Himeko Shirogane heard a knock on the ivory colored door. "Miss Himeko, your lunch is being served. I advise you come out and eat before you go to school. What are you doing in there?" a maid of the Shirogane royal family spoke through the door.
"None of your business! And don't tell me what to do!" yelled Himeko brutally. She kicked the door with her ruby red Mary Janes for good measure. She turned to her room, which was thrice the size of a normal kid's bedroom and cluttered with dresses, shoes, and a rainbow of accessories. It was Christmas Eve, and nothing in Himeko's closet suited the occasion. Himeko tore down the last dress, a pink one with a lacy collar and an amethyst stone where a necklace might hang and pink and yellow ruffles from the waist to the lacy trim, which fell about an inch above Himeko's ankles. She tossed it onto her huge bed and clenched her teeth in frustration. "I knew I shouldn't have gone to school yesterday. All for Keane-sensei's dumb Christmas party! If I had stayed away, then maybe I would have a dress!" she said to herself angrily. She stormed out, in her nightgown, to the dining room table, which was set with so much food it was hard to believe it was all for one person. Himeko sat down to eat, and the maids left her to her privacy.
Just before Himeko put a forkful in her mouth, a sharp rapping noise came from the window beside her. "Psst! Over here!"
Himeko glared at the creatures interrupting her meal. Three skinny boys, one red, one blue, and one green, were gaping hungrily through the glass. "Do you mind sparing a bit?" the red one spoke out, almost pleadingly.
"We aren't sure if we'll have dinner tonight," the blue one added softly.
"Mama kicked us out of the house again," the green one finished.
"Please?" they all begged in unison. The boys then looked at Himeko with such a troubled expression that would have made any other person give in, but not she.
"Gaah!" Himeko shrieked. "Get away from me, you bags of poor, urban scum! Daddy! Rid this house of that...disgrace!"
The boys looked utterly terrified as Himeko's father bounded through the doorway. "How dare you infiltrate this mansion! How dare you scare my daughter! You should be ashamed, begging the Shiroganes! GET OUT!" her father boomed. The boys ran and screamed in horror as the angry man chased them off the property. The man of the Shirogane household didn't have to run far to scare the boys off the lawn and two blocks down the street.
"Himeko-sama! Is my little Princess alright?" Himeko's father said, returning to his daughter and his house. He hugged her tightly.
"I think so," said Himeko far too dramatically for the situation. "But it was quite a scare."
"Oh, my Princess, I'm so sorry for the inconvenience, is there anything I can do for you? To calm your fear?"
Himeko broke the hug and thought for a moment. "Well," she began slowly, "I do need an outfit for school today. Something perfect for December twenty-fourth."
"School! I almost forgot! But I have just the thing!" Her father jogged back into the house. Seven minutes later, her father returned with the most stunning apparel Himeko has ever seen. The dress was green like a Christmas tree, and decorated like one too. Red ribbons, bows, ornaments, the whole works adorned the tree. A matching hat with a large golden star on top came with it, along with emerald Mary Janes much like her usual ones.
"Oh Daddy! I knew you would pull through for me!" She grabbed the hanger out of her father's hand and rushed to change into it.
"I'm so glad it satisfies your need. After all, a very special dress should be worn on a very special day by a very special girl," her father beamed.
Before Himeko knew it, she was arriving at school in her purple limousine just before the last bell. She walked up to her classroom and met up with her classmates and her teacher, Ms. Keane. Everything that went about in that room happened like any normal day, but with a bit more cheerfulness, as if the spirit of Christmas, as Momoko Akatsutsumi called it, had engulfed the room.
Speaking of Momoko, she and her best friends, Miyako Gotokuji and Kaoru Matsubara, along with Fumika and Hanayo, two of Himeko's closest frenemies, were all standing in a huddle in the middle of the classroom. They were chattering away, which annoyed Himeko to no end, so she decided to confront them.
“Oh girls! Have you seen the dress I'm wearing today? Daddy got it for me specially for today, imported from the United States. It makes you wish you could be as rich as me, does it not? Oh ho ho!"
That high pitch, snobby laughter attracted Kaoru's attention. It also demolished her spirit. If there was one thing she hated about Himeko, it was her laugh. To Kaoru, it was pretty much nails on a chalkboard.
But to Fumika and Hanayo, it was go-time. They immediately rushed to Himeko's side, gushing over how much she must have paid to get clothes so elaborate.
"Two hundred fifty thousand yen," Himeko said proudly.
This answer stopped Momoko, Kaoru and Miyako in their tracks. "Two hundred fifty thousand? Don't you think that's...a bit much, Himeko-sama?" Miyako questioned politely.
"Well I am worth more than bit much, wouldn't you say?"
"You're worth just as much as everybody else and we all know it. You should acknowledge it too," Kaoru said in a flush if rage.
"Miyako's right, that's a lot to pay for something you'll only wear once," Momoko added.
