento thinks an enemy would be too difficult to kill, Ichirō often speaks up and says, ‘Actually… I know a way I can eliminate that person.'” I tried not to blush, and thanked him for his very kind words.

Later, one of the ikebana masters under Kento’s command, a man named Torai, came to see me. He had a question, one which he said he would normally ask Kento. “But I have looked, and he seems not to be here in the castle right now. So I thought I would ask you, since you are Kento’s right-hand man.”

I simply answered Torai’s question at the time, and did not express the astonishment I felt in my heart. Right-hand man? Kento has said nothing of this… but as I look at the missions he sends me on, and compare them to other missions and duties that Sakito and Satonori are assigned, I begin to see that I am highly valued on Kento’s team.

It seems Akane was quite right. She is wise.

Making Progress With Living Stone

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 kamaTechnically, a kama is simply a farming tool. It’s like a sickle, or a small, one-handed scythe. Since farmers make up a huge segment of feudal Japan’s population, there’s nothing suspicious about carrying one around. And ninjas like to avoid suspicion.

If you take a chain with a weight or hook on its end and attach that to a kama, you’ve got a kusarigama… much more useful as a weapon, but also obviously a ninja weapon, instead of a farming tool.A farming tool, like a sickle or a small, one-handed scythe. Commonly used by ninjas because they arouse no suspicion — farmers are everywhere, after all.-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 manrikigusariA chain weapon with weights at both ends, which can be used for striking or entangling.A ninja weapon consisting of a length of chain with stuff at one or both ends. Generally has weights at both ends, but occasionally one weight will be replaced by a hook. The weapon can be used for entangling (by wrapping a weight around an enemy’s limb) or for a direct strike with one of the weights. It can also be used to entangle an enemy’s weapon with one end, then strike the enemy’s body with the weight on the other end. They hate that.

When the chain has one end attached to a kama, it’s known as a kusari-gama. (Kusari means “chain”; when it’s the second item in a compound word, it becomes -gusari. Similarly, kama becomes -gama in compounds.)
. 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 adaptedMost object-oriented languages use what’s known as “classical inheritance”, but JavaScript uses “prototypal inheritance”. It requires a different way of thinking.Most object-oriented languages use what’s known as “classical inheritance”, but JavaScript uses “prototypal inheritance”. It requires a different way of thinking. 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!

A Weekend of Practice on My Own Style

I spent much of this weekend working on my Kongōshu style, doing kataA sequence of moves in martial arts, performed as a practice exercise to train the fighter’s muscle memory and reflexes in preparation for real combat. May be anywhere from a brief, 15-second movement to a full sequence that takes five minutes or more to complete. Usually solitary, but there are some two-person kata.

You may wish to see some videos of standard karate katas.A sequence of fighting moves used as a practice technique in martial arts. in the yard of Akane’s and my house in Hoshiakari. This style is an offshoot of the Steel Road ryūA school, tradition, or style in martial arts.A school, tradition, or style in martial arts., which is a fairly complicated sansetsukonA three-sectional staff. Looks vaguely like a nunchaku with an extra section. Famously used as an intimidation technique by one of the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who smiled evilly and then folded it up into a coat-hanger.

Three-sectional staff; weapon that looks like a nunchaku with three sticks instead of two. 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 aspectstrying to make it a good mobile app – using HTML5, not a native app that’s restricted to just one platformtrying to make it a good mobile app – using HTML5, not a native app that’s restricted to just one platform 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.

Breaking My Silence

I must once again apologize for my long silence. The Saitekika campaign is a long and complicated one, and fighting it leaves me with little time to chronicle the happenings of each day.

There have been many, interminable meetings with Amon, Kento, Sakito, Makishi, and some of the representatives from Clan Hekoayu. Makishi and I, at the very least, continue to be unimpressed with Hekoayu’s plans. Last night, Sakito and I were at an inn with one of the clan’s Nichiren priestesses, and both of them also had criticisms of Hekoayu — and also of the overall planning of the entire campaign.

Clan Hekoayu has a reputation for being sage advisors and skilled artists. I have no idea how they have maintained this.

In between meetings, I have managed to perform some missions in the field. I have discovered that the Naihō Cadre is not an independent group. It is actually an offshoot of a large army called the Keiten Mokuba. Soon I will have to find ways to eliminate the Keiten Mokuba; with them gone, the Naihō will be demoralized, easy prey.

In the meantime, I have been battling a group called the Kakunenbo, and have cut them down to a shadow of their former might. Kento is pleased with my performance.

Tonight, there is a farewell enkaiA ceremonial drinking party, generally organized by a company or other organization. Though an enkai is done by and for the members of a given company, it’s not held in the company offices; envision a company-sponsored pub-crawl.

See more detailed descriptions of enkai.A ceremonial drinking party, generally organized by a company or other organization. Though an enkai is done by and for the members of a given company, it’s not held in the company offices; envision a company-sponsored pub-crawl. to commemorate the departure of Tamae, one of the Nichiren priestesses who is friendly and outgoing, and hence quite well loved here. She is going to join one of the larger clans of medics and healers in Kawachi, and she says she already has some ideas for how to help guide them in the paths of Righteousness. Later on, I understand Mitsubachi is sponsoring a nijikaiEnkais don’t always stay put. Sometimes they have a second, third, or even fourth phase. Something like an afterparty. A "nijikai" is the second phase of an enkai.Enkais don’t always stay put. Sometimes they have a second, third, or even fourth phase. Something like an afterparty. A "nijikai" is the second phase of an enkai. at an inn where everyone is expected to singkaraoke barkaraoke bar; the experience should be quite entertaining.

Catching Up

The past two weeks have been full of short missions to scout and kill enemy kama fighters, separated by long, long meetings to plan our strategies in the Saitekika campaign. At least one of these missions took me into Nagoya, the city of woe. But it turned out that I have learned much about Nagoya’s alleyways, and evading its security. Since my mission didn’t require me to sneak across the rooftops, it was easier than I expected.

I’m sure my next visit to that accursed city will be twice as troublesome, just to make up for it.

In the meantime, we are trying to find new ninjas to replace Ginsaku. There were two applicants who were barely competent. Then came one who was quite skilled, and who was a joy to spar with when we tested him. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow him to join our clan. Kento and I are both disappointed that he will not be able to fight alongside us.

Finally, yesterday, I tested a new fighter. At least, he claimed to be a fighter. When I asked him to describe the benefits and drawbacks of various fighting styles, he gave me only vague platitudes, like someone who has read about fighting but never entered real combat. When I asked him to demonstrate some simple kama kata, his motions were awkward and clumsy. I could not imagine how he might fare in a real fight — he would be at least as dangerous to his comrades as to any enemies.

I told him there was no point in continuing any further. We will have to keep searching for warriors who are actually useful in combat.