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Gal Paladins -3: Fair Warning

by Ventomology


Lily drifts into awareness. She registers the kiss of sunlight on her eyelids, the tangle of blankets around her legs and under her torso, and the quiet perfume of tiger lilies and tomatoes that fills the house. It’s a funny smell; Lily wonders if her mother bought a new febreeze plug-in recently.

She crinkles her forehead, trying to remember any advertisements for this particular scent, and then feels the pull of adhesive on her skin. Her eyelids fly open. Her hands jump to her forehead, and her fingertips slide over the smooth surface of a sticky note. Lily freezes, wondering for a split second if this is one of Victor’s pranks, but then she remembers.

She’s a magical girl. She fights clouds sometimes. She always receives a sticky note with a location the day of a fight. Today is supposed to be the last one.

“Ugh,” she grunts. With a sigh, she pushes herself up onto one elbow and peels off the sticky with her other hand. She turns it over in her hands to read the writing, and groans.

Summum Malum,” it reads. Lily doesn’t remember much from her Latin roots days in middle school, but she’s pretty sure that’s the Final Evil or something. Circuit’s prediction is right, yet again. “Public Library Lawn.”

“Great,” she mumbles. “Like I don’t spend enough time there already.”

And at least she knows how to get there. Sometimes, she has to look up directions on the computer and then write them down, wipe the browsing history, and leave her phone at home. Her parents ask questions if they see her go somewhere out of the norm, even though it’s really none of their business. Lily hasn’t been arrested or anything.

She flops her arms back down, onto the lumpy snarl of blankets and mattress that surrounds her, and blows a stray lock of hair out of her face. The day isn’t going to wait for her. She might as well get up.

With incredible grace, the likes of which absolutely befit an ex-ballet dancer, she tumbles out of bed and drags herself to the bathroom. The blankets follow her about half the way across her room, and she one-hundred percent does not trip on them.

She cleans herself up in a haze and tries not to think about the fight today. It doesn’t feel real. With the house empty, and her brother’s suitcases finally removed from the living room, she feels disconnected from the real world, like nothing she does here matters. She’s not even sure the fight matters, if there’s no one here that she needs to hold on to.

Just as she pushes open the front door of the house, her phone buzzes in her hand.

“We should hang out today!” Theo texts.

She pauses and considers. Lily has no idea what time the Summum Malum will appear. It could arrive the moment she reaches the library, or at five in the evening. There’s never been a fight later than six, so she could do dinner or ice cream after, but Theo’s mom likes to have evening stuff planned out at least a day in advance. For cooking purposes.

“Boba by the library?” she texts back. “Like four-ish?”

He sends back a smiley face, and Lily’s mouth automatically tightens into a pleased, but restrained smile. She likes how he puts a space between the colon and the parenthesis, so that the autocorrect doesn’t switch into an emoji. It hits her, in the back of her mind, that maybe she’s supposed to be doing this magical girl thing for Theo. She’s supposed to be keeping him and the rest of the world safe.

Lily’s house is one of many in a neighborhood full of expensive cookie-cutters. They all have different trim and different colors, and their yards vary in spades, but every single one has the same layout: door on the left side of the front facade, with an overhang above it; three-car garage on the right; two rooms above the garage with windows facing the street; and a single window in the wall above the overhang. They each have the same, long driveway, with the same control cracks in exactly the same places.

Lily’s front yard has a Japanese maple in the front, and it glows green and red under the summer sun. She stashes her bike in its shadow on days when she’s too lazy to open up the garage, which is most days.

As she rights her bike and walks it across the grass, her phone buzzes again. She checks as she mounts up, and snorts.

Theo has sent her a text with only the Chinese character for poop. It’s their little ‘shit’ equivalent. He follows quickly with another line. “My mom says I have to help her cook stew which will take FOREVER.” Her phone buzzes again. “All my fun is ruined. We are destined never to meet again. This is so sad Alexa play Despacito.”

