Miho set a plate of hamburger steak in the fridge, plastic film wrapped over it and adorned with a sticky note. For Nana. Eat up! She stood back and glanced at the clock on the wall. Her small smile faltered a bit. “Welp, time to go...”
She threw on her sweater, stepped into her shoes, and was about to go out the door when something sharply tugged her back. “Eh?” she gasped, looking over her shoulder.
Pochi stood there, a bit of sweater in his mouth, ears and tail lowered. He whined pathetically, staring at her with wide eyes as he tugged on her sweater again, taking a step back into the house.
Miho stood for a moment, staring, before her expression softened. “Pochi...” She turned to face him and crouched down, scratching him between the ears. “Pochi, are you worried for me?”
He whined again.
“You shouldn't!” She smiled brightly, tugging her sweater out of his mouth. “I'm strong, Pochi, all three of us are! You know that!” But then, he also knew what Shitsuren was like, and what their home was like, didn't he? After all, he'd come from that place. Miho shook her head to clear those negative thoughts, and gave Pochi an extra-good scratch. “I'll be home before tomorrow...and then you and I can go on a long walk together, and I'll buy you a steak from the grocery store. 'kay?” Without waiting for an answer, she stood up and opened the door. “Take care of Nana today. Make sure she sees her food.”
Pochi just watched as the door closed again, shutting Miho from his view. He began whimpering pathetically, scratching a little at the door before giving up and curling into a ball.
OP: "Love and Joy PreCure" - Entwined Hearts Duo
“Ah, Miss Sakura, right?”
“Huh?” Miho turned around, blinking in surprise at the familiar figure. “Mrs Hisa!”
The woman stood at a phone pole, stapling up a new flier. “The ink was fading on the old ones,” she explained when she noticed Miho glance at it. “Are you going off somewhere?”
“Ah – yeah...”
“Well, be careful if you're on your own, okay?” Mrs Hisa stapled a second flier above the first. “Noa disappeared when she was by herself.”
Miho looked sheepish, kicking the ground a bit. “Mrs Hisa, I appreciate the concern but--”
“And...and there was the incident at the Culture Fest.”
Miho froze, staring at the woman.
She didn't seem to notice, staring ahead and frowning as if trying to recall something. “There was that giant, dark bear, remember? It's...it's the oddest thing, but I swear I remember something like it when Noa disappeared.”
Miho gasped faintly. Wait...could that possibly mean--?
Aki and Hiromi stood in front of the mirror as they waited for Miho. Hiromi was idly petting Coffee and Ti, who sat on her shoulders anxiously. “Did you tell your family you'd be late?” she asked Aki.
Aki shook her head. “Nah.”
Hiromi blinked and shot her head back up to look at Aki, her eyes wide. “You didn't?!” she squeaked.
“Well...well, yeah...but I told them I'd be studying at a friend's. And then I prepared a pot of tea for them.” Hiromi's gaze softened, and she looked back down at her shoes. “My sisters would have appreciated it...and I didn't want to leave for some other, dangerous world without doing something nice for them. You know...in case I didn't come back.”
“Hiromi.” Aki rested a hand on her shoulder, smiling softly. “We're comin' back. That's why I didn't say anything to Emma and Sebastian, or Granny. Why I didn't do anything special for them. Because I'm gonna come back at the end of the day, so why worry?”
“That's right, datchu!”
Hiromi managed a small smile. “I--”
Miho stood at the bottom of the stairs, grinning up at them. She quickly climbed the stairs, til they all stood in a row before the mirror. “You guys ready?”
Hiromi sighed. “As I'll ever be...”
Ti and Coffee nodded, cheering “Yeah! (Datchu!)”
“Okay...” All five faced their reflections – Miho reached out to either side of her and grabbed Aki and Hiromi's hands. “Remember what Punch said...Think of water.”
Water...the glass was water...
The girls walked forward, and didn't stop even when their shoes should have kicked the glass. They continued walking...and passed straight into the mirror, leaving only silvery ripples behind.
