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Chapter 21.2: Ilami

by Lightsong


Ilami opened her eyes and gasped. It felt like being alive again. Never would she get near Haka when he was in his beast state. She sat up, recognizing the white bed and blue blanket. Aleveri and Gael sat beside her, Aleveri clutching her hand.

‘Thank the Naturals you’re awake,’ Aleveri said, sighing in relief. Gael smiled.

‘How long have I passed out?’ Ilami asked.

‘Just for an hour.’ Aleveri turned to Gael. ‘I think it’s time for the award ceremony. You should go, Gael. The artifact is yours.’

‘Wait.’ Ilami looked from Aleveri to Gael, frowning. ‘He wins for the Scholar test? He beats you?’

‘Um, yeah, I’ve beat her several times, in fact,’ Gael said, grinning. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I don’t win? We’re basing this off our question papers.’

‘Which should be enough!’ Aleveri said, oddly determined. ‘We put our answers in there, there shouldn’t be any mistake. And, er, this might sound harsh, but the other two don’t have a chance to outdo you. I just know.’

Ilami rubbed her chest, feeling sore. That part was most impacted from this energy draining. Other than that, she felt okay. She started to get off the bed.

‘Wait, what are you doing?’ Aleveri asked. ‘You should rest.’

Ilami waved away her concern. ‘It’s just a faint, Aleveri. I’m fine now. We should watch the ceremony also.’

As they left the ward, Aleveri told her about Felaris’s parents.

‘I saw them arguing with Mrs. Venaria. They obviously knew what Haka displayed was no ordinary Natural magic. They accused him of cheating – what with the extraordinary speed and strength. They couldn’t recognize the energy draining though – it wasn’t apparent. Kestari was with her. And did you know what he said?’

Ilami shook her head.

‘He said this was a blessing from Lio. No, not a regular blessing, but one for a priest. He said Lio must’ve seen potential in Haka, and had been choosing this time to grant them these enhancements. It’s pure nonsense, I tell you, and the parents might have thought so too, but they couldn’t prove otherwise. The crowd would be even more ignorant about this. They aren’t from people who use Natural magic for combat or knowledge.’

Ilami nodded. Despite Natural magic being the common magic used in Estagria, only a few schools actually taught focused on it and its potential for combat and further research. What they had seen from the fights would be summarized as nothing more than the advancement of Natural magic, if anything at all. Just as she expected. Still, it was a risk for the school to let Haka participate, knowing what he was capable at. What were the school and the church trying to prove?

A stage had been prepared for the ceremony at the field. The floor was made with glossed wood. Mr. Haifei stood at the corner as the host of the event. He stood at the podium, addressing the crowd who sat in the chairs that had been provided. Mother, Kestari, and the parents of the participating students sat at the front row. From the back, Ilami couldn’t identify the Xikaras and Arvans, but Ashavs stood out with their crimson attires with gold adornment.

‘The moment we have been waiting for has arrived,’ Mr. Haifei started. His monotone voice suited the air of formality he had to exude. ‘The result of the winners of the Fighter and Scholar tests has been given to me. Before we start the award ceremony, I would like to welcome our Natron, Kestari Fexar, to deliver a speech.’

Kestari’s speech went on in a generic fashion. Of course, he sprinkled it with praises to the school and the people who had managed to come. He continued to pour the artificial sweetness to the church and the gods, especially Lio and Xesar. Ilami gritted her teeth. That manipulator, flawlessly orchestrating his words on the stage. The church to whom he belonged founded the Test, was aware of the artifacts in the Restricted Area, and most likely to be involved in the experimentation, given that was what their god, Lio, wanted them to do.

After he finished, Mother took the stage. Her speech contrasted Kestari’s. She spoke with confidence expected from a general at war, unbothered to layer her words with decorations. Honesty she displayed like a sword, a weapon to be used to encourage reaction from the audience. Looking around, Ilami could see it. The audience was enthralled by her speech just as Kestari’s did, but instead of making them feel better about themselves, Mother heightened their emotions – the passion and determination. She emphasized the importance of the Test, and the infinite worth of the students who had participated in it.

The award ceremony finally arrived.

