Issue #1 Report Card!

Each issue of REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS is going to come with a handy “Report Card” preview to help you anticipate what’s going to happen in the upcoming issue. Here’s the Report Card for Issue #1:

Issue01ReportCard

Masayo is not the best student ever. She does try, though, which sets her apart from Ritsuko, at any rate. Ritsuko never studies or even pays attention in class (on those rare occasions she actually attends). Nor does Yumi, but that’s just depressing. Millicent studies harder than anyone, and gets better marks than almost anyone. Except Yumi. And Eri tries sometimes, if her temper doesn’t get the better of her.

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PARTY!

The book is heading to the printers Real Soon Now, and we’ve booked a date for the launch party.

Wednesday, August 21
Comic Book Lounge & Gallery
7:00 PM onwards

And YOU’RE invited! Come and join Dave and Corey as they celebrate this long-anticipated moment. It’s been nearly a year since we launched our successful Indiegogo campaign to raise the money we needed, and now here comes the book. Issue One. The ORIGIN. It’s a big deal for us, and we’d really love to share it with you. So would the girls!

WOW, THIS IS SO EXCITING! I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT WE ALL LOOK LIKE IN THE BOOK!

HMPH. AS IF ANY ARTIST COULD CAPTURE ME PROPERLY.

I DON’T MIND BEING CAPTURED.

BOOK? WHAT BOOK? WHAT?

I’VE NEVER BEEN TO A PARTY BEFORE.

There’s a Facebook event — if you haven’t received an invite, please let us know! Or just drop by — we’d all love to see you!

Even Eri. For an incredibly deadly, unstoppable killer, she’s awfully shy.

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Evening Wear

A lot of Field Trip, the first full issue of REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS, is going to take place at night. The girls have to sneak out of the Ninja Island Correctional Academy in the middle of the night, and needless to say, they get into a fair amount of trouble while they’re out and about.

Darkness is one of those qualities that only comes through once an image is shaded, which is the stage we’re at now. Check out how dramatic a difference it makes in this little comparison of three versions of one image — pencils, inks and shades:

Pencils!
Rough and tumble, but clearly these girls mean business.
Inks!
Well, they look much more polished (except maybe Ritsuko), but this is still just a daytime shot.
Shading!
Whoa, NOW it's night-time! Check out that dark alleyway. It's true, everyone really does look good in black...

Putting this image in the context of a dark alley gives it the final oomph that makes this story go. Wait until you see the whole page done up like this. It looks really incredible and we can hardly wait to share it with you all!

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The Hint of a Smile

Eri Nakayama is the “tough girl” of our little gang. Serious-minded and not given to chatter, Eri spends most of her time scowling in disapproval.

Every now and then, though, you catch a glimpse of a smile on her face:

Eri and the Bench

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that looks like faintest hint of a smile there on Eri’s face, as she’s kicking the disarmed bad guy into next Thursday through a BENCH.

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Hey Ninja Girl 20: Career Advice

This time around, it’s Matt with a careers-related question for our entrepreneurial ninja gals:

I’m looking to move into a new career. What would you guys suggest?

TRENDS IN EMPLOYMENT COME AND GO, BUT PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS NEED TO TALK TO THEIR DEAD RELATIVES. AN EDUCATION IN GRAVE-ROBBING, EXORCISM AND POSSESSION WILL ALWAYS BE VALUABLE.

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. SERVE YOUR LORD. DIE. BE AT PEACE.

LISTEN, ONCE PEOPLE THINK YOU CAN TALK TO GHOSTS, YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH MURDER. LITERALLY.

GHOSTS! AND DANCING! WOOO!

 
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The Very Beginning

The characters of REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS, Masayo, Ritsuko, Yumi, Eri and Millicent, were all originally conceived for a game I ran at GenCon several years ago. But almost immediately after they came to life, I started having recurring images of them, stuff that hadn’t happened in any of the games, but that stuck with me, bugging me repeatedly.

The very first of these was what I always called the “Justice League Shot” — the five girls, lined up, facing the viewer, striding forward with purpose down a shabby alleyway.

I love moments like these, where characters finally decide they’ve had enough and take that first determined step towards setting things right. And they’re even better when the things-setting-right characters aren’t big shiny heroes, but sort of beat-up underdogs with nobody cheering for them but the reader.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard when he realises nobody is going to come and help. Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung walking out of the church into endless gun-toting mooks at the end of The Killer. I never get tired of these moments.

