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“Hey, dad? Gotta minute?”

Yoruto Kousei blinked as he looked up from his work laptop, seeing his daughter standing at the door to his study. He smiled at seeing her – with him working so much, it never felt like he got time to see Ibuki anymore – but his brows creased as he noticed the look on her face. Normally Ibuki was all smiles – it was jarring to see her looking so withdrawn. Pushing his glasses up his nose, he closed the lid to his computer.

“What’s on your mind?”

Ibuki stepped inside, closing the door behind her. Absently, the girl twirled a lock of her hair around her finger, frowning as she thought. There was no way she could tell her dad about what had happened the day before – he’d have a heart attack! But – there was something else on her mind…

“Ibuki? Honey?”

The blonde girl blinked and shook herself out of her reverie. “Sorry, sorry. S’kinda hard t’really ask ‘bout…” she laughed weakly. “But…” she reached for the star capsule around her neck, lifting it up for her father to see. The golden star gleamed as she brought it to the light. “…this was mom’s, right?”

Yoruto’s face softened. He’d always known this talk was going to come eventually. With a nod, he gestured to the seat in front of his desk. “She always kept it on her,” he began, “always said it was important.”

Ibuki tilted her head. “Where’d she get it though?”

At that, Yoruto smiled apologetically. “That she never did say. One day she just – had it. Like magic, I suppose. But she always insisted it wasn’t really for her. At that point, Yuuki and Hiro were a few years old and with Takeru and Ryuki already in school, we weren’t planning on having more children – but your mother was so sure we’d have a little girl and...”

It took the blonde girl a moment to comprehend it. Blinking rapidly and swallowing hard, she barely managed to murmur “…it was fer me?”

Yoruto nodded. “She was sure it belonged to you. She never told me why, but – I’m certain there’s a reason for it.”

Ibuki swallowed again, rubbing at her eyes. “…’m glad ‘s fer me.” Placing a hand to the capsule, she smiled, before standing up and excusing herself for the night. After closing the door and heading down the hallway to her room, however, her smile faded.

“You aren’t even worthy.”

Knowing the circumstances behind the necklace only made Ibuki’s stomach twist even more. What had that scary woman meant anyways? That she wasn’t worthy of her mother’s love? No, that couldn’t be it – maybe it had something to do with that warm feeling she’d gotten, and the sudden urge to change…

Ibuki crawled into bed and shut her eyes, but all she could hear was Cebalrai’s disgusted voice echoing through her mind, while the feeling of failure spread through her whole body, even if she couldn’t really explain why.

It was going to be hard to sleep tonight.

---

OP: "Purikyua ✰ Wish!" – StarSHINE
EPISODE 13 - “I won’t give up! Cure Libra arrives!”

---
On the other side of Lucente Bay, Hirui Hidama sat at the kitchen table, watching as Usami glowed with faint power. The small bear attempted to channel the ethereal energy toward her broken Star Capsule, his furry ears twitching as he guided the wisps of light toward the shattered transformation device. Brow furrowed, Usami concentrated harder, the streams of light growing slightly brighter in return. The light swayed and moved, and Hirui watched as the energy began to work like a needle to thread, stitching the broken item back together carefully and slowly.

It had been a long time since she had seen Usami's magic at work. The woman held her breath, awed by the sight of it.

"...mama?"

She almost didn't hear the hushed voice at first - it was Usami's irritated twitch that made the woman look up. Hirui blinked, seeing Mei standing at the entrance of the kitchen, concerned. "You should sleep, Mei."

Mei's gaze flicked over to Usami, still working at trying to fix the Star Capsule. The girl said nothing for several moments, transfixed with the magic taking place - then looked away and shook her head. "Nuh-uh. Not until I know everything's going to be okay." she declared quietly, hands on her hips and cheeks puffed out, the very picture of stubbornness.

Hirui snorted.

