It was eerily quiet as the five of them made their way up the stone stairs. The tunnel Riche had showed them led to a long, steep flight of stairs inside the cliff, narrow with a low ceiling. They had to walk single-file, their steps making tiny clicks as they did. It was the only sound.
Capulet gasped silently as she suddenly slipped and pitched forward – and then blinked when she found someone's arms around her. She looked back and saw Ariel had caught her under the arms, and was gazing at her in concern, a silent question in her eyes. Capulet smiled shakily and nodded, prompting the teal Cure to let go.
No wonder she slipped, Ariel realized as she glanced down. The steps were shining, glistening with wetness... And so were the walls, now that she looked. Must be from the river, and the falls.
The falls...the river... Ariel's hands curled into fists, her jaw setting.
And then she felt someone's hand over hers. Now it was her turn to look back.
Portia walked behind her, smiling gently as she held Ariel's hand in both of hers. She then squinted, one eye closing as the group neared a light.
Ariel looked forward, seeing they were reaching the other side of the tunnel. This was it...
OP: "Pretty Cure, Hands Meet" - SHE
At first they didn't think they'd gone anywhere. The landscape was nearly the same; barren and rocky, with dark skies.
But another look around revealed that they had indeed gone somewhere else. They couldn't see the waterfall anymore, but instead a wide river. Kokoro seemed much smaller in the distance too, and was now somewhere below them. They'd gone up the falls and far away from them.
Riche smiled ruefully. “It's much of the same, I know,” he said. “It's looked like this for a long time – longer than I have been alive.” He then gestured with his arm downriver. “Follow the river, past the Heartbreak Manor. Eventually, you should find the river's source. Destroy it, and the river should stop flowing.”
Montague nodded. “Thanks, Riche.”
“You should get back to Kokoro,” said Ariel. “We don't know what's going to happen when we find the falls' source, and it'd be best if you were out of danger. Hurry back to the kingdom before the rains get worse, and find Punch. Tell him we sent you and he'll gladly let you in.”
Riche's eyes widened a bit. “But girls, are you—”
“Of course we're sure!” Capulet interrupted, looking a bit distraught. “We don't want you hurt!”
“If we find Lady, we'll tell her the same thing. Now hurry!” Portia called, breaking into a run. The others quickly followed.
Riche stood still for a few moments, staring after them with an unreadable expression. Finally, he grit his teeth and lifted his hand to cup around his mouth. “Pretty Cure!” he cried. “I hope you can forgive me! Forgive all of us!”
“Don't worry!” Portia's voice drifted over to him as the girl waved her arm over her head. “We already have!”
And then they were too far away to speak to anymore. Riche stared after them, slowly lowering his hand back down. After a moment he let out a small, ironic chuckle, his hand over his heart. “What a pure love they have,” he murmured.
TODAY'S EPISODE: Drain the River! Break Finally Appears!
They didn't know how long they ran. The skies never lightened or darkened, so they couldn't be sure if it was day or night. But they didn't think about that. They just kept running.
The water overflowed the riverbed, higher in some places than others. So even when they tried to keep a reasonable, safe distance from the river, they would find themselves briefly running a few centimeters of black water. Luckily for them, this wasn't enough to do any damage as it had to Riche's brooch, or make them fall into despair.
At first they moved in silence. Finally, Capulet spoke up: “Do you think he'll make it alright?”
“He has to,” Ariel said simply. She stared straight ahead, expression neutral. She couldn't show fear...She had to believe Riche had made it to safety, and she shouldn't be afraid. “I'm sure he did,” she added, fists tightening.
“What do you think the source of the river is?” Montague asked, glancing at the river. “Rivers come from oceans, right?”
“An ocean of despair?!” Capulet cried in dismay. “I don't want to have to face an entire ocean!”
“I don't think it's an ocean, Capulet,” said Ariel.
“How do you know?! What if it is an ocean? What if it's an entire dark ocean of despair? And it's full of despair sea monsters and--”
“Capulet, stop, you're making me anxious now!”
It wasn't an ocean.
To their confusion, the river entered a large brick tunnel that fed into a large building. And that building was not Heartbreak Manor.
“Did you know this was here?” asked Capulet with a frown.