"How do you know I'll only wear it once?" Himeko shot back.
"You never repeat an outfit," Miyako pointed out.
"Oh yeah!" Himeko realized out loud.
"That's the attitude we're talking about. You could have spent that money someplace else, like making someone's unfortunate life a little better," Momoko retorted. She always dreamed of a peaceful world, and helping this dream on its way was a reason for her to become a Powerpuff.
"You want me to...donate?" Himeko asked, shocked. All three girls nodded. Fumika and Hanayo had disappeared from the scuffle. "If the poor need money, they should get it themselves, like me," Himeko criticized.
"But not many are born as fortunate as you, and many can't pull themselves out of debt," Momoko returned with an almost exasperated look.
"Well, if they know they will never be fortunate, then why do they live? It serves no purpose to them or everyone else, only pain," Himeko finished.
Neither Miyako nor Kaoru could think of anything else to say. Momoko told the unanimous notion of the three out loud. "Listen, Himeko-san, I think this conversation would best be terminated, if that's really how you feel about it," she said quietly as she turned back to her friends and tried to change the subject.
"So what is everyone doing for Christmas this year? I know I'm having company over." Momoko sighed contentedly. "I'm so glad, my cousins, aunts uncles...gives me another person to play with besides Kuriko."
"Don't talk about your own sister like that, not on Christmas," Miyako commented, a bit scoldingly.
"I know, I know, she's a great sister, really, and I couldn't imagine my life without her," Momoko said while grinning. Miyako knew she meant it.
"So what about you, Kaoru-san? What are your plans?"
"Heh heh, my turn. I know for a fact that I'm going to the final championship wrestling match with my family! Because my dad's a finalist, we get front row seats for all the best action. I hope with all my mind that he wins," Kaoru told enthusiastically.
"Sounds exciting! That'll be a fun experience," chirped Momoko.
"Ew, I don't like fighting," Miyako said, covering part of her face.
"Well, care to tell us what your plans are?" challenged Kaoru, clearly depleted that Miyako didn't share in her happiness.
"Actually..." She blushed. "I'm planning on spending the evening with Taka-chan at the hospital. The nurses said me taking him out was a definite no, but they will allow me to stay past visiting hours." She looked out the window dreamily. "You know, he's so lonely there, I really hope the spirit of Christmas will make him feel better," she said softly.
"That's beautiful, Miyako, I eat my words," laughed Kaoru.
"Sounds pretty yucky, if you ask me. Christmas in a germy hospital? How low can you go, Gotokuji-kun?" Himeko's voice and then evil cackle rang out.
All three girls whirled around. "There's nothing wrong with visiting the sick, Himeko, maybe you should try it sometime," Miyako said, hurt. She was tired of bullies constantly picking on her beloved friend.
"Yeah, what are you doing for Christmas, Himeko? Up to no good, I suppose," Kaoru said hotly, desperately trying to control her temper.
"If you must know, Papa and Mama are sending me on a lovely cruise. The new one that circles all of the islands off the Japanese coastline," Himeko proclaimed.
"But doesn't that one last like, two months?" Momoko questioned.
"It does. So I'll probably miss like, two months of school."
"Why wouldn't you want to spend your Christmas with, I dunno, your family?" Kaoru pressed.
"Ew, no, family is annoying, I'd rather be alone."
"But...isn't your sister coming home to see you?" Miyako asked sweetly.
This comment stopped Himeko in her tracks. "No, she's staying at St. Cecilia's Preparatory School, I am to come to her."
"So you are going?" asked Momoko.
"I declined the invitation."
"A bit rude, wouldn't you say?" Kaoru challenged.
The last bell finally sounded. "Saved by the bell," Kaoru remarked.
"Nevertheless, merry Christmas to you, Himeko-sama!" Miyako called back cheerfully while leaving the school premises.
"I told you, Christmas is just a humbug!" Himeko yelled furiously.
"And a happy New Year!" Momoko shouted just for fun.
"Aghh! Dumb girls!" Himeko muttered as Kaoru flew past on her skateboard.
That night was rather paranormal for both Himeko and the girls Z.
Himeko fell asleep just fine, but her dreams troubled her greatly. She saw two figures, her mother and father, bound in chains.
"How did this happen?" Himeko shouted, horrified at the image.
"We wear the chains we forged, by evildoing!" Himeko's mother wailed.
"Link by link and yard by yard! We are haunted every night in our dreams!" her father wailed.
"In the day, you seem fine!" Himeko yelled desperately.
"Yes! But in the night, we cannot escape these painful nightmares. Oh woe is us!" her mother said.
"Well, what do you want me to do about it?" Himeko said defensively.
"You will be visited by three spirits!" her parents yelled in unison.
"Three spirits? Wh-what do you mean? Ghosts aren't real, you've always told me that!"
"We have to go soon, it was a great cost just to come here," her father said warily.
"We were wrong. The first will come tonight when the bell tolls one!" her mother shouted, beginning to fade away.
