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Ride Away With My Heart

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"It is time."

Michiru turned away from watching waves lap at an unfamiliar golden shoreline under bright blue clouds that zipped by at impossible speeds. She looked back towards a tall figure silhouetted against the deepening blue sky. For a moment, she wondered where the setting sun was, but her attention was caught once more by the words which reached out and engulfed her.

"It is time."

"Time for what?" This wasn't the first time she'd had a lucid dream. In fact, it was a fairly common occurrence, although this didn't feel quite so real as those others.

"Time to take up your birthright. You have a mission." Although she couldn't see the figure's face, long hair whipped around her as she spoke. She held an odd staff with what looked like a key on top, one that tugged at Michiru's memories for no reason she could recall.

"Mission?" Michiru was afraid she sounded a little stupid, parroting back the other woman's words like this. She grabbed her own hair, wildly blowing in the wind, and held it at the nape of her neck to try and see better.

"You must find the Messiah and halt the Silence before it is too late."

Michiru felt a chill run down her spine at the name. Suddenly, the strange world and the woman before her disappeared to be replaced by the familiar streets of Tokyo, eerily empty. She looked around, panic trying to claw its way through her usual practiced calm. She fought it back even as she looked up to see a dark wave, easily as high as Tokyo Tower, rearing up above the buildings before her.

In the same moments, a crowd of screaming people ran towards her through alleys, converging on the street across from where she stood. They reached out to her only for the wave to crash down, swallowing at least half. The others reached out again, pleading with words she couldn't make out but knew were cries for help. To her horror, they began to crumble, disappearing within seconds. Once again, the city around her was completely silent, but not the quiet she normally loved. This was heavy, oppressive, in a way that left her feeling as if all the air around her was going to crush her at any moment.

With a gasp, Michriu sat up in bed, panting. The artificial light filtering through her gauzy curtains told her that dawn had yet to make an appearance. She scanned her room with wide eyes, listening for the reassuring sound of Tokyo traffic, light but present in the early morning gloom. Something glinted on the pillow next to her, and she reached down to pick it up without thinking.

Her fingers had barely managed to curl around the smooth metal handle when the same vision of screaming people engulfed by waves of darkness seared across her vision, causing her to drop whatever it was into her tangled blankets. As soon as it left her hand, the vision stopped.

She glared down at the offending item, laying innocently with one end poking up. In the dim light she could just make out some sort of star shape at the top and maybe an engraving. She couldn't even tell what color it was, not really, but she knew somehow that it was her favorite teal. Everything from the touch to the shape of it called out to her, despite the horrifying images.

Knowing she wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, yet unwilling to deal with the strange object just yet, she slipped out of bed and pulled on the white silk robe laid neatly across the vanity chair steps away. Her fingers searched for and found a hairband laying just where she'd left it, and she twisted her hair into a messy bun, the type she'd never wear outside her own living spaces.

She didn't need more light to move from the vanity to the door just beyond, open it quietly, and step into the hall. Not that there was anyone to wake up since her parents hadn't been able to join her in Tokyo in this lavish apartment set up by several of her violin patrons. Still, it wouldn't be courteous to stomp around and wake up anyone sleeping in the apartment below.

Michiru made her way down the short hall to her favorite room in the apartment, what should have been the main bedroom but was instead her art studio. She'd chosen to cram her bed and other furnishings into the smaller second bedroom in order to have as much space as possible here, where she could spread cloths across the wooden floor to catch spilled paint and set up canvases as large as she'd like. And this called for the largest canvas she had available, she decided as she flicked on the bright lights she'd set up just so months before when she first moved in.

She fell into something of a trance as she arranged her canvas and paints and began to work. Thankfully it was a Saturday, so even as the sun rose high over the city skyline she felt no compulsion to stop. Instead, she plied her brushes against the canvas, broad strokes here, delicate touches there, as the scene came to life under her skillful hand. At one point she turned off the artificial light since the sun now streamed through the large windows that were her sole reason for selecting this apartment out of the many her patrons could have afforded. Then she dove back into her canvas, selecting colors to highlight and shadow, bringing the scene to life as she attempted to exorcise it from her mind.

