More time went by in Tomobiki, and so far Ataru and Lum seemed to return closer to normal. They still interacted with few other than themselves, save Ken or Ryuunosuke, but they no longer seemed so depressed or distracted anymore. Lum still wore the yellow ribbon but after Ataru appeared as Wildmutt they decided to have her wear it in her hair now. They figured that whoever planted the ribbon in Ataru's desk would either try to get it on her horns themselves or move on with their lives.
Unknown to them, they were right. Shinobu wasn't exactly happy that her attempt to depower Lum had failed, but that experience with the feral alien made her decide that Lum having her powers may not be the worst thing to have around. But that presented a new problem itself.
"Aren't you guys worried about there being more aliens around?" Shinobu asked two of her classmates when school ended and they started leaving the school.
"You mean like that big orange dog coming back?" A girl named Chiiko asked back. She had short brown hair tied back into a long braid that reached just past her shoulders and an orange ribbon with a red flower. Her uniform hid it well but she was the thinnest girl in Class 2-4. Not dangerously thin, but enough to make some people question if she was anoxeric or not. She wasn't, but she was self-conscious about her lack of feminine curves due to this.
"How did that thing get here anyway? Did that Lum girl bring it?" Another girl, one named Kaeri, added. She had curly hair dyed orange that didn't go past her neck, and unlike Chiiko she was a chubby girl. She hated having to go to gym or getting her physical.
"No idea, but Lum's old boyfriend showed up last month and from what I've seen on social media other aliens have been sighted around Tomobiki. That dog thing was bad enough, what if the next one is truly dangerous?" Shinobu asked as they walked out of the building.
"You might be right. I mean, every year I hear reports of aliens doing something in London. Maybe there's been some truth to that all this time." Chiiko commented.
Kaeri rolled her eyes. "Sure, and next you'll be telling me that those Kamen Rider shows are based on real events."
"I just wish we had some way to defend ourselves." Shinobu continued, trying to keep the conversation on track. "Last time Lum couldn't do anything and we got saved by a girl who that day couldn't figure out how to get out of a bathroom stall."
"Well what do you want Shinobu? For the school to permit weapons on the grounds?" Chiiko asked.
"Actually I think I heard the principal once say that you can get permission to bring a weapon to school as long as you have a permit and pay a ridiculously high fee first." Kaeri commented, making Shinobu and Chiiko give her surprised looks. "But hey it's the principal, since when do his ramblings actually mean anything?"
"Still, I'd feel safer knowing that if some bug-eyed tentacled thing showed up I could stop it." Shinobu claimed.
"Hate to break it to you, but according to most hentais, you can't." Chiiko noted, making her and Kaeri chuckle.
At the same time, Lum was leaving the school too but she had used the back way that led to the pool. She had wanted to stay after school to go swimming, and Ataru wasn't there with her. Nonetheless she took off her uniform and revealed a one piece swimsuit under it, colored blue on the bottom and white on the top with a diagonal red stripe separating the two. Before she got in the water she removed the yellow ribbon from her hair and set it down by her uniform, then jumped in.
Swimming was not like flying for her, this required actual physical effort just like with humans. Had she been a water elemental oni like Ten's mother then that wouldn't be the case, for them flying and swimming were one and the same. As an electric oni, Lum was always more restricted, especially since she could easily hurt everyone around her without even trying. But it was fun to do once in a while as long as she was in a good mood and could get out of the water quickly.
'It's just like the times me, Ran, and Benten all went swimming together. Back on Uru and Jin and even Klo when we had our school vacation. Too bad Oyuki could never join in, not being able to swim and all. One time I tried to go swimming with Rei, but the big lug couldn't stop eating long enough to get in the water.'
"Hey Lum! Lum!" She heard when her head poked above the surface. She turned and saw Megane near the pool edge, looking glad to see her.
"Why do you keep coming to me?" She asked. "Ever since I came back to Earth you keep trying to talk to me or spend time with me, and Darling said you're not his friend. Are you fixated on me or something?"
"I just think you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen and I think you can do so much better than Ataru."
Lum frowned a bit. "You don't know anything about me."
"But I love you." Megane insisted.
"Oh really? Well that changes everything." Lum said with a smile as she started to get out of the pool.
Megane blinked and smiled. "Really?"
"Of course, since you love me and all. That means you know me so well."
Megane nodded excitedly. "Yeah, of course."
"Tell me what you know about me then." She stated.
Megane lost his smile. "Huh?"
"You must know about me if you love me. Where am I from? What's my favorite food? Do I like winter or summer? Who are my best friends? What are my allergies? What am I afraid of? Have you met my parents? What planets have I been to? What do I want to be when I'm an adult? What's a bad experience of mine?"
"..." Megane couldn't bring himself to respond.
