The Trouble With Pixels: Part 2

Bowser

Elroy glances hesitantly at the turtles. As far as their namesakes go, these creatures move pretty fast on their feet, snapping their jaws as they lumber towards Elroy. He stands his ground for a moment, holding the plastic sword in his hand in front of him, still trying to figure out what exactly is going on here. Then he sees the slimy tongues of the creatures sticking out from wet hungry mouths.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” He thrusts, jabbing at the creature leading the attack. With a single bite, the turtle snaps off the blade, munching the plastic like gum as it advances on its prey. “What the…” Elroy flings what remains of the plastic blade at the creature, and staggers back against the curtain.

“Sir Rocketbuster, watch out!”

The foul-smelling beast is within arm’s length now, giving a guttural roar through its mouth full of plastic. It swipes its hand like a massive club, grazing the retreating Elroy who tumbles back into the cloth, sending the entire curtain cascading down over him and the advancing turtles. Blanketed in darkness, Elroy panics and crawls through the dusty sheet, tumbling out through the other end.

“My knight, what a clever ploy! Strike the creatures while they are down.”

Elroy, panting from the adrenaline, looks up at the turtles groping blindly under the sheet. Picking up a plastic chair, he approaches one of the two shambling lumps and swings hard against it, expecting to be greeted by meaty thud or a crunching blow. What he did not expect, is the plastic chair to simply bounce off the harden carapace of the turtle, spring back in his grip and smacking him on the head. Elroy falls to the ground, stunned by his own blow. The creature is pissed now, raging under the curtain. It bites and gnaws at the thick cloth, until it manages to rip a hole large enough to stick its head through.

“Boogers!” Elroy yells, clambering away from the snapping head as the creature continues chewing at the cloth, trying to free of rest of its body. Picking himself up, Elroy runs back into the arcade, waving his hands like a mad man. “Get out! Get out now! We’re being attacked!”

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ahhhhh!

Human screams overpower the digital blips and bloops in the hall as panicking parents pull their crying children to safety. A couple of jaded teens by the DDR machines look on unfazed, wondering what the fuss is all about. “Didn’t you hear me, get out of this place now!”

From across the hall, Elroy sees Manager Bob running out from the back room, dressed in his usual blue shirt and khaki pants, sweat stains and all. He holds on to his bald sweaty head in astonishment as he makes a beeline for the only Rocketbuster shirt he can see. “Elroy! What is the meaning of this, you trying to run Rocketbuster to the ground!” he yells, his normally concealed Irish accent coming through in his anger.

“No sir, look!” Elroy points to the turtles still struggling to break free. “We’re being attacked!”

“Bah, youngsters nowadays.” Manager Bob scoffs when he sees the turtles. “You probably faint at the sight of blood too don’t ya?” With a laugh, he rolls up his sleeves and flexes his fleshy arms. “Lemme teach you how my generation deal with them hooligans.”

“Ahhh sir?”

Manager Bob puts his palm in Elroy’s face and strides over towards the turtles. “Oi! Come here you!” The two turtles, finally free of the cursed curtain, turn to regard the sweaty bald man. Manager Bob balls his fists up and waves them about like a boxer, spouting a stream of heavily accented cuss words at the bewildered creatures. “… And if I ever see your pompous hides in my arcade again, you’ll be in for a good walloping. Am I making myself clear!”

Turtle looks at turtle as the relatively tiny man in blue stops in front of them, and jabs a finger into one of their thick hides. “And where did you get this awful looking…”

Whump! One of the turtles swings its arms at the man, sending him flying through the air, as they casually turn around and walk back towards the princess.

“Sir Rocketbuster, help me!” Princess screams.

“Aww no!” Elroy runs up to manager Bob as he lands hard on top of a Street Fighter cabinet, smashing its screen in the process. “Talk to me sir, you alright?” Manager Bob could only stare straight at the ceiling as he sputters and chokes, wheezing and blinking his eyes rapidly.

Princess screams again. This time, Elroy looks up and sees one of the creature carrying the tiny Princess and dumping her over one of its massive shoulders. The other turtle is bent over on the ground, waving its stumpy little tail as it fumbles with a piece of glass that looks like a mini-pyramid. In desperation, Elroy shouts at them. “You leave her alone!”