TODAY'S EPISODE: The Missing Classmate...Our Fourth Member?!
Lightning flashed above Heartbreak Manor. Normally this wasn't a big deal; after all, black lightning flashed and danced above the River Despair every time it was added to.
But this was normal, regular and honestly kinda-boring lightning.
Almost like an omen, maybe.
Tamora sighed heavily, staring out the window with her chin in her hands. She, Lady, and Riche sat in the parlor, the tea party having just finished; Lady putting away the tea set. “Shylock missed tea, again...” she sighed again, slowly kicking her feet behind herself.
“I was informed that he had a plan for Pretty Cure,” Riche said. “He is probably doing that.”
Another loud, heaving sigh. “But tea is important too...And he doesn't spend time with us anymore! It's no faaaaiiir...”
Lady smiled faintly. “Tamora, dear, our mission is of most importance. I don't mind if someone misses the occasional teatime, so long as they're working on exterminating Pretty Cure. Don't you?”
Tamora huffed. “Not really.”
Lightning flashed again, lighting up the darkest corners of the room.
“It's dark in here, datchu!”
“It's okay, Ti. Just stay on my shoulder.”
“Hiromi, is Miho still holding your other hand?”
“I'm right here, and yeah, I am.”
“It looked nothing like this when Ti and I went through the first time...”
The quintet were hurtling forward through a void of shifting black and purple, shadows whirling all around them. It was difficult to see anything, the girls having to squeeze each others' hands to make doubly-sure they were all still there. Whenever they tried to look in any direction, all they could see was just...those two colors. Constantly shifting and churning around each other, darkness buzzing about like a swarm.
“It was bright when we left,” Coffee whispered, hugging Ti tightly on Hiromi's shoulder. “Just as bright as the castle was when--”
“Hey! Up there!” Aki suddenly yelled.
Up ahead, there was a tiny pinprick of light. It was dim, but as they watched, it suddenly flashed brighter, and they could faintly hear a low rumbling.
“Thunder. Lightning,” Miho muttered, eyes narrowed. “Let's go!”
They suddenly sped up, seemingly by their own willpower. The light grew larger, closer...
...until they all burst out of a mirror and into a dark hallway, landing in a painful pile on the floor. Capulet stuck her hand out as Ti and Coffee landed in her palm, keeping them from getting a stray elbow or knee to the...everything.
“Owwww ow ow!”
“Portia, you're on my hair!”
“Quiet!” Coffee whispered.
Pretty Cure tensed up, holding their breaths as they listened for something – anything at all. Coffee held Ti against her side, one paw over her own mouth, ears twitching as she waited. Seconds ticked by, nothing happening. Finally, everyone sighed quietly and began to untangle themselves, rising to their feet.
Then they were able to properly look around.
“Is this...?” Capulet began.
“Where Shitsuren lives,” Montague finished, squeezing her hand in reassurance.
They all stood at the very end of the hallway; from where they stood they could see that the manor was beautiful and grand, in its own way. The carpets were a dark red with a black tint, almost like blood. The wallpaper was a brighter red, and black, a repeating lace pattern – a surprising image, considering who lived here. There were large, tall windows every five feet along one of the walls, showing that this particular hall was against the side of the manor.
Capulet tentatively stepped to one of the windows and peered out. Her eyes widened and she gasped faintly at the sight before her. “Everyone!” she whispered.
As the others joined her, they saw that they were in a very large home, and at one of the top floors at that. The land outside was barren, nothing but flat rock and cliffside. The skies above were dark and stormy, black clouds churning thickly above. A tiny sliver of moonlight was all that was permitted to appear, the only light the Cures were offered in this place.
As they watched, lightning flashed, illuminating the hall for a moment. And as they looked around, they noticed in that one second, the walls were also covered in large, deep scratches, the wallpaper nearest the floor torn to shreds. The carpets along the baseboard were shredded as well: loose pieces torn up, fuzzy pieces strewn all over, whole chunks of the baseboards embedded in the carpet itself. There was no blood, not even stains, but perhaps that in itself was frightening.
