Posts Tagged ‘mystical stuff’

A Chance Meeting With a Face From the Past

Monday, April 30th, 2012

An interesting thing happened to me a few days ago. As I was returning home from Castle Noriaibasha, I was passing by an inn. A wagon had stopped in front of it, and some happy young people were disembarking from it and collecting their luggage from the back. Other people had just come out of the inn. I don’t know if the travelers were their relatives, or close friends, but they were all obviously very happy to see each other.

They were hugging each other hello, smiling and laughing. Their good cheer was infectious; I felt my own mouth turn up into a huge smile, and I was glad of it.

Then Yutaka, the head of Clan Tenya, came strolling by.

I nodded in silent greeting to him, and he to me. I was happy enough that my smile did not falter. And shortly afterward, I realized that I was very glad that Yutaka had seen me in such a happy state. I want to be sure he does not have the option of wondering if I am forlorn or miserable since leaving Clan Tenya. I want to be sure he knows I have no regrets whatsoever about my departure, and that everything about my life is better now.

This desire is petty, I know. Caring even one bit about what Yutaka thinks is an attachment, of the kind that monks sensibly counsel us all to avoid. Nonetheless, I am human, not a Bodhisattva or saint. I know what I felt, and I will not deny it.

The Changing Time

Monday, March 12th, 2012

The Emperor, in his great wisdom, has decreed that the sun shall rise (and set) one hour later every day. Since the Emperor is divine, and descended from the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, his decree has actually come true, and the sun has been altered in its course.

This is very confusing to everyone in Kansai. It is difficult to get up in the morning, and difficult to get to sleep in the evening.

For a ninja such as myself, who often dwells in darkness and often has trouble waking early in the morning, this is doubly troubling. I barely managed to drag myself from my bed this morning, and of course, I arrived at Castle Noriaibasha even later than usual. I am very lucky there were no appointments or meetings that I needed to attend.

Akane is also greatly displeased by this. I have heard from many others of my friends, bemoaning the change. Surely, the Emperor must have a good reason for such a strange decree, but it is beyond my limited, mortal comprehension.

In the meantime, the animals go on, unaffected. I see why the sages seek to emulate their wisdom.

The Reconsecration of the Shrine, and the Last Days of the Teitōken Campaign

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Akane and I have successfully reconsecrated the shrine of Inari. We have even strung a new shimenawaA consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. Usually hung with holy paper streamers.

As usual, Wikipedia has more information, including some pictures.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. around the premises.

Happily, we were done in time to visit the wonderful local restaurant, which makes some of the best okonomiyakiSomething like a cross between a pancake, an omelet, and a pizza. Flat, fried batter with meat and vegetables mixed in, and sauces on top.Something like a cross between a pancake, an omelet, and a pizza. Flat, fried batter with meat and vegetables mixed in, and sauces on top. 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.

Almost Ready to Reconsecrate the Shrine

Monday, July 25th, 2011

I have begun making preparations to re-consecrate the shrine of Inari in Hoshiakari. It will be a difficult task, for I am not truly a priest. But as one who was once a 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., I have some understanding of mystical matters… and then there are the skills of a ninja, which involve some techniques that touch upon the spirit world.

Most important, Akane will be assisting me. Her help is always invaluable.

I will leave Ichimen earlier than usual tomorrow, so that the reconsecration can be done at sundown. The entire shrine will have to be cleansed, purified, fumigated with holy incense, and consecrated anew.

And I am bringing both a bō staffA fighting staff, generally about six feet long. Similar to the European quarterstaff. Often carried by mountain men and travellers as well as dedicated warriors.A fighting staff, generally about six feet long. Similar to the European quarterstaff. Often carried by mountain men and travellers as well as dedicated warriors. and a jō stickA shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.A shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior., to be prepared for any type of yōkaiAny supernatural creature. Includes ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, spirits, possessed objects, and so on.Any supernatural creature. Includes ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, spirits, possessed objects, and so on. that might try to thwart this last ceremony. I may not use metal weapons in the shrine, but I have been practicing my jō moves, and I feel confident that I will be able to do whatever becomes necessary.

Afterward, Akane and I hope to refresh ourselves with a celebratory meal at a restaurant near the shrine. It is very tasty, but we hardly ever get to go there, being too busy with the shrine itself.

