Neptune was not having a good day. At all. In fact, maintaining her cheerful smile and demeanor was taking all the little remaining energy that she had. It would be unthinkable to say it, but she had to.
She was depressed. Incredibly so. Her heart was in tatters, for it had been smashed into a million pieces. And that had only been the beginning of what she realized early would become the single worst day of her life. Most people would say that it had started like just any other day. This one... hadn't. Neptune had woken up with a heavy heart, already, and her smile had been incredibly strained and fake.
She had no illusions that everyone around her had noticed it. But just as she kept trying to put in a strong façade, so did everyone else. They tried their hardest to remain focused, to remain driven and most of all, to not look back. Because if they'd looked back, they'd see.
They'd see the impaled body of Noire, who drew her last breaths with a sad, nostalgic and perhaps even forgiving smile. That smile that still haunted Neptune's dreams. Even if her hand had not been the one to hold the sword and if it'd found its way to Noire's chest by her own hand, Neptune had had her heart broken twice in an instant. Noire had taken the choice away from them, right then and there.
The Planeptune sisters had proven their superiority and defeated Lastation's CPU and candidate. Noire knew what that meant. So did everyone else. Nobody wanted to do it. Nobody wanted to be the one who wielded the blade.
In the end...
Neptune forced herself not to cry at the memory.
In the end, Noire took the choice away and forced Neptune to impale her chest, right over her heart. The blade was swirling with energy, draining Noire's power as well as her blood, the divine blood of a goddess. Her body slumped to the floor, lifeless, her eyes closed to never open again. It had been with a sad smile that she had done so.
The CPU of Planeptune had seen the candidates' faces. She had seen Iffy, Compa, Nisa, Gust and 5pb. react in a similar manner. Horror. Horror and something akin to respect. No, not akin to respect. It was an immense respect for the CPU that had chosen to sacrifice herself to the greater good. And then... And then Uni's face changed. She had been in shock before, but no more. Her face settled in a grimace for an instant, before the most heartbreaking smile blossomed on it.
Nepgear, still in numb shock, still waiting for her brain to tell her that what she was seeing was not real and it was just a nasty nightmare, was forced to clash harshly with reality when Uni performed perhaps an even bigger sacrifice than Noire. Her last words had merely been a simple request to have Nepgear do it willingly this time. Words that she would have never spoken before, proclaiming Nepgear's superiority over her, had the Planeptune CPU breaking.
The sight that followed cemented in Neptune's head the simple fact that her sister was better than her. She'd always been.
Neptune was lazy, childish and a bit of a spoiled brat, at times. She was far too fond of playing around and not entirely willing to perform her duties. She depended heavily on her extremely reliable and dependable younger sister, who had been forced to mature early to do everything that Neptune failed to, which caused people to look at them oddly. She had never cared for that, but she understood, nonetheless, that she was the inferior one in the duo and that, were it not for the fact that she was born earlier, Nepgear should have been the CPU and not her.
Lowee was perhaps an even bigger display of this. Blanc had forced Neptune's hands with her word and forced Neptune to come to grips with the fact that she was nowhere near as strong, as emotionally strong, as her little sister was.
She was entertaining thoughts of suicide shortly after having had to stab Blanc. It was only thoughts of her own sacrifice, thoughts of her redemption, that kept her from taking the Malice sword and offering it her life in exchange for power. She needed to help Nepgear. She needed to do everything she could for Nepgear so that she could eventually achieve their ultimate purpose, to defend Gamindustri from all threats.
With Blanc defeated and killed by Neptune's hand, three fourths of the world belonged to Planeptune. The power that overflooded her when she obtained Blanc's shares almost had her fooled into thinking it'd be enough to face Arfoire. But it wouldn't be. The sword... The sword was necessary to destroy Arfoire's soul. Nothing else would. And for it to achieve its purpose, the sword needed to be fed more CPU souls.
Their job was not done.
