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The once beautiful land of Via Lactea was in shambles. On its own, this was nothing new - queen Vega had long since grown accustomed to her fallen kingdom - though the sadness had never left her. The fact her beloved husband had been struck down in the attack had only filled Vega's heart with that much more despair.

Without Altair awake, they couldn't restore order, couldn't watch over the Pretty Cure and the beautiful planet Earth.

Such a long time without visible hope should have twisted her, left her bitter and cynical. But no. Instead, Vega worked at cultivating one of the long-dead Star Gardens, the birthplace of the stars. Had her staff been spared, perhaps one of them would be scolding her now, angrily declaring how it was unfit for a queen to do something so lowly and dirty. Vega almost smiled at the thought of one of them chiding her, but only continued to work.

She had grown tired of waiting. If Altair could not be with her, she would work to save them herself. She would beg for Ophiuchus's forgiveness, for starters - that had been what had caused this horrible mess - and with the Pretty Cure by her side, maybe, just maybe, they could finally...

---

OP: "Purikyua ✰ Wish!" - StarSHINE
EPISODE 10 - "Busted! Mama's ultimatum!"

---

The Void had grown even darker since Ophiuchus's disappearance, and none of the trio could really bring themselves to care. The air was thick with an all-consuming darkness, one that blanketed the ruined wasteland and seemed to devour it completely, leaving absolutely nothing in its wake. Tendrils of darkness weaved toward the solitary tower, threading tighter and tighter together as it got closer.

"She's right," Rasalhague spoke aloud, voice dull, red eyes losing their luster. "we're nothing but murderers."

"We were just lying to ourselves." Marfik continued quietly, gaze distant.

"We failed." Cebalrai finished, voice toneless though tears still streamed down her cheeks. "At everything."

The tendrils became ropes and the ropes multiplied, becoming a wave of darkness and despair. It crept through the entrance - and none of the Serpens even bothered moving as the wave of darkness crashed down upon them, swallowing them up as well. And as their world became a never-ending pitch-black, there was a sinister, formless chuckle that echoed all around.

"That's right - you've failed." it said, mocking them. "All of that work was for nothing. The one person who should have accepted you, faults and all, left you here. Abandoned you."

"Are you going to kill us?" Marfik asked, and for a moment, there was nothing but silence. Then:

"You three cost me my puppet. And as I cannot replace her - " the voice began, rumbling ominously, " - you'll just have to suffice as my replacements."

Those words were enough to rouse fear in the trio, but before they could fight back, the darkness changed, warped - and shot straight at their chests. There were three screams of anguish and agony - just before more darkness flowed into them, numbing them to the pain.

"Show the world what despair truly is - and get rid of anyone who stands in your way of that."

The trio opened their eyes - lifeless and deep red, the whites of their eyes completely pitch black - and bowed in reverence to the darkness all around them. "As you wish, Lord Omega." they spoke in unison, just before vanishing.



“So what do you think?” Chie asked as she placed her teacup down, gazing at the other three girls in concern. She and Naori had come to visit Mei today, joined by Ushio and Sumire as well. Naori had gone off with Miyo and Kouta in the den, whereas Chie and the others clustered in Mei’s room, drinking tea – iced vanilla chai today – and nibbling at caramel filled cookies.

Sumire spoke first, biting her lip. “It seems…suspect.” she admitted uneasily.

Ushio shook her head. “Suspect nothing, it sounds fishy - ” she countered, pausing when Mei snorted beside her. “What?” she asked with a quirked eyebrow.

“You said fishy and you’re the twin fish Cure - ” Mei said between giggles.

Ushio rolled her eyes. “Dork.” she said affectionately, nudging the pigtailed girl in the shoulder. “ – but it’s true. A random mysterious homeless girl showing up out of nowhere, right when things have been quiet? It rings alarm bells for me, in any case.”

“But why Chie-san, in that case?” Mei answered, frowning. “If it’s an enemy, it’d be smarter to go after one of us instead of Chie-san…” Realizing the way that sounded, Mei turned pink. “N-not that Chie-san isn’t important, of course! I just meant that - ”

“I’m not a Pretty Cure, I know.” Chie finished, smiling as she waved her hand in dismissal. “There’s nothing to gain from coming and living with me. But…” And now she paused thoughtfully. “If she truly wished to cause harm, I think she would have done so by now.”

“How so?” Sumire asked.

