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Lucente Bay Park was a lovely place – or had been, at any rate. Though Lucente Bay was known as a tourist spot, the park simply didn’t catch anyone’s attentions as much as the aquarium and the observatory did. Though residents would be hard-pressed to say it was ugly, the fact of the matter was that it was boring. There were winding paths and plenty of trees, along with the occasional rickety bench and a single, old fountain – and not a single thing to make it stand out from from countless other parks.

Well, that was changing though. But that was because...

“Pretty Cure cares about the environment and so should you! Join the park beautification project now!”

The flyer had been posted all around town seemingly overnight and it had immediately caught on, not because of its bright, eyecatching letters, but rather its drawing of the Starshine team accompanying it. By the time Sumire and Chie had caught wind of it, it had already become the talk of the town! Judging by the handwriting, Sumire suspected it had been Kouta and Miyo - the two had denied it when asked, though she also noticed they didn’t seem very sorry about being blamed for it either. The ensuing influx of volunteers had been difficult to handle at first, but they had managed.

In any case, it was definitely nice to have more help – she could spot more of her peers planting flowers and getting the park in tip top shape. Chie directed various people to various spots, while Naori ferreted in and out between the crowds, handing cold water bottles to anyone that needed them, toting around Usami as she worked. Arata, Eiji, Hiro and Yuuki were in charge of the heavy lifting, while Mei and Ushio worked on planting another section of flowers. Sumire had offered to help them, but the two girls had ushered her off.

Judging by the sly grins on their faces, Sumire suspected why. They wanted her to work with Ibuki, no doubt to get something romantic brewing between them. And as much as Sumire wanted to, well, she didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. Instead, the green haired girl worked diligently on her own, humming absently as she worked.

Today was nice, she decided. A crisp day, not a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was just right. She took a deep breath of the cool air, smiling to herself as she reached for another flower bulb –

“There she is, the lady of the hour!”

The declaration came from a golf cart parking not too far from the group – or rather, the dark haired woman in the driver’s seat. Anyone in Lucente Bay would recognize her – Keiko Yamada, from the Lucente Bay Daily News. Keiko took a moment to push her red framed glasses up, her dark green eyes alight as she regarded them all. The woman ushered for her cameraman to follow her, and before anyone knew what was happening, the camera was rolling and the newscaster had thrust a microphone at a rather confused Sumire.

Ibuki bristled, but it was Ryoko who stepped forward, the woman acting as a supervisor to all the younger ones working in the park. The old woman wore the same friendly smile she always did, but it didn’t reach the cold, terse look in her eyes. “Yamada-san.” she said evenly, her polite tone only barely masking an icy warning.

Keiko froze, then laughed nervously. “I-I’m sorry, my enthusiasm got the best of me! I only wanted an interview, would that be all right?”

Ryoko frowned, but it was Sumire who spoke up. “I don’t see why not.”

“Great! I’ll do my intro first, all right?” Keiko said, motioning for a second take. Once the camera was rolling again, Keiko turned up the charm. “Yamada Keiko here with Lucente Bay Daily News! People all over the island can’t stop talking about it – a park beautification project with the Pretty Cure’s stamp of approval! Joining me is Mabataki Sumire, the head of this amazing project!”

Sumire wanted to point out it was a dual effort, but Keiko kept speaking.

“Mabataki-san’s family is quite well known throughout Lucente Bay – they do, after all, enjoy giving back to the community! Tell me, Mabataki-san, is this another instance of this?”

Sumire stiffened. Keiko might have been asking that, but she could hear the unspoken question hanging in the air – was this all just a publicity stunt? The girl paused. “Chie-san and I decided to go through with this project because we both felt the park needed an upheaval, that’s all.” she said after a moment, offering a polite smile.

As the interview continued, Ibuki kept her attention on Sumire – maybe no one else had noticed the look in Sumire’s eyes, but Ibuki had, and it didn’t sit right with her at all.

---

OP: "Shooting ★ Star!!" – StarSHINE 5
EPISODE 16 - "The park’s been ruined?! Virgo’s floral frenzy"

---

With fifteen minutes until class began, students milled about the halls and classrooms of Etoile Academy, chattering aimlessly. Sumire had been planning to meet up with her friends before class, but -

“Mabataki-san, over here!”