“We’ll see each other at school,” she reassures him.

He only responds with a crying face that includes no less than seven commas for the tears.

With a roll of her eyes, Lily pockets the phone, lifts her feet off the ground, and lets the slope of the driveway carry her onto the street. The bike ride to the library is second nature by now, and she barely even thinks as she tilts into the curves of residential roads and coasts down the occasional hill.

It’s a sunny day. As the air warms up and the sun rises higher, Lily smiles into the quiet, fuzzy feeling of light on her skin and a breeze in her hair. She thinks that maybe she should be psyching herself up, getting ready for the fight with the Summum Malum, but strangely enough, she doesn’t feel a lick of worry. She doesn’t feel hurried or urgent. The city smells enchantingly fresh and clean, which is weird, because Lily’s pretty sure she’s never paid that much attention to the way her hometown smells.

Half an hour later, she parks her bike on the mostly-empty rack by the library lobby. Her muscle memory guides her through her usual, half-hearted attempt at locking up before she abandons the bike to the sun and heads inside.

Lily beelines for the bathroom. As she did during her first fight at Wellington Heights Neighborhood Pool, and as she has done in every public fight location since, she slips into an empty stall and shuts the door. She leans against it and glances down to make sure she’s left the lock open, and then digs a hand under her neckline and pulls out the necklace.

Someone in the stall next door drops a massive deuce, though Lily doesn’t hear the plunk, just smells its stink. She closes her fist around the tiny gold pendant and closes her eyes. Heat rises to her cheeks. This is so embarrassing, even if no one’s around to see it.

“Revelry and mystery,” she chants under her breath, “bring the secret world to me.”

The bathroom stench morphs into something worse. She smells the whole sewer now, smothered in something rotten and dripping in engine grease. It’s acrid and heavy, and maybe Lily’s nerves are just playing up, but she thinks the other world smells worse than usual.

She opens her eyes and takes a gulp.

Despite its familiarity, the sight of the not-quite-other world always sets Lily on edge. It sits in the uncanny valley of places, close enough to the real world to be recognizable, but different in ways that make her stomach sink.

The colors here are muted, and the smells are always worse. When Lily steps out of the stall and sees herself in the bathroom mirror, her reflection stares back like a painting on a vintage card. Her cheeks glow a brighter pink than they should, and her skirt flows in soft lines from her pinched waist. The edges of her limbs look fuzzy, like they had to be brushed over a few times before they came out right.

She’s prettier than in real life too, with a thinner nose and sharper face, and Lily doesn’t entirely like it.

Tired of her reflection, she hurries out of the bathroom and through the empty library lobby. Without the light and noise and people, the building grows into a grim, Gothic castle. The mullions between its windows fade to black, and the light outside casts long, dark shadows.

Lily pushes open the main door and stops, one foot over the threshold, her mouth half open.

The library lawn, usually sunny and bright and green, looks like an ink print, or a shadow puppet backdrop. It looms larger than before and swirls with a faint black dust that catches on the hairs in Lily’s nostrils. The sky lights up in grey, like it can’t decide on whether it should be overwhelmingly bright or intimidatingly dark. In the center of the field, a gaggle of other girls cast strange, radial shadows.

All that should be normal, but something else taints the air. There’s a strange pressure that Lily can’t put her finger on, like a headache or a sore muscle. The atmosphere pushes too hard against the natural air pressure of her lungs, and the sky weighs down on her shoulders.

This is both more and less than she expected. With a gulp, she presses down on the tape holding up her strapless dress and heads into center field.


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Wed Jul 12, 2023 9:59 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi there Vento! Lim here with a short review.

General Impressions

I thought the opening to this chapter was a slow one, and the pace remained pretty slow given that there was a battle upcoming, which I guess reflects how Lily doesn’t really feel that the battle is ‘real’ and that this whole magical girl thing might just be a dream. I wonder where the sticky note came from – does one of the other girls have the power to make sticky notes appear out of nowhere?

