Archive for October, 2010

Rescuing a Fellow Warrior

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I received word from Kento: Another of Noriaibasha’s warriors, named Makishi, is having some trouble in the important city of Heian-kyō. I was dispatched to aid him.

I found him beset by a trio of enemies. He was making a good account of himself against two of them, but three-on-one seemed too much for him. So I sneaked up behind the one in the green kimono and slit his throat with 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.

A kick in the small of another one’s back sent him off-balance, onto the tip of Makishi’s blade. Then Makishi was able to make short work of the remaining one on his own.

Domo arigatōJapanese for "Thank you very much"Japanese for "Thank you very much",” he said, bowing, and I told him, “Think nothing of it. Always happy to help,” before heading back to the castle.

Makishi has more to do in the field, but my day is nearly done. Soon, I get to leave and meet Akane for dinner — always a fun treat!

The Kanezukai Campaign Ends in Triumph

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

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 temperMy smartphone’s got some kind of battery problem, and won’t hold a charge any more. I need to get it repaired or replaced.My smartphone’s got some kind of battery problem, and won’t hold a charge any more. I need to get it repaired or replaced. 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.

Kanezukai Campaign Nearly Done

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

The Kanezukai campaign is coming to a close. I have made Risako very happy by slaying a great many enemies in Nara, the ancient city, and also throughout Izumi Province. Today, she is coordinating messages with our major in the field, who will be dealing with the peasants of the captured territories tomorrow.

There is still a nest of opposition in tight-walled, small-streeted Fujiwara-kyō. I will probably not have the time to eradicate them before our final push tomorrow. Today is too busy with interviewing a 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.
who the Shomei-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. thinks would be a good fit for placement with Clan Noriaibasha, and with a meeting with Jōji, the priest in charge of the Kirin-dō project.

We will have to hope that the opponents in Fujiwara-kyō cannot stop our assault. I have worries, but they are minor.

The People of Clan Noriaibasha

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Now that I have settled in at Clan Noriaibasha, I should describe some of the other clan members. I cannot describe them all, for Noriaibasha is a mighty clan of thousands, but here are the ones I work with most often:

My captain is Kento, a ninja who is climbing in rank, and may be on his way to becoming a higher-level officer. I report to him on a regular basis. He assigns me duties, and I carry them out.

I and Kento and everyone under him report to Tsukimi, a Nichiren priestess of pleasant demeanor. She is in command of a platoon called the Keitai Team, which is theoretically assigned to activities in Kusatsu and its immediate environs — but in practice, we members of Kento’s squad perform operations all over Kansai.

There are a great many rooms, halls, and dōjōs within Castle Noriaibasha, and each clan member is assigned to one or another. This gives us a place to keep our uniforms, weapons, and whatever other tools we need to carry out our duties. (Just as we ninjas need a place to store our black outfits, masks, and shuriken, the priests must have a place for their robes and incense.)

I am assigned to a chamber with four others. (Like me, the others are assigned to Noriaibasha by other clansoutside contractorsoutside contractors.) Nearest me is Ginsaku, another ninja with urban fighting skills who started at Noriaibasha one week after me. There are also Fumiaki, a priest of the Shoshū Buddhist order, and Chifumi, who is a junior priestess of the Tendai sect. Finally, another Shoshū priest named Jōichi is assigned to our chamber, but is often away at his devotions, or conferring with abbots and nobles.

Two other warriors on the Keitai Team are Akinori, a seasoned samurai who is skilled with both long and short swords, and Riki, an enthusiastic and likable young fighter who is generally assigned to Kusatsu.

There are a great many other priests and priestesses who guide various campaigns, and my assignments keep me constantly moving among them. This month, I am most busy with the Kanezukai campaign, which is headed by a woman named Risako. As I have already written, she and I have similar ideas about Harmony and the treatment of peasants, and we already have a strong working relationship.

Finally, I must mention Taka, the servant woman who works with the clan’s supplies and organization division. It is a mistake to think that servants are of no consequence.

Without her, who would clean my soiled ninja uniforms after a hard day’s fighting? Who would supply the tea that do many of us drink in such quantity? (Truly, I have noted that Clan Noriaibasha has quite excellent tea supplies.) And when we need to send messages, who would bring paper, brush-pens, and inkwells?

The “lowly” positions are ones without which any organization would collapse in days, just as the peasants include the garners who produce the food that feeds everyone in Nihon — even the Emperor himself. The list of Noriaibasha’s people would be incomplete without mentioning Taka.

I Thought I Would Be “Just a Cog”, But…

Friday, October 1st, 2010

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 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.
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.