‘The winner for the Fighter test goes to Haka Arvan!’ Mr. Haifei announced. For a split second, he stared at Ilami, making her gulp.

Haka, standing up from a line of teachers and priests, walked to the stage. His face was emotionless as he shook Kestari’s and Mother’s hands before claiming his artifact from Mr. Haifei. The artifact was a white bracelet.

Gael gasped. ‘Farava’s twin bracelet. The Life Giver,’ he whispered. ‘It all makes sense now.’

Ilami frowned. ‘What does?’

‘Later,’ he replied, glancing at the rest.

Aleveri, sitting beside her, nodded her head. She didn’t look as surprised as Gael. Odd.

Haka left the stage and joined the teachers and priests.

Mr. Haifei read the scroll in his hand. A few seconds of silence passed by before he spoke up. ‘The winner for the Scholar test goes to...’ He stared directly at the crowd, at one specific student. ‘Aleveri Uora.’

‘No,’ she whispered.

Gael was stunned.

Ilami didn’t know how to react. Surely it was possible that Aleveri had passed Gael at last. What was so unbelievable about that? ‘Aleveri. Take your artifact.’

Ilami had to pushed her for her to stand up. She walked to the stage slowly, as if she was approaching her own execution. It baffled Ilami. Aleveri took the scepter that looked familiar and walked down toward them.

‘Scepter of Cerelia,’ Gael said. There was… jealousy in his tone. ‘We saw it in the Restricted Area. That artifact’s too powerful, even for a student.’

Aleveri took her seat. Mr. Haifei continued taking charge of the event before suddenly he handed it to Kestari again.

‘This year, the church and the academy have planned a surprise for the winners of the Test. As we all know, the border that separates our country from the Hollow has its protective magic weakening. Thus, we require more people to contribute to the safety of the citizens, of us. Gods’ Brotherhood Church has decided to choose its representatives in the form of potential wizards, and where else is best to find them if not in a prestigious academy? To Haka Arvan and Aleveri Uora, from this moment, I declare you, Vartons il Seris!’

‘What?’ Gael asked, his eyes widened.

Ilami couldn’t find anything to say. She looked at Aleveri instead, and was surprised to her silently crying, despite smiling at the same time.

‘I failed,’ Aleveri whispered, her body slightly trembling. ‘I thought I could stop it from happening, but I should know better. I should know I wouldn’t have a chance.’

‘Aleveri? What are you talking about?’

‘Of course, the church and the academy are not the only ones who know about this surprise. The parents of the participating students are also informed about this. It is through their approval of that the students could continue to join the Test. An hour after this event, arrangements would be made to prepare the students for their transfer to the church.’

Ilami turned her attention to Kestari. ‘That couldn’t be!’ she said.

Kestari smiled widely. ‘The Test has proven to be extremely successful in helping the church to find the perfect contributor to the noble cause of protecting Estagrians from the threat of the Hollows. It is my best intention to keep it going. Perhaps the same concept can be applied to other academies of our chosen.’

They were taking her friends from her. She clutched her fist. All under the disguise of a righteous agenda. She couldn’t bear spending her time in the academy without Aleveri. Without Haka, even. They had both accepted her even after knowing her dark past. They helped her to be her best self. After her fight with Haka, she was certain she could learn more from him, even when she faced him in his beastly state.

‘I will not allow this,’ Gael hissed. ‘I – Wretched fool! Pulling the strings and making them his puppets. Lio has taught his priest well. He is as damnable as his god.’ Ilami stared at Gael, shocked. His eyes were cloudy blue. Brilliantly blue. His voice grew coarse. ‘No matter. I have to end this dalliance. It is time to destroy the church and its deplorable priests once and for all.’ Then, his eyes turned to their normal colour. He blinked.

Unable to process what just happened, a voice at her back startled her. It was Veris’s. ‘I know where they carry out the experiment.’

Finally. One good news.


