To See Without Eyes: Chapter 11

Written by Elen-Di

Hey. First, I owe you who still read this a huge apology for not getting this out until now. Second, please, please, PLEASE read the author's note at the end of the chapter. Thank you.

Disclaimer: I make my own Sailor Moon stationary. Doesn't mean I own Sailor Moon.

..-..

When Minako awoke suddenly the next morning, she didn't move a muscle, didn't twitch an eyebrow, for several seconds. Dimmed sunlight fought to shine through the curtains obscuring her window, and she could hear birds chirping madly outside. Artemis was nowhere to be seen.

She listened for several seconds and, detecting nothing other than the normal creaky house noises, she allowed herself to relax back onto her pillow. She stared up at the ceiling. She didn't know whether it was a blessing or a curse that she had never had trouble remembering the previous day's (or in this case, night's) events, even though in almost every novel she'd ever read, the heroine or hero has memory lapse when he/she wakes up and is therefore blissfully unaware for a few minutes. No such luck for her. The door creaked open and Artemis bounded onto her bed, saying, "You overslept and I couldn't wake you up. I think school is nearly halfway over by now."

Minako sat up and glanced wordlessly at her alarm clock and saw he was correct. The time read 11:30, and school ended at 2:20.

"Did Dad," she cleared her throat of phantom cobwebs that made her voice rasp, "already leave?"

"6 AM sharp," was the reply. Minako slumped back onto the pillows, eyes fluttering shut. Artemis padded next to her shoulder and licked her collarbone with a rough pink tongue.

"I'm fine," she whispered, eyes still closed. "I just need a minute."

"Do you want me to call into the school and tell them you're ill?" Artemis suggested.

Minako tried to smile. "You're a cat, silly goose."

"They can't see this 'silly goose' over the phone, last I checked the world's technology," he rebutted.

She waved a hand at him. "Sure, why not. You might even be legitimate if my ankle keeps throbbing like this."

Artemis gazed at her intently. "Breakfast, I think," he said abruptly. "And ice, for that ankle." He jumped off the bed and darted out of the room.

Minako called after him, "How do you expect to get those things? You're a CAT, for crying out loud!"

"Wait and see," came the muffled answer from the floor below.

Minako let her head rest on the pillow and stared up at the ceiling once more. Even if he could talk, he seemed to overestimating his non-feline abilities. It was impossible for him to carry breakfast – let alone make it! – and ice upstairs to her. She'd probably end up having to go downstairs and get it herself… even though her ankle was throbbing beyond belief… she was so tired… maybe she should just… doze… off… for a minute…

There was a sudden CLUNK of porcelain on wood and a cold weight landed across her legs. Minako's eyes flew open and she jolted upright. Sitting on her legs was a bag of ice, while on her bedside table was a plate heaped with scrambled eggs, sausage, toast, strawberries, blueberries, and grapes.

"Here – put the ice on the ankle and then cover your legs back up with the coverlet," Artemis instructed from the foot of the bed.

Minako gaped at him. "H-how d-did you DO tha –"

"Never mind that," said Artemis, although something akin to a sly grin crossed his feline features. Minako continued to stare at him for several more seconds, then did as he had said. Covered up once more, she grabbed the plate and utensils next to it and dug in.

Artemis watched her eat, and when she paused to catch her breath, he said, "There's orange juice there as well if you want it." She turned her head and saw the glass on her dresser and scooped it up. She gulped it greedily then returned to the food.

When she had sated her hunger, Minako put the cleaned plate and glass back on her nightstand then turned her attention to Artemis, who had curled up next to her uninjured ankle. He saw this, and focused his gaze on her, waiting for her to speak.

"Artemis?"

"Yes?" His voice was gentle, as if he foresaw what she would say.

"I'm scared…"

"I know." He paused. "Me too."

The day dragged by, so that by the time six o'clock rolled around, Minako was positive that someone had tampered with time to make it go by at half its normal rate. When she mentioned this to Artemis, he looked surprised and muttered something that sounded like, "Pluto wouldn't be THAT mean, would she…?" Minako gave him a strange look and told him she was joking. Well, partially.

"Dad should be home soon," she muttered to herself. She glanced over at the clock again – third time in three minutes – and was consequently dissatisfied. If only there was something I could do besides hang out in bed and ice my stupid ankle… I wonder if Artemis is talented enough to turn on my CD player…

The loud chimes of the telephone startled her, and she jumped. Muttering unpleasant phrases under her breath, she reached across to the phone that perched on her nightstand. "Hello?"

