A cerise-haired woman stood in front of a telephone pole, stapler in hand. With a tired, dull-eyed expression, she stapled a paper to the pole, right over someone's “Lost Pet' flier. Stepping away and adjusting the heavy stack of papers still in her free arm, she sighed quietly, eyes lidding.
She jumped, eyes widening and the beginning of a smile on her face as she turned around. “Noa--!”
Aki and Hiromi stood side-by-side, worried expressions on their faces.
The woman deflated, smile fading in an instant. “Oh. Hello, girls...”
Hiromi glanced at the paper on the phone pole. It was a flier – specifically a missing person flier. Above the brief contact information and the missing's basics, a girl smiled at the camera. She had shoulder-length hair, just a shade darker than her mother's, and bright red eyes. She wore the same uniform Aki and Hiromi did, and had adorned a heart-shaped gold clip at her left temple. Judging by the gates and cherry blossoms in the background, the photo had been taken at the beginning of the school year.
“On your way to school?”
“Huh?” Hiromi blinked and looked back at the woman.
Another smiled had appeared on her face, but it was tired, joyless. She adjusted her hold on the fliers again before speaking. “You two had best hurry. You don't want to miss the bell...”
“Right,” Aki said quietly, nodding. She moved past the woman, gently taking Hiromi by the hand and leading her. “Bye, Mrs Hisa.”
As the girls left Chikae Hisa, who waved goodbye once before continuing down the road, Aki's grip on Hiromi's hand tightened. She swallowed back a lump in her throat, and blinked to clear her vision. “I hope she finds her,” Aki mumbled.
“What's going on?” asked Coffee, poking her head out of Hiromi's bag. Ti soon followed. “Who was that lady?”
“One of my neighbors,” Hiromi explained. “Mrs Hisa... her daughter, Noa, disappeared a while ago.” Her mouth twitched slightly as she lowered her face, glasses catching the light and becoming opaque.
Chikae put up another flier, and stopped. She stared at the picture of Noa for a bit. Noa looked so grown-up in her uniform... She'd been so excited to start school again, see her friends, join a club...
The woman pressed her forehead to the pole, and wept.
OP: "Love and Joy PreCure" - Entwined Hearts Duo
Mirai shuddered, eyes squeezing shut. “Brrr...”
“Another premonition?” Aki grinned as she walked past Mirai's desk.
The pink-haired girl laughed a little, cheeks turning red. “Just a little one...” She went quiet til Aki went to her own seat, then leaned over to talk to Hiromi. “Hiromi! Keep a close eye on your possessions today!”
“Eh?” Hiromi paused halfway into her seat.
“Just be very careful!”
“Ahaha...I will, Mirai.” Hiromi sat down, setting her schoolbag by her chair.
Up where Aki sat, another girl leaned over to poke between her shoulders with a sharpened pencil. “Heeeey, Aki~?”
“Hm? What is it, Antoinette?”
Antoinette Rayne, a girl with shoulder-length warm honey-blonde hair and dark blue eyes, lowered her pencil and smiled a little. Granted the way one corner of her mouth lifted more than the other, and the way her eyes narrowed a bit, it looked more like a smirk, but still... “Well, I was wondering, when's it my turn to walk to school with you?”
“I mean, I always see you walking in with Satou, and I thought if someone like you frequently walks with someone like her, maybe you're giving everyone a turn? Walking everyone to school? I was wondering when it was my turn next! If you're going alphabetically, you've skipped right over me, you know.”
Aki blinked awkwardly and cleared her throat. “Ah, about that--”
She was saved by Mrs Matoko stepping into the room just then. “Alright, everyone,” Mrs Matoko said, completely oblivious to the loud exhale at Aki's desk, “let's get our notes out and discuss the tragedy of the samurai and the tree spirit...”
TODAY'S EPISODE: 'Our Fairies Are Gone?!'
The bell rang, signaling lunch. Mrs Matoko clapped her textbook shut and hastily left the room, tossing a “See you later!” over her shoulder. A few students laughed, knowing the instant the door slid shut, she'd be bolting down the hallway to get melon bread before it was all gone.