Unexpected Victory at the Shrine

Monday, June 20th, 2011

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 oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness. 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 staffA shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior.A shorter version of the bō staff, only about 4 feet long. Often used as a walking stick by travellers in the wilderness or mountains, but can be a surprisingly effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior., 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 duplicitythis one seems to have gotten in using a password that was part of the enormous Gawker password leak last Decemberthis one seems to have gotten in using a password that was part of the enormous Gawker password leak last December, 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.

A Foul Ending to My Week

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

On Thursday afternoon, I was busy in Ichimen when I received an urgent message from one of the Nichiren priests. He and Haruna and some of the others had come across a problem in the ongoing Kanezukai campaign. I had fought in the early stages of that campaign, back in the fall. They needed my help with an enemy lurking in ancient, cramped Fujiwara-kyō. The time I had to spend on that was time I couldn’t spend in Ichimen on the Teitōken campaign.

That may be part of why I got to the castle on Friday morning to find a message from Seijun, asking: “There are still a great many Ayamari in the city walls of Ichimen. Are you having trouble? Do you require aid?”

This is not the first time he or Kento has asked me if I needed assistance with this phase of the campaign. But this time, I found that even more of them had flooded into the city since I left on Thursday night. I finally gave in and said yes, please send another ninja to help.

After a while, Kento showed up with Satonori, and instructed me to give Satonori a quick orientation in the streets and alleys of Ichimen. The rooftops are somewhat more complex terrain, so he will be handling 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. work on the ground while I deal with the remaining chain-wielding enemies. If the situation is still dire on Monday, Kento will see if Haruna can assist us, too.

Did that resolve matters? It turns out — no, it did not.

As I was battling on the rooftops of Ichimen, a message came from Hoshiakari: The shrine of Amaterasu was under attack, yet again, by the usual oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness.. Yes, in broad daylight. The creature is becoming bolder!

There was nothing I could do while busy fighting on Clan Noriaibasha’s behalf. The news simply weighed on my mind until sundown, when I left to go home. Akane and I went to the shrine in the dead of the night, surprising the monster with the suddenness and fury of our attack in the rainstorm that was going on.

As usual, the oni escaped at the last moment. I must find a way to purify the shrine once and for all!

In the meantime, this week has been long and difficult, and I am a very tired ninja.

Misfortune Takes Me By Surprise

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I was right to be worried about misfortune yesterday… I was simply wrong about just what shape the misfortune would take.

My demonstration was not a failure. Not a great success, either, for there were so many things to show that we ran out of time, and I will have to schedule a second session. But certainly, it was more of a success than a failure.

Unfortunately, many other things yesterday were failures. In particular, I discovered that there has been a massive incursion of Ayamari into Ichimen. The messages from the Sōtō Zen monks had not been reaching me. Someone within Clan Noriaibasha has made a grave mistake, but tracking down the culprit will have to wait. First, we must retake the city.

And, while I was busily trying to curb the Ayamaris’ numbers, I received a message from Hoshiakari: More trouble in the shrine of Amaterasu. Once again, I had to cancel a dinner with Akane and go deal with the hateful oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness.’s mischief.

This time, however, Akane offered to come with me. Even if we didn’t have the dinner we’d been hoping for, we did get to spend some time together. With her help, driving away the demon was even easier than usual.

But still, this situation cannot continue. We must find a way to kill the thing.

The Return of the Oni… Again

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

I received a message from General Wāro recently, asking if I would give a good report about him to a clan that is considering taking him in. I told him that of course I would do so. On Tuesday night, I was supposed to receive a messenger from his prospective new clan, who would ask me my impressions of the General.

Instead — as readers of my brief messages will already know — a runner came from the other side of Hoshiakari. “There is trouble in the shrine!”, he cried. “Noise and disturbance! Can you help?”

So, instead of dinner with Akane, I laced up my tabithe split-toed boots commonly worn by ninjasthe split-toed boots commonly worn by ninjas and rushed through the woodsIt’d be nice if I could find some colo space for my server that isn’t 50 miles away. Rebooting it when it’s hung is a chore, but traveling all that way makes it so much worse.It’d be nice if I could find some colo space for my server that isn’t 50 miles away. Rebooting it when it’s hung is a chore, but traveling all that way makes it so much worse. to the shrine. I hoped to find nothing more than a few bandits — or, even better, perhaps a vagrant simply looking for food. But in my heart, I knew better.

Sure enough, the oni had returned. The same one who bedeviled us last September, and then again in November. It crouched in the doorway, grinning foully at me.

