67 comments

Fantasy

Cress coughed, blood dripping onto the hay. His sky-horse remained curled up beside him – all Cress had to do was give the command, and he would attack, but that probably wasn’t the best strategy at the moment.

Lizin stood before him, the pacing of his steps were enough to make anyone nervous. But Cress had stopped being scared of him a long time ago. Kes stood at his side, fist ready to strike Cress again. His wings were pressed uncomfortably against the barn wall, the chains slowly grinding at his wrists.

It was just plain metal – not iron. That meant Lizin didn’t intend on killing Cress.

Not yet at least.   

*

Cress awoke to hoof beats in the distance. His faerie ears were sensitive, and being a hunter, that skill was useful. He kept his bow across his back and daggers in his boots. One of his wings was bent awkwardly from the way he had slept.

Cress snapped it back into place.

Most people didn’t notice his wings – they blended into the air. He stomped out the remaining smoke from last night’s fire, and roused Kalana from her sleep. She snapped up, swords at the ready; there was never time for drowsiness.

“We have to go,” Cress said. “I think they’re catching up.”

Kalana just gave a nod, pushing back her thick curls, and swiftly mounted her horse, Malaia. Cress whistled for Xaotan, who liked to hunt in the early morning. Common folk called him a sky-horse – tian’ma, which Cress had never understood. His appearance was more akin to that of a large white dog with a black head, pointy ears and a mane like a lion.

His bark sounded in the way that wind howled. Sky-horses were timid around humans and exceedingly rare, but Cress had raised him since he was a pup.

Xaotan came dashing through the bushes, a dead rabbit in his mouth. He padded over to Cress and laid it by his feet, looking proud of himself. Cress ran his hands through Xaotan’s mane. “Thanks, buddy, but we’re going to have to save it for later.”

“Which direction should we head?” Kalana asked.

Cress looked up, and saw the way she was atop her horse in her leather armour. She was a woman now. When was Cress going to stop being shocked at how she had grown? It seemed like just yesterday that she was a little girl carrying around a sword that was the same height as her.

Cress shook his head. Now wasn’t the time to be thinking about that. “Into town,” he said, as he climbed onto Xaotan’s back; he rode the sky-horse without a saddle, which was the faerie way – some habits couldn’t be changed. “We can blend in with the people.”

*

“So you went into town, and thought you could escape from us,” Lizin sneered, his bi-coloured eyes glinting like the underside of a knife.

“You were getting close,” Cress said, his cracked bones aching. The rustic tang of blood was bitter in his mouth. “The only thing we could do was hide.”

Lizin shoved his face close to Cress’s. “I’m tired of this beating around the bush, faerie boy.” Of course, that old nickname. “Where were you and that bitch girl heading?”

Cress’s head was woozy, his vision doubling. He mustered a few last shreds of his energy, and spat a glob of bloody saliva into Lizin’s face. “Maybe we were just sick of everything,” Cress said. “Being a hunter isn’t for the faint of heart.”

Lizin wiped the spit from his face. “I have seen you, boy,” he said. “You look at corpses without blinking, you tear your arrows out of them, then kick them aside, that heart of yours is stone-cold, so you think you can fool me?”

“My heart is stone-cold? Really?” Cress said. “What about your heart, Lizin? Your heart made of gold?”

Lizin seized Cress’s neck, fingers digging into his jugular. “You think you are funny, faerie?”

“Yes,” Cress said. He forced his lips up into a smile, his teeth red. “Very.”

Another punch knocked him out cold.

*

The easiest place to hide was a tavern – drunkards didn’t take much notice to people around them. Kalana found a table in the corner for them, and sat down.

“Whiskey?” she offered. Cress declined. Even after spending the better half of his life around humans, he still couldn’t stomach their alcohol. “Something on your mind?”

“Are you certain you want to do this, Kal?” Cress asked. It is not too late to turn back.

She set the whiskey bottle down a little too hard; the liquid splashed onto the table. “I thought you of all people would know just how certain I am.”