Suddenly, a female voice calls out behind him. “Relax dude, we got this.”

Elroy turns back and sees two teens by the DDR machines walking towards him, eyeing the creatures coolly as they sip on their colas. One is a Asian male, a literal copy of one of those characters you read about in manga comics. His hair is spiked immaculately, gelled and waxed to perfection, freestanding in the air. He wears a shiny plasticy green jacket, over a simple black tee that spells Pixel in front in bright rainbow fonts.

The other one, apparently the one who spoke to Elroy, is a blonde female. She has a shoulder-length bob streaked with pink highlights, and she has on a rugged denim jacket over a black tee with a green alien face on it. Her face is similar to the Asian kid, with a sharp pointy nose, small mouth and big watery eyes, right out of manga.

“Not cool kids, get out of here before…”

The Asian kid shouts something in a foreign language to attract the attention of the beasts, while the girl fans out to approach the creatures from a different direction.

“Guys please, this isn’t safe, we should wait for the police.” Elroy says, holding on to the limp hand of manager Bob.

Blondie turns to look at Elroy. “Dude, we are the police.”

“But…”

“Kogeki!” The Asian kid charges forward with his fist, running directly towards the two turtles. Reaching the first, the one handling the glass pyramid, he somersaults into the air as the creature snaps at him with its massive jaws, and delivers a swift kick to the one behind holding on to Princess.

“Ow!” Princess cries, as she falls to the ground. The turtle carrying her staggers back from the surprise attack as the first turtle makes a gurgling sound, turning around to help its comrade.”

“Not so fast!” Now it is blondie’s turn to charge forward, going straight for the one who just turned its back on her. Running at full speed, she arcs back before leaping up and delivering a stunning strike to the back of the creature’s head. Elroy hears a loud crack. Whether it was the girl’s hand or the turtle’s head, he could not tell.

“Digity! They sure have thick skulls,” Blondie comments, shaking her hand limply as she winces in pain. Her target sways around for a moment, as if unhurt, before it crashes to the ground with a loud thud.

“Serves you right for skipping training Miranda,” the Asian kid says, speaking perfect English as he squares off against the remaining turtle. He dances back as the creature swings both its hands together, clapping them together in a thunderous blow over where his head was just a moment earlier.

The creature, sensing its plight, backs itself to the wall, as the fiesty Princess picks up the broken plastic sword and stabs it into the creature’s leg.

“Princess no!”

Before the princess could react, the creature scoops her up with one hand, grabbing her by her flowing locks and dangling her helplessly in the air. “Let go of me, monster!” Princess screams, still pummelling the creature with the broken plastic sword.

The turtle pops a sharp claw out of its squabby paw and points it precariously near Princess’s neck, bringing her attack to an abrupt end. It turns to glare at the all-action heroes as a standoff ensues.

END PART 2

Bring Me Back To Part 1

Author’s Notes:

  • Part 2 is mainly just a big action scene, plus some attempts at humor.
  • Essentially I’m trying to replicate a ‘chosen one adventure’ type of deal ala Harry Potter, Percy Jackson with the gimmick of video games.
  • It is supposed to be whimsical, slightly low-brow, and fantasy-like without gong overboard, relying on people’s knowledge on current subcultures.

Seeking HONEST Feedback on the following:

  • I’m trying to inject some life into the dialogue through accents like Irish manager and the Japanese kid without going overboard with either. I used different styles on both, let me know if they worked.
  • I dropped in a few attempts at imagined exclamation words – digity, boogers, not sure how well they work.
  • Does the descriptions of the two anime heroes work for you? It’s either too much since I rely on you drawing a picture based on something you already know. Is it too much or too little, can’t decide myself.
  • Should I even be using turtles? They can actually be anything, but I’m going for a mini-dragon reptile thing. Slow lumbering grunts, the lowest life form of all.
  • Manager Bob is a side thing, not core to the plot, but just trying to build some sort of world. Does it work? Or did you go eh? I’m of the opinion it injects some humor in, but let me know as well.
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The Trouble With Pixels: Part 1

Pixel Art Princess

Bleep bleep bloop bloop!