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Thu Nov 25, 2021 11:17 am
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: I was expecting this to be more of a filler chapter with them trying to recover from all this and I just not expecting to see this ceremony happen and have so many terrible things happen in said ceremony. A powerful couple of moments there to end things on and it seems there's barely any good news for the "heroes' but....perhaps that last line does have some hope to it.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Ilami opened her eyes and gasped. It felt like being alive again. Never would she get near Haka when he was in his beast state. She sat up, recognizing the white bed and blue blanket. Aleveri and Gael sat beside her, Aleveri clutching her hand.

‘Thank the Naturals you’re awake,’ Aleveri said, sighing in relief. Gael smiled.

‘How long have I passed out?’ Ilami asked.

‘Just for an hour.’ Aleveri turned to Gael. ‘I think it’s time for the award ceremony. You should go, Gael. The artifact is yours.’

‘Wait.’ Ilami looked from Aleveri to Gael, frowning. ‘He wins for the Scholar test? He beats you?’


Okayy....well, Aleveri is very confident about her checking the answers, I just get the distinct feeling that's not going to be true. With how much Haka was changed in order to win that, Aleveri even though she tried not to win and further the ends of the academy probably has been made to win. Its a lot easier to change the outcome of a written test after all.

Ilami rubbed her chest, feeling sore. That part was most impacted from this energy draining. Other than that, she felt okay. She started to get off the bed.

‘Wait, what are you doing?’ Aleveri asked. ‘You should rest.’

Ilami waved away her concern. ‘It’s just a faint, Aleveri. I’m fine now. We should watch the ceremony also.’

As they left the ward, Aleveri told her about Felaris’s parents.


Well, its good to know that at the very least Ilami is only suffering from some minor injuries. that probably means Felaris will also be fine, just bruised and battered. They will be able to recover and hopefully put a stop to all of this madness that has been going on around here...although for now they might have to witness the aftermath of the academy's plan coming to fruition here.

‘He said this was a blessing from Lio. No, not a regular blessing, but one for a priest. He said Lio must’ve seen potential in Haka, and had been choosing this time to grant them these enhancements. It’s pure nonsense, I tell you, and the parents might have thought so too, but they couldn’t prove otherwise. The crowd would be even more ignorant about this. They aren’t from people who use Natural magic for combat or knowledge.’

Ilami nodded. Despite Natural magic being the common magic used in Estagria, only a few schools actually taught focused on it and its potential for combat and further research. What they had seen from the fights would be summarized as nothing more than the advancement of Natural magic, if anything at all. Just as she expected. Still, it was a risk for the school to let Haka participate, knowing what he was capable at. What were the school and the church trying to prove?


Okayy...so suddenly the church seems to play an even bigger part in things and it seems like something worse could be happening underneath all this. Hopefully Veris's little mission into that person's room is going to provide some answers and shed some light on all of this. I also love that you took the time to explain how everyone else observing received that fight, I wasn't expecting a justification like that, but I love that you included it.

‘The moment we have been waiting for has arrived,’ Mr. Haifei started. His monotone voice suited the air of formality he had to exude. ‘The result of the winners of the Fighter and Scholar tests has been given to me. Before we start the award ceremony, I would like to welcome our Natron, Kestari Fexar, to deliver a speech.’

Kestari’s speech went on in a generic fashion. Of course, he sprinkled it with praises to the school and the people who had managed to come. He continued to pour the artificial sweetness to the church and the gods, especially Lio and Xesar. Ilami gritted her teeth. That manipulator, flawlessly orchestrating his words on the stage. The church to whom he belonged founded the Test, was aware of the artifacts in the Restricted Area, and most likely to be involved in the experimentation, given that was what their god, Lio, wanted them to do.


OKayy....so it seems now there's no hesitation whatsoever within Ilami, she immediately manages to judge exactly how horrible this person is and you can now see this all laid bare. As a reader you feel that shared frustration of having to watch the "bad" guys as it were having won and now just furthering their agenda.

After he finished, Mother took the stage. Her speech contrasted Kestari’s. She spoke with confidence expected from a general at war, unbothered to layer her words with decorations. Honesty she displayed like a sword, a weapon to be used to encourage reaction from the audience. Looking around, Ilami could see it. The audience was enthralled by her speech just as Kestari’s did, but instead of making them feel better about themselves, Mother heightened their emotions – the passion and determination. She emphasized the importance of the Test, and the infinite worth of the students who had participated in it.

