-Neptune: Year One-

Disclaimer: I do not own the series Sailor Moon or the character Sailor Neptune. Both are owned by Naoko Takeuchi.

-0-0-0-

-XIII-

Haruka walked into the locker room, making sure the door was shut behind her. Once she was confident she was alone, she looked down at her hands and saw them shaking. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. She pushed herself off the wall and headed for her locker. After a quick shower, she dressed and cautiously looked outside the door to see if Michiru was still there. Confident that she wasn't, she exited.

She was making her way to the bleachers where her class was sitting when a voice called out to her. "Hey, Ruka-chan."

Haruka flinched at the "chan." She turned to see her school principal Shintaro Katsu coming towards her, along with another man in a business suit she didn't recognize. "Ruka-chan, I'd like you to meet someone very special. This is Kan Shimozawa, a very prominent businessman in this district, as well as something of a well known philanthropist."

Kan bowed to Haruka with a smile, his white mustache was waxed at the ends to curl upwards. "I'm giving a charity dinner and concert tonight aboard my private yacht. There will be classical music, an art exhibit, and fine French cuisine. All the winners of today's races are invited to tonight's event free of charge, and it would give me great pleasure if you were able to attend.

Haruka smiled back. "Thank you for your offer, but unfortunately I don't own anything formal enough to wear to such an event."

Kan waved away the objection. "That's no problem, I can write you out a check now to see to it that you'll be properly dressed."

Haruka thought about it. It would definitely be a welcome distraction to take her mind off Messias and the end of the world. Besides, it gave her an excuse to wear a tux. "Very well," she said, "I'll go."

-0-0-0-

Hironari hung up the phone excitedly as Haruka came into the garage. "Ruka-kun, I just got off the phone. You'll never believe what happened!"

Haruka brought up a hand to her forehead and grimaced. "Let me guess; a mysterious girl told you I had to help her save the world."

"No, I... huh?" Hironari asked, visibly confused.

"Nothing. What's your news."

"Well, remember how you managed to get into the time trials at the racetracks two weeks ago?"

Haruka gave her friend a friend a look as a grin slowly began to form at the corners of her mouth, "Yeah, I remember. Why?"

"Kazuo Kojima of Tokohama Motors was in the stands scouting, and wants to sponsor you! Congradulations, you're now officially the first Junior racer in Japan!"

The normally reserved Haruka shouted out "Yes!" as she raised her hands up triumphantly above her. Both she and Hironari began jumping up and down, shouting "Yes!" over and over again as a young kid walked into the garage, staring at the two with an amused expression.

"Hey," the kid called over, "Why don't you two just get a room and get it over with already?"

"Goseki," Hironari growled at his younger brother as both he and Haruka turned red from embarrassment, "Keep it up and I'll see to it that dad grounds your ass for a month."

"Whatever," Goseki said as he dismissed the threat with a wave of his hand. "So exactly what are you two celebrating anyways?"

"I've got a racing sponsor," Haruka said proudly.

Goseki's eyes widened. "Wow, really?"

"Yeah," Hironari put in, "And she was going to ask you to be in her pit crew, but of course if you're not interested..."

"Who said I'm not interested?" the young kid pouted, causing both Haruka and Hironari to laugh. Out of the corner of her eye though, Haruka noticed the time on the clock above the tool box and frowned.

"Nuts," she sighed. "Listen guys, I've got to get going. I'm going to a fancy dress party tonight on a yacht, and I have to get something to wear."

"A yacht?" Hironari asked, visibly impressed, "Wow, things are really starting to look up for you aren't they?"

"You know it," Haruka said with a cocky grin as she went to her car and backed out of the garage. She was now an official race car driver with a sponsor, was invited to a fancy dress part aboard a private yacht, and had won first place in her track event. And to top everything else off, she'd been accepted into Mugan Academy for next Fall. Everything was coming together for her, and she was getting her life on track. The last thing she needed now was that creepy green-haired girl messing everything up with her end of the world talk.

As she drove out onto the streets, Haruka allowed a sigh of relief. Tonight there'd be no Messias, no talk of Senshi or of past life gobbledy-gook. Tonight she'd be with a group of rich philanthropists and her fellow runners. She'd be able to simply sit back and relax.

-0-0-0-

Haruka sat in her chair at the table in the ballroom of the top floor of Kan Shimozawa' private yacht. Her dinner had been delicious, but she hardly touched any of it. Instead, she'd spent most of the evening scowling at the violinist on the stage. Here. Why did she have to be here?

"That girl is Michiru Kaioh," a fellow runner, a senior, said nearby.

"She sure doesn't look like a junior high student," his date replied, commenting on the violinist's physical beauty. "She must be quite popular at school, don't you think?"

"I heard that she doesn't make many friends."

"I wonder why," the woman said, unaware of the rumors started at St. Agatha's after Miyuki asked to no longer be Michiru's sempai, "She seems like a wonderful girl."

"Yeah, I heard that she doesn't like people..." Haruka didn't hear the rest of the conversation as she got up from the table. She needed some air, someplace she could go to think. She got up and headed towards the back. Opening one of the rear doors, she found herself in a long corridor. She walked along it to a flight of stairs. Above the stairs, on the wall, a large wall painting hung. Haruka gasped as she looked at it.

It was a painting of an apocalypse, the end of the world. An ocean wave thousands of feet high was bearing down on Tokyo, crushing buildings and destroying everything in it's path.