This scene has been in my head for many years, and as you can imagine, when Dave came to it, he knocked it not just out of the park, but out of the whole greater metropolitan area. Check it out:

The REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS are NOT fooling around. For once.

The REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS are NOT fooling around. For once.

Even Ritsuko and Yumi have their serious faces on (don’t worry, that won’t last). These girls aren’t taking anything anymore off anyone, and believe you me, their enemies are going to be very sorry they made THESE particular delinquent girls angry.

This is one of the original, archetypal images of this comic for me. For years it’s lived nowhere but inside my head, but now it’s come beautifully to life, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with all of you!

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Hey Ninja Girl 19: Assassination!

A guy named Rob has apparently a more exciting life than might first be expected.

Hey Ninja Girl:

I need to raid a heavily defended outpost of the Imagawa clan and kill their castellan. Any tips?

HIS NAME IS KONDO. HE OVERBREWS HIS TEA, BUT OF COURSE THE IMAGAWA CAN’T EVEN TELL. SAVAGES.

THE IMAGAWA ARE CAUTIOUS. YOU SHOULD ASSUME A DISGUISE, PERHAPS AS A LOCAL MERCHANT, AND SLOWLY EARN THE CASTELLAN’S CONFIDENCE. AFTER A YEAR OR SO, YOU WILL NO DOUBT HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO STAB HIM IN THE FACE WHILE NEGOTIATING OVER SALT FISH. OF COURSE, YOU WILL NEVER ESCAPE, BUT AS LONG AS YOU ARE NOT TAKEN ALIVE THERE WILL BE NO DISHONOUR TO YOUR CLAN.

OH, IS THAT THE FORTRESS ON KITARA ISLAND? IT’S GREAT! FANTASTIC FIELDS OF FIRE FROM THE RAMPARTS BUT THE BASALT OUTCROPPING IT’S BUILT ON HAS OBVIOUS FRACTURE PLANES. DRILL A FEW BOREHOLES, TIME THE DETONATIONS RIGHT, AND THE WHOLE THING COULD COME DOWN. KABOOM!

THE IMAGAWA ANCESTORS ARE TREACHEROUS AND HUNGRY, EAGER FOR VENGEANCE ON ANY WHO WRONG THEM. IF YOU COULD BATHE THE CASTELLAN IN THE BLOOD OF A MURDERED IMAGAWA CHILD, THEY MIGHT MISTAKE HIM FOR THE KILLER AND WREAK THEIR VENGEANCE UPON HIM. HAVE FUN!

WOW, YOUR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT IS WAY BETTER THAN MINE! CAN I COME?

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Inking the Tavern

Okay, we had a look previously at this shot when it was in pencils, but the inking is now complete and I just had to share it with you again. Here’s the main room of the Speckled Carp tavern as our heroines walk in looking for an Imperial officer. Watch how the sense of the image changes as you go from the rough pencils to the polished inks:

Pencils!
Energetic and sassy, but kinda hard to see all the details.
Inks!
The foreground pops and the background fades...

This was NOT an easy scene to ink, as I’m sure you can imagine! But look at all those people! Waitresses, soldiers, pirates, ninjas, gangsters and dinosaurs — this is an iconic shot of NINJA ISLAND, and in fact the whole setting of DINO-PIRATES itself.

Dave and I could not be more excited about how this book is turning out. We really wanted to make a book that would blow people away, and it’s coming out even better than we hoped. It’s getting down to the wire now — soon we’ll be able to share REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS with everyone!

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The Case of the Screaming Skull: Part 3

The thrilling conclusion to our ALL-NEW adventure: The Case of the Screaming Skull: A Yumi Sasori Mystery®. Make sure to start at Part One first! If you like this story, look for other Yumi Sasori Mysteries® at your local bookstore or library!

The skull in my hand had at last stopped screaming, but my voice was none too steady as I shook the thing in front of me.

“What are we supposed to do now?”

Yumi’s hands were balled into fists at her sides, and she stood with her feet planted, staring up at the towering demonic creature she’d just accidentally released. Around us, bits of tile and blasted timbers still clattered down, sending rats and other alley denizens scattering. The hideous giant above us laughed, and its laughter was like the hooves of a million stampeding horses, like the roars of hungry predators, like thunder right overhead, flattening my mind.

I’d have been really scared if I hadn’t been so annoyed. I yelled at the skull in my hand.

“You can talk?”

“We have to get out of here. That demon will destroy her. And then us.”

