Excerpt From The Spirit Sorcerer

In just a few days, the latest book in the ever-expanding world of Yumihari arrives! The Spirit Sorcerer follows Masanori, one of the main characters from the Yokai Calling series, on his quest to right a wrong he made years ago when he accidentally released dozens of wicked spirits into his world. Only, while he’s been able to subdue most of the spirits who he’s crossed paths with, there is one he’s encountered several times and has so far eluded him.

The Spirit Sorcerer is the last planned novella before the upcoming Wyvern Wars Saga. It’ll be an exciting branch from this story to my next series, which begins releasing in 2023!

Thirty-six demons slain. And still, one eludes him…

Four years ago, Gensou Masanori accidentally released dozens of demons from the spirit realm into the real world. He’s spent as much time as possible hunting the demons and doing whatever necessary to set things right.

He cleanses their darkness if they let him.

If they refuse, he kills them.

Sending them back to the spirit realm where they belong.

But there’s one demon he’s spent the last four years chasing. The creature never fights back, but neither will he let Masanori purify his spirit.

So what does the demon want?

The Spirit Sorcerer is a fantasy tale filled with magic, monsters, and found family. This novella is a supplementary novella in the Yumihari World and can be enjoyed after reading the Yokai Calling series or on its own.

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Or… keep scrolling to read a sneak peek of the book!

Chapter 1

Morning dew coated the grass and foliage, dampening the cuffs of Masanori’s hide leggings and the bottom of his cloak as he crept through the underbrush. He followed the line of fresh tracks past the crumbling stone frame and spires of the ancient mountaintop palace. Masanori kept one hand on the quiver at his hip, silencing the rattling arrows as he stalked closer to his prey.

A branch cracked ahead, and he raised his bow, nocking an arrow and aiming at the shadow. He held the string, waiting for the moment he had a clear shot.

The figure came into view: a tiny red fox with gleaming green eyes and a shadow far too big for her size.

Masanori relaxed his bow, pointing the lax arrow at the ground as he slowly relieved the tension from the bow’s limbs. “Ichika! How many times do I have to tell you to stop shapeshifting while we’re hunting? Do you want to get killed?”

The fox’s ears drooped, and then in a poof of ivory and amber smoke, she shifted into a thirteen-year-old girl with wide, curious eyes. Her dark burgundy hair was curled into a knot behind her face, besides a few untamed curls, and her lips were set in an adorable pout that Masanori had valiantly attempted to learn not to fall for over the years.

“But I hunt better as a kitsune.” She pointed to her nose. “Better sense of smell. Besides, you wouldn’t hurt me, would you, napeyu?”

She weaselled through the bushes to attach herself to Masanori’s leg. It wasn’t long ago when she’d been small enough to ride on his foot, but she’d grown like a weed these past few years.

He mussed her hair. “I would recognize you anywhere, in any shape or form, but it’s not me I’m worried about. We aren’t the only ones who hunt out here.”

“But this is supposed to be my hunt. For my Path ceremony. I’m supposed to be in charge!”

The hunt wasn’t technically a part of Ishoki coming-of-age tradition. Still, it was in Seiryuu, and Masanori hadn’t been able to resist bringing a bit of his and Ichika’s old home into their new one. The elders wouldn’t say no when there were many mouths to feed, and Path ceremonies tended to bring out the ravenous hunger inside everyone.

So Masanori had snatched the opportunity to take Ichika for a hunt, a day for just the two of them—unless the other type of prey he was keeping his senses open for came into the open.

“Not at the expense of safety, little one,” Masanori said.

She crossed her arms. “I’m not little anymore.”

“I suppose you’re not.” A proud smile fell across Masanori’s lips. “A few more days, and you’ll be a young woman. All the more reason you should take this hunt seriously, hm? What will we eat at the celebration feast if we don’t return with a fresh kill?”

“Mist Falling is getting fat, juicy, and he’s a pain in my—”

Masanori struck the top of Ichika’s head with an arrow before she could finish the expletive. “Ah-ah, what have I told you about threatening to eat Kira’s dragon? If she hears you again, you know what’ll happen. Besides, what kind of dragon rider will you be if you’re always thinking of filling your belly with their meat?”

