|Into the Starry Night
Author: Hime Hoshi PM
During Sailor Stars Saga. There is a new idol in town, what could this mean for the Three Lights? And who is the idol in relation to the Sailor Senshi? Secrets and memories surface. OC & different plot. Read author's note before beginning please :Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 15 - Words: 78,439 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 03-19-13 - Published: 03-24-09 - id: 4945170
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
*formally bows low* I do apologize for the time it has taken to get this out. Thank you to everyone who are still following and reading. Thank you so much!
Also, a word of warning: this has exact wording and scenes from the series, soooo, SPOILERS! You've been warned, again.
And since I haven't done this since the first chapter: Disclaimer, I own nothing of Sailor Moon! No rights to it, didn't create it, nada. And I'm not making any money from this, clearly.
Everyone at Tenth High School had been working hard all week in preparation for the school festival the following day. Even though school hours were long past, the school was still packed with students working late into the evening on each of their stands.
In class 1-1, Usagi was finishing up a sign for their coffee shop menu. Her fellow classmates were arranging tables, and putting up decorations.
"Hi, everyone!" Minako called from the doorway.
"Is it ready?" Usagi asked expectantly, looking up from her poster board. Minako was dressed head to toe in a black and white maid outfit, with a lace hat. Makoto stood just behind her carrying a folded dress.
"Tada!" Minako posed prettily. "How do you like it? Good?"
The entire class gaped openly. The style of the dress was modest in length and a bit poufy complete with a white, lace apron; it was a perfect maid outfit for their coffee shop!
Makoto held up the dress she was carrying. "It's still being stitched but it should look like this!" Their classmates gathered around, admiring the lovely dresses.
"Looks cute!" Usagi squealed, excitedly.
"The outfit looks fabulous because the model is good!" Minako boasted before dissolving into giggles, "I knew it! I should be Miss Tenth High, right?!"
Usagi pulls the dress Makoto was carrying over her uniform, twirling around giddily. "I look cute with this as well!"
"Hey!" Minako groused.
Usagi stopped twirling and examined the dress. She pinched at the sides, stretching it out, frowning slightly. "But it's big around the waist." She pointed out.
Makoto smiled. "Oh! I used Minako's measurements."
Usagi glanced tauntingly at Minako. "Oh?" She teased; the other students also grinning, poking fun at their classmate.
"You're trying to provoke me, aren't you?" Minako growled.
After their classmates were done messing with Minako, she and Usagi changed out of the costumes and resumed work. They hung a few of the menu signs that Usagi had made and were getting their makeshift kitchen in the corner of the room ready for use. They would be finished soon but the girls had a night ahead of them completing their costumes. Most of the work was done, as Makoto had said, but their festival was the next day so they couldn't relax until it was absolutely finished. Usagi, Minako and Makoto were taking a short break by the window.
"A school festival is exciting, isn't it?!" Makoto smiled, leaning against the open window. "We got to stay together this late!"
"That's why it's a school festival!" Minako said, excitedly.
Makoto's smile grew bigger. "Right!"
Usagi grinned. "Besides that I like the atmosphere; everyone's mind is united as one! I believe it's important for everyone to work together." Usagi's grin faded, and she looked away.
Sensing the direction of her thoughts, Makoto called to her, intending to cheer her up, "Usagi," The radio that the students' had been listening to while they worked interrupted Makoto with Nagareboshi he (Search For Your Love). Usagi's head snapped up at the song. It got very quiet in the classroom as everyone paused, listening to their classmates' song.
"They're still singing." Minako commented.
Makoto smiled. "I hope they can come to see us."
Usagi nodded silently.
Seiya pounded furiously on a set of drums that he and his brothers had set up in their living room. They had been writing music all day at home. Seiya had been a little distant from Yaten after what had happened a few days prior and because of that, Yaten was being very conscientious about what he said and did around Seiya; he did not what him to explode at him again. Taiki had just called an end to their writing nearly an hour ago and since that time Seiya has been on the drum set. It was evident to his brothers that something was bothering him, but neither wanted to interrupt him either. Taiki just allowed him to play while he sat with his head bowed in thought, letting the beat wash over him. Yaten was viewing the scene as something else; that Seiya might still be mad at him. He wanted to say something, anything, to get him to stop and talk openly to them. Yaten sighed; at the very least the continual beat was in rhythm and sounded good.