You’re not, Kalana. I can see it in your eyes. Cress had known her since she was ten – he had basically raised her from there, being only fifteen himself; taught her everything she knew. He had witnessed how her exterior toughened, how the traces of that shy, timid, curious little girl disappeared.

But Cress knew more than anyone, the things that frightened Kalana; the look in her eyes when she was scared.

He saw it now.

“I know you think this is what you want,” Cress said.

“It is what I want,” Kalana said, her hands tightened into fists. “I want to stick my sword through that whoreson and make him pay.” Her words trembled.

Revenge does not ease your pain. Trust me, I know. “Sometimes killing may seem justified, especially as we are hunters, but the one person your actions will affect the most… is yourself.”

Kalana had unsheathed her dagger and was pointing it across the table. Cress stared at the blade. “Save your words of wisdom for someone who cares.”

It felt like a thorn was digging into Cress’s heart. In all respects but blood, Kalana was a sister to him – at the time he met her, he thought he could never give that much care to someone else again.

He had been wrong.

“I just…” don’t want you to get hurt, because you know that it would hurt me too, “want you to be cautious about it.”

“You’re trying to talk me out of it.” Her teeth were gritted. She only did that when she was holding something back – choking down a weakness that couldn’t be seen.

“I told you because you had a right to know,” Cress said. “That is all.”

“Right, and what did you think I was going to do? Cry about it and then get over it? That is not how I work.” Her eyes were piercing as she looked at him. That was what had frightened Cress about humans – that stinging intensity in their eyes that just spoke of what they would do to you, dare you disobey them.

Until one morning when he caught his reflection in the stream, and found that same intensity in his own yellow eyes.

That was when he knew he had become one of them.

*

Cold water splashed against his face. Cress’s eyes shot open. His chest spasmed, forcing him to take a large gulp of the icy air. His hands were tied behind a tree. How wonderful.

“I thought if I brought you closer to your much-loved nature, you would finally start talking.” Lizin tossed the rusted bucket aside. It fell with a soft clang onto the bark, a thin trickle of water leaked out.

Lizin wasn’t wrong about that. Faeries’ connection with nature was what humans could never understand. Their very essence of being was connected to the nature around them.

Growing up, Cress had lived beneath the shade of a large willow tree. When he went to sleep at night, he tried to remember the sturdiness of the tree’s spirit, how the leaves breathed their life; sometimes, if he focused hard enough, he could almost feel how the rivulets of water climbed up the roots, seeping into the limbs.

Not only that, faeries were extremely sensitive to emotion, especially those of their loved ones. If their heartbeat increased in fear, Cress’s too would begin to jump. If they were in pain, he would feel that pain as his own.

On his first few nights with the hunters, Cress had felt his brothers’ worry – he trusted that they could feel his too. But he had been away from them for too long, and overtime, his pain became entirely his own.

“Now you’re giving me the silent treatment?” Lizin poked at Cress’s chest with a stick.

Cress looked beside him, feeling the familiar weight of Xaotan pressed against him. However, the sky-horse wasn’t moving. Cress’s heart tumbled into his stomach. “What did you do to him?” His franticness was hidden behind the aching of his bruised jaw, that made his words slurred.  

“Relax, I gave the beast some herbs to put him to sleep,” Lizin said. “It was the only way we could move him.” It wasn’t until then that Cress saw how Lizin was holding his left hand awkwardly – it was wrapped in a haphazard bandage, blood soaked through it.

Xaotan must have given him one hell of a bite.

“He’s not going to talk, Liz,” Kes said from beside him. She was a tall woman, even amongst the hunters, with copper skin and a wide mouth. “He’ll protect the girl no matter what.”

“I should have kept her away from you,” Lizin said.

*

Cress remembered finding Kalana in the back alley of the palace. She had ran there chasing after a ball. “You have wings,” she said. Cress had been surprised that she noticed them. “You’re a faerie.” Her face was filled with the awe of childhood curiosity and fascination.

“Yes,” he replied.

There was nothing he could do about his appearance. If the wings didn’t give it away, then his pointy ears would, or his eyes, or the way he spoke. There was no escaping his faerie identity amongst humans.

He had tried so hard to erase those parts of himself, that one day he realised, if he were to return to his brothers, they wouldn’t accept him as a faerie anymore.