And of course, not being a priest, I had no o-fudaShinto talismans against evil. They are shaped like tall rectangles, either made of stone or of paper, and have kanji written on them. If you have a paper o-fuda, sticking it to the forehead of a supernatural creature is a powerful attack against it, and may even stop it in its tracks.Shinto talismans against evil. Little paper rectangles with kanji written on them, like mini-scrolls. Sticking one to the forehead of a supernatural creature is a powerful attack against it, and may even stop it in its tracks.. All I could do was attack with my ninja skills.

It threw off my chain with a laugh, and nearly clubbed me in the heart as I scrambled to dodge. A few quick acrobatic rolls got me out of range of its next few strikes, and I tried my ninja-tōThe short sword most associated with ninjas. Note that unlike the katana and wakizashi carried by samurai, the ninja-tō was straight rather than curved. It was roughly the length of a wakizashi.

The ninja-tō was also generally of inferior workmanship compared to the more expensive blades available to samurai. Even if a ninja could acquire a katana, it would be too long and unwieldy to carry on most missions; ninja generally relied on smaller weapons like the shuriken and manrikigusari, and on more deniable weapons like the kama.

“Ninja-ken” is another perfectly acceptable name for this weapon; it’s like the difference between saying “ninja blade” and “ninja sword” in English.The short sword most associated with ninjas. Note that unlike the katana and wakizashi carried by samurai, the ninja-tō was straight rather than curved. Also known as a “ninja-ken”.. No use. I managed to use 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. to cut a mostly-straight branch from a nearby tree and use it as a bō staffA fighting staff, generally about six feet long. Similar to the European quarterstaff. Often carried by mountain men and travellers as well as dedicated warriors.A fighting staff, generally about six feet long. Similar to the European quarterstaff. Often carried by mountain men and travellers as well as dedicated warriors.. That at least gave me enough reach to stay out of the huge monster’s range.

The battle was long and gruelingEven once I got the server restarted, there was still some trouble with email and spam-filtering services.Even once I got the server restarted, there was still some trouble with email and spam-filtering services., but eventually I managed a solid strike against its wrist, and it dropped its club. As I assailed it with blows about the shoulders, it roared and then fled off into the night.

I must find a way to kill it, once and for all.

Is the Oni Gone?

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Shhhhhhh. Don’t look now, but…

Since the battle I fought with the oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness. last week, I have woken up every morning to find the shrine of Amaterasu unmolested.

It was quite a vicious battle, with the oni swinging at me with its iron-shod, studded club nearly as large as I am. It took all my agility to dodge and avoid being struck; even a half-dodged blow would have broken a leg or arm and left me at the oni’s mercy. I threw shuriken for all I was worth, and attacked relentlessly with the bits of ShugendōThe mystical path or religion practiced by the yamabushi.The mystical path or religion practiced by the yamabushi. I remembered.

I did manage to strike it a few times, and it bellowed in pain.

When it ran off, I saw that it was bleeding. The next morning, Akane helped me clean away the monster’s blood and re-purify the area around the shrine before stringing a new shimenawaA consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. Usually hung with holy paper streamers.

As usual, Wikipedia has more information, including some pictures.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism..

There has been no sign of it since. Do I dare to hope that the fiend will never return?

Waiting at the Shrine by Nightfall

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The shrine of Amaterasu needs reconsecration. The oniA supernatural creature. Usually translated into English simply as “demon”, but oni combine aspects of demons and ogres. Like Western demons, they have horns on their head and colored skin (generally red or blue). They also have sharp teeth, which may be fangs or tusks. Like ogres, they live in mountains and wilderness places, and are generally depicted as being larger than human scale (generally about 8-12 feet tall). They usually carry long clubs with studded iron on the striking end, and are sometimes dressed in animal-skin loincloths.Often translated as “demon”, but also similar to an ogre: Humanoid, generally 8-12 feet tall, with red or blue skin, horns on its head, fangs or tusks, and a large, iron-shod club. Usually lives in mountains and wilderness.’s depredations have not been good for the shrine’s harmony and purity. I have hung a new shimenawaA consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. Usually hung with holy paper streamers.

As usual, Wikipedia has more information.A consecrated rope used to wrap and delimit holy ground in Shintoism. around the shrine, and there have been no new footprints over the past few nights… but there are the marks of an iron club on one of the nearby trees.

The local shrine-maiden is sweeping the floor and burning incense. I will hope that this is enough. If not… I shall have to do battle in the dark of night, against a mighty foe.