It surprised me that she mentioned having to leave her phone at home so her parents don’t find out where she’s been – did they install a tracking app on her phone or something? I thought the part where she used her powers to enter the “other world” was interesting, since it shows another side to her abilities. The chapter leaves me itching to see the action happen or to see some big plot point be dropped.

Plot

I like how you use the descriptions to advance the plot. The descriptions of scents and smells seem very central to the odd magic happenings, so I tend to pay attention to them each chapter. Here it seems like the smell of the ‘normal world’ and hometown started standing out more from before the battle with the Summum Malum. This chapter also maybe implies that prior to that, Lily only experienced those smells around people with magic or when she was in the “other world”.

Information

Some bits of information in this chapter felt like they could have used more context. I’m not sure what Lily means when she says “Circuit’s prediction”? I thought in the previous flashback it was Lily who detected the Summum Malum and not Circuit, so this must be a different prediction that we haven’t yet heard of. As mentioned, I’m curious to know how the sticky note thing works. It felt like it was skimmed over really quickly here, even if it’s just a small worldbuilding thing.

Overall

I thought the setting descriptions were as immersive as they have been in all the chapters so far and that there were some tantalizing plot hints dropped in this chapter, even though it was more of a slow one focused on Lily’s detached state of mind. (The febreeze mention definitely makes the setting seem to be real-world-adjacent!) I found myself wanting a bit more context on some of the things mentioned here – maybe they’ll be cleared up in future chapters.

Hope this helps – keep writing!
-Lim




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Tue Jun 06, 2023 6:13 am
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Spearmint wrote a review...



Hi hi Vento, it's me again! ^-^ I like how each of these alternating chapters give a little piece of the story, letting the reader puzzle together the events of the final battle. I also didn't notice until just now, but the negative chapter numbers are super neat, lol. One thing I'm struck by is how different this buildup to what should be the climax is compared to other fantasy/hero books. Lily doesn't feel super tense, the stakes aren't that high, and of course, the novel hasn't been building up to this because the novel is just starting. It definitely hints at something else going on beneath the surface, and I love it! I'm a sucker for unique stories that play on cliches, and ones that have humor, like yours does. Not much to critique in this chapter, in my opinion! =P

and the quiet perfume of tiger lilies and tomatoes that fills the house.

This is a very specific scent, lol. I personally don't know what tiger lilies smell like... I wonder if Lily has always been in tune with her sense of smell to this extent?

She’s a magical girl. She fights clouds sometimes.

Iconic. XDD

She always receives a sticky note with a location the day of a fight.

This raises quite a few questions... Who or what puts that sticky note there? How do they/it know where the fight will be? >.> Something is fishy here. Lily's right in thinking of cliches and combining powers; their battles definitely feel too scripted.

Sometimes, she has to look up directions on the computer and then write them down, wipe the browsing history, and leave her phone at home.

Oh, the struggles of being a magical girl. :') Isn't it just so inconvenient when your parents catch you in the middle of sneaking out to get to an epic battle?
On a more serious note, this makes me question how Lily got involved in this whole magic gig in the first place. It doesn't seem like her parents or the real world are super affected by the evils the girls battle... And I have a feeling that Lily's the type to be skeptical if randomly approached by a supposedly magical being... Hmmmm.

With incredible grace, the likes of which absolutely befit an ex-ballet dancer, she tumbles out of bed and drags herself to the bathroom. The blankets follow her about half the way across her room, and she one-hundred percent does not trip on them.

I just love your writing style so much. xD You manage to add humor and an authentic voice to even the littlest things. <3

There’s never been a fight later than six, so she could do dinner or ice cream after, but Theo’s mom likes to have evening stuff planned out at least a day in advance.

Ah, so the entity controlling these fights is nice enough to let the girls go home in time for dinner... I mean, sounds like a good work-life balance? *squints suspiciously and shrugs*

She likes how he puts a space between the colon and the parenthesis, so that the autocorrect doesn’t switch into an emoji.