She blinked and looked up, a girl with pixie cut dark brown hair waving over at her. Sora Hoshide, she recognized after a moment – she was one of Chie’s friends, and had been in charge of drawing the various layouts for the beautification project. Judging by the proud grin on Sora’s face, she must have had another layout ready. “Hoshide-san!” Sumire smiled, hurrying to meet with the taller girl.

As the two girls walked and talked about gardening layouts and the types of flowers to display in them, Ibuki peeked out from her classroom, breathing a sigh of relief. Sora having new designs was the truth – but Ibuki did feel a little bad for using Sora to distract Sumire for a few minutes.

Only a little, though.

Once the coast was clear, Ibuki turned to face Mei and Ushio, the girl’s hands in her pockets. “So what was all that ‘bout Princess’s fam givin’ back t’the community?”

Ushio quirked an eyebrow. “You didn’t know?”

“Sumire-chan’s family owns a chain of resorts. That’s probably why her parents aren’t around much.” Mei answered, wincing briefly as she recalled her thoughtless comment back during Sumire’s birthday.

“They always try to spruce up the community they’re going to build the next resort at.” Ushio added. “Yamada was prolly asking if they were finally going to open a resort here.”

Was that why Sumire’s mansion was so lavish? It explained a few things, or at least Ibuki thought so. Although that only begged the question: “Why come ta school here then? She’s got plenty better choices - ” Ibuki started to say, only to realize how she was coming off. “N-not that this school’s bad or anythin’!”

To that, Mei and Ushio both shrugged. “We’ve never asked.” Mei admitted. “It didn’t seem right to – it’d be like saying we don’t want her here.”

Ibuki nodded in agreement with that. Hm. Judging by the way Sumire had reacted, she had to guess that the other girl was on bad terms with her parents too. It had to have hurt, having her hard work casually dismissed as a bid to get attention...

“You okay, Ibuki?” Ushio asked, frowning lightly in concern.

Ibuki sighed, running one of her hands through her hair. “I guess. She jus’ seemed kinda upset durin’ th’ interview so I was hopin’ I could cheer her up somehow – kinda disappointin’ t’find out the stuff makin’ her sad is stuff I don’t really got any power over.” her shoulders slumped.

Mei smiled softly. “You really care about Sumire-chan, huh?”

Ibuki blushed, but nodded once, muttering something incomprehensible under her breath as her ears turned red.

Ushio’s eyes glimmered in victory – this made her two for two! With a grin, she prodded Ibuki’s shoulder. “You should tell her how you feel!”

Ibuki groaned in misery, hiding her face. “No way! I ain’t got a shot in hell.”

Mei and Ushio traded glances, both debating whether to say something, before deciding not to – Sumire’s feelings were Sumire’s, and it wouldn’t be right to tell Ibuki her feelings before Sumire herself was ready to. Mei laughed awkwardly, giving Ibuki an earnest shoulderpat of comfort.

“ – and if you don’t like any of those, I can draw up a different layout!” Sora finished as she, Sumire and Chie all walked into the classroom, the other two girls hanging onto Sora’s every word. “Ah, Hidama-san, Hoshizora-san! Good morning~!” Sora offered a mock salute in greeting, before tilting her head. “Is Kousei-san feeling okay?”

Ibuki froze, but Mei came to the rescue. “She’s a little under the weather, that’s all.”

Sumire frowned. “Ibuki-san, do you want me to take you to the nurse’s office?”

Ibuki forced herself to sit up, giving everyone a lopsided grin. “Nah nah, s’okay! Nothin’ I can’t get over by lunchtime.” she assured, face still pink.

Sumire didn’t look convinced. “Well, if you’re sure…”

The rest of the girls weren’t sure who they pitied more – Sumire for her obliviousness, or Ibuki for not knowing the obvious. It was an amusing turn of events at least. As the warning bell rang, Sora and Chie took that as their cue.

“Kousei-san, you owe me melonbread~!” Sora said with a parting wave as Chie offered her goodbyes to her friends. As the two girls left to their own classroom, the rest of the girls took their seats, Mei and Ushio already prepping for passing notes, while Ibuki nervously refused to look at anyone and Sumire looked over the various sketches Sora had given her, the girl smiling as she compared the layouts. It was so close to being done!

And once it’s done…

Sumire snuck a glance over at Ibuki, her own cheeks tinting pink.

…I’ll tell Ibuki-san how I feel about her.



They couldn’t return to the Void, not with the failure hanging over them. Instead, the Serpens retreated to a cave in the abandoned wilderness of the Lucente Bay island. They didn’t need food or sleep – they weren’t really human, after all.