Antoinette pushed back her chair and smiled, holding up a pink-wrapped bento. “Aki~ Let's eat lunch togeth--”
But Aki, as it turned out, was already on the other side of the classroom, talking to Hiromi. Antoinette gripped her lunch tightly as she overheard the tail-end of the conversation.
“So, the roof?”
“I'll meet you there, okay? I brought meatball subs!”
“Forget it, Antoinette...” came a voice at her other side. Antoinette glared at the speaker, a white-haired boy who was idly scooping rice and peppers into his mouth. “I don't think Aki knows you beyond 'just a classmate.' She doesn't seem interested.”
“That's just-- You be quiet!” Antoinette snapped, slamming her lunch down on her desk. “She only hangs out with Satou because she feels sorry for her! I'm sure of it!”
It was the only feasible explanation, right? After all, Aki was richer, prettier, more popular, more athletic... Satou wasn't poor, but her house was in the more....ordinary part of town. And she was alright-looking but nothing special, she constantly over-reacted, there was that weird friend of hers...
How could Aki have befriended someone like her over Antoinette? Antoinette was the one sitting next to her in class, after all!
“If you say so...” Yuki muttered. “Why're you so upset about this anyway? Normally you don't say a word to Satou, and all you say to Aki is good morning.” He straightened up, eyes narrowing slightly. “Wait...this isn't about--”
“You're still mad about that? Antoinette, I keep telling ya, he's--”
“I said shut up!” Antoinette shouted, hurling her bento at Yuki's face. It hit him with a loud, satisfying smack that earned the attention of everyone else remaining in the classroom. Antoinette didn't seem to notice, instead huffing and picking up her schoolbag. “Now you've ruined my lunch, Yuki!” she said. “I'll have to see if there's more melon bread left!”
With that, she stormed out, slamming the door shut behind her.
There was a long moment of silence before everyone else slowly went back to their meals and conversations. Ti shook slightly as he stared out of Hiromi's bag. “I don't think I like that girl, datchu,” he whispered. Coffee patted him gently.
Mirai and Hiromi sat in stunned silence. Eventually, Mirai coughed into her hand. “Uhm...well, I did get the feeling Rayne would be a little 'off' today... Ah, Hiromi! You should meet up with Aki!”
“That's right!” Hiromi gasped, standing straight up. Quickly, she grabbed her bag, and headed for the door. “See you after lunch!”
As Hiromi made her way to the rooftop, Coffee poked her head out of the bag again, sniffing. Her eyes closed as she took another long, deep inhale, then smiled. “Hey. Hey, Your Highness, something smells good...”
“Really?” Ti poked his own head out, mimicking Coffee. Sniff, sniffff... “Ah! Someone has hamburger!”
“You think we can get some? I don't like subs, and we can't possibly ask Aki for something else.”
“Eh?” Ti turned his surprised gaze towards Coffee. “B-But – we'll get in trouble! We can't leave Hiromi alone, datchu! We're supposed to--”
But as he was speaking, Coffee was gently tugging on his tiny paws, leading him out of the bag. “It's okay,” she whispered reassuringly. “We'll catch up with her before she knows we've left. This isn't too much different from when you ran away from your tutors, is it?” she added with a small smile. “And... And you were fine because Cure Ariel was with you. Well, I'll be with you too, so you'll be alright. Okay?”
Ti, whose face had taken an odd expression when he'd heard Ariel's name, swallowed audibly. He looked down, brow furrowed slightly.
”As long as I'm here, you'll be fine.”
He nodded. “Okay, datchu.”
“Good!” Coffee smiled, leaping down to the floor, paw-in-paw with Ti. “We'll be back before they know it!”
Antoinette walked down the hallway, glaring straight ahead at nothing in particular. A plastic bag swung in her hand, right alongside her schoolbag. She sighed quietly, eyes closing briefly. “I really don't want to go back to the classroom...” she muttered to herself. “Not after that outburst...” Her eyes opened again--
--and she froze, staring wide-eyed at two small creatures, who stared back in obvious alarm.
“....rats?” she whispered.
It happened too fast for them to react. Antoinette's eyes narrowed again, and she quickly bent down, snatching up the smaller one first and dropping him into her schoolbag. When the large one ran...towards the bag (and Antoinette briefly thought that was a bit strange), she was captured too. The blonde girl stood suddenly, clasping the bag shut tightly with her hand on it, making absolutely sure it wouldn't fly open or something. She looked around the empty hallway, and then ran for the stairs.
