33 comments

Fantasy East Asian Romance

Tessa dreamt of the healer again. She had lost one patient and saved another.

In her dreams, she could see through the healer’s eyes. The girl was an apothecary of sorts. She broke down dried herbs with a pestle and mortar, then added warm water to create a paste. Steam rose from the bowl in trails, carrying the scent of lavender. She applied the paste to open wounds. It sizzled against blood.

Appalling.

The healer would listen to instructions, feel out spots on the patient’s skin, then poke with a fine needle. She lined bodies from head to toe with thin spikes. A method that Tessa did not understand, and could not look away from. She was bound to watch the healer’s practices.

Bound to listen to her cry as her patients stopped breathing.

Bound to live through her eyes.

Tessa hated dreaming of her.


- - -


Min dreamt of the dancer again. 'Dancer' was not the right word, but she had no other way to describe it. She danced with mist, holding a sword composed of smoke, her armour made of vapour.

The girl trained in a courtyard, sunlight strong overhead. She wore a purple ribbon tied high on one arm, and a jade bracelet around the wrist on her other. Mist swirled within the bracelet. When she summoned her blade of smoke, the bracelet glowed like a shining emerald. The source of her powers.

Beautiful.

The mistweaver would listen to instruction, practice her form, then spar with others. The swords of mist struck one another as if crafted from iron. Weapons Min did not understand, and could not look away from. She watched as the mistweaver fell to her feet, defeated.

She didn’t move fluidly enough.

She needed to move like a dancer.

Min loved dreaming of her.


- - -


Tessa summoned her blade. Her bracelet glowed, mist coalescing into a sword. She gripped the handle. Her fingers sunk into the vapour. Her armour formed, encasing her in a weightless smoke, and she charged. Moonlight glistened above.

This night, she would not lose.

She swung at her brother. He parried, pushing her back, loose trails of mist drifting off in the wind. Tessa swung again, unrelenting. Her side swing didn’t connect. Her brother retaliated, a fierce strike that she attempted to block with her blade—no chance. It broke her weapon in two. She staggered back and fell to the grass.

The remains of her sword carried off in the wind.

“Get up,” her brother said. He released his blade and let it dissipate. “They’ll give your bracelet away if you keep this up. You need to be faster on your feet. Dodge, don’t block—your armour will protect you if you get hit.”

Tessa summoned her blade, then stopped, the glow fading from her wrist.

“Is someone watching us?” she asked.

“Focus, Tessa. We’re alone out here.”

She couldn’t.

At her chambers, Tessa sat at her desk and dipped a quill in ink.

In her dreams, she could understand the healer’s language.

A fast language, with letters that looked like art. She never remembered the language when she awoke—it became unintelligible out of the dream state.

Yet, if the healer dreamt of her too, then she would understand her tongue.

Tessa wrote one line before going to sleep.

Get out of my head, healer.


- - -


Min read through the mistweaver’s eyes. She could understand the letters, to her surprise, and remembered the words when she awoke. Get out of my head, healer. She couldn’t tell the cause of the dreams. Min tied her hair back with a purple ribbon, then left for the ward. Sunlight beamed above.

This night, she would leave a note too.

She brewed tea for her patients. A hacking cough, a plague, drifted in the wind and infected her people. One patient coughed, unrelenting. He spat blood on a rag. Min washed his mouth out with water, and proceeded with her acupuncture training—no luck. It didn’t help as she had hoped. Min leaned against the wall and sighed.

The violent cough would devastate her town without a cure.

“Keep working,” her instructor said. He handed her a mortar and pestle. “A trained healer does not mourn knowing there are more sick to attend to. You must never let them see you like this. You are their hope—your healing will save them.”

Min ground down the herbs, then stopped, looking at her hands.

“We have to find a cure,” she whispered.

“Work, Min. Remember my words.”

She did.

By the day’s end, she sat with her people at the town square, watching a ceremonial dance.

