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In the days since Usami’s transformation, several things had become immediately evident. The first was that the power spike he’d received made him much more formidable in fights. The second was that Trou Noir attacks had become much more frequent, much to the horror and confusion of the Pretty Cure.

The third, however, was that Usami’s power, while incredible, wasn’t quite reliable just yet.

Usami was currently learning this the hard way, one of his shields shattering under a Trou Noir’s tree-trunk shaped arm, his form returning to its teddy bear form in that same instant. There wasn’t enough time for anyone to register what had happened, as in the next instant, Usami went flying. The world melded into blurry color and noise, before everything went black for just a moment.

When he stirred, however, he realized he wasn’t on the ground. He was cradled in Rei’s arms, with Masao and Celes letting out sighs of relief. “You’re not supposed to be here...” Usami said, gritting his teeth. “We told you to run...”

“We’re not really good at listening.” Rei said with an apologetic smile.

Usami sighed, shaking his head to dispel the dizziness, and then got back to his feet. The star shaped pendant around his neck shone with a brilliant light, its power washing over Usami, Rei, Masao and Celes - and something in the air changed, even after the light had faded. Even as Usami, back in magical form, rushed back in, the strange power lingered with the trio, leading the three of them to look at each other in confusion as they all felt something resonating within them.

As the three were distracted, the Trou Noir turned, setting its gaze on them. With a jagged grin, it lashed out at them, its arm far quicker than its hefty nature implied, and there was a deafening roar as it crashed down, pierced only by Ophiuchus’s horrified scream.

The dust settled - and the three were unharmed. On instinct, Rei had used his body to protect his siblings, throwing his free arm out in a hopeless maneuver - except a shield of light had projected over the three, fragile and splintering more by the second under the weight of the Trou Noir’s arm, but still very much there.

”Pretty Cure Shining Wave!”

If the Trou Noir had been confused by the shield, it didn’t get to be confused much longer, as Ophiuchus’s attack purified it in the next instant. As the Cures ran towards the three, they each stopped and stared, just as confused as Rei and his siblings were. As the shield finally vanished and Rei stared at his hands, Ophiuchus flung herself at her older siblings, crying in relief.

The remaining Cures traded glances, but it was Libra who broke the silence. “...the hell just happened?”

“I think it means,” Usami replied, eyeing the three Hoshino siblings, “that I’ve got some people to train.”

---

OP: "Shooting ★ Star!!" – StarSHINE 5
EPISODE 23 - "Three as one! A starlit wish!"

---

Training, however, was easier said than done. The fact of the matter was no one knew how it had happened to begin with, and the first few attempts at training sessions had been a complete bust, with no one able to create a spark of light, much less a shield. For all intents and purposes, it had been a complete fluke.

But Usami wasn’t one to give up. And neither, it seemed, were the trio. “We want to fight alongside everyone,” Celes confided after their latest training failure. “it isn’t fair that you have to shoulder everything alone.”

The words hung in his head as he stared up at Mei’s ceiling that night, back in his teddy bear form. Glow in the dark stars dotted the ceiling and the walls, faintly illuminating everything in gentle green hues. Mei turned over in her sleep, sleepily mumbling as she did so, and from his place at her dresser, Usami wondered what to do next. If danger had spawned Rei’s powers, the same could be hypothetically possible for Celes and Masao - but that wasn’t a risk Usami was willing to take.

Usami sighed softly, hopping off the dresser. Heading out of the room and down the hall, the pendant around his neck glowed as he shifted forms, magical form appearing with little fanfare. Maybe something to eat would give him an idea? As he stepped into the kitchen, however, he immediately realized he wasn’t alone - Hirui stood at the stove, stirring something in a saucepan. The smell of chocolate wafted through the air and two mugs were beside her, along with marshmallows and a canister of whipped cream. She hummed as she continued to stir, back turned, and yet -

“Couldn’t sleep, Usami?”

Usami stopped for a moment, surprised, but could only laugh weakly, rubbing the back of his head. “...something like that, Ruru-chan.” he said, awkwardly taking a seat. He watched as Hirui clicked the stove off and started prepping two cups of hot chocolate. “How’d you know?” he asked as she worked.