In Heartbreak Manor, a young man sat alone in his room, a cloth in one hand and a gleaming sword in the other. His face held no emotion, he simply stared at nothingness as he gave the metal one final polish. Not that there was anything to clean off...
Shylock studied his reflection in his sword. It – both the sword and his reflection – was perfect. The sword hadn't been used in a long time, hadn't tasted blood in ages. His reflection was a perfect copy of his face; not twisted or ugly or anything symbolic like that.
He looked as he always did.
Something flickered in his eyes, and he closed them, stood...
...and set the sword back in its proper place, on the wall.
“Ehhhhh?~ You're not taking the sword, Shylock?”
He turned around, walking right past Tamora without a glance at her. The girl blinked curiously, twirling around to watch him go.
“But that's your sword! You gotta bring a weapon to fight Pretty Cure! Lord Break said so!”
“It isn't quite a simple battle,” Shylock said, a statement that made Tamora tilt her head and frown. “A Heartbreak Marker and a good target are all I need...” He paused outside the door. “Don't tell Ariel where I've gone.” And then he left.
“Okay, one more time.”
”Push!” Coffee whispered loudly, and she and Ti pushed hard against the flap over the bag. It moved a little, but not enough. Coffee growled and was about to suggest trying again when Ti tripped over a pink pencil case. “Ah! You okay, Your Highness?” she asked, helping him up.
Coffee smiled briefly. “Good...” Then her expression grew sad, and she looked down at the messy floor of their prison. “I'm sorry, Your Highness...I said you'd be alright as long as I was here, and now look where we are...I've failed you.”
Ti blinked, trying not to look too upset himself. “Y-You didn't--”
Whatever he was about to say next was cut off, as he and Coffee found themselves dropped. Or rather, the bag fell, and they felt it. The two held onto each other as the bag fell sideways, school supplies spilling around them. His eyes widened as he noticed the flap seemed to be open a little more. “Ah! C-Coffee, datchu!”
This time, it took only a few seconds to push the flap up, and then run out of the bag. But that was as far as they got.
Coffee stood in the middle of a large bed, blinking in surprise. They were...in a girl's bedroom. A very nice one, too, from the looks of it. Very clean, not a speck of dust on the cream-colored carpet, the fluffy pink bed was immaculately-made, the bookshelves were neat and tidy. Even the white lace curtains at the windows were perfectly symmetrical and clean. And look, even outside the window was – they could see Aki's house! This girl was Aki's neighbor!
The only thing that even slightly had Coffee on edge was the large cage in the corner of the room, sitting atop of a bunch of newspapers. Why would a human girl need such a huge cage, and with so many large tubes in it?
Clearly it was meant to hold them, whenever their captor returned from...wherever it was she'd gone to. What a foolish guard, to leave her victims all alone! Coffee chuckled to herself, picking Ti up onto her back. “Alright, Your Highness. We'll take advantage of our guard being gone, and--”
And the door opened.
Coffee tensed up as Antoinette approached the bed, something in her hands. She clenched her teeth as Ti sobbed and hid his face in her furry shoulder. She'd managed to outrun shadowy monsters, she would outrun a human girl if she had to!
...a fast human girl, and this was her domain, but she still must have stood a chance!
Antoinette grinned down at the two...
...and set the plate she was holding in front of them. “Here you go, guys,” she said in a gentle, low voice.
Coffee blinked in surprise, and Ti lifted his head to stare. Now that the thing – no, the plate – was lowered, Coffee wondered how she couldn't see the steam rising from the top. Or smell the stuff on it.
“It's hamburger,” Antoinette said with a small laugh. “Go on...” When the critters didn't move to eat, and instead kept staring wide-eyed, she reached out and took off a bit of meat with her thumb and forefinger. “See, it's good!” She gently blew on it, then popped the bite in her mouth, chewing happily. “Mmmmm-mm! See?” She tore off another piece and held it out to the rat, chuckling as she sniffed at it.