She paused again when she began to feel lightheaded, practically running down the hall to her small kitchen in order to pour a glass of water and toss together a quick salad. Her thirst and hunger taken care of, she returned to her obsession. As the sun began to sink on the other side of her building, she set the last strokes and stepped back.

Here it was in blacks and blues and greens, hints of yellow and white to highlight; the terror from her dream, the horror of her vision coming as close to life as she hoped they would get. The dark tones suited it, she decided with a firm nod.

She stretched and pushed an escaping tendril of hair off her forehead before deciding to head down to the building's pool, the other reason she'd wanted this particular apartment. It was small but sufficient for her needs when she couldn't get to a larger one to really get her muscles going. With one final glance at the painting she'd created from her nightmare, she closed the door firmly on her studio and headed back to her bedroom.

She noticed her unmade bed and frowned. It was unlike her to leave things so untidy, a further sign of how the night had disturbed her mind. With a resolute firming of her lips, she moved to shake out and smooth the blankets. With the first good shake, something clattered onto the smooth teal-and-white rug at her feet. Skin growing cold, she looked down. The blanket slipped from her fingers as she stared.

It gleamed in the light of the setting sun. She'd been wrong to assume that the entire thing was her favorite color. Instead, it was a silver metal rod topped with, of all things, a heart. Resting on top of the heart sat a teal crescent surrounded by a ring. A golden six-pointed star rose out of the tip of the crescent as if it were a wave, and a symbol glowed in bright teal on the star. She didn't have to wonder what it was. The symbol represented her favorite planet, Neptune, which she'd been obsessed with when she was a little girl.

"Neptune," she murmured. Without hesitation, suddenly unafraid of the visions from earlier, she reached down and picked up the rod. Other words came to her, ones she'd never heard before yet knew all the same. "Planet Power Make-Up!" She finished with a yell loud enough that in other circumstances she would have worried about the neighbors hearing.

Blue-green light in the shape of a wave engulfed her. When it dissipated, she was no longer dressed in her silk pajamas and matching robe. Instead, a white leotard and short dark teal skirt covered her body. White gloves encased her hands and lower arms, and she looked down to see pretty heeled shoes that matched the skirt. The rod that started this was nowhere in sight.

"What in the world…?" she wondered, moving to look in the mirror over her vanity as if it would allow her to deny what her eyes and skin told her.

"Well, I suppose this isn't a dream." With a sigh, she took in the dark blue bow on her chest and turned to see the one on the back of the strange outfit. A gold tiara of some sort graced her forehead, the green gem on it shining and winking at her as if it was in on whatever secret she'd stumbled upon. But this was still her. The blue eyes staring calmly back at her were the same she saw every day. Her hair curled in its normal teal waves around her shoulders, unencumbered by the tiara.

"How interesting. But what does it mean?" For a moment she thought about how normal her life had seemed just the day before; well, as normal as she'd ever known. Encouraged to indulge in every artistic talent that caught her whim since infancy before eventually settling on the violin and painting at the age of four, her parents had nudged their prodigy daughter onto a path that eventually led her away from them so that she could study in the nation's capital city, the darling of several wealthy patrons. She closed her eyes and imagined the joys of the previous day, finishing school at the normal time and then practicing her beloved violin for hours before taking a relaxing swim.

The pressure on her arms and feet slid away, and when Michiru opened her eyes again, she saw that she once again stood in her pajamas and robe in the middle of her bedroom. The rod with the star on top was nowhere in sight. However, she had a feeling that if she was to call out that strange phrase again, it would appear and she would once again be engulfed by that magic wave.