“Mmm, call it motherly intuition.” Hirui said as she came over, placing a cup in front of him, marshmallows and whipped cream piled high. “Though a little ram might have mentioned something after dinner too.” she admitted, chuckling as she sat across from him.

So Mei had noticed. That wasn’t surprising - she always picked up things like that. For a minute or so, silence hung in the air, the two absently sipping at their drinks. “I don’t really know how to train anyone.” Usami said at last, gaze fixed on the drink before him. “There’s a difference, you know? Guiding someone and teaching someone.”

Hirui didn’t answer, her gaze focused on the boy before her.

“And it’s...hard, I guess? To have people looking up to you, looking to you for guidance, and you don’t...” Usami continued, frowning as he trailed off. His thoughts felt so jumbled, and voicing them didn’t help as much as he’d been hoping it would. “For all I know, it could have just been a miracle. So what do I do?” he asked, looking over at her.

At that, Hirui hummed again. “What you need to.” she said, taking a drink. “You could be right, it could be a miracle. But they need someone, don’t they? And I think you’re more than up to the task.” she smiled. “They got their powers from you, right? Maybe they just need a push.”

Something about the phrasing gave Usami pause - and then his eyes widened. “That’s it!” he said, grinning. “Ruru-chan, you’re a genius!” Jumping to his feet, he gave Hirui a big hug, laughing as he did so. “I can’t believe I didn’t realize it sooner!”

Hirui blinked, baffled at Usami’s sudden change in attitude, then smiled and hugged back. “Glad to be of help.” she said, biting back a laugh as Usami polished off his drink in one gulp, the young boy licking off the stray whipped cream on his face as he did so. “Do you need any help with whatever you’re planning?”

“Nope! You’ll see!” And with another toothy grin and an enthusiastic thumbs up, Usami dashed down the hall, a flash of light illuminating the walls as he scurried back to Mei’s room, his human footsteps being replaced with the soft footfalls of his teddy bear form.

With a bemused sigh, Hirui finished up her drink and brought the two mugs to the sink. Whatever Usami had planned, she was sure it was going to be a success.



“...and considering how I’m a member of the student council and this technically falls under Pretty Cure business, especially considering how the Pretty Cure have protected the school more than once, I decided a bit of leeway is in order.” Kaiyou Hoshizora finished explaining as she unlocked the doors to the Etoile Academy gymnasium. “You’re free to use this as you please, as long as other clubs aren’t doing so, my only requirement is that you don’t damage anything, obviously.” she paused to fix her glasses, looking over her shoulder. “That goes for everyone, mind you, not just Usami-san and you three.”

Ushio gawked at her sister. “For real?!”

Kaiyou smiled. “Of course. It’s the most convenient for everyone, isn’t it? With the exception of Rei-san, we all attend the same school and know each other’s schedules. As long as you’re careful and lock the doors, no one will notice, right?”

“Well, yeah, but we don’t want you to get in trouble either, Kai-chan...” Mei spoke up, frowning. Beside her, Sumire nodded in agreement.

“That will be on my shoulders, don’t worry about that.” Kaiyou waved a hand in dismissal. “In any case, I suppose I’d let you get to it. I believe Usami-san said there was something he wanted to discuss?”

The girls traded glances, then nodded. Kaiyou made her way out while Ibuki moved to lock the door, and once it echoed shut, Usami transformed. Once he stood before everyone, he faced Rei, Masao, and Celes, and with a snap of his fingers, three lights appeared. Simple bronze rings with three pointed stars on them hovered before them.

“...rings?” Rei asked, eyebrow quirked.

Usami laughed a little, scratching his cheek with a gloved hand. “Well, they don’t have to be rings, but boys don’t really do necklaces or bracelets, right? And it’s not like I could just give you three compacts or Star Capsules or something or - ”

“I don’t think that’s what he meant, Usami-kun.” Naori interrupted, smiling wryly.

“O-oh! Um, right, sorry! I’ve just, um, never had to do something like this before?” Usami explained. “But I did some thinking last night, and Ruru-chan mentioned I just needed to give you guys a push? So this is something like that! I think you three absorbed some of my shielding powers, which was good ‘cause I haven’t had problems transforming since then, but I think I went about it the wrong way, trying to train the way we’ve been going!” he was rambling and he knew it, but it was hard to stop. “So think of this as a focus point for those powers inside you.”