"Did you find it to your liking?"

Haruka looked down. Michiru was sitting primly at the bottom of the landing, dressed in an elegant white chiffon dress which was accented by a pearl necklace. Her creamy white skin, along with her choice of attire, gave her almost a porcelain doll appearance. Looking from her painting to Haruka, she smiled. "Thank you for coming here tonight. Tenoh Haruka-san, the prodigious racer."

Haruka tilted her head a bit. Something in the artist's voice unnerved her, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. "You seem to know quite a bit about me," she finally said. "This piece, did you paint it?"

"You're rather famous," Michiru answered, ignoring the question about the painting. "There are a lot of freakish fans of yours at my school as well. One of them is a girl," she said playfully as she tossed her hair back, "But she says she still wants to go cruising along the beach with you in your car."

Haruka chuckled a bit at that, half-guessing that the girl Michiru was referring to was herself. She brought her attention back to the painting. "The end of the world, huh? I'm surprised that a well-to-do girl who can't even kill a bug could draw such a tragic fantasy."

Michiru narrowed her eyes. "It's not a fantasy," she said defensively, "I can see that scene clearly, just like you can."

Haruka turned away from the painting and gave Michiru a hard glare as the violinist stood up from her seated position. "This is stupid." she hissed, "I'm Haruka Tenoh, the first Junior racer in Japan. Memories of my previous life or the end of the world have nothing to do with me. If someone has to do it, then you can do it! And I would like you to stop investigating me like that!"

Michiru crossed her hands as she looked down and away from Haruka's gaze. "Don't say such selfish things like that," she said passionately. Looking back up at the other girl, she met Haruka's gaze with a hard stare of her own, surprising the racer by how strong she was. "I don't want to do it either. I also have a dream, to become a violinist. You say, 'I can't do something stupid like saving the world from destruction,' and you think that's the end of it?" Michiru closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she tried to calm herself before continuing. "I don't want to do it either, Haruka-san. When I found out about all this, I fought it too."

Haruka crossed her arms. "Really?" she sneered. "And tell me, just what changed your mind?"

Michiru's features softened as she came a step closer up the stairs. "You," she answered, her tone entreating, "You changed my mind."

Haruka didn't know what to make of such a response. "Stupid," she muttered as she turned away, heading back up the stairs. "Stupid."

Michiru watched her ascend the stairs and disappear down the corridor. She hung her head as she sat back down on the stairs, unsure of what to do next.

-0-0-0-

Two days later, the final buzzer for school rang out. Hironari's younger brother Goseki started to walk home, his parent's house close enough not to need a bus. He'd received a ninety-four on his math exam, and couldn't wait to show his folks.

"Hey Goseki-kun, wait up."

Goseki turned to see his classmate Fujiko Watsuki coming up to him, the young girl's dark hair in pigtails and her school dress down to just below her knees. "Goseki-kun, could you walk me home? I'm going to have to pass by the Koike's house, and they have that big scary doberman in their front yard."

Goseki smirked, "They also have that big picket fence in their front yard to keep the dog in. But," he said with a shrug, "I guess I can if you want me to."

And so the two grammar school kids walked down the sidewalk together, unaware of the figure coming up behind them.

"Young man, did you drop this?"

Both children turned to see a woman with light blue hair holding up a small antique pocket watch by a golden chain. "Huh?" Goseki asked, "No, that's not mine."

"Are you sure?" she asked as the watch began to gently swing back and forth from it's chain. "Look closer, perhaps it's a family heirloom. And you," she said to Fujiko, "Look at how it glistens and sparkles as it swings back and forth. Does it look familiar to you perhaps?"

"N-no," Fujiko murmured, suddenly having trouble keeping her eyes open. Goseki's eyes were already almost completely shut.

"Really? Still, it's a beautiful watch, isn't it? Watch it, swinging back and forth, rocking gently like an infant in its mother's arms. Listen to my voice, focus on the watch, see how it shines," she said as she slowly began to back her way into a secluded alley, the two children following her as if they were mesmerized. "Before you two children go, I have a special treat for you," she said with a smile as she reached into her pocket and pulled out two of the professor's pods. "These are two very tasty cookies I have on me that I'd like you both to have. Eat them, now."

The two children knew deep down that something was wrong, that they shouldn't be accepting sweets from a stranger, but somehow they couldn't refuse. They took the pods and placed them in their mouths. Suddenly, both children made faces as they began to gag on the foul-tasting pods.

"Oh no you don't," Zultan growled as she suddenly covered their mouths with her hands to keep them from spitting the pods out, "Eat! Swallow!"

Fujiko began to whimper, the girl's eyes tearing up as she swallowed the hideous-tasting pod. Goseki moaned in discomfort as he likewise swallowed his pod. Zultan released the two children who, once out of her clutches, began to run away to tell an adult. The witch started laughing as she ran in the opposite direction, heading out of the other end of the alley where her car was waiting for her.

Sailor Neptune always seemed to show up when others were in danger, always there to defend children and others from her and her daemons. Now, Zultan mused, she'd be able to see what the Senshi did when faced with innocent children who were turned into daemons, forced to perhaps even take an innocent life in order to protect that of others. The thought caused her to cackle even louder as she drove out into traffic, nearly sideswiping a fellow motorist as she made her getaway.

-To Be Continued-