Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (12/28)

WORDS WORDS WORDS
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Kyler Thatch
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/9)

Post by Kyler Thatch » Tue Nov 12, 2013 8:59 pm

Ooh, cliffhanger! Even though we still haven't been properly introduced to the mystery pool girl, all the little tidbits are a reassuring hint that we're still on track.

Would it be safe to assume this is the same Beijing from Scissorlips' Suzu route?

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/12)

Post by Jaspirian » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:15 pm

Glad it's coming together more gracefully.

Good eye.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/12)

Post by CaptainFalcon » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:07 am

And the crowd begins to go wild! An enjoyable chapter and I liked the banter between Hisao and Kenji (i'm always a sucker for anything Hisao-Kenji)
I'm excited for part 2!

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/12)

Post by Jaspirian » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:34 am

I'd like to thank the academy...

Glad you liked it. And if you like Kenji, you'll love the follow-up.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/12)

Post by Solistor » Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:42 am

Speaking of Kenji, is your profile pic an rtil art? I recognize the art style vaguely but I just can't place it.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/12)

Post by Jaspirian » Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:07 pm

Honestly, I couldn't tell you. I picked it up somewhere, but I've no idea of the specifics.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/12)

Post by Jaspirian » Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:17 am

I’m face to face with the girl I saw in the pool. She’s wearing an irritated expression and she looks me up and down before stepping back with a “hmph.”

“I thought it was you. You nearly got away from me in the crowd, but I’m faster than I look.” She folds her arms proudly and it’s all I can do not to chuckle at the comical picture. She’s almost my height and has a spatter of freckles that dot her pale cheeks and nose under light blue eyes. Her hair is about shoulder-length and wavy. It’s also the most stunning shade of orange I’ve ever seen. She’s the kind of cute that gets forced down your throat. A polar opposite to Iwanako or Hanako, I surmise: talkative and outgoing.

I decide not to say I’ve been searching for her too, though the fact does bring me up short. All I manage to say is, “and you’ve found me. Now what?”

She huffs at the question as if it was stupid and pointless. “Obviously, you now treat me to dinner because of how much you made a poor girl run.” I’m about to argue but she winks. “However, since we’re far from a good restaurant and I’m pretty hungry… how about some takoyaki?”

There’s a lot I could say, like “I ran too” or “why should I do that,” but I’m still sort of reeling from the force of her personality. Besides, I still need to find out if she plans to tell everyone about my… about what she saw. I accede and she plops down on the bench. Now to find some takoyaki.

The stall I’m looking for is just beginning to shut down, but I get there before the last bits of food are gone. It’s a little less than we’d get if we had come by ten minutes earlier, but at least it’s something. I come back to find the girl talking with a girl I think I know from my class. Ritsu something. I think they’re talking about tests but I can only hear snatches of the conversation.
“…easy… just have… study… no problem.” Those are the only words I can pick out from the girl who accosted me, and I don’t pay much attention to them. Ritsu bows low to her and leaves with a wave.

I walk up with our takoyaki and am rewarded by a bright smile on the girl’s face that shows off her dimples. If I’m blushing she doesn’t notice, maybe because her attention is focused so heavily on the food she’s snatched and begun to devour. I follow suit and there’s silence for a few moments as we sate our hunger.

“Karen Callaghan.” She extends a hand and I shake it after a second of processing her sudden statement.

“Hisao Nakai,” I reply. “That’s a very foreign name. Were you born outside Japan?”

She nods her head and favors me with a grin. “Good guess. I was born in America—actually, I’m relatively new here. I came to Japan five years ago.”

I raise my eyebrows. Her accent is noticeable, but not very. “Your Japanese is very good. Did you study it in America?”

“Nah, most middle schools don’t offer it in the states, but I grew up in a two language household.”

“Oh, you’re bilingual?”

“Yeah, my mom’s Japanese and my dad’s American. Irish originally, as I bet you can tell.” When I don’t catch on she sighs and points to her hair, then face. “Not many people without Irish roots look like this. It’s called ‘Ginger’ back in the states.”

“Ginger,” I repeat, rolling the word around in my mouth. Something about the way I said it strikes her as funny and she giggles. “I’m surprised you caught a glimpse of me in this crowd.”

“I know, right? I got pretty lucky, considering how normal you look. I wasn’t sure it was you until I saw your face. If you walked around without a shirt I would have been able to tell you by your scar way easier.”

I flinch at this and she looks at me quizzically. Does she not understand? “Look,” I try to explain, “I’d like it if you didn’t mention that to anyone else.” I don’t want to explain it any further and thankfully, she seems to get it.