"Why don't you finish it?" Yaten said, wearily.
Seiya stopped abruptly, cursing. He stood, shoulders hunched and shaking. "It's like we're being teased!" He shouted. "We sang, sang and sang! Our message should have reached her! Why hasn't our Princess appeared?!" He growled. "Why?!" Seiya threw his drumsticks to the floor, the clattering sound they made bringing him back down from his angry outburst. He needed to cool down. He took a deep breath and stalked past his brothers to the door. Yaten glanced from the corners of his eyes, not wanting to make any sudden movements.
"Where are you going?" He ventured to ask.
"To cool down." Seiya paused to say before leaving.
"Seiya!" Yaten called, standing. What was with him? It seemed to Yaten that Seiya had become tense and moody in the last few weeks. It was possible he was reaching his limit. That their extended stay on Earth and the long absence of their Princess was driving Seiya into a corner. They needed to locate her. It was true what Seiya had said, their message should have reached her by now.
Taiki, who had remained perfectly still throughout the whole episode, calmly whispered aloud to himself, "It's true that our Princess is near."
Yaten looked quizzically at his brother. What does he mean? I know that I once could smell- "I felt it, too" He said, recalling that moment after the Idol auditions; the one he had recently dreamed about. Shuddering and shoving those memories away, he said to Taiki. "The scent of our Princess from that little girl."
Taiki looked up finally. Yaten had never told him about that. "Are you saying that girl has a clue?" He asked. He had also sensed the same from the small child that Usagi said was her little sister. Could there be a connection between that child and their Princess. It sounded absurd but the chance that there could be something was not to be ignored.
Yaten grinned mischievously. "If so, it should be easy."
Seiya wandered aimlessly around the city, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. It was not fair. It could not be fair. The three of them had worked hard for months and months. Why? Why would their Princess not appear? They knew she had to be on this planet, in this country; they could follow her energy to a point but that was the extent of it. Seiya paused and stood at the railing of the pedestrian bridge he was crossing. He looked out over the city, the bright lights and the people milling about. He heard it then, a faint sound, probably from a car on the street below him; it was one of their songs. It was one of their songs that they wrote and sang to tell their Princess that they were here and they were looking for her. He sighed heavily. "This town is filled with our song. Why doesn't it reach her?" He scratched his head angrily and flung himself away from the railing, shoving his hands back into his pockets and continued down off of the bridge.
He trudged through the streets, around corners, down alleyways, his thoughts jumbled. He was angry that they were working so hard to be heard but had heard nothing in kind; he was hurting, thinking that maybe their Princess was ignoring them. He wanted to find her. He needed to find her. She was the key to everything important to him. It was with her that everything would come to a head. Their mission would be complete; their time here would be – over. Seiya stopped walking, his head hanging. It would all be over. From there on, no matter what the situation, their Princess would be calling the shots and deciding what they did. However, with that would come finality to everything: he would be able to answer some questions in his heart, ones he had been ignoring for a while now. He shook his head; now was not the time to think on them.
Seiya continued down the residential street he was on, glancing up from the ground every so often so he would not bump into anyone. Rounding a corner he stopped dead. In front of him, four houses down, there was a person, a woman standing on the sidewalk. Was it a person? Could it be a ghost? She appeared to be so ethereal with the moon encasing her in its glow that there was no way she was human.
She stood gracefully straight, her pale arms folded behind her. Her face was looking skyward, a quiet expression spread across it. Her long silver hair floated behind her, swirling in a wind that Seiya could not feel. Her long, white gown floated around her and was it not for the barest hint of her feet glimpsing from under her dress, Seiya would swear that she was hovering off the ground.
She seemed so intent at whatever she was staring at that she had yet to notice Seiya. For himself, Seiya could not move, he was so entranced. His heart felt light, his mind clear. He wondered who she could be why she was out by herself and he was admittedly curious about what had her so enraptured. Without realizing it, his body had begun to move closer to her. Seiya thought, as he got closer, that she seemed – felt – familiar. But he knew only one person with that appearance and that color of hair and it was not her that he was staring at. Hikari's roommate, Neb, had silver hair but her stature was smaller though every bit as graceful. No, this was not the same person.
