"Aww, little Yayoi drew another picture of a unicorn."
Yayoi roughly landed in a seated position after being knocked back by Natsuki's palm. Shizuru was chuckling to herself as she held Yayoi's latest charcoal drawing in her hands, studying the piece with sarcastic interest. The two girls clearly held no qualms over antagonizing their classmate.
"It... it's a Pegasus."
Yayoi was already on the verge of tears when she spoke up for herself. There was a reason why she never willingly shared her creations with others, and this wasn't the first time she was bullied over what most of her peers thought was a childish pastime. Sure, she had added a horn to the drawing for artistic purposes, but she been careful to make the wings much more prominent. Couldn't they tell the two mythical creatures apart, or were they just looking for any reason to tease her?
Natsuki stepped closer to see the sketching for herself. She snorted after lingering on it for a few seconds.
"How can you even tell? It just looks like a crappy horse."
Yayoi shyly stared toward her lap. Maybe they were right. Maybe the one thing she thought she was good at was really just another waste of time.
But she had worked so hard on it. How could they say something like that?
Yayoi's despairing state only fed the bullies further. Shizuru carelessly ripped the paper vertically in two, then turned it to tear it a few more times horizontally. She tossed the resulting confetti in Yayoi's face when she was done.
"Here, I fixed it for you."
She then began walking away with Natsuki at her side.
"See ya, klutz."
Natsuki taunted Yayoi from over her shoulder as she left.
"Yeah. Come back when you get a real hobby."
When her tormentors were gone, Yayoi was the only one left in the school yard. Scraps were all that remained of hours of hard work, and scraps were what she cradled against her chest as she gave into her emotions and quietly wept to herself.
"Don't cry, Yayoi. Showing your weakness doesn't do you any good."
A hand gently rested on her shoulder as a soothing male voice spoke to her. If Yayoi hadn't been so secluded from her surroundings, she would have noticed it felt less like a hand and more like a paw. When she staunched her crying into a quiet whimper, she turned her head. She froze in place the moment she saw her unlikely counselor.
"Who... who are you?"
He was more beast than man. He was humanoid in form, but he had the head of a wolf and thick grey fur covered his body. He was dressed in a sleeveless black uniform, and a mane of long white hair hung down his back.
The strange being answered with a bow.
"Wolfrun, of the Bad End Kingdom, at your service."
Yayoi's eyes widened in horror as she crawled several feet backwards on her hands. Wolfrun's jowls curled into their best attempt into a comforting smile.
"There's no reason to be afraid, child. I may be a big bad wolf, but you're too skinny to be a pig and there's a distinct lack of red in your clothes. You don't look like anyone I would have for lunch."
Yayoi almost sputtered as she nervously pointed toward him. The existence of the Bad End Kingdom had practically become common knowledge thanks to their weekly invasions.
"You're the ones who've been attacking the city! You're trying to turn the world into some sort of scary fairy tale!"
Wolfrun kept the same amused expression, unhindered by her accusations.
"I see I need no introduction."
The girl's voice became quieter after she shook her head and leaned forward on her knees. Her fear was slowly changing to curiosity.
"Why are you even talking to me? Did you run out of plans or something?"
A humored snort escaped the corner of Wolfrun's mouth. He crossed his arms as he casually explained the situation.
"Not in the slightest. We have no problem writing bad endings for your planet, my dear. We've just come to realize the reason we haven't succeeded yet is because we lack the essential ingredient we need to bring our stories to life."
He cowered to the ground so he could match Yayoi's field of view. As he stared intently into her eyes, the end of his muzzle nearly touched her nose.
"We need an illustrator, to be exact."
Yayoi shyly looked away in thought. After being the subject of endless ridicule in her school and always feeling like she was nothing but a burden to others, the shrinking violet understandably had trouble believing what he was insinuating.
"You came for my help."
The longer she thought about it, the better she felt. It was the first time she could remember someone depending on her.
Wolfrun rose back to his feet with a new, increasingly sly demeanor.
"Smart girl. You'll do well as the Bad End Kingdom's Pretty Cure."
Yayoi quickly shifted her attention back toward him and blinked in astonishment. She knew all about the four maidens of justice who protected her city every time one of the Bad End Kingdom's monsters attacked. The team of superheroines had been all over the news and quickly became like role models for her. She had even made several drawings of what she might look like as a Pretty Cure herself, but those were her most secret creations. She had them safely stashed away in some dark corner in her closet, buried under her old sketchbooks and the box to her DragonRanger alarm clock.
"You can turn me into a Pretty Cure?"
"I sure can. You're the perfect match for what we had in mind. You'll be expected to follow the our rules, but you'll have all the same powers as those other girls. Is that what you would like in exchange for assisting us?"