If the mistweaver could see, she could learn.

A fast dance, with string instruments plucking away, drums echoing through the courtyard. Women flowing like water—their dresses twisting around them. Men as agile as the wind, spinning blades through the air, dancing around the sharp weaponry.

She watched every move.

Min found a quill and wrote before she slept.

Remember the dances, mistweaver. I’ll watch them each night. Practice them. Flow as they do, and you shall be unstoppable.


- - -


Tessa practiced at the break of dawn, day after day. She held her blade overhead, her other hand in front of her, mimicking the form of the dancers. Elusive, quick, agile. Fast strikes before dodging to the side. Spinning the blade for momentum—for style, too.

She didn’t have to fight with brute strength like her brother.

She could flow like the healer’s people.

Her sparring partner, another knight in training, lined up across from her. He took one look at her form and laughed. She readied herself. Knights in the courtyard stopped to watch her.

He rushed forward. Tessa dodged to the right, mist drifting off her armour. She didn’t bother to parry his strike, instead letting it cut through air beside her. Her bracelet glowed. She let the mist cover her hand, then struck his chest with an open palm.

He staggered. Tessa stepped forward with a light overhead strike to his helmet of mist. He retaliated with a two-handed blow. Tessa glided to the left. She raised her sword, deflecting the hit, guiding it down her blade, then struck at his neck.

“I yield,” he said, her blade cutting through his armour.

By nightfall, she picked up her quill and wrote.

The cough your people are dealing with passed through my town a few years ago. Try dried snakeskin ground with garlic cloves, into a warm broth, twice a day. Sorry it took me so long—I had to check twice.

I’ll warn you now, it tastes horrid.


- - -


Min put together the cure at first light, batch after batch. She emptied cabinets, heated buckets of water, and followed the mistweaver’s instructions. Snakeskin, garlic cloves, warm broth. Her instructor agreed with the mixture. Pots boiled with the ingredients—it smelled as awful as it would taste.

She no longer had to worry about the plague.

She could save her people thanks to the mistweaver.

When Min returned home, she picked up her quill and wrote thank you; the coughing ceased-. She stopped mid-sentence. Her mind wandered. In every dream, she could recognize the flora and fauna. Could she thank her in person?

She rushed to the market. Would Tessa’s people accept her at the gates, or cast her out? She conversed with a mapmaker, pinpointing the mistweaver’s location as a growing town known as Silverkeep out to the south. A four-hour ride. On her off day, she rented a horse and rode.

Min dismounted her horse outside the gates of Silverkeep. She walked through the streets, following buildings she’d remember seeing in the dreams. In the courtyards, she approached a girl who practiced with one of the jade bracelets, creating a cloak of mist, and Min tapped her on the shoulder.

“Do I know you?” the girl asked, turning around.

“I…” Min didn’t know the language outside of dreams. She smiled, but Tessa only looked confused. She was shorter than Min imagined, with a different haircut. How did Tessa not recognize her? Had the mistweaver not lived through her eyes and heard her language? 

Min spoke and Tessa cocked her head.

It struck her.

This Tessa was years younger than the one she knew.

Min held back tears, pulling the purple ribbon from her hair, letting it flow down around her. She handed the ribbon to Tessa and bowed. It’d be a good luck charm she would eventually wear.

She left the mistweaver’s town.


- - -


Tessa didn’t dream of the healer for two nights.

The last dream was Min riding south. She never arrived to see her. Tessa had waited at the gates, mistweaving a cloak to keep herself warm, and only a few market carts had passed by. At dawn, she rented a horse. Tessa followed the trail north, checking the map at each turn. Had the healer taken a wrong path, returning home before dark? Or had bandits gotten to her? Perhaps her horse had tripped and broken a leg? 

Either or, she’d go to the healer's town and thank her herself.

When she arrived at noon, she stopped at a wooden fence blocking off the area. Tessa dismounted and walked to the edge. One road sign read ‘Do not cross’, while another wrote out the words, ‘Evacuate the surrounding area by nightfall.”

