Iron Saki

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NuclearStudent
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Iron Saki

Post by NuclearStudent » Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:15 am

This is a rewrite of Learning To Fly with a handful of minor changes, made with the approval of EurobeatJester. Strict effort has been made to adhere to the tones, themes, and structure of the original work and of the Katawa Shoujo universe as a whole. I owe a lot to this community and have a deep respect for the traditions of pseudo-routes, so the only major alteration was that I skipped straight to the H scene. Everything else is cosmetic.

_____________________________________________________________________________________


I turn and smile at Saki. Her honey-coloured eye apertures shine back at me, twinkling at a mischievous wavelength of five hundred and seventy-three nanometers. I take a minute to set my bag down on the table, digging into it to find one of the small grease vials I brought with me.

“You okay?” I hear Saki say beside me, sitting in the chair. It creaks gently under the weight of her alloy shell.

“Yeah, I'm fine. Just need to grease my gears for the night.”

“Sorry,” she starts again, while brushing her eyestalks clean.

“Don't be,” I say, cutting her off before she can get started again. “Besides, Chisato has the right idea. It's a nice room.”

“It better be,” Saki’s voice modulator growls low in an almost musical fashion. “I'm not looking forward to talking to my hivefather about this.”

“Are you sure you don't need us to pitch in?” Mitsuru asks.

“It wouldn't keep him from finding out. It would all have to go on the cloud registry anyway.”

“Well, in that case, how about we go do something else, now that we're down here for the night? You got the room, so we can pick up anything else.”

“What do you mean?”

“We could go see a movie or mulch some of the organics we saw hiding out in those old hospital ruins. Or we could go back to the beach to see the red tide. It's just a quick walk there and back.”

“I'm getting a halogen bath before I do anything else,” Chisato says, finally finding something to motivate her to get off the bed.

“Hang on, Chisato,” Saki calls out suddenly, rising to get up. “Let me use the sterilization lamps first.”

The two girls disappear around the corner into the sanitation and quarantine area, their audio cutting off in favor of encrypted radio chatter. Mitsuru and I are left to our own devices, and he flops onto his back and covers his sensors with a heat-dispersion fin. I hear him chuckle a bit. “Even in a hotel room, they end up walking to the chemical baths together.”

I laugh, but try to keep it down so it doesn't carry into sensor range. “I guess stereotypes exist for a reason.”

After another minute or two, Saki re-emerges, and I can hear the telltale sound of a negative-pressure halogen flush system being kettled up. She glances at Mitsuru, then motions for me to come to her. I comply, puzzled.

“Want to go for a walk?” she whispers, the mech-spider grin on her face not fooling me for a second that there's not some ulterior motive.

“Sure, I guess?”

“Great,” she answers, then raises her audio output so Chisato can hear her through the closed bathroom door. “We're going out for a bit to check out the northeast killzone, the one where we put down the latest batch. I'll have my phone if you need anything, okay?”

Chisato vocalizes an affirmative through the door, and I see Mitsuru lazily raise his pincers in an approximation of a thumbs up. Saki moves over to grab her purse and death ray, and after a few more seconds, the door closes behind the two of us.

I'm able to hold out until the gravitic levitator spits us out into the lobby before I can't keep silent any longer. “Want to tell me what that was about?”

“Well...” Saki says, drawing the word out while that grin from earlier finally breaks through. “I thought they might enjoy some privacy.”

“Ah,” I nod sagely, as if I'm approving of her coming up with such a good idea. She sees through it though, and laughs before slapping me on the exhaust port.

“Ow!”.

“I didn't hit you that hard,” she says with a giggle.

“Well if you wanted them to have the room to themselves, maybe they should have their own separate one.”

Saki's grippers make their way down to mine and our claws link together easily. She presses her side against me as we walk out the doors into the warm night air.

“And I guess that would mean we'd have one to ourselves, right?”

“I guess it would,” I answer, my heat-sinks flushing as the implications enter my head.

Saki giggles again, and moves to whisper in my microphone. “I'll keep that in mind for next time.”

