Author's Note: So, this is me branching out into a new fandom—and a slightly different style of writing. My sister, who has become not-so-recently obsessed with Sailor Moon, made me watch several of the episodes, mostly Season Five, and somehow I got this idea from it. Don't ask how, because I'm not really sure where it comes from either. This is a longer chapter than I generally try to write—2,000 words past my usual limit, actually, but once you start typing you can't stop. I actually had three versions of this first chapter and went back and changed it to get this chunk of writing. I hope I've portrayed everyone in the chapter at least semi-accurately (except Kakyuu's parents, I don't think they appear at all in the franchise so I'm taking my fanfiction writer's liberty license and using it for all it's worth)
Disclaimer—I think it's safe to say I don't own Sailor Moon. I probably couldn't have even come up with it, considering the fact that I am a tomboy and Sailor Moon in general appears rather girly. Since I'd get tired of trying to restate this disclaimer at the top of every chapter in increasingly inventive ways, this shall go for the whole story. I haven't owned Sailor Moon, I don't own Sailor Moon, and in the future I won't own Sailor Moon. I can ask for it for my birthday but that's not happening either.
Part One: Welcome to Kinmoku
I want to be a Star Dancer.
Kakyuu repeated those words under her breath as she walked quietly down the hallway; it had taken her years of dreaming, self-convincing, and a huge dose of possibly false courage to get to this point, but she was going to do it. She was going to take the plunge. She was going to ask her father, as politely and eloquently as possible (better to impress him then to come off as whiny) if she could become a Star Dancer.
She'd wanted to become a Star Dancer ever since she was a child and had seen the star-warriors in action. Her planet was somewhat different from the others she'd read about in those books that sat around gathering dust in the palace archives; most every other planet in the galaxy that happened to be inhabited had a planetary Star Dancer. On occasion, there were lunar Star Dancers, and even rarer were stellar Star Dancers. Kinmoku's sun had no Star Dancer, no crystal formed from its energy that could allow someone to bond to it and become a Star Dancer.
Kinmoku had a planetary crystal, this was true—Kakyuu had seen it once, when she had been exploring and gotten turned around—she refused to think of it as lost, she had a perfectly good directional sense—arriving at a different door and a staircase leading deep below the ground. She had found herself at a door—unlocked; curious child that she was, she had gone in immediately.
The planetary crystal of Kinmoku was a red color, a ruby gem similar to Kakyuu's hair and eyes, and it was far prettier than any gem Kakyuu had ever seen; and she had quite a few, piled up from name-days past. A pale glow, like that of a distant star, emanated from within the crystal. This was what had so drawn Kakyuu to it—she had had the idle little thought that if she held that jewel, that she might be—wanted to be—holding a tiny star in the palm of her hand.
She had never gotten the chance to touch it; a passing sentry had noticed the door open and had whisked her away from the sanctuary with such vigor that Kakyuu had realized that she had done something wrong. Her parents later told her that she wasn't supposed to bother the crystal, that it was too dangerous. Kakyuu had been tempted to say that it hadn't seemed dangerous to her at all, just apprehensive, like it was waiting for its true owner. But no one had asked her opinion; and the image of the gemstone still haunted her mind. She could see it, if she closed her eyes and let her mind drift.
And she couldn't deny that since the day she had seen the Kinmoku Crystal that the tiny seed of a dream submerged in the depths of her mind began to sprout, bolstered by the image of the jewel constantly floating through her thoughts, and by the presences of the three Star Dancers who served Kinmoku.
Three Star Dancers—and not one with the planetary crystal. This was what made her planet different from the rest; the three Starlights' crystals had come from the satellite stars orbiting Kinmoku, named for the time they crossed the path of the sun—Yoake, at dawn; Hiru, at high noon; and Hakumei, at dusk. Yoake's crystal belonged to the Star Dancer called Taiki; Hiru's crystal to the Star Dancer Seiya; and Hakumei's crystal to the Star Dancer Yaten. Collectively, they were known as the Starlights, because they were, after all, carriers of stellar crystals.
Kakyuu could see the double doors of her father's study coming up rather quickly—had she been walking that fast? Nerves were beginning to set in—they were the primary reason she had yet to take that leap of faith and just blurt out that she wished to be a Star Dancer; every time she had tried before—going on forty-nine, but who was counting?—she had turned herself around at the doors, told herself it wasn't important, that her request might come off as petulant, that it might seem like too much considering what she already had. She knew that probably half the planet wished to be where she was. Being Crown Princess of a planet left her with little to want for; but she tried not to ask for much, to bring attention to the fact.