"Come then, you must be able to answer one question. After all, you love me. Right?" Lum asked, grabbing a towel. "What's my last name?"
"Oh that's easy. It's..." Megane found himself struggling. "Uhh... hold on, it's... it's..."
"It's not that hard." Lum remarked, eyes narrowing a little while starting to dry off.
"Sorry, but alien words can be hard to pronounce." Megane justified.
Megane nodded. "Yeah, that's how you pronounce it. Re-det-to."
Lum pointed at him. "Ha! I lied. My name is Invader. Not Redetto."
Megane looked shocked. "No fair. That was a trick question."
"Someone who loved me would have been able to answer it."
"I do love you." Megane insisted.
Lum stepped closer and put her finger in his face, sparking a little. "No, you don't. You're just horny and think I'm sexy. Sure I'm flattered but that's not love."
"Just give me a chance." Megane pleaded.
"Why should I? You just want my body and I have no intention of letting you get to it. Do you really think that if you say some nice things here and there I'll ditch Darling and sleep with you? Is that the kind of girl you think I am? Is that the kind of girl you love?"
"I'm sure that if you just forget everything Ataru told you about me and give me a chance you'll see how great a guy I am." Megane claimed.
"Maybe I don't want to. What do you think about that?"
Megane looked like he just heard his mother say he was an accident. "What can I do to make you reconsider?"
Lum scoffed and picked up her uniform. "No means no, even on my planet." She then took off into the air.
Megane stared up watching her leave, looking so deserted. "Why don't you see that I'm just trying to make you happy Lum?" He started to turn away but something caught his eye. He noticed that Lum had left her yellow ribbon behind when she grabbed her clothes, so he reached down and pocketed it. "You'll be needing this back. This time maybe I'll be the one to put it on her rather than Ataru."
Megane walked away, unaware that from the bushes Ataru had been watching the entire thing. The plan had been to see if anyone would come and try to get the ribbon on Lum themselves. Anyone who tried pretty much had to be the one who planted it in Ataru's desk. And what Megane did just then was too incriminating to be ignored.
'Looks like someone's going to have another bad experience with an alien tonight.' Ataru thought, grinning while glancing at the omnitrix. 'I've used Heatblast, Ghostfreak, and Icetaru to get back at him, what should I treat him to this time?'
Sakura had just arrived at the shrine seeing Shinobu already there, waiting for her. "Shinobu, what is it?"
"Could you teach me some combat techniques?"
Sakura sighed and after going inside she put down her handbag. "All kids go for that sooner or later. No one's interested in spirituality or improving situations, no it's all about fancy fighting moves. Sheesh Nerima and tv have spoiled kids these days."
"This isn't about fun!" Shinobu protested. "There are strange aliens showing up in town all the time now and the other day one could have killed me! What if the next time I'm not so lucky? I want to know how to keep myself safe from whatever else shows up!"
Sakura did not look convinced. "Shinobu, while that is understandable, miko combat techniques were designed to use against youkai and magic users. They may have no effect on aliens at all."
"Better to have a chance than no chance." The teen girl countered.
Sakura was silent for a moment. "Okay, then let's start with the most basic skill of all, the barrier. Offense will do you no good if you have no way to defend yourself." She then handed the teen girl some seal tags. "Here, these will help you to start."
"Boys, we have a serious problem." Megane said as he stood before Perm, Kakugari, and Chibi. The four boys were currently in Tomobiki Park, standing by the children's playset mostly out of habit. Since they were kids, whenever the four of them felt a need to come together outside of school they would use this location as a defacto meeting site. They got some looks when there were moms with their kids in the area too, but Megane usually ignored them.
"What? Is your sister going on a date with some jerk?" Chibi asked.
Megane gave the shortest member of the quartet a disapproving look, the kind that you'd get from a teacher that wanted to say you asked a stupid question but wasn't legally allowed to say it. "This does not involve my so-called sister at all. The problem is Lum is being brainwashed by Ataru."
"Uhh Megane, how exactly can Ataru of all people brainwash her?" Perm asked.
"Yeah, I mean it's not like he knows how to hypnotize anyone. He would have already done that if he could." Kakugari agreed.
"I know it's hard to believe, but all the evidence points to her being manipulated." Megane stated, repositioning his glasses. "She's rarely ever away from him and when she is she still prefers him over anyone else, including us. She rejects any attempts to form bonds or accept feelings from anyone else, and has gone so far as to demand people like us prove we're worth her time."
"As opposed to what?" Perm demanded, already losing his patience. "What do you expect her to do Megane? Start spending all of her time with you just because you ask her to? What if she did? Would you then start forbidding her from spending time with anyone else?"
Megane frowned. "Of course not. I'd just forbid her from spending time with Ataru."