I can feel the alert levels in my detection arrays automatically prick up to higher levels of readiness when she says that, and my heat sinks continue to dump thermal. I recalibrate myself, trying to regain my composure.

“So how long should we, er, walk?”

“An hour or so should be fine, just as long as we send an alert for our transit back. It's common courtesy.”

“Good idea.”

“Yeah, I've been walked in on before. It's not exactly fun.”

I stumble out of reflex when I hear that, just enough for Saki to notice. She turns to face me, and I see that look of mild bemusement in her eyestalks again.

“Don't tell me you have a hangup about that?”

“Err, no, well...” I falter, trying to find the words to get me out of this incredibly awkward conversation. The simultaneously disturbing and yet tantalizing thoughts of Saki in that position clash, and the feelings that result are tying my tongue.

“You know you're not my first boyfriend, Hisao,” she says, in a calming yet matter-of-fact tone, imploring me to accept that statement - and all that it implies. “You're not jealous, are you?”

“Maybe a little,” I answer, with a small, sheepish smile. “Sorry. Having a girlfriend, dating, transfiguring away from my flesh...it's all kind of new to me. It just came as a bit of a shock, is all.”

Saki draws me down into a quick kiss, her eye stalks glowing. “You're doing great, Hisao. But can I offer some advice?”

“Sure.”

“If you get hung up on things like that, it's going to drive you nuts. And besides, I'm. With. You,” she continues, punctuating each word at the end of her statement with a light poke on my chestplate. “I'm with you now, okay?”

“Hey, come on now, it's not like I was worried about that,” I say, slightly hurt.

“Oh you aren't? Well then, how about we make a little deal then?”

“What's that?” I ask, guarded yet intrigued.

“Follow my lead for a bit when it comes to this, alright? Who knows. You might have fun and learn a thing or two.”

When have I not been following her lead? From the first time we kissed in the band room? From the first time we ended up swimming together? Or even earlier, from the first day we met when I saw her walking up the stairs, and my fate as a purger of organics was sealed?

“...I'll try to do that.”

“Good boy,” she finishes, ending the conversation with another brief meeting of our mandibles.

What she said makes sense, and I really do want to be able to see things in that way, but it's not as easy as it sounds. Or maybe I'm making it more complicated than it needs to be. So what if she dated Maeda in the past? She's right. We're the ones who are together now. We might not have officially sat down and firmly established that we're a couple, or even introduced each other as such to other people...not that our social circles have grown since we've become one, so everyone would know, right? And when we throw out words like “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” around like we just did and neither objects but goes along with it, and she's implying what I think she is, then that must mean I'm doing that thing where I blank out while rambling mentally and I haven't said anything in a few seconds, oh god...

“Where do you want to go?” I ask, with just a little too much forced enthusiasm. Saki doesn't seem to mind though, and gives my grippers another squeeze.

“Wanna go back down to the beach? It's a beautiful night, and I love the sound of the flesh-walkers wailing.”

“That sounds good. Lead the way.”

Saki turns to me and gives a mischievous smile at the double meaning behind my words. “You're learning.”

“I told you before, I'm a quick study.”

“I hope so.”

-------------------

The atmosphere down at the beach is much different than it was before. Sulfides hang in the air in thick mists, bringing the sour bite of brimstone and rotting organics to the air. The clear line between the sand and sea vanishes in the darkness, as the hydrogen-borne bubbles of bioluminescent algae erase the difference between water and sky. The intermittent bands of white foam sway back and forth, blurring the shoreline, smothering the moon from the skies. I’ve unplugged my system clock from my conscious mind: with only the rhythm of the foam to tell time, I have no idea how much has actually passed...and I couldn't care less.

The bone fragments in the sand have kept just enough of the heat of the day to sink into comfortably, and as I rest on my back, I don't even care about them getting on my shirt and pants. Saki doesn't seem to mind either, using my arm as a pillow as we both stare up at the twirl of the sulfide clouds.

“This was a good idea,” I say, closing my eyes and letting the sounds and smells of the terraformed ocean wash over me, discharging my apprehensions from earlier.

