Eyes snapping open. Lungs screaming in pain. Body fighting for escape. Every gram of her being rebelling against her will. Lying on the bottom of a bottomless sea. She noticed something. Something strangely familiar, but scarily foreign at the same time. A distant voice. A close voice. A comforting voice. A devilish voice. Her voice. "It is time for you to face your destiny". A deadly whisper. A horrible scream. "Awaken as the guardian of the s…"
And again her eyes snapped open and again her lungs screamed in pain. But she was lying on her bed, in her room, where she was meant to be 11:30 at night. She went into the kitchen to get herself a glass of water. A strange, elongated shadow trailed along the wall behind her. Whirling around like a leaf in a cyclone, there was nothing there. I must have imagined it she thought as she continued towards the tap. Dripping slightly, the silvered river was the source of great relief. While she was there, she washed her face. After that dream, no it was more than a dream; she was sweating like the tap she was seeking. As the droplets permeated her blue-green hair, she shook it out of her customary sleeping pigtail in an attempt to dry it. It didn't work. It was almost as though the water was gripping her hair, refusing to relinquish its hold on the fate it was never meant to have. Returning to her bed, she contemplated this. Clinging to the past when the future beckons. Sheer idiocy, nothing more. And on this thought, she slept.
She woke up the next morning to the sound of her alarm and slowly cooking bacon. The delicious smell beckoned her. Slowly getting out of her feathery bed, it suddenly struck her that she lived alone. Almost shattering her bedframe as she did so, she whirled out of her bedroom faster than a comet shooting for Neptune. She didn't know why, but she'd always been strangely drawn to Neptune. But now, back to the break-in.
Sprinting into the kitchen she saw a glamorous woman in a beautiful blue silk apron. "Sakura-san! You scared me half to death!"
"Good morning to you to Michiru-san." She responded in a chiding manner.
"Never do this again!"
"Okay, okay, I just heard from Sensei that you were trying to get your paintings selected for an upcoming exhibit, so I figured you could use the help."
She cursed under her breath, curses much to expletive to be put in a child-friendly fan-fiction. "I completely forgot! I haven't done any new paintings in weeks!"
"Get to it then, Michiru-san! Breakfast's my job this morning."
"Thank you, Sakura-san!"
Rushing out the door in a whirlwind of nylon, she needed to get to her studio now.
"Michiru-san?" Sakura poked her head out of the door in a strange, cartoon-like manner.
"You're still wearing your pyjamas."
Laughing awkwardly as she sidled into her room, she changed into her famous Chanel-turned-messy-art-frock lemon yellow dress in record time. Rushing out the door in a rainbow blizzard, she tore down the corridors of the apartment complex to the other, smaller apartment she used as a studio.
Poring over her blank canvas, Michiru awaited a stroke of genius. It wasn't going to come easy. It then occurred to her that her dreams would good as oil on canvas. All that blue and desperation … was their anything more appropriate for an exhibition entitled "An Artist's Nightmare"?
Sand. Dusty fields choking the plants of her existence. Her hands scratching an indestructible roof of dirty horrors that she could not fight. And then that voice again. "It is time that you find your true fate." She didn't understand. She tried to tell it so, but she only took another mouthful of the sands that were squeezing the last ounce of life out of her. "Awaken! Your true power as the sol…"
The piercing scream tore her out of her reverie of horror. She was groggy, but alive. Sakura-san was there, with a dropped plate of bacon on the floor next to her. She realised everything was on its side. How did the room get on its side? "Why are you standing on the wall, Sakura-san?" And then everything went black again.
She woke up in her bed with a breakfast tray on her bedside table. A plate with four relatively large rashers of tasty-looking bacon and a relatively average-sized glass of orange juice were on it. She recognised the glass. She had made it in art class, back in primary school, and painted a violin on it. She'd only just started learning the violin back then. Back before the dreams.
And then the door opened. Sakura-san, still in her apron, was standing there. "Good, you're awake."