Elroy Jenkins is alone. Surrounded by the ding of the arcade machines and screaming kids, he tugs at the buttons on his scratchy neon-yellow uniform as he wonders where the rest of the evening staff went. Some kid just spilled a soda over the Wheel of Fortune machine, and Elroy needs the cleanup crew stat.

Jabbing a finger on the intercom, he sends out the broadcast. “All staff, all staff, please report to ticketing.” He goes all deep and smooth into the microphone this time, trying to channel his inner deejay vibe. Still, the voice that comes out over the system cracks like a adolescent male on the verge of puberty.

“Hey mister, I need a refund, your air hockey machine’s broke.”

“No it’s not,” Elroy says to the fat kid in line, pushing up his glasses. “You and your sister were hogging it for the last thirty minutes.” Glancing back at the Wheel of Fortune machine, he could see the inviting smile of Vanna White on the side of the cabinet, while the taped over voice of Pat Sajak chirps “The category is thing.” At least the game is still running.

“Ma! He won’t gimme back my money!” the kid screams, turning his head.

Elroy looks up and sees a large overbearing woman folding her arms, glaring at him from across the hall. “Kidding!” Taking the fat kid’s game card, he swipes it on his terminal and restores his credits. “Here you go kid, have fun!” He smiles and waves.

Making a face as the kid waddles away, Elroy sticks his head out of his booth to scan the dimly-lit arcade. Under the glare from a thousand arcade games, he could see no one else wearing the Rocketbuster uniform. With a sigh, he turns back to the Wheel of Fortune machine, eyeing the sticky liquid seeping through its controls as he pulls at his shirt again. He could run over and wipe up the spill himself, but the last time he left the counter unmanned, someone made off with all the candy out front.

“Come on guys, where are you!” Elroy mutters. If that machine shorts out, he’ll have to call in the technician. That will be the third time this week already. Manager Bob isn’t going to be too happy with his new assistant if that happens.

Elroy looks on in horror as the screen flickers for a moment, and screws his eyes shut as the machine fizzles and dies. “Ahhh Boogers!”

“Excuse me?”

Elroy opens his eyes to a faint tapping sound. In front of him, a little girl dressed in a bright pink gown is stretching up to knock on his counter. “Hi, I’m lost. Can you help me find my daddy.”

Elroy bends over and smiles. “Sure sweetie, I can blast it out over the intercom for ya, what’s your name?”

“Princess,” the little girl says, in the shy innocent voice that only little girls can pull off.

“Princess?” Elroy says, raising an eyebrow. Ok I’ll bite. “Princess what?”

The little girl beams as she answers, “Just princess.”

Elroy looks expectantly at the little girl, waiting for her to break out into a fit of giggles. “Real funny kid, where did you buy that costume from?”

She gives him a puzzled look.

Elroy shrugs. “Alright kid, if that’s the way you want it.” He taps the intercom again and tries to do his best impression of a Disney park announcer. “Ladies and gentlemen, if anybody here is missing a brown-haired, big eyed Princess, aged about four or five, wearing a pink princessy costume, and a matching princessy crown. Please make your way to the ticketing counter to retrieve your princessy... I mean princess.”

Princess giggles, revealing little dimples on her cheeks. “You’re very funny, kind sir.”

“Thank you m’lady.” Elroy says with a smile. “Rocketbuster, always here to brighten your day.” He quotes the arcade tagline, twirling his hands in the air as he gives her a little curtsey.

The little girl gasps, opening her eyes wide. “Good sir, are you a knight?”

Elroy hesitates for a moment. “Why yes!” he exclaims, deciding to play along. “Champion of the five realms to be exact.” Reaching behind, he shuffles through the toy bin and pulls out a plastic sword. “And this is Dragonsblade, slayer of dragons and all things most foul.”

“That’s wonderful!” The little girl says, clapping in excitement. “You’re the person I’ve been looking for.”

What? “Alright kid,” Elroy says with a laugh, “Fun times ov…”

“Aaaahhh!” The little girl screams, pointing over Elroy’s shoulder.

“What?” Elroy swings around, holding his sword up against the shelves full of plushes which kids could exchange for with their tickets.

“Draco!” she screams, lifting the hem of her heavy skirt off the floor and running into the crowd.