Seiya stepped on a fallen leaf, the barely making a sound but it had been enough. The young woman's head snapped in his direction, her gold eyes flashing. Seiya reached a hand out, meaning to say something consoling but in the next instant she was gone. Seiya rushed forward, stopping where she had been. He looked frantically about, trying to find a clue about where she had gone. He could hear no footsteps or see any trailing bit of silver hair or her white gown. Seiya was disoriented. Had he really just seen a ghost? Was she even human? To move so quickly without making any noise, who was she, what was she? What had she been staring at?
Seiya looked around where he assumed the girl had been staring. There was nothing in the sky for her to see; the moon was in a different direction and he could see no stars. Then Seiya realized that she had appeared to be looking skyward but the girl was to be shorter than him, so, he thought, correcting his gaze, she was looking a bit further down and was staring at-
A house; a two story house with a large window on the second level that had a balcony outside. "Wait, this is her house!" Seiya gasped. "How did I end up here? I must be stupid!" He sought to leave in that moment when he heard a door on the house slide open.
Usagi sat at her bedroom table, bent over her costume, putting the finishing touches on it. Her radio was on, the Three Light's music filling her room. Chibi Chibi was curled up on her bed, dressed in her blue bunny onesie clutching her favorite incense burner to her chest, fast asleep.
Usagi hummed quietly along to the music, a small smile on her face as she worked. She was nearly done with it, and then she could curl up with the little red head asleep on her bed and rest till the big day tomorrow. Usagi suddenly could smell lilacs. Curious about where it was coming from, she glanced up. It was then she spied a red butterfly floating around her room. "What? A butterfly?" The creature flew towards the balcony door then disappeared. Usagi stood up, wondering if she was imagining things. She pulled open her door, holding her sweater she had draped over her shoulders on her PJ's. She glanced about, stepping outside, looking for a bit of red anywhere. "What was that?" She wondered before she saw a movement down by her house's front gate. "Who's there?" She called.
"Yo!" Seiya replied.
Usagi knew that voice. She looked closer, recognizing Seiya. "Seiya? Just a second, I'll be right down!" She said, turning to go back in. It must be important if he was coming to see her at this time of night. What if someone was hurt?
Seiya stopped her. "That's alright!" Usagi turned back around, looking quizzically at him. He smiled softly. "I'm just happy to see your face."
Usagi blushed lightly at that. "You're weird aren't you?" Seiya's smile grew. "Guys are called a Peeping Tom when you come to see a pretty girl's room at night." She teased.
"Talkative as always." Seiya chuckled, looking down. When he looked back up, Usagi had a kind smile, and he smiled in return. She can always put me at easy. Why is that? "Nice to see you! Bye!" He said, turning to leave, after all, she was right, he should not be there in the middle of the night; whether it was by accident or not.
"Seiya!" Usagi called, leaning on her railing. He paused, turning around. "Tomorrow we're having a school festival. I know you're busy but if you can visit us it'll make everyone happy!"
"What's our class doing?"
"A Coffee Shop!" She replied cheerfully.
Seiya frowned. "That's mediocre!"
Usagi scowled. "I don't think so! Look at our outfits!" She ran in to grab her dress, returning to hold it up. "Tada! Isn't it pretty! Makoto and Hikari worked hard on them!" She said folding it over her arms, too oblivious to notice Seiya wince. "Makoto's cake is unforgettably good! She'll be baking it for the customers."
Usagi felt something crawling up her back. "Chibi . . . . . Chibi. . ." The small girl leaned over Usagi's shoulder, still half asleep. Usagi plucked her off her shoulder and held her out in front of her. "Sorry, did I wake you?" She cried apologetically.
Seiya grinned at the two. "I'll go," He said softly. Usagi's head shot up. "To the festival." He said louder.
"Really?" Usagi asked hopefully. Seiya nodded then saluted, calling out, "Good Night!" Before tucking his hands in his pockets, walking away without waiting for a reply.
Usagi smiles gently, holding Chibi Chibi in her arms. "Good night." She says softly.
Seiya was in a good mood now. Visiting Usagi, however unintentional it had been, proved to be exactly what he needed. He felt recharged. A flicker of red from the corner of his eye caught his attention. A butterfly? The little red insect floated up and up, disappearing into Usagi's room. "That scent was –" He stared curiously at the spot where the butterfly had vanished. "Why are things disappearing in front of me tonight?" He sighed.