“Cress!” Lizin had shouted from behind. “Do you have the girl?”

“Yes,” Cress said. Kalana was standing completely still, clutching onto her ball. “I’m sorry.” He grabbed her, and slung her over his shoulder.

“Let me go!” Kalana screamed, beating at Cress’s back. “Help! Help me!”

Nobody had come.

His first week with the hunters had been spent in a cage. Helpless as humans flocked around him, trying to catch a glimpse of their new pet faerie.

A hunter named Jai had finally let Cress out. She took him into the abandoned farmhouse and sat him down on the hay. “Look out there,” she said, pointing at the hunters in the field, some were wielding swords, brawling fist to fist, shooting at targets suspended from tree branches. “All of them, all of us, have been exactly where you are.”

Cress hadn’t believed it then. But when he saw Kalana huddled in the corner, it was almost like he was seeing a ghost of himself from those years ago.

So he sat down beside her, and said, “Look out there…”

*

“You told her, didn’t you?” Lizin said. Cress knew he was trying to sound threatening, but his tone betrayed more of his fear.

“I did,” Cress said. “What are you going to do about it? Kill me?”

“Kes will be happy to slit your throat in a heartbeat,” Lizin said.

“Except you wouldn’t,” Cress said. “Not until I tell you where we were going. Although, from the information I told her, I don’t think it would be very hard to figure out.”

“She’s going to the royal wedding,” Lizin said. “Now that is just plain madness.”

“If you are going to go and stop her, it might just be a bit too late,” Cress said. “There is not a chance you could ride to the emperor’s palace in time.”

Cress could see Lizin’s rage filling up to his eyes, like a cauldron about to boil over.

“You are dead, faerie.”

*

Cress found Kalana in the stables, brushing out the tangles in Malaia’s mane. Xaotan was laying by the horse’s hooves, munching on a bird he had caught. The delicate bones snapped between his teeth.

Cress stood there for a while, not sure what to say. Kalana set the brush down. “Do you need something?” she asked, a dangerous edge in her voice.

“No,” Cress replied. “I just wanted to say… that I know how you are feeling.”

“Really? Your father also paid hunters to kidnap you because he didn’t want you anymore, and then told them to keep that a secret for nine years?” The hurt in her eyes was still fresh – a wound that hadn’t even begun to heal. “All because he didn’t want his throne to go to a girl, and he didn’t have the nerve to just kill her.”

“I’m sorry for what happened that day. I tore you away from all that you had known. Your family, your friends, a world that was familiar, and brought you to a place filled with dangerous strangers.” Cress sighed. “I’m not trying to talk you out of it, I’m just trying… perhaps a bit too hard, to protect you. Because in my mind, I still see that little girl standing in the alley, how she screamed and screamed. Right then, I swore I would protect you, Kalana.”

Cress was afraid he would start crying, because his eyes were beginning to water. “And I failed. Over and over again.”

“I don’t need protecting,” Kalana said quietly. “But I’m glad you came with me this far, Cress.” She bit her lip – a nervous habit of hers. “I’m sorry for saying I didn’t care, because I do. You’re a brother to me.”

Cress’s heart warmed. It wasn’t like the both of them to get sentimental – yet, here they were. “I grew up with four brothers. I was tied in second place with my twin. We were quite different from each other, but we were inseparable. He knew me more than I knew myself.”

He hadn’t thought about Linden in years, couldn’t even bring himself to say his name.

“You speak of him in past tense,” Kalana said.

“Because he’s dead,” Cress said. “Lizin’s right-hand man at the time, Lian, ran his sword right through him. I held him as he bled on my lap. Then, they dragged me away, and the last thing I saw was his limp body.”

“You got your revenge, didn’t you?” Kalana said.

“I stuck my sword in him and watched as the life faded from his eyes,” Cress said. “It did not take away that hole my brother had left in my heart.”

“Look, I know what you are telling me,” Cress could see that Kalana was choosing her words carefully. “But this is something I have to do. I want him to see me, the person I have become, and I want that to be the last thing he sees.”