“We have to lure out Ophiuchus for Lord Omega’s sake.” Marfik said, voice echoing into the darkness. Cebalrai nodded beside him, her eyes closed in thought.

It was Rasalhague who felt lost. “What is Ophiuchus to us?” he asked.

Marfik stared at him. Cebalrai frowned, the woman opening one eye and gazing at Rasalhague.

The white hared man could feel the questions hanging in the air. “Ophiuchus is important to us.” he said, watching the two of them flinch in unison.

“She abandoned us.” Cebalrai countered, voice icy.

“it doesn’t make her any less importa - ” Rasalhague continued, flinching at the sudden, sharp pain in his chest. He gripped his chest, hissing in pain, and the sudden other gasps suggested they shared his pain as well. It would have been a more comforting thought to him if it didn’t hurt so much.

When the pain subsided, it was Marfik who spoke up again. “Lord Omega wishes this - ”

Rasalhague blurted it out before he could dwell too deeply on it. “And why are we even following him?!” he demanded, the tail end of his sentence shifting into a cry of agony as immense pain lanced through his chest again. Tears pricked at his eyes as he sunk weakly to his knees, Cebalrai following suit. Marfik slumped against the cavern wall, gasping for breath, but forced himself to stay standing.

“Enough.” Marfik said, voice coming out as a pained hiss. “You had your chance to lure her out, now it’s my turn.”

Cebalrai gritted her teeth. “You don’t even have a plan!”

And now Marfik smirked. “But I do. Stars don’t come from just people, after all.” he said, just before turning on his heel. With a swish of his cloak, he was gone, leaving Cebalrai and Rasalhague behind.



The chill in the morning air had lessened by the time the sun had risen, and the sleepy volunteers shuffled into the park, dressed in clothes they didn’t mind getting dirty. It turned out the interview on the news had done the beautification project a great favor – even more people had shown up now, eager to help make the park revitalization a reality. It had made the work that much easier on everyone and finally…

“Okay, everyone! If you’re here to get the last layout done, follow me!” Sora instructed, using her hands as a makeshift microphone. “Anyone who’s here for planting can go see Chie-chan over there, and if you can handle the heavy stuff, you should meet up with Kimura-kun and the Kousei twins!” she pointed to Chie, who had plants at the ready, and then over in the distance, where Arata, Hiro and Yuuki were getting benches prepped. “Everyone understand?” Sora hollered, getting a rousing chorus of agreement in response. The brunette grinned. “All righty then! Cure Gemini, away~!”

Ibuki stared after Sora as she hurried off, watching the girl made whooshing noises as she led her group off to another place in the park. “…Cure Gemini?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Chie giggled lightly in response. “Sora-san really admires the Pretty Cure. She says if she could join the team, she’d definitely be Cure Gemini and be pink themed.”

Ibuki gaped, as did Mei and Ushio. Abruptly, all three girls turned a bright shade of pink, and Ushio laughed nervously. “A-ahaha, I bet the Pretty Cure would be super embarrassed to hear that!”

Chie’s smile only grew warmer. “But the Pretty Cure should be proud! They do good work protecting the island. As I recall, they’ve never even asked for so much as a thank you or any sort of acknowledgement either, they just keep protecting people. That’s amazing, honestly. I’d be honored to be friends with such kindhearted people.”

Mei could feel her cheeks heating up even more. “C-Chie-chan!”

Chie’s smile didn’t falter. “What? I’m only telling the truth.”

Mei let out a noise of mortification, just before tugging on Ushio’s arm. “C-c’mon, let’s go help the others!” she insisted, dragging her best friend with her.

Ibuki ran a hand through her blonde hair, ducking her head so no one could see how red she was. “Man, you’re devious.

Chie hummed a little. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Ibuki-san~” she said, a twinkle in her eye. “In any case, I think you should go help Sumire-san, I bet she’d appreciate it!”

Ibuki nearly choked, blushing harder. “Absolutely devious!” she accused, although she smiled as she said it, and the blonde left, trying to nonchalantly and inconspicuously make her way over to Sumire.

