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"I haven't been honest with you." Naori began, voice shaking. She couldn't bring herself to look at anyone, and the knowledge that everyone's expectant gaze was on her only made her stomach twist and writhe in fear. She wasn't sure how she was able to speak right now, much less coherently. Her brain felt like a mess of thoughts and feelings she didn't want to sort through. "A-and it - I - " she continued, eyes shutting tight. What could she say? That she didn't mean to lie to them? It wasn't true, she'd been hoping to avoid the truth for as long as she could. "I..." she tried again, shaking now. "I just...!"

Someone touched her hand.

Naori's eyes opened blearily - she hadn't even realized she'd started crying - and timidly, the girl looked over to see Chie smiling at her, gentle and patient as always. The older girl said nothing, merely lacing her fingers together with Naori's, and offered the pink haired girl's hand a squeeze of moral support.

"Please don't push yourself, Naori-chan!" Usami piped up, giving the girl a smile.

Mei reached over to affectionately pat the bear's head. "Usami's right. If it's hard to talk about, you don't have to tell us."

Naori swallowed hard, feeling fresh tears welling in her eyes. The others had comforting looks as well - even Ibuki, who barely knew her at this rate. She took a deep breath - and felt another hand on her head. She looked up, tears streaming down her cheeks - and there was Hirui, smiling down at her.

"We're all here for you." the woman told her.

Oh, it was too much. Naori's face scrunched up and she choked back a sob. They'd all hate her, she knew it. She couldn't look at any of them now, knowing what she was going to say was going to hurt them all. They'd given her all an out, because they were kind and loving and so much better than anything she ever deserved and yet -

"I..."

And yet -

"Y-you see..."

- she couldn't lie to them either.

"I - I'm Ophiuchus!"

Each gasp she heard was like a knife twist to her heart. She couldn't handle looking at any of them, the looks of betrayal and devastation on their faces would be too much for her already heavy and burdened heart to bear. The pressure of Hirui's hand on her head was gone in an instant - and that, perhaps, was the most painful thing to endure - and Naori couldn't help it, she simply broke down crying.

And for what felt like eons, that was all she did.

When her crying quieted down, she realized two things. Firstly, not once had anyone screamed at her, disowned her, or anything like that.

Secondly, Chie hadn't stopped holding her hand.

Sniffling and hiccuping, the girl made a valiant attempt to compose herself. "I - you all deserve the truth. I-I want to tell you everything." she still didn't look up, but she squeezed Chie's hand. "...y-you'll all hear me out, won't you...?"

"We will." came Hirui's answer. Her voice was faint, and her expression blank, though wide-eyed. The woman took a seat away from the rest of the group, running a hand through her hair. "Please tell us." she continued, hands trembling as she spoke. She didn't sound angry - but rather, pained and in disbelief.

Naori nodded, wiping her eyes. Still squeezing Chie's hand, she forced herself to look up - and with a deep breath, she began to speak.

---

OP: "Purikyua ✰ Wish!" - StarSHINE
EPISODE 14 - " To confront the past! I’m sorry for everything I’ve done! "

---

Naori Hoshino floated in a starry cosmos.

She'd had this dream for as long as she could remember. Somewhere within the dark recesses of sleep, her dreamless slumber would be interrupted by the cosmos. She'd grown used to this by now - it was hard not to be used to it when she dreamt it every night - and as Naori floated, she waited patiently.

After a few moments, a shadow warped to life in front of her, reforming into a tall, elegant woman. Her skin was pale, her long hair black and silvering, whereas her eyes shone a bright gold. She regarded the pink haired young girl with a fond smile. "Ophiuchus." she greeted.

"Naori." the girl corrected, though her tone had lost the annoyance it usually did.

The starry surroundings changed and warped again, revealing crystalline, shining structures, and a kingdom floating in the center of the Milky Way galaxy - this too was something Naori was familiar with. The woman had shown her this many times - it was the utopia that was the kingdom of Via Lactea. The dreams had taught her about the king and queen of Via Lactea, and the fact they had created the Pretty Cure.

"There is something I must show you, Ophiuchus." the woman spoke, placing a gentle hand to Naori's shoulder. "For our time grows short, and I fear my protection can only last you so long."