Xaotan let out a growl, low and threatening. He could probably smell that the other hunters were finally here.

“We should probably go now,” Cress said. He opened the stable doors slowly, and sure enough, he could see Lizin riding on that spotted stallion of his. Kes was beside him, the others following firmly behind.

“We should have left ages ago,” Kalana said. “Now it’s certain that they’re going to catch us.”

“They won’t catch you,” Cress said. He retrieved her cloak from the ground. “Put your hood up and exit through that door. Once you leave this town, ride like the wind.”

“I don’t understand,” Kalana said, grabbing Cress’s arm. “What about you?”

“If I ride with you, Lizin will just keep chasing us, all the way to the palace,” Cress said. “They can capture me, and I’ll keep them occupied. It is the only way.”

Kalana was completely still. “You dare give yourselves up to them? They will kill you, Cress.” Cress could feel how her fear ran through her entire body. “I don’t care if they chase us to the palace, I don’t care. I won’t kill my father, we’ll give ourselves up together.”

“No, Kalana,” Cress said. “Go to the palace, see your father. Show him that you have grown to be a strong, powerful woman. No matter how he reacts, show him that your surety in yourself is the only thing that matters. That will bring you more solace than revenge, I promise.” He placed a kiss on her forehead. “Don’t worry about me.”

A tear slid down Kalana’s cheek.

Nine years. And that was the first time Cress had seen her cry.

*

“Would you like to know what I do to traitors, boy?” Lizin said.

“I am a lot of things,” Cress said. “But traitor is not one of them. Betraying you would mean that I was loyal to you in the first place.” He tried to shrug, although his binds made it slightly difficult. “Surprise, surprise, I never was.”

“It’s almost nightfall, and you’re in the middle of a dark, scary forest tied to a tree. I wonder what I will find when I come to check on you in a few days-time.” He had that smirk on his face – the one that Cress hated more than anything. “Goodbye now, little faerie. I knotted the rope extra tight.”

They turned and walked away, shadows stretching as the sun began to set.

When it came night, Cress heard the howls of wolves in the distance.         

January 14, 2021 10:22

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67 comments

Yolanda Wu
10:28 Jan 14, 2021

Once again another story in the Four Moon Cycles story-verse. I'm doing these so un-chronologically. But yeah, recently, I came up with a new character, who has earned himself a storyline in the novel I'm writing, I really wanted to introduce him in this story and his connection to Kalana from The Peonies On Her Dress. For those who read that story, if you spot any inconsistencies between this story and that one, it's because when I wrote that story, Cress didn't exist yet, but I hope that doesn't affect the reading experience. Tell me if th...

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Kylie Rudolf
22:48 Jan 16, 2021

Will you publish the novel on Reedsy?

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Yolanda Wu
23:28 Jan 16, 2021

Well, the novel is still in the drafting phase, and it's kind of a passion project right now, so I don't really have any plans to publish it in its entirety. But I'll have plenty of stories set in the same world with the characters from the novel.

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Kylie Rudolf
23:35 Jan 16, 2021

Awesome! I really do hope you do decide to continue the book as a whole.

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Yolanda Wu
23:48 Jan 16, 2021

I'm having a lot of fun writing it, so I'm definitely continuing it. :)

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Kylie Rudolf
00:38 Jan 17, 2021

Fantastic!

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Kylie Rudolf
00:50 Jan 17, 2021

Fantastic!

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Kylie Rudolf
22:50 Jan 16, 2021

First off, LOVE the title. I love all these moon stories! They give such a mystical feel on top of the fantasy. This fantasy story in particular took my breath away, AMAZING. I love fairies as well!🌙🖤

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Yolanda Wu
23:29 Jan 16, 2021

Thank you so much for reading, Kylie!

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Yolanda Wu
01:06 Jan 22, 2021

Hi Kylie! Part two is out now, I would love to hear what you think. :)

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Kylie Rudolf
02:12 Jan 22, 2021

Looking for it!