Sobbing answered. "H-hello? M-may I sp-speak to M-Minako, p-please?"

Minako's heart sank to the Earth's core. It was Sarah. "This is she," she said, trying to sound like her normal cheerful self. "Who is this?"

"S-Sarah," the girl hiccupped. "I n-needed t-to talk to you."

"What's wrong?" Minako asked, real concern coloring her voice, although she already knew the answer to the question. The guilt that had lain dormant for the past twelve hours began gnawing at her stomach anew.

"Oh Mina!" Sarah cried. "M-my mom… Sh-she… last night, I d-don't know w-what happened… she's dead!" Her sobbing intensified.

"Oh Sarah…" Minako whispered. "Oh Sarah… I'm so sorry… I'm so sorry…"

"D-do you think you c-could come over n-now?" her friend asked. "M-my relatives are h-here, but I really n-needed someone else… you u-understand, right?"

"Of course," Minako said gently. "I'll be over as soon as possible." She paused. "Do you want me to bring anything?"

"N-no… just c-come as s-soon as you c-can…" There was a click, and the line went dead. Minako hung up the phone, feeling as if she had aged twenty years. The grief, dulled from the previous night, began to work its way back up her throat.

"How are you going to get there?" Artemis' quiet voice penetrated her emotionally chaotic mind. "I don't think you'll be able to walk…"

"Don't be silly," Minako said. "I can walk; it's not that bad." In order to prove it, she swung herself out of bed and tried to put weight on her leg. The resulting shock of pain caused her to fall back onto the bed, gasping.

"Uh, huh," was Artemis' critical response. "That's what I thought."

Minako glared at him. "Well, what solution do you have, Mr. Know-it-all? Do you think I'm just going to sit here and loaf when Sarah needs me?"

"Of course not," he said calmly. "But you can't walk there."

Minako continued to glare at him.

"So I suppose someone will just have to drive you…" he said, a thoughtful expression across his feline features.

Minako snorted. "Who? Dad isn't even home yet."

The unmistakable sound of a car backing into the driveway issued from her window and proved her incorrect. Minako raised an eyebrow at the slightly smug cat, but said nothing.

"Minako?" her dad called from the floor below.

"Up here!" she called back, not removing her gaze from Artemis.

When her father came up the stairs, it took a few seconds for him to register the situation. "What happened to your ankle?" he asked worriedly.

"I twisted it pretty badly," Minako grimaced. "Hey, Otou-san?"

"Hai?"

"Sarah called… I need you to drive me to her house." When he looked questioningly at her, she swallowed hard and said, "Sarah's mom… died… last night… she said she really needs me…"

"Oh no," her father murmured. His face turned grave. "How did it happen?"

"I'm not quite sure, she didn't say…" Minako said, commanding her face to remain sorrowful and not guilty. She hated lying to her father.

"Well," the ambassador stood up, "of course I can drive you. But will you be all right, with your ankle and everything?"

"I think so… I've been icing it most of the day…"

"Perhaps you should bandage it before you go. Hold on, let me go look in the bathroom…"

And so Minako let her father bandage her ankle, although she was aching to go as quickly as possible. Artemis sensed this, and rubbed his face against her upper arm, purring softly to calm her. When her ankle had been properly bandaged, Minako stood up with her father's help and Artemis jumped onto her shoulder. When her father looked somewhat disapproving at this, Minako said quickly, "It's fine if he comes… he's a great comforter."

Her father looked like he wanted to disagree, but under the present circumstances he decided not to. The tension-laden atmosphere subdued any possible conversations, continuing right up to the moment when Minako limped up to Sarah's house and the distraught girl flung herself upon her best friend, sobbing as if she would never stop. Minako's father's lips tightened at the obvious strain on his daughter's ankle, but refrained from saying or doing anything that would add to Sarah's emotional burden. He contented himself with parking on the side of the road and entering the sable shadowed house, to see if he could be of assistance to Sarah's father. Neither he nor his daughter spoke very much the rest of the night.

..-..