“I’m not leaving my friend!”

Yumi started shouting, calling out in incomprehensible shrieks. Over the demon’s roaring I heard howling winds pile up, shrill laughter and giggles erupting on all sides. I clutched the skull and ducked under the roof of the neighboring. The skull twisted back and forth in my hand. I think he was trying to see around the corner.

“Demons are very dangerous, young man. Run for it while you’re still alive. And take me with you.”

“Oh, sure. We just accidentally summouned a terrible demon so of course I’ll just leave my friend here.”

“Are you being sarcastic? It’s hard to tell when I’m dead.”

Yumi screamed and I looked up just in time to see her flung from where she stood. She crashed through the front wall of a neighboring shrine and the whole structure promptly collapsed on top of her. The demon’s face somehow grinned and it raised an arm, a long trestle of bones ending in a human pelvis. The limb swung, ready to smash again as the monster leaned over where Yumi had disappeared.

“Yes I’m being sarcastic what the heck is going on here?”

I nearly smacked the skull on the floor in my frustration. My friend looked doomed and this dumb skull was asking about sarcasm.

“The Bone Tower clan sorcerers were very annoyed about being left to die while the other clans escaped the Imperial Army during the Bureaucrat’s Rebellion. I was there when they were overrun, and the last of them cast a spell the whole clan had prepared for that moment.”

Boy I was sure interested in ancient clan history just then.

In case you’re also dead, that’s also sarcasm.

The shrine that had collapsed on Yumi erupted in scything lashes of dark sorcery. I saw my friend leap up from the midst of all that scintillating death, rise up into the air on the back of a coiling dragon of smoke, screaming the whole while. Bright flashes like flames, coiling black waves and smoke and dust everywhere. It was chaos.

REVENGE

“A spell for revenge! We have to go now! Run! Run!”

The noise overwhelmed me for a second, roaring and crashing and howling all at once. That pelvis-tipped arm swung right through all that crazy sorcery and Yumi hurtled sideways, plowing into the alley right in front of me and gouging a long trench out of the cobblestones as she went by.

Despite my boasts earlier to Yumi, I’m not the bravest kid ever. Heck, I run away from Kaohisa every chance I get. But just then I didn’t think at all about what was going on, that annoying skull in my hand, those demons overhead, I just rushed out of the shrine and over to where Yumi lay.

She bled from more places than I could count — her forehead, her arms and legs, and one of her fingers was bent in a way that didn’t look good at all, but her eyes were clear and when I reached her she pushed herself upright.

“I may have miscalculated here. Hoshi, if we die, I’m very sorry.”

She saw the skull in my hand and snatched it from me.

“Okay, now you can talk. Talk. Why is there a giant monster made of bones?”

I could hear the terror in that skull’s disembodied voice when it answered.

“Run! They want revenge! The rest of the clans left them to die, so they made sure that if anyone called upon them, or offered their spirits respect, they’d be returned as that–”

Yumi grabbed me and leapt sideways, just dragging me back into the remains of the Bone Tower shrine as another massive arm tipped with heavy bone thundered down into the street. Dust flew in the air and my ears rang from the earth-shaking blow. Yumi shook the skull and glared.

“Why didn’t YOU want that thing summouned? What was all that screaming about?”

“We have to run! That demon is going to kill us all!”

“What does that demon want?”

The demon in question roared and howled overhead. I covered my ears and scuttled over by the last of the big pillars holding up the tattered roof of the shrine.

REVENGE

I have to say by this point I was wishing they’d stopping bellowing about revenge and just get on with the actual vengeance.

“It wants us all dead. We betrayed them.”

I’d had it. Really, I just didn’t even care anymore. Maybe I was just too scared to be scared anymore. In any event, I rushed over and grabbed the skull from Yumi and shook it.

“I didn’t betray them! Why should they want revenge on me?”

REVENGE

I held the skull up, ready to smash it on the floor, but then suddenly Yumi laughed.

“Oh, I get it. I see what this is all about.”

“What do you know about any of this? You’re a child! We have to run away! Now!”

That smile again. That delighted, hair-raising smile appeared on Yumi’s bashed-up face.

“I am Yumi. Yumi Sasori. You may have heard of my mother, the Arch-Witch Yukako. Do you know she has tried to kill me four times? She fears me.*

She leaned in close to the skull, giggling.

“I see you now, Ryutaro-sama. I see who you are. No ghost can hide from me. You thought you’d be safe after you died, I bet. You never thought their spell would keep you here. Here, where they’d be sure to find you when they awoke.”

