Chapter 2

12:00 PM

The girls decided to spend the rest of the day wandering around the park. Initially, Aguri wanted to go home early and call it a day as she was, unsurprisingly, in a really bad mood. Mana however, wanted her to stay. After a few minutes of bickering, Aguri finally gave in when the latter gave her the puppy dog eyes treatment.

As they were strolling along the grey brick pathway, they've become more aware of their marvelous surroundings which they were encircled in; surely a lively environment like this one would cleanse a person of his or her bad emotions. This is particularly true for Mana as Christmas has always been her favorite holiday. Despite the day itself being approximately 3 weeks away, time could not contain the lively girl's Christmas spirit.

"Oh kyunkyun! I'm so happy that I think my heart may explode!" she cried out loud to no one in particular. She was grinning ear-to-ear, literally in this case as the tips of her crescent lips were basically skimming her ear lobes.

"Hehe, I can tell-sharu," her partner agreed.

"Mana, you're getting overexcited again," Rikka complained.

"Ah just let her be," Alice added. "It is a time for smiles after all,"

"Of course it is! It's a beautiful day, the snow is falling and my friends are all with me. Oh kyunkyun! I'm overwhelmed with happiness!"

"I know right-lance! And also because of that upcoming party tonight at Alice's place!" the little gold bear chimed in.

"What party?!" A new flash of excitement sparked into Mana's bubbly mind.

"Oh pardon me, I seem to have forgotten to tell you," Alice replied. "We're setting up a final winter gathering featuring all of the executives working in the astronomic branch of the Yotsuba Corporation. It's really more of a business meeting, as…

"Can we come?" interrupted Mana. At this point, she was so happy that she did not care even if it was a lecture about vitamins; she just wanted to be there with her friend.

"Well, of course!" Alice replied enthusiastically.

"YAYYYYY!" The happy lass then jumped up and down in joy while doing her happy pose of hopping around on her toes while clenching her fists on her chest and flapping both of her elbows which was commonly mistaken by others as 'the chicken dance'.

After Rikka somehow managed to calm her overly-energetic friend, they found another bench nearby and sat there.

But Alice wasn't finished. "There's actually something quite fascinating we're going to discuss there," Alice continued. Do you know what the North Star is?"

"Of course I know what it is," Makoto answered confidently. "Although where I'm from, we called it the 'Diamond of the North'. Ever year in the winter solstice, the people of the Trump Kingdom would put out diamond shaped banners in front of our houses and we would all stare at the beautiful night sky together while eating star shaped treats called Twinkles.

"Wow! That sounds really nice!" Mana commented.

"It does!" Rikka added.

"Yes, I wish I could bring you along with me. If the Trump Kingdom was still here and… well." Her voice was starting to shake. She didn't realize it then but she was getting homesick. Suddenly, the memories of her birthplace were all starting to come back to her, memories that she had then, taken for granted. She remembered how she and her old friends would stay up until midnight and make up their own constellations in the sky. She remembered how she would sit and listen to the princess giving her speech of the event in her soft, charming voice. The nostalgia was too much for her, she couldn't take it anymore. Tears were starting to form in her large, violet eyes and she quickly tried to wipe them away.

But Mana gave her a warm tight hug from the side. "This is a time for happiness. I'm sure all of your old friends there would want to see your beautiful smile here."

With those comforting words, Makoto started to cheer up a bit. "Thank you, Mana." However, she knew that no amount of physical affection could possibly bring the people she loved back to her.

Alice let out a bright golden smile to the sad girl, seemingly trying to shine a light into her dark, gloomy aura. "You still have us Makoto-chan. We promise that we will never leave you alone, no matter what. After all, blood does not make a family…"

Her smile slowly faded as she said that last word. Her expression changed to one that is indecipherable to most.

"Alice?" Rikka called out to her.

"Oh, thank you Alice…" Makoto responded. "I appreciate that, I really do."

Alice didn't respond at first. There was a long, unsettling pause before she finally spoke again.

"Oh, umm... anyway we should get back to my topic," She forced a smile to the rest of the group to distract them from what she was feeling then. Aguri could sense that something was troubling her but remained silent; she is excellent with giving advice but isn't half as good with counseling about other people's problems. The last time she attempted to do so ended up with the sufferer running away in tears because she scolded the person for being irresponsible (there was a minor misunderstanding that he lost his homework when in reality, it was stolen by a bully).