That week of school had gone by the fastest it ever had, Usagi decided at lunch that afternoon. The classes she had with Mamoru and his friends seemed more enjoyable than usual, especially first period with Jadeite. His imitations of the teacher's peculiar motor habits made Usagi laugh constantly, although unfortunately not always silently. But Usagi didn't mind so much; Jadeite was usually sentenced to detention with her, so at least she was entertained there as well. The guys continued to eat lunch with the little group that consisted of Usagi, Ami, and Naru. As Usagi reminisced about the week, the lattermost tugged on her sleeve.

"Hey, Usagi-chan."

"Wha – oh yeah, Naru-chan?"

"What grade is he in?" Naru pointed surreptitiously towards Nephrite, who was arguing the benefits of in-depth analysis with Zoicite over a piece of Japanese lit. homework.

Usagi followed her gaze. "Nephrite-san? He's a junior, like Mamo-baka here." She jabbed an elbow in the youth's ribs because he was misfortunate enough to be within her reach.

"Ouch, Odango! What was that for?"

Usagi shrugged, her lips quirked in a sly grin. "Just felt like it."

Mamoru rolled his eyes and returned to his conversation with Kunzite.

Usagi gazed at her blushing friend quizzically. "Why are you so curious about Nephrite, Naru-chan?"

Naru shook her head. Usagi raised her eyebrows and tugged on her friend's blouse. "Hey, come on, tell me! Pleeeease? Please, Naru-chan?" She summoned the most pitiful, pleading face she could muster and shot it straight at Naru's soft side.

Naru groaned. "Usagi-chaaaan…"

"Pretty please, dear, sweet Naru-chan?" Usagi's lower lip trembled.

Naru growled. "Fine. But SWEAR you won't breathe a word to anyone, okay?"

Usagi immediately brightened and nodded vigorously. "Of course, of course! You know you can always trust me! What is it, Naru-chan?"

Naru's blush intensified, and she muttered something that escaped Usagi's hearing – but not Mamoru's. He snorted in spite of himself, although Naru did not notice and Malachite stared at strangely.

USagi cupped a hand to her ear. "Come again?"

"I have a crush on him!" Naru hissed, her face dangerously red. "Now don't laugh, okay?"

"Laugh?" repeated a shocked Usagi. "Naru, that's… wow… are you going to ask him out?"

"Of course not! He's a junior, for God's sake! I can't ask out a junior!"

Usagi grinned slyly. "Would you say yes if he asked you out?"

"Of cou – Usagi, don't you dare say anything to him!" Naru threatened in a screeching whisper. "Or I will never take you out for ice cream ever again!"

Usagi's expression immediately morphed to one of contrition. "I won't tell him anything, I swear," she groveled. "Just please… don't threaten me with that!"

Naru wiped imaginary sweat from her forehead when Usagi's eyes moved from her to glance at Mamoru. She knew could trust her friend not to jeopardize her chances of getting free ice cream… or so she thought.

At that point the bell rang, and the students dutifully (albeit reluctantly; even Ami, as she had been in the middle of discussing "Candide" with Zoicite) drifted to their classes. Usagi went to her locker, a wide grin sliding across her face the moment she had left Naru behind. She would find a way to make Naru happy!

"Hey, Usagi-san!"

Usagi's nerd sensors flared. As she turned, she made a face. "Umiiinoo… what do you want?"

"Erm," the bespectacled math geek glanced furtively up and down the halls, as if looking for someone. Usagi waited with mingled curiosity and exasperation. Umino wasn't so bad, but he could get so annoying!

"USagi-san? You know how the Halloween Dance is coming up soon?" He shifted his weight nervously and cleared his throat. "Well, I was wond –"

"Wait a minute!" Usagi cried, only just registering his first statement. "The Halloween Dance is when?"

Confusion knotted the boy's features. "Umm, next week? The day before Halloween?"

Usagi clapped a hand to her forehead, making the already twitchy-nerd jump. "Gaah! I'm so stupid! How did I not know this? Well, thanks for telling me, Umino-san, but I should really get to class - !"

"Wait, Usagi-san!" he cried as she started to turn away, having completely forgotten that he had been on the verge of asking her something.

She halted. "Yes?"

Umino flushed. "Umm, well… do you know if Naru-san is going with anyone?" he hedged.

Usagi froze, trying desperately to somehow further her plans without hurting Umino's feelings.

"Umm," she hesitated. "I don't know, but I think someone was planning on asking her to the dance, if they haven't already." She laughed nervously and backed away, saying, "Sorry Umino-san… perhaps next time?"

