The Grand Design Part I

This is the first 500 words of a fantasy novella. The second 500 words will come tomorrow. And so on and so on, until it’s finished. The title is tentative. Everything is tentative. I might go back and revise this entire thing at any time and you can’t stop me.


Magic requires wisdom, fortitude of the mental and physical varieties, intensive study, and finesse. Magic also requires decent aim, a fact which is seldom appreciated.

Alexis Smith stood by the bus shelter across the street from the girls’ high school she taught at in Andong. It was a warm May Friday afternoon, green leaves having long since replaced the cherry blossoms, and it was not a day where she could be expected to contemplate the finer intricacies of magic, even had she believed that such a force existed. She’d had to confiscate far too many phones due to the misuse of Kakaotalk for that.

Most of the students were already gone, having caught the previous buses or headed off to various after-school academies or home for the weekend after a long week at the dorms. A few stragglers huddled about, chattering in Korean about things she hoped were legal. (Her school had a tough rep, or so she’d heard. One couldn’t assume.)

The time was 4:57 according to her smartphone. She still hadn’t decided if she was going to catch the bus to Daegu that night. She knew Jade and Leah were, but she wasn’t getting paid until next week and she was sure people would be at Indis tonight, or maybe she just wanted to stay at home and torrent Game of Thrones…

One of her coteachers, Miss Choi, stomped up next to her, turned to face the road, halted with the force of a soldier coming to attention. Alexis hadn’t had any classes with her today, so she had only seen her at lunch – where she sat mostly silently, ‘mmm mmm’ing her responses, jabbing the mackerel with the metal chopsticks with enough force to slice through the bone. Her normally perfectly coiffed hair hung lank in a ponytail, her dress was wrinkled, and even her makeup was slapdash.

“So,” said Alexis. “What are you doing this weekend?”

A taxi passed, with a long, loud honk. Then a second taxi.

“We’re going to drink tonight,” announced Miss Choi.

Alexis blinked. “O-“

“No,” said Miss Choi. “Tonight is too far. We’re going for dinner. Now. Then we’re going to drink. Do you like soju?”

The last time Alexis drank soju, she spent the next morning mainlining coffee, sausages, and eggs. “It’s okay,” she said. “Miss Choi, where’s your car?”

Miss Choi’s lips tightened to a thin, glossy line. “What do you want to eat? I think maybe samgyeopsal.

Alexis had known Miss Choi for barely two months, but she knew these things about her: she was responsible for the C-level classes, she was the only coteacher anywhere near her own age, she had the capacity to make her life hell if she saw fit, she seemed nice enough, and she religiously avoided scooping up particularly fatty foods onto her lunch tray. ‘Samgyeopsal’ meant ‘serious.’ So much for Daegu. So she nodded. “Okay, okay, sounds good.”

She blinked.

Miss Choi blinked.

The sky was bright, brighter than it should be for this time of day, and they hadn’t been facing west.

Excerpt: Magical Girl Weekly (January 25, 2017) – Ask Taeyang-Unni!

Every week, this retired magical girl answers your most burning questions about this most romantic and brave of trades – without the guff!


Dear Taeyang-Unni,

In my civilian life, I’m what you call a ‘tough girl’. I’m the one at school who’s picked first in sports and scares the (redacted) out of the bullies. But when I’m off being magical girl… it’s embarrassing! All that pink and frills and lace and sparkles? Half the time, the bad guys are too busy laughing to fight me, the other half, they start patting me on the head and cooing at me! I just want to be taken seriously, you know? How do I fix this? My talking animal companion is no help at all, says everything is a necessary part of the costume. :/

  • Ticked-off in Tokyo


Dear Ticked-Off,

Hey, I get it! We’ve all got our self-images to maintain and sometimes, the magical girl thing can really interfere with that. And I’d like to say that you can easily ditch the pink. But I’ve got bad news and good news and first, the bad news: your talking animal companion is right. You can’t get out of the cute role, because it is necessary. But here’s the good news, such as it is: you can own it. Be the cutest, pinkest damned magical girl you can be and when they’ve got their guard down, give ‘em a solid smack between the eyes. If you’re really as tough as you say, I think you’ll give them a hell of a shock, which is an important part of any battle strategy.


Dear Taeyang-Unni

I can’t be the only one with this problem. Like most of us, my uniform is made of spandex. But I get these terrible wedgies every time! This definitely cuts back on my combat efficiency and honestly, has almost gotten me killed at least twice. What can I do? I tried getting that spray that gymnasts use, but… you know how all our belongings disappear when we transform? So does the spray. Even if I chuck it away from me first.

  • Uncomfortable in Ulsan


Dear Uncomfortable,

Oh yeah, that takes me back. These uniforms aren’t exactly made for comfort, are they? Although my problem was more with the high heels they had me fight in. The first thing that comes to mind is going commando, but we both know how short these skirts get. (The tactical advantages in flashing your enemies might be worth considering, but it really depends on what you’re comfortable with.) But here’s the thing: we’re not limited by our main magical attack move. Usually, this shows up with a one-off ability that we never hear about again, but talk to your talking animal companion about creating an anti-wedgie cantrip to use after every transformation. They’ll probably balk, but threaten to cut off their cat nip supply until they give in. You’ve got to play dirty sometimes.


That wraps it up for this week! Feel free to send in your own questions and in the meantime, stay shiny, star girls!