She leaned on the fence.

The sun gleamed down on a town in ruins. 

Buildings with curved roofs, split and broken, made up for the view. An obsidian black liquid dripped off the sides of homes, pooling on the roads—a reflective puddle that fiends would rise from at dusk. Farms were reduced to infested spawning grounds. A river of tar snaked through.

A town consumed by fiends. They never had mistweavers to repel them.

Tessa returned to her horse. Her memory blurred. Why did she come here? A sense of loss deeper than a town she never knew pulsed within, yet she couldn’t pinpoint it. Who did she come here for? 

Who did she…

She returned home. 

By nightfall, when she couldn’t sleep, she lit a lamp and sat with a history book. Page after page told her the town she'd visited, Yàowù, had fallen four years ago, tomorrow. A thousand lives lost. A culture erased.

Tessa read until the sun rose, then slept, exhausted, at her desk.

She dreamt of destruction. Of alarm bells ringing, of warriors fighting, their weapons useless. Arrows passed right through the fiend’s shadow-like bodies, ineffective. Women cried with children clutched in their arms. Boys took up pitchforks. Pools of black ink consumed animals and drowned gardens. The shouting hurt her ears. 

Her dream switched to an image of a statue. A four-armed, meditating man, staring at her, tears running from his eyes. He spoke the word, tonight, as screams echoed through the town. 

No fiend dared to approach the statue.

Tessa awoke in a cold sweat. Evening crickets chirped.

The sun glowed orange outside her window. She tightened the purple ribbon around her shoulder, grabbed her bracelet, and dashed down the hall.

Her bracelet glowed as she concealed herself in a cloak of vapour. She formed a dagger of mist and cut locks off the rooms of the other mistweavers. Searching through their desks, belongings, cabinets and chests, Tessa stole a handful of jade bracelets. They’d be replaced.

Caught on the road by bandits, and she would hand them a fortune. Caught by her people? Banished from the knights. Exiled by her family. All for following a fever dream, and a sense of loss. 

She was forgetting something or someone, and it pained her. 

Tessa mounted a horse, the bracelets clinking against one another in her pack, and sped north.


- - -


Min slept. She dreamed of a horse pounding against a trail and found herself once again living through the mistweaver's eyes. Tessa. How did she forget such a beautiful name? How did she forget her?

Tessa, wearing a cloak of vapour, reined the horse to the right. She turned onto a forest path—low-hanging branches snapping against her. Wind whipped her hair, passing through her, leaving a trail of mist behind. Trinkets clinked together in the pack slung across her shoulder.

The sun set overhead. Beads of sweat dripped down her forehead.

Why was she going so fast? Min thought.

Where?

As stars breathed life into the night sky, Tessa reached a long wooden fence. A barrier. ‘Do not cross,’ one sign read. She kicked the horse and they jumped right over, sped down a hill, and into a town Min could barely recognize.

The horse whinnied as his hooves splashed into black puddles.

Yàowù. Her home. Four years in the future, flooded with shadowy creatures, with red beads for eyes, their skin an ever-shifting darkness. Pillaged homes, roofs caved in. Market carts left decaying with rot. Moonlight reflected off a pitch-black river.

Tessa charged into a group of fiends and raised her arm. Her bracelet glowed a jade light, a beacon in the dark, and a sword of mist formed in her hands. Her cloak became a breastplate. A helmet coalesced over her hair and a clear visor formed over her eyes. 

Plates of mist lined her horse, readying him for war. Tessa swung her sword to her right, cleaving through a fiend, leaving it screeching, its body exuding black smoke. One reached to claw at her. Tessa pulled the reins, turned, and stabbed her blade.

She glanced left and right, shadows closing in.

Umbral hands reached up from the ink puddles. They gripped the horse's hooves, pulling him off balance, and Tessa fell. She hit the ground and bounced to her feet, grabbed the pack of bracelets, then let her sword dissipate. 