Before he could utter a word she had dashed away, anxious to get away and to reach her next class on time.

"Mamo-baka, Mamo-baka, you have to help me!" Usagi wheezed as she made her way to his desk. She'd barely gotten within the doorframe when the bell had rung.

Mamoru raised an eyebrow. "With what? Learning time management? How to study? How to be efficient? How –"

"OYYY! I don't need this from you! I need a favor, so LISTEN!"

Mamoru shut up, but he allowed a small smirk to escape.

"Hmph. As I was saying," Usagi sniffed disdainfully, "I need your help with something."

Mamoru waited for her to speak again, but when the silence stretched on, he said, "Enlighten me, please?"

"Erm… canyouplease convinceNephriteto askNarutothe Halloweendance?" she blurted in a rush.

Mamoru blinked. "Speak Japanese?"

"Can-you-please-convince-Nephrite-to-ask-Naru-to-the-Halloween-dance," she enunciated.

It took nearly a full minute for Mamoru to reel in his composure, but then he lost it again anyway. He burst into shocked laughter. "Odango, why on Earth would I do that? I can't just convince Nephrite to take her to the dance – he doesn't even talk to her!"

"Because she's shy!" wailed Usagi. "Please, Mamoru, pleeease?"

"No."

"Pleeeeease?"

"No!"

"Pretty pretty PLEASE, Mamoru?" she gazed at him with the most pathetic, heartbreaking face she could sustain. Mamoru covered his face with his hands.

"Argh, Odango! No, I can't do it! Persuade him yourself if it means that much to you, but I… can't… do that."

"How come?" Usagi frowned dejectedly.

Mamoru scratched his ear uncomfortably. "I just can't… besides, how come Naru can't ask him to the da –"

Usagi's hand clapped over his mouth, effectively cutting him off. "NO, Mamo-baka!" she told him. "It just can't work like that! See, guys are supposed to ask the girls out, especially if they're older than the girls!"

Mamoru rolled his eyes. "So?" he asked, the derision not blocked by Usagi's hand.

The blonde mirrored his eye roll exaggeratedly. "You're so clueless, Mamo-baka!" Suddenly her eyes narrowed. "But don't you DARE breathe a word of this to anyone, understand?"

Mamoru nodded, quailing slightly under her death glare. "Good," Usagi grinned triumphantly and removed her hand.

..-..

Rei trudged along the empty sidewalk, absentmindedly swinging her school bag in one hand. With the other, she lifted her thick hair off of her hot, sweaty neck and wondered why it was so hot at this time of year. This is ridiculous, she thought grumpily. It's October, for crying out loud.

She stopped at the curb, tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for the light to turn. Her eyes surveyed the other pedestrians walking along quickly, or darting in and out of shops along the sidewalk. A quick glance at her watch revealed the time to be only about two. Too early for Usagi to be out of school. Or detention, for that matter. An amused grin tugged at her lips as she remembered Usagi's embarrassed explanation for why she couldn't meet Rei after school.

"Haruna-sensei gave me detention again," she had admitted sheepishly. "She caught me sleeping in class again."

Rei had raised an eyebrow to cover the smile that wanted to escape. "Again?"

"You see, Rei-chan, Haruna-sensei has it in for me! Just because I fall asleep in her class occasionally, or eat sometimes because I'm hungry, she seems to think I deserve detention every time it happens! I had gotten better – I'd learned to sleep with my eyes halfway open but she found out when I snored in class yesterday and so she gave me detention again!" Usagi had wailed in distress, and Rei had been unable to suppress her choked laughter.

Oh, Usagi-chan, Rei thought, shaking her head. What am I going to do with you? Sleeping in class, on a Monday no less…

Then she frowned. She had voiced such a thought to Usagi – had she not gotten plenty of sleep the previous night, it being the weekend? But the blonde had mumbled something about staying up late to read manga, and Rei had let it drop with what was becoming a customary eye-roll. But now that she thought about it, something about the way Usagi had dropped her head, and the way she had mumbled her response, suddenly more serious than the subject merited rang a warning bell of suspicion in Rei's head. She almost suspected the blonde to be lying, if Usagi was even capable of such a thing. But why would she lie -

"Hino-san!"

The sudden voice in her ear startled her so much she nearly dropped her bag. She turned around to see who had hailed her, but froze when a young, blonde, impeccably-dressed young man crossed into her line of vision. A boulder thumped against the pit of her stomach and her hands turned to ice. She wanted to be sick.