Naori's eyes widened and she turned to regard the woman with alarm - but the woman had vanished, and Naori's surroundings changed again. Though slightly unfocused and faded out, Naori found herself following the black haired woman, who was striding up the crystalline palace steps - this clearly was the woman's memory. Naori hurried along as the woman walked with purpose to what had to be the throne room - no one saw her, or even acknowledged her. It made sense, the girl supposed - after all, in this memory, she didn't exist.

"Proxima!"

Naori blinked. All these years and she'd never learned the other woman's name - it was strange to hear it revealed so openly. The girl looked up, seeing the golden haired queen of Via Lactea smiling fondly at the black haired woman.

"Vega, Altair. I have come because I require your help. I have made a grave mistake."

Proxima was shaking, Naori noticed. And now that she really took a good look at her, she could see the unnatural skinniness of the woman, the weariness that creased her brows and eyes, the dark bags under her eyes and her gaunt face. It was a stark contrast to the beautiful woman who greeted her in the dream cosmos.

"The Ophiuchus star within me has become compromised."

Naori stared. But, Ophiuchus was what Proxima called her? Did that mean Proxima was Ophiuchus too...?

"I am dying, my old friends. And the Ophiuchus star is in danger - darkness has taken hold of it and me. I foolishly believed I could become stronger by accepting dark powers. I-I was wrong. I have done something unforgiveable - and because of it, I am sure you will be attacked in the future by whoever inherits this star next."

Proxima swayed on her feet and there was a sudden burst of light erupting from Proxima's chest. A brilliant orb of green light floated within her hands, though it crawled with darkness as well. Vega let out a desolate cry, whereas Altair was shouting something about Proxima not needing to do this.

"Perhaps if we are lucky, the darkness should fade away with time. Please, send it to the place your guardians inhabit..."

The green orb of light floated forward and Proxima collapsed, unmoving. There was another desolate cry - and the entire memory faded to white. Naori gasped, just before the starry cosmos appeared once more, and it wasn't until the other Proxima placed a hand to her head that she realized she was crying.

"The star was sent to earth, far away from those dark influences, and began to purify itself of the mistake I had made." Proxima explained, gently drying Naori's tears. "And once it was pure, it became you." she smiled fondly again. "However..."



"...wait." Mei said, bringing the story to a halt. "That woman, who was she?"

Naori bit her lip, shifting uneasily. "Lady Proxima. I don't know much - I have some of her memories because of the dreams I had - but she was from a nearby kingdom. Centauri, I think it's called."

Usami's ears drooped. "That explains a few things." he mumbled. "The Centauri kingdom was destroyed a long time ago. A black hole appeared at the center of the kingdom and devoured everything. No one figured out why, nothing pointed to foul play, but if Naori-chan's memories are worth anything..."

The pink haired girl nodded. "There was more to it." her hands balled into shaking fists. "His name is Omega. From Proxima's memories, I've gathered he was a wizard or something, he had powers of darkness."

Ushio spoke up now. "...hang on." the black haired girl frowned. "Somethin' doesn't add up."

Sumire paused, slowly nodding. "Usami-san, didn't you say Ophiuchus had threatened the king and queen...?"

"You deemed ME unworthy?!"

"Proxima, it's not as simple as that - "

"I'll make you all PAY!"


Naori shut her eyes as the memory played out. "She did. The Ophiuchus star wasn't strong enough to become a Zodiac cure like the others, and Proxima was furious. Omega was said to be able to do anything, so she asked for his help and - "

" - died fer it, I guess." Ibuki finished, voice quiet.

"You don't remember any of this?" Chie asked, directing a look at Usami.

Usami offered an embarrassed laugh. "Mama and I were on earth with the Pretty Cure, we never saw this firsthand. We only know what the king and queen told us - " and now his ears drooped again, " - and I guess they were keeping secrets. All Mama and I knew was that the Ophiuchus star had gone missing - not that it was recovering on Earth all along."

"I'm sure they had good reason for it. They had to keep the Ophiuchus star safe." Sumire assured him, and the chorus of agreement all around made the little bear perk up a bit. Smiling faintly, the green haired girl gazed over at Naori. "Proxima-san said the star became you, right? So you must have been on earth and - " Sumire faltered, eyes going wide, before she thought better of it. "N-nevermind!"