The doors loomed before her; how many times had she stood in this exact same spot? How many times had she given up, walked away? (She had heard from a kitchen servant that there was a betting pool going around, people trying to figure out what terrible teeth-gnashing decision made her walk to her father's study in the early morning every so often and just walk away without going in. So far, the top choices were that she'd found a suitor who was undesirable; she wished to run away but couldn't get the courage to say anything; and she had discovered she had some horrible disease that was slowly killing her. Kakyuu had asked the servant how plausible any of the other choices were; the answer she'd received in return was somewhat mollifying) She was certain that the sentries hidden from her sight behind the pillars across the hallway had gotten out their tally sheets, marking down 'fifty'.
Silently, she agreed with them—this had dragged on long enough; she had to try now, halfway to one hundred, she didn't want the betting pools to get any more strange than they already were. She took a deep breath, her eyes studying the carved knockers set into the thick wooden doors. The front half of twin rearing unicorns leapt out from the burnished wood, curling over the knockers in a way that made them seem as if they might just come alive at any second. It was the unicorns' eyes that always caught Kakyuu's gaze inevitably; polished glass marbles that reflected a perfect likeness of whoever stood before them.
And it was staring into those tiny unicorns' eyes at the even smaller mirrored eyes of herself that usually turned her back. This was usually where she thought, What am I doing? Why do I want—need—to be a Star Dancer? Is it really that necessary, Kinmoku already has three!
She forced herself to think of the crystal. She wanted to believe it would choose her; but the truth of the matter was the Kinmoku Crystal hadn't chosen a host in over ten centuries. It was severely unlikely that the planetary jewel had taken a shine to her. After all, she had to think of terms in the crystal—what was she to it? Just one more voice clamoring for its power, and she didn't even have a really good reason, either. All she had was a dream, a dream shared by more than half of the population of Kinmoku, that dream of being a Star Dancer, of glory and magic and the longevity the crystal provided.
Thinking about it like that always made her wonder why she was bothering to do this in the first place.
She thought of the gemstone again, all red edges and soft orange-star's-glow enclosed within its interior—she thought of when she'd seen it, when she'd wanted to touch it to see if she could hold a star in the palm of her hand. Had it been all her, that thought? Could the gem have possibly reached out to her? Could she possibly worthy of the crystal and a Star Dancer's wings and magic?
Fixing that little thought in the forefront of her mind—that maybe, just maybe, she was worthy—Kakyuu reached out (she could almost hear the gasps of the sentries, who must have been thinking it would be business as usual) and rapped the knocker to announce her presence before pushing through the doors.
Her father's study wasn't as big as one might expect of a planetary king; it almost seemed like a branch of the archives, with the bookshelves stacked against the walls, the faint light of the early-morning sun streaming in through a window and highlighting the piles of papers, books and the occasional scroll stacked across the desk in neat, carefully ordered piles. She could see him, bent over another paper of some sort—he wasn't quite what people would imagine of a king, either. He had dark hair—Kakyuu had inherited her mother's scarlet hair—and his eyes seemed warm, no matter who he was speaking to. Kakyuu had never heard him argue with anyone; and while he was tall, he wasn't huge, and there wasn't much about him that said 'king'. Even her mother didn't have the "royal air". Rarely, if ever, did Kakyuu see the king of Kinmoku in her father—most days it was simply Father.
"Father?" Kakyuu's voice sounded pitifully small; she swallowed thickly, gathered her nerve, and asked louder, "Father?"
She received a response when her father lifted his weary eyes from the stack of papers before him, setting down his pen and folding his hands across the desk. "Kakyuu! Strange to see wandering around so early—Yoake's just crossed the sun. What is so important that you have to talk about it now?"
Kakyuu fidgeted a moment, her hands fisting into the fine fabric of her dress, meeting his gaze squarely. I will speak my wish—I've waited far too long for this opportunity, and whatever the fallout I'm taking the plunge. "Father, the Kinmoku Crystal…it has yet to choose a host. Kinmoku has Star Dancers to guard it from harm, but they do not hold the planetary crystal. I—" For a few brief seconds she floundered, mouth going dry, the palms of her hands sweaty from nerves. Then she found the train of thought again. "—I wish to try to become Kinmoku's Star Dancer."
There was a lengthy pause where her father stared at her, surely trying to decipher whether she was telling the truth, and if so, if she meant it, really meant it. She held his gaze, heart hammering in her chest and she prayed he couldn't hear it. Several more frantic beats of her heart passed, and still there was silence.