It made sense, the three supposed. As they each put the rings on, Masao looked down at his own ring, and then back up at Usami. “...we’re not gonna transform into frilly outfits too, are we?” he asked, cringing.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it.” Celes said under her breath.

Usami laughed again, hoping it hid his uncertainty. “I...don’t think so? There’s a lot of weird stuff at play right now. I mean, I wasn’t expecting the three of you to absorb some of my own power, but then again, you’re all born from Nao-chan’s Inner Star, and you all can sense Trou Noir as is, so I think I gave you all...a boost? Maybe?” he looked helplessly at the group of Cures.

“Usami means the magic was inside of you all along.” Sumire supplied.

“An’ that the rings are kinda like a magic feather?” Ibuki chimed in, head tilted to the side.

“Yeah!” Usami nodded fiercely. “So let’s try it out!”

The three looked at each other - and then nodded. Focusing on the rings before them, each concentrated. The group held their breath, all eyes on the three of them. After what felt like an eternity, there was a brief flicker of light - and then small, star shaped shields appeared in front of the three of them. The three siblings looked at each other in wonder and the group around them began to chorus in delight -

- and then there was a sudden chill in the air. Outside, there was a scream, and the girls rushed out.

“Sis!” Ushio cried out, seeing her sister’s unconscious form nearby. The chill in the air didn’t let up - in fact, it only got worse. Up ahead, students began to collapse, and as the five girls looked at each other in horror, there was a thunderous noise far in the left distance, followed by a similar noise to the right, and a final, louder noise coming from farther ahead.

“Me and Ushio-chan will head down to the left!” Mei’s mind and heart were racing, but the words came with more ease than she expected them to. “Sumire-chan, Ibuki-chan, you take the right! Naori-chan, Usami-kun, you can take the center!”

The girls nodded, but Usami faltered. “What about here…?”

“We’ll stay here!” Rei said, motioning to himself, Masao, and Celes. “We have to make sure the school is safe!”

Though the group was loathe to leave the three behind, there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter. “Stay safe.” Naori pleaded, before the five girls reached for their Star Capsules.

“Pretty Cure! Wish Upon A Star!”



It didn’t take long for Aries and Pisces to find the Trou Noir - it had taken to the beach of Lucente Bay, turning its surroundings an ugly gray. A large, shadowy crab with piercing red eyes, the Trou Noir howled as it spotted the two Pretty Cure, wasting no time in swinging its arm at them like a crabhammer. Aries yelped as the attack came flying towards them, ducking as low as she could to avoid the blow, whereas Pisces leapt up, arcing high into the air before coming down with a flying kick. The Trou Noir howled again when it was hit, but didn’t give Pisces the satisfaction of sticking her landing, swiping at her with its other claw.

“Pisces!” Aries shouted as her teammate got smacked down into the sand. Gritting her teeth, she summoned her Zodiac Arms, looping around the Trou Noir to slash at it from behind. The attack cleaved into the monster - but something about the way her blade passed through the Trou Noir didn’t feel right. Aries skidded against the sand as her attack finished, perplexed. It had been a clean hit, and one that had cut deep - so why did it feel like a hot knife cutting through butter? It was almost like...

“Pretty Cure Aqua Rush!”

“W-wait!” Aries tried to warn her, but Pisces’s attack sailed past, hitting the Trou Noir straight on. The monster was pushed back, hitting the ground with a thunderous noise, sand getting kicked up in every direction. As Pisces rejoined Aries, the blue Cure was about to let out a whoop of victory - but Aries held her hand out.

The dust settled - and though the Trou Noir looked a little worse for wear, it was very much alive.

“Oh come on!” Pisces yelled, throwing her hands up in the air. “Pretty Cure Aqua Rush!” she yelled again, another torrent of water shooting at the monster. Again, it pierced straight through it - and again, the monster refused to die. “What in the…?”

Aries gritted her teeth again. She’d thought she’d seen the cause for just a moment - but they’d have to attack again to make sure. “Together then!” she said, nodding at Pisces.

“Pretty Cure Flare Blitz!”

“Pretty Cure Aqua Rush!”