Chie watched as Ibuki fumbled over her words in the distance, before taking in the atmosphere of it all. Sora was happily instructing people, Naori, Miyo and Kouta were handing off water bottles and snacks while Usami quietly directed them where to head next, the twins were getting things delivered. Ushio had left Mei to go help out Eiji, Momoe and Kiyomi, whereas Mei happily talked with Kaiyou while arguing playfully with Arata. There was so much more too. She could see members of the student council among the volunteers, as well as a few of the teachers at Etoile. Students and teachers, people from different clubs who normally would have never spoken to each other – everyone was bonding. Laughter and happiness broke up the busywork, and the cacophony of joy was music to Chie’s ears.

This was what she really wanted.

The upheaval of the park was important to her as well, of course, but it couldn’t beat the pure bliss of seeing everyone working together for a common goal. Even people who had no interest in gardening had joined in! And she was sure the experience would forge some new friendships too – she could already see it as everyone worked with their peers.

Her gaze softened as she noticed Sumire looking up and marveling at everything. There wasn’t a doubt in Chie’s mind that the same thoughts were running through Sumire’s mind too – and as the two girls noticed each other, they smiled in pride.

Every minute spent on the project had been completely worth it.



[eyecatch 1 – Mei and Ushio wait on the roof as Sumire and Ibuki arrive with bento boxes and a large cloth fit for a picnic. The three other girls crowd around excitedly as Sumire opens a box up – only for the four to find that Usami has eaten all the food inside! The four girls sigh and then laugh. The Starshine logo appears in the corner.]

[eyecatch 2 – Aries shoots a blast of flame at the screen, which is followed by Pisces shooting a jet of water. It’s chased away by Virgo shooting a blast of petals, which are blown away by Libra shooting a jet of air. The camera pulls out as the four Cures pose together against a starry backdrop. The Starshine logo appears in the corner.]



“Yamada Keiko here with Lucente Bay Daily News! Our community has done it – just look at how beautiful Lucente Bay Park is now!” Keiko gestured outwards and her cameraman followed her cue, the camera sweeping across the renovated park. The winding paths had been restructured, benches and tables matching the same kind of elegant design the walkways had. The fountain had been revamped as well, practically shining in the sun as water trickled in an eye-catching display.

But it was the flowers that really caught everyone’s attention. Flowerbeds had been planted in all kinds of landscapes all across the park, each flower carefully considered and even more carefully chosen. The array of colors was stunning, and with the new cherry blossom trees planted all over the park, it ensured that Lucente Bay would be simply amazing in the coming spring.

Volunteers milled around as Keiko continued her report – after completing the beautification project, Sumire had decided to throw a party in celebration, inviting the entire island commemorate the event. Delicious foods were piled high on several rental tables, with a table set aside just for beverages and several fancy desserts.

“Joining us is our beloved mayor, Nakamura Yua!” Keiko beamed as the mayor – an older woman with a kindly, warm aura – joined her. “Nakamura-san, your thoughts on this project?”

Miyo, Kouta and Naori watched as the mayor spoke at length about her love of flowers and community and how glad she was to see the younger people in the community be so involved in making the island better for everyone. Naori tilted her head as the woman spoke, looking to her friends. “Should I tell Nakamura-san that the Pretty Cure flyer was my idea?”

Kouta nearly choked on his drink. “You can’t go interrupting an interview, they’re filming live!” he scolded. “Besides, Miyo and I already vouched for it.”

Miyo nodded fiercely. “We didn’t want Sumi-chan to yell at you! ‘specially since it really was a good idea, I didn’t know you could draw that well, Naori-chan!”

“You made everyone look so cool, Naori-chan!” Usami whispered, beaming up at the girl from his place in her arms.

Naori blushed. “It’s not much, really…”

Keiko’s interview with the mayor finished up, and the newscaster was happy to continue trucking on. “Some fantastic words from our mayor, everyone! Joining us next is one of the wonderful ladies who ran this project, Tachibana Chie! Tachibana-san, your family owns the popular Tachibana Teahouse, correct? Did that play any part in your park beautification project?”

Chie smiled politely, explaining her love of gardening and how the initial project had begun. While Miyo and Kouta had wandered back to the snack table, Naori kept a close eye on Chie, beaming as the older girl spoke. Though she and Chie hadn’t known each other that long, Naori knew better than most that the project was important to her – and it was so validating to see Chie and Sumire’s hard work pay off.

“Naori-chan, there you are!” Mei said, smiling in relief as she made her way over to the pink haired girl. Ushio followed close behind, as did Miyo and Kouta. “We thought we lost you in the crowds. You’re a little small, ahahaha…” she laughed as she joined the girl, then watched as Naori, Miyo and Kouta went off, probably to explore the park and play with Usami. “Don’t go too far! Stay where we can see you!” Mei called after them, getting a wave of understanding from Kouta in response.