Naori looked away. "You're right though. I was on earth." There was an uncomfortable pause - it seemed Naori wasn't willing to address the issue of whatever parents she must have left behind, and no one else was willing to bring it up either. "And then I wasn't, I guess. See, the first thing I really remember is - "



- darkness.

No matter where she looked, everything was darkness. Naori looked around, terrified. Where was this place? How had she gotten here? She - she had been somewhere before, hadn't she? She was so sure of it, but she couldn't remember. There were a lot of things she couldn't remember, come to think of it.

The girl shut her eyes, trying to calm her panicked breathing. Okay. What did she remember?

Her name. Naori Hoshino.

Proxima. Ophiuchus. She remembered that too, all of those dreams had emblazoned themselves on her mind.

Family? She didn't know. She must've had someone, but infuriatingly, nothing would come to mind. It was like having a word on the tip of your tongue - it was there, but just out of her grasp. Somehow, she was sure it was just one person - but who? A mother? A sister? A -

"I found you, Ophiuchus."

It was a voice that rang from nowhere and yet everywhere at once, deep and chilling to the bone. A voice she had never personally heard and yet - she knew. "Omega." she whispered.

"Ah, so you do remember. I'm pleased to hear it. Do you remember what your purpose is?"

Naori trembled. This wasn't good at all and yet... "I-I'm supposed to become a Pretty Cure!"

The darkness rumbled. And without any warning, it shot straight at her. Naori arched back, screaming in agony, but the darkness refused to cease, filling her with evil energy as she continued to writhe in pain. Every single cell of her body felt like it was on fire - like she couldn't breathe, like something was going to rip her apart limb from limb any second now. She screamed again, begging for it to stop, but the darkness didn't hear her.

"You are my servant."

Everything hurt, why did it hurt so MUCH -

"You will destroy Via Lactea and the Pretty Cure. You will bring me the stars of the Pretty Cure as well."

But that didn't -

"Are we understood?"

The influx of darkness and pain stopped. Naori fell to her knees, breathing shakily. "I..."

"Are. We. Understood?"

She stared at her hands, paler than usual, and noted her attire had gone black and gray. The pink hair she'd prided herself on had turned an ugly shade of purple, and when she looked up, it was with red eyes, not turquoise ones. "...yes..." she spoke, voice ragged, and her surroundings changed all at once. In an instant, she found herself at the beautiful crystalline palace in Via Lactea. She'd only seen this place in Proxima's memories - never in person.

It was stunning.

Weakly, she found herself striding forward to the throne room, just as Proxima had so long ago. The king and queen regarded her with confusion, and the guards immediately flanked the girl.

"P-please move..." Naori begged, voice feeble. She repeated herself once more when neither of them acknowledged her, and then -

"Move."

The command was punctuated with a sudden eruption of serpent-like dark energy that seized both guards and flung them to the wall farthest behind her. There was a sickening crack on impact, and the two guards sunk lifelessly as they fell to the ground.

Naori's eyes were wide. She - had she done that...? She stumbled forward, still in shock, and the king and queen only watched her silently. Naori lifted her gaze to them, terrified and tearful. "...help..." she begged, just before there was a sudden pang in her head. The pain drove her to her knees and she screamed. She could hear them running toward her and -

"Ophiuchus, we can help you!"

- no, that wasn't her, was it...?

She didn't know.

Nothing made sense anymore.

She was just scared. So scared. Everything hurt and she was trapped and -

I can't keep doing this.

- she never wanted to be part of this anyways and -

I'm tired.

- she had nothing left anyways.

So she gave up.

And the darkness took over.

Altair sensed the shift first, shoving Vega to the side just as a massive bolt of dark energy rammed into him, making him cry out in agony. Darkness swirled around the small girl, and whoever had been the small girl begging for help was clearly not in control right now. With a crazed laugh, the girl known as Ophiuchus let hell reign on the palace and kingdom, her power destroying everything it could touch.

And when the dust settled, with precise steps, the small girl walked over toward a holodisk display where surely the Pretty Cure received their commands. She stood in plain view, grinning an unhinged grin. "You're next, Pretty Cure." she declared, in a voice not her own, just before walking on out.