"Yeah." Michiru lifted her head a little, but it hurt too much, so she put it back down. She saw her clock, and the bright red numbers spelt out 10:30 am. "Sakura-san! You should be at class!"
"I called Sensei and told her you were really sick, so I was going to take care of you. She was okay with it."
"I'm not sick! I am perfectly fine! Thank you for cooking breakfast, but I don't need you to take care of me now, so get to class before you miss too many hours!"
"Michiru!" The lack of honorifics shocked her into silence. "You fainted in your studio, twice, in the space of about 5 minutes. You've been passed out for 3 hours, you have a 42o fever and now you can't even sit up! I'm pretty sure you're sick."
"I am not sick!" Michiru tried to sit up again but before long she was back in bed, groaning in pain.
"You seem so sure of that. Now lie down. You need some more rest." The sound of a stomach grumbling interrupted her exit from the room. "Or maybe you need to eat. Here, I'll prop you up."
"Thanks, Sakura-san. You really don't have to do this."
"Yes, I really do. I couldn't risk you having another fainting attack in your studio. If you'd gone to hospital, I would never have forgiven myself. Now eat."
The bacon tasted better than it usually did, then she realised that probably because she hadn't eaten in more than 14 hours. Then she noticed something else. Sakura-san's legs were looking even more slender and beautiful than normal. Her arms were sharper and her eyes were deeper, like she was drawing Michiru in. Her face was softer than normal and her light coating of blush was more glamorous than normal. Overall, she was just more physically appealing. I must be really sick, Michiru thought to herself, and then ate with gusto. Then she slept, for the third time in what felt like an hour.
More peaceful this time. Standing in a strange hole, looking over a desolate field. No winds blew, so no sand was disturbed. When she looked harder, she found there was a strange mess of what looked like broken pillars. As though someone had shattered a glass window made out of marble. What a strange thought… Michiru felt as though her thoughts were about her thoughts, like she was dreaming nothing but a dream. It felt so strange. Then a shape appeared in the middle of the mess of pillars. A small, bright white circle of light. And then another shape appeared in the circle. A human silhouette, wearing an elegant dress, made of the same white light as the circle surrounding her. It drew Michiru in, like a child to their favourite toy. Three sets of wings appeared from the vertebral column of the figure and her hair expanded into two long, silver pigtails that seemed to drag along an invisible floor in this strange globe. In a bright flash of pink light, this woman become complete. She spoke but two words: "Neptune, remember!" As soon as she said this, a strange tidal wave swamped the entire landscape and as the water touched it everything began to transform. She grabbed the globe, in a vain hope of protecting it, but the second she touched it, it disappeared. Now she was back in that sea. That sea from the first night. She held her breath. She knew suffocation was coming. But as she let out her breath, she realised the strangest thing. She could breathe. In a terrible but wonderful way, she could breathe. And then she noticed something else. The orb had left her a gift.
Her violin was sitting on a pillar of invisible concrete. Perfectly tuned, before she even tried it, she knew that it was ready to play. So she played. She played her longest and absolute best piece. Her Sensei could not even play this one. As she played, the sea around acted as an audience. Sometimes it smiled, sometimes it cried and sometimes it stayed perfectly still, in complete rapture. And most importantly, at the end, it applauded. It clapped with a thunderous excitation, and as it clapped, the hands it had made for that purpose morphed into the hands of another human. Hands covered in wrist-length white gloves ending in three small sea-green bulges. The human continued to form from the sea water, now up to shoulders. Three small white shoulder patches embraced her elegant arms. As her torso formed, she wore a white leotard with no leggings, with a sea green collar attached, like the uniform she had to wear to high school, but hauntingly more beautiful. The legs of this figure were now forming. Two thin, slender legs, blending together like a mermaid's tail and splitting again into a human's legs, were covered by a sea green skirt extending just past the end of leotard. Her feet were covered by a taking pair of blue high-heeled shoes, straps trailing up her legs. Hyperventilating unhealthily, Michiru eagerly awaited the arrival of her face. As it formed, her breathing accelerated even further. A tenderly angelic neck appeared immediately covered by a choker in the same colour as that enviable collar and those fetching shoes, adorned with a gem in the same colour which was in turned adorned with four small golden crescents. Stunning lips appearing in a flash of light, and two deep, embracing, kind eyes appeared in that same colour that Michiru loved so much, even though she had only just encountered it. The waves neatly fell into place to form a tantalizingly beautiful hairstyle befitting this beautiful woman. In a final flash of seawater, two bows formed on her outfit, one on her chest and one on her butt, in an entrancing navy blue, capped with a brooch at the centre of each in that same colour. Although she hadn't noticed, a violin piece even more beautiful than her own was playing while this happening. The completed figure finished the applause the sea she was born of had started. "Impressive, Michiru. I didn't know we were capable of that."