"Hino-san," the man smiled affably as he drew level with her. "I hope you remember me. I am Mr. Kaidou, your father's assistant. I don't know if you are aware, but your father –"

"I don't know who you think you are," Rei interrupted icily, "But I think you have to be mistaken. My father is dead. Now, if you'll excuse me."

She tried to walk past him in the opposite direction, but his hand snaked out and grasped her shoulder. She turned back to face him, eyes spitting sparks.

"Excuse me –!"

"You are Hino Rei, are you not?" he said quickly, his hand on her shoulder tightening fractionally. "You look very much like your late mother. You were born April 17th, 1978. You are an only child, though when you were three you asked your parents for a brother." His brown eyes bore into hers.

Rei gaped at him. "How – you –"

"As I said before, Hino-san, your father has been searching for you for a very long time, and he would very much like to see you, if you are willing." He released her shoulder, confident now that she would not run away.

A part of Rei did want very much to turn on her heel and flee, to stop listening before she actually believed him, but a stronger part of her knew it was too late. She had sunken into the trip before aware of its existence, and now it was too late because she would follow this young man to see her father no matter what anyone told her now.

She swallowed, her mouth suddenly very dry. "Kaidou-san, is it?"

He nodded, and a gentle smile lit up his features. A sudden heat in her cheeks shocked her; why was she blushing? He was handsome, she admitted to herself, but not overtly so. Still…

"Did you come looking for me?" she blurted, forgetting what she had intended to say originally.

He nodded. "Your father has been attempting to call you for the past two weeks, but no one had replied. Your grandfather answered once and he… did not seem very enthusiastic about your speaking to him."

Rei nodded absentmindedly; she had purposely avoided answering the phone for precisely that reason. If she had heard a man's voice claiming to be her father, she was not sure what she would have done; whatever her reaction to her "father", she did not want it to be over the phone. Also, a part of her had not actually wanted latch onto that hope that her father really wanted her, lest it turn into a false one. But Kaidou-san had actually sought her out, so that meant her father definitely wanted to see her… right?

"What is it you want, then? Or," she caught herself, "what does my father want?"

"Would you be amenable to dinner tomorrow night?" Kaidou-san took a step closer, and Rei was again struck by how handsome he was.

She shook her head to clear it; she was not normally so affected by men. "Tomorrow night? Um, I think so… only I'm not sure I have anything suitable to wear." Where did that come from? Idiot!

Mr. Kaidou shook his head, smiling. "That won't be a problem. I will pick you up and bring something with me. How does seven o'clock sound?"

Rei clenched her bag tightly to keep her voice or her hands from trembling. "Seven is fine. Will my father… will he –?"

"We will meet him at the restaurant," Mr. Kaidou said smoothly. "Until tomorrow, Rei-san."

With a bow, he turned on his heel and walked down the street. Rei stared after him, slightly dazed. After a moment she shook her head and continued on her way, her head swimming with the knowledge that she would be seeing her father for the first time in over ten years. If it was really her father.

When Rei finally reached the top of the everlasting staircase to Hikawa Shrine, she took a few moments to catch her breath. Though she had been climbing the darned stairs for as long as she could remember, they never failed to suck the wind out of her lungs. The day she could run up and down them she would be ready to run three marathons back to back.

"Rei-san?" A blonde head popped into her vision and momentarily caused her to freeze with alarm until she realized it was only Jadeite. She relaxed, if only slightly.

"Jadeite-kun," she greeted him, not quite smiling, her mind still caught up with the earlier encounter with Mr. Kaidou. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, actually, I was wondering if you sell any anti-love charms? There are some girls who are practically feral for each other's blood cause they can't stop fighting over my astonishingly good looks –"

Rei burst out laughing at the absurdly pained expression on his face. At first Jadeite pretended to be affronted and gasped with mock anger in a high-pitched, breathy squeal. Rei couldn't help herself; she could not stop laughing. After several moments Jadeite let his false face relax and chuckled along with her.

When she could breathe, Rei lightly slapped his shoulder. "You are ridiculous," she tried to tell him with a straight face, and failed.

He winked at her. "I try." He took her hand and they walked amiably towards the Shrine. "What were you all hot and bothered about before, if you don't mind my asking?"