“It’s not all dragons! Mist Falling goes out of his way to eat my boots, and last week he knocked me off his back while we were a thousand miles above the Channel of Stars! Can you believe that?”

“Maybe he wouldn’t drop you from so high if you stopped threatening to make him your next meal. Although, if he let you hit the water from that high, it might be Kira turning him into dinner, not you.” Masanori chuckled and continued hiking farther up the mountain. “You’ll have to learn to work with the dragons’ different personalities if you want to make your mark as a dragon rider.”

She blew out an irritated breath, catching the loose hair around her face. “If you say so.”

“If you promise to try more with the dragons, and you’ll be more careful, I don’t see why you can’t read the tracks instead and show us where we’re meant to go.”

Her ears perked up. “Really?”

“Come on. Lead the way.”

Ichika bounded up the mountain path with a grin, Masanori trailing behind her. A gentle breeze teased the branches of the sparse trees standing sentry on the mountain’s western side. From this position, they could turn and witness the Skyfall to the south that tumbled from the cosmos, creating the impossible crystalline river that split two nations apart. And beyond, Seiryuu and the many forests, plains, and cities nestled within the land they’d once called home.

At sunrise, this peak beheld a view many would covet forever if they had the chance to stand on its precipice just once in their lives. Now, Masanori took those stunning gold and pink streaks across the sky for granted; the same view presented itself whenever he bothered to travel to the Downworld to watch.

Today he had other priorities besides waiting for the sun to creep from her resting place to illuminate the world.

“Slow down, Ichika. Go too fast, and you’ll alert the animals of our presence.”

She threw him a cheeky smile and stopped to wait for him. At the top, the towering remains of the Ryozan Palace spread around them like stone giants locked in place, their fingers decaying with age. Once, the colossal palace must have towered so high above the mountain it could be seen from the other end of Seiryuu.

Little more than the worn foundation and fragments of the lowest floors remained. Juniper had overgrown most of the palace, which had gone unoccupied since its destruction over 160 years ago.

The deer they were tracking wouldn’t have stopped here unless it was desperate, so he urged Ichika to carry on, prowling toward the next grove in the distance.

Quiet, indistinguishable murmurs echoed through the palace’s haunted halls. Ichika glanced back at him with a shrug, but she kept to Masanori’s side regardless. He let an arrow hang loose in his bow.

A rush of sound came from behind. They swung around in time to witness a leafy creature covered in vines clamber up a wall and disappear into a hole.

Masanori positioned himself in front of Ichika, though she had her hunting knife relaxed at her side, ready to strike if necessary.

Giggles echoed throughout the abandoned palace, and then a stone brick crumbled from the remains of a corner ceiling. A startled shriek came, followed by the resounding thud of the brick hitting the ancient floor and smashing.

The dust settled, and then silence.

Masanori’s shoulders relaxed. He slid his nocked arrow back into the quiver. “Just a lost forest spirit, I think.”

“I hope so.” Ichika’s ears shivered as she clutched Masanori’s leg. “I don’t want to run into any more demons.”

The top of the Konarerian Mountains around the Skyfall was one of the most haunted places in Seiryuu, filled with yōkai and spirits, both malicious and otherwise. Most of the time, they didn’t bother Ichika and Masanori. Though not born Ishoki, Masanori, Ichika, and Kira were accepted by them and the spirits as their family.

That didn’t mean they didn’t have to pass through with care, however.

Ichika was quiet compared to her usual chatty self; usually, he had to shush her every few minutes and remind her not to speak too loud and scare away the game animals. Masanori had an inkling as to why her lips were shut, so he let the silence extend as long as she needed.

The deer tracks had disappeared through most of the stone ground, but Ichika spotted hoofprints here and there in the mud that ensured that they were still on the right trail. They maneuvered around the juniper trees and the uneven stone walls. They had to be coming upon the beast soon, but they seemed to be walking on forever.