The award ceremony finally arrived.


That's an interesting set of things to quickly highlight there to show just how different Mrs. Venaria is as a leader. She's no less effective at doing her own thing, but its very much a different style that leaves people with different emotions at the end of it.

‘The winner for the Fighter test goes to Haka Arvan!’ Mr. Haifei announced. For a split second, he stared at Ilami, making her gulp.

Haka, standing up from a line of teachers and priests, walked to the stage. His face was emotionless as he shook Kestari’s and Mother’s hands before claiming his artifact from Mr. Haifei. The artifact was a white bracelet.

Gael gasped. ‘Farava’s twin bracelet. The Life Giver,’ he whispered. ‘It all makes sense now.’

Ilami frowned. ‘What does?’

‘Later,’ he replied, glancing at the rest.


Well...that's an interesting revelation by Gael. That definitely is a rather curious reaction and him then going on to suggest that he'll only reveal it later is also interesting. I get the feeling that Gael managed to figure something out there and its not easy to explain, he might just have realized a part of the plans the academy has here.

Mr. Haifei read the scroll in his hand. A few seconds of silence passed by before he spoke up. ‘The winner for the Scholar test goes to...’ He stared directly at the crowd, at one specific student. ‘Aleveri Uora.’

‘No,’ she whispered.

Gael was stunned.

Ilami didn’t know how to react. Surely it was possible that Aleveri had passed Gael at last. What was so unbelievable about that? ‘Aleveri. Take your artifact.’


Ohh....that's definitely some tampering on her part. I definitely believe that their check with the questions paper was accurate, they both are more than smart enough to figure this out...but now things are going to happen as the academy wanted. I also suspect Aleveri with her two reactions here knows a bit about what's going on, perhaps not the full details, but enough that she doesn't like where things are going and that certainly rings a few alarm bells for me cause you can see Aleveri would much rather not win this.

‘Scepter of Cerelia,’ Gael said. There was… jealousy in his tone. ‘We saw it in the Restricted Area. That artifact’s too powerful, even for a student.’

Aleveri took her seat. Mr. Haifei continued taking charge of the event before suddenly he handed it to Kestari again.

‘This year, the church and the academy have planned a surprise for the winners of the Test. As we all know, the border that separates our country from the Hollow has its protective magic weakening. Thus, we require more people to contribute to the safety of the citizens, of us. Gods’ Brotherhood Church has decided to choose its representatives in the form of potential wizards, and where else is best to find them if not in a prestigious academy? To Haka Arvan and Aleveri Uora, from this moment, I declare you, Vartons il Seris!’


Oh that's bad...bad....first of all Gael clearly has spotted some sort of dangerous pattern here and these two artefacts clearly reveal a lot and also now it seems this church has not only ensured the victory of these two through these extreme measures, they've now recruited them and you can bet its without ever asking for their consent. That's gotta be a part of why Aleveri was so afraid of all of it.

‘I failed,’ Aleveri whispered, her body slightly trembling. ‘I thought I could stop it from happening, but I should know better. I should know I wouldn’t have a chance.’

‘Aleveri? What are you talking about?’

‘Of course, the church and the academy are not the only ones who know about this surprise. The parents of the participating students are also informed about this. It is through their approval of that the students could continue to join the Test. An hour after this event, arrangements would be made to prepare the students for their transfer to the church.’

Ilami turned her attention to Kestari. ‘That couldn’t be!’ she said.


That certainly has to be a lie. I can see most of the parents being convinced, but Felaris's parents of Gael's parents don't seem like the type to agree to any of that unless all of these are simply lies or they were also manipulated in some way. Oh well, the "victory" for the academy and the church is having even worse consequences than what I was imagining earlier.

They were taking her friends from her. She clutched her fist. All under the disguise of a righteous agenda. She couldn’t bear spending her time in the academy without Aleveri. Without Haka, even. They had both accepted her even after knowing her dark past. They helped her to be her best self. After her fight with Haka, she was certain she could learn more from him, even when she faced him in his beastly state.