Ariel slowly shook her head, confusion evident in her eyes. “No, I never did,” she muttered, stepping into the tunnel and the dark. “It just keeps going...” she said quietly. “Come on, guys,” she added, looking over her shoulder.
They walked in the darkness once again, Capulet clinging to Montague's hand. “I don't like this,” she said.
“I know, it's dark, huh?” Portia said.
Capulet shook her head. “Not that. It's the quiet. Listen.”
Everyone hushed as they walked, keeping their ears sharp. And...Capulet was right.
Whereas before, when they were outside, there was a quiet rumble in the distance that told them the storm was worsening by the minute, small splashing sounds around their feet as they ran, the rushing water of the river itself...
But here there was nothing.
Even the river seemed quieter, unnaturally so. It didn't churn, it didn't splash or slosh, it just...was.
The quiet nearly choked them, now that they focused on it.
“Something's not right,” whispered Portia. “Nothing should be this quiet.” She frowned, realizing belatedly that she'd whispered. Why had she even done that? That just made things worse!
And yet, the odd part was...
“We should just hurry and get rid of this.”
She couldn't stop whispering.
The others nodded, and kept moving.
They didn't speak anymore, because there was really nothing more to say. They just kept following the river inside the tunnel until they found a dead end of sorts. There was a large wall with a grate that the river poured out of, and in that wall was a door. A well-fired arrow from Ariel made quick work of it, yet even as its struck and blew a hole in the wall, the sound was muted. The girls exchanged glances and made their way inside.
Inside was no better sound-wise than the outside. But the inside itself...
“It looks like Heartbreak Manor,” whispered Ariel. “Except without all the scratches on the walls...”
“Could it be another part of it?” asked Capulet. “Like servants' quarters?”
“But they don't have servants...I would know if they did.”
“But then what's this here for? The river just goes into the wall but this is like a mansion itself! It doesn't make any--”
“Sh!” Montague held a finger to her lips.
Portia shot her a look. “Did you just shush me?!”
“Shh!” Montague hissed again. She was standing against the wall, pressing her ear to it and closing her eyes. After a few moments of silence, her eyes opened and she spoke again. “I hear something in there.”
The others came over, mimicking Montague's pose and closing their eyes. After a moment, Portia's eyes snapped open again. “Hey, you're right...”
The sound was faint, barely perceptible, but it was the river. They could hear the water rushing past in a dull, faint roar. But beneath that, there was a little more. The faint rush almost sounded like a thumping heart, as if the water were pushing forward and then being pulled back, before repeating the process over again til it reached the outside. And beneath that...
“Do you hear voices?” asked Capulet.
“I...I don't know.” Ariel frowned, pressed her ear harder against the wall, and finally shook her head. “I can't tell, it's so quiet...”
“The River Despair doesn't talk. Does it?” Portia sounded a little unsure.
“I don't...think so.” But Ariel looked just as unsure as Portia sounded. She pulled back from the wall, the others following suit. “Let's go.”
And this was how they moved throughout the labyrinthine mansion; keeping close to the wall and having a sharp ear. When there was a fork, they would pause and listen carefully to the faint rush-thumping noise to determine which direction it was loudest. Once again, none of them actually spoke, letting the only sounds be the ones in the wall. Even their feet didn't make noise upon the soft carpeted floors.
This didn't make the journey peaceful, of course. Between the near-dead silence and the darkness in this new mansion, it was as if they were walking right into a horror movie. None of them dared to break it, Capulet even found herself reaching for Montague's hand again.
Little by little, the sound grew louder, until finally they stopped a large, steel door.
“Steel?” Portia quipped, an eyebrow arched. “That's a bit out of place...”
“It's weird,” Montague agreed.
Capulet just stared, frowning lightly. “Can we go in?”
“I'm not-- ah!” Ariel yelped a little as the handle gave way under her touch. She shot the girls a nervous smile over her shoulder and added “I guess we can. Ready?”
They nodded as one, and held their breath as Ariel opened the door.
The sound hit them like a physical blow, making all four of them freeze in place, hearts in their throats.
A second later, they registered the sight before them, realizing what the horrible noise was.
From more people than they could count.
