-Neptune: Year One-
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon is the property of Naoko Takeushi, Toei and Kodansha.
Near the end of May, Usagi and Luna encountered a young miko named Rei Hino, and Sailor Mars was found. Almost a month later, a new girl at Usagi's school by the name of Makoto Kino was shown to be yet another Senshi, Sailor Jupiter. It was around the time of Jupiter's awakening that the Doom Tree Makaiju and its two inhabitants Ail and Ann passed Pluto as it entered the solar system.
Sailor V, meanwhile, had slowly fallen for an idol by the name of Ace Kaitou. Around the first of August, however, it was revealed that he was secretly Danburite, the head of the Dark Agency. Worse, the Dark Agency itself turned out to be a radical offshoot of the Dark Kingdom itself. During their final rooftop battle, Ace revealed that during the Silver Millennium he was a lowly servant by the name of Adonis who had fallen in love with Princess Venus, but that his love wasn't reciprocated.
As Sailor V defeated Ace, his footing gave way and he slipped off the roof. "My path ends," he said as he fell, "Without ever reaching you... That is my fate..."
Sailor V lunged forward and managed to grab his hand. The effort nearly jerked her shoulder out of socket as he dangled from the rooftop. "Is it your fate to defeat the ones I fall in love with yourself?" she gasped in pain.
Ace looked up at her, a vacant look in his eyes. With his free hand, he tossed up a playing card to her. The card landed next to her. She looked at it questioningly.
"The Ace of hearts?" she asked. Ace had a talent for telling love fortunes with playing cards, especially with the Aces of the various suits. As she looked at the card however, it slowly tore apart and crumbled before her eyes.
"I'll tell your final love fortune," he said weakly, a malevolent smile forming at the corners of his lips, "Your love will be hopeless for all eternity."
She stared at him wide eyed. With his last remaining strength, Ace had cursed her.
"What's wrong?" he continued, his body slowly beginning to disintegrate as Sailor V struggled to hold onto him. "You should look happier. Now you can go on living, without having to torment yourself over the ultimate choice, your love or your duty. Your fate is to continue fighting. Your true battle begins now..." His voice faded away as he completely crumbled to dust before Sailor V's eyes.
Artemis had been watching the battle from nearby. As soft sobs shook Sailor V's body, he cautiously approached her. "Mina..."
"My self before now has all been before awakening," she whispered, "A temporary form, for my true mission."
Artemis was silent. For so long, Minako had treated being Sailor V as some sort of a game, even as a chance at stardom. It had taken both the incident in England and now Ace Kaitou's curse to finally force the girl to understand the stakes involved. Artemis found no pleasure in seeing his charge in pain, however. As Sailor V rose to her knees and looked out over the edge of the building, Artemis wished that there had been another way.
"I must search for my precious allies," she said as she wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, "They're in Tokyo. I feel it. Perhaps I am awakening now."
Artemis was unsure what to say to that. "Hai," he finally answered softly.
"Together, we will defeat the Dark Kingdom and protect this planet!" she declared, standing to her feet and clenching her fist, She then turned to Artemis, fixing him with a determined stare as she continued. "Then, we must find that most precious person. That is why I was born."
Artemis nodded. They would indeed join the other Sailor Senshi and find that most precious person, the Princess. Less than a week later Sailor V, now Sailor Venus, had joined the others.
Around the beginning of September, Tuxedo Kamen was kidnapped by the Dark Kingdom and brainwashed into becoming an agent of the enemy. As Queen Beryl gloated in triumph, one and a half light years away the injured Princess Kakyuu traveled from her planet Kinmoku in search of asylum from Sailor Galaxia. Her guardians, the Sailor Starlights, followed her trail throughout the vast emptiness of space as they desperately looked for her. The trail would eventually lead the three to a small blue planet orbiting a medium sized yellow star near the outer edge of the Milky Way galaxy known as Earth.
As September gave way to October and the final battle with Queen Beryl was approaching, Michiru and Haruka continued on as before. They were aware of the existence of the other Senshi of course, but they kept their distance. The Inner Senshi had their mission to fulfill, and Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus had theirs.
They continued to fight the Death Busters in the shadows, their very existence kept secret even as Sailor Moon and the others became household names. Haruka and Michiru had seen first the Sailor V video games and dolls, followed by Sailor Moon lunch boxes and coloring books. It served to further separate the two from the others though, causing an unspoken rift to form between the serious older Senshi and the seemingly lackadaisical younger ones.
Between the two of them they were able to afford a nice rental property off-campus, complete with an indoor pool. Haruka walked into the pool area wearing a loose-fitting tank top and white track shorts. She carried a large brown towel, and as she watched Michiru swimming laps in her sleek one-piece dark blue swim suit she couldn't help but glance as the swimmer's back. The scars from the battle she'd fought back when Hironari's brother Goseki had been turned into a daemon were almost completely gone now save for a few faint lines still visible if one knew where to look.