Mei beamed, pleased she'd gotten a smile out of her mother. Ever since the Star Capsule had been broken, her mother had been a little more withdrawn - she hid it well, of course, but with a lifetime of being with her mother, Mei had learned to read her mother's tells. Carefully, the girl moved to take a seat next to Hirui - and after a few moments of deliberation, placed her hand on Hirui's shoulder. "...everything's going to be okay, mama."

Hirui paused. It had been the same thing Usami had told her - and she earnestly believed it would get better, but... "I know. But it's hard sometimes, waiting for it to get better."

Mei nodded in understanding. Together, the two watched as Usami worked, not wanting to break the bear's concentration. After what felt like ages, there was a final burst of light - and when it faded, the Star Capsule was as good as new.

At least physically, anyways.

Usami slumped over, exhausted, and Mei reached over to give him a hug, murmuring words of pride at him. Hirui said nothing, the woman focused on her Star Capsule - and then abruptly, she pushed her chair out, the screech of chair legs against the tile kitchen floor startling both Mei and Usami. For a second, Hirui's face was unreadable - and then she gave the two of them a kind, warm smile. "I think Usami deserves a reward. Is cocoa okay?"

Usami immediately perked up. "With whipped cream and marshmallows?!"

Hirui laughed, ruffling Usami's head. "As much as you want." she moved to get a saucepan and Usami happily followed after her, chattering about how excited he was to get hot cocoa and that Hirui made the best cocoa ever, almost as good as Mei's pancakes, and Mei smiled as Hirui and Usami talked.

But something seemed off.

As she puzzled over why, her gaze trailed to the kitchen table - and she suddenly understood. The Star Capsule itself had been repaired - but it was just an empty bottle now, no longer filled with the millions of flecks of orange light. Her heart felt heavy as she took this in, and Mei gazed at her mother again, wondering just how much heavier Hirui's heart must have been feeling. Wordlessly, she walked over, giving her mother a hug from behind, eyes scrunched shut tight and tears threatening to spill.

Hirui didn't even jump. She laughed, and even Usami could hear the offness in it. The bear paused, looking over to the table - and he came to the same realization that Mei had. "Ruru-chan..." he whispered, shoulders drooping.

But Hirui shook her head. "Everything will be all right." she assured them - but her voice cracked as she spoke, and she looked up so neither of them could see the anguished look on her face.



"You seem to have located another Pretty Cure. I congratulate you, Cebalrai."

The woman dropped to a low bow at the ever present darkness surrounding her, bowing her head in respect. Despite the compliment, however, she didn't dare raise her gaze. The ground rumbled around her, though Rasalhague and Marfik paid no attention to it.

"However."

Cebalrai kept her head down. She could feel Rasalhague and Marfik's gazes boring into her. Had she still had her emotions, she might have been able to name the cold feeling in her stomach as dread.

"You failed to bring me their Inner Star."

It was only now that Cebalrai rose her gaze up, staring at the darkness ahead of her. "My apologies, Lord Omega."

The rumbling quieted and there was a long pause, as if the sinister being was thinking. Then: "Rasalhague."

Cebalrai stepped back as Rasalhague stepped forward, the young man dropping to one knee in reverence.

"I recall you being closest to Ophiuchus." Omega spoke, voice thrumming all around. "I need you to capitalize upon that bond."

It was Rasalhague's turn to pause, albeit in confusion. It seemed he didn't understand what Omega was asking of him - at least not at first. Being reminded of the bond they once had caused something uncomfortable and painful to stir in his chest, and both he and the other two members of the Serpens flinched. For a second, it felt like he was almost on the verge of remembering something important -

Omega chuckled. "Ah yes, I forgot about your circumstances. Allow me."

- and there was a sharp, lancing pain, one that affected all three of them. Rasalhague cried out as the pain intensified, clutching his chest. In his vague moments of clarity, he could almost understand what was happening - it was as if something was being violently wrenched from him - and though he clenched his teeth and valiantly tried to hold onto the whatever-it-was being taken, Omega was just too strong. There was a final burst of pain - and then there was nothing at all.

"Ophiuchus has thrown you away. She deserves to be punished."