"Father?" she dared to ask.
Her father let out a long breath. "Kakyuu—" he began, thought better of it, tried again. "Do you realize what you're asking of me? Do you realize what happens to those who can't accept the crystal's power?"
"No…" Kakyuu mumbled in a small voice. Though, she knew no one had ever come back from trying to bond to the Kinmoku Crystal. Not a single one who had passed beyond that sanctuary's door had ever returned to see the light of day. She had the feeling the real reason was not good.
Her father's eyes were kind yet firm as he stared at her. "They burned up, Kakyuu," he answered softly, in that dreadful-quiet tone that had always told Kakyuu bad things were coming. "They burned up because they could not control the jewel's energy. Think of if that happened to you! You are our only child; and your mother and I are getting on in years. If you attempted to bond to the crystal and it—killed—you, the other noble houses would bring on civil war, to see who could become the next royal bloodline! We are secure as long as we have an heir, and if that heir chose to sacrifice herself to bond to the crystal and failed…" His voice trailed off ominously.
Kakyuu tried to swallow around the growing lump in her throat. "But…Father…" Her voice failed her; she sucked in a breath and asked in a barely audible but terribly hopeful voice, "But what if the crystal accepted me?"
Her heart sank as her father shook his head once, decisively. "I won't take that chance. No one can tell if they'll be accepted by the crystal beforehand, and we can't take the chance that you won't be. I'm sorry Kakyuu, but I must insist that you not go near that sanctuary. Think of your mother and I—we wouldn't be able to bear losing you, especially if it was as foolish a choice to try for the crystal. Please, daughter, promise me you won't go near that crystal!"
"I promise," she whispered, because what else could she do? Kakyuu dropped her gaze to the floor, studying the patterns on the rug, wanting to say, I don't think it's foolish, but she knew her father couldn't see it that way—from all the others who had tried and failed to bond to the Kinmoku Crystal, of course he couldn't see it as anything other than a foolish, dangerous endeavor that could not end well for anyone, certainly not her.
"Thank you for your time, Father," she said hollowly, turning on her heel and heading for the door. She heard him call out after her, but she ignored him and pushed through the doors, emerging into the hallway. The sun had risen fully by now and the sunlight poured in through the wide windows on the east side of the corridor. Kakyuu ignored the sunlight, ignored the muttered whisperings of the sentries behind the pillars—she couldn't be a Star Dancer.
I can't be a Star Dancer.
Was this what it felt like, to have a dream shrivel and die while you're still holding onto it? She fought past the lump in her throat, her feet increasing their paces till she was almost flat-out running. I have to get away. Back to her room—or somewhere else, somewhere where she could defy the events of the morning and attempt to hang onto that little star that had brought her this far.
This fixation upon the hope that maybe, just maybe if she could get away from the scene of the crime, could find a way back to some place undisturbed where she could delude herself that she could still get away with dreaming was why she did not register the approaching footsteps, did not look up until she ran right into something.
Kakyuu stumbled backwards, apology already forming on her lips, when she got a good look at who she'd run into. The girl standing opposite her looked nothing like the servants who scurried about, or even any of the guards. She looked different—and it wasn't just because of her hair that shaded from gold into red; it wasn't just her eyes, reddish-colored like Kakyuu's own, or the garments she wore, an odd yet somehow fitting tunic of gold and red, complete with a cloak fixed over her shoulder, or even the jewelry she had on her—thick golden bracelets each with an inset blue stone, and around her neck a circular blue jewel. It was all of these things and yet there seemed to be something else—something Kakyuu couldn't see—that set this girl apart from anyone else she'd met before.
Kakyuu squinted, and for the briefest second she thought she saw golden armor, glittering in the sun, but it was gone before she got a chance to comment and she half-wondered if she'd imagined it after all. Finally she found her voice and blurted, "Sorry for running into you." A thought grew in the depths of her mind—this was the chance to speak freely to someone who did not know who she was, who did not bow or lower their eyes or speak as if walking on eggshells, as if the slightest possible slip might set her off—for surely this girl was an off-worlder, if not from her manner of dress then simply from the way she was.
The girl's red eyes were warm, not angry at all. "I was not watching where I stepped, either. If the fault is partially with you, then it also lies partially with me." She spoke in an odd, formal way; and her voice had a melodic accent that conjured to mind far-off places. Kakyuu was now certain that this girl was an off-worlder—but what business had brought her to Kinmoku—had brought her to the palace of the royal family?