Michiru was dazed, and that was all she knew. We. This amazing woman that Michiru was so enthralled by and envious of, so in love with, had said we. "Who are you?" Michiru had to know. She simply had to. At whatever cost, she would uncover the identity of this mysterious woman. Deep inside she knew that she already had, but she just couldn't bring it to surface.
"Quite unobservant, Michiru. I thought you would have already solved that one." It was exactly the type of thing Michiru would say.
"How do you know my name?"
"I know so much more than that Michiru. I know you better than you know yourself. I know that you hate pink. I know that you have discarded exactly 394 artworks and have been studying violin for 16 years. I know that the highest speed you have ever recorded yourself swimming at is 13 metres per second. I know everything." As those deep, understanding eyes stared so softly into her own, she recognised the woman.
"You're me. Aren't you?"
"Yes, Michiru. I am you as you were born to be. I am the truest form of you and the manifestation of your truest wishes and truest self."
"But you have another name, don't you?"
"Yes. We are also known as Sailor Neptune."
We. There was those two simple letters again. They seemed so natural and so foreign at the same time. "Sailor… Neptune?"
"Yes. The soldier of the sea, guarded by the planet of Neptune, the protector of the seas. You powers are one of the strongest forces in this universe. When combined with your three allies, you shall be unstoppable. It is destiny for you to fight evils for the safety of the universe. Your violin and your art, your aquatics, your whole life has been to train you for this destiny. Awaken as your true self!"
At this, Sailor Neptune spirited into her, and the dream ended.
And such it stayed, but a mere dream, for about a month. Michiru recovered, returned to art class and violin lessons, and continued painting more and more paintings for the exhibit. Her Sensei approved. Life continued as normal. Until one day.
Michiru just emerged from the university studio, where she finished her latest masterpiece. This painting was sure to get her a spot in the exhibition. Sakura-san was walking past and forced Michiru back into the studio. "If it kills me, I will get into this exhibition over you. DO YOU HEAR ME?"
Michiru could not believe her best friend would act that way. "Sakura-san, what are you talking about? You haven't done a painting in months and they are choosing the artworks in three days!"
"I WILL DO THIS!" And with that Sakura stalked ominously out of the room.
A week later at the opening of the exhibit, Michiru was dedicated a whole room, for her paintings were said to be so wonderful. Sakura's last minute entry had been denied. There was a curtain over the door, and Michiru was to open it before anybody could see her works, to symbolise her budding career. "And now, Kaiou Michiru, the fantastic new era of art, shall reveal her masterpieces!" yelled the exhibit manager to the excited crowd.
"NO!" A dark voice emanated from the back of the hall. Visitors looked around confused, but Michiru knew who it was immediately. "Sakura-san! What's wrong?"