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Bahar Rajabi
15:53 Jan 16, 2021

This is beautiful! I really loved the cliffhanger and the possibility at the end. I'm not sure if I want a sequel or not - I just really like creating scenarios in my head- but I certainly am excited to see if there is a canon follow up. It was really awesome and I love how you seem to have actually interpreted mythology into your writing and I wish you the best of luck!

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Yolanda Wu
23:24 Jan 16, 2021

Thank you for reading, Bahar! I am planning to write a follow-up to this story, but until then, feel free to create whatever scenarios you would like. :)

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Bahar Rajabi
23:02 Jan 17, 2021

Thank you for replying! It makes me really happy that you're writing a follow-up, and I wish you luck!

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Yolanda Wu
01:05 Jan 22, 2021

Hi Bahar, part two of this story is out! I would love to hear your thoughts. :)

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Bahar Rajabi
17:49 Jan 23, 2021

Hi Yolanda, I would love to read it, what is it called?

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Yolanda Wu
23:10 Jan 23, 2021

It is called Those Flowers Like Snow.

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Kristin Neubauer
15:44 Jan 15, 2021

I loved this!! Cutting between timelines is so much fun.... I remember Kalana from “peonies”, which tells me that you created a very memorable character. This prompt sounded so difficult to me. I couldn’t figure out how anyone could write to it, and yet you did so skillfully! I think Cress is very intriguing and I love the backstory you created with Kalana, weaving back and forth between flashbacks and the present. Strong, vivid writing as always that keeps the action moving. My favorite phrase was the one about how the sky-horse’s ba...

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Yolanda Wu
21:49 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you so much, Kristin! I'm glad you found Cress and Kalana's character interesting, I definitely loved writing about them. Interesting enough, I got the sky-horse out of a book that my dad bought me, it was an illustrated version of an ancient Chinese book detailing all these mythological creatures. I get you about the demon president, I'll be looking forward to a story from you at any time. And yes, I'll write the part two for next week. :)

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Kristin Neubauer
21:52 Jan 15, 2021

I can't wait! Thanks for keeping me updated when you post your stories. I get so buried in work and school and the basic chores of life that i don't always keep the days straight.

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Yolanda Wu
22:21 Jan 15, 2021

Haha, no worries, I'm on my summer holidays right now, so I have more time to write. I doubt I'll be able to post regularly once school starts again.

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Yolanda Wu
01:06 Jan 22, 2021

Hi Kristin! Part two is out now, I would love to hear your feedback as always. :)

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Maya W.
00:05 Jan 15, 2021

Awesome work as always, Yolanda! I'll admit, I did prefer The Peonies on Her Dress, but this one was also excellent! I love the use of Gaelic faerie lore combined with Chinese folklore - I love it when high fantasy authors use real world mythologies in their writings. I really have no critiques. Great work! Also, something you do that I've noticed and really like is your use of names that not only reflect your character's cultures, but tend to mess with gender norms. Cress, Olive, Blue, etc are names I would usually consider female, and I l...

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Yolanda Wu
00:23 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you so much for reading, Maya! As always, your comment put a smile on my face. I love mixing around with different mythologies and including them in my own writing. I'm glad you pointed out the name thing, and you're right, I like to lean more towards names that don't really pinpoint a specific gender, not that it really should matter, a name is a name, and I just go with the one that I think fits the character the most. Also I should be done with your novella next week at the latest, I plan to read most of it on the weekend, so hopef...

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Maya W.
00:41 Jan 15, 2021

Cool! I'm super excited to hear your feedback!

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Yolanda Wu
01:01 Jan 15, 2021

I'm super excited to read it in its entirety!

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Maya W.
01:47 Jan 15, 2021

Yay! You can either message me your feedback through wattpad or email, but email is probably better,

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Yolanda Wu
04:00 Jan 15, 2021

Will do!

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Yolanda Wu
01:07 Jan 22, 2021

Hi Maya! Part two is out now, I would love to hear your feedback. :)

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Maya W.
01:08 Jan 22, 2021

Oh, sure! I'm a little busy right now, but I'll get to it soon!