“She’s helped us at the Teahouse every day since she’s started living there. She didn’t object when we enrolled her at Etoile either. There’s been no mysterious disappearances – nothing that suggests she has any ulterior motives. She seems regretful, however...it seems like she’s trying to get better.” Chie said quietly. “It’s like she wants to be happy but doesn’t feel like she deserves it.”

The three girls stared. It seemed Chie was just as wary as they were, if she was keeping such tabs like that.

“I still think it’s suspicious.” Ushio concluded, folding her arm across her chest.

“It does sound a little convenient…” Sumire agreed.

Mei, however, wasn’t quite as convinced. “I think we should trust Naori-chan.” she said decisively, nodding to herself. When the others looked at her incredulously, Mei continued on. “It’s suspicious and all but – Naori-chan hasn’t done anything to hurt anyone yet, right? It’s like Chie-san said, she wants to be happy but doesn’t feel like she’s good enough to deserve it. That means she regrets whatever she’s done and is trying to change it!”

“I dunno, Mei…” Ushio frowned.

“And besides, if it really IS an act, we’ll all catch her ‘cause we’re already keeping an eye on her anyways, you know? All four of us are keeping an eye on her - ”

“ – five, actually!” Usami said brightly as he wiggled his way through Mei’s door and grinned at the pigtailed girl.

“U-Usami, you should still be with Miyo!” Mei said, shocked.

“Miyo-chan and Naori-chan are watching Cutie Pri! Kouta-chan too, but he’s trying to pretend it doesn’t interest him, eheheh~” Usami said as he hopped onto the bed.

“One of them could have seen you walking around!” Mei continued, horrified.

“It’s okay, neither of them saw me, Mei-chan~! And it’s not like it matters, there hasn’t been any Pretty Cure business lately anyways~” Usami assured, but just as Mei was about to sigh in relief:

“I did.”

Mei’s door creaked open to reveal Hirui Hidama standing in the doorway, staring at the quartet of girls in a quiet fury.

The girls froze. Usami blinked at the voice, turned with a bright smile and waved up at the red-haired mother of three. “Hi hi, Ruru-ch – wait…” he paused, confused, then: “…uh-oh.”

Hirui stepped inside the room, eyes narrowed. "The three of you, out." she ordered as she pointed to Chie, Ushio, and Sumire - and wisely, the three girls chose not to object, instead silently filing out of the room. Once they were gone, the redhaired woman turned back to face Mei and Usami.

”Explain.”



Naori hadn’t been sure what she was expecting when Miyo insisted she just had to watch Sparkling Cutie Pri, but the young pink haired girl found herself quickly entranced with the colorful princess themed magical girls who fought for love and justice. It was apparently a long running franchise, as Miyo had cheerfully explained, one with a new iteration every year. This year was focused on a gemstone theme, it looked like…

“Cutie Pri is really great, but I like the Pretty Cure even better!”

Naori blinked, attention torn away from the scene of Princess Emerald trying to reason with a brainwashed Princess Obsidian, to look over at the younger girl. "The Pretty Cure?" she asked, thinking back to the bear she had seen, and the Cures the trio had been fighting. Aries and Pisces, were that their names? She couldn't remember, most of that time in bed had been a dark haze and before all that, those same Cures had been -

"Yeah! There's a red one and a blue one around Lucente Bay! They helped defend out school before, no one's seen them close up but..." Miyo and Kouta glanced toward each other, nodded, and Miyo leaned closer toward Naori, voice lowering almost conspiratorially as she did so: "...I think Neenee and Ushio-nee have something to do with it!"

Naori paused, remembering the bear the pigtailed girl - Mei, she'd learned was her name - had, before carefully considering her answer. It was obvious to Naori this was the case, but if Miyo didn't know that... "What makes you say that?" she asked, hoping her voice wasn't shaking.

"One time, there was a festival and somethin' REAL scary happened!" Miyo said, and Kouta nodded in agreement. "Ushio-nee protected me and Niinii, but then she ran off 'cause she said she had ta keep us safe! And when she left us with Sumire-nee, I bet she thought we weren't looking but we saw a flash of blue after she left!"

"There was a flash of red from the observatory too, and neesan was heading over there with someone..." Kouta chimed in.

"So we think Neenee and Ushio-nee are the Pretty Cure!" Miyo concluded, nodding decisively. "But we're not sure yet and we won't say nothin' 'til then~"

"If neesan hasn't said anything, she probably has her reasons." Kouta agreed. "Everyone has secrets, after all. I bet even you do, Naori-san."

Naori felt like her heart had stopped.