“No worries,” she says. “I won’t spill the beans. But if you ever start acting mean, I’ll make you sorry. Got it?”

I’m about to say something—maybe tell her my heart condition isn’t some sort of punishment to hold over my head—but a loud crack interrupts me. Karen’s face is illuminated by red; I turn to see a bright flare of fireworks as a giant crimson flower blooms. The tips of the flower crackle and my companion claps her hands delightedly. “You take fireworks more seriously here than we do in the US,” she whispers. “Even at Yamaku.”

I don’t know about comparisons between other countries and mine, but I have to agree the fireworks show is excellent. It’s on events like this that I’m really impressed with Yamaku; despite all its staff and students have to deal with, they manage to put on celebrations every once in a while. It almost makes the place seem normal.

It’s not long before the fireworks end and the crowd resumes its hubbub. The elderly start to leave, dragging tired-eyed children along with them. A few parents stay to speak with their children but most of the visitors begin to filter out through the gates.

Karen stands and stretches a kink out of her back. “Ahh, that feels better. It was nice watching the fireworks with you. Let’s do this again sometime.”

“Same here, Callaghan.”

She wrinkles her nose and shakes her head. “I never can get used to Japanese stuffiness. In America we call everyone by their first names, no matter how long we’ve known them. Call me Karen.”

I hesitate, but give in. “Then… same here, Karen.” It’s odd the way people refer to each other here at Yamaku. Every girl I’ve talked to has insisted I call them by their first name, and it grates on me. It’s like everyone’s thinking “we might die tomorrow, so let’s be sure to make friends quick.” It’s just another huge neon sign above everybody’s head loudly proclaiming “hey, I’m different!” I had hoped someone who learned Japanese overseas would pay a little more attention to formality, but I guess her personality should have tipped me off.

Karen. It feels forced, and I don’t like it. Calling a girl by her first name is supposed to be the next step in your relationship, no matter if you’re dating or just friends. This way it seems like we just met and already like each other. And she’s certainly cute, but I barely even know who she is.

Either she doesn’t sense my discomfort or doesn’t care, and with a wave she’s off. I watch her retreat into the crowd before she gets swallowed up completely. Then there’s only orange, and after that only grey.

I realize too late I don’t know how to get in contact with her again.



“The password’s ‘honeymuffin,’ right? That was why you gave me that paper?”

Surprisingly, Kenji’s still on the roof several hours after I said I’d meet with him. I guess I got sucked into hanging out with Karen. “Listen, Kenji, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it earlier.” I wait for him to acknowledge my arrival but he just stays motionless. Finally I shrug and walk towards him. Gravel crunches under my feet but he doesn’t raise his head. By the time I’m close enough to realize he’s asleep, I spy the half-empty bottle in his hands. “Jack Daniels,” it reads, and I can figure out the rest. I manage to pry it from his grip and set it behind a nearby bench. Maybe he’ll find it, maybe he won’t. As I walk back a catch a glimpse of his face, and I pause.

At this moment I realize how much his expressions are contorted on a day-to-day basis. Sleeping, up here away from the world, he looks much calmer. Maybe even sad. It makes me wonder how he got to this school, and how he feels about it. I doubt I’d ever get two normal words out of him, though.

As I look him over, Kenji shivers slightly. I’m not too surprised; up here on the roof it’s far windier and colder than down on the ground. Carefully I take off my jacket and wrap it around him. I don’t know if it’ll do him any good, but it’ll make me feel better about leaving him up here.

Just before I head off I hear a tiny noise. I'm halfway through convincing myself I imagined it when I see Kenji's lips moving. He’s whispering something in his sleep, and I lean close: “You… go.” You go where? Or what? Just another mystery to add to Kenji’s 19-page list. I leave him to his dreams and his unreadable expression; maybe someone will eventually figure him out, but I doubt it'll be me.

When I get up to take a shower the next morning, my jacket is folded neatly in front of my door. On top of it is a note in hastily scribbled writing: “Bros before Hoes.”
Last edited by Jaspirian on Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:18 am

A few small nitpicks, otherwise a nice chapter.
The flow of the conversation was a bit strange. Usually you'd introduce yourselves at the beginning and not fifteen minutes later.
Ritsu bows low to her and leaves after thanking her “Sempai.”
Ritsu and Hisao are both in their final year. They shouldn't have any senpais.
they’ll need a better man to figure them out than I.
"than me"
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Steinherz » Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:03 am

Mirage_GSM wrote:
Ritsu bows low to her and leaves after thanking her “Sempai.”
Ritsu and Hisao are both in their final year. They shouldn't have any senpais.
Unless her senpai is someone older than her? It does basically mean senior.
I write take a look, would you kindly?
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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Kyler Thatch » Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:38 am

The only thing that would make sense, I think, is if it was actually Karen calling Ritsu "sempai".