They were in a long, wide hallway with stone walls and a deep red carpet. All along the walls, stacked from floor to ceiling, going from the door all the way down to the other side, were glass cylinders, protruding halfway from the walls. They were roughly three feet in circumference, four feet tall. All of them were glowing a bright, brilliant blue, the light casting eerie shadows across the girls and the hall itself. A network of tubes emerged from the cylinders, twisting and coiling around each other to merge into one huge, twisting cord, pulsing with a black and purple aura.
And inside every tube was a person, slumping against the side or crumpled on the floor, screaming and wailing as if their very soul was shattering into pieces.
People, ranging from children to middle-aged adults – no, Ariel realized with a sick gasp, seeing a tube nearby containing an old woman. People wearing black suits, jeans and sweaters, school uniform; people in the light and soft clothing of Kokoro. Royal guards. Children.
Every single one of them bore a slashed-heart symbol on their chests, pulsing in time with the sobbing, with the auras.
“Noa!” screamed Montague in horror, nearly tripping in her haste to get to one particular tube. She slammed her palms against the side, staring with wide eyes and a pale face at the girl inside. Her classmate, still in her school uniform, lay in a crumpled heap in the middle of her prison, her sobs hoarse and gasping as tears streamed steadily down her cheeks. One of her hands twitched, as if this was all she had the energy to do.
“She's been here this whole time...” Montague whispered, her voice raw.
“Over there!” Capulet cried, pointing out two cylinders in particular. Inside were two adults, both wearing ornate clothing and jeweled crowns. Even if she weren't a Kokoro citizen, she knew who these people were.
“Your Majesties!” cried Ariel, instinctively running towards them.
Throughout all of this, the sound of screaming, crying, wailing, pleas for parents or spouses, pressed against Pretty Cure like a wall. They could practically feel the screaming pounding in rhythm with their hearts, feel the sobs in their veins, their heads pounded with them...
“This is horrible!” Portia screamed herself, shutting her eyes tight and pressing her fists to her ears, trying to drown out the noise. But even as she did that, she could sense what was still happening, knew what it sounded like. “I can't take it, I can't take it!”
“Make it stop...” Montague half-sobbed herself, her eyes still focused on her weeping classmate. Her fingers curled, her hands becoming trembling fists against the glass. “Make it stop!” she begged. With a loud, shrill scream, she pulled her fist back, and slammed it against the side of the container.
The glass didn't even crack.
”I said stop!” Montague screamed, voice barely heard over the crying and shrieking of the captives. Her fist slammed forward again, making the tiniest of hollow thumps. The glass didn't so much as tremor.
”Make this stop! We have to make this stop!” she screamed, clapping her hands together.
“Montague!” Capulet cried, eyes wide.
A flash of purple light, and Montague held her Rapier Wand in both hands. She took one step back, swinging her weapon in front of herself, tip aimed at the glass directly before her. ”Pretty Cure Majestic Amethyst Shoot!”
The blast struck the glass...and burst apart upon impact, the tiny particles of light disappearing into nothing.
“The glass...we can't break it,” Portia breathed raspily, hands still over her ears.
Montague gripped her wand tighter. “Then I'll try harder!” she roared. ”Amethyst Shoot! Amethyst Shoot! Amethyst Shoot!”
Bursts of purple light kept hitting the glass, just disintegrating into nothingness. The container remained just as it always was, the girl inside not once quieting her cries. Montague felt as if each sob was a knife,d riving into her heart, and with a loud yell she readied another blast. ”Amethyst--”
Montague then felt Capulet's arms wrap tightly around her, the suddenness of the action shocking her into stopping. She blinked, staring at the undamaged glass before her as if seeing it for the first time.
Capulet hugged her tighter, but not enough to hurt. “It's not working,” she said, just loud enough for Montague to hear her over the screaming and crying. “We have to try something else!”
“Lovely Form, we can try Lovely Form!” Portia shouted desperately.
“But what if we hurt the people?!” Ariel yelled, scrubbing the tears away from her face. “We have to--”
“I wondered why there was a hole in my wall.”
The quartet whirled around to look in the doorway. Capulet hugged Montague tighter, this time in slight fear.
