There was no going back.

She knew that with a strange certainty, and yet her hand clasped the light blue rod anyway, knowing with just as much conviction that if she didn't take it her life would be forfeit.

[hr]

As the piano melody danced through the air, its calming voice spinning a tale of awe and regret, the young violinist closed her eyes, her heart threatening to lose itself in the tender tones. But even with the beautiful music moving through her, she could not shake a feeling of suspense. Nervously she approached the curtain from her place backstage and peered through a small opening. The theater was packed, the audience quiet and absorbed with the performance; nothing out of the ordinary caught her attention, but the feeling of foreboding remained.

"Michiru, are you alright?" her benefactor asked quietly from behind her, placing her hand softly on Michiru's bare shoulder. "It's not like you to be nervous, my dear."

She nodded absently and turned to face the elderly woman, "I'm fine, thank you."

"You're on next," she reminded her gently just as the solo ended to immense applause.

Michiru Kaioh, age fifteen, straightened her white gown and checked her bow, waiting for the previous artist to take his bows and leave the stage. She nodded to him in passing – he was another of the talents from her academy of Fine Arts, home to the young musical geniuses of Japan. This was just a concert, one of many used to attract the attention of the city at large, and any possible benefactors for the young students. Already Michiru had collected four; those four would be enough to supply any tuition she may need to advance her musical studies, but her teachers had instructed them to gather as many as possible – who knew when your instrument could break and you may need a new one? Who would fund sheet music, buy gowns and tuxedos, rent performance areas? To be famous and successful you needed three things: Talent, Determination, and Benefactors.

She strode to center stage and positioned her instrument on her shoulder. Nodding to the audience's initial applause, she set immediately to a particularly tricky tune. It was a favorite of hers: while it was quick and had a good beat, it also brought forth feelings of deceit. The audience wasn't expecting this tune; usually she chose more languid pieces, soft and slow and beautiful, but today she wanted to show them that she could do playful just as well.

Just as one brave soul started clapping along, the air of frivolity was shattered with a hair-curling shriek. Michiru played on, hoping to calm the audience and give authorities time to sort things out, but suddenly the doors at the end of the auditorium burst open and arched through the air to land somewhere amongst the seats to a chorus of screams. She saw the silhouette of the creature standing in the threshold for only a moment before it shot off into the audience. It was a monster – there was no other way to describe it. Huge, bulking, like a worm upended without limbs to speak of; while her knees started to shake, Michiru played on. [i]Like the musicians on the Titanic,[/i] she thought to herself as the room erupted into chaos. What could she do? She was only fifteen, a middle schooler with a knack for music. The police would arrive soon, else those Sailor Senshi the newspapers reported about; someone would come to save these people.

But as the monster approached the stage with a bulking lunge, the teenager wondered if they would come soon enough.

She was knocked aside, her violin and bow sliding across the stage with the force of the blow as someone from backstage pushed her away, saving her from a direct hit. The creature writhed in the backdrop, tangling the heavy red velvet curtain about its freakish mass, momentarily stopping it's rampage. Michiru turned to see that it had been the pianist that had tackled her, and he now awkwardly struggled to his feet, still unsure of his movements in his white tuxedo. She, too, struggled with coming to her feet, the tight dress not allowing her much movement. He reached down and she accepted his hand, but the pair of them weren't on their feet for long.

With a strong lurch, the beast pulled the curtain down, its rod and the catwalks above with it. The falling obstacles butchered the stage with sharp metallic pieces, crushing the beautiful piano with a solid blow and littering the wooden floor with fresh shrapnel. She had seen the piece falling seconds before it would have hit them, and this time she dove covering him; miraculously, both of them came out unscathed, but their closest escape to backstage was demolished. To get away, they would either have to jump off stage or directly cross the path of the monster.

They had just managed to get to their feet again when they found that the monster had a ranged attack. Wrapped tightly in the curtain, it had seemingly had enough, and now spat a substance that was similar to fire. The flaming liquid arched out into the audience and immediately found kindling in the seats. The audience screamed anew, but the knot of people at the doorway wasn't lessening. It was impossible to get out that way, and with the central isles engulfed in flames, the front exits were no option for the captured people. Backstage, artists and their benefactors were evacuating quickly while she spied stagehands hurrying for fire extinguishers. The elderly woman and a middle-aged lady were beckoning for them frantically, intent not to leave them behind, and she shoved the pianist that way.

Thrown off-balanced, he managed to clear the stage at an awkward run, but the monster was free now, and it had her in its sights. With one swipe of its hindquarters, her remaining exit was blocked; with another, she found herself pinned to the ground on her stomach by heavy machinery. The monster loomed before her; the audience screamed in despair beyond her, their desperate attempts to escape futile; the brave stagehands who would have helped were now trapped behind debris. With the theater filling with smoke and flames, there was no hope.

And then an object appeared, floating just within her reach…