The three nodded. Lord Omega would never lie, he had so kindly saved them, after all. They owed him everything.

"Rasalhague. Bring her to me."

Rasalhague rose to his feet, nodded once, and disappeared with a swish of his coat.



In the end, Ibuki had barely slept. She'd slept through her alarm, and it was only Hiro and Yuuki barging into her room that had managed to wake her up completely. Getting ready for school felt like a sleepy haze - which was why she almost didn't realize her friends were waiting for her outside her house.

"Kousei-san!"

Ibuki blinked, rubbed her eyes. No, that definitely was Sumire waiting for her. Chie and Naori too. "...Princess?"

Sumire paused, then laughed nervously. "I'm sorry! I just - I'm still a little worried about you, Kousei-san. Ever since that attack, you've been..." she trailed off, uneasy all of a sudden. It really wasn't her right to pry or anything, but Ibuki's behavior worried her! She'd been distant and unhappy, and it was the last kind of thing Sumire wanted for Ibuki. "Chie-san and Naori-san were concerned as well..."

Chie offered a polite smile, as did Naori, though the young girl spoke up after a small pause. "You don't look like you slept well."

To that, Ibuki snorted. "Can't pull off bein' beautiful every day, I guess." she said with a cheeky grin. Her expression softened a moment later. "...thanks, really."

The three girls smiled in response and began the walk toward Etoile. Ibuki didn't say much else, and after a good 5 minutes of uneasy silence, it was Chie who finally turned around to look at the straggling blonde. "Kousei-san. What's on your mind?" she asked, causing Sumire to flinch briefly at her bluntness.

Ibuki sighed, running a hand through her hair. No use trying to weasel her way out of it, she supposed. "I dunno, really. Keep thinkin' about that crazy lady who attacked me in the park, I guess. She said somethin' weird."

The trio of girls traded glances. Ibuki hadn't mentioned anything like that yesterday, or during the attack either. Sumire cleared her throat. "You don't have to talk about it..." she offered, though she couldn't help feeling like a hypocrite in the process. Truth be told, she was definitely curious, and a quick glance at Chie and Naori showed they were just as intrigued as she was.

Ibuki smiled weakly. "Nah, Princess, I really should. Ain't right t'keep it cooped up, yanno?" she admitted, just before sighing again. Her brows furrowed as she closed her eyes -

"Kousei-san!"

- and opened them again, startled at the new voice. Ibuki looked past the three to see Mei waving at her, as well as Ushio. The blonde paused for a moment, deliberating - and then waved back, beckoning for the two to join her and the others. Once they'd joined her, Ibuki closed her eyes again. It was crazy, what that lady had said, it shouldn't have bothered her in the least, but... "When she confronted me, somethin' weird happened." she finally admitted, gazing at the group. Quietly, the blonde tugged at the chain around her neck, revealing the purple Star Capsule.

The others may have kept their feelings in check, but Naori had to bite back a gasp. Another Pretty Cure? Here? Now? For a moment, all Naori wanted to do was run away - Chie placed a hand to her shoulder, putting the pink haired girl at slightly more ease.

"I've had this thing forever. My dad says my mom gave it to me or somethin' - I wouldn't know, I never got the chance to meet her. But when that lady attacked, it felt...warm. Felt like I was supposed ta do somethin' with it." Ibuki continued - and then laughed. It was stupid, right? This all sounded so stupid. "...agh, listen, sorry, this is all so dumb and - "

Mei, Ushio, and Sumire all traded glances.

Ibuki's sentence faltered as she saw the looks on their faces. They didn't look surprised at all. Biting her lip, Ibuki looked at the others - Chie looked critically at the girls, as if expecting them to say something, whereas Naori looked a little nervous - and the blonde girl blinked, scratching her head. She supposed she should have felt relieved that her friends didn't think she was crazy - but honestly, she just felt confused. "Uh." she started to say, only to blank out. "Um." she continued, with no luck.