Standing in the doorway, looking down at them all, was the cloaked form of Break. “I do trust there is a good explanation for why you are here, and Riche is not?” Their red eyes narrowed slightly as the hooded head tilted to the side, as if in thought. “Hm...But this could pose a problem...” Break said, their quiet voice somehow managing to lift above the suffering cries of the hostages. “I did want to keep appearances, but it seems for the moment I'll have to focus some of my power elsewhere.”
The air shimmered and shifted around them, and an odd ring of black mist expanded from Break's chest and passed down the hallway. Each captive it passed by went quiet – not that they stopped crying, but more like someone had lowered the volume on a television, or they were underwater. They cried on, and as the Cures looked at them for a moment, they saw that the sobs were just as powerful as ever. Just quieter.
“There. Now we can hear each other better and won't have to shout over each other.” Break's voice was clearer, different in pitch now.
Ariel gasped sharply as everyone looked back at their enemy.
Lady stood in the doorway, smiling with her hands clasped at waist-level. Her eyes opened, revealing vivid gold irises. “Shouting is terribly undignified,” she said simply.
Eyecatch 1: Coffee and Ti hold a giant heart-shaped bubble wand, the breeze sending out a stream of bubbles. Inside four of the bubbles are tiny versions of the girls. In a flash of light, the girls twirl around and transform into Pretty Cure, their bubbles immediately becoming heart-shaped. The Entwined Hearts logo appears in the corner.
Eyecatch 2: The four girls hold a large, pink heart-shaped cookie between them; Hiromi taking the left arc, Aki taking the right, Miho and Otome firmly holding either side of the bottom half. They snap the cookie apart and there is a bright pink flash of light. When it fades, the quartet are in their Cure forms, happily eating their cookie pieces. The Entwined Hearts logo appears in the corner.
The near-silence was almost overpowering as none of the Cures spoke a word. They all just stared forward, wide-eyed at the woman before them.
She no longer wore her usual dress; it was almost like she had decided to dress up for this unsettling occasion. This new, floor-length dress was pale lilac in color, with a deep violet bodice. The trumpet sleeves had large, puffy shoulders, and ended in a mass of feather-like frills in the same color as the dress's bodice. It had a keyhole neckline, and two small black gems dotting the way to the heart-shaped window in the fabric, showing the woman's cleavage. A violet-jeweled circlet adorned her head, with a large purple diamond resting between her brows. It wasn't a very complex dress, but the way she wore it and carried herself in it more than made up for it.
Lady smiled serenely as she strode to one of the glass prisons, resting her palm against it. “It is lovely, isn't it?” she asked. “So much despair and heartbreak, and all in one place. They all have so many silly little things to despair over, too: school, family, friends, a lost pet, a trifle argument...a kingdom.” Her smile widened slightly, her lips seeming to stretch thin. “It's incredible. I never saw the likes of this until--”
“You...” Ariel breathed.
Lady didn't seem to hear, still looking into the container. “Well, until I put it all together, of course.” She laughed lightly, as if she'd just made a little joke during some gossip. “Look about you; all this despair and heartbreak, in one place, going to one place. Every drop of pure misery from their hearts going to the river...And from there...”
Finally, Lady looked back at the girls, still smiling. “Hm, yes?”
Capulet's eyes were wide as she thought back, all the way to Aki's birthday party. The woman with the box... “It was...”
Portia remembered her dog bag home. Her poor Pochi, what this strange woman had done to him. “It was...”
Montague said what everyone else was trying to. “It was always you.”
Ariel's eyes went even wider.
Shylock was reaching for them; they were going to Earth together. He fell forward. Behind him, as he died, stood Break...
“Aha, yes, thank you!” Lady chuckled girlishly, turning bodily to face the girls and dipping into a low curtsy. “Truly, thank you for realizing my greatness. It is an honor to have the legendary warriors recognize--”
An animalistic war cry cut her off. Ariel surged forward in a teal blur, eyes blazing, lips curled, the brilliant gold energy around her hands giving them the appearance of being on fire. In no time flat, she was directly in front of the smiling Lady. ”You murderer!”