“You mean the dragon one?” Elroy glances back just in time to see her disappearing behind the machines. “Hey kid, come back!” Fumbling with the waist high door separating his little booth from the outside world, he swings the barrier open and goes after her. “Princess!” He makes it as far as the Guitar hero machines before he stops, losing her trail in the darkened maze.

“Hey you there!”

“Uh-oh,” Elroy spots the large woman storming towards him, with a bawling chubby in tow. Not again. “Sorry ma’am,” Elroy says, raising his hands in front of his chest. “I can’t help you right now, I’m looking for a kid.”

“Shush!” the woman says, ignoring his protest. “You need to do something about those boys hanging around the shoot-a-hoop in their turtle costumes. They chewed through all the balls! My son was…”

“Excuse me? Yea, I’ll check it out. Come by the counter later and I’ll give you your refund.” Elroy runs off towards the shoot-a-hoops. A princess, turtles, what’s next?

“Princess, you here?” Elroy shouts as he makes his way to the back of the hall. He pokes his head into the dank little corner where all the older machines still in service are kept. From behind a musty black curtain, where the employee break room is, he hears a sound like grunting.

“Christ guys, have you been hiding in there? I’ve been calling for you all evening, what are you…” Elroy flings the curtains open, “What?”

In front of him, the girl named Princess is wielding a plastic chair, fending off two green turtles standing on their hind legs. “Champion, aid me!”

Elroy walks into the room, “Hey you two, cut that out before I call security!”

The turtles turn to look at Peter, regarding him with curious eyes.

Wow, that looks real. “Nice costume fellows, next time get mummy to buy you matching turkey ones.” Elroy scrunches his eyes as he tries to figure out where the eyeholes are. He could see none on the scaly necks and torsos.

“Sir RocketBuster, I implore you to save me from these horrible beasts! Slay them with your sword!”

“Now wait a second princess. No one is doing any killing today alright, just because…” The turtles snarl and charge.

END PART I

Bring Me To Part 2

Update: Removed all the swearing and tried to replace them with actions and what-nots. Lemme know. Added in some additional parts as well, for purposes which will be made known later on.

Author’s Notes:

  • If you’ve read my earlier stories, I’m using the basic story format and opener here. That’s one thing I’ll like to keep constant for now. Makes it easier for me to put ideas down.
  • I’m still trying to keep with a creature / fantasy theme like my previous horror stuff, but I’m trying not to put myself into that niche at the moment. Keeping my options open.
  • Why I prefer starting with action? I done some research and received some comments that it’s usually the case that you need to come back and edit your intro to suit the needs of your later story. A action start means I can throw in something before that. E.g. building a backstory for the main character, turning him from Zero to Hero if need be, or add in unique touches if I need to.

Seeking Feedback on the following:

  • I’m trying to find more fiction based on stuff like Tron or Wreck-it-ralph, if you know any, would appreciate it if you would direct me.
  • People swear in real life. However, I’m slightly uncomfortable with putting it in aside from a few “Christ!” “Oh for crying out loud!’ and “What on earth!” in there. If anyone can advice, how suitable is it for Young Adult to have a few “fucks, hells, Jesus Christ and damns” in there? I’m just trying to be appropriate here, and honestly, I think its a crutch.
  • Regarding the above question, would also like advice on how to AVOID using them all together, without sounding stunted i.e. an alternative to having your characters EXCLAIM something without using the term exclaim, or having your character just shout the name. i.e. In Harry Potter, it’s ridiculous how often characters go “Harry!” “Harry!” “Harry!”

Optimism

It’s pretty amazing how easy it is for me to bang out a story now. I have Part 2 ready to go after I do a few edits. But seeing my lack of posts lately, I’ll like to space it out a bit. Let me know if you like it, particularly the theme of it. I’m going to keep this one a bit whimsical and outlandish.

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Micro: Crichton’s Novel That Never Should

Micro: The Last Crichton Novel

At the time of Michael Crichton’s death –  God bless his literary and Emmy-winning soul – His assistant found a few unpublished works in his possession. I’ve managed to get my hands on both and will give my personal views on them, though I will focus more on Micro, since Pirate Latitudes is pretty old news.