"She lives with the guy." Kakugari reminded him.
Chibi nodded. "Yeah it's not like you can demand she move out. Where would she go?"
Before Megane could reply, something jumped into view and landed not too far from them. The ground trembled when it landed, making them shake and collapse to the ground. Several other people screamed and ran away. When the four teen boys looked to see what was there, they saw a large four-armed red-skinned alien looking at them.
'Oh no, not another one.' Megane worried.
"You the goons bothering Lum?" Four Arms demanded to know, pointing at the four boys.
"Hey listen, we're just-" Perm started.
"Did I say you could talk?" Four Arms threatened, cracking both sets of knuckles at once. They all shut up. "Now listen and listen good, Lum has many friends on other planets. I hear you've already been to Neptune once. Well one word from her and me and my buddies can drop you off somewhere even colder than that."
Chibi sweatdropped. "Oh please don't! Just the thought of being in snow makes me get a rash!"
Four Arms grinned. "Me personally, I'd just like to see how much fight you got in you. I haven't had a good challenge since the dinosaur planet."
"Dinosaur pla-?" Kakugari started.
"Yes there's a dinosaur planet. There's a lot of planets." Four Arms cut in, wanting to make this quick. "Lum told you to leave her alone. And that goes for that boy Ataru too. None of you deserve her, so back off. Or else."
"Or else what?" Megane couldn't resist saying back.
Four Arms grabbed a nearby metal garbage can, held it in front of him, and with just two arms he crushed it into a crumbled flattened disc. The crunching sounds made by both the metal and the contents made the four boys wince.
"Think you're tougher than metal?" Four Arms taunted, dropping the flattened can which spun on the ground for a moment before dropping completely. "One chance, or the next guy will do much worse than giving your genitals frostbite."
All four shivered, Megane remembering the experience with the frozen bath while the other three just thought it was another Neptune reference. Four Arms then jumped off into the air, disappearing from sight after landing behind a building.
"Boys, I think it's clear what we must do." Megane said, getting back up while they did the same. "We absolutely must separate Ataru and Lum as quick as possible."
"Are you crazy? You saw that thing and he said Lum knows more like him. Why would you want to risk pissing them off?" Kakugari objected.
"Because as long as Lum listens to Ataru, that means he can get these aliens to listen to him too. This is not the first alien to threaten me, hell it's not even the first alien to threaten all four of us. That's been bad enough, but if Ataru can convince Lum or them that we're legit threats to Lum..."
Chibi gulped. "Then the next one might kill us for sure."
"Would Ataru really do that?" Perm asked.
"You have to ask?" Kakugari chided. "He's got that big gaijin acting as a guard sometimes. He'd be all over having powerful aliens do his dirty work for him."
"Or fulfilling his dirty dreams for him too." Chibi added. "You've all seen it in tv and movies. Lum can't be the only sexy alien out there. Ataru's bound to want to know if she has any girl friends that are easy."
Megane clenched his fist. "I admit the risk is great, but we must take it. We must get rid of Ataru, to protect ourselves and Lum from him. Are you with me?"
Kakugari and Chibi nodded. Perm hesitated, wondering if maybe they were going too far, but the bond of friendship he had with these guys was stronger than his primary concerns so he nodded too.
"Lum may be unhappy with us at first, but she will be better off once we accomplish our goal. I promise you men, Lum will thank us for what we will do for her."
Lum arrived at the Moroboshi house and sighed as she slipped into her UFO. Looking around she didn't see Ten in the craft so she dumped her uniform on the floor and stripped out of her swimsuit, walking to the shower.
"You have two new messages." The intercom told her before she opened the shower door.
"Play them." She replied, stepping inside and closing the door. Had someone been in the UFO they would have been able to see a blurred image of her from the other side. And had that someone been Ataru she might not have minded.
"First message from Ran Pyrr. 'Dammit Lum why is Rei hanging around that planet you're on?! Did you fake breaking up with him?! What did I ever do to-?!"
"Delete message." Lum commanded, starting the shower and letting herself get wet.
"Message deleted." The intercom replied. "Second message from Oyuki Triton. 'Lum I have important news of the utmost urgency. Call me back as soon as possible. Oh before I forget, I got you a gift. I'll send it when you call me.' End message."
"What time is it at Salaka on Neptune?" Lum asked. Salaka was the name of the town Oyuki lived in and where she had brought Ataru during their trip to the icy planet.
"At the present it would be close to midnight at that specific location." The intercom answered.
'Makes sense, Earth and Neptune have different day lengths.' Lum thought, starting on the soap. 'Oh well, I'll wait until tomorrow to call her back. I mean, how urgent can it really be?'
Up in orbit, something was ejected from Vilgax's damaged ship. Something that was heading straight for the earth, with nothing to stop it.