A stream of fire erupted from Aries and yet another torrent of water erupted from Pisces, the two attacks spiralling to combine together and strike the Trou Noir. Just like before, it too was a clean hit that pierced straight through the inky darkness of it - and when the combined power of the attack faded, a large hole had been torn through the Trou Noir’s body, revealing the nothingness inside of it.

The monster didn’t have a Darkness Jar - and without that, there was nothing to purify.

Which meant there was nothing to destroy either.



[eyecatch 1 – A photo album opens up, showing several pictures. The first is the five girls at the park with Mei taking the lead, and the next is Sumire and Ibuki holding hands, with Ushio teasing them. Usami and Naori chase a butterfly in the fourth picture, and the last is the five girls taking a picture against the sunset sky, grins on all their faces. The photo album closes as the Starshine logo appears in the corner.]

[eyecatch 2 – Aries holds her hand out, a small piece of a star appearing in her hand, red in color. She passes the star piece to Pisces, who adds a blue star piece. Virgo and Libra add two star pieces, gold and purple in color, and the star bounces over to Ophiuchus, who adds the last star piece in green. The star turns white and flashes brightly, a starry backdrop appearing. The five Cures pose in front of it as the Starshine logo appears in the corner.]



The Trou Noir Virgo and Libra were facing was giving them problems of its own. The large, shadowy fox had taken to the streets of Lucente Bay, heading up towards the observatory, and was as powerful as it was fast. It took everything for the purple and golden Cures to avoid its attacks - but it also meant they weren’t really making headway either.

Virgo was starting to get sick of it.

Her cape billowed as she held out her staff. “Pretty Cure Floral Strike!” she yelled, a bright flower bulb sailing at the Trou Noir, exploding into a flurry of petals just as the Trou Noir was landing. The monster let out a noise between a pained howl and a yelp as it staggered, dazed from the attack, and Libra let out a shout as she came down from above, sword in hand as she stabbed down with all her might, piercing straight through the Trou Noir’s tail and pinning it in place. “Let’s finish th - ” she started, only to get kicked hard with the Trou Noir’s hind leg, sending her flying into a metal fence.

Virgo let out a cry of horror - but the stunned look on her face quickly became rage as she turned on her heel to face the Trou Noir before them. “Pretty Cure Floral Strike!” she yelled again, a much larger flower bulb shooting at the shadowy monster, exploding into flower petals the size of ax blades that tore into the Trou Noir as if the hulking monster was nothing more than a wet tissue. As the monster howled in misery behind her, Virgo rushed to Libra’s side, helping her up.

“You get it, Princess?” Libra murmured, grimacing in pain as she spoke.

“I did.” Virgo replied, pride in her tone.

And then there was another roar. As the two Cures turned, the Trou Noir behind them had deep gashes in its shadowy body, wounds that would have easily taken out any Trou Noir before it, and yet it still stood. With a snarl, the monster yanked hard, ripping its tail away from the sword that had pinned it in place, sending Libra’s sword skidding away. Dripping a shadowy blackness across the pavement, the monster howled again as it advanced upon the two Cures, baring its fangs as it leapt at them.

There was only one thing Virgo and Libra could think to say as it came at them, and so they spoke in perfect unison: “...well, shit.



Ophiuchus and Usami hadn’t needed to go far - they’d found the Trou Noir at the park, and the large tree shaped monster had wasted no time in getting violent. Shadowy tendrils snaked across the ground and into the trees, withering anything it touched effortlessly - it was obvious getting touched by them would be disastrous. Star shaped shields materialized under Usami and Ophiuchus’s feet, keeping the two of them off the ground, and the two held hands as they floated.

“Just follow my lead!” Usami instructed, and the green Cure nodded, thankful she had a guide. How had Usami managed to traverse these shields so easily? She felt like she was going to fall just standing on them…

More shields appeared, creating a pathway to the Trou Noir. The two jumped together, and Ophiuchus summoned her Zodiac Arms in her free hand, ready to get an attack in -

“Ophiu, look out!” Usami cried as he threw up another shield, the two of them narrowly avoiding getting hit by the shadowy branches of the Trou Noir. The boy gave Ophiuchus a thumbs up, while the white and green Cure gazed at the shield in front of them. It was a long shot, she supposed, but desperate times called for desperate measures. Grip tightening on Usami’s hand, Ophiuchus pointed her staff at the shield in front of them.