If there was no blood, then it meant either whoever had caused such horrid destruction hadn't wanted to actually harm a living person...Or there hadn't been anything left to bleed.
Portia covered her mouth and drew closer to the other two. “What could have caused that?” she whispered. “None of Shitsuren have nails that can do that!”
Montague set her jaw. “I think we should keep from being seen,” she whispered. “Everyone, move, and try to stay quiet...Once we find Cure Ariel, we're leaving.”
The unspoken rules were simple as the quintet moved quietly from one hall to the next.
Avoid being seen.
Be very quiet.
If you see Shitsuren, make sure they don't see you – they're at the advantage, this is their home, not yours. If you see them, just get away quietly.
They figured those should be easy rules to follow – after all, this place was huge. Which, of course, made finding Cure Ariel difficult, but at least it left little chance of being seen, right?
After roughly twenty minutes of walking, they had neither been seen, nor seen where Cure Ariel might be. But there was still a lot of manor left to explore; Capulet opened an unlocked door and peered around inside. Luckily for them all, the hinges were well-oiled, and the doors opened completely silently.
“Nothing in here,” she whispered, squinting into the room. “It's a lady's bedroom, but there's no girl here.”
“Is someone in bed?” Portia asked.
“Well, I was just wondering,” she explained, arms over her chest. “I mean, we haven't seen anyone yet, I was starting to hope they were all asleep.”
“We only left in the afternoon,” Montague said.
“This is another world, Montague. And these people aren't quite human. For all we know, time moves differently here and they're nocturnal.”
“Hm, you've got a point there...”
Capulet sighed and shut the door. Or rather, she began to.
She suddenly tensed, hearing something other than her friends' whispers. “Girls,” she whispered. “Do you hear that?”
They all fell silent, watching as Capulet edged into the room.
It was a lovely room, though just as dark as the rest of the manor. A large four-poster bed was pushed against the wall opposite the door, the deep violet curtains pushed aside and the matching bedspread immaculately made-up. There was an ornate nightstand beside it, with an elegant-looking black key atop it. Against another wall was a large cabinet with a glass door, revealing the interior to be filled with various tea sets, dozens of tins of what she assumed to be tea leaves, fragrant boxes...
And in the corner was a door that Capulet assumed to be a closet. But the door gave way a little, the wood straining and creaking against the pressure of something. And whatever that something was, it was also clawing at the door, growling and snarling.
Capulet reached for the knob. She was halfway-there where there was a loud sound between a howl and a shriek on the other side. She, and the other four, jumped in alarm, her hands flying up to her throat.
“Hiromi, get away from there, datchu!” Ti cried as a loud WHUMP sounded against the door, making the frame creak and tremble again.
Capulet turned and ran for the others, and they took off down the hall without pausing to close their door again.
“Wh-what was that?!” Portia asked at last, once they were far enough away from that room.
“I don't wanna know!” Coffee said, trembling faintly.
“Either way,” Montague began. “I think we should stay away--”
Capulet suddenly gasped and pulled Montague's shoulder, yanking her backwards just as she was about to turn a corner. When Montague eyed her in confusion, Capulet held a finger to her lips.
Sure enough, there was the faint sound of humming, and they heard Tamora bounding down the hallway, straight towards their location. They turned and ran the other direction, turning the first corner they saw and waiting, hiding. Holding their breath.
Soon enough, Tamora's voice slowly faded into the distance, and everyone found they could breathe easier.
“Sheesh, we ran from Tamora... muttered Portia, rubbing the back of her neck in embarrassment. “Of all people!”
“The scratches, though,” whispered Coffee. “Maybe she was the one who made them. We did see her throw exploding cards when we fled Kokoro.”
“Explosions don't leave long gashes in wood!” Capulet whispered harshly.
“Pretty Cure, datchu...” Ti whispered tearfully.
That was enough to make everyone stop whispering. They sighed, leaning against the wall. “Shall we keep going this way, then?” Montague asked.