Then, Alice reluctantly continued her story. "A few weeks ago, the Yotsuba satellite picked up signs of the star seeming to… flicker in a strange pattern,"

"Alice, are you o- wait, but that's impossible!" Rikka pointed out, distracted from her concern about her dear friend by her strong interest in the topic. "Star only seem to flicker because of the light refracting in the atmosphere. The closest the satellite could possibly be to the surface is in the thermosphere which isn't thick enough to redirect even 20% of the light."

"W-we are aware of that Rikka," answered Alice in an unnerving tone. Sebastian even thought that the satellite was malfunctioning at first. But soon after that, other satellites from NASA, the Roscosmos State Corporation, and even SpaceX were reporting the same thing. Bu...but..."

"Alice-chan are you ok?" Mana asked worryingly.

"We... we couldn't work out the pattern..." continued Alice, seemingly trying to brush past Mana's concern. "... or why does it even occur in the first place but it is definitely a pattern. Every single time we checked, the star would twinkle at specific intervals at certain points in time. And the cycle continues.

There was a long pause and the group finally turned their heads up to look at the sky to see the luminous entity in action. However, at the moment, it was almost noon and the stars were nowhere to be seen.

"We should be able to see it tonight. Yes...that's uh, that's the main focus of this gathering actually, we're going to discuss about this peculiar phenomenon. I've invited all the managers from each department of the Yotsuba Corporation. A few members of NASA will be there too and I think one or two from Space X. I predict that it is going to be quite an interesting night," Alice added, attempting to retain her calm composure as she finished her statement with a smile.

"Oh really?!" Rikka exclaimed. "I have so many questions I've always wanted to ask them!" Then, as if it was magic, she randomly pulled out a 500 page notebook from her coat pocket.

"I'm always prepared to interview two of the most revolutionary science organizations on Earth!"

"Sadly, Elon Musk won't be there," Alice pointed out, seeming to be able to read the sharp-witted girl's thoughts.

"Oh, okay…" said Rikka, unable to hide her disappointment as she put her fat notebook back into her pocket.

After a while, Aguri excused herself for the ladies room. By then, she found the stench of her coat and her hair unbearable as it reeked of dissolved cacao beans. As she was leaving, Rikka called out to her friend.

"Mana, I think it's about time you take off that bucket on your head,"

"Whoops, hehe," the bucket headed girl giggled since she was aware that one could have mistaken her as an immature middle school student playing 'Space Invaders' with her friends while pretending to be an alien. That wouldn't have been a huge deal if she wasn't given the reputation as a student council president to which as a result would give the impression that her school was raising an entire generation of idiotic delinquents.

"Bwuket!" Ai-chan giggled out while pointing at Mana's shiny head.

Finally unable to bear with the embarrassment, Mana reached for the metal cylinder resting on her head and gave it a little tug- it didn't budge- then with a bit more force- still no- and more- the wearer starting to panic this time- and one more time with all of her strength but no matter what, the obnoxious entity refused to let go of what seemed to be its new home that is a soft, magenta colored nest.

"R-Rikka!" stuttered Mana. "I can't take it off!'

"What?! Oh Mana…" she shook her head in disbelief.

"I don't know how, i-it might be forced on my head when I was in that snowball or my head just expanded somehow because of all the endorphins in my brain b-but somehow, it's stuck!"

"Here, let me give it a try," Makoto then attempted to pull the metal object off- it still didn't work- then she asked Alice to hold Mana's body still. The tension in her torso and cranium was too much to take, causing her to let out a deafening scream as if she was in a horror movie although to be honest, it doesn't sound a lot different from her normal singing voice. Soon, the only person in the group who was smiling was Ai-chan who was now staring at Mana's shiny head and was starting to come up with an amusing idea.