"I told you I would get into this exhibition over you at any cost, Michiru!" Sakura was standing in a black aura, storming around her like evil in winds. And her eyes began glowing red. And then she began transforming. Her features, that Michiru had grown to like so much, almost love, were becoming horribly warped, like a demon. She finished transforming with a grunt of ecstasy and declared "I am the dark warrior of beautiful artworks, Picassette! On behalf of the force of darkness, I will take your lives!" A strange mist starting flowing towards her new form, and it became even more horrible. Her body was blood red, and she had horns that appeared to be made from paintbrushes turned evil. She wielded a shied in the form of an artist's pallet and a sword in the form of a clay pot. As she absorbed this strange mist, everyone in the room fainted. Except Michiru. "So, Michiru, you refuse to fall to my life-force vacuum? I'll just have to take you out manually then." Michiru ran for her life.
She ran until she could run no more, only to find Sakura, no, Picassette, right behind her ready to bring her sword down on her. As Michiru said her last words, praying for a second chance, the monster above her bade her farewell. Just as the sword was to strike her face, though, as strange rod emerged from her heart and blocked the blow, forcing Picassette to retreat. This rod was a metallic blue, with a three-dimensional crescent surrounded by a ring. It had pink accents and a golden star on top, bearing the shape of a trident. And she knew what she must do. "Neptune…" she wondered if this was really a good idea… "Planet…" she knew there was no other choice… "Power…" no turning back now … "MAKE UP!" And suddenly, the oceans of her dreams whirled around her and next she knew she was in the form of the beautiful woman. "Enchanted by the powers of a new era, I, Sailor Neptune forbid the use of art for evil! Picasso lends me his strength from the grave to destroy those who misuse his art!"
"Pretty words, Michiru, but can use back them up? Take this!" Picassette's paintbrush horns formed one of the most beautiful scenes Michiru had ever seen. It was her fantasy. She was on a stage of her own design, with her own arts, playing her violin for a crowd of thousands. All her dreams had come true. She played and played, a gorgeous melody, with the most beautiful of her works surrounding her. She continued to play, and her audience lay in rapture. The beauty of dreams surrounded her and she never wished to leave.
But she knew that there was falseness in this image. It shattered, and she felt her dreams shattering with it. The pain she felt as she relinquished her dream empowered her to fight. "You cannot fool me with false promises! I, Sailor Neptune, will face my destiny with acceptance and grace!"
"How? My Fantasy Portrait is undefeatable!"
"I know that my dreams are not to be, so your powers are useless against me!" Summoning her energy, she yelled "DEEP SUMERGE!" Sending her aqueous orb at her opponent, Picassette appeared to be destroyed. No such luck.
"Ha ha ha! Dreams fated to death? Then you won't mind if I destroy your paintings, will you? They're useless, after all!" Laughing manically, she began to generate a terrifying white light between her horns. "My rival in art! Witness my final victorious moment! Take this! Kaiou Michiru, your treasured art is about to be destroyed and there is nothing you can do! Satan's…" This was Michiru's last chance. "PALLET!" Throwing herself in the path of the evil beam, Neptune was down and defeated. "I thought they were worthless, Sailor Neptune!" and laughed maniacally over her opponents defeated form.
Listening to that evil laugh, Michiru felt words rising to her lips. "Never … can a dream … die … or be worthless. I will not allow you to destroy my dream!" She summoned her violin, in a rush of seawater, and played an improvised melody greater than what has ever been laid on human ears. "Neptune! I call upon your power and the seas that you and I guard together! Use the power of my dream to destroy the monster that uses dreams evilly! NEPTUNE VIOLON TIDE!" The greatest power in the world was released by Sailor Neptune that day. The power of dreams and hope. It was this power that awoke the moon cats and began the awakening of the Dark Kingdom. It also destroyed a great evil. As Picassette lay wounded and dying, she asked Neptune "Where did this strength come from?"
"In the moment I threw myself in front of my art to protect it, my true destiny revealed itself. I may always be a soldier, and never again shall I lead a normal life. But my dreams are my true destiny. I may be Sailor Neptune, but she is only a manifestation of my true form, Kaiou Michiru!"