“What? No, no. That’s not. That’s completely not it at all. You’re absolutely, totally wrong about that.”

Ryutaro was not the most convincing undead spirit I’d ever heard, just then.

Yumi took the skull and walked outside.

“Bone Tower spirits! Look closely! Here he is!”

The screams that skull had made before were nothing compared to the ear-splitting shrieks he gave now. I staggered to the doorway and saw Yumi standing there in the street, holding the skull up above her heads as that Bone Tower monster leaned way, way over, casting its dark shadow over the street.

Yumi held the skull up for a second and I heard Ryutaro shrieking, begging, and then she slammed the skull down onto the cobblestones. The scream cut off as bone shattered and I heard Yumi giggling again. The monster reached down, that huge heavy arm slamming into the stones at Yumi’s feet, right where she’d destroyed the skull, and I saw some sort of ugly black radiance shoot all through the bones towering above us.

REVENGE. AT LAST.

And then it fell apart. Bones plunged to the ground on all sides, somehow missing Yumi where she stood, but I stayed under that creaking pillar, as the remains of the Bone Tower shrine roof fell apart under the rain of bones.

One last beam was left, balancing precariously on one last pillar as I crept out of the shrine to stand next to Yumi.

“What just happened?”

“Hm? Oh, hello Hoshi. I’m glad you’re not dead.”

“Yumi Sasori! What do you think you’re doing?”

We both turned as Kaohisa came rushing up with an older man. Master Kamenosuke. I groaned.

“What’s this I hear about you helping young Hoshi here with his assigned shrine cleaning? That is strictly forbidden, young lady!”

Yumi smiled and gestured towards the remains of the Bone Tower shrine.

“Oh, Master Kamenosuke, of course not! As you can see, Hoshi hasn’t even started yet. I mean, look at the state of his shrine.”

We all turned to regard the Bone Tower shrine. That last beam teetered, pitched first to one side and then crashed down on the other and the last pillar splintered and the whole structure collapsed in a choking cloud of dust.

Master Kamenosuke coughed and spluttered.

“Well, you certainly don’t seem to have gotten very far. Hoshi, I’ll assign you a different shrine tomorrow. You can complete the assignment then. For now, just…”

He waved around imprecisely.

“…clean this up. Somehow.”

He and a disappointed Kaohisa strode away.

“Uh, Yumi-sempai. What happened to Ryutaro, do you think?”

“Oh, he’s probably being tortured by those Bone Tower spirits. They were very unhappy with him.”

Somehow the sun seemed to lose its heat, just then.

“But… Did they really want revenge… on a dead man? After they were all dead? What’s the point?”

“Revenge is the only perfection possible in this world, Hoshi. It depends on nothing but utter ruthlessness. If your will is perfected, you will see it through, and nothing, not even death, can interfere. Revenge is fantastic.”

Yumi smiled bright and cheerful.

“Now, how do you want to get back at Kaohisa? He’s sure got it coming.”

I wiped dust off my face and considered the ruins of the Bone Tower Clan shrine. I thought about how Ryutaro had spent most of his life here, keeping people away from the shrine so that nobody would ever know he’d betrayed that clan. Until he’d died, and been caught in their all-encompassing vengeance.

I had a feeling he was going to suffer for a long time.

“I think I’ll first try and put this mess back together, Yumi-sempai. Thanks anyway.”

“Good idea, Hoshi. I sure wouldn’t want those Bone Tower spirits angry with me. I told you you were just going to create more work for yourself, didn’t I?”

She waved and giggled and skipped off up the alley. I wiped dust off my face and got to work.

Whew! Looks like Yumi solved another tough case, but Hoshi’s got a long day ahead of him! Well, at least his soul hasn’t been handed over to angry spirits for eternal torment! We hope you enjoyed The Case of the Screaming Skull: A Yumi Sasori Mystery®

* See The Case of the Angry Witch Who Murders Thousands and is Actually Yumi’s Mother: A Yumi Sasori Mystery®

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The Case of the Screaming Skull: Part 2

Continuing our ALL-NEW adventure: The Case of the Screaming Skull: A Yumi Sasori Mystery®. Make sure to read Part One first! If you like this story, look for other Yumi Sasori Mysteries® at your local bookstore or library!

Yumi turned the screaming skull over in her hand.

“Now, let’s see what this is all about. I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding.”

I fought with my terror to get some sort of response out.