The rat looked back at the little mouse on her shoulder, then at Antoinette again. Then she lunged forward and seized the hamburger between her paws and began devouring it. Antoinette laughed again, wiping her fingers on her skirt. “Tasty, huh? It's a little savory, since it came from the school, though. But I made sure to drain most of the juices before I put it on the plate.” She tore off another segment, this time feeding herself as the rat just helped herself to the food. Antoinette grinned a bit as the mouse rolled off and nibbled a little meat, too, staring up with wide, curious eyes.
“But I just don't get why you were in school,” Antoinette murmured, frowning. “I mean, rodents don't last very long in a place like a high school – no offense meant to you two, of course, it's just what your animal class is called! - and we don't normally get mice or rats up here.” Her frown deepened. “And then there are these ribbons, so obviously you're someone's pets, I suppose...”
The rat actually looked a bit offended.
Antoinette laughed, then lay on her bed and stroked the mouse, who was still eating, with her fingertip. “Well, don't worry. I'll take care of you until I can find who your owner is...
“And til then, we can have some fun, ohoho~!”
Eyecatch 1: Hiromi and Aki lean over a small box, watching in anticipation as Ti and Coffee turn the handle. It appears to be a small jack-in-the-box, but when the lid suddenly pops open, it sends a spray of heart-shaped confetti all over them. The four of them laugh, and the Entwined Hearts logo appears in the corner.
Eyecatch 2: Cure Capulet and Cure Montague run at each other from opposite sides of the screen. The slide across the floor, intending on strike a pose together, but while Montague stops, Capulet keeps sliding. She briefly flails her arms in panic, and Montague grabs her around the waist to stop her. The momentum results in Capulet being held in a dip as she and Montague lock eyes. Montague laughs while Capulet blushes, and the Entwined Hearts logo appears in the corner.
“Alright, everyone, welcome back. Hopefully you all had a good lunch – hm?” Mrs Matoko's gaze went to a seat she was sure had been occupied earlier. “Where's Rayne?”
Yuki raised his hand. “She was here earlier; she just said she was going to get some lunch and left.”
After a brief pause, Mrs Matoko shrugged and turned back to the board. “She must've eaten something bad and went home... I keep telling them, they need to prepare some of their meat better.”
Hiromi frowned and looked down at her bag. Hm...Coffee and Ti hadn't said anything at all the entire lunch break. She'd assumed they were napping and shouldn't be disturbed, and now she was kinda glad she hadn't woken them. The meatball subs were fine to her, but rats and mice had more delicate stomachs, right? They might have gotten sick if she'd woken them up!
But still, they must be hungry now, right? And Hiromi did have a few macarons left over. She reached into her desk to take some out of their little box, opened her schoolbag--
And a loud yelp sounded from her desk, catching everyone's attention. Mrs Matoko lowered the chalk she held. “Satou?! Are you alright? You look pale!”
Hiromi stood at her desk, holding her open schoolbag at chest-level. She stared straight ahead, her glasses opaque, slack-jawed. “I-I-I--” she stammered, then gulped and bowed. “I feel sick! I need to go home! Bye-bye!” And without another word, she bolted out of the classroom and down the hall.
After a brief pause, Aki thrust her hand into the air and doubled over. “Ohhhh, Mrs Matoko, my stomach suddenly hurts very badly! I have to leave, too!” A second later, Aki was gone.
Mrs Matoko stood there for a second, then sighed and rubbed her temple. “Does anyone else suddenly have a bad stomachache?” she groaned.
”What do you mean they're gone?!” Aki shrieked, running down the hill and into town.
“I mean I looked in my bag and they're not there! If they were in school they would have gone back to the classroom or said something or – What if I dropped them on our way to school?!” Hiromi suddenly gasped, hands flying up to her cheeks. “What if they're being chased by a cat?! What if they got hit by a car?! What if a chef saw them and he was thinking of making mouse soup and has fresh ingredients?!”
“Hiromi, calm down - You're making me more anxious than I already am! Just try not to think about how much trouble they could be getting into!”
”Gyaaaaaaah, I'm imagining it!”
Ti ran as fast as his little legs could take him, breathing heavily. His eyes were wide, focused. He could hear laughter in the background, but paid no attention to it – it wasn't important, not compared to this.
He leaped, but just before he could land on the brightly-colored ribbon, it was pulled away.