"Thank you … for teaching me … the power of dreams. I'll … never forget you." Picassette's last words faded into the waves that came to collect her body. The waves washing over Neptune's face, falling from her eyes. She had just destroyed Sakura-san. Falling to her knees, she felt as though she needed to scream out to her lost friend. As the scream rose to her lips, she was silences by a glittering silver orb. Her dream and that strange figure. But the figure in the globe wasn't strange this time. It was Sailor Neptune. It was her. "Good Michiru. Very good."
"Who are you? Who am I? Who are we, exactly? I mean, what is going on?"
"Now you deserve the whole truth. In a past life, you were the princess of Neptune." As she spoke, a vast black background expanded out of the orb. "You lived in the Triton Castle, orbiting Neptune on the moon of Triton. You were the second guardian of the Silver Millennium, and the princess and kingdom of the Moon." Planets and castles and stars filled the empty black vacuum. Beautiful. "Many threats to the Kingdom arose, but you with other the princesses of the other planets fought them all off. You and Princess Uranus were regarded as an invincible team, and with Princess Pluto, we all thought nobody would beat ever defeat us. But, then the Dark Kingdom, led by Queen Beryl, an Earthling who had been infected by an evil spirit from beyond the Solar System, Queen Metalia." Waves of darkness spread throughout the beautiful background, obliterating everything in sight. Except one little sparkle. "When everyone thought all was lost, and Beryl had won, Queen and Princess Serenity combined the power of the Silver Moon Crystal with the Golden Crystal of Earth wielded by Prince Endymion, and the Moon and the universe were saved." The beauty returned. "But just then, the Death Busters, an evil force driven by the power of darkness, came from beyond this universe." Gusts of red took the place of the gusts of black, and this time even that small sparkle was destroyed. "Pharaoh 90 and his servants, Germatiod and Mistress 9, attacked at our weakest moment, and even the combined power of all the Princesses, from Mercury to Pluto, could barely dent them. The Princess of the Moon and the Prince of Earth had used up almost all of their power and as they laid dying in each other's arms, the Death Busters ravaged everything in sight. Castles, humans and planets, gone in the blink of an eye. But one last hope remained." That sparkle appeared again. Michiru was strangely drawn to it. "The Queen of the Moon Kingdom unleashed the truest power of the Silver Crystal. This power will grant the user's greatest, but it will cost them their life. Serenity brought the Princess and the Prince back to life, forced out the Death Busters and sent the Princesses and inhabitants of the Moon Kingdom to Earth in the Future for a better life." Everything was recovering now. The planets, the stars, it was all back. But now that sparkle was on Earth. "See that sparkle, Neptune? That's us. The princesses of the past, reincarnated as Soldiers to protect our universe from evil once again."
"We once again return to open, Kaiou-sama's amazing exhibition! Behold!" The sea-coloured curtain swung open and revealed a room full of beautiful paintings. The spectator's inhalations of amazement could be heard quite obviously. Little did Michiru know that a certain Tsukino Usagi was at this exhibit. As is so happened, a genius girl with blue hair, Mizuno Ami, a psychic priestess, Hino Rei, a tall girl with her own home-cooked lunch, Kino Makoto, a beautiful girl with a red ribbon holding up her flowing blond hair, Aino Minako, the legendary runner, Tenou Haruka and a strange little girl, Tomoe Hotaru, who had come with her professor father. The Senshi of Time and the Tenth Princess looked upon this scene from her post at the Time-Space Door. "It has begun…" she whispered.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" Michiru's amplified voice alerted the visitors of her exhibition. "I will now unveil my latest work. It has been praised as my best, but I don't know. See for yourself." A rush to the end of the room could be heard from the floor below. At the front, Usagi, Ami, Rei, Makoto, Minako, Hotaru, and at the very front of the pack, Haruka. "I call it, "A Wish for the Future"." As the curtain fell back, the gasps of the crowd deafened the visitors on the lower floors. A beautiful scene. Small, golden bubbles, each containing a princess of the planets, carrying them off to a better future. The background, a vast black expanse of stars and planets, recovering as is they had just been destroyed and brought back from the dead. And again the Tenth Princess whispered over space. "The time is now."