“A. A misunderstanding, Yumi-sempai? But. But that skull’s really, uh, upset, don’t you think?”

My friend pointed an admonishing finger at the skull and cocked her head.

“Now, what’s this all about, you silly thing? Stop this nonsense at once and tell us what’s going on.”

The scream faded away and Yumi smirked.

“That’s more like it. See, Hoshi? Dead people are always easy to deal with.”

I looked around at the interior of the Bone Tower clan shrine, dark and dusty, the main altar supporting a shaky tower of bones. Human bones. The presence of undead spirits filled every corner here — I kept thinking I was seeing something moving off to the side of my gaze, only to turn and find another batch of dust-covered bones mouldering away. I could hear bodiless voices hissing and whispering words I could never quite make out, muttering tones of menace.

I wanted out of there.

“Okay, great, Yumi-sempai. He’s stopped screaming, thanks. I better start cleaning up in here, or I’ll never finish in time.”

And then the screaming started up again.

Yumi glowered at the empty eye sockets, studying them like the reason for this terrible noise would just show up in there.

“Stop that now! I’ll get properly annoyed if you don’t behave.”

No reaction. The horrible wailing filled the dark narrow space of the shrine, setting all the bones to rattling.

“Yumi-sempai, make it stop!”

My friend snarled and I saw her give the skull a big shake, like she was trying to knock the scream right out of it. But the hideous noise went on and on.

To my horror, Yumi dumped the skull into my hands.

“What?”

She headed back out of the shrine.

“Wait, what are you doing?”

I ran after her, and as I neared the front of the shrine, the scream again died away.

“Yumi-sempai. What am I supposed to do?”

“What you’re supposed to do, punk, is clean your shrine up by yourself, not get her to help you.”

It was Kaohisa again, standing out in the alley as Yumi and I emerged. He had his arms crossed over his big barrel chest and sneered at us both. He had his usual little gang of buddies with him, all grinning and smirking.

“She’s not helping me clean, Kaohisa. I asked Yumi-sempai to look at this skull for me.”

“Oh, sure.”

“You must have heard it screaming, you big–”

“Hoshi, don’t worry about him. Listen.”

I waited for Yumi to say something else. We all did. She just smiled at me.

“It stopped screaming again.”

I looked down at the skull in my hands.

“Yeah, it stopped when I–”

“Go back inside. Start cleaning again.”

The second I turned around and stepped into the shrine again, that terrible noise started up again.

It was kind of satisfying seeing Kaohisa and his buddies cringe at the sound. I turned back to the alley and it stopped again. I had a sudden idea, and realised that Yumi had already figured it out.

“He doesn’t want me to clean the shrine. It’s Ryutaro, the old guy who never cleaned it. He doesn’t want anyone cleaning it up.”

Kaohisa thrust himself in between Yumi and I.

“Hey, you dummies. I already told Master Kamenosuke about what you’re doing here. He’s on his way.”

“Oh, Kaohisa, don’t be silly. This is important.”

He grabbed the skull from my hand and held it, ignoring my leaps and grabs to get it back. He toyed around with it like it was a little bauble in a gift shop.

“Important? Sounds like you’re interfering with ancestor spirits without consulting any grown-ups. Man, if Master Kamenosuke finds out about THIS, he’ll freak out.”

It’s funny; moments ago I’d been terrified of that skull, but now, watching Kaohisa toss it from one hand to another, uncaring and spiteful, outraged me. I lunged for it again and again.

“Give that back!”

Kaohisa chuckled until Yumi spoke. Yumi had a low voice, sleepy and slow, but when she got angry, it carried the sort of menace that I only otherwise heard from long-dead ghosts.

“Kaohisa, put that skull down. Now.”

I had to give it to Kaohisa. He only looked terrified for a moment and then with a sneer, he tossed the skull back into the shadows of the Bone Tower shrine. It clattered out of sight.

I cried out and rushed in to find what I was sure was the mortal remains of the old man who’d tended this shrine until he died. Outside I heard Yumi carry on in that scary voice of hers.

“You should leave, Kaohisa, and you should take your friends with you. It’s going to be dangerous here for a little while, and I can’t protect you.”

“I told you, Master Kamenosuke is gonna be here any moment.”

“Well, I won’t be able to protect him, either. Stand back, at least. The spirits I’m summouning are very hungry.”

I had to get down on my hands and knees to reach under the altar where I saw the skull had rolled. Dust puffed up from everything I touched, so I kept my mouth shut to keep from breathing it in and dragged the cold skull out into the light again.

“Ryutaro-sama. Let me just find you a spot–”

I started clearing some dust off the altar, then jumped as that shriek howled out again, the whole shrine shaking around me at the terrible screaming.

I stumbled to the shrine entrance, only to see Kaohisa and the others scrambling away down the alley. Yumi stood with a happy smile, giggling and waving as bizarre lashing tendrils of dark shadow erupted from the cobblestones on all sides of her.

The skull shuddered in my hand, twisting and jumping and biting. I clamed a hand on either side of the braincase, trying to hold the undead thing steady.

“Yumi-sempai! What are you doing?”

Yumi lifted her hands to either side and the shadowy swirls around her rose up and then launched themselves straight at me. I squeaked but didn’t dare move.

“Oh, Hoshi. You remember my friends from the Upside-Down Drowning Hell*, right? I’m just asking them to try and break whatever spell is keeping Ryutaro-sama from speaking with us.”

“S-spell?”

“Well, there must be some reason he screams instead of explains, don’t you think? Hold still and try not to be afraid. They like the taste of fear.”

I believe Yumi’s honestly trying to be helpful when she says things like that, but just between you and me, she’s not helping. Those terrible dark shades slid across the street to gather around me. They smelled like nasty old fishmeat left in the sun, and I had to swallow hard against the urge to throw up. Trying to breath shallow so as not to inhale too much of that hideous stench, I clutched the skull in my hands and tried to concentrate on Yumi’s voice.

“What do you see, dread spirits? Show me what holds down this unfortunate soul.”

The skull screamed in my hands, this time sounding angry somehow. I felt something cold and slick trail over my hands and kept my eyes screwed shut while the skull went on screaming. I felt the reaching tendrils of shadow yank away from me, and I sagged with relief.

Relief that now it was just that screaming skull I was dealing with. I was beginning to wonder if seeking Yumi’s help had been such a great idea.

A voice, grating and harsh and everything you’d expect from a shade of the Upside-Down Underwater Hell spoke.

“He is chained to this clan. To the sorcerers of the Bone Tower.”

I was facing Yumi as I opened my eyes, and saw her scowl. I don’t think I’d ever seen her so angry. The Upside-Down Underwater spirits popped out of existence as she stormed right past me into the shrine to stand defiantly before the altar.

“Alright, we’re getting to the bottom of this. Bone Tower spirits, I call you! Come forth and explain!”

The skull’s screaming took on a more urgent, shriller tone. It shook in my hand and I swear the jawbone started jerking like it was trying to bite.

Or speak.

“Yumi-sempai, I don’t think this is a great–”

“Spirits! Come forth! I command you!”

Yumi threw her hands out and her hair flew back in a sudden gale of sorcery. The floorboards around her erupted in a black shimmering radiance, and it seemed like every dead thing within ten blocks screamed out loud. I fell to my knees, overwhelmed by Yumi’s power, but as I did so, I saw the tower of bones in the Bone Tower shine leap into the air.

Roof tiles blasted outwards in all directions, and the massive pile of bones rushed together, up and through the roof, clattering and rattling as they joined together.

The skull turned right at me and I heard its scream transform into a terrifed, wretched wail of denial.

“NOOOOOOO!”

The bones connected together, forming a gigantic skeleton — though a skeleton like none I’d ever seen before.

And remember, I grew up in Kimurachi Temple. I’ve seen plenty of skeletons in my short time. But this was a monstrosity, rising up hiring than the shrine itself, a latticework of bones, with strange limbs projecting out from all sides, and a face formed of thighbones, rib cages and spines. It was hideous, and it leaned out over where Yumi stood.

Somehow it spoke.

FOOLISH MORTAL. NOW YOU HAVE FREED US. NOW WE SHALL HAVE REVENGE!

If nothing else would, the string of curse words Yumi snarled at that point would definitely have gotten her in trouble with Master Kamenosuke. I didn’t even know what some of those words meant.

As Yumi stood there, a fifteen-year-old girl facing a towering undead monster, I realised the skull had stopped screaming. It spoke in a tired sort of voice.

“Well, now you’ve done it.”

It talks! It’s tired! And now there’s a huge demon! How is Yumi going to solve THIS one? And survive? Is Hoshi doomed to fail his assignment? Find out in the exciting conclusion of The Case of the Screaming Skull: A Yumi Sasori Mystery®

* See The Case of the Sixteen Hells: A Yumi Sasori Mystery®

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