In the distance, the bell rang. Students shuffled past them, eager to get to class, but the small group stayed still.

Ibuki found herself gripping the Star Capsule around her neck, the blonde girl deep in thought. With everyone's reactions being what they were... "Hey. Uh. Is there something I need t'know about?" she asked, feeling stupid for even saying such a thing. What was she trying to imply?

The question hung in the air for several seconds. Sumire was the first to meet Ibuki's gaze, smiling weakly at the girl. Mei and Ushio soon looked at the blonde as well, and Ibuki realized the three of them looked apologetic for some reason.

"We should have told you sooner." Mei admitted, rubbing the back of her neck.

"But there's no real way to break the news, yanno?" Ushio chimed in, shaking her head.

"It's my fault too, Kousei-san." Sumire mumbled, wringing her hands. "I didn't want you to get involved..."

Ibuki watched as the three of them pulled at chains around their necks, revealing the same necklace she had, but in different colors. Mei's was red, whereas Ushio's was blue and Sumire's was gold -

- immediately, the rooftop battle came back to her. The gold on Sumire's necklace - that had been the same gold as the golden magical girl who had saved her, right? She'd known her way around the school, and then it had been Sumire who had found her after that attack and...

"Pretty Cure."

The sudden chilling voice broke everyone's attention, and Ibuki suddenly realized the rest of the group was looking upward at something. Nervous, the girl turned around and looked up too, just in time to see a white haired, brown skinned man floating in the sky. He had the same dark aura that crazy woman had, and immediately Ibuki took a step back, stomach twisting with nerves. She barely noticed that Mei, Ushio, and even Sumire had moved in front of her, protecting her from harm - and that Chie had done the same, hiding Ibuki and Naori behind her.

"Don't be scared." Naori whispered, taking Ibuki's hand. "Pretty Cure is here to save us." she assured the taller girl, offering her best smile - one that didn't quite reach her eyes. If Rasalhague was here, then that meant...

Mei glared at Rasalhague. "Why are you here?"

Rasalhague met the pigtailed girl's gaze with a dead expression, one that sent chills down everyone's spines. "To eliminate you." he said simply, just before producing a cluster of glowing lights, one that was swallowed by a Darkness Jar. He tossed it at a nearby tree, a massive shadow devouring the tree whole as a monster rose from the murky darkness - a massive tree monster with eerie red eyes and a sharp toothed smile. "TROU NOIR!" it roared, making the ground tremble.

The trio didn't even flinch. "Pretty Cure! Wish Upon A Star!"

There was a dazzling burst of light, one that made Ibuki shield her eyes with her hands, and when it faded, the girl could only stare at the three magical girls before her with wide, disbelieving eyes.

"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!"

Was that what she was too? That Pretty Cure thing that scary man had mentioned? Ibuki gripped her necklace, which was warm like it had been before, and watched as the three of them charged toward that monster -

“You aren’t even worthy.”

- so that's what it was. The realization of that woman's comment felt like she'd been plunged suddenly into an ice bath, and she only felt sick again.

"Kousei-san!" Chie said, gripping her shoulder. "It isn't safe here!"

Ibuki nodded dimly, allowing herself to be hurried away, but as she, Naori, and Chie all hid, the blonde couldn't help but feel like she was betraying everyone and everything.



[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.]



Aries bit back a curse as the Trou Noir swatted her back again, heels digging into the ground as she skidded away. Pisces had fared a little better, managing to swing a kick at the back of one of its knees, whereas Virgo attacked from behind, landing a punch at the back of the Trou Noir's head. The combination of attacks made the Trou Noir stumble and topple over, the monster letting out a cry of alarm as it fell.

The three regrouped, breathing heavily. The Trou Noir was faster this time around, and with Usami staying at home with Hirui today, they couldn't rely on Usami to help the others. They'd have to work fast today, otherwise Chie and the rest of them would be in danger!

Rasalhague watched this with vague fascination, a dark aura crawling all over him. "Your teammate has abandoned you." he spoke after a moment, voice ringing clear to both the Cures and the trio hiding behind some bushes.