Daggers of mist formed between her fingers.

Tessa dodged to the right, claws passing by her visor. She threw one dagger at the fiend brandishing its fangs at her horse. Tessa ducked, spun, ink splashing beneath her, and stabbed a fiend through its beady eyes. She willed the mist to line her palm and pushed another back.

She yelled to her horse. He took off. 

One fiend, bigger than the others, caught Tessa’s blindside and tore through her armour. Blood dripped down her chest. She sidestepped another hit, then ran for the statue at the center of town.

Min woke up.


- - -


Tessa collapsed against the statue. The fiends stood at the edge, gathering into a horde, watching with glowing eyes. She raised her arm. The purple ribbon tightened. Her good luck charm. The thread of fate.

She blinked.

When she opened her eyes, a woman wearing a lilac dress kneeled before her. The fiends had vanished. The streets were silent.

“I’m glad I called for the calvary,” Min whispered.

Min. How could she forget her? How did she forget her? Tessa reached out, pained from her wound, and fell into the healer’s arms. Her armour faded, drifting into the air. Tears dripped from her eyes. Min’s warmth numbed the pain in her chest.

“I didn’t think…” Tessa breathed in, heavy. “How did you know I’d be here? How can I understand you?”

“I dreamt it. I awoke and ran. We’re still in that dream state, Tessa.” The way she pronounced her name sounded like music with her accent. “I don’t know for how long. It’s because of the ribbon I gave you-”

“That was you!” Tessa smiled, leaning back against the statue. “Four years ago, I didn’t know you then, and you handed it to me. That was you.” She looked at her arm, where the purple ribbon tied around it vibrated softly.

Tessa reached for the pack and handed it to the healer.

“There is so much I want to tell you, Min, but we have little time together. Take the bracelets and hand them to your greatest warriors. They’re skilled, and will know how to use them.” She wiped tears from her eyes. “Know that, wherever we end up, whatever time you are in, I will find you again, no matter what. I promise.”

Min’s smile wavered. She brought out a small piece of paper and tucked it into Tessa’s hands. “I wrote my name on this so you won’t forget me. Thank you, mistweaver.”


- - -


Min sat alone.

Tessa had disappeared. Back to her time.

Life returned to motion around her. She held onto the pack, listening to alarm bells, hearing men rush to arms, women barricading their doors. If everything went right, her people would live to see another day. 

She had to hand the jade bracelets to her warriors.

Because Tessa told her so.

Because she told her.

Because who…

Because…

Min got to her feet and rushed. She handed them out to the warriors losing to the fiends. They slipped them on, summoned long blades of swirling mist, and fought back. 


- - -


Tessa could never tell what she was searching for. 

She couldn’t tell if she was searching for a person, a painting, or a poem. An emptiness followed her wherever she went. She had cried over a note she found in her hand one morning, and couldn’t shake the feeling of loss since then.

It read: 我爱你.

It had taken days to find a translation for it.

I love you.

Weeks, months, and years passed. She became a full-fledged knight. Fiends were driven back. Trade routes developed between nations. The world moved on.

On the day of a town fair, she wandered, unable to start a conversation with anyone. Scared to form a connection—scared to give up that empty feeling. Yet, a woman in a lilac dress spoke with a shopkeeper in a fast, somehow familiar language.

At the sight of her, the emptiness grew light.

Tessa walked up and tapped her on the shoulder.

She turned, and they both asked in harmony,

“do I know you from somewhere?”

September 28, 2021 03:19

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33 comments

Jade Wolf
20:25 Oct 01, 2021

This is such a creative story... while reading th7s i was thinkinv to myself 'how can a person come up with this?' ... Its brilliant... i love it ❤

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Alex Sultan
22:10 Oct 01, 2021

Thank you! It took me hours to get the plot right. It's a mix of movies I liked, books I've read, and games I've played. A ton of different inspirations. Thanks for reading :)

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Jade Wolf
09:25 Oct 02, 2021

It was a pleasure :)

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Annalisa D.
23:15 Oct 03, 2021

The descriptions in this are really beautiful and well done. It had a nice, magical feel to reading it and I really enjoyed it.