Then Kakyuu's mind recalled that she had not introduced herself yet (all those years of etiquette lessons when she had been so much younger had, it seemed, not entirely gone to waste) "My name is Kakyuu." She extended a hand in the formal greeting ritual and asked, "And you are…?"
There was no flash of recognition in the stranger's eyes at the sound of Kakyuu's given name; and the princess cheered inwardly. Here, finally, was someone she could talk to—but not for long, she suspected. The traveler studied the proffered hand for a moment, as if weighing the choice of speaking her name, before coming to a decision and clasping Kakyuu's hand.
"They call me Galaxia."
The traveler's words (and the strange way they were spoken—they call me, not I call myself) were almost eclipsed by the shock that accompanied her touch; for the briefest moment the ground was gone, swallowed by a void of endless darkness interspersed with the bright, tiny lights of many, many stars. Kakyuu was staring into the face of what had to be the largest star she'd ever seen in her life; its gravity was such that it pulled clouds of stardust, even the stars and planets around it in a spiraling eddy, a whirlpool in a place of no water, no air.
Then the vision was gone, leaving Kakyuu staring wide-eyed, open-mouthed at Galaxia like she'd suddenly absorbed the sun. "What…" Kakyuu swallowed, almost afraid to ask. "What are you?" She was fairly certain the star she'd witnessed had been the greatest star in the galaxy—named as the Star of Stars to distinguish it from other, more mundane stars. But what kind of connection did the off-worlder have to the Great Star? How, more like?
Galaxia didn't appear fazed by the question; had she seen the vision too? The blue pendant dangling from her necklace flickered in the light as she spoke. "I am everything I was made to be, nothing more, nothing less." Her reply was worded oddly—in a way that both answered Kakyuu's question and didn't answer it at all.
Kakyuu sighed to herself, figuring she wasn't about to get a better answer, and settled for asking, "Is there somewhere you're planning on going? I know the layout of the palace better than most. Where are you headed? I can take you there within a good amount of time, depending on the destination." There was that little hint, about how she'd lived here her whole life, but then again—she could've been a servant, too, working in the palace and knowing the rooms and hallways from having to clean them.
Galaxia hesitated a moment. "It is…early, I understand—but would you happen to know where I might find the king at this hour, if indeed he is awake?"
So she has business with my father, Kakyuu thought to herself. She must have come from another planet—there's no way she could possibly be from Kinmoku. She's too…different. "I can take you there," she said aloud, not mentioning she'd just left that place before running into the off-worlder. "Come with me." She turned on her heel and headed back down the hallway, hearing the footsteps from behind her indicating Galaxia was following her.
Soon enough she found herself back in front of those doors again; but this time she didn't give those little unicorn's eyes a second glance. She had already broached the topic of her dream and had been shot down (she wasn't going to think of it, she staunchly told herself to think of something else, like the Star of Stars) and she pushed through the doors, the traveler following in her wake.
The king of Kinmoku looked up now, his eyes flickering with the beginnings of surprise at Kakyuu's presence, no doubt because she was back so soon. "Kakyuu, what are you—" His voice stopped abruptly as Galaxia stepped out from behind Kakyuu; the princess felt the whisper of air as the traveler passed her by.
Confusion flashed across her father's face before realization set in—He must know who she is, Kakyuu thought suspiciously, as he spoke. "Ah! I did not expect you had arrived so soon…welcome to Kinmoku." Now the little thought was wailing for attention—Who is she, really? Why is she here?
Her confusion must have been written across her face, plain as day, because her father took one glance in her direction and returned his gaze to Galaxia. "You may as well drop the glamour. Show my daughter what you are." At the announcement of Kakyuu's status the traveler turned slightly, her eyes sympathetic. "My most sincere apologies, Princess," she intoned softly, and her hand rose, tracing an unfamiliar rippling design in the air.
Star Dancer magic! Kakyuu's mind yelled, as the air wavered around the figure of Galaxia, bending and twisting; there was a blur against the air, a bright gold-white light like a star's, and then Kakyuu could see properly once more. Only the traveler was gone.
In her place stood a Star Dancer.
She wore the golden armor Kakyuu had glimpsed before—the reality slipping through the cracks of an illusion—and her bracelets remained on her wrists, the same shade of gold as the armor, a shade lighter than the gold color of the top portion of Galaxia's hair. The blue gemstone which had been a necklace was now a brooch, still perfectly circular, though now the depths of the crystal shone with a faint light, like that tiny star Kakyuu had fleetingly seen in the heart of the Kinmoku Crystal. Brilliant white-feathered wings spread outwards from her shoulders in sweeping arcs. And gracing her forehead, the circlet of every Star Dancer, emblazoned with the unique symbol of a spiral flowing outwards from a circle.