‘I will not allow this,’ Gael hissed. ‘I – Wretched fool! Pulling the strings and making them his puppets. Lio has taught his priest well. He is as damnable as his god.’ Ilami stared at Gael, shocked. His eyes were cloudy blue. Brilliantly blue. His voice grew coarse. ‘No matter. I have to end this dalliance. It is time to destroy the church and its deplorable priests once and for all.’ Then, his eyes turned to their normal colour. He blinked.

Unable to process what just happened, a voice at her back startled her. It was Veris’s. ‘I know where they carry out the experiment.’

Finally. One good news.


Well....that was quite a lot to end on there. Phew..a lot of things being immediately thrown at us right before things end. That was almost a little bit too fast there I have to say. Something is very wrong about all of this...and Serra clearly taking control to make that statement in what has to be some proper rage is a good moment. Then of course ahh, we also have Veris who appears to have been successful in his own little mission...and that news seems to be very interesting as well.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, a rather powerful moment here for this chapter to end on and I am very much wary of what could come next. Nothing good seems set to happen at this point and hopefully Veris's information here can change that. They do after all have Serra herself on their side.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Sat Sep 22, 2018 4:14 pm
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Mea wrote a review...



Hey Light! I'm back for this chapter today!

So wow, what a twist! The explanation they had makes a lot of sense - it's really clever! And I can't help but wonder if Aleveri really beat Gael, or if the church twisted the results for their own personal reasons.

I have to say, it surprised me that they don't even ask the students if they're okay with this, but at the same time I think it makes sense - you've established that there's a very strong tradition of the children following their parents' wishes, and they know that Haka is okay with this, and it's not like these people are going to let a little thing like free will stand in the way of their plans.

I think one of the main things that makes this scene not as powerful as it could be is that we don't know much about the Hollows. I vaguely remember there being an 'enemy' (but they're not really enemies?) that the church is fighting against, but it's never been something I've felt is very present in the narrative, or even something important in the background - I just remember it as a vague piece of lore. So although this development is obviously bad, because I don't know much about the Hollows it's really hard to feel that it is.

I really liked the moment when Sera takes over Gael's voice and speaks so angrily. It was really obvious just from her dialogue what had happened, and I could immediately tell it was her. And it also forces Gael to explain at least part of what's going on, and I can't wait to see Ilami's reaction to it.

Although I understood the approach of Kestari's speech and both the emotions it was supposed to inspire in the audience and the emotions it actually inspired in Ilami, I didn't feel the same way about her mother's speech. I had a hard time telling what the point of the speech was, and I feel like it's less important to focus on than Kestari's. You could probably just skim over it altogether, only mentioning that Ilami's mother gave the speech rather than going into any detail.

And that's all I've got for you! Good luck with the next chapter, can't wait to read it!




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Sat Sep 22, 2018 1:19 pm
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Panikos wrote a review...



Hiii, Lightsong! Pan dropping in for a quick review, with my usual formula. Great to see a new chapter so soon.

Small Comments

Ilami opened her eyes and gasped. It felt like being alive again. Never again would she get near Haka when he was in his beast state.


Just a small thing, but you might want to establish that Ilami passed out at the end of the previous chapter, because I wasn't expecting her to wake up in a hospital bed at the beginning of this one. It made me feel like I'd missed something.

‘How long was I passed out?’ Ilami asked.


‘Wait.’ Ilami looked from Aleveri to Gael, frowning. ‘He won the Scholar test? He beat you?’


‘I don’t know. Maybe I won’t win?


‘Which should be enough!’ Aleveri said, oddly determined.


Don't draw attention to her behaviour being 'odd' - we should be able to see that for ourselves, and indeed we can.

And, er, this might sound harsh, but the other two don’t have a chance of outdoing you.


‘It’s just a faint, Aleveri.


You don't often see 'faint' used as a noun. I'd change this to something like 'I only fainted, Aleveri.'

‘He said this was a blessing from Lio. No, not a regular blessing, but one for a priest. He said Lio must’ve seen potential in Haka, and had been choosing this time to grant them these enhancements. It’s pure nonsense, I tell you, and the parents might have thought so too, but they couldn’t prove otherwise. The crowd would be even more ignorant about this. They aren’t from people who use Natural magic for combat or knowledge.’