“Ahaha, almost~” Antoinette laughed as the little mouse looked around for the toy. “Come on, you can do it!” She gave the toy – a bright pink ribbon attached to a thin, black rod – another twitch, moving the ribbon to another spot on the floor. “C'mon, your friend got it in no time flat, you can do it!”
Her expression softened somewhat as she watched the mouse try to pin the runaway ribbon again, finally succeeding. Her seized it between his front paws and began biting down on it, rolling over it enough to get tangled up. Antoinette chuckled. “I knew you could do it, cutie... I hope your owner has a ribbon for you at their house. Eh?”
Antoinette jerked her head up to see the rat had wandered onto her desk and was climbing onto a stack of papers. ”Get down from there!” she shouted.
The rat actually jumped, and turned to stare at her. Antoinette dropped the ribbon, seized the mouse, and stormed over the desk. In one swift motion, she grabbed the rat by the scruff of the neck and held it up to her face, glaring down at it. “You stay away from those papers! They're not food! They are not food!” she snapped, giving the rat a little shake.
The rat just stared in what could only be stunned horror.
Antoinette's hard glare slowly softened, and she sighed. She carefully moved her hands around the rat to hold her in one cupped hand, gently petting down her disturbed fur with the other hand. “I'm sorry, sweetheart... I've just been having a bad few days. I didn't mean to take it out on you, honest, I didn't...”
The rat turned around to look at the papers again.
The top of the paper was blank; clearly something was meant to go in that space later. Below that was some thick, bold text.
Three years old
Answers to Bitsy
If found, please contact Antoinette Rayne at XXX-XXXX. Give him some hamburger before I fetch him, it's his favorite
“I've had him since he was just a baby,” Antoinette explained, her voice thick. “But a few days ago, Papa wasn't paying attention, and he was talking to Mama with our door wide open. I'd let Bitsy out to get some exercise, and before any of us could stop him...” She sniffled, then sobbed faintly, wiping at her eyes. “I-I've done everything. I've put up posters, but Mrs Hisa keeps putting Noa's posters over them by accident. I set out hamburger – his favorite food in the whole world - near my house but strays eat them instead. I keep going out to look for him after school and it's... He's my best friend in the world...And I can't find him...” she sobbed lightly.
She could have sworn the little mouse was patting her shoulder in sympathy, murmuring “datchu” at her.
“Coffeeee!” Aki shouted, hands cupped around her mouth.
“Tiii! Where are you?!” Hiromi added. She lowered her hands, her glasses opaque again. “Please don't be in trouble!” she called again.
“Hiromi, cut it out!” Aki gave her a horrified look. Then she blinked, and her panicked expression faded. Just past her girlfriend, there was something small and furry, something lurking behind a nearby trashcan. “Coffee!” she yelled. “Or Ti!” She bolted past Hiromi, arms outstretched--
--a dark blur shot past the furry thing and took it before Aki could react.
Both girls blinked. “Wh-what the--”
“You two are Pretty Cure, aren't you?”
They looked up to see a boy only a little older than themselves. He had lime-green, emotionless eyes, and dark shoulder-length hair. His clothes were varying shades of dark gray; a long-sleeved shirt with two coattails in the back, thick pants, and black shoes. The only splash of color he wore was the bright red scarf around his neck.
And he had simply appeared from nowhere, and was holding the creature – a fat ferret – by its neck. And he knew who they were.
Well, in a situation like that, there was only one explanation.
“Shitsuren!” Aki whispered harshly.
Ti tensed up, gasping faintly. Without a word, he turned and leaped off of Antoinette's shoulder, running for the door.
“H-Huh? Hey, wait, sweetie!” Antoinette called after him, giving chase. Whoa, he was already running down the hall and for the front door! How fast was this little guy? “Where're you going?! Come back!”
Ti stopped at the front door, threw himself against it a few times, then scurried up the floor-length curtain towards the window.
Too late. He jumped out. And Antoinette threw the door open and gave chase, Coffee clinging to her shoulder for dear life. “Waaaiiit! I can't lose you too! I'm supposed to take care of you!” she called, voice tight.
“You haven't denied it, and you know where my loyalties lie,” Shylock intoned, hefting the ferret higher.
“Put him down!” Hiromi screamed, panic rising in her voice.