Sailor Red Crow had been charged with the unpleasant task of cleaning off Sailor Aluminum Siren's work desk. She was unfortunate enough to spy the framed photo of her and her late rival right as she had begun her task. She plucked it from the desktop, recalling better times with Aluminum Siren. Red Crow stifled her sobs, not allowing single sound to escape, knowing that her new coworker would jump on any weakness she displayed. It was a tragedy that Aluminum Siren had died, her bracelets taken by Madam Galaxia when she failed to produce a real star seed. Red Crow had begged her Mistress to spare Siren, but she did not. Now Red Crow was left without her rival, a person she had been with before she could remember. Red Crow shook her head, pulling her thoughts back together, moving on with her task. She could not get emotional over this. She could not show weakness.
She sat the framed picture of the two of them down, opening the top desk drawer to put it away. On top of the pile of papers and books in the drawer was a small spiral notebook that read "Siren's Secret: Don't Look." Red Crow laughed internally. Siren was good at her job, but she was still very naïve. Red Crow picked up the book, flipping through it. She arrived at the last few pages, skimming through it when she tripped across familiar words, very familiar words: the Real Star Seed. Red Crow gasped, nearly dropping the book. "What's this?"
Red Crow could not believe what she had stumbled upon. Her rival really had found it. If what she had written here was true, no, it had to be true. Siren did not lie. This was big. This would change everything. Red Crow could avenge Siren's needless death with this. She could take back what was taken from her. She needed to see Madam Galaxia; Red Crow needed permission to return to Earth.
Red Crow quickly stuffed the notebook in her vest, spinning and strutting down the corridor. She tried very hard to keep the smirk off of her face. This would put that upstart Sailor Tin Nyanko in her place. Red Crow would make her kowtow before Siren's desk and beg for forgiveness. It was her fault Madam Galaxia had killed Siren; Tin Nyanko would pay.
Red Crow arrived at the sealed off elevator doors. She swiped her card on the access panel to her right, the doors swishing open. She knelt under the boards crisscrossing the doorway. When the doors closed she had arrived in Madam Galaxia's throne room, dressed once again in her familiar red leather sailor suit.
"In other words, you haven't found it yet?" Sailor Red Crow heard Madam Galaxia fiercely ask. She saw Sailor Tin Nyanko in front of the throne, bowing lower by the second.
"Well, I mean-" Nyanko stuttered, drawing back.
While Red Crow wanted to see the girl suffer more, she had come here with a purpose. As they were already on the topic, she thought she just might interject rather than give the full story.
She bowed. "Let me handle it." She proclaimed. "I finally found the host of a real Star Seed."
Galaxia narrowed her eyes at her. Nyanko shouted, "Don't lie to us!"
"Be Quiet!" Galaxia commanded, not sparing Nyanko a look.
"Do you swear by it?" She asked.
"I swear on my life." Red Crow stated confidently.
"I won't tolerate failure." Galaxia reminded her.
Red Crow bowed lower. "Yes."
Tenth High School's festival was a huge hit! The school had been packed since it opened early that morning. Various family members and friends from the neighborhood had been milling about and shopping all day. The biggest hit of the festival was not a shop stall but rather a simple coffee shop on the second floor in the first year's corridor.
The sign above the door to the 1-1 class read Little Tenth Beauty Coffee Shop. The waitresses were dressed in knee length black dresses with a long frilly white apron over them and they had cute little lace hats atop their heads. The shop was crowded with patrons, all smiling and looking around expectantly.
At a table near the window sat a student of the school, another student in a brown and gray uniform, and a small red haired child who was putting as much cake as she could fit into her mouth. A plate with a beautifully, smelling yellow cake slide onto the table.
"Thank you for waiting." Minako said. Ami and Rei looked up, thanking her.
"You look pretty nice in that outfit." Rei complimented.
Minako grinned. "Oh defiantly!" She giggled.
Ami took a delicate bite from the cake. "The cake is good too; you seem to have a good reputation." She commented glancing around. Rei looked around too, noticing that nearly every table was either occupied or being cleaned off for a new occupant.