“Man, Chie’s pretty good at interviews.” Ushio observed as she looked over at Keiko and Chie, the dark haired girl nodding in approval. “I’d be a nervous wreck!”

“You’re always making speeches for the Marine Life Club though, aren’t you?” Mei pointed out.

“Well yeah, but there’s no camera on me there, silly!” Ushio laughed, before looking around. “Say, where’s Ibuki?”

Mei blinked, looking around too. Hadn’t Ibuki just been around…?

“And thank you for your time, Tachibana-san! Looks like that’s all the time we have today, folks! Be sure to tune back in at 7 pm for the nightly news – this is Yamada Keiko, signing off!” Keiko finished as the newscaster briefly motioned for the camera to stop rolling. Once the broadcast had stopped, the woman sighed. “Man, I was hoping to get another interview with Mabataki-san, but she declined…”

Chie smiled as she rejoined the duo. “Sumire-san asked to be alone for a while.”

Mei’s eyes widened and she stiffened. Sumire had disappeared – and so had Ibuki – a-and so that must have meant - !

“We’re not gonna stalk them, Mei.” Ushio frowned.

“I-I wasn’t going to suggest that!” the pigtailed girl denied just a little too quickly. “Ahhh, but I bet Sumire-chan has a really romantic spot picked out~”

“Confessing amidst all those flowers, I bet that’d win anyone over…” Chie sighed dreamily.

Ushio offered a shoulder-pat to both girls. “C’mon, I’m sure they’ll give us the play by play later.” she assured, steering the girls towards a group of their peers nearby.

Mei nodded, but her thoughts still lingered on her green haired friend. Good luck, Sumire-chan! You can do it!



Mei was right about one thing: Sumire had picked a nice, romantic spot. Truthfully, the girl had scoured every inch of the park for the past week, determined to find the best spot to frame her confession.

In the end, she’d picked a hillside framed by trees. Flowerbeds cascaded down the hill, making the surroundings smell fresh and floral, and with the breeze they had been having lately, it made petals dance in the air. Sumire herself stood under a large tree, the shade inviting and nerve-wracking all at once.

In the distance, Ibuki was making her way up the hill. Sumire had been sure to phrase it ambiguously – she claimed she just wanted to show something to Ibuki – but the longer it took for Ibuki to get there, the more nervous Sumire got. The other girl must have suspected something, right? Asking to be with a friend alone, away from prying eyes – that was definitely suspicious, wasn’t it?

And if that was the case, was Ibuki just humoring her? Sumire’s insides twisted around at the thought. Ibuki definitely wasn’t that kind of person – but at the same time, Ibuki did have someone she liked, right? At least it had seemed that way from their recent sleepover. Not that Sumire had it in her to ask that. T-that – that was just too forward!

And yet – she was going to do this.

…right?

Sumire didn’t know. She’d prepared herself for this for weeks, and yet now that it was in front of her, she was no more certain about her ability to confess. She wasn’t even concerned about whether Ibuki would return her feelings – quite frankly, she was expecting to be shot down. And if that was the case, was it even worth it?

“Finally caught up with ya, Princess.” Ibuki reached the tree, pausing for a moment to catch her breath. (Did she seem more flushed than usual or was it just Sumire’s imagination?) “So what was th’ thing y’wanted t’show me?”

Sumire said nothing, instead gesturing to the slope and beyond. From their vantage point, they could see the whole park – the flowers surrounding the fields melded into beautiful seas of color. The shorter girl smiled as Ibuki gaped in wonder, then took a deep breath.

Even if she was going to be shot down, she had to say something. She had to be brave and take that step.

“Do you remember when we first met?” Sumire began, waiting for Ibuki’s nod. “B-back then, we hung up fliers together and you decided to join the beautification project. We were so small back then – it was just Chie-san, Mei-san, Ushio-san and myself. But then you joined – a-and I’m really grateful for that.” she smiled. “To be honest, I-I had thought about giving up. There was s-so much work to be done and so few people to r-really do the work. I-I thought I was being a burden on my friends. But when you j-joined, things started getting better!”

Ibuki laughed a little, rubbing the back of her neck. “Man, Princess, you don’t gotta thank me!”