Somewhere within her, Naori Hoshino slumbered.



[eyecatch 1 - A split screen of a brainwashed Ophiuchus and a sad looking Naori. Naori closes her eyes and fades away, as the brainwashed Ophiuchus fills the screen and smiles a disturbing smile. The Starshine logo appears in the corner.]

[eyecatch 2 - Naori with her eyes closed as her hair and clothing billows elegantly, the girl clutching the shining green Ophiuchus star to her chest. The Starshine logo appears in the corner.]



Even for Ophiuchus, the battle against the Zodiac cures was difficult. Impossible, even. She may have been able to attack them over and over, but they wouldn't stay down - and as strong as she was, her body was young and frail, unable to sustain the injuries put upon it. She trembled as she took to the sky one last time.

She would kill them all or die trying.

As her body crawled with dark energy, she could see the Pretty Cure shining with an ethereal light, the group of them firing into the sky to meet her. Darkness met light in an impressive clash and there was an explosion of the purest white -

- and someone seized her hand.

Ophiuchus opened her eyes, seeing the group of Pretty Cure floating in front of her, and a blue one - she faintly recognized the symbol for Scorpio emblazoned on her star shaped brooch - had taken her hand. The small girl tried to pull away, angry at this, but Scorpio only held fast, smiling gently.

"We finally reached you." Scorpio said. "Now we can finally talk!"

"Let go of me!" Ophiuchus snarled, lashing out with her other hand - only for Scorpio to seize that one too.

"I'm sorry." Scorpio continued. "We fought you with everything we had - but it wasn't enough to free you completely. And you're so small. So young. You must have suffered so much, right?"

Somewhere within her, Naori Hoshino stirred.

"We hurt you. We thought it would help you, but all we did was hurt you even more. You don't deserve that, Ophiuchus." Another cure spoke now - Gemini, by the looks of it.

Sagittarius nodded. "No one deserves that, okay?"

"Let go!" Ophiuchus screamed, trying to wrench her hands away. It wasn't even a strong grip - and yet, somehow, Ophiuchus couldn't fight against it.

"We're going to do what we can to save you, Ophiuchus." Taurus spoke now.

"It won't be all at once though." Scorpio said, voice filled with an unspoken apology. "But you're going to live, okay? You're going to be free someday."

And somewhere inside, Naori Hoshino woke up. Her eyes shone with life they had not had since her takeover, and the small girl stared at the 11 Pretty Cure floating before her, tears streaming down her cheeks. "You're all going to die." she realized, then: "I killed you all, didn't I...?"

"You didn't." It was Ursa who spoke now, kind and gentle as could be. "We all chose this."

"But then why?!" Naori sobbed. "Why save me when I - when I've - ?!"

And Scorpio floated forward to hug her. "Because we're the Pretty Cure. Saving people, protecting them - it's what we do."

It was now that Naori realized the Cures were glowing in a different sort of way - they shone with a bright light and began to disintegrate into light. One by one, they became orbs of light, floating all around her and cleansing her with their power. Scorpio dissolved last, still smiling that gentle smile all the while.

A quartet of lights floated in front of her - a red one, a blue one, a gold one and a purple one, and for a second, it was like Naori could see all their faces. "We can't come with you," they said as one, strange voice, "but we'll see you again, okay? Next time, we're gonna save you!" And with that, the four lights jettisoned off, disappearing before it could even really sink in.

The pure white faded away, revealing the ruined city and the ugly, darkened sky. Naori floated there, with 7 stars still hovering all around her, stunned at the turn of events. Far below her, there was a desolate, agonized cry - the survivors, she was sure. And as the wail echoed into the sky, Naori covered her face with her hands, took a shaky breath, and cried, still crying as she vanished to parts unknown.



She had returned to the darkness, that strange place she had met Omega, and she didn't know why. In truth, the girl was still in shock, things still filtering in even as she stood there, numb to everything with tears still pouring down her cheeks.

Naori slowly began to realize something. The Pretty Cure had sacrificed themselves for her - but if Omega knew this had happened, he would take all of their stars, use them for his own ends.

She couldn't let him do that.