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Jaspirian » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:29 am

First let me apologize for the long delay. Life came knocking and I made the mistake of opening the door.

Introductions are naturally muddled; they've met previously but not spoken to each other. With social conventions previously bypassed, it makes sense that they'd be added as an afterthought.

"Senpai" is not a term awarded solely to senior classmates... or at least that's what I'd like to argue. In fact the mention doesn't do at all what I want it to and it's clear it brings you guys up short. I've since taken that bit out.

I'm actually not sure of the correct grammar here. In my head I make the sentence
"They'll need a better man... than I (am)," which is why I used "I."
Same principle as "She's a better driver than I (am)."

My apologies, again, for the wait.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Jaspirian » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:29 am

To my surprise, the blue-haired girl that’s always sleeping in the next row is already in class—awake, no less—by the time I arrive. She’s got her head propped up by one hand and seems to be looking nowhere in particular. Her eyes follow me lazily as I walk in and I stop in front of her desk, feeling a little awkward. I want to ask her why she’s staring, but given the amount of time it takes just for her eyes to reach mine it’s clear she didn’t mean anything by it.

And now I’m standing in front of her desk like an idiot. “Hisao Nakai,” I stammer. “I’m afraid I don’t know your name. Do you always come here this early?” It’s a stupid question. I know she doesn’t, and I’m sure she picks out the awkwardness in my tone—that must be why she’s still staring. Then she holds out her hand and responds in kind. Or at least, tries to: she’s chosen to use the hand that was holding her head up, which now flops to the desk with a dull thump.

“Szz Szki,” I think I hear. It’s hard to tell when her face is mashed against the wood. More than a little perplexed, I shake her hand and she picks up her head. There are dark rings under her eyes; it’s pretty clear what she’s here at Yamaku for. Actually, it was clear after the first couple days. I wonder to myself if it’s better that my own disability is hidden. Maybe it would be easier to be bear if I was missing a hand or fell asleep all the time. “Suzu Suzuki,” she repeats, a ghost of a smile on her face. “I know your name; everyone does. You’re the new kid.”

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Does the whole school learn about new transfer students? Disabilities are probably kept fairly secret, but it’s possible that other classes—other years, even—know about me. It makes me feel like I’m being watched. Still, I try to laugh a little. “Yeah, that’s me. You’re here awfully early. Are you planning to talk to Mutou?”

She looks at me quizzically. “Why would I need to?”

Er. “Well, I just see you asleep a lot in class, so--”

Her expression clears. That smile is back but it’s harder now, a little sharper. “I do just fine, thank you. I don’t see why it’s any of your concern.”

I fumble for something to say, but I’m saved instead by the timely intervention of the brown-skinned girl who’s missing a hand. She struts in and announces herself loudly, only realizing my presence halfway through her speech. “Sorry to get you up so early, sleepyhead, but--” to her credit, she analyzes the situation in a heartbeat. “What’s up with the new kid, Snoozu? Should I knock him out?” Somehow she manages to crack her good hand’s knuckles. I back away a little bit; though I’m about her height there’s no doubt she could take me—an invalid prone to heart attacks—on in a fight.

“Mmyou know I hate being called that,” Suzu murmurs as she sinks again to her desk. She gives a little hand flick, as if dismissing me. “Don’t you dare hurt him. Mutou would come gunning for us.” The thought seems to put a smile on her face.

Miki harrumphs as if disappointed by the lack of action, but her friend’s good word doesn’t save me completely. She backs me against a desk and waves her good fist threateningly, a grin tugging at her lips. “Alright dude, she says you’re off the hook. For now. But we’re delicate girls, and if you even try harassing us, I’ll make sure your disability is deceasement.” She falters, clearly uncertain about her word choice. It doesn’t make her any less intimidating, that’s for sure. “Decease—dead. You’ll be dead. I’ll kill you to death, and you’ll die from it.” She gives me one last, half-serious warning look, then skips over to her sleepy friend.

I’m left with the realization that there might be some girls in Yamaku worse than Shizune and Misha to be on the bad side of.



As I expected, Suzu falls asleep practically the second Mutou begins his lecture. For the first time this week we’re covering something I didn’t read up on in the hospital: electric circuits. I dutifully take notes but realize too late that it’s so intuitive I may as well have been doodling all class long. The bell rings, cutting off the teacher mid-sentence; though he grumbles he submits and dismisses the class he no longer has the power to hold. I have half a mind to crumple up my notes and throw them in the wastebin, but something holds me back.
Suzu is still sleeping. Somehow she made it through the bell and the bustle of class, but I see Miki packing up; no doubt they plan to leave together. I bend and scribble:

To Suzu Suzuki, From Hisao Nakai.
Sorry for earlier; hope this helps.


As I leave I slide the notes onto her desk. I almost make it out the door before a girl calls my name. Damn, was I found out?

“Hicchan~!”

Wait a moment. That’s not Suzu’s voice, or Miki’s, though I’d prefer either to the pink-haired girl I turn to see grinning at me. “Yes, Misha?”

Her eyes glint and she eyes Suzu’s desk. “Leaving love notes already, you heartbreaker you?” She tries to say in it a whisper but it comes out loud anyway. I’m sure half the class heard; behind me a few giggle-laden conversations are starting up. I blush and move closer in hopes she’ll lower her tone. Maybe this was her plan all along—more likely Shizune’s, who’s much more tactically inclined. I look over at her but she’s doing her best to seem as innocent as possible. Don’t even try. I’m on to your games now, miss class president.

“It wasn’t like that,” I whisper. I sneak a peek: Suzu and Miki are already leaving. Maybe they didn’t notice anything. “I just…” I realize too late I don’t really have an explanation for the bubbly girl in front of me. Whatever I said she’d probably just misconstrue, anyway. Misha is like a black hole: reason can enter but it’ll never get out again.

...Maybe that’s a little mean.

Before I get well and truly grilled, however, another familiar voice turns my head.

“Hisao, what’s up?” In the doorway stands Karen, one hand on her generous hips and the other giving me a little wave. Everyone else has left for lunch by now; it’s just me, the student council, Karen and an increasingly uncomfortable-looking Mutou.

I speedily walk over to her, glad to be free of Shizune’s machinations and Misha’s loudness, answering her wave with one of my own. “Hey, Karen. Just how much digging did you have to do to find me?”

She laughs a little bit, and I smile. “I have people in high places. Besides, you’re more well-known than you may think.” Crap. “Coming here is killing two birds with one stone, actually. Give me a minute to talk to your teacher and then we’ll go get lunch.”

I blink slightly. She never asked if I wanted to, right? She never made it an option. What if I had other plans or I… wait, slow down. What am I thinking? Maybe I’m the dumbest guy at Yamaku. Who would turn down lunch with a cute girl like her? “Sounds good,” I respond lamely. Shizune is fuming in the corner while Misha signs our conversation to her.

“Hey, Mr. Mutou. How’s life?” I notice again that Mutou seems decidedly uncomfortable. He’s shuffling through papers even though some are clearly ending up upside-down or backwards. Should I be eavesdropping? I suppose Shizune and Misha are, so maybe there’s no harm. “I really liked last Thursday’s lecture, but because of my… condition…” I watch her expression visibly deflate. “Could you maybe… help me out like usual? I promise I'll bring them back before the test.”

Mutou sighs and his shoulders sink. He looks very sad now, with his disheveled clothes and world-weary expression. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I get the impression he was clinging to the hope that she wouldn’t ask, but when that finally proved unavoidable it was like getting all the air knocked out of him. “I…” he finally replies, “…it is our duty as teachers to help our students, however possible.” He hands her a sheaf of meticulously-noted papers. His heart was in those words, so why does he look so defeated?

Karen eagerly accepts them and bounces a bit on her toes. “Thank you so much! You know you’re my favorite teacher. Thank you for helping me out.” Mutou tries to smile but somehow, it never reaches his eyes. He turns and our gaze locks for just a second until I break it and look away…

straight at the angriest Shizune I’ve ever seen. Her hands practically explode in a flurry of movement that can only be described as “insane.” Misha’s eyes open wide in concern as she frantically tries to dictate and sign back to the president with equal speed.

“Miss Karen you… y-you… Shicchan, I can’t… whatyou’redoingisan eg… egreej… Shicchan, please slow down!”

Shizune doesn’t let up for a second; Misha looks about ready to cry but unexpectedly Mutou steps in. “That’s enough, Hakamichi.” He still looks haggard but a bit of life has come back into his eyes. “Anything between miss Callaghan and her teachers is off-limits, even to the Student Council President.” Shizune’s hands start again, stop, and finally return to her sides. Her mouth is such a thin line I’m pretty sure it could slice straight through concrete. Without any further ado she walks briskly out of the classroom, brushing past me and tugging Misha along in her wake.

Karen sniffs. “What’s her problem? Come on, Hisao, let’s go get something to eat.”

I spare a last glance towards Mutou as we leave and again I’m brought up short by the expression on his face. It’s a look of anger, certainly, but not like Shizune’s. Hers was directed outwards.



“I don’t know how you can stand having that bossy four-eyes as your classmate—let alone your Student President.”

I swirl my noodles in their bowl and do my best to bring my attention back to the present. Lunch, right. I’m still trying to make sense of whatever just happened back there. “She can be overbearing at times, but she’s not that bad.” Why am I trying to protect her? Shizune probably needs the least protecting out of everybody (maybe besides Miki) that I’ve met at Yamaku.

“Oh c’mon, Hisao.” She rolls her eyes. “She isn’t listening in, and I heard about how she practically made you her slave the first day you got here.” How did Karen find that out? Never mind, it was probably the girl she was talking to last night. Ritsu something.

I do my best to change the subject. “So how long have you actually been here at Yamaku?”

She takes a bite of her bread. “2 years now. I look old, but I’m actually just a 2nd year student. Surprised?”

Actually, I am. She looks about as old as Rin, but then if Emi’s any indication looks can be misleading here at Yamaku. “So you’re on a completely different floor, or something?”

She shrugs and finishes her mouthful. “Something like that.” No elaboration. “I do take some lower-level classes from Mutou, though, so it’s handy that you’re in his room.”

“His homeroom?”

She nods. “Like I said.” A few more moments of chewing from her, and thinking from me.

I’m almost afraid to ask, but I know if I don’t it’ll bother me the rest of the day. I reach out and test the waters. “So, Karen, those notes you got from Mutou…”

Shark-infested. She eyes me coolly. “Yes?”

“Nothing.” Shizune seemed to have a better idea of the situation; maybe I’ll ask her. On the other hand, that might get me roped into another Student Council assignment. I decide the danger is—for now—not worth the peace of mind, and set to my food with a renewed sense of hunger.

Some amount of small talk does pass between us as we finish our meal in the cafeteria, surrounded by buzzing crowds, but not much. We finish our food in what amounts to mostly silence, slurping and a few short words. I’m brought up short by how difficult it is to talk with her. I don’t really know anything about her, but I feel strange just asking out of the blue, “so, what’s your deal?” How do students at Yamaku usually begin conversations? “What’s your major malfunction?” I’m pretty sure I’d get slapped if I said something so tactless, but then I’ve never been the most socially intelligent person. I think I even got worse with my hospital stay.

The oppressive silence grows between us and it makes me feel more and more depressed. Is this what life has become for me? All my recent interactions have been either because I forced them or was forced into them. Did my heart attack destroy that much of my sense of normalcy? I want to talk with Karen like everything's normal but I can't even do that.

Just as I’m about to sink into melancholy my Beatrice throws me a lifeline. With a few simple words she brings me out of the inferno.
“Meet me at the pool at 9.”
I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:42 am

I'm actually not sure of the correct grammar here. In my head I make the sentence
"They'll need a better man... than I (am)," which is why I used "I."
Same principle as "She's a better driver than I (am)."
Well, you can make that sentence in your head, but that doesn't help the reader, who cannot read your mind.
As it is, if you leave out the "am" you have to put "me" instead of "I" - for both of the examples you gave.
one hand on her generous hips
"Generous"? Really?
Just as I’m about to sink into melancholy my Beatrice throws me a lifeline. With a few simple words she brings me out of the inferno.
I doubt Hisao would have read that but nice anyway.
Nice chapter. You sure know how to keep your audience guessing.
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Kyler Thatch » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:50 am

I laughed at the Miki bit. "Delicate" my foot. :lol:
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Just as I’m about to sink into melancholy my Beatrice throws me a lifeline. With a few simple words she brings me out of the inferno.
I doubt Hisao would have read that but nice anyway.
What is "that", exactly? I'm afraid the reference flew straight over my head.

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Re: Growing Up - a Karen pseudo-route (11/19)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:19 am

It's "that."
Emi > Misha > Hanako > Lilly > Rin > Shizune

My collected KS-Fan Fictions: Mirage's Myths
griffon8 wrote:Kosher, just because sex is your answer to everything doesn't mean that sex is the answer to everything.
Sore wa himitsu desu.

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