The third prize in the “Voice of the Jewel” Paperback launch Competition is the entire “Sword, Mirror, Jewel” series in ebook form!
Seventeen-year-old Reiko Bergman just wants to fit in. Being half-Japanese and half-American is challenging enough in modern Tokyo, a city where obscure traditions collide with futuristic technology, and where even the ground beneath your feet can betray you. But then her boyfriend Hideaki undergoes a bizarre personality change and develops supernatural powers; a samurai-sorceress forces her way into the Bergman family’s house as part of a mysterious quest; and Reiko discovers an otherworldly portal in the oldest part of Tokyo – a shattered dimensional gateway, releasing creatures from Japanese mythology into our reality.
Reiko’s world has changed forever, and in the war breaking out in the shadows of Tokyo, she and her friends will have to figure out which side they’re on … before it’s too late!
EXCERPT TWO FROM BOOK ONE, “VOICE OF THE SWORD”:
ATTACK OF THE LIGHT-EATERS!
While I’d been reading this, the display dimmed. I pressed the button to lighten the screen, but it didn’t make any difference. My eyes, I thought, they’re getting tired. I shouldn’t force myself to keep reading. But I still had that homework to do . . .
At the corner of my eyes, the shadows in my bedroom hardened and deepened. I switched on the lamp next to my bed. It didn’t seem to make any difference to the sudden gloom. I rubbed my eyes, sat back in my chair . . .
And that’s when I saw it. Huge, alien, revolting, and in my room. A swirling, undulating, mass of tentacles floating above me, covering the ceiling, its arms writhing and looping around each other and around the central featureless blob that was its head.
It was alive. I knew, somehow, it was alive.
The pane of glass in the bedroom window flashed electric blue and a woman suddenly leaped down onto my carpet, standing right in front of me, a blurred image in a long kimono, a striking and ferocious face, long black hair.
The woman stood over me, holding a long staff upright. A staff tipped with a crystal blade that shone with a deep, smoldering light, slicing through the darkness congesting the bedroom air.
She shouted something, it didn’t even sound like words. I saw the nest of tentacles heave and twist like they were in pain. The woman shouted again, and thrust the staff upwards until it almost touched the ceiling. The creature gave off this hissing sound, and then it began to sink, like water being sucked down a drain, its tentacles writhing faster and faster as it got smaller and smaller. Finally, it shot sideways to a crack in the plaster between the ceiling and the floor, and like a wisp of smoke, it was gone. It left nothing behind but a faint smell like raw garbage.
The light in my bedroom suddenly flicked back to its former brightness. There was an empty, ringing hush, like the sound of someone holding their breath. The disgusting thing had disappeared – but the woman still stood, solid and real, in the middle of my bedroom.
“Wh-wh-what was that?” I finally stammered.
“It is one of a race of beings known as the Tenjoname.” The woman’s voice was cool, clear and assured. The voice of someone who knew what they were talking about. Even floating octopus things that crept into a person’s house at night.
“And who are you?” was my next question.
“I am Gyouten Sama-no-kami Sasaki-no-Ason Chiyoko, from the nation of Yamataikoku.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to process all that.
“And you are?”
“Reiko. You’re in my house, you know. Well, my grandparent’s house. What are you doing here?”
“Looking for that. I followed it across this city.”
I swallowed. I felt faint as I lowered myself into my chair. “So what was that – thing – doing in my room?”
“It is an assassin. It drains the light from an area and uses the darkness to strangle its victim.”
“Oh, I see,” I said lamely. I was trying to speak in a normal voice, but everything came out creaky and high-pitched.
“I have not much time,” she said. “Tell me exactly what you were doing when the Tenjoname attacked.”
“Reading this.” I turned the computer screen around so she could read it.
“Tengoku-Kui,” I heard her mutter to herself. “Of course.” She turned her attention to me again. “The Tenjoname followed you home. Where had you been before this?”
“A f-friend’s house,” I stammered.
“Did anything happen at your friend’s house? Anything unusual?”
So I told her what had happened to Hideaki. Then I suddenly realized what she reminded me of. She was dressed like a Miko, one of the ladies who sell charms and talismans in the shrines. She wasn’t wearing a kimono, but a quilted green and black robe over black pants, sandals on her feet. The robe was covered with a design of highly detailed interlocking wheels. A chain of gold and silver amulets glittered at her neck.
After my explanation stammered to a halt, she bowed, nodded and turned towards the window. “I must leave. The Tenjoname will not trouble you again, do not fear.”
“Wait!” I called. “What’s going on? You break in to our house looking like some kind of cosplay fanatic and just interrogate me, I mean, who are you? Where are you from?”
“At the moment, I am the only one who can help your friend Hideaki,” she said in a voice that made me shut up and sit down again. “Now go back to your textbooks, forget about me and forget about the Tenjoname. Tell no one what you saw.”
Something in the back of my mind registered the sound of a door sliding open on its runners downstairs. “Reiko?” Sure enough, here came Grandma’s voice.“ Reiko, have you got a friend up there?”
The woman coiled herself to spring, like a cat, and jumped up towards the window. Her body, with the hair and the dress flowing behind her, made contact with the glass and went through it, like it was water, and she disappeared, ripples trembling out to the edges of the windowpane.
“You can’t do that,” I remember saying to myself. That’s just … wrong.”
My hands were shaking. Maybe I’d fallen asleep browsing the net: I pinched myself. Sure enough, it hurt, and the room stayed the way it was, the weird shimmering on the windowpane slowly fading away.
“Reiko!” came the voice again, up a few degrees of petulance.
I ran over to the door and pulled it open. “Sorry,” I yelled downstairs. “Did I disturb you?”
“I thought I heard two voices,” Grandma called, sounding a bit puzzled.
So the woman wasn’t a hallucination! “No, just me. I was listening to … a voice memo. I recorded myself dictating the term papers, you see. It’s a new smartphone feature. For students.”
“You can use cell phones for anything these days,” she chuckled, and then I heard the door slide shut again.
Yeah, right, I thought. What I should use the cell phone for is to call the hospital for the terminally whacko and ask them to come and take me away.