Sumire shook her head. “I-I do! You gave me the passion to keep this project going! Without you, I don’t think we’d have so many people here! A-and - ” Now she faltered, the girl trying to seek out the words to say. “ – a-and I just – I’m really glad we met. A-and that we were able to become friends! Y-you’re such a strong person a-and, u-um - ” she could feel her face growing hotter by the second. “Y-you see, t-the reason I – t-the truth of the matter is I-I - ”

The mildly cloudy sky turned an ugly gray, making her lose her train of thought, but it was the abrupt chill in the air that made Sumire’s words die in her throat.

It was the only warning they got.

In the next instant, a wave of darkness cascaded over the park, smothering everything – and when it disappeared, Sumire let out a horrified scream.

Every single instance of plant life in the park was withered and dead. Everything she had spent months on was – it was all – everything was just…

More screams echoed in the distance. Sumire didn’t hear them. She sunk to her knees, shocked and trembling.

“Don’t worry, Princess.” Ibuki said, tone warm even though it didn’t meet the icily furious look in her eyes, “We’ll fix this.” And in a flash of light, she had transformed into Cure Libra and raced off towards the source of the problem. In the distance, there were two more flashes of light, something Sumire dimly recognized as her other friends.

She was alone. And it was only now that she allowed herself to break down and cry. The countless hours she and Chie had spent working alone, the untold number of hours all the volunteers had pitched in, the sacrifices they had both made for the sake of a park…

…had it really been all for nothing?

There was more screaming. Sumire heard it dimly, though it didn’t register for her.

She didn’t want to believe all their work had no meaning. There was too much they’d simply done to even consider such a thing. But everything was dead and gone now – all their work had been reduced to nothing in a mere instant.

It wasn’t fair.

There was even more screaming. This time Sumire heard it, and the girl clenched her teeth, shaking again for much different reasons.

“Pretty Cure! Wish Upon A Star!”

She wasted no time rushing back to the celebration area. In addition to the barren, withered park, Inner Stars had been stolen from people as well, collapsed bodies strewn to and fro. The source of the problem was the massive rose shaped Trou Noir currently letting out a victory roar. Her teammates weren’t in good shape either – the three other Pretty Cure had been flung so hard into a tree that it had snapped, the girls currently groaning in pain.

It was too much for Virgo to take. With a wild cry, she charged at the Trou Noir, punching it in the jaw and sending it flying backwards. The second she landed, she charged after it again, determined to get another hit on it, only for vines from the Trou Noir to seize her and slam her into the ground.

“Are you ready to give up Ophiuchus, Pretty Cure?” Marfik’s voice echoed from on high.

“Like hell we are!” the exclamation came not from Virgo, but from a shaky Pisces, who summoned her trident and threw it like a javelin at the Trou Noir. As Pisces attacked, Aries had summoned her sword, cutting Virgo free before joining the offensive with Pisces, As Virgo struggled to get to her feet, Libra helped her up, Usami rushing to her side as well.

“Are you okay?!” the small bear asked.

It was now that Virgo realized she was crying. With trembling fingers, she touched her face. How long had she been…?

“We’ll fix this, I swear it!” Libra promised. “Stay here, we’ll take care of this!”

And as Libra left to join the others, Virgo could only bring herself to stare at the barren wasteland before her again. Everything – it was just so…

She had to do something about it.

Something warm surged in her chest. Virgo remembered this feeling – it had happened before, when Ibuki had her star stolen. But she had lost control last time, hadn’t she? She – she’d been so angry and so focused just on Ibuki and on saving her alone…

Virgo looked at everything again. No, it was different this time. Everything everyone had worked for, all the countless hours everyone had put in – that was what angered her. Not only her friends, but all the countless strangers who had offered a helping hand – all their accomplishments had been taken from them. And all of these people, collapsed on the ground…

…she’d wanted for the park to be a place filled with joy. Chie did too. And now – and now - !

“This isn’t right!”

A burst of gold light erupted from Virgo’s star brooch, reforming as a wooden staff. A vine was wrapped midway down the staff all the way to the top, where it sprouted into a pale yellow flower. Above the flower floated a silver star etched with the symbol for Virgo. As the cure seized her weapon, she marveled at it, surprised at how heavy it felt.

“A Zodiac Arms!” Usami gasped, then set his gaze on Virgo. “You earned this because there’s something you want to protect more than anything! Go, it’ll make you stronger!”