From her hiding spot, Ibuki tensed up. Cebalrai's words rung through her head once more. He was right, she was just -

"She hasn't!" Aries declared, holding her ground as the Trou Noir began to rise.

"It's her choice whether she wants to fight with us!" Pisces continued, rushing in to get another attack in at the Trou Noir.

Virgo set her sights on Rasalhague, eyes narrowed. "But we won't let you belittle her decision!" she said, lashing out at the man with a fierce kick.

Rasalhague merely stepped to the side, dark energy crawling even more around him. As Virgo pulled back her kicking leg for another attack, a tendril of darkness shot out, wrapping around the golden cure's waist and flinging her to the side, slamming her into one of the trees. "She has abandoned you." he continued, voice growing strained. "You've done everything to protect her and she's just thrown you away!"

Naori went pale, hands curling into such tight fists that her knuckles were white.

"She doesn't care about you! She never did!" More tendrils shot out, wrecking trees and tearing up the ground and sidewalk. Pisces's eyes narrowed as she switched gears, running at Rasalhague now, dodging the darkness the best she could. She cried out as she let loose a punch aimed for his face - only for the darkness to seize her arm and flip her over him, like a judo flip. The man continued to walk forward, the darkness growing more chaotic. "She was just using you!"

Aries's mind raced. The things Rasalhague was talking about - no, this wasn't about Ibuki at all. She took several cautionary steps backward, watching as the chaotic darkness even attacked the Trou Noir, and grimaced as the monster let out low, pitiful howls of pain. She tried to remember the old Rasalhague, the one she had fought at the observatory, the things he had said, the sad smile he had, the mention of -

"Something happened to Ophiuchus, didn't it?"

Rasalhague froze. Seconds later, the chaotic darkness died away completely.

Naori swore her heart stopped for a moment. Rasalhague - he had mentioned her? To the Pretty Cure? She recalled what she had told him then, calling him a murderer, and tears welled up in her eyes. Oh, what had she done?

"I-I'm right, aren't I?" Aries spoke quickly, not liking the eerie feeling in the air. "My offer still stands! I want to help you help her! Please, you don't have to hurt anyone!"

Silence.

"She threw us away." Rasalhague's voice was quiet. Aries almost hadn't heard it. He swayed on his feet, gaze turned downward. "We did everything for her and she threw us away. She left us to die." he shambled forward - and the darkness started up again, even more powerful than before. He rose his head, a crazed look etched across his features. "I want to kill her."

Aries only managed to take a step back - just before the darkness exploded from his form, making her scream as she was sent flying. Another burst of darkness sent Virgo and Pisces flying as well, and a final blade of darkness destroyed the Trou Noir in one fell swoop. With a flick of his wrist, three tendrils of darkness shot out, ensnaring the three battered Pretty Cure and bringing them to him.

Rasalhague stared at the three girls before him. "You're hiding her." he said, not even waiting for their response. "Tell me where she is."

"We've never even seen her...!" Virgo gasped out.

"LIAR!" Rasalhague snarled - just before the bushes rustled, causing him to look in its direction. He sauntered forward, just as a tendril of darkness shot out, ripping the bush out from its roots.



They had mere seconds. When the hiding place had been destroyed, Chie rose first, intent on protecting Naori - but a second tendril of darkness lashed out, slamming Chie to the ground. Ibuki moved next, trying to maneuver herself in front of the young pink haired girl, only to find that several shadows held her in place. The blonde let out a cry of alarm as Rasalhague approached the pink haired girl - though she quickly shifted to alarm as she realized that Naori didn't look scared at all. In fact, the young girl looked at Rasalhague almost defiantly, holding herself with a grace Ibuki hadn't expected out of someone so young.

"Leave them alone." Naori said with a bravado she definitely wasn't feeling.

Rasalhague stopped in place, confusion clouding his features, though it was replaced by anger. "I don't take orders from you, child." he hissed.