Ilami nodded. Despite Natural magic being the common magic used in Estagria, only a few schools actually taught focused on it and its potential for combat and further research. What they had seen from the fights would be summarized as nothing more than the advancement of Natural magic, if anything at all.


This is really interesting, actually. It's a great response to my questions about how the academy was going to cover this up; I never thought that they would actually claim it to be a blessing from Lio. I think this would be even more effective if we saw more of the world outside the academy, but I'll talk a bit more about that in the overall thoughts section.

Still, it was a risk for the school to let Haka participate, knowing what he was capable of. What were the school and the church trying to prove?


I like that you've raised this point. It shows me you haven't forgotten about it! :P

Aleveri, sitting beside her, nodded her head. She didn’t look as surprised as Gael. Odd.


Again, don't point out that it's odd. It feels like you're trying too hard to make us notice the moment and kills the subtlety.

Ilami had to push her to get her to stand up.


As we all know, the border that separates our country from the Hollow has its protective magic weakening.


...did we know this? I feel like this is the first I've heard of it.

Finally. One piece of good news.


'Good news' is a mass noun, so you can't have 'a good news' or 'one good news'. You'd have to have 'a bit of good news' or something like that.

Overall Thoughts

This was a really exciting chapter! I was feeling a little doubtful about how you'd manage a reveal about Aleveri and why she was so keen to lose to Gael on top of having to explain the church and academy's actions, but you've really pulled it off! It's feasible and believable and very sinister that the church is plucking skilled students out of education to serve in their army. It's sinister that a church even has an army. But it also explains, in part, why the academy has a role in all this experimentation; I'd guess they're under the church's thumb, and that said church wants enhanced soldiers like Haka. It also explains why they let Haka compete in front of the whole school - because he needed to win the Test to be legitimately transferred into the church's hands. It's neat. It works. And I like that it's wrapped up in a supposedly noble cause.

The flip side is that this chapter has exposed one of the most pressing weaknesses of the whole story, which is that we don't see enough of life outside the academy. Because every single one of your viewpoint characters is a student, and because we haven't has any scenes beyond the academy since Ilami first joined the place, it means we get absolutely no first-hand insight into all of this interesting stuff that's happening in the wider world. I know next to nothing about what's going on with the Hollow. Next to nothing about how influential the church is. Next to nothing about how magic and the Naturals are perceived by the masses; the stuff about magic being taught only in fairly select schools was completely new to me. Which means that none of the stuff that's revealed in this chapter has as big an impact as it should. Sure, you've alluded to parts of it through the characters - we're frequently told that the church is oppressive - but we don't see it first hand. That's precarious, because seeing is key to believing, at least with writing.

To be fair, you can probably remedy several of those issues without looking too far outside the academy. You could easily increase the influence of the church - maybe have priests being appointed more frequently as tutors or staff members, or just an increasing focus on Lio in lessons. You could solve the issue of the Hollow by talking about it more frequently, maybe through Gael getting newspapers and things. Just make sure we're actively aware of what's happening in this broad world you've built, because it's not brilliant when new things pop up out of nowhere within paragraphs of a plot development that relies on them.

In regards to the rest of the chapter, your expression was shakier than usual, but I sense that you were just trying to get the plot down, which is fair enough. One of the small things I've noted is that it would've been good to actually hear a bit of Venaria's speech. You mention that talks powerfully, like a war general, but I struggle to believe it because (a) I've never really got that impression from her before and (b) we don't hear anything of what she says here. You don't have to give us the whole thing, but a few lines would be good, just to give us a flavour of what she's talking about.

Any other thoughts? The end of the chapter was rushed. I like the moment where Serra spoke through Gael (though her dialogue was a bit hammy - you could tone it down) but I didn't think you lingered on it for long enough. I assumed Kestari would hear him, given that he heard Ilami from the same distance, so I was confused when nobody but Ilami reacted. And then, before I could digest that, Veris suddenly popped up with news about the experiments. It was too fast, even though you built up the rest of the chapter very nicely.

Overall, though, I was really impressed with this. I can't wait to see what's going to happen next!

Keep writing! :D
~Pan





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