Did he know?

Did they both know?

Was this just a trap?

Were the Pretty Cure going to come in at any moment and hurt her?

"Naori-chan?" Miyo asked, brows furrowed in concern. "Are you okay?"

"I-I don't feel well," Naori admitted, knowing it wasn't quite a lie. "and I think Tachibana-san a-and I have things to do, c-come to think of it. Excuse me..." she pushed herself up, feeling guilty when Miyo let out a soft noise of disappointment, and hurried out of the room and down the hall. Maybe she could just tell Chie she wasn't feeling well and she probably needed rest -

"I can't believe you've been lying to me!"

Naori jumped at the angry shout that came from the room up ahead, the door slightly ajar - that was Mei's room, wasn't it? Chie was supposed to be in there, but instead she, Ushio, and Sumire were all standing outside the room - what was going on? She tugged on Chie's arm, trying to get an explanation from the dark haired girl, but Chie only shushed her as the group listened in.

"It's not her fault, Ruru-chan!" Another voice, one Naori didn't recognize. "It's mine! I knew Mei-chan was destined to be a Pretty Cure and I never told you! Please, don't be angry at Mei-chan..."

Naori silently debated whether to keep listening - and curiosity won out. She leaned closer with the rest of the girls, and no one bothered to chase her away.

"Mama, I know you're angry - " Mei began, voice shaking. " - you've got every right to be! But - but I-I don't want to give this up!"

"You don't know what could happen!" that other angry voice. Hirui, Naori belatedly recognized. Mei's mother.

"I-I do!" Mei shot back. "U-Usami-chan, he - he told us what happened! With y-you and O-Ophiuchus and the last Cures!"

Naori nearly lost her balance. If this woman knew about that then that meant...

It meant that...

"You - we deserved to know that, mama!" Mei continued, temper flaring. "We definitely deserved to know you used to be Cure Leo!"

There was nothing but silence. Naori held her breath as Ushio gently pushed the door open just a little more. The group was startled to see Hirui standing there, tears streaming down her cheeks, a look of pure anguish on her face. As the woman stood there, silently crying, Naori felt her stomach twist up in guilt. This was her fault. This woman - she had irreparably hurt this woman, scarred her deeply.

She wanted to apologize. To beg for forgiveness. But the words just wouldn't come.

Seeing her troubled look, Chie placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and offered her a kind smile.

Naori didn't feel like she deserved it.

"I couldn't p-protect anyone," Hirui said at last, voice thick with raw, pained emotion, "I don't d-deserve to live, I-I think. T-the only reason they saved m-me was because of how young I was, Mei." the woman bit back a sob. "They gave t-their lives t-to protect the world, Mei. You - could y-you do that? Would you leave us all behind willingly w-without a second thought?"

"I-I..."

"Ruru-chan, that - that's not fair!" Usami interrupted Mei angrily, though his voice was trembling - it sounded like he was trying hard to not burst into tears. "That - that's not going to happen this time! Never ever! N-no one...n-no one's g-gonna...!"

"...I..."

"You're my little g-girl, Mei. You're m-my precious little girl a-and I don't - I can't..." Hirui sobbed openly now. "Please - please, Mei, I c-can't lose you! If you - i-if you ever - "

"Mei-chan's not gonna die!" Usami sobbed, though it sounded more like he was desperately trying to convince himself of this fact. Naori felt tears streaming down her cheeks - and a quick look around told her the others were the same way. Chie wrapped an arm around her, whereas Sumire leaned against Ushio's back and trembled, quietly crying.

"Please don't," Hirui begged, just as Mei let out a broken sob. Blurrily, Naori could see Mei fiercely hugging her mother, crying into the older woman's arms. "p-please - please don't do this anymore...!"

Ushio gritted her teeth, pushed the door open, fresh tears streaming down her cheeks. "There - t-there are people g-getting hurt!" she sobbed out, and she wasn't sure if she was more afraid or angry. "They c-could die too, we just can't...!"

Hirui said nothing for several long moments, opting to console her daughter. When the woman felt calm enough, she took a deep breath and then:

"Then...t-then if you all promise you w-won't fight anymore, I...I'll fight on your behalf."



[eyecatch 1 - Little versions of Mei, Ushio, and Sumire all fold paper, attempting to make paper stars and paper flowers. Mei makes them slowly, whereas Ushio gets increasingly frustrated with the process. Mei sweatdrops, just before the two girls look over at Sumire, who has amassed a massive pile of paper stars and various paper flowers. The two girls flail at her, shocked, and Sumire tilts her head in confusion. Usami pops out of the pile of paper stars, wearing a paper flower crown, and the girls all laugh while the Starshine logo appears in the corner.]