Gazing upon that symbol, Kakyuu now understood the name—Galaxia, it meant 'of the galaxy' in the old tongue; and she knew from her lessons that their galaxy was a spiral, and at its heart was the Star of Stars. Just as every inhabited planet had a Star Dancer crystal, just as every inhabited moon, every satellite star had a crystal, so too did the Star of Stars. Kakyuu had heard tales of the galaxy's Star Dancer—never expected to ever meet her, ever be within the same planetary system as her. She had never known the Star Dancer's name—the Star Dancer who owed no planet her allegiance, who followed the call of the Heart of the Galaxy to wherever it might lead her.
Never had Kakyuu ever expected to be face to face with such a legendary being. Never in her life—and here she was, standing not five paces away; the princess could have reached out and touched her, if she wished. Kakyuu's mouth opened, closed; her voice had gone silent in the face of such an event. Her mind buzzed with questions, the most foremost being What kind of terrible thing has brought the galaxy's Star Dancer to Kinmoku?
She cast her gaze desperately to her father, thoughts screaming Why? but lacking the words to express her intent. She settled for alternating desperate with a shade-too-awed looks in Galaxia's direction, with a slight hint of fear—rumors had it that with the wave of her hand, the energy within Galaxia could unmake a planet.
Such great power was not to be trifled with, not to be angered.
Her father looked slightly unhappy, his brow furrowed, eyes schooled into careful guardedness. Clearly he hadn't intended for her to find out about whatever the reason the Star Dancer was on Kinmoku this way, but he took this in stride, explaining quietly, though his voice carried easily to Kakyuu, who felt as if her ears were on hyper-alert. "You know, Kakyuu, that Kinmoku is a large planet. Larger than most; and the Starlights are spread thin as it is. They are bound to protect the planet, but they have the additional task of protecting the royal family, as well. Kinmoku's sun has no crystal and therefore no feasible Star Dancer. All others have their own planets to protect—all save one."
Kakyuu nodded half-heartedly, waiting semi-patiently for him to get to the point.
"Of all the Star Dancers across this galaxy, only the one hosting the power of the Star of Stars is truly free to go where she pleases. I managed to contact her recently; she agreed to take on the Starlights' task of guarding the royal family, to give our Star Dancers more time to devote to their primary task."
Kakyuu almost said, But if you've gotten the galaxy's Star Dancer here, why not make her protect Kinmoku instead, since she's so powerful? But she realized immediately the fault in that line of thinking—Galaxia was, after all, sworn to no planet and by protecting the planet as a whole she would be allegedly aligning herself and her power with Kinmoku; not to mention the fact that the Starlights' primary task as keepers of Kinmoku's satellite stars' crystals was to protect the planet. Their original duty was to the planet, not necessarily to its ruling family. They were well known by the people of Kinmoku; they were not off-worlders. Though they were admittedly weaker than the galaxy's star-warrior, there were three of them, and they could cover more ground without having to have one of them stay behind in case of an attack.
So yes, she could see why her father had come to this conclusion—but what she really wanted to know what why he thought this was necessary. Did he think Kinmoku could be attacked in the near future? Who would want to? There were no other planets in their system, and the next system with inhabited planets was some distance away. She kept these thoughts to herself, however, filing them away under a mental note to ask her father about it later, when she could catch him alone.
She turned her gaze back to the Star Dancer, who stood solemnly in place beside the door, her wings folded at her back, though Kakyuu could still see the feathers that couldn't quite manage to hide behind her back—blazing white against dark brown made for extreme visibility; and Kakyuu had to choke down the surge of jealousy. Galaxia could fly.
She forcibly ignored those thoughts too, taking a pace forwards so that she stood before the Star Dancer. (She was slightly gleeful to note they appeared relatively the same height) Galaxia's eyes were carefully blank; and Kakyuu wondered idly what she thought of this—what she thought of her.
Kakyuu held out her hand. "We haven't been properly introduced, so it seems. I'm Crown Princess Kakyuu of Kinmoku."
Galaxia's gaze flashed to her hand, as it had when they'd first run into each other; after that same moment of hesitation—why was she hesitating?—she took the proffered hand. "Star Dancer Galaxia," she replied, her circlet flashing faintly.
Kakyuu gave her a look that said I've almost forgiven you for making me think you were slightly normal, as she echoed her father's words:
"Welcome to Kinmoku."