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Kevin Marlow
00:48 Oct 01, 2021

Wonderful read. I read it when first posted and had trouble following the story. The subtle changes helped. It's well written and very imaginative.

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Alex Sultan
07:52 Oct 01, 2021

Thanks, Kevin. I'm glad the subtle changes helped. I can be blind to the clarity of my stories at times, especially in the first draft. It's nice of you to read it over again and comment.

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17:29 Sep 29, 2021

Hi Alex - I'm giving it a re read - a few thoughts: She broke down dried herbs in a bowl using a pestle, grinding them down to powder, then added warm water to create a paste. - repetition of down. Maybe cut the second one? Maybe even cut the whole section and have: She broke down dried herbs in a bowl using a pestle, then added warm water to create a paste. She broke down dried herbs in a bowl using a pestle, grinding them down to powder, then added warm water to create a paste. Steam rose from the bowl in trails, - I think it should be ...

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Alex Sultan
19:56 Sep 30, 2021

I'm thankful you read over it again. I cut some of the repetition as you suggested - it seems to be a flaw of mine. I'm glad you pointed it out, it should read a bit smoother now. Also, and I might change it still, umbral is Latin for shadow/shade/dark. I didn't know of the Portuguese meaning behind it when I wrote it.

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20:20 Sep 30, 2021

The Latin sounds cool - maybe ignore my suggestion on that and leave it in?

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21:14 Sep 28, 2021

Hello again :-) So... I really like it. I think it might be your strongest one yet, next to 1000 Years in Tokyo. The concept is brilliant, the characters evoke a great deal of sympathy while still both being very strong and capable people, and the world is fascinating. I don't think Min sounds like a surgeon - she doesn't do much cutting and sewing of people, more like an acupuncturist / healer / medicine woman / apothecary / herbalist / something. I'd question whether you might be better changing the word surgeon for something else all ...

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Alex Sultan
00:55 Sep 29, 2021

Thank you, friend. I'm glad you liked the story - I spent hours and hours on this one trying to get it right. I didn't like these prompts originally either and nearly skipped this week, and while writing, almost gave up on this story halfway. It looked very different in the first draft. All of your feedback is great. I've implemented just about everything and might make a few more changes later on in the week. A few comments: I had Min as more of a surgeon in the first draft but I cut a lot of that, but stuck to the term. I changed it to '...

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07:08 Sep 29, 2021

I'm glad it was helpful. If I get chance I'll read the new version later today. I may have had an idea for a story myself but I'm not sure about it yet.

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20:58 Sep 28, 2021

Hi Alex... here are some comments on specifics: The girl was an apprentice of sorts. - The blending of herbs etc makes her sound like an apothecary. Nothing in the story makes her sound like an apprentice / trainee until much later. I'd be tempted to swap apprentice here for apothecary. And perhaps cut her mentor later on, it doesn't add anything to the story that she is training and could buy you a few words for other things. She broke down (dry) herbs in a bowl using a pestle, grinding them down to powder, then added warm water to crea...

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Keya Jadav
04:10 Sep 28, 2021

Damn Alex! It is one of the best stories of yours I have ever read. The way you shifted perspectives and timelines with such ease, at the end opening the threads of mystery...Impressive! The plot is amazing! To be honest, you should inculcate it in a novel. It kept me guessing till the end. I can see clear chances of you being the winner!