However, it was no use worrying about it now, she decided. With quick, smooth motions she finished making her bed and then opened the drawers of her dresser to pull out the first swimsuit her fingers touched. She changed quickly, grabbed a towel from the tall, thin cabinet just inside her tiny bathroom, and headed out of her apartment and to the elevator that would take her to her haven among this sudden chaos. She knew as soon as the water touched her skin, all would be well.

The cool quiet of the otherwise empty pool worked just as she'd hoped to calm her mind and spirit. Stroke after stroke she moved with her normal grace, trying to quiet the images of destruction she'd hoped were completely exorcised. They kept creeping back, the eyes of a terrified child here, water gushing in black waves over a building there, destruction everywhere.

After twenty laps she gave up, pulled herself out of the pool, and dried off with a frown. Perhaps what she needed was a quick dinner and an early bed time instead of her usual night owl tendencies. With a firm nod to herself, Michiru headed off to try and drown the images in her head with ramen and sweet dreams.

By the time she laid down, hair dry and exhaustion making her eyelids heavy, she had high hopes that true rest would take away the past twenty-four hours and bring her back to her safe, normal life full of nothing but music and art. However, for the second night in a row Michiru found herself on a golden shore, waves lapping at her feet. This time, she was dressed in that strange sailor suit, gloved fingers clenched around the star-topped rod once more. She didn't waste time waiting and spun around. As expected, the tall figure stood behind her, this time shrouded in mist.

"What is happening?" Michiru demanded, doing her best to keep her voice cool.

"You must find the Messiah and help defeat the Silence."

Taking a deep breath, she gestured to her outlandish outfit. "And this is supposed to help me with that somehow?"

The figure nodded once. "You are Sailor Neptune, Guardian of the Deep Sea. It is your duty to protect this world from threats from outside of the solar system."

Michiru raised her brow. "And how exactly am I supposed to do that? I'm just a junior high student!"

She thought she heard a chuckle. "You are so much more, and you will grow stronger as you age. You will become more powerful than you can imagine. However, you will not protect the world alone. Eventually you will meet the one who is to be your partner in this mission. Together, you will find the Messiah and help defeat the Silence that would destroy humanity."

Michiru's lonely heart, too long without someone who truly understood her, clung to that idea, but her quick mind dismissed it out of hand. The idea of being some destined magical warrior was too ludicrous for her to take seriously, even if it promised half a dozen people who would love and accept her for who she was instead of thinking her dedication to the arts too strange for someone her age. She was far too busy to go around saving the world, even if those visions came true. Surely there was someone else who could do this, someone with less to lose. Thoughts of her beloved violin, of playing her way from continent to continent, nearly overwhelmed her.

Looking down at her feet to hide her frown, Michiru asked, "And if I refuse this honor?" She kept her voice from cracking through will alone.

"There is no one else who can take up the mantle of Sailor Neptune. You may turn your back on your destiny, Kaiou Michiru, but the death of the world, of the entire solar system, will be on your head" The deep voice turned cold but not cruel as it delivered that verdict.

Michiru's heart sank at the quiet that followed. It seemed she would be offered no reprieve. She would need to make her choice. What choice was there, though? The figure's solemn words only echoed what she knew in her heart. Still, she had to try.

"And what of the other you spoke of, the one who is to be my partner?"

"Neither of you are strong enough to find the Messiah on your own. If she takes up the mantle alone, she will fail." The voice held complete certainty, a certainty that Michiru unfortunately shared.

Fists balled against the skirts that swayed in the sudden breeze blowing up around them, beginning to clear the mist, Michiru nodded. "How will I find this partner you've promised?" she asked, raising up tear-filled eyes.

She could almost see the figure's smile, could definitely hear it in the softening of her voice. "You will know her when you see her. For now, prepare yourself for the battle ahead. Your strength of mind and body will be of paramount importance."

Michiru opened her eyes to her darkened bedroom and let out a small gasp. A single tear leaked from her eye and trailed down her cheek and neck, but she didn't raise a hand to wipe it away. She deserved this chance to mourn lost dreams. With the coming of dawn, her search would begin.