Omg. xD That would mildly annoy me, lol. Like, just turn off the auto-emoji setting? Unless it's Messenger, which is stupid and doesn't allow that. >:(

She’s supposed to be keeping him and the rest of the world safe.

Aha, and this "supposed to" really emphasizes how the stakes seem low (for now, at least). If the Summum Malum were truly a powerful, evil thing, Lily probably wouldn't be questioning why she was fighting. I wonder how you'll raise the stakes !! (Ugh, I'm actually so curious as to what's going on with these planned battles and things. XD)

He only responds with a crying face that includes no less than seven commas for the tears.

Alright, this I approve of. =P

The city smells enchantingly fresh and clean, which is weird, because Lily’s pretty sure she’s never paid that much attention to the way her hometown smells.

Oooh... Is this the start of her hyperactive sense of smell...?

It’s acrid and heavy, and maybe Lily’s nerves are just playing up, but she thinks the other world smells worse than usual.

I absolutely love how you gave the other world this unique, disgusting smell. It's a lot more interesting to me than the typical portal fantasy world full of kingdoms and magic and good marketplace smells.

The atmosphere pushes too hard against the natural air pressure of her lungs, and the sky weighs down on her shoulders.

Well, that's appropriately ominous for the final battle. >.>

Thanks for the fun chapter, Vento! =D I hope you have a fabulous day/night~




Ventomology says...


Theo is best boy honestly. And thank youuuuuu!



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Sat May 13, 2023 1:24 pm
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AmayaStatham wrote a review...



Hey there,

Im here to leave you a review on this incredible piece.

First of all, I really like your descriptions, they are very vividly and neatly written and they make your story feel more realistic. I like your dialogues too and your thoughts are also very on point. Great job!

Let's get started, shall we?

Lily drifts into awareness. She registers the kiss of sunlight on her eyelids, the tangle of blankets around her legs and under her torso, and the quiet perfume of tiger lilies and tomatoes that fills the house. It’s a funny smell; Lily wonders if her mother bought a new febreeze plug-in recently.

She crinkles her forehead, trying to remember any advertisements for this particular scent, and then feels the pull of adhesive on her skin. Her eyelids fly open. Her hands jump to her forehead, and her fingertips slide over the smooth surface of a sticky note. Lily freezes, wondering for a split second if this is one of Victor’s pranks, but then she remembers.

She’s a magical girl. She fights clouds sometimes. She always receives a sticky note with a location the day of a fight. Today is supposed to be the last one.

“Ugh,” she grunts. With a sigh, she pushes herself up onto one elbow and peels off the sticky with her other hand. She turns it over in her hands to read the writing, and groans.

“Summum Malum,” it reads. Lily doesn’t remember much from her Latin roots days in middle school, but she’s pretty sure that’s the Final Evil or something. Circuit’s prediction is right, yet again. “Public Library Lawn.”

“Great,” she mumbles. “Like I don’t spend enough time there already.”


This is a great start! You are starting off with the fact that your character, Lily who is laying in her cosy bed and then wakes up with a sticky note on her forehead. I like that detail. It's out of the ordinary and not something you would read everyday. So, that really catched my attention and I was totally impressed. I love your descriptions over here too, the way you describe that she actually does not want to go and all the emtion with it is very visible and great.

And at least she knows how to get there. Sometimes, she has to look up directions on the computer and then write them down, wipe the browsing history, and leave her phone at home. Her parents ask questions if they see her go somewhere out of the norm, even though it’s really none of their business. Lily hasn’t been arrested or anything.

She flops her arms back down, onto the lumpy snarl of blankets and mattress that surrounds her, and blows a stray lock of hair out of her face. The day isn’t going to wait for her. She might as well get up.