Michiru reached the end of the pool and climbed out. Haruka came over and wrapped the towel around her, using it as an opportunity to envelop the swimmer in her arms. Michiru turned around and stroked the side of Haruka's face with the palm of her hand. the racer closed her eyes and leaned her head into the hand, when she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her earlobe.
"Ow!" Haruka shouted as Michiru tugged on her earlobe, "Wha..."
"That'll teach you to flirt with other girls," the artist said with a smirk.
"Michiru, we've already been through this," Haruka said, the two far too close now to bother with honorifics. "I was just ordering a coffee..."
"Since when has winking at the waitress been part of the ordering process?"
Haruka shrugged. "Just habit I guess," she offered with a roguish grin.
Michiru rolled her eyes, "Just make sure you look and don't touch." Draping the towel over her wet locks, she took on a more serious air. "Did the map help?"
Haruka shook her head. "No. I went over the map, marking where the last few battles have taken place, but I can't find any sort of pattern so far."
The artist frowned as she crossed her arms thoughtfully. "This new Death Buster, Kaolinite, isn't acting at all like Zultan did. She disappears from the scene after releasing her daemon rather than sticking around like the witch did. And before the attacks would be separated by a month or two, now they're separated by only a few days to a week. Why the increase?" she asked.
The next morning, the sun was just rising over the eastern horizon. Kaolinite walked silently into the bedroom, shaking her head in disbelief. "You've got to be kidding me."
Hotaru ignored her as she continued to look out. Her friend no longer jogged past her window anymore. Why?
"Every morning you get up, and every morning you come downstairs more depressed than before."
Hotaru sighed heavily. She tried to ignore Kaolinite's comments as she put her hand up to the window, closing her eyes as she fought the urge to give into despair.
"What did you expect, that someday you'd be able to go out jogging too? What did I tell you about hopes and dreams?"
Hotaru began to tremble, her sadness giving way to something new as she grit her teeth. Opening her eyes, the only emotion she felt was a cold venomous anger.
"Did you expect you'd someday meet the jogger, maybe even become friends? Did you expect..."
"I expect pure heart crystals," she said, turning around to face Kaolinite. Her eyes glowed an unholy color as the stuffed animals behind her were suddenly cast into ominous shadows.
Kaolinite's eyes widened. "But... But I..."
"Pure heart crystals, not excuses," Hotaru ordered, "You can save those for Professor Tomoe."
Kaolinite swallowed hard as she nodded and quickly left the room. Alone once more, Hotaru's eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she sank to the floor. She brought her hands up to her head, a whimper escaping as a migrane struck. Looking around, the last thing she could remember was Kaolinite coming into her room. She hated the blackouts. She got up and went downstairs to make sure nothing bad happened this time...
-Six Months Later-
Michiru had been fighting as Sailor Neptune for a year and a half now, and for a little more than a year Sailor Uranus had been by her side. Both were weary and frustrated. They had yet to find the Messiah who would be able to stem the tide of the coming Silence. They also had yet to locate any of the talismans needed for the Grail. The last few months since Kaolinite had taken over seemed to be a never ending series of battles with no end in sight and seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.
Haruka, for all her bravado, seemed to be the most dispirited of the two. Even after all the months that had passed since her awakening and all the battles fought, the thought that once they did find find a talisman that someone would have to die continued to weigh heavily on her. Michiru did what she could to keep the blonde going, but the stress was slowly taking a toll on them both.
And now, once again, the seas were stormy. And just like a dozen times before, Haruka and Michiru transformed into Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. As the rest of Tokyo blissfully went about its business, the two Senshi rushed to the scene of the Death Buster's latest attack.
"Now, Sailor Moon!" Tuxedo Kamen yelled as he distracted the new enemy. Sailor Moon nodded apprehensively. Behind her Ami, Makoto and Minako were each already captured and pinned to the trunks of large trees within the grounds of the Hikara Shrine. In front of her was a new and dangerous enemy that appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
And behind the monster was Rei, still dressed in her miko uniform, pinned to the stone wall surrounding the shrine. It was her screams that had alerted Sailor Moon that something was wrong. Together with their friends they had taken on and defeated both the Dark Kingdom and the Black Moon Clan. She was not going to lose Rei to this new enemy.
"Moon Princess Halation!"
The daemon scowled at her, "Damn you! Very bad triangle!" it shouted, releasing an attack of its own. Before the stunned eyes of all, it overpowered Sailor Moon's attack, knocking the girl's staff from her hands.