It happened almost too quickly to process. Ariel swung her fist at Lady's face, her other hand already summoning her bow. But Lady didn't stop smiling, or look remotely concerned. She just took three steps backwards as effortlessly as if she were dancing, and backhanded Ariel. Normally this would mean nothing, but Ariel found herself flying backwards into the girls' arms.
It meant nothing to her, though, and she flung herself at Lady again, snarling in rage and swinging her fist once more.
There was a loud slapping sound, but it wasn't Ariel's fist making contact with Lady's flesh.
Instead, Lady smiled down at Ariel, holding her wrist fast with one hand, her other hand over Ariel's other fist. “My, my,” she said simply. “Such a temper, Cure Ariel. I've never seen you like this before. Though I suppose I can't blame you. After all, you are right – I did kill Shylock.” And with that, Lady flung Ariel back, a blast of black energy making her fly faster and hit the ground harder.
“And...and that means you poisoned Tamora,” Capulet realized. “And you've been – if you're Break, that means you've been lying to everyone this whole time, too!”
“You're the one who attacked Kokoro!” Portia yelled. “All of it was you!”
“Yes, we have established this,” Lady said simply, sighing to herself.
“But...but how could you lie to the others?!”
“How could you do this to people?”
Lady's eyes flashed, her lips curling back to bare her teeth as she smiled more wolfishly. ”Easily.
“You really think I cared for the others? I never said any such thing. They were my family, my husband, but I don't care for them at all. In this world, the only person one should ever love is themselves.
“After all, what use is love for anything? It gives nothing, offers nothing, it's just a thing that exists for no reason. There's no need for it; that's what I always thought.”
“But that's--” Capulet began to say.
Lady's fingers twitched, and suddenly the shrieking and wailing went back to full volume. Capulet cried out and covered her ears, as did the others. Another twitch and the sound was gone.
“Everyone around me told me that love was a wonderful, warm thing, but I never saw a point to it. They said it was beautiful, but I see no beauty in it. I never did... But it was easy to pretend,” she added with a sly smile.
“Riche loved you...” Montague said, voice quavering.
“If he wanted to, I allowed it,” Lady said.
“Alright, but why?” Capulet's hands curled into fists. “If you don't see any point to love, why go to these lengths?!”
Lady just smiled wider, and clapped her hands. “Oh, that's simple!
”I wanted to.”
Silence at first. Ariel was the first to speak. “What...?”
“I wanted to. Simple as that.”
As she spoke, Ariel's fists were trembling. Lady paid no heed.
“Nothing special behind my reasoning really, except...” Her gaze shifted back to the glass container that held Noa. “Except there was one thing I loved to see; despair. I wasn't just satisfied, living in a world full of love that I cared nothing for. I thought it would be much more fun if I made everyone's worlds ut-ter-ly and com-plete-ly fall a-part~” she closed her eyes again, smile widening.
”You monster!” screamed Ariel, summoning her bow and arrow. Before anyone could react, she aimed an arrow at Lady and fired.
Lady's eyes snapped open with an expression of cold fury, as she swung her arm out and deflected the golden arrow.
The attack struck one of the tubes in the ceiling--
--and small hairline cracks of light appeared in it.
Montague gasped. “Ariel, look!”
“No!” Lady yelled, charging forward.
”Glorious Golden Shoot!” A blast of gold shot out from Capulet's Rapier Wand, striking Lady in the chest and sending her reeling backwards.
The woman held her chest in anger and lifted her head, but the girls were already gone.
Pretty Cure ran as fast as they could down the hall, trying not to look at the people on either side of them. “Get further down!” Capulet was yelling. “Don't risk hitting any hostages!”
”Bronze Truth Shoot!” Portia summoned her weapon and fired an attack above and in front of her. The light struck the tubes and created more cracks that spread through it like veins.
The others followed Portia's example, firing their own attacks as they ran, slowly weakening the tubes that fed all that despair into the riverbed itself. More and more cracks appeared, like spiderwebs--
--and then several attacks hit the same spot at once. The cracks created from this were wider and covered more of the tube than the previous ones. Those cracks traveled much further down the tubes' length, an encouraging sign.
“Hit that spot again!” Montague yelled, swinging her Rapier Wand again.
”Pretty Cure Dual Heart Strike!”