“I'm glad you think so,” she says, and turns her chassis to lay her head on my chestplates. She tries to get comfortable, but then frowns and sits up.

“What's up?”

“These,” she answers, referring to the neat pile made of our mobility skis that we set down between us. With a grunt, she picks them up and deposits them on the other side of her chassis before settling down again.

We still hear some noises besides just the waves. Most of the body burners have cleared out for the night, but one or two still have the sound of laughter lingering around, proud flames kept at a minimalist and efficient red glow. The nearest one is at least two hundred meters from us, and the jagged ruin of a shattered concrete bunker hides anything from the other direction.

“Thanks for not freaking out earlier,” Saki articulates softly.

“About what?”

“Being stuck down in the biowar zones,” she sighs. “I really didn't think this would happen like this.”

“It's all right,” I answer, playing idly with her polymorphic bristles. “I really am having fun tonight, all things considered.”

“I'm glad. Maybe we can actually plan something like this after the killing season is done with.”

“Yeah, but if everything went according to plan today, we'd have had fun, but we wouldn't really have had a story to tell, would we?”

“You've been standing on patrol with Chisato too much.”

“Heh, maybe so,” I admit.

Saki raises her eyestalks again to look at me. “You're okay, right? You weren't just saying that, earlier?”

I frown. “Yeah, I always keep some spare oil in my bag. The Mechanists drilled that into me when I first left the crèche.”

Saki tilts her skull, satisfied with my answer. “Sorry, again...”

I pull my arm, and Saki, closer. “Well, you did say we needed to make a deal. I'll forgive you for that if you'll forgive me for freaking out over what we were talking about back when we were leaving the hotel.”

“Deal,” she says, moving in for another kiss.

It starts benign enough, but this time it lingers for several seconds longer, neither of us pulling away. Saki drapes her arm across my chestplates for leverage, deepening the kiss. Everything at once - the fragrance of the sulfide on the air from the sea, the pulsing of my plasma core in my ears in time with the waves, and the alkaline taste of her mouth all combine in a heady rush that threatens to overwhelm my senses. My hands run up her spinal fins, and when I feel her give a small moan, it ignites something in me.

It's the same feeling I get when she pushes me to reach my limits – whether in conversation, or swimming laps, or learning to be more open about the scars left by my conversion.

Doing something that surprises both her, and myself.

Seeing a small smile of surprise on her face, either of joy or pride.

Exhilaration. Power. Control.

When that one simple sound reaches my sensors, letting me know that I am the cause of it – me – there aren’t many processing cycles left for anything resembling rational thought.

In one swift motion, I sit up and roll us so our positions are reversed, her upper nacelles pinned beneath mine. We break the kiss only for a moment to look into each other's eyestalks, and even in the low light, the fiery intensity I see there makes me ache.

“Why'd you stop?” Saki asks breathlessly. I answer her by crashing my mandibles into hers again.

Her chassis is writhing beneath mine, one of her hands in my hair, and even though some small part of me realizes we're out in the beach and the sand and the bones, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than this exact-

*Bzzzzzzt!* *Bzzzzzzt!* *Bzzzzzzt!*

We're interrupted by a loud Hive Alert that makes us both jump. My heartbeat spikes so hard I actually start to worry for a second, but Saki is alert and listening to her commcall. I sit up and try to get my breathing under control, not just from the shock of her phone going off, but also because of how heated things were getting before that exact moment.

Saki taps the side of her head and lets the alert broadcast visually. A soft blue light shines out from her face and an icon sparkles in her eyes. Even with that small amount of light, I can see her chimeric skin is as flushed as mine feels.

“What's up?” I ask shakily.

“Chisato just sent me a text. They're heading out for a midnight reaving. Wants to know if we want any trophies from the purge.”

Retroactively, not sending that earlier message when she did would be a great start. I sigh heavily, the last vestiges of the spell crumbling like the body of the meat-human we caught earlier.