Virgo nodded, hurrying towards the fight. “Libra!” she called out.

Libra grinned once, nodding in understanding, just before she delivered a fierce kick to the Trou Noir, making it stumble around in pain. “Pisces!”

Pisces smirked slamming down her trident to pin one of the Trou Noir’s legs in place. The monster roared in pain and Pisces briefly winced, but then: “Aries!”

Aries let out a battle cry, hacking and slicing the Trou Noir’s oncoming vine arms until there was barely anything left. She could see them starting to regrow, but… “Virgo!”

Virgo took a shaky breath, pointing her staff towards the Trou Noir. “Pretty Cure…” she began as the flower at the end of her staff began to glow and grow in size. “Floral Strike!” she finished, a massive surge of light firing from her staff, combined with razor sharp flower petals. The light consumed the Trou Noir, purifying it instantly, and the Darkness Jar within it shattered. Stars surged out of it, glowing lights returning to the people sprawled on the ground and all the plant life in the park and with a burst of blinding light, the park returned to its former glory. The food tables had been destroyed and the tree that had been snapped was still destroyed, but…

…the park was okay again. As Virgo detransformed, she realized she was crying again, this time in relief. “Thank goodness – t-thank goodness!” she sobbed, as the other three joined her, giving her a hug.

“Let’s make sure everyone’s okay.” Mei said once Sumire stopped crying. The four girls nodded and set out to do just that, whereas Usami rushed off to go see Naori and the others – they’d hid away just as the attack had started.



The party had dispersed soon afterwards and the girls had all gone their separate ways. Well, most of them, anyways.

“I’m walkin’ ya home, Princess.” Ibuki said, and that had been that. The walk was awkward and silent, and the longer the silence went on, the more Sumire felt ill-at-ease. Had Ibuki figured it out? She must have, it wasn’t like Sumire had been subtle about her intentions. Was Ibuki going to turn her down now? She had told herself it didn’t matter, that just getting her feelings out there was what she had wanted, but being faced with the prospect of being turned down was making her sad.

Was it going to ruin their friendship? And what about the team?

On the other hand, maybe Ibuki hadn’t figured it out. Maybe Ibuki wanted to ask Sumire to finish what she was saying. Sumire panicked at the thought – the mood was all wrong now! She’d already been nervous to begin with, and the thought of picking up where she left off was only making her even more nervous.

What was she supposed to do?!

Although it felt like eons, the two finally reached the front gate of Sumire’s mansion. Neither girl looked at each other and Sumire felt like her nerves were going to be the death of her. Still, it wasn’t right to let the matter go unfinished, right? With a shaky breath, Sumire rose her gaze to Ibuki, opened her mouth and –

“S-Sumire, I really like ya, p-please go on a date with me…!” Ibuki blurted out, face crimson and her ears just as red.

Sumire stared.

“I-I know I ain’t yer type, you’re practically like a real deal princess or somethin’ like that, you deserve someone who’s good for ya! But I-I just – I-I’ve really liked ya for a long time a-and I know you l-like someone, s-so I’m not sayin’ I want ya to go steady with me, but just – one date! Please!”

Sumire only stared some more. “…you like me?” she asked, voice small.

Ibuki forced herself to look up, still redfaced. “Well o’course I do! You’re - ” she exclaimed, voice faltering at the warm, happy smile on Sumire’s face. “ – y-you’re the nicest, cutest girl I-I know, a-and I-I’ve really liked you since we met, s-so…”

Sumire hugged her. “I’m so glad our feelings were the same after all.” she whispered, tears in her eyes, though the warm smile never left her face. “I’d be happy to be your girlfriend, Ibuki.”

And as the sun began to set, the two walked to Sumire’s house together, eager to break the news to Ryoko and the staff – hand in hand, fingers interlaced.

---

ED: "Across The Sky" – Claris feat. StarSHINE 5

---

ON THE NEXT EPISODE:

Mei and Ushio: *incomprehensible squealing noises*
Ibuki: C-c’mon guys, don’t be embarrassin’!
Sumire: I-I don’t think they’re going to stop…
Usami: Uwaaah, so do you have any date plans?
Ibuki: I-I do! s’not a conventional date place though…
Sumire: I’m sure I’ll love it!
Ibuki: Y’say that now…
Usami: Sounds like fun! Next time on Starshine! Pretty ✰ Cure: The airport destroyed! Libra’s windy wrath. Don't forget to make a wish next time too!

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