"The most unlucky day!" It bellowed as it flew towards Sailor Moon, pinning her against a large oak with its hands and feet. Its hands and feet detached, leaving Sailor Moon still trapped against the tree as it tore the transformation broach from the girl with its teeth. As the broach struck the ground, Sailor Moon transformed against her will back into Usagi.
Usagi stared down at herself in wide-eyed shock. "Can such a thing..."
"Usako!" Tuxedo Kamen shouted. The daemon then attacked him binding him in vines. He fell from the stone wall he was standing on to the hard earth below.
Luna shook her head. "I can't watch anymore!"
"Luna!" Artemis cried as both he and Luna attacked the youma. The daemon simply tossed them aside like rag dolls. The two cats violently hit a tree trunk before they fell limply to the ground.
"Is that the last interruption?" the daemon asked sarcastically. Looking back over to Rei, it smiled maliciously. "Then I shall take my time to get the pure heart." The daemon then shot a black ray out of a five pointed star on her chest. Rei screamed out in pain as her heart crystal was at last extracted.
"Rei-chan, hold it together!" Usagi screamed as the miko's head fell forward as her whole body went limp. Usagi began to weep. Earlier in the day she and Rei had discussed their future hopes and dreams. Now the beautiful young miko looked almost dead as she hung limply from the wall, her heart crystal floating in front of her. The daemon laughed as it strode over and snatched the crystal. "There must be a talisman inside this crystal of her pure heart," it declared confidently.
"Give that back to Rei!" Usagi sobbed, her lower lip trembling as she continued to struggle to free herself, "I won't forgive you!"
The daemon turned to Usagi and grinned. "Humph, humans. I..." It never got to finish its taunt. A huge yellow ball of energy struck it from behind, nearly tearing the daemon apart. "Wha-! What in the world is going on!" In response, an aquamarine ball of energy struck it. The daemon screamed in agony before transforming back into a tree.
Usagi and the others freed themselves and ran over to Rei. As the trembling blonde held the miko in her arms, Luna looked on anxiously with the others. Something out of the corner of her eye, however, caused her to turn around and look back up at the trees. She saw two shadowy figures standing on a branch of one of the trees, their forms obscured by the foliage. As she gazed up at them, she realized that one of them was holding Rei's pure heart crystal that the daemon had dropped.
"This is not a talisman," the one holding the crystal said dejectedly in a low, almost husky voice.
"Looks like we had the wrong target,"
"A trip wasted." And with that, the figure holding the heart crystal tossed it back towards Rei.
"Rei chan, answer me," Usagi whimpered as she continued to hold her friend tightly in her arms. She looked up just in time to see the miko's heart crystal float down and reenter Rei's chest. The girl trembled, then slowly opened her eyes.
Usagi and the other Senshi hugged their friend tightly, overjoyed that she was alright again. As Rei did her best to assure everyone she was fine, the two figures in the tree quickly jumped down to the ground and leaped away. Artemis, who watched their departure with Luna, came slowly over to the other cat's side. "Those two..."
Once things had calmed down a bit, the Senshi were able to take stock of what had just happened. "The new enemy seems to be after people with pure hearts," Ami noted.
Rei nodded, "They said something about talismans being inside them."
"And those two mysterious people..." Artemis put in.
Usagi took a deep breath. "A new battle is about to begin," she said apprehensively.
As the full gravity of their princess' words sank in on the Senshi, elsewhere Sailor Neptune landed on a rooftop with Sailor Uranus. With a heavy heart, she wondered if they'd ever find the talismans or the Messiah. She brushed her aquamarine locks away from her eyes with the back of her hand as she allowed a dejected sigh to escape.
She felt Uranus hand on her shoulder, and looked over at her. The blonde could tell what Neptune was thinking, and silently communicated that understanding in her eyes. Neptune took her hand and squeezed it tightly. They were each other's strength now, and together they would somehow see it through to the end.
Their hands separated, and they were off once again...
End Notes: And that, as they say, is that.
First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who have read, enjoyed and critiqued this story. It means more than you can imagine to know that you have all enjoyed my attempt at what originally simply going to be Sailor Neptune's story and instead ended up becoming more of a prequel to Sailor Moon told from Michiru's perspective.
Secondly, before anyone writes about it in their review, the original names of the characters from the Doom Tree story arc were Ail and Ann, but the AD Video translated them as Ali and Ann. I decided to go with the former.
And finally, for those who are interested; Miyuki Fuji, Yuhka Asami and Takayo Oyama are three actresses who played Sailor Neptune in the Sailor Moon musicals. I borrowed from all three names to name the characters of sempai Miyuki Asami and roommate Takayo Fuji. And Miyuki's new freshman she's mentoring from chapter 18, Keiko Kitagawa, got her name from the actress who played Sailor Mars in the live action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon series. Finally, Principal Ichi got her name from the fictional blind swordsman Zatoichi of Japanese film fame.