“Great,” I say, standing up, trying with futility to brush some of the sand off my outer armor. Saki broadcasts back a quick reply, and then dims her broadcast lights. I help her up, and it takes us both a minute to gain our balance on the hellblasted ground.

“Time to head back, then?”

“Probably a good idea,” Saki answers me, a bit shakily.

I pat my hands roughly down my chassis again. “Hopefully our squadmates won't care if we track a lot of sand in.”

“Let's get as much off as we can,” Saki says, and then in a motion that leaves me absolutely dumbstruck, she moves her hands to the bottom of her armour cladding and starts to pull it over her head.

In a panic I look around us, before realizing that there's nobody anywhere near who would see, or care even if they did. In another two seconds, Saki's squeezed out of her armor, and starts to shake it off with vigor. For my own part, it takes yet another two seconds of staring at such a beautiful sight before I get the idea. It takes me a bit longer to take off my outer shell than it does her, but soon I'm stripped to the waist, holding the monomer with one hand while I try to slap the bone-shards off it with the other.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Saki undoing the top safety restraint on her fusion core’s calandria.

“Uh, Saki? You sure that's a good idea?”

“Hm?” she looks up at me, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Why not? There's nobody else around.”

“Hah, guess you're right,” I offer up lamely, hoping that she can't see my face...or how my eyestalks keep wandering back to her, no matter where I seem to point them initially.

Saki seems to get it, and with a smile, stands up fully, letting her spaced-armor skirt slide down her legs to step out of them. She turns to look at me, her core structural elements exposed, the metal ribbing black as ink under the starlight.

“I did tell you that next time, you wouldn't have to sneak, didn't I?”

“I didn't realize it would be this dark,” I chuckle nervously, then gulp when I see Saki's eyes narrow.

“Hey Hisao,” Saki says, with that ever dangerous edge to her voice.

“Yeah?” I manage to squeak out, my focus instantly back on her face from where it was previously.

“You know, this takes care of our armor, but doesn't do a thing for the boneshards...you wanna go rinse off?” she finishes, her eyes sparkling as she inclines her head out to the water.

“W...what?” I stammer, looking at the ocean, then her, then down at myself, before looking at her again. “Just leave our cladding here?”

“Sure! It's not there are any human survivors to come and steal them. Besides, I'm going to need your help to make it down to the water.”

My hormones and autonomous overclockers start mercilessly slamming every feeble excuse my conscience and sheltered upbringing is trying to come up with, and underneath it all, there's more than a little thrill at the idea of it. Saki doesn't want to wait for me to make up my mind however, and I see her reaching behind her back to unfasten her chest guard.

“Why the hell not?” I say, more to myself than to her, and reach to undo my grenade belt.

Impatient, her hands slip down to pull me out of my undercladding. One of her hands has long musician's fingers, still human-like in nature. She twists them deftly and delicately disarms the stranglet grain bound to my undersides.

"Do you know why I love the water?"

I tilt my sensors at Saki quizzically. I don't remember this being part of our usual script.

"It feels like you could slip under there, just disappear beneath the sea. Not that I would. But there's a power in knowing that you can end it all at any moment, and you're here because you want to be."

"Aren't you nerve-stapled? I thought we literally can't do that?"

Saki scowled. "That's what hive-father thinks. I'm not letting anybody leave me to die in a rectory or a scrapyard. Not by my core, or by my name, or by-"

She breaks off. Then she shrugs. "Come on, let's get going."
Last edited by NuclearStudent on Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:12 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Xeraeo » Mon Aug 24, 2020 7:50 pm

I had to pay very close attention and reference the original chapter, but I think I managed to spot at least a few differences.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Oddball » Wed Aug 26, 2020 12:00 pm

I have nothing to say about this other than "... the hell?".