[eyecatch 2 - A closeup of Mei, Ushio, and Sumire, each with a colored star in their hands - Mei has a red one, whereas Ushio and Sumire respectively have blue and gold ones. They close their eyes and in a flash of light, Cure Aries, Cure Pisces, and Cure Virgo all appear one by one, Aries making some fire crackle, Pisces with swirls of water around her, and Virgo with flowers blooming in her hands. Against a backdrop of stars, the three cures and Usami pose, with the Starshine logo appearing in the corner.]



Mei rolled over in bed, staring at her alarm clock. 3:15 in the morning and she still couldn't sleep. She had tried everything - slow deep breaths, warm milk, counting sheep - but her brain just wouldn't shut off. She couldn't stop thinking about her mother, how she had begged them all to not fight anymore. In all her 15 years, Mei couldn't remember her mother crying once - sad and distraught, yes, but never crying like that and now...

...now what?

Her mother wanted them to all quit. For good reason, Mei knew that. Ever since Usami had told them about what had happened to the previous Cures, Mei had nightmares - Ushio later admitted she'd had nightmares about it too. Telling Sumire had been hard - how fair was it to drop something like that on a new team member? - but Sumire had accepted it, just like they had.

Was it still running away if they were asked to stop?

Mei sighed, sat up in bed. Maybe she needed another glass of warm milk - or even maybe some tea, that would do the trick. As she made her way down the hall to the kitchen...

"Pretty Cure! Star's Blessing!"

The auburn haired girl poked her head out from the hallway to see her mother in the den, holding that star shaped capsule she and Ushio had found what felt like ages ago. As her mother held the capsule above her head, there was a dim glow that emitted softly throughout the room and then -

- nothing.

Hirui let out a noise halfway between a curse and a sob.

"Pretty Cure! Star's Blessing!"

The glow shone through the room, casting light onto Usami's distraught face - and then it faded again, just as Hirui let out another angry half-sob.

"Ruru-chan..." Usami mumbled. "Please don't cry! I know you'll get it!"

Again and again Hirui tried, and Mei felt her heart steadily break even more as she watched her mother - her strong mother who had always been there for her - reduced to nothing but anguished crying as her transformation failed once more. "Why, Usami?" Hirui asked. "Why can't I help them like I want to...?"

"I-I don't know," Usami admitted, and his answer only made Hirui cry all the harder. "b-but we'll f-figure it out! I promise!"

Mei bit her lip as she watched, not sure what to do. All she wanted was to rush in and help her mother transform somehow, but - how would she even manage that? There was no way to give her power to her mother - no matter how much she desperately wanted to.

"...Pretty Cure! Star's Blessing!"

The light around the room was dim this time, barely enough to count as a nightlight.

"P-Pretty Cure...! Star's...Blessing!"

And now it didn't light up at all.

Hirui broke down in tears - and Mei just couldn't watch it anymore. With a heavy heart, she went back to her room, her mother's desperate cries ringing in her ears, even after they had quieted into nothingness.



"...and she cried herself to sleep, I think." Mei finished quietly, dark bags under her eyes. School had let out for the day - but the pigtailed girl hadn't felt the desire to head home just yet, instead up on the roof with Ushio and Sumire. The other two girls traded glances as Mei only looked out at the sky, gaze distant. "...I don't think I'll be able to keep my promise. Is - is that bad?"

The group fell into silence.

"I - I don't think so." Sumire finally answered. "Ushio-san and I were talking - we don't think we'll be able to keep that promise either."

"...mama will be upset." Mei whispered, and she wasn't sure if she felt guilty or relieved knowing her friends wanted to keep fighting. She hugged Usami to her chest, still quiet as she tried to process everything but then -

"Mei-chan!"

There was a deep chill in the air and each of the girls looked up to see Marfik hovering above them, too high up to see the real changes in his appearance - however, the Darkness Jar he held was as plain as day. But something didn't make sense - if an Inner Star had been stolen, Usami would have felt the darkness beforehand - where had the Inner Star Marfik had come from...?

"Consume all light, Trou Noir!"