“Pretty Cure Shining Wave!”

Bright light erupted outwards - and in response, the shield blazed with a white hot power, growing larger and larger as it absorbed all of the attack’s energy. Raising their joined hands, Usami and Ophiuchus let out a battle cry, the supercharged star rocketing towards the Trou Noir, barrelling straight into the shadowy monster just before the shield exploded, consuming it and the park with light.

The light faded - and the shambling form of the Trou Noir stood, wisps of shadowy energy coming off its form like acrid smoke. Its shadowy mouth was twisted into a grin and it trembled with laughter, just before it advanced on them again.



The halls of Etoile Academy were dark as Rei, Masao, and Celes raced through them. The chill in the air was getting worse with each passing second and no matter where they turned, there were more collapsed students. The walls almost seemed to pulse with darkness, not that any of them were willing to touch them and find out.

The saving grace in it all had been the rings. Just as they’d stepped into the school, light began to shimmer around their forms, and it quickly became evident that instinct worked better than concentration. Usami had been right - the magic was already inside them anyways.

“Oh no...” Celes murmured as she caught a glimpse out the window. The sky had grown dark and more darkness seemed to pulse in the distance where the Pretty Cure had split up.

“What the - ?” Rei looked horrified. If even the Pretty Cure were having trouble, what chance did they stand?

“Hang on, look!” Masao said, pointing to the floor farther ahead. While the walls and floor were covered with cracks of darkness, the splinters and lines were converging into bigger pools of darkness, forming a path down another hallway and up the stairs. With nothing else to go on, the three followed where it went, going farther up until they reached the door to the roof. The door itself was covered with thick branches of shadowy energy, and Rei swore as they came up to it.

The rings glinted in response.

“Together, perhaps?” Celes asked, looking at her brothers, who nodded at her. The three held their hands out - and from the rings, a burst of light shot forth, making the shadowy energy recoil. Rei swung the door open, his siblings rushing in behind him, and there, on the roof of the school, there were three shadowy forms, twisted like gnarled trees and in each, a Darkness Jar containing a multitude of stars thrummed with power. Shadowy veins stretched out from the twisted forms, going across the ground and down the building - and as they followed the sight of it, stretching out far into Lucente Bay..

The source of the three Trou Noir had been hidden away from the Pretty Cure - and as long as it was here, the team couldn’t win. Something about that realization made Rei snap, and with another infuriated swear, he charged at the nearest Darkness Jar. His ring glinted once more, a burst of light shooting from it - but while it made a dent, it wasn’t enough to damage the Darkness Jar. Beside him, Celes and Masao did the same - with the same results. The three tried again and again, each time getting just a little closer - but it still wasn’t enough.

“Damnit...” Rei panted.

Celes felt tears well up in her eyes as the hopelessness of the situation began to dawn on her. “There has to be something!”

Masao punched at the Darkness Jar, fists glowing with light. “They need us!”

“We have to help them!” the three yelled together. The three rings glowed with power - and then the entire world turned white. Each of them felt a surge of energy - and each of them heard a voice.

”This is all I can do from here. The rest is up to you.”

The three nodded - and an arrow of light launched at each Darkness Jar, shattering it in an instant. The shadowy mass disintegrated, swallowed up by the light, and when the light faded, Rei, Celes, and Masao found themselves on the roof once more - but the Pretty Cure, Usami and Hirui had arrived as well, each of them looking increasingly confused at what had just happened. As the gray sky began to return to blue, however, the entire group saw something else too - a large mass of humanoid shaped light stood across from them, radiating a warm, almost nostalgic aura..

”Greetings, Pretty Cure. I am Queen Vega.” it spoke, echoing as it did so. “The power of your friends finally allowed me to reach you. I am sure you have many questions - and I understand completely.” the light shifted, outstretching one of its arms towards them.

”It’s time you all learned the truth.”

---

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

---

ON THE NEXT EPISODE:

Vega: What you’re all fighting for, who you’re fighting against - everything will soon be made clear. Next time on Starshine! Pretty ✰ Cure: To the stars! A visit to Via Lactea! Don't forget to make a wish next time too.
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