The restroom which Aguri went to was located besides a local gas station. It was mostly empty, fortunately for her. There was actually a huge fountain located nearby with a spinning stone sphere in the middle. At first, she considered rinsing herself with the fountain but then she remembered her manners. She went to the restroom sink and took off her coat while observing the total damage; nearly all of the top half was stained in brown. This really bothered our poor little maiden as she had bought it just only a week ago with almost all of her allowance (the rest was spent on chocolate bars). She then checked her hair; it wasn't as obvious as her coat since her hair was brown but she noticed that it was all sticky. She then realized her hair was starting to get all itchy. As a maiden's hair is one of the most important things representing her dignity, our victim was obviously displeased by this. She then realized that she was also violating one of the 5 Pretty Cure vows (that is the Pretty Cures are high-class ladies). She desperately tried to rinse of the brown residue on her head but soon, she came to the acceptance that nothing short of a strong bottle of shampoo would rinse even half of the annoying remnants.

After giving up on her desperate attempt of personal hygiene, she sulkily made her way back. If one would have looked at her then, one could have almost spotted a tiny gray cloud of gloom hovering above her head, except that instead of rain, it poured out hailstones as at the moment, the average temperature outside was about 10 degrees below zero. This may also explain her headaches which she was currently experiencing. By then, she was alone; the streets were almost entirely empty. She decided to try and ignore her foolhardy predicament by observing her surroundings. "Look on the bright side, at least it's a beautiful day," she told herself. She then took a huge breath in and out in order to let the cool air enter her nostrils in order to refresh her gloomy mood. After a while, it was starting to work. To cheer herself up even further, she pretended that all the snow was actually huge batches of white cotton candy. Still looking around, she then started to smile and even let out a mild chuckle.

Then, just like that, her eye moment suddenly froze on a mysterious figure in front of her. Nervously, she walked close to the figure to get a clearer view. It was a small boy who looked to be about half her age standing right in front of the giant fountain located next to the gas station. He was wearing clothes which could just as well be used as rags; they certainly were not winter clothes. His face was smothered by what seemed to be black soot. He was definitely not Japanese; his pale face said it all. But what caught her attention specifically was the boy's expression. She could sense a feeling of fear inside him, a cold impression was what he had, a chilling feeling right up to his scrawny bones.

Nervously, Aguri called out to him.

"Are you ok?"

The boy slowly turned his glance towards Aguri, the fear in his sea blue eyes now much more obvious. Shockingly, Aguri could see that his pupils were twinkling; she could immediately tell that he was not human. She was really petrified at this point; goosebumps were starting to form on her arms, a ghastly chill ran through her entire body, but she did her best to hide it. She asked him again in a steady voice.

"Are you ok?"

He still didn't respond.

She then tried speaking in a gentler tone. "It's okay, I'm not going to hurt you,"

Then, much to her surprise, the boy's eyes started to let out a faint glow; his irises changed to a bright aquamarine. and his pupils were shining even than before. He then turned his gaze towards the sky while spreading out his bruised arms in a similar way as the pose from The Shawshank Redemption. His observer was thunderstruck at this point; she was unable to take her eyes off him. The unnerving feeling she had then was unbearable but she could not look away. Then, Aguri noticed that he was slowly opening his mouth and as he did, the sound of a soft inhale came to light. Soon, his mouth was starting to glow too in a similar color to his eye.

Out of the corner of her eyes, Aguri could see that the sky was starting to dim; what was once a soft blanket of Maya blue came to be a dark but somewhat alluring background. She also noticed that the air was getting colder; an unwelcome addition to her anxiety. She finally noticed the North Star which, as Alice pointed out, was flickering in that strange pattern. Shockingly, she found out that his pupils were sparkling perfectly in sync with the star as he was staring right at it. She immediately assumed that he was at least partially responsible for this strange occurrence. She turned towards the boy again to ask him about the star but stunningly he was gone; not a trace of him was left from where he was standing, not even his footprints. The perturbing entity which did all that… gone in the blink of an eye.

Overwhelmed by everything she just saw, Aguri stood there motionless for a few minutes, trying to analyze what she saw in her mind. She questioned herself whether she was going crazy or whether that unsolicited drink did something with her head. She continued to ponder about this while walking back towards the group to which her concentration was immediately interrupted by the shocking but ludicrous scene in front of her. At the moment, Mana was sobbing loudly while pointing at her helmet as Ai-chan was cheerfully patting the top as if it was a drum. The girls meanwhile, were trying to comfort Mana and the mascots were attempting to pull Ai-chan away.

From all of this commotion, only one thought remained in Aguri's mind.

"I should have gone home when I had the chance…"