Pirate Latitudes

Follow Pirate Captain Charles Hunter on A High Seas Adventure In The 17th Century

Follow Pirate Captain Charles Hunter on A High Seas Adventure In The 17th Century

The first one, Pirate Latitudes, is a completed manuscript that for some reason M.C. did not give to his publishers. Released posthumously anyways with approval from his family, I got my hands on it as soon as I could, and dug into it with as much fervour as I had for his earlier books.

Turns out, and this is my personal opinion by the way, there is a good reason why M.C. did not want it published. I found it to be as good a novel as any, for lack of a better way to describe it, it is just not a Crichton book. Having read it twice (I love the setting by the way), it lacks the scale and flair of his previous adventures, and it also lacks the blurring the lines between science and fiction that he is so well-known for. There is still some of it of course, but most of it is lost in translation when you’re talking about gunpowder and rat intestines, instead of lasers and computer-programmed nanobots.

Still a good read, just not a typical M.C. read. Will I recommend this – Yes, highly entertaining, though the proper ending should have come much earlier instead of dragging it on for the low-key ending.

Micro

An adventure of Micro proportions!
An adventure of Micro proportions!

Unlike Pirate Latitudes, Micro is a completely different beast. Firstly, a bit of background, M.C. did not complete this novel in time before his unfortunate demise. HarperCollins, his publisher, chose science-writer Richard Preston to complete the novel from Crichton’s remaining notes and research, and it was finally published in 2011, three years after M.C.’s passing.

Unlike Pirates, which was announced pretty close to his passing and thus enjoyed quite a bit of publicity. Micro was a pretty low-key release. Unless you happen to be specifically watching out for it, there was little about this book in the mainstream media, which led to me getting this book only recently. (I don’t live in the states, books here are a bit more limited.)

In a nutshell, I read about a third of the book a couple of days ago, and haven’t picked it up again since. I was skeptical when I picked it up, and when I started reading it, turns out I was right.

Firstly The Good – This is typical M.C. stuff here, but smaller in scale, a contained adventure which harkens back to his days of Jurassic Park and Sphere instead of the global catastrophes in Next or State of Fear. Pick a group of experts specifically chosen for the purposeful scientific adventure that goes horribly wrong, and push them in the right direction using science-blended fiction goodness to move the plot along. It has worked for Crichton his whole life, it works here as well.

The Not-So-Good – M.C. was never known for tight writing, but this is ridiculous. When I put down the book, I was close to one third in, and it still hasn’t gotten into the main adventure yet. We’re introduced to a bunch of characters and a plot (murder) that just seems pretty meh by Crichton standards. It trudges along for way too long, especially given that Crichton already has taken the liberties of making sure the ENTIRE freaking group knows each other from the very start!

The Bad:

Shortcut to character intros – Crichton’s novels always starts of as an assembly of special talent from across the globe. Even in the case of Timeline, where the cast is pre-assembled in the setup, at least it still makes sense. Micro however, takes the short cut and just dumps the entire cast conveniently as a bunch of scientist-to-bes who happen to not only be in the same university, but also in the same lab, studying completely different things side by side but still behaving like old schoolmates trying to get into the book goods of their professors. By chapter 4, I was already like… why is the botanist in the same lab as the guy extracting Cobra venom. To worsen this introduction, the main protagonist basically goes round the lab talking to each one of his friends and that’s how their work and personalities get introduced. That’s it. At least in Timeline, the protagonist is introduced via his hobbies, the cave-climbing girl via exploring a cave etc. Here, they’re all thrown into the lab and revealed in a contestant 1-2-3 manner.

Poor sub-plot leading to main plot – Lastly, the first pillar, or the point that drives them towards the conflict. It was just too convenient. A minor character dies suddenly and suddenly the protagonist is thrust into action via a sub-plot that somehow leads to the main plot. It was pretty ‘forced’ honestly, like two stories taped together to make it flow.

Forced initiation of main plot without input from main characters – I’ve read just up to the point where the adventure officially begins, but by then I was already half-asleep. Again, not helped by the ridiculousness of how they ‘translated’ into their new settings for the main adventure to being. (WTF moment 3 and game-breaker) Basically, it’s just ‘Follow me! You stand here! You stand there! No questions? Good, fire the laser!” A room full of characters and no one reacted….zzZZZzzz. Sure you can say the subplot led to this point, but given how badly that plot has begun, no surprises that the end fizzled here.Should I finish reading the novel? Maybe. Is it fair that I reviewed the book only on the first 1/3? Why not, would you sit through a bad movie just because it has a super ending… hmm reminds me of StarWars: The Clone Wars.All in all, I think this novel was just the first draft of M.C.’s work and shouldn’t have been released to the public. It makes a mockery of his earlier work in my opinion, and I was so hyped for this just  month back. Now, I think I’ll go back to Prey or AirFrame.