With incredible grace, the likes of which absolutely befit an ex-ballet dancer, she tumbles out of bed and drags herself to the bathroom. The blankets follow her about half the way across her room, and she one-hundred percent does not trip on them.

She cleans herself up in a haze and tries not to think about the fight today. It doesn’t feel real. With the house empty, and her brother’s suitcases finally removed from the living room, she feels disconnected from the real world, like nothing she does here matters. She’s not even sure the fight matters, if there’s no one here that she needs to hold on to.

Just as she pushes open the front door of the house, her phone buzzes in her hand.

“We should hang out today!” Theo texts.


Nice detail over here too, that she is an ex-ballet dancer. (It actually reminds me of a friend who is an ex-ballet dancer as well.) ;) See, this is what I mean, the way you write/ tell your story makes it more relatable for readers and that way mire realistic. Oehhhhh..........Theo. (I really <333 that name)

She pauses and considers. Lily has no idea what time the Summum Malum will appear. It could arrive the moment she reaches the library, or at five in the evening. There’s never been a fight later than six, so she could do dinner or ice cream after, but Theo’s mom likes to have evening stuff planned out at least a day in advance. For cooking purposes.

“Boba by the library?” she texts back. “Like four-ish?”

He sends back a smiley face, and Lily’s mouth automatically tightens into a pleased, but restrained smile. She likes how he puts a space between the colon and the parenthesis, so that the autocorrect doesn’t switch into an emoji. It hits her, in the back of her mind, that maybe she’s supposed to be doing this magical girl thing for Theo. She’s supposed to be keeping him and the rest of the world safe.

Lily’s house is one of many in a neighborhood full of expensive cookie-cutters. They all have different trim and different colors, and their yards vary in spades, but every single one has the same layout: door on the left side of the front facade, with an overhang above it; three-car garage on the right; two rooms above the garage with windows facing the street; and a single window in the wall above the overhang. They each have the same, long driveway, with the same control cracks in exactly the same places.

Lily’s front yard has a Japanese maple in the front, and it glows green and red under the summer sun. She stashes her bike in its shadow on days when she’s too lazy to open up the garage, which is most days.

As she rights her bike and walks it across the grass, her phone buzzes again. She checks as she mounts up, and snorts.

Theo has sent her a text with only the Chinese character for poop. It’s their little ‘shit’ equivalent. He follows quickly with another line. “My mom says I have to help her cook stew which will take FOREVER.” Her phone buzzes again. “All my fun is ruined. We are destined never to meet again. This is so sad Alexa play Despacito.”

“We’ll see each other at school,” she reassures him.

He only responds with a crying face that includes no less than seven commas for the tears.


Theo seems like such a nice and supportive friend. The way that you described how they're texting is like typical teenagers. Good job here! I actually think this is funny,
"All my fun is ruined. We are destined never to meet again. This is so sad Alexa play Despacito.”
Alexa play Despacito, like really? This is so cool! You've managed to bring magic in the realistic world of now. I really liked this part also the way Theo does his emoji's. <333

With a roll of her eyes, Lily pockets the phone, lifts her feet off the ground, and lets the slope of the driveway carry her onto the street. The bike ride to the library is second nature by now, and she barely even thinks as she tilts into the curves of residential roads and coasts down the occasional hill.

It’s a sunny day. As the air warms up and the sun rises higher, Lily smiles into the quiet, fuzzy feeling of light on her skin and a breeze in her hair. She thinks that maybe she should be psyching herself up, getting ready for the fight with the Summum Malum, but strangely enough, she doesn’t feel a lick of worry. She doesn’t feel hurried or urgent. The city smells enchantingly fresh and clean, which is weird, because Lily’s pretty sure she’s never paid that much attention to the way her hometown smells.

Half an hour later, she parks her bike on the mostly-empty rack by the library lobby. Her muscle memory guides her through her usual, half-hearted attempt at locking up before she abandons the bike to the sun and heads inside.