“Might as well,” Portia answered, and they set off again, keeping their eyes and ears open.
Riche sighed and set down his teacup. “Tamora?”
Tamora, who had just entered the room, paused mid-skip and turned to look at him. “Yeah-yeah?”
“Have you seen Lady? Or Shylock?”
“Hmm...well, Shylock hasn't come back at all, still,” Tamora muttered, arms folded as she pursed her lips. “And Lady said she was going to clean and put away the tea set. But that was the last I saw her.” She suddenly blinked and tilted her head. “Why?”
“Hm...No real reason.” Riche began to drum his fingertips against the arm of his chair. “I just have this oddest feeling of trepidation.”
The door to that bedroom was still open.
Someone slipped in, paused by the door before making their way to the nightstand and taking the key.
They went to the locked door, gently slipping the key into the lock. When the faint click was heard, they tensed up, waiting...preparing themselves...
They flung the door open, keeping themselves behind it and hidden, protected.
Eyecatch 1: Hiromi and Aki pose back to back, forming a heart with their arms while Miho feverishly sketches them. Finally she smiles, and turns her sketchpad around – to reveal she's been drawing Coffee and Ti the whole time. Hiromi and Aki gape at her for a second before all three start laughing, and the Entwined Hearts logo appears in the corner.
Eyecatch 2: Miho, Hiromi, and Aki hold a large heart-shaped cookie between them; Hiromi taking the left, Aki taking the right, and Miho holding the bottom corner. They pull, and as the cookie comes apart there is a bright pink flash of light. When it fades, the trio are in their Cure forms, happily eating their cookie pieces. The Entwined Hearts logo appears in the corner.
“Hey...you guys?” Portia said.
“Yeah?” Montague looked back at the redhead, brows lifted in interest.
“I've been thinking...about Cure Ariel. You think she might be Noa?”
That made them all stop, blinking at her in surprise. “Noa Hisa?” Capulet said. “Our schoolmate?”
“Well, it makes sense, right?” Portia said. She frowned slightly, bringing a fingertip to her lips as she stared down. “Noa's been missing for a while...Cure Ariel has too. And I met Mrs Hisa on my way to the school.” Her gaze lifted, expression serious. “She saw what took Noa – at least, she saw the end of it. She said it was something dark, and she said the Usotsuki at the culture fest seemed familiar. It all adds up! An Usotsuki took Noa, and Noa is Cure Ariel!”
“H-hey, don't be so hasty!” Coffee said. “Not that I don't think that makes sense, but the last place we saw Ariel was in Kokoro. I don't think Mrs Hisa is from there – Noa is a girl missing from your town.”
“What if she managed to escape?” Portia shot back. “What if she escaped Shitsuren first and came to Earth to find you? Or save her mother? And then she was taken? Just...just what if?!”
The others fell silent, thinking it over.
“It...would add up,” Capulet admitted.
“I didn't see Cure Ariel outside of her Cure form,” Coffee said. “Did you, Ti?”
“So there's still a possibility...” Montague muttered. “Okay, so when we get her out...first thing we do is bring her to her mom.”
The others nodded, small smiles appearing on their faces – and quickly froze.
Thunder had begun to rumble above, but that wasn't what caught their attention. There was this odd rushing sound, rushing and thumping, screaming, tearing...They could feel heavy vibrations in the floor, getting stronger and stronger...
Montague held an arm out protectively, shielding Capulet and Portia as she took a few steps back the way they came, squinting into the darkness. The noises, which were getting louder, were coming from that direction, she could see that much...
And then, ahead, she could barely make out dozens and dozens of red pinpricks. Then glowing red gashes, stretching and expanding like many mouths.
Her eyes went wide. ”Run,” she whispered, stumbling backwards. She turned and began to sprint, stumbling in her first few steps but saving herself in time to grab the other Cures' hands and drag them along. ”Run!”
They knew what had caused those gashes in the wood.