“Wait, little guy, come – Oh my God, Bitsy!”
Hiromi and Aki whirled around to see Antoinette racing towards them, eyes wide and shining with the beginning of tears. “Antoinette, stay away!” Hiromi yelled, throwing her arm out and shaking her head. “Run!”
Shylock threw the ferret high into the air. As it flew above their heads, squirming and making loud distressed noises, (Antoinette could be heard screaming in horror) he swiftly uncapped his marker and drew the familiar heart shape in the air and slashed it in half. Another slashing motion of his arm, and the symbol shot towards the animal. “Fall into heartbreaking despair! Come on out, Usotsuki!” he shouted.
Hiromi and Aki could only shield their eyes from the flash of purple light, and then stare in horror at what Bitsy had become. The ferret had grown to the size of a house, its once tawny color pitch black, with purple paws. Large fangs that dripped thick saliva protruded from its jaw, and its eyes were nothing more than bright red coals. When Bitsy-Usotsuki opened its mouth, more of the horrible red glow could be seen. ”USOOOOOO!”
Antoinette stood frozen, staring in horror and despair. “....Bitsy?” she whispered.
The Usotsuki didn't attack... it lowered its head, paws up over its ears, and roared. The cry was ear-piercing, but anyone paying attention could tell it sounded in pain.
The tears threatened to overflow. “Bitsy?!”
Eleven-year-old Antoinette stared down at the tiny ball of fuzz in her hands.
A baby ferret yawned, stretched, and began washing its face, much to the girl's delight.
Later that evening, she dangled a bright pink ribbon above the ferret's head, laughing as he jumped up to grab it. “Good boy, good boy~!” she cooed. The ribbon was set aside, Antoinette leaned forward and picked up the ferret, cuddling her cheek against him.
Even later, at bedtime, she slept soundly with the ferret curled under her chin, snoring delicately. “I love you,” Antoinette mumbled in her sleep.
“Bitsy!” she screamed again, then directed her gaze to Shylock. “You monster! What have you done to my beloved Bitsy?!”
“Antoinette, you need to get outta here, datchu!” Ti suddenly yelled, leaping off her shoulder and standing in front of her.
Antoinette wasn't listening. Nor did she really notice the little mouse was talking. All her attention was on Shylock. “Change him back!” she shrieked, more tears gathering in her eyes. ”Give me back my Bitsy! Stop hurting him!” She roared in fury and charged towards Shylock.
Shylock simply jumped out of the way, so quickly he might as well have teleported. He reappeared atop a phone pole right next to Bitsy-Usotsuki. “Come on, then, Pretty Cure...My Usotsuki is hurting, a living creature is suffering, and you don't seem to care enough to save it... I suppose the stories that Cures held the brightest love in their hearts were all wrong,” he added in a bitter tone.
“Antoinette, please, get away!” Aki shouted, bringing her hand up to her mouth. The Cure Signets...they had to transform, but with Antoinette here – they'd never transformed in front of someone like this, could they--
“I see you two need incentive,” Shylock murmured. He uncapped the marker again, drawing a heart in mid-air and slashing through it. Another swipe, and the symbol split in two and shot down towards Antoinette.
Antoinette, who'd been running towards the pole to try and get Shylock again, was hit directly in the chest. She cried out sharply as if her oxygen had been cut off, then her legs buckled beneath her and she fell to the ground. A black aura appeared around her as the tears she'd been trying to hold back finally fell, pouring in small streams down her face. She tilted her head back, mouth opened wide as she began half-sobbing, half-screaming. ”AH-AAAAAH....BITSYYYY AHH...!” she wailed, shoulders heaving, a little snot escaping her nose.
Shylock paid no mind to her suffering. He simply recapped the marker, eyeing her coolly. “Your heartbreak will fill the River Despair and flood the world.”
By Heartbreak Manor, the water over the falls suddenly turned black, frothing and churning harder than ever before it continued over the edge of the cliffside, something like black lightning dancing over it.
Hiromi's hands curled into fists, pressed against her chest. “Antoinette...Bitsy...” She shut her eyes, gritting her teeth, then glared up at Shylock. “They did nothing to you! Bitsy's not even doing anything!”
“Bitsy never wanted to fight! He still doesn't!” Aki added.