She was free from Omega for the time being. She had to act fast. Scouring the darkness, she came across the ruins of a place - an old kingdom, perhaps. There was a tower - there, that, she could use that. Her mind had been freed, though her wounds still remained, and the girl grimaced, knowing her time was short.

She remembered Proxima and knew what she had to do.

And with a deep breath, Naori did as Proxima had, forcing her star out from her. It crawled with darkness, just like it had when Proxima had done it.

But she wasn't going to die. No, her plan didn't involve the same kind of sacrifice Proxima's had. Naori took another breath and with a pained cry, shattered her star into three pieces.

A tiny sliver of her star floated there, having broken off from one of the star pieces, and the small sliver returned to her chest. It was barely anything - but it was enough to keep her alive. Gritting her teeth, she shot darkness from her palms, the three star pieces being consumed by it. The three shadow orbs warped and twisted, before forming into three people.

Rasalhague.

Cebalrai.

Marfik.

Naori stumbled, fell to her knees. "M-my name i-is Ophiuchus - " she stammered, feeling everything fading around her. " - a-and you serve me. These s-stars, p-please protect them, let n-no one know of them - " she sent the 7 stars away from her, and they floated high into the empty tower. " - a-and protect me, I-I need your help, I-I...!"

The darkness rumbled again.

"YOU FAILED!"

Naori struggled to stand.

"Not only did you fail to bring me the stars of the Pretty Cure, but you foolishly gave up your own star as well. If it's a puppet you wish to be, then I shall grant that!"

Naori opened her mouth to say something - but as to what, she wasn't sure - but the darkness hit her before she could even utter a sound. The girl screamed, begging for forgiveness and -



- Naori trailed off, shaking. "That's everything." she whispered. "B-basically, anyways."

The room was silent. No one looked at her. Even Chie, who had been holding her hand the entire conversation, had left go at some point.

Naori's heart pounded in her ears. She didn't know what else to do, so she just kept talking. "I tricked h-him, I guess. And R-Rasalhague and the o-others all took care of me. C-Cebalrai, she did something t-to make everyone have n-nightmares - and it affected me too. I-I remembered everything and I-I just - I didn't want to be part of it anymore a-and - "

No one uttered a single word.

Naori continued to shake. " - and the s-stars saved me and I got t-to be free but O-Omega has the o-others a-and I want to s-save them but - b-but -"

There was nothing but deafening, complete silence.

"I-I can't ask that of y-you, not when I-I've done things s-so unforgivable a-and - a-and oh god, I'm s-so sorry, y-you all must hate me, I - "

A chair scraped against the floor. Hirui - who had been deathly silent the entire story - stood up, expression on her face completely unreadable. She walked over -

Naori flinched, awaiting the slap.

- and gave the pink haired girl a much needed hug.

Naori's eyes widened.

"I don't hate you, Naori-chan." Hirui assured, voice thick with emotion. "How could I hate you, knowing everything now?"

She didn't...?

Chie let out a sob, joining the hug a moment later. And then, with various sobs around the room, the rest of the girls joined in too.

They didn't...?

"None of this is your fault at all, Naori-chan!" Usami wailed, running in to join the group hug however he could.

None of them...?

"Because we're the Pretty Cure. Saving people, protecting them - it's what we do."

Tears brimmed in Naori's eyes - and with a sniffle, she hugged Hirui back, burying her face into the other woman's chest just before she broke down in relieved, heartfelt sobs. It was so much to take in - too much, even - but for now, for this very moment, it was enough.

---

ED: "Twinkle Twinkle" - Yui Horie

---

ON THE NEXT EPISODE:

Sumire: Ah, with everything that's happened, we haven't been able to spend time together!
Ushio: Ahh, you're right! We should do something fun!
Ibuki: Let's go on a shoppin' trip!
Mei: ...o-our last one ended badly. Um, maybe a party...?
Sumire: A slumber party! My house is big enough, so we can all have it there. Ah, and I'll invite Naori-chan too!
Naori: ...w-wait, me...?
Usami: Sounds like tons of fun! Next time on Starshine! Pretty ✰ Cure: We're friends, not strangers! The bond between stars. Don't forget to make a wish next time too!
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