Ariel had been fast asleep when she heard the screaming. Gasping, she shot up in the bed, wide eyes fixed on her door. That sound-- She knew that sound, that was the same sound she'd heard during the invasion, when--
“Shylock!” she screamed, throwing back her bedcovers and running to the door. She flung herself against the wood, pounding on it with her fists. Suddenly she cried out as red flame-like aura appeared where her body made contact with the door. She pulled back and held her hands, the aura burning them.
But that only lasted a moment, she she drew in a breath and tried again, pounding and kicking at the door. “Shylock! What's happening?! Open the door, let me out, let me help you!”
In the parlor, Riche and Tamora stood together as they stared down a group of Usotsuki that had branched off from the others.
“Who let you out?!” Riche demanded. “I thought you were locked up tight!”
“Riche, Lady and Shylock are still missing!” Tamora cried, pressing herself tighter against him. “They might be in trouble!”
“I know that!” Riche snarled, gently pushing Tamora away from him. “Get your cards!” He clapped his hands together, then swiftly drew them apart. A long whip rapidly uncoiled between them, with a pitch-black handle and the rest glowing an angry red. It floated up before his face, and he snatched it up by the handle and snapped it forward.
The whip lashed out, a satisfying crack sounding through the air as it sliced a lion-like Usotsuki in half mid-lunge.
”Sound of the Bells! Chest of Revelation! Pretty Cure Bronze Truth Shoot!”
The glowing heart shot towards the bird Usotsuki diving towards them, making it rapidly disintegrate from within. Portia ran backwards, her Chest of Revelation still in her hands as she let out a victory laugh. “Ha! Mess with Pretty Cure!”
“Portia!” Capulet yelled over her shoulder. “How far away are they?”
“I think we might be losing them! Bronze Truth Shoot!” a few more blasts took out the Usotsuki that were breaking away and moving closer. “Just keep running.”
They weren't exactly sure where they were now. They'd been running blind this whole time, blasting attack behind themselves every now and then, quiet be damned! They had to save themselves!
“Who made all these?!” Capulet cried.
“I wanna go hoooome, datchu!” Ti wailed.
Montague gasped. “H-Hey, guys--!”
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“I think I just heard--” She gasped, her eyes going wide. They were approaching a fork in the hall, and--
“Over here! Hurry!” she yelled.
The others followed her, hearts pounding. Was this--?
As they drew closer, they heard what Montague had just moments ago. Beneath the din of thunder, the roaring of the rampaging Usotsuki, were a series of loud thumps and faint, pained grunts. “What's going on out there?!” yelled a feminine voice on the other side. “What's happening?! Let me out!”
Ti gasped. “I know that voice, datchu!”
“Cure Ariel?” Montague called as they reached the door. “Is that you?”
The thumping stopped, and they heard someone on the other side gasp. “Who is this?”
“I was right, datchu! Cure Ariel, it's me! It's Ti and Coffee and we brought three Pretty Cure to save you, datchu!”
“Ti...? Ti, Coffee, you made it, you're ali-- Ahn!” The pained yelp on the other side did nothing to diminish the relief in Ariel's tone.
“Ariel? What's wrong?!” Coffee cried.
“It's this door – I can't touch it in this form – it's burning my hands,” she explained, sounding apologetic.
Capulet suddenly frowned. She lifted her hands up to her shoulder, picking up Ti and Coffee, and holding them to Portia. “Stand back, everyone...” she said simply.
”Sound of the Bells! Sword of Capulet Family! Pretty Cure Glorious Golden Shoot!”
At that last word, the familiar glowing heart shot out towards the door--
--and it exploded into splinters and chunks of wood.
Somewhere in the manor, Riche whirled around. “Tamora!”
A few playing cards embedded themselves in several Usotsuki – the monsters shrieked in agony as the cards exploded and took them out with them, bursting apart into pieces of shadow that swiftly faded. Tamora stood where they once did, her arm still at her side in her post-throwing pose. “Yes, Riche!” she responded, her tone alert and all-business.
“Check the prisoner!”