“I don’t think I want to become a dragon rider.” Ichika broke the silence while Masanori studied a tricky set of imprints in the dirt, where several animals had crossed. Only a few of the tracks were recent. “I know it’s what I’ve been training for, and it’s what Kira wants for me, but—”

“What Kira wants doesn’t matter,” Masanori interrupted. “This is your life, your choice. You are the one who must live the path you choose. Do not allow yourself to linger on any regrets, like I have.”

“But I want to be a ki-engineer like you!”

“Shhh.”

Ichika flicked her fox ears in annoyance and carried on in a quieter voice, “You can’t tell me ki-engineering isn’t your passion, your life’s work, what you wish you could have spent your whole life doing.”

“When I was your age, all I wanted was to become a warrior. It was unfathomable to me that I would be stuck in the laboratory, slaving away in service to engineers who believed they were better than me because I didn’t have ki. It wasn’t until I had the chance to pursue the life I thought I wanted that I realized I couldn’t give up my toolbelt. It had become a part of me.”

“Just as it has become a part of me now. Don’t you see? Rather than wasting my time with a sword in hand, I’d rather put my mind to use. That’s what I want, napeyu. I want to create. I want to improve the world.”

“Invent. Iterate. Improve,” Masanori recited.

“Exactly! I don’t want to… to…”

“To prepare for war?”

Ichika shook her head. “It’s not war that I’m afraid of. I understand it’s going to happen in the Downworld. Within the next few years, conflict will spark and blaze for many cycles. I’m not naïve to believe it’s avoidable or that the Nightmare and those like us who live there would be immune to the effects of war.

“But… I’m not meant to be on the front lines, napeyu. I have everything you wanted when you were my age, but I’m not a warrior. That’s all. Kira wants me to be like her. I’m not her. I’m… me.”

Masanori had been expecting Ichika to defect from the dragon riders for some time. Even after preparing for the possibility for months, he still preferred to avoid inserting himself into the struggle that would erupt between the two women. Still, he couldn’t in good conscience allow Kira to steer Ichika in the wrong direction, even if she only did so with good intentions.

Although Kira and Masanori weren’t Ichika’s real parents, they had become her family. He considered Ichika his daughter even though he should have been more like a big brother, seeing he was only eleven years older than her. As she grew up, in a way, he became a bit of both where she allowed him to.

Now, he sensed she was looking for more guidance than he could provide in either role.

“You’re perfect just as you are, my precious naguku. I wouldn’t change you for the world, nor would Kira.” But, knowing that wouldn’t be enough for her, he added, “If you feel that ki-engineering is right for you, then that’s the decision you need to make. But you must also understand Kira’s perspective.”

Ichika led the way through the thicket as she’d picked up the deer’s trail on the other side of the palace ruins, heading straight toward the clumps of yew that broke up the juniper. Her ears twitched in concentration as she listened for signs of their target, but Masanori knew she was also listening to him.

“She worked hard to be accepted by the Ishoki and to find her place amongst the dragon riders,” Ichika said. “I’m lucky. I’m grateful for everything she’s done for me. But …”

But she has every right to be worried about the uncertain future ahead of us. You must know how to protect yourself.”

“I’ve been training with knife and bow since I was nine. I’ll never take to the sword, the naginata, or any other weapon like that.”

“Never say never. What about a staff?”

Ichika grunted.

The weapon choice wasn’t her point, but she should have known better than to use an absolute with Masanori. If it were up to him, he would encourage her to pursue both paths. Despite bemoaning how aggravating dragons could be, Ichika had a gentle heart, and dragons gravitated toward her as a result. But he hesitated to guide her in a direction that would cause her more hardship if the third possible route wasn’t an absolute necessity.

“In any case,” Masanori said, “it’s okay to have a specialty, and it’s okay to prefer being a supporting party rather than the one charging into the thick of battle. We need archers and majyu, too. You could employ your ki-engineering knowledge that way.”

“Tell that to Kira, would you?”

“I will.”

“Not that it would be enough to convince her that I’m not meant to be a dragon rider like her.”

Masanori nodded. “It’s not every day that someone who doesn’t want to be a dragon rider is picked by her very own pup. Aurora Borealis knew you would be her rider before she could open her eyes.”