Minako sighed, wishing that was the case. "Well, half of them may be here to see the Three Lights and Hoshiko. I know that Hikari wasn't planning on being here but the other three, I can't confirm."
Rei also sighed, dejectedly. "I don't think they'll come."
Usagi passed by their table, dressed in her waitress costume, smirking deviously. "That's not necessarily true!" She said, flouncing off to the kitchen, giggling. The girls stared for a moment before jumping up and following her. Chibi Chibi cocked her head to the side, "Chibi?" She said. She grinned, downed the last bite of her cake and picked up her yellow balloon and pink bag, heading off to explore the festival on her own.
Makoto was fixing a tea tray and smiled when she saw Usagi entered then noticed the mischievous look on her face. "Usagi? What have you done?" Usagi only grinned wider.
The other girls came barreling in, trapping Usagi in a corner by the windows. For her part, Usagi seemed unconcerned.
"What do you mean 'that's not necessarily true'?" Minako asked. Usagi rubbed her chin, her grin now splitting her face in two.
"Seiya said he'd be here!" Usagi announced.
"Seiya is coming?" Makoto asked, after passing the tea tray off to a classmate.
"No way!" Minako exclaimed!
Usagi shook her head, "He promised!"
"Did you see him?" Ami asked. Usagi nodded.
"When?" Rei asked, pressing closer.
"It's a secret!" Usagi said mysteriously, giggling at her friends' plight. It was so much fun to tease them.
"Unbelievable!" the girls cried in unison. Usagi only giggled more.
The girls whipped around. Seiya was casually leaning in the doorway. "Seiya!" They cried in disbelief!
Usagi genuinely smiled. "Thanks for coming."
"I just wanted to try some of that cake that Odango recommended." Seiya smiled charmingly.
Makoto gasped. "I ran out!" Seiya looked crestfallen.
Makoto hurried past him, Rei in tow. "I'll make some right away!"
"I'll help too!" Rei volunteered. The two raced to the school kitchens. Seiya watched them retreating. "Seiya!" Usagi called. He looked back at her and the others, grimacing at what she held up.
"Since you're here, do you want to be a waiter for a while?" She asked, looking expectantly at the maid's dress she held up for him.
"No, I'm a little reluctant." He said hesitantly.
"Over here! Look at that!" Hotaru shouted, pointed at a pastry stall. "Can we have some? Please?" She begged Setsuna, tugging on the woman's arm. Setsuna smiled warmly.
"Yes. Pick out what you would like." Hotaru cheered and darted to the cart.
Michiru was nearby at a game cart watching Haruka play a tossing game. Haruka just won her latest round and was picking out the large white bear with a big red bow tied around its neck from the very top. Michiru giggled when Haruka bowed and presented the stuffed animal to her. "Thank you." She said, hugging it.
Haruka put her arm around Michiru's waist. "Anything for you." Michiru blushed prettily.
"Haruka! Michiru! Do you want a crepe?" Hotaru called, waving madly at them from the food stall. The two shook their heads. Hotaru and Setsuna joined them in the fairway with a crepe each. Hotaru was happily munching away, pointing at various stalls and signs excitedly. They had been at the festival for nearly an hour already. Haruka pulled out a map that detailed the stalls, classes, and show times for various acts and performances the students were doing.
"Let's see, the kittens will be in the building on the second level." She located the coffee shop on the map. "Geez! It's on the other side of the campus!"
"That's ok. They'll still be there even if we take all afternoon. Let's just look around and make our way there." Michiru said, clutching Haruka's arm in one hand and the bear in another. Haruka smiled at her, agreeing.
"Hey, isn't that-?" Setsuna pointed at a game cart. A young girl with her long black hair tied back in a single pony tail was picking a small prize from the student operating the cart. When the girl turned around, Hotaru gasped, "Hikari?!"
The girl's head shot in Hotaru's direction and before anyone around them could notice, she raced to Hotaru's side, clamping a hand over her mouth and holding a single finger to her lips. "Shhhh!" She hissed. She glanced in each direction to see if anyone had noticed her. When all appeared to be clear, she breathed a sigh of relief. She pulled her sunglasses off, revealing emerald eyes.
"Hotaru, how did you notice me?" Hikari asked. "I thought I was disguised well enough!"