“...Bronze Truth Shoot!”
By now the cracks were no longer hairline; they were widening now, golden light sparking around them.
Lady appeared then, as suddenly as if she came from the shadows themselves. “You don't know what you're doing,” she said simply.
“Yes we do!” cried Capulet.
“We're stopping this!” Portia sent away her Box of Revelations and brought her ring to her lips.
“Once and for all!” Ariel yelled.
"Pretty Cure! Love's Song!"
"Abundant innocent love, Lovely Cure Capulet! Pretty Cure Golden Innocent Shoot!"
"Abundant sincere love, Lovely Cure Montague! Pretty Cure Amethyst Sincere Shoot!"
"Abundant steadfast love, Lovely Cure Portia! Pretty Cure Bronze Steadfast Shoot!"
"Abundant steadfast love, Lovely Cure Ariel! Pretty Cure Lovely Steadfast Arrow!"
One by one, rapid-fire the attacks struck the same spot the girls had been hitting before. Each attack did more damage than the last, until finally Ariel's arrow struck--
--and there was an explosion of light and darkness.
The girls were forced to close their eyes and cover their heads as the tubes burst apart, spraying the despair water like a destroyed pipeline. The damage from their attacks made the large cracks shoot all the way down the tubing to the machines, destroying them from the inside, making them burst apart. Water surged everywhere, mixed with the glowing gold of their combined attacks, until it seemed the girls were submerged in an ocean of light.
It was too much for the building to withstand too, as it was blasted apart, the chunks of material and foundation turning to dust and blowing away.
They thought they heard Lady shriek, but then their senses faded altogether.
In his human form, Punch led a large group to the remains of the mansion in a dead run. They'd all seen the storm clouds burst apart in a shower of golden sparks, the rain and river dry up. And they knew: Pretty Cure had done it.
They just had to find them.
The landscape looked less sinister now. Oh, it was still rocky and barren, but the skies had cleared up for the most part, leaving nothing but the occasional dark gray cloud with silver linings. And now the dark cloud that meant a storm, the dark cloud that meant the sun was on its way.
The ground was damp, but the riverbed was empty, and sunlight filtered upon everything. That was a good sign, right?
They found the victims of Lady's machines first, miraculously unscathed (perhaps the power of Pretty Cure had protected them?) and lying unconscious among shattered glass. Punch ordered half of the group to tend to them and get them back to Kokoro, while he and the others ran further into the wreckage to find the legendary warriors.
Finally, they did.
“Pretty Cure!” Punch cried.
The girls were in their civilian forms now, lying unconscious among the rubble, glass and pieces of tubing. Their clothes and hair were a bit damp from the liquid despair, their expressions peaceful. Punch's heart leaped into his throat; they looked almost too peaceful. “Pretty Cure!” he yelled again, running into the wreckage without care.
He stumbled a bit, reaching Miho first. Gently gripping her shoulders, he lifted her upper body and shook lightly. “Cure Portia! Cure Portia!”
“...hm..?” Miho's brows furrowed slightly before she opened her eyes, blinking in the sunlight. “Punch?”
“Portia!” he gasped, smiling a bit.
Miho blinked once again, then her face brightened into a large grin. “We did it,” she breathed. “Hey! Hey, girls, wake up!” she yelled, pushing away from Punch and sitting upright on her own. Around her, the other three started to stir and open their eyes. “Girls, wake up, we did it!”
Otome pushed herself off the stone was was sprawled out on, looking around in wonder. “The river...it's gone!” she gasped.
Aki and Hiromi laughed and hugged each other tight, heedless of the rest of the search party coming for them.
”It's over, we did it!” Miho cheered.
ED: "Rainbow-Colored Future" – BoA ft. Entwined Hearts 4
ON THE NEXT EPISODE:
Miho: “It's over; it's over at last!”
Otome: “We have rebuilding to do, but I think it's okay to celebrate a bit first.”
Aki: “Good idea, Otome – wh-what, hey, what are all these dresses?!”
Hiromi: "Why are we going to the ballroom? Oh my God, we're going to be princesses! Next time on Pretty Cure Entwined Hearts: 'Day Of Love; A Lovely Night!'”