Marfik's ringing command sent chills down their spines - the voice he spoke with wasn't his at all, and something about it felt and sounded positively evil. There was no time to dwell on this - in the next instant, a hulking monster had risen from the shadows, fusing with one of the benches on the roof, as well as the fence put up. The combination created a shadowlike ogre of concrete and metal with glowing red eyes and a jagged red mouth upturned into a demented smile. "TROU NOIR!" it bellowed, just as Marfik vanished.

Each of the girls reached for their Star Capsule.

"Pretty Cure! Wish Upon A Star!"
"The fire star with the determination of a ram, Cure Aries!"
"The water star with the grace of the sea life, Cure Pisces!"
"The earth star with the maiden's innocence, Cure Virgo!"

The Trou Noir let out a screech and swung one of its massive arms at the Cures, only to meet its match in Pisces, who caught the blow with both hands. Aries and Virgo scattered, with Aries sweeping in underneath and delivering a powerpacked kick to the Trou Noir's stomach, whereas Virgo leapt up toward the Trou Noir's face, swinging her arm back before attacking the monster with a flurry of quick, devastating punches and finishing off her rapidfire attack with a vicious uppercut that sent the Trou Noir reeling.

As the monster recuperated from the sudden assault, the three cures took the moment to high five one another - right before there was a series of screams from the front of the Etoile Academy campus.

Aries's eyes widened - her mother had promised to pick she and her siblings up today and if there was chaos happening at the front of the school, that meant... "Mama!" she cried out, just as the Trou Noir began to get back to its feet. She hesitated but -

"The hell are you waitin' for?!" Pisces roared. "Go!"

"We'll take care of this, Aries!" Virgo assured.

"You guys..." Aries whispered - then nodded. "Usami, let's go!"

As Aries hurried toward the entrance of the school, the two cures looked back toward the Trou Noir before them. Virgo stood on guard, ready to make a move - but all Pisces did was grin, punching her fist into her open palm.

"Now where were we?"



Hirui had sensed something off in the air seconds before it happened - even though her attempts at transforming had gone badly, she still reached for her own capsule, immediately looking up when the feeling in the air got worse, just in time to see a young boy floating in the sky, darkness crawling all around him. She barely had time to wonder just what was happening - in the next instant, said darkness was shooting out toward student and faculty alike, and Hirui took cover, just before watching the strange darkness painfully rip a star out of a person. Insides running cold, Hirui frantically scanned the crowd. Where was Mei - where were Miyo and Kouta? Were they safe?!

"Mei! Kouta! Miyo!" she shouted desperately, but those lucky enough to not be hit had completely devolved into a mass panic and there were too many people around. More darkness hit more people and each time, Hirui didn't know what she was going to do if it was one of her children that was hit.

As people fled, the strange boy in the sky floated down. He couldn't have been much older than Kouta, honestly, and for one chilling moment, Hirui had to wonder if that really was her son. It passed in the next moment - this strange boy had none of Kouta's features - but when the boy reached the ground, he didn't bother collecting all the floating stars from the fallen victims - instead, he looked straight at Hirui with his chilling black and red eyes.

"You." he said hatefully, just before he shot a dark tendril of energy at the woman. Hirui dodged - narrowly - and stumbled backward, pulling her capsule out of her pocket, holding it high above her head.

"P-Pretty Cure! St - !"

Another tendril of darkness shot out before Hirui could finish, straight for the capsule in the woman's hands. Too surprised at the underhanded tactic, Hirui could only stand there as the attack hit its mark, breaking her capsule clean in half.

It was like her heart had broken in half when her capsule did. Hirui sank to her knees, shell-shocked.

"Ruru-chan...!"
"Mama!"

The woman weakly lifted her head to see a red Cure and Usami hurrying toward her - belatedly, she realized this red Cure had to be Mei, and the sight of her daughter as a Pretty Cure filled her with a strange mix of anger and deep pride. With a trembling breath, she tried to speak - only for a tendril of dark energy to shoot at her, piercing her chest.

"MAMA!"

---

ED: "Twinkle Twinkle" - Yui Horie

---

ON THE NEXT EPISODE:

Usami: I guess the script changed a little again...
Mei: H-hey, there's n-no time to complain about that, m-mama is...!
Sumire: It - i-it'll be all right, Mei-san!
Mei: Mama i-is...!
Ushio: Just breathe, okay?
Mei: I-I don't know what I-I'll do if s-she gets hurt...!
Sumire: Mei-san...
Usami: ...everything will be okay, I know it! Next time on Starshine! Pretty ✰ Cure: Usami's plea! History won't repeat itself! Make sure to wish really hard, okay...?
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