Chapter 1 – Prologue
Author: My name is Aoeh
This will be the first time I’ve written a story this long.
The story may involve a bit of yuri, violence, and cruelty.
You have been warned.
“… Be thou Mutou Jinnai-dono?”
Under the midday sun, a woman dressed in a typical ninja uniform greeted the ronin-looking man walking on the highway by the outskirts of town, haired in a knot.
“Quick on uptake, admirable. Then nothing more need be said… I shall be claiming that head.”
The woman bent forward ever so slightly, gripping her shortsword4 in reverse, and rushed at the ronin.
“As if I would hand it so easily!”
He drew out his katana into a slash to intercept the woman’s shortsword. As the blades clashed, not the high-pitched screech of grinding metal but—
A disappointingly faint click could be heard instead.
“And that concludes the sword battle performance for this afternoon’s segment.”
The announcement managed to make its way in as far as the female staff room in the ninja mansion where I taking my break. I nodded and said, “And with that, today’s work is over.”
After double-checking the closing hours, I took my hood and headband off and hung them on the hook inside my locker.
Normally, wearing these pitch-black ninja clothes from sunrise till sunset would be highly impractical. What’s more, catching whiff of the news that a shinobi was approaching a samurai in broad daylight for a duel would cause any real shinobi to writhe in their graves. But if it was for visitor event for a tourist attraction, then it’s a different story.
Our small village, or rather tourist attraction, was located in Niigata Prefecture somewhere between Joetsu and Itoigawa. This ghost town, whittled away by depopulation chip by chip and but a hair’s breadth away from complete desertion, decided to rebrand itself as a ninja village to attract the youth and tourists in an attempt to revitalize itself.
Though our main sell was of course seeing ninjas, it wasn’t as if we had made them up and had no history of actual ninjas. This area used to be under the domain of the daimyo Uesugi Kenshin. And legends have it that the Nokigiru, a group rumoured to serve under the daimyo Kenshin as a secret intelligence agency, once resided here.
Two years ago, I, Kagura Shino (now 21), had been searching for a job in Niigata city since graduating from high school when I received news that my hometown had reinvent itself as a ninja village. Rejecting any pending tentative job offers, I returned to my hometown.
Now one might wonder why a young lass full of future would jump at the opportunity to work at ninja village. But even in a nothing-to-do village like my hometown, as its one saving grace, I still looked back fondly on watching the rebroadcasts of the historical dramas like Mitou Koumon5 and Hissatsu Shigotonin6 with my grandfather.
And to me who, like grandfather, like granddaughter, had proceeded smoothly down the path set from youth to become a full-fledged historical drama nerd, this news and working here were godsend.
“Kagura-san, I’ll be heading back first~,” said Kai through the door, one of the part-timers who had acted out the sword battle earlier with me.
I ought to have a word with him, coming all the way to the women’s changing room, where someone just might be changing, only to say goodbye, but I guess I couldn’t really blame him as there was severe lack of young women in the village. If someone of even my looks is getting attention, I probably should cut him some slack.
“Well, putting that aside…”
I took out my smartphone out of the locker and started up an app.
Sengoku’s Ambition Online
An online game set in fictional Japan at the time of Sengoku era, the Warring States period. Although the phone version was released only recently, I had transferred my account and characters from the PC version, which I had already sank a lot of time into, so my level was quite high.
Level 85 ninja, level 76 exorcist, level 60 blacksmith, and level 77 herbalist.
One was allowed up to four characters per account. All of my characters were well past the so-called “master level” of 50. Because I had my blacksmith, I never ran into issues when it came to gearing everyone out. Even in a one-on-one fight with a boss class like those of Nobunaga or Ieyasu, I was confident I could win. But in actuality, I would have had to deal with those annoying minions that come with bosses so genuinely doing such a thing wasn’t realistic.
“Well then, which one you lovelies should play as today~”
Regardless of the character, I had decided to name each using my real name Kagura Shino. Because it by itself already sounded somewhat old-fashioned, I thought it surprisingly fit the aesthetic of the world quite well.
“Kunoichi-chan it is!”7
As I touched my phone to tap the picture of my kunoichi—
Just like that, the phone began to suck in my finger.
1 Ronin, a type of samurai. In this case it is not modern use to refer to a salaryman in transitional unemployment or student that failed exams for the next tier of education, but is reference to master-less travelling samurai vagrants.
2 In the feudal era assassins were generally referred to as ninjas, whereas Shinobi were specifically those that practiced Ninjutsu, the way of the ninja.
3 Eichigo is also the old name of Niigata Prefecture, where the real world portion of this story is set.
4 The shortsword is actually a toutasu, a single- or double-edged dagger typically used by samurai.
5 Mito Koumon is a period drama that first aired in 1969–1975 for 1227 episodes and named after the titular protagonist. It is an alternate name for Tokugawa Mitsukuni andis also the name of several other films and series.
7 Kunoichi is a more modern term for female ninjas; ‘ninja’ itself is not gender specific. It is said to derive from breaking up the character for woman 女 into the three recognizable constituent strokes くノ一 (in the correct stroke order) which is read as ku-no-ichi.