“Right!” Tamora threw one more card over Riche's shoulder, destroying the Usotsuki that was about to pounce upon him. Then she turned and ran down the hall, looking for Ariel's room on the far side of the manor.
“Lady, my darling, where are you?” Riche growled in concern and frustration as he snapped his whip at another Usotsuki.
The girl who was Cure Ariel had her arms lifted to protect her face, her eyes squeezed shut. She lowered them, blinking at the sight of the huge hole before her. And the people who stood just on the other side.
She smiled, shoulders slumping in relief. “I'm so glad to--”
The girl tensed, and seized Capulet's hand as she ran out of her room. “Everyone, quick! We've got to fight them off--”
“Not now we're not!” Montague shot back.
“We came here to find you!” Portia yelled.
“Cure Ariel! Where's the Cure Signet?” Coffee cried over the noise of the Usotsuki swarming towards their side of the manor.
“I don't know!” she cried with a shake of her head. The manor began to shake from the force of the monsters heading their way, faster and more restless. “It was taken from me when—”
“Pretty Cure, datchu!” Ti shrieked.
Usotsuki swerved around the corner, piling up on each other briefly, scrambling over each other in their attempts to untangle themselves and attack the girls.
There was no time. Portia grabbed their new ally's hand as they all turned and fled down the hall away from the Usotsuki, spotting another mirror. “Through there!” she yelled.
“Hold me tight, Ariel!” Portia screamed as they all put on an extra burst of speed--
--and splashed through the mirror, out of sight.
A second later, the pursuing Usotsuki slammed against the wall the mirror stood on, shrieking and roaring in rage.
Another second, and they all exploded into smaller shadows, leaving nothing by the remnants of a few playing cards. Tamora stood at the end of the hall, glaring at the space they once occupied. After a moment, she looked towards Ariel's now-shattered door. “...Damn.”
Inside the royal palace of Kokoro, a single mirror stood. It had a large crack running down its center, splintering off to the sides and corners, ready to shatter at the slightest disturbance. It was the only bright surface in the desecrated great hall.
Suddenly, silvery ripples passed over its surface, and four girls burst through, gasping in relief.
Capulet dropped to her hands and knees, shoulders shaking. “W-We...made it...” she gasped.
Montague knelt down, gently rubbing her shoulder. “You okay, Cappy?”
Portia relaxed her hold on the fourth girl's hand, sighing in relief. “I thought it was over...I'm sorry, Ariel, but we couldn't fight just yet--”
“That's right, datchu!” Ti cried from his perch on Montague's shoulder. “Ariel needs her Cure Signet, we can't leave her powerless forever, datchu!”
“Once things die down, we'll go back and look, uhm...Noa?” Miho ventured, looking up at the girl's face.
It was dark inside the palace, but brighter than it'd been in Heartbreak Manor. So this time, they could all actually see what she looked like.
She had light cerise hair that went a little past her shoulder-blades, the front section of her bangs hung over her forehead while the sides were gathered into crown braids, leaving the rest of her hair to hang down her back. Her eyes were magenta, and she wore a white and mint-green dress with simple white shoes. Her gold, heart-shaped earrings glimmered in the moonlight when she turned her head.
“Sorry...I haven't introduced myself yet, have I?” The girl inclined her head a bit, resting a hand on her chest.
“My name is Otome,” she said. “Otome Aimiya, of Kokoro.”
ED: "Hummingbird" - Mana Ogawa
ON THE NEXT EPISODE:
Hiromi: “We've got to find that Cure Signet! But we can't go back to that place, can we?”
Miho: “On top of that, we need to heal those wounds!”
Otome: “Listen, guys...I think I need to come clean. There's something I want you to know...”
Aki: “About your Cure Signet or...Sh-Shylock?! What's he want?!”
Miho: “Ehhhhh?! You wanna help?!”
Otome: “Next time on Pretty Cure Entwined Hearts: 'A Pretty Cure's Heart, Shylock's Heart.' Let love heal your heart!"