Not even "What the hell?" because that implies a question that somebody might try to explain. Just "...the hell?"
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Hanako Fancopter » Wed Aug 26, 2020 5:38 pm

It's a Nuke masterpiece and I love it.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:45 am

That was brilliant! :lol:

Only thing was it took me some time to decide whether they were supposed to be insectoids or robots - the descriptions in the first half leave some ambiguities as to that.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by NuclearStudent » Sat Nov 14, 2020 4:48 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 9:45 am
That was brilliant! :lol:

Only thing was it took me some time to decide whether they were supposed to be insectoids or robots - the descriptions in the first half leave some ambiguities as to that.
Very glad and very surprised you liked it.

That is a concern, that ambiguity. Added a line about Saki's alloy shell to reduce that. There's a place for ambiguity, but prefer my images here to be as concrete as reasonably possible.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sat Nov 14, 2020 7:11 pm

I think one of the words that threw me off trail most was "mandibles"...
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griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by NuclearStudent » Sun Nov 15, 2020 5:29 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 7:11 pm
I think one of the words that threw me off trail most was "mandibles"...
On that line of thought, keeping track of the various bodily parts and invented slang, even for a short piece like this, was an interesting challenge. For the future, I think I'll keep a full table of head-to-toe features so they can be referenced properly.

The head, as described, was the most biological-like component. I think I subconsciously drew from Blame the manga and other Japanese works in mixing eyestalks, mandibles, and sensor clusters on a head. I consciously drew influence from the mech game and audiobook of Brigador in thinking about bodily mechanics of the systems involved.

Saki and Hisao kiss, and they have skin, but I am deliberately vague as to whether they have eyes or noses in the normal places instead of just eyestalks. They have mouths and tongues presumably bathed in fluid, which I thought was a cute anachronism. I imagine that their upper-chest thruster nacelles bumped into each other awkwardly during their first kiss. The armored skirts and spaced armor I described would make such youthful romance even more awkward than usual, which is why they had to strip.

The overall image I personally had was something more like a Star Wars Droideka than a human being, with the anthromorphization being on the experiential more than the physical level. An important part of Katawa Shoujo is the idea that you are what you do, not just what your body seems to show. I thought it'd be funny to push the idea a little further than intended.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Mirage_GSM » Sun Nov 15, 2020 8:46 am

Yes, I noticed you had a very varied description with only few repetitions. One of the things I thought was good about the story - along with describing an alien setting without actually describing it. This story is an excellent example of "show, don't tell".
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Iron Saki

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sat Dec 12, 2020 2:29 am

Hello NuclearStudent,

I have some downtime right now, so I'm finally able to come back to these forums and take a look at some stories that I had on my radar. This one was on the top of my list, so let's get started!

On the outset, I haven't read Learning to Fly yet, so I won't be able to draw comparisons between that story and this one. I don't really think it mattered though; I was able to keep up with this story without ever feeling lost. It was probably smart to adapt this specific chapter because it sort of works on its own as an independent short story. In addition, the events that unfold in this chapter and the way that they are described are enough to naturally dispense exposition to first time readers just through using context clues and other circumstantial evidence... which is where I think I want to start this review...

The greatest strength of this story is the descriptions. The amount of time it must have taken Nuke to meticulously substitute words and phrases from the original chapter with their own wonderfully creative robotic counterparts isn't lost on me. I consistently found myself chuckling and reacting at the cleverness on display. Even more impressive is the fact that there are next to no repeated words or phrases, even down to the same body part being mentioned multiple times. For example, earlier in the story, the word "fingers" is replaced by "pincers," but later in the story it is substituted with "grippers." Having small little differences keeps the story fresh all the way through. Instead of having a shock value realization at the beginning of the story and only at the beginning, the story kept surprising me with new phrases and words throughout.

Something else I like about this story is how information is slowly dispensed. Nuke doesn't give us the answers right away, rather they slowly trickle the information out to the reader as we read on. Toward the beginning of the story, we figure out that these characters are... robots (Side note, I did not expect that the title, Iron Saki, would be literal! Haha!). Then later on, we find out that these are killer robots that are on some sort of perpetual mission to exterminate organic life in a Mad Max-esque world. Then, we find out that Hisao was once human and that he has been converted into a robot in some sort of operation. We also learn that the robots have retained some of their organic portions—most notably their bones. I specifically recall something quite odd from Hisao's narration:
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:15 am
Saki tilts her skull, satisfied with my answer.
Saki tilts her skull? How interesting. I think that more than implies that there is some organics left in them. This all is to say that Nuke does a great job at keeping the audience hooked by not revealing all of the information out at once, but by giving us a slow burn, so to speak. I love slow burn stories. I'll always take a twenty episode show over a twelve episode show. No matter how strange and messed up the world in Iron Saki is, Nuke fleshes it out quite a lot given how small of a word count they had to work with.