Haruka looked the Idol over. Indeed, had it been anyone but them, she would have remained hidden. She wore flip flops, simple blue jeans, a white top, a green ball cap pulled over her black hair that was tied normally, a short braid then freely flowing but it was in a single tail instead of two. It was too bad for her that the four of them were trained to be very perceptive. Even Setsuna who had not formally met the girl could recognize her.
"Setsuna noticed you first!" Hotaru chirped, grabbing Hikari's hand. "I only saw you after she pointed you out. But don't worry, I think we're the only ones and we won't tell!"
"Oh? That's how it was." Hikari looked at the older women, formally greeting each of them. "Good afternoon."
"Miss Aso." Michiru greeted. "This is Setsuna Meioh. Setsuna, this is the much talked about, Hikari Aso."
"Nice to meet you." Hikari bowed. "And you can call me Hikari."
"The pleasure is mine, Hikari." Setsuna returned.
"Are you not working at your class' stall?" Haruka asked. "Skipping out?" She teased.
"Oh no! Nothing like that! It's just, it would be unfair if I was working and there were a lot of customers because of that. I even told the class I wouldn't show up at all so no one would expect to see me today." Hikari explained; Hotaru swung their joined hands back and forth.
"Does that mean that you aren't busy? Could you show us around?" She asked, her eyes growing big and expectant.
Hikari grinned. "I can do that!"
Hotaru cheered, "Yay! Let's go get some food then!" She cried, tossing the wrapper of her crepe in the trash and snatching Setsuna's hand to drag along with her.
"Hey! Don't get too far ahead" Haruka called after the three, laughing. She pulled Michiru along, following the others at a slower pace.
Hikari laughed along with Hotaru, picking out a stall with Takoyaki, she changed their direction. "This one! I've heard it's the best!" She said. She ordered three boxes of eight for all of them to share. She refused when Setsuna tried to pay. "No, no! My treat!" She winked playfully. Hikari passed out the boxes and they continued along the fairway, munching on their food. They passed a few more shops, getting a cool drink when they had finished the last of their Takoyaki.
Hikari had just downed the last of her lemonade and was tossing it in the trash when she spied a little red haired girl wandering around by herself. She had a yellow balloon floating above her, and was carrying a box of Takoyaki from the same stall they had gotten theirs. "I wonder whose child she is?" Hikari mused aloud. "What peculiar hair."
Hotaru dashed up to Hikari. "Hey! We saw a haunted house down the way! Let's go check it out!" Hotaru said, pulling Hikari along.
"Ok - sounds like fun." She said sarcastically, grudgingly allowing to be dragged.
Yaten and Taiki had also turned up at the fair. They had opted to first try locating the girl in a public place rather than storming into her house demanding to see her. They had hoped that Usagi might take her little sister to the school festival. The two of them had been looking for nearly a half hour before a familiar scent caught their attention.
"There!" Yaten pointed down by the building. The little girl, Chibi Chibi, was wandering around by herself, a balloon with a silly face in hand. The small child had spotted a butterfly and was chasing after it. "Let's go!" Yaten said. He and Taiki moved stealthily through the crowd, it would be better for them if they could avoid being spotted by anyone as they had not donned disguises for this.
They remained hidden, trailing the girl from the shadows. She rounded a corner that they knew lead to a courtyard where there were no stalls. They checked the area, finding no students or visitors in sight. Rather than approaching the child, they stayed back and out of sight. Chibi Chibi sat down under a tree. She pulled her small pink bag around to her lap. Opening it revealed her red incense burner that she had started to carry everywhere with her. She smiled gleefully when the red butterfly she had been chasing landed on it.
Suddenly two shadows loomed over her, the butterfly disappeared. Chibi Chibi looked up curiously.
Taiki and Yaten stood over her, the air around them tense. "May we have that?" Taiki asked, straightening his sunglasses.
Chibi Chibi stood, clutching the burner to her, shaking her head furiously. "No!"
Yaten fiercely ripped his sunglasses from his face. "No doubt!" He cried, eyeing the red ornate burner. "That's our Princess' incense burner!"
You would think that this would be easier having episodes already doing the work for you! It's not! I'll try to have the next chapter out quickly.
Also, I'll try to figure out how to upload pictures on here. I have something I'd like to share with you kind, thoughtful, and magnificent readers!
Please review! *bows formally*