“It’s not fair to her that I’m not sure what I want to do.” Ichika reached over her shoulder to unhook her bow, averting her eyes from Masanori. “Shouldn’t she belong with someone who wants to spend all their time in the sky with her? Not someone who spends half their time itching to be in a brightly lit workshop with enchanted rocks and metals?”

“I believe she chose you because she knows exactly who you are and who you will become. Dragons are far wiser than we are, after all. What if she doesn’t plan on being a battle mount like her brothers and sisters? You never know.”

Ichika didn’t seem to take him too seriously, but his silly comments at least earned a small smile from her. “You’re making it sound like she plans on being lazy when she grows up.”

“Are you going to let her be?”

“I can’t control a dragon, I’m—” Ichika let out a tiny gasp. “Look.”

A buck feasted on the lowest branches of a yew tree. The six points of his antlers stood tall and proud above his head, a mighty rack for the bulky creature that he was. He stopped munching on the succulent leaves to stare directly at Ichika.

She raised her bow to take aim, and he didn’t move.

It was a challenge. An acceptance of his fate. As though he was telling her, I am prepared to take this final path in life—are you?

The buck didn’t acknowledge Masanori, yet the deer had a weighty presence that made him shiver. Through all the natural spiritual energy winding through the bushes and trees in these sacred, haunted lands, he had hardly noticed the eerie sense of being watched by a familiar spirit.

A subtle teal flicker flashed across the buck’s otherwise dark eyes. Masanori flung his arm out to stop Ichika from loosing her arrow. “Wait, don’t—”

But it was too late. Just before he grabbed the bow, Ichika released the arrow. It whizzed through the air, a nearly invisible streak of wood and feathers as it quickened toward the buck.

“What was that for?” Ichika scowled. “You almost ruined my kill.”

The animal stayed in place, staring death in the eye. When the arrow was only a foot away from his face, the arrow exploded in a shower of turquoise light. Malevolent laughter echoed through the trees as the sudden fluctuations caused the arrow’s remains to sail in different directions.

One part flew back toward Masanori and Ichika, a deadly arrow streaking toward them.

Masanori grabbed Ichika and shoved her aside. The cracked arrow shaft hammered into the dirt where they’d been standing seconds before.

Fragments of the arrow scattered, embedding the dirt near the initial explosion, but the tip still sailed toward its mark. Turquoise and black light erupted from the deer’s hide, and his antlers extended higher toward the sky as magnificent, ghostly appendages Masanori had seen far too many times for comfort throughout the last few years.

The spiritual essence bleeding from the deer became a many-tooth maw. “Aww,” the malicious and yet playful voice moaned in disappointment, “you always have to ruin my tricks, Masa!

The spirit flitted up and away. A split second later, the other half of Ichika’s arrow thunked right into the buck’s eye, killing him instantly.

He slumped into the grass, his other eye glassy and absent.

“Spirits,” Ichika murmured. “Was that buck possessed?”

An excellent shot, Masanori would have told her if he wasn’t already on the move, the deer, and the ceremony they needed the meal for all but forgotten. He picked Ichika up and planted her in the bushes.

“Stay here. Keep your eyes and ears open. Stay hidden if you can,” was all he offered Ichika before leaving her crouched there.

“Napeyu?” she called after him. “Where are you going? Masa!”

“I’ll be back in a minute! Don’t go anywhere!”

He hurried in the direction the spirit had disappeared in, determined to put an end to the creature that had haunted him for the last two years.

***

You can pre-order the book to read it on launch day on October 14th…

Pre-Order Now

I can’t wait for you to see the whole book. It’s a wild ride!

By the way, if you’re curious about what changed in this version compared to the previous version of this first chapter, you can read an earlier draft here. Mind you, this other post doesn’t show the whole first chapter, and most of the changes were made near the end of the chapter… but it’s always fascinating to me to see how a story evolves over time!

—Erynn

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Writing it was… incredible. The story just flowed out in a nearly complete form with just a snap of my fingers, like the fountain of knowledge was gushing out of my brain and into my fingers. Everything fell into place with ease, with only 1 or 2 points where I had to stop and think about a solution to a problem… that was usually solved within minutes of concentration!

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