Naori steeled herself to keep from trembling, relieved he hadn't recognized her just yet. "Leave them alone. They don't have what you want."

Rasalhague's face twisted in annoyance and a tendril of darkness shot at her - but stopped midway. For the most puzzling reason, he found himself unwilling to harm her. The realization of this brought a sharp pang to his chest, one that made him cry in alarm as he stumbled back, shaking. Darkness crawled around him as he let out staggered breaths - and he looked up at Naori with absolute hatred. With an angered cry, he set to attack her again and -

"STOP IT!"

The darkness flew off course at Ibuki's desperate cry, and Rasalhague regarded her with a snarl. "Oh. You. The coward."

Ibuki's jaw clenched and her hands balled into fists, the girl not trusting herself to respond. Again, she could hear Cebalrai's voice.

"You threw yourself into the action every chance you got, but you won't commit to real battle. You really are unworthy."

She hung her head, shaking.

"You don't deserve it."

She curled into herself.

"It was all just a mistake."

Ibuki twitched, recalling what her father had told her.

"You can't save anyone, you can't even save yourself."

Her gaze trailed toward her fallen friends -

"You don't even care about them, do you?"

- and in that instant, Ibuki made up her mind. "Shut up." she said as she rose her head, meeting Rasalhague's sneer with a fierce glare. "Just shut up, y'hear me?! 'm tired of people tellin' me what I am and what I ain't! And don't you ever tell me I don't care 'bout my friends! You - I can't believe I let you assholes even get t'me! 'm better then this, 'm stronger then this too! I gave up before - but I'm not givin' up now, just watch me!"

Ibuki lit up with a purple aura that shattered the darkness restraining her, the girl seizing her Star Capsule as she got to her feet. It was now or never - and Ibuki took a deep breath. "Pretty Cure! Wish Upon A Star!"

Bright purple light engulfed Ibuki's world and the chain around her neck vanished, leaving her the Star Capsule on its own. Her clothes vanished, as if carried away by the wind, just as Ibuki seized the cloth covering the capsule. As she pulled it, the cloth morphed and grew, wrapping around her form and turning into billions of streams of lavender light. The lights all cycloned around her, whirlwinding to form a pale lavender top and with another small whirlwind, a fluffy purple chestbow appeared as well. Her hands followed another whirlwind at her waist, which formed a two-layered, darker purple skirt, and Ibuki twirled once, forming lavender stockings as she turned, and dark purple boots swirling into existence as she came to a stop. Ibuki placed her hands to her chest bow, forming armwarmers in the same design as her stockings, and as she pulled her hands away, a golden star brooch with the symbol for Libra appeared. A purple sash appeared around her waist, as well as another golden brooch, this one rectangular, but also with the same engraved symbol for Libra. As Ibuki flipped her hair back, a golden scarf appeared around her neck, trailing out, just as her blonde hair shone bright and grew long, becoming lavender in color. More beams of light breezed through her hair, restyling it into thick pigtails that tied off into long, thin braids. With her new hairstyle in place, she placed her hands to her head, which created a bright purple headband decorated with a gold star, just as gold star earrings twinkled into existence on her ears. With a final twirl, she posed as her scarf billowed out behind her, no longer Ibuki Kousei, but a confident Pretty Cure.

"The air star with the balance of truth! Cure Libra!"

Libra didn't even give Rasalhague the time to form a shocked reaction, instead taking off as quick as the wind itself. Having long since determined that this guy was bad news, regardless of whatever he had going on, Libra had no trouble delivering a swift, powerful punch straight to his face. She skidded to a stop, blinking as she realized he'd been sent flying - and her now lavender eyes narrowed as she raced after his falling form. Several tendrils of darkness erupted from him, all of which Libra dodged past, and the purple Pretty Cure swung out a flurry of fast kicks as the white haired man landed, causing him to get kicked forward.