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Yolanda Wu
01:09 Jan 22, 2021

Cool, just read it when you have the time, there's no rush. :)

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V W
17:37 Jan 21, 2021

The flow of your narrative seems effortless. It is succinct and moves the action along in a fast pace. It reads like an action-packed movie, but later on you understand there was a deep emotional reason behind all the action. Because we were thrown right in the middle of a story and there were multiple layers of actions and reactions, it did not come off melodramatic.

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Yolanda Wu
22:58 Jan 21, 2021

Thank you so much, V! I always feel like I'm really bad at writing action, but comments like yours tell me maybe I'm not as bad as I think. I'm glad you enjoyed it, thanks again for reading and leaving a thoughtful comment. :)

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V W
01:27 Jan 22, 2021

My initial impression was that I thought you were such a proficient writer and I could definitely learn a thing or two from you!

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Yolanda Wu
01:30 Jan 22, 2021

Haha, thanks! I'm on holidays right now, so I have a lot of free time on my hands. I'm definitely not this fast during school.

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V W
01:27 Jan 22, 2021

My initial impression was that I thought you were such a proficient writer and I could definitely learn a thing or two from you!

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V W
01:27 Jan 22, 2021

My initial impression was that I thought you were such a proficient writer and I could definitely learn a thing or two from you!

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Yolanda Wu
01:08 Jan 22, 2021

Hi V! I've just uploaded part two to this story, feel free to check it out when you can. :)

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V W
01:28 Jan 22, 2021

Okay, I will!

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Radhika Diksha
14:11 Jan 17, 2021

We all would love a part 2. The story was awesome with the ending blowing our minds. I love your fantasy stories a lot. Your characters were good. This prompt was so tough but you still spun a story quite well around it. Cheers to your hard work. Looking forward to part 2. Hope it comes soon.

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Yolanda Wu
22:58 Jan 17, 2021

Thank you so much for reading, Radhika! I'm working on part two at the moment, so it'll be coming soon. :)

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Yolanda Wu
01:08 Jan 22, 2021

Hi Radhika! Part two is out now, would love to hear what you think. :)

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Radhika Diksha
10:56 Jan 15, 2021

No babe it was not you. It was the other person other people. Who write the entire plot of famous novels and movies. I can't take name right. So. Actually, you were the perfect example of my club. You give honest feedbacks and never got bothered by the point system.

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Yolanda Wu
10:58 Jan 15, 2021

Haha, sorry for the misunderstanding then, you were just a bit vague about it.

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Radhika Diksha
08:16 Jan 15, 2021

I would suggest you read my story. Be mature. And make your own decisions.

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Yolanda Wu
10:39 Jan 15, 2021

Cool, I'll head right over. :)

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Yolanda Wu
10:57 Jan 15, 2021

Hi Radhika, I read your thing, and I don't really understand what you mean by 'make your own decisions', could you explain it a bit further?

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Radhika Diksha
11:02 Jan 15, 2021

I was suggesting to read my story and make decisions. I know I mess up. Wait I will fix my mistake. I was a bit angry at that time so couldn't format properly.

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Yolanda Wu
11:05 Jan 15, 2021

That's understandable, lol. Sorry again for my tangent before, I've deleted the comment, so it's all good.

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Radhika Diksha
11:11 Jan 15, 2021

No worries I edited all of my replies. Thanks for correcting my vague response. SO what do you feel about my idea?

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Yolanda Wu
11:30 Jan 15, 2021

I think your idea is great, as writers we all understand that it's frustrating sometimes when people aren't giving any helpful feedback, so amidst the downvoting and whatnot, we should spread some positivity.

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Radhika Diksha
11:26 Jan 15, 2021

Did I hurt you? I am sorry if I did.

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Sunny 🌼 🖤
02:25 Jan 18, 2021

Awwwww man, this story was amazing! I really enjoyed how you combined the flashbacks with the "present time" so well. Oh, and Cress and Kalana's dynamic was beautiful. I loved learning about them! And the ending was really good too; kind of bittersweet.

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Yolanda Wu
04:16 Jan 18, 2021

Thank you so much, Sarah! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Also, the ending for this story is definitely not the end for Cress as I'm working on a part two for this story.

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Sunny 🌼 🖤
13:51 Jan 18, 2021

Oh cool!

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