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Alex Sultan
04:15 Sep 28, 2021

Thank you for reading. This is my new favourite story on my profile - I put in 110% and could definitely see a novel out of it. I hope it does well this week. Also, I see you entered your story in the contest! I'm excited to see how it goes. I'll read over your work and comment my feedback when I get the chance :)

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Keya Jadav
04:53 Sep 28, 2021

Your efforts clearly show up. And thank you. :)

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Evynne Eradost
05:07 Oct 12, 2021

soooo good! both characters are super compelling (i also have a special attachment to the name tessa—that’s my sister’s name!). At first I was having trouble following, but as the story progressed things made more sense and i like the ambiguity of it! in that sense it reminded me of a ray bradbury story, very good! i’m also a sucker for dual pov, which is rarely seen in short stories. overall amazing job!

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Alex Sultan
17:58 Oct 13, 2021

Thank you! This is my favourite story on my profile. I'm happy you read it through and enjoyed it. I really like dual pov, and wanted to make the best use of it with this story. Also, the name Tessa worked so well for this! As soon as I came up with the name for the protagonist, I had no second thoughts. Your kind words are appreciated :)

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18:15 Oct 10, 2021

Hi Alex - I hope you had a good weekend? I've reluctantly posted a story for the social media prompts if you have chance to look it over. It's rough and I'm not happy with it at all, but it could be a starting point.

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Alex Sultan
18:40 Oct 10, 2021

Thanks, I hope your weekend has been well, too 😁 I'll check out your story and leave my notes either tonight or tomorrow. I should have my story out by tomorrow as well - I'm trying a completely new, difficult genre, and doing my best to write a winner with it. Your feedback would be appreciated.

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18:51 Oct 10, 2021

No problem, happy to feed back. I'm not under any illusions about my story this week. I probably won't enter it. Unless I have a stunning rewrite moment of clarity and am over come with inspiration 😂

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15:28 Oct 08, 2021

Gutted that this wasn't shortlisted 😞

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Alex Sultan
15:41 Oct 08, 2021

Yeah, I'm 0 for 2 with my romance stories right now - this will still be my favourite for a while, tho. I'll get it with the next one I write 🙃

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Courtney Moore
01:41 Oct 08, 2021

The flow of this story was at a mastery level. You gave us just enough information to capture attention and hold suspense. The back and forth action moved the story along at a good pace. Your creativity never disappoints! I loved every second of reading this!

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Alex Sultan
15:42 Oct 08, 2021

Thank you for reading, Courtney. It took me so long to write this one and get the plot, style and characters down, and I'm glad it worked out. Your comment is very kind :)

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Danny G
22:38 Oct 06, 2021

Great story Alex. Has a bit of a Sanderson-vibe with the mist and the bracelet weapons. Would definitely read more. Well done.

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Alex Sultan
03:06 Oct 07, 2021

Thanks for reading. Mistborn/Stormlight Archive definitely played a role in writing this story. I was originally going to have the power be neon instead of mist, but I liked how this worked out. I appreciate the kind words :)

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Andrea Magee
14:55 Oct 06, 2021

This story was a pleasant read!

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Kathleen `Woods
21:27 Oct 05, 2021

This was very smooth, as far as language. I can't say it holds against distraction, but the characters were consistent enough to recognize over E-reader, and their associated skills were well presented, though not over explained for your chosen format. Thanks for writing!

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Alex Sultan
04:38 Oct 06, 2021

Thank you for reading it over. I like this story a lot - I think it's the best I've written, but the length of it is the downfall in this competition. Nevertheless, I'm glad you enjoyed it and commented :)

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Kathleen `Woods
18:04 Oct 06, 2021

thanks for noticing my comment. I checked your word count, and for reasons I'll be honest about I'm gonna assume that's a humble-brag. I rarely get past the 1000+ mark, and that's the kinda thing that gets really annoying when your goal is longform. :) I'm glad your works improved, especially through self-evo. It's really hard to meet in the middle with one's own expectations, so it's great to hear your getting closer.

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Fawn Marshall
15:58 Oct 04, 2021

I really loved this story!

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Alex Sultan
05:05 Oct 06, 2021

Thank you for the kind words :) I put hours and hours into this one.

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