"Y'hurt all my friends!" she cried out as he struggled to get back up. Aries and Pisces, still struggling to get up, Chie, shaking as Naori tried to get her to a sitting position, and Virgo - Libra's hands clenched into shaking fists. Something about Virgo getting hurt angered her most of all, and it was something she just wouldn't stand for. She glared as the man stood up and sent several bursts of darkness at her - and Libra took off again, using the trajectory of the solid darkness to jettison herself forward all the faster. As she closed in, she swung her elbow out, fiercely driving her elbow into his stomach, and as he doubled over, Libra swung her leg up, delivering a swift knee to his crotch, just before extending her leg and kicking him to the side, sending him toppling over again.

"Wait!" Naori hurried over, seizing Libra's hand before the purple Cure could go thrash him around some more. She trembled as the Cure looked at her, then shook her head. "I-I think you've made your point!"

Libra scowled. "I should turn 'im into paste against the pavement."

Aries winced. "Don't. Please..." she pulled herself to a sitting position, looking over at Rasalhague. "He's already suffering."

Libra made a noise of frustration now, tempted to take a step forward, but Naori's tug on her arm made her reconsider. "He hurt all of you."

Pisces grinned, coughing a little. "Ain't the worst that's happened t'us. Takes more than that to knock us down for the count."

Chie nodded. "I r-really understand your anger, but we all need to calm down, I believe."

Virgo slowly got to her feet, giving Libra a hopeful look. "...please?"

She'd almost protested with Pisces and Chie's comments, but Virgo's gentle voice made Libra sigh. "Okay, okay, I get it." she said, just before glaring at the man. "But I don't like it."

Naori swallowed nervously. "Let us help you?" she asked him, voice feeble as she held out her hand.

With all eyes on him, Rasalhague paused - and just like before, pushed the outstretched hand away. Briefly, he looked confused - it seemed touching Naori had done that to him - but it was gone as quickly as it had come and the man regarded the Cures with hatred. "I don't need your pity." he snarled, just before disappearing.

The rest of the group fell into a disappointed silence, but Libra just frowned. "Shoulda punched him in the face again."



It had simply taken a phone call to Hirui and the whole group found themselves at Mei's house to recuperate. After the initial fretting, scolding and introduction of Usami, the group worked to get Ibuki up to speed about everything. An explanation about Pretty Cure and the monsters they had fought against had taken some time, and explaining why no one had panicked at the reveal of them being magical girls had taken even longer. A stray mention of Cure Leo made the conversation take a turn for the solemn, and the discussion of the past Pretty Cure was one that made the entire room fall into a strained silence.

After deliberation, Ibuki spoke up. "This is all kinda hard t'swallow, but there's somethin' buggin' me. Who was Ophiuchus anyways? There's somethin' weird goin' on, yanno? The whole fight makes it sound like she's ready to destroy the world, but the way that guy acted..."

Mei nodded. "You're right, K - " she paused, noting Ibuki wrinkling her nose, then tried again, " - Ibuki-chan." she continued, the name sounding strange on her tongue - but Ibuki seemed pleased, at any rate. "But I doubt they'd tell us anything."

As the girls pondered about this, Naori was deep in thought as well. She had been blessed with their kindness for so long - and today her presence could have gotten them all killed. It wasn't fair to keep lying to them. She had to be honest with them. For their sake. And for her own sake too. And if she was honest, then maybe...

...maybe they could save Rasalhague and the others.

The pink haired girl took a shaky breath. "You guys?" she asked, stomach twisting as everyone's gaze turned toward her. "I - there's something important I have to tell you. You'll all listen, right?"

Everyone nodded.

Naori nodded as well, taking another breath as she began to sort through her thoughts.

There was no turning back now.

---

ED: "Twinkle Twinkle" - Yui Horie

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ON THE NEXT EPISODE:

Naori: You'll all hate me for this, I know it. But you all deserve to know the truth! And I don't expect you to forgive me either. I just - please try to understand, okay? N-next time on Starshine! Pretty ✰ Cure: To confront the past! I’m sorry for everything I’ve done! I'm not sure if wishes will help this time...
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