Neptune's heart was numb to suffering, already long drowned in despair, when her sister hugged both Rom and Ram and cried with them after the death of their elder sister. Her mind, however, absently noted that she envied the sheer bravery in the two small children, as well as the kindness of their hearts, as they poured them out before ultimately declaring they were ready to be killed together.
She'd... she'd accompany them soon.
Just one more.
Vert proved an entirely different beast. Her power was, appropriately for one without a candidate, the biggest in single combat. However, Neptune knew for a fact that if they had continued fighting, they'd have won. Vert had gone far beyond her own capabilities. Neptune could understand the sheer determination not to leave her sister alone. The mere thought of accompanying her during this last stretch of her life kept Neptune from abandoning Nepgear to sate her own grief and guilt with the action that she considered would be the only one to bring her peace.
Ultimately, it had been a mere underling who'd taken Vert's choice away. Neptune had seen that Nepgear had been forced to change and adapt. After killing the girl whom Neptune suspected she had a crush on as well as two small girls who might as well have been her own younger siblings, Nepgear was far beyond the point of caring about the life of one of Arfoire's most loyal subjects.
Linda the Underling had been decapitated before she could even say hello.
Nepgear wished, desperately, to save Vert. Neptune knew this. But there was a job to be done. There was a sacrifice to make. And much as it pained Neptune, that sacrifice was both Vert's life and to chip away at the last remaining vestiges of innocence that Nepgear still desperately clung onto.
It is perhaps important to note that Neptune entertained unkind thoughts of the oracles as they informed the fates of the CPU to their respective basilicoms. Neptune did not have a particularly short temper and while not particularly patient, she wasn't one to resort to violence at the slightest provocation. It was, however, understandable that in the emotional jump past the event horizon that had been the recent events, she was a bit snappy.
Mina, the Oracle from Lowee, had called Nepgear a monster for murdering such young children.
Chika, the Oracle from Leanbox, had kicked them out of the basilicom, loudly proclaimed her hatred and promised war.
Kei had been the only one to remain polite, yet her own anger and rage had been palpable in the basilicom.
When they got to Planeptune, everyone seemed to avoid the two sisters as they spent what Neptune knew would be their last night as such. Neptune had embraced her sister as they slept and clung to her as tightly as she could, her nightmares leaving her a mess when the next day came.
She had needed time. She needed time to clear her head. She needed to go for a walk. Neptune didn't know how long she'd been gone. She just knew she couldn't face Nepgear right now, not with what she was planning to do. The goddess wished she could spend one last time simply playing with Nepgear but... perhaps that would be even more cruel. It ate at her soul to think that she'd force her sister to spend an entire afternoon merely playing with her only to inform her that she needed to die too for them to stand a chance against Arfoire.
Neptune could not bear to perform such a vile act.
At some point during her walk, she realized she was feeling better. A great weight had been lifted from her shoulders, merely from taking a stroll through the beautiful scenery of her world. She had to save it, no matter what, and if it required her life to do so, then it was just what had to be done. She did not think she'd ever felt as well as she felt right then and there.
She had, oddly enough, never felt this good, on a purely physical level.
In the back of her mind, however, was a horrible, horrible thought that she squashed as hard as he could.
It was simply impossible.
When she returned to the Neptower, she had not expected Histoire to avert her gaze. She had not expected to see a sobbing Compa holding onto Iffy for dear life.
Cold, sharp fear seized her heart. She did not know when it stopped beating. She just knew that she ran. As hard and as fast as her short legs could run. She knew where to go, and she knew the fastest way to get there. She ran up the stairs, rushed down the hallway, and threw the door to her room, no, their room, open.
Neptune's face drained from all color.
All that she saw was a wicked, curved red blade cracking with energy and possitively oozing power.
That had been it. The rush of power she'd felt.
Her shares. The shares of the entire planet. They'd been returned to her.
It was, at that point, that Neptune's mind saw the small note next to the blade. Her mind was gone. Her body was working on auto pilot.
The note was a simple message.
"I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough."