Soul Embrace Part I: The Fires Rise (also referred to as simply Soul Embrace) is the first entry in the Soul Embrace series. It was published on Amazon Kindle on February 12th, 2017 along with Part II: The Evils of Shinkokira, and both parts are collected as one work in the paperback novel Soul Embrace Volume I: Genesis.

Soul Embrace cover
ebook cover designed by Justin Bedard using purchased stock images

SYNOPSIS

A new breed of darkness has risen. The citizens of Rengoku live at the mercy of a mysterious and barbaric cult, whose ultimate goal can only be described as opening the very gates of Hell itself. Caught in the middle of the struggle and now determined to put a stop to it is Nobuyuki Honda, whose life is thrown for the wildest loop when he forms an ethereal bond called a Soul Embrace with the succubus Delilah. As they band together with Nobuyuki’s friends and even the messengers of above, they pledge to push back against the evil and discover what the forces of the underworld have planned. But the cult is not alone, accompanied by the almighty archdemons that seem to have made Nobuyuki their prime target.

PLOT

Chapter 1 – Innocence

The story opens with the succubus Delilah flying over the city of Rengoku, Japan. She stops at the house of a young boy and, finding him adorable, decides to look into his dreams. There she encounters fellow demon Lilith, who antagonizes her until the boy wakes up and brings them both into reality before him. When asked who he would rather spend the night with, he chooses Delilah, much to her delight and Lilith’s fury. The elder demon then attacks Delilah, stopped when the boy draws a katana and cleaves off her hand, threatening to take her head if she doesn’t leave.

Once Lilith flees, Delilah dearly thanks the boy and sleeps beside him that night, asking him to keep her in his thoughts if she isn’t there the next morning. The boy, named Nobuyuki Honda, promises her this, though still convinces himself she and Lilith had been nothing more than a dream when he awakes the next morning to find no trace of either of them.

Chapter 2 – A Taste of Hell

Nearly eight years later, a mysterious and barbaric cult has arrived in Rengoku and initiated a series of serial killings that come to be known as the Devil’s Due Murders thanks to their Satanic properties. Nobuyuki takes interest in it, as do Kaori and Kasume Funaki. On the train ride home, Nobuyuki is approached by a woman who asks him many personal questions and acts very flirty with him, also seeming to know his name despite him never telling it to her.

Later that night, the woman reappears in Nobuyuki’s home while he is alone,  revealing herself as a succubus. The two wrestle back and forth with Nobuyuki eventually gaining the upper hand and nearly striking her when he is overcome with familiarity. He asks the succubus for her name, and she reveals herself as Delilah. Overjoyed to see her again for a moment, Nobuyuki realizes that she has no memory of him or the night they spent together. He asks her to leave, and she does so without question. Sensing her appearance may have something to do with the cult, Nobuyuki spends the rest of the night researching demons.

Chapter 3 – Slither

Soon after his encounter with Delilah, Nobuyuki asks his friend Akira Hayabusa to accompany him to the local library to find more information on demons. They find Demonopedia, but upon leaving the library, they discover that someone has committed suicide out of fear of the cult. They take a back path, but are quickly cornered in an alley by a lamia. She attacks them and nearly succeeds in killing them when she is knocked unconscious by a fire escape ladder, Nobuyuki and Akira noticing a demonic shape flying away after the fact. Locking the lamia in a nearby dumpster, the two boys suspect that the lamia’s appearance has something to do with the cult and return home to warn their classmates not to go out alone. Nobuyuki meanwhile begins reading Demonopedia and hoping Delilah hasn’t become what he fears she has.

Continued plot under construction…

DEVELOPMENT

All four initial entries of the Soul Embrace series were originally planned to be one full novel, but as the project got older, this single work was segmented into two volumes, and then again into four parts when the first volume proved too long for an Amazon eBook.

The concept of Soul Embrace began when I stumbled across a manga called Lilim Kiss by Miyuki Kawashita. It centered around a Japanese high school boy and his misadventures with a succubus-like creature that he names Lilim. She constantly acts flirty and aloof around him while he attempts to shrug her off and maintain as cool a composure as he can. I found this relationship very fascinating and wanted to write a story similar to it, but with other elements mixed in so it wouldn’t feel like a direct knock-off. The first thing that came to mind was incorporating elements of the Christian faith since that’s my belief system.

The issue was that I went a little too far with emulating Lilim Kiss when I wrote the first draft of Soul Embrace. Not that I directly emulated it or anything, but Lilim Kiss was largely comedic in nature, which I realized as I got older wasn’t the direction I wanted to take the series. Many stupid ideas made their way into the story that I don’t really want to go too heavily into here (though here’s a hint: it involved a lot of overused anime boob jokes)( and before I’d even finished the draft, I knew something had to be changed. So I more or less dragged it screaming back to the drawing board and made it stay there until things were in working order.

And so I gathered more inspirations, mainly from video games like Persona and Devil May Cry and manga like Fist of the North Star and Death Note. I searched for a way to tell a story about angels, demons, and the human spirit. I searched for a way to make Soul Embrace cooler, deeper, scarier, and in general better.

Many new elements were added as I went along. The evil cult Shinkokira was chief among them, adding human villains to accompany the demonic ones that were already in place and perhaps make the scary moments that much more unsettling. Many secondary characters were given better roles, and some primary characters (chief among them being Ryuuji) were changed entirely or flat-out replaced. All these developments made the final product take far longer to reach the end than I would have liked (six years, in case you were wondering), but here we are. The series has begun and I eagerly look forward to expanding it.

SOUNDTRACK

“Magia” – Kalafina

“All We Ever Wanted Was Everything” – Bauhaus

“Never Surrender” – Combichrist

“Sweet Sacrifice” – Evanescence

“What’s Up, People?!” – Maximum the Hormone

“Painkiller” – Judas Priest

“Violet Hill” – Coldplay

“Rules of Nature” from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

“Beginning” – Yoshida Brothers feat. Eri Sugai

EXTERNAL LINKS

The Fires Rise on Amazon.com

Soul Embrace Volume I: Genesis on Amazon.com

Chapter One on Deviantart

Chapter Two on Deviantart

Chapter Three on Blogger

Chapter Four on Deviantart

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