"But—can't I just take ’em all at once and get it all over with?" Himeko pleaded as her father began to disappear.
"Remember—at one! Be aware!"
"But—wait! Daddy!" Himeko looked around her, but she was all alone. A black abyss engulfed her, and her beautiful nightmare ended.
Meanwhile, in the heart of Townsville, in a quiet neighborhood, the Akatsutsumi house was hosting an intimate slumber party, and its members were just winding down to sleep.
"Guys, we should go to bed now, we should have been asleep hours ago," Miyako told her friends seriously.
"I don't know about you Miyako, but I'm still a bit worked up about Himeko," Kaoru said, turning a perfect headstand on her sleeping bag, just to show her friends how defiant she is. "I mean, what she said about you and Takaaki-san was extremely mean. I don't think I can catch any Z's with her on my mind."
"Well, yes, I suppose you have a right to be fumed, but I feel bad for her," Miyako replied. She laid down in her sleeping bag, ready to doze off at any minute, even with the dim light that still shone in Momoko's bedroom.
"How so?" Kaoru put her feet on the floor and turned herself upside right.
"Well..." Miyako began slowly. "I think Himeko-sama's family neglects her in a way. They try to buy her the happiness a teenage girl needs instead of giving it to her out of their hearts," she said, looking down into her lap.
"I suppose..." Kaoru trailed off as she laid down in her sleeping bag to doze off with Miyako. "What do you think, Momoko?"
Momoko was in the corner of the room with no intent to go to sleep. She had curled up with a book and was so mesmerized by it she almost didn't hear Kaoru call to her. "Uh, I don't think she knows she is hurting people with her words and actions." Kaoru and Miyako looked at her funny. "I mean, who wakes up in the morning and says, 'I'm gonna go be rotten to someone today.' We should at least give her a chance."
Momoko then closed the book and slipped it under her bed. She got into her sleeping bag, laid down, and said, "G'night, girls."
"G'night, Momoko-san," the girls echoed back. Kaoru turned the light off and the girls Z drifted off.
About ten minutes later, Kaoru's voice rang out in Momoko's bedroom.
"You know, I just wish we could teach her a knock-hard lesson. Insert knuckle sandwich here," Kaoru murmured, punching her own hand.
"Kaoru, I thought I told you to go to sleep hours ago!" Momoko said in a sharp whisper. All the girls Z were in the room, standing up with the dim light on.
"I thought I did! I swear!" Kaoru shot back in a whisper. "Why don't you go yell at Miyako, she's awake too!"
Momoko couldn't have scolded Miyako even if she wanted to. Miyako just looked at the floor in front of her with a horrified look on her face, "Uhh, girls," Miyako said, barely audible. "I think...we're dead." She pointed to the floor at three motionless bodies in sleeping bags: one Momoko, one Miyako and one Kaoru.
"We can't be, this is insane," Momoko reasoned, pacing up and down the room. "Pinch me if I'm dreaming."
As Kaoru reached for Momoko's arm, Momoko shouted, "Wait! Maybe you're right! We're not dead, we're just dreaming!"
"Momoko, although I'd love to believe you, how can you possibly prove this?" Miyako exclaimed.
Momoko thought hard for a second. "Hold on," she said shortly, leaving the room. Miyako and Kaoru followed. Momoko opened the door to Kuriko, her sister's, room. Kuriko was awake too, but her body still remained motionless on the bed. She was vigorously fighting someone that the girls Z could not see. "Take that, how dare you shoot Galactic Man!" Kuriko yelled agonizingly loud.
"Yep, it's a dream," the girls Z said in unison.
"But, why aren't we rolling around and stuff in our sleep? Why does everyone look so..." Miyako trailed off.
"Dead? It's called sleep paralysis. It's normal. When we dream, we become paralyzed so we don't hurt ourselves in a dream. If you look closely, you can see our eyes flitting, that's called—"
"I'd rather not have a science lesson in the middle if a crisis, thank you very much," Kaoru cut her off. "I've got a question. If we are in a dream, who's dream is it?
"What do you mean?" Momoko asked furiously.
"I mean, don't you think it's weird that we are all together in one dream, and no one person controls it. Which one of us is dreaming, and why haven't we experienced this before?" she questioned Momoko seriously.
"Well, I certainly didn't think of that," Momoko said. She thought got a moment before it dawned on her. "Ken and the Professor did mention that we might be able to do this," she responded ecstatically.
"Do what?" the quiet Miyako asked quizzically.
"Enter other people's dreams. So, to answer your question, it's our dream," Momoko responded. "As for your other question, we probably haven't slept near enough to each other before for it to work. When we had a sleepover at Miyako's no one actually slept, so..." she trailed off, knowing her explanation was too long for Kaoru.
"You said we could enter other people's dreams," Kaoru put out.
That's when it dawned on the girls Z. They knew what they had to do.
"A knock-hard lesson..."