Lily beelines for the bathroom. As she did during her first fight at Wellington Heights Neighborhood Pool, and as she has done in every public fight location since, she slips into an empty stall and shuts the door. She leans against it and glances down to make sure she’s left the lock open, and then digs a hand under her neckline and pulls out the necklace.

Someone in the stall next door drops a massive deuce, though Lily doesn’t hear the plunk, just smells its stink. She closes her fist around the tiny gold pendant and closes her eyes. Heat rises to her cheeks. This is so embarrassing, even if no one’s around to see it.

“Revelry and mystery,” she chants under her breath, “bring the secret world to me.”

The bathroom stench morphs into something worse. She smells the whole sewer now, smothered in something rotten and dripping in engine grease. It’s acrid and heavy, and maybe Lily’s nerves are just playing up, but she thinks the other world smells worse than usual.


OEhhhhhh.....Magicical necklace. Slayyyyy!!! This is awesome. I really like your descriptions on how Lily thinks that it's embarrasing to do it in a public toilet. The chants are very nice. Once again, I really like your descriptions. They are very vivid and imaginary, but also very relatable.

She opens her eyes and takes a gulp.

Despite its familiarity, the sight of the not-quite-other world always sets Lily on edge. It sits in the uncanny valley of places, close enough to the real world to be recognizable, but different in ways that make her stomach sink.

The colors here are muted, and the smells are always worse. When Lily steps out of the stall and sees herself in the bathroom mirror, her reflection stares back like a painting on a vintage card. Her cheeks glow a brighter pink than they should, and her skirt flows in soft lines from her pinched waist. The edges of her limbs look fuzzy, like they had to be brushed over a few times before they came out right.

She’s prettier than in real life too, with a thinner nose and sharper face, and Lily doesn’t entirely like it.

Tired of her reflection, she hurries out of the bathroom and through the empty library lobby. Without the light and noise and people, the building grows into a grim, Gothic castle. The mullions between its windows fade to black, and the light outside casts long, dark shadows.

Lily pushes open the main door and stops, one foot over the threshold, her mouth half open.

The library lawn, usually sunny and bright and green, looks like an ink print, or a shadow puppet backdrop. It looms larger than before and swirls with a faint black dust that catches on the hairs in Lily’s nostrils. The sky lights up in grey, like it can’t decide on whether it should be overwhelmingly bright or intimidatingly dark. In the center of the field, a gaggle of other girls cast strange, radial shadows.

All that should be normal, but something else taints the air. There’s a strange pressure that Lily can’t put her finger on, like a headache or a sore muscle. The atmosphere pushes too hard against the natural air pressure of her lungs, and the sky weighs down on her shoulders.

This is both more and less than she expected. With a gulp, she presses down on the tape holding up her strapless dress and heads into center field.


Eeppppppp.........What just happened?
Did everything just change?
Why does Lily look different?
Is there some evil force?
Did she say the spell wrong?
Did she come to late, is the damage already done?
Or is everything supposed to be like that?
(Don't mind me, Im just reading aloud my thoughts)

Overall, I think this was a very nice and suspenseful scene. I love the humour and dulness of the story. It makes it more lively. Your writing style in in one word Fantastic. I would really like to read more.

Keep up the amazing work! Have a nice day/night!

- Rinisha

PS: When/If you have time do you mind reviewing one of my episodes of MaryAnna (your favourite one)




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245 Reviews

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Wed May 10, 2023 4:39 am
Spearmint says...



She’s a magical girl. She fights clouds sometimes. She always receives a sticky note with a location the day of a fight. Today is supposed to be the last one.

LOL. Why a sticky note?? You'd think they'd have better options, like email, or a fancy notecard, at least. XD

He only responds with a crying face that includes no less than seven commas for the tears.

Theo's texting style <333

Without the light and noise and people, the building grows into a grim, Gothic castle. The mullions between its windows fade to black, and the light outside casts long, dark shadows.

Ooh, this is a cool description !! c:





A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
— Franz Kafka