Sure enough, Bitsy-Usotsuki was still writhing in pain. It lashed out with its front paws, smashing a streetlight into pieces, but it didn't seem to be on purpose. It was an unconscious reaction, a response to pain rather than a desire to hurt others.
“Pretty Cure, Love's Song!”
“The innocent love in a maiden's heart, Cure Capulet!”
“The sincere love in a maiden's heart, Cure Montague!”
“Our hearts connected! Pretty Cure Entwined Hearts!”
“So, you have enough love to transform,” Shylock noted. “But what else?”
Bitsy-Usotsuki roared in agony again, and thrashed. Another telephone pole was bent, the wood splintering and nearly hitting the still-crying Antoinette. He roared one more time, took one weak, pained step forward--
--and began to fall down towards Antoinette.
“Antoinette!” Montague cried, and she ran forward. In the blink of an eye, she'd grabbed Antoinette around the middle and leaped out of the way, taking her classmate with her. She winced as Antoinette kept crying directly into her ear, but showed no sign of annoyance.
“Bitsy...Bitsyyyy!” Antoinette shrieked between sobs.
Montague felt her heart twisting into knots at the sound. “You love him so much, don't you...?” she murmured.
Down below, Capulet had run forward and grabbed Bitsy-Usotsuki's arms, pinning them to the ground to keep him from moving. He continued to thrash, however, his larger tail and legs knocking aside cars, trash cans, bending more metal and wooden poles alongside the street. He roared again, the sound making Capulet's ears ring.
But she still held fast.
“You're hurting... You never asked for this, neither you nor Antoinette did! Neither of you deserve to hurt so much!”
In the air, Montague began to fall back down to earth, Antoinette in her arms. She hugged the girl tight, patting her back. “We'll save Bitsy... I promise, Antoinette!”
“Well, I was wondering, when's it my turn to walk to school with you?”
“You were lonely...And you wanted someone to help you find Bitsy!” Montague realized.
Meanwhile, Capulet looked into Bitsy-Usotsuki's glowing red eyes, her heart breaking at the sight of tears dotting the lashes. “You're scared. All you wanted was to go home, to be with your human again, and this happened!”
Montague landed and gently deposited Antoinette on the street. “We'll definitely...”
Capulet let go and leaped away before she could be struck by the still-thrashing Bitsy-Usotsuki. “Montague!” she cried, throwing her hand out.
Montague grabbed her hand. “Right!”
The Rapier Wands appeared before them, and they aimed directly at Bitsy-Usotsuki's heart. ”Pretty Cure Dual Heart Strike!”
Instead of a hole being blasted through him, Bitsy-Usotsuki was bathed in warm light, glowing hearts dancing around him. He slowly relaxed, as if the pain was leaving him. ”Uso....” he began to growl, but that soon faded into a sleep, and almost relieved, ”...dook.”
The light flashed a warm gold, and Bitsy lay curled up on the sidewalk. The damage he'd caused magically reversed itself, Antoinette stopped crying and slowly sank to the ground, as if in sleep.
The young man just clapped once. “Bravo,” he said flatly.
“What was this even about?!” Montague yelled. “What were you talking about, about love and PreCure having the brightest hearts and all that? And who are you?”
“Montague, calm down...” Capulet murmured.
“My name is Shylock,” the young man said, briefly inclining his head. “And I came to perform a test. ...you've passed, but this may not be a good thing for you.”
And with that, he teleported away.
“Shyloooock! I thought you were gonna defeat theeeem! Isn't that what Break wanted?!” Tamora whined, fists under her chin.
“Tamora, please, it's too early for this...” Riche groaned.
“It's always too early for this.”
Tamora puffed her cheeks out and pouted. She was about to say something when Shylock spoke up, catching her attention.
“Break wanted me to face Pretty Cure, but not to defeat them. They merely wanted to see how strong their hearts were, their resolve...”
Lady's brows lowered, and she managed a look of concern even without opening her eyes. “But that wasn't all, was it, Shylock?” she whispered, setting down a tray of tea.
Shylock was silent, staring out the window.
Lady sighed, pushing a teacup and sugar bowl towards him. “Lord Break likely wanted to be certain you wouldn't fall again. He was so worried about the last time--”
“It will not happen again.”