I must admit that I'm glad that this is a one-off rather than a full adaption of Learning to Fly. This story works as a fun little twist on the world of Katawa Shoujo, but it probably lose its intrigue after a few chapters. I'd probably start asking myself questions like, "why are they robots?" "is them being robots enough of a difference to justify it being a separate story from Learning to Fly?" "does them being robots add much to the story?" I don't really know if I'm missing some profound symbolic significance, but I don't really understand why Nuke chose to make the characters in this story robots, and I don't think that the concept is enough to drive a full adaption of Learning to Fly without deviating or adding original story content... But by then, it wouldn't be Learning to Fly, much less Katawa Shoujo, anymore. So yeah, the one-off format was perfect for this type of story, and this chapter was a good one to adapt.

————————————————
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:15 am
The atmosphere down at the beach is much different than it was before. Sulfides hang in the air in thick mists, bringing the sour bite of brimstone and rotting organics to the air. The clear line between the sand and sea vanishes in the darkness, as the hydrogen-borne bubbles of bioluminescent algae erase the difference between water and sky. The intermittent bands of white foam sway back and forth, blurring the shoreline, smothering the moon from the skies. I’ve unplugged my system clock from my conscious mind: with only the rhythm of the foam to tell time, I have no idea how much has actually passed...and I couldn't care less.
This entire paragraph, especially the highlighted portion is a winner—an absolute winner. Such wonderful imagery. It perfectly clashes familiar concepts like the ocean horizon and foamy shorelines with alien concepts such as hydrogen bubbles and sulfide-strewn skies. Science fiction worlds like the world of this story always works best when we can see traces of our own world thrown in with the parts of the world that are alien. The way that Nuke does that throughout the story, but specifically this paragraph, are great.

————————————————

I've run out of things to say! To be honest, I think I don't have as much to say because this story is too smart for me. Unlike the last NuclearStudent story that I read, I don't really understand the underlying message or theme of this story, or how NuclearStudent was inspired to make this story, or what motivated him to go through with it. I feel like there's a lot that I don't understand about it—this genre of story is not something I'm used to. If NuclearStudent or anyone else wants to drop any hints, I'd be happy to have a discussion with them and hear there thoughts about this story. Maybe that way, I can pick on some of the things that I've missed!

All the best to you, Nuke! Another stellar story. Nice work.

Take care, everyone!

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Re: Iron Saki

Post by brythain » Sat Dec 12, 2020 5:00 am

I was just thinking the reason this piece works so well (from my perspective, anyway) is that it must be taking place in a world that is slowly being converted to a reducing atmosphere. There are sulfides, hydrogen, hydrocarbons (well, liberal use of grease, anyway), and activities that would otherwise normally result in severe metal corrosion.

The whole thing is an amusing absurdity. You might even say that it is a reductio ad absurdum.
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Re: Iron Saki

Post by NuclearStudent » Sat Dec 12, 2020 6:40 am

:lol:

That's such a Bry detail to catch! And yes, my perspective on things have been described as reductive in the past, so why not take it literally?
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Location: Denial

Re: Iron Saki

Post by Eurobeatjester » Sat Dec 12, 2020 3:13 pm

I absolutely love everything about this.
Stuff I'm currently writing: Learning To Fly: A Saki Enomoto Pseudo Route
Two Turtledoves - A Lilly/Hisao Christmas Oneshot
Blank Mage wrote:
Eurobeatjester wrote:I doubt my ability to write convincing lesbian erotica
believe in yourself

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