Yayoi blankly stared up toward him as she tried to find an answer somewhere within her wounded judgment. She felt more and more meek the longer Wolfrun's eyes remained fixed on her, patiently waiting for a response.
After a short pause, she sniffed and rubbed her eyes. Her gaze sunk back to the ground, where she was instantly reminded of the shredded remains of her latest artwork.
"I just want people to like my drawings. I'm sick of feeling so worthless."
Wolfrun retracted his claws so he could cradle Yayoi's chin with his paw. He encouraged Yayoi in his own methodical way as he gently directed her attention back toward him.
"Oh, I have a pretty good feeling you'll gain plenty of fans once we give you the right tools for your craft. And if that fails, you'll still have plenty of ways to... coerce them into appreciating your work."
She hesitated again before she nervously moved to her next inquiry.
"Will I have to fight the other Cures?"
What Wolfrun told her would have probably been unsettling in any other context, but he found a way to make it sound inspiring.
"Of course, Yayoi. Cleaning them off your canvas will be your first priority."
Her eyes grew wide with concern as she was taken slightly aback.
"But why? They always try so hard to protect us."
Wolfrun tilted his head as he hid his fangs behind a compassionate gaze.
"They're trying to protect this world, where nobody wants to be your friend and you'll never be able to show all your beautiful art to other people. Do you want them to protect something like that, Yayoi?
Whatever reluctance Yayoi had been clinging to now slipped from her fingers. She hadn't thought about it that way before. Her voice became shy again.
"I guess not..."
Wolfrun closed his eyes and nodded in agreement.
"Then let me be your mentor. You'll forget there was ever a time your illustrations weren't loved by everyone."
She knew he was speaking of universal fear more than love, but did it really matter at this point? Anything was an improvement over being trampled by everyone.
After one final pause, Yayoi whispered submissively.
"I'll help you."
She impulsively shielded herself when he stretched his arm downward. Instead of striking her, however, his giant paw calmly stopped in front of her eyes and opened so it could offer her a certain round object.
"Then this belongs to you."
Yayoi took the gift in both hands so she closely inspect it. It appeared to be a small pink cosmetic case, decorated with hearts, ribbons, and other girlish symbols, and she kept to herself as she prodded the device suspiciously. It didn't look like something that had originated from the Bad End Kingdom. Maybe they had stolen it from wherever the other Pretty Cures came from and claimed its mystical power for their own purposes. Maybe they had created it themselves and only designed this way so she would feel more comfortable wielding it. In any case, she didn't think about the issue for long. Her main concern was how this tiny object may have been her only chance to make herself useful to others.
When Yayoi finally built up enough courage, she opened the lid of the compact with trembling fingers. A blinding explosion of light came the inside of the magical item, instantly engulfing its wielder in a yellow glow.
Yayoi was standing on her feet once the light faded. Her school loafers and socks had been replaced with bright yellow and white high-heeled boots. Her new combat dress similarly took the place of her school uniform, sporting the same uplifting color scheme as her footwear. Her shoulder length blonde hair had grown into a bright golden ponytail that fanned across her entire back, held in place with a hair decoration that reminded her of a Valkyrie's wings. Her eyes grew damp once she realized this was just how she had envisioned herself as a Pretty Cure.
When she lifted her hands to study the cloth bangles that now adorned her wrists, tiny bolts of lightning crackled across her fingertips. She jumped back in surprise when a random surge of static electricity shot from her index finger and weakly stung her cheek.
Wolfrun stepped in place just behind her shoulder while she was busy assessing herself. Even when she was standing, he was still tall enough to tower over her small frame.
"Are you happy with our arrangement, Cure Peace?"
She looked back toward him with something of a puzzled look. She found the naming choice to be odd, given what would be expected of her.
Wolfrun dispelled her doubts with an easy smirk.
"Peace can come in many forms. It will be the only thing left in this miserable world once you've helped us bring about the Worst Ending."
Yayoi turned the rest of the way so she could face him. She bent her elbows and curled her hands into balls several times, getting a feel for her new self before she answered.
"Well, I feel a lot stronger."
Her hands brushed over her waist so they could feel the soft and frilly material of her skirts. A smile timidly crept across her lips.
"And I really like this costume."
Wolfrun gave another understanding nod before offering his next suggestion.
"Good. Now why don't you go teach those two girls why they should never have picked on you? You're be sure to get that bothersome Pretty Cure team's attention that way."
Something about her transformation was numbing her remorse, and she didn't care what she had to do stay in Wolfrun's favor. Whether it was part of some dark, perception-altering curse lingering behind her powers or just her own pent up aggression finally being released, all that mattered was for the first time in her life, she felt truly happy. She felt confident. She felt unstoppable.
Yayoi answered the command with a playful bob of her head and a cheerful grin. Being in high spirits was a rare feeling for her, but she was already starting to develop an appreciation for it.
"You can count on me, Wolfrun."