“Hmm...” Antoinette's brow furrowed for a moment before she opened her eyes, blinking blearily as she sat up. She looked around, confused. “Huh? Why am I lying on a dirty street?”
“You tripped!” Aki offered, smiling sheepishly and scratching the back of her head. “You managed to catch you but I guess the shock of it made you pass out?”
Hiromi gave Aki an odd look. “Just because it happened to me once doesn't mean you can--” she began mumbling.
Antoinette suddenly gasped and sat straight up. “Ah! The mouse and rat! I was chasing the mouse outside – h-he got loose and--” Her gaze went to Hiromi, and she noticed the mouse and rat on her shoulders. Antoinette sighed in relief, shoulders slumping. “Oh...thank goodness...Are they yours, Satou?”
“They're very cute and behaved beautifully. I can tell you take good care of them,” Antoinette smiled and reached out for Ti. She patted him between the ears with a fingertip, chuckling as Ti began to nuzzle her. “No wonder Aki likes you so much... Only someone with a good heart can raise such nice animals.”
“Say, about animals...” Aki held out a fuzzy thing that Antoinette had overlooked til this point. “Is this the guy from the flier?”
Antoinette looked down – and her eyes went wide, cheeks turning pink. “Bitsy!” she cried, holding her arms open.
With a cheery 'dook!' the ferret leaped out of Aki's arms and into Antoinette's. He buried his snout between her neck and shoulder, nuzzling and making tiny little ferret noises, his little claws grasping her shirt tightly. Antoinette, for her part, was sobbing openly again, but this time in happiness. She hugged Bitsy tightly, gently stroking him all the way from his head to tail. “Oh, thank God! I was so scared, Bitsy, I was so – Don't ever go near the front door again, Bitsy! Oh my God... Satou, Aki, thank you so much for finding him!” she added, turning her tear-streaked face towards the two.
“Y-You're welcome...” Hiromi stammered.
“Hey, Antoinette?” Aki said. “You know, uhm...Bitsy looks like he loves you a lot, and...well, you did say people with good hearts are good with animals, and you did ask about walking to school together--”
Antoinette flushed red. “O-Oh, I'm sorry about that, dreadfully sorry! I don't know what--”
“If you want, we can all walk together?” Aki suggested. Hiromi nodded. “I mean, your house is near mine, right? And we can talk about taking care of our pets!”
“I'm not--!” Coffee began, but Hiromi covered her mouth.
“What do you say?” Aki added, holding one hand out.
There was a long pause as Antoinette looked from Aki, to Hiromi, to Aki's hand. Then she looked to the little animals she'd taken care of earlier, and at Bitsy still hugging her.
Finally, she closed her eyes, smiled and nodded.
“Wow, Coffee sure likes that hamburger...” Hiromi said the next day, watching Antoinette feed the rat some of her lunch.
“Her name is Coffee? What a weird name, Satou! Did you come up with it after pulling an all-nighter?” Antoinette asked with a deep frown. Then she blinked, and looked sheepishly down at the rat in her lap. “Er – I didn't mean it that way, I apologize... It's kinda cute, I guess.”
Ti smiled from his position on Aki's shoulder. It was kind of funny, really, how pets had made the three of them friends. And how much his opinion of Antoinette had changed since he first heard her.
“Aki~? Can I feed Ti some hamburger too~~?”
“Sure. Ah, Antoinette, eh... you know, I'm not looking in dating someone right now, so if you could pull back that tone you used just now--”
“Oh, right!” Antoinette turned red again. “Sorry!”
Yup, Ti thought to himself as he sampled the hamburger he'd been offered. Changed a lot.
ED: "Hummingbird" - Mana Ogawa
ON THE NEXT EPISODE:
Aki: “Waaaah, Hiromi, this parfait is the best ever!”
Hiromi: U-Uhm, but I like this lava cake...But really, all the desserts here are delicious!”
Aki: “Oh no wait! This new thing is the best ever! I could eat it all day and never get sick of it!”
Coffee: “Uh-oh! I think this sweet's actually bad for you!”
Aki: “Next time on Pretty Cure Entwined Hearts: Cafe-Commotion! A Recipe for Chaos!' Let love heal your heart!"