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The Hunger Games: Of Tenses Past & Present

The_Hunger_Games_poster-0001Firstly, this is NOT a review of the book or movie. I did a bit of reading yesterday, and ended up going through the first few chapters of The Hunger Games: Book One. I caught the movie in May last year, liked the premises of the story a lot, and ended up devouring the entire trilogy within a month of watching the movie. For those of you who have not read it, do yourself a favour and grab the book or for the more visually-inclined ones, just grab the DVD.

A brief overview of my impressions of the books. Generally, the story is pretty good, except the plodding pace in the last book tested my patience somewhat. I felt the the setting and the world created around the story is pretty well constructed, considering the author is using material usually associated with B-grade horror and Japanese Manga. All in all, it is one of the rare book-to-movie translations where both versions are actually quite good.

Yesterday however, I was reading it through the eyes of a wannabe writer, trying to pick up a a few tricks. From this angle, you sense something very wrong from the get go. The entire book is written in the present tense! (cue catchy whistling sound from the movie)

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The Book Case: Return Of The Novella

20130301-000404.jpgThis was a fun little quick read. I believe the word count is close to 17,000. The writing style is extremely fast and fluent in this story, except towards the end as in the case for most detective mysteries when too many things must happen for the story to wrap up.

I’m usually not a fan of detective work since it tends to plod on before the author throws everything at you at once (the big ah-ha! moment), but I’m still highlighting this book because Demille’s writing style in this book is something I wish to aspire towards someday. Full of dry wit, random nonsense and little quirks that does not take away too much from the story. He was using an old character from his previous series though, so do not expect too much character descriptions and background here.

Also, I have been intrigued by this medium-length sort of effort lately. Quick reads that resemble more of an episode of Big Bang Theory instead of a 3 hour long movie epic. Maybe it is just me or a passing fad, but I think with how reading habits are forming up in the past few years, shorter more-to-the-point work might be the new thing here. Maybe I should give the 15,000 mark a whirl and see how it goes.

Prompt: The Lady Butterfly

Vovage De La Vie

Voyage de la Vie is the story of a young man on a magical journey through a fantasy world to find his true destiny. This exciting theatrical spectacular at the Festive Grand Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa is Singapore’s longest running show and Time Out Singapore’s Best Theatre Production of 2011.

Source: Sentosa Attractions

This is a photo that I took sometime back. This beautiful creature was out and about, posing for photos with the thousands of tourists that throng the attraction everyday. I was mesmerised by her costume and took a picture as she walked pass. Unfortunately, she never once looked at me. That same day, I had the opportunity to watch the show that she was promoting, Voyage de la Vie. And lo and behold, apparently she was no longer part of the show. Me and my friends were quite miffed about that, and that experience stayed on in my head.

So I decided to write a story about it.

The Lady Butterfly

It had been eight years since I took this photo. Eight years since the day I saw her wings, blooming like a rose with that dazzling smile. And for the last eight years, I have been searching, looking for the butterfly who stole my heart.

I remembered it was hot that day, the kind of sticky humid hot that makes you want to stay in the shade. But the circus had come, and the sign had said, “For one night only, why not come and have some fun.” I was reluctant to go, but they made me anyway, the friends who worried for me and told me to have some fun. I was glad they did, because that night, I finally forgot about Judy.

That afternoon, we walked towards the circus tent, squeezing through a crowd hellbent on having their photo taken with every clown and bearded lady along the way. They were all happy, smiling away as the cameras went snap snap snap. And that made me sick and want to go away.

Then I spotted her, the beautiful creature coming from beyond the curtained gate. “Look! It’s the star of Voyage De La Vie!” a mother whispered, as the children looked on in awe at the butterfly dancing pass. With rose-petalled wings, she flitted through the crowd, sprinkling stardust and glitter, spreading circus magic through the air.

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