In those few, sweet seconds of hysterical laughter Rei had almost forgotten about the evening's plans with Mr. Kaidou and her father. Now her face stilled and the corners of her lips tightened. She did not answer for several moments.

Jadeite saw the change in her face and kicked himself for it. He had managed to distract her, only to remind her of whatever had been bothering her in the first place. Way to go, genius…

"It's nothing," she said nonchalantly. "No big deal."

Jadeite considered her expression carefully. "Are you sure? You don't' want to talk about it?" Whatever it is?

Rei shook her head. "It's nothing," she repeated. "I'm perfectly fine."

Jadeite stopped, and his hand still held onto hers so she was forced to stop as well. "Are you sure about that?" he asked seriously, staring squarely into her eyes.

Rei hesitated, but then shook it off. He didn't need to know about her messed up family situation anymore than necessary; it would only be a burden to him. And she didn't want his pity.

"Please, Jadeite, I'm fine. I promise. It's nothing. Can we talk about something else, please?" Suddenly uncomfortable, she slipped her hand out of his as if only just realizing it had been there for some time.

Jadeite sighed. "As you wish." He shrugged in the direction of the gardens. "Walk with me?"

Rei nodded, but wrapped her arms firmly around herself, hands safe in her armpits. They walked awkwardly side-by-side until falling into a casual conversation that soon took on a rhythm of its own until Rei forgot to be on her guard, and she released her hands from her sides. Jadeite seemed to take no notice, but later when he bid her good evening and made his way down the Shrine steps, she realized that somehow her hand had ended up in his again. Part of her felt annoyed, but another part – her heart – leapt gladly and did not worry about implications or complications. Until her grandfather knocked on her door, asking if she would join him for supper. The returning realization that her grandfather had hidden her from own father colored her reply with a dank bitterness that she sank into when her grandfather silently retreated. She refused to allow herself the luxury of guilt.

..-..

On Monday afternoon, Minako walked home from school as usual, having convinced her father earlier that morning that her ankle was well enough for her to do so. Artemis walked beside her; he had met her at the gates as soon as the dismissal bell had rung.

"How's your ankle feeling?" he asked after a few minutes walking.

"It's fine," Minako replied lightly. "It barely hurts anymore."

"That's good." The cat seemed much relieved, and Minako suddenly didn't feel so guilty for lying. In truth her ankle still pained her a lot, but the painkillers she had taken that morning helped. She didn't want to seem weak, especially with this new… duty.

A sudden sound broke the still air, and Minako immediately recognized it as a scream from a couple streets down. Artemis' nostrils quivered, and he breathed, "It must be another youma!"

Minako wanted to scream. Speak of the bloody devil and he shall appear…

"Minako, come on!" Artemis was already racing down the street towards the terrified sound. Minako followed as best she could, inwardly cursing her still not-healed ankle. She only prayed that she didn't damage it further.

When they reached the source of the commotion, they found Artemis had been correct. A seven-foot tall, black, scaly youma had its ugly claws wrapped around a woman's waist and was drawing what looked like streams of pearly light from her. Minako saw red. She would NOT let anyone else die like Sarah's mom!

She ducked under a copse of low hanging trees that clustered beside one building. Satisfied that she was hidden enough from view, she fished around in her sub-dimensional pocket for her transformation pen. Finding it, she whispered, "Venus Power, Make-up!"

The swirling lights blinded her once more, and then she was in her golden orange fuku. She began to dart out when Artemis jumped in front of her.

"Wait!" he said urgently. He did a funny little back flip, and suddenly a golden crescent mirror-like object fell to the grass before them. "Take that, hold it tightly, and close your eyes!" he ordered.

Minako obeyed, and almost immediately felt her forehead burn. The pain was instantly gone, however, but traces of heat remained. Artemis glanced her up and down, nodded, and said "Okay, let's go!" As she raced out, he called, "And remember, you're Sailor V!"

Right, Minako thought. Sailor V. Got it. Not Sailor Venus.

Without even waiting for the youma to notice her, she brought her hand up and down in that sweeping motion, pointed, and yelled, "Crescent Beam!"

A thin beam of light issued from her fingertip and shot a hole in the youma's torso. It roared angrily and dropped the woman it had been draining. Minako gulped when the woman bounced limply on the pavement; she really hoped that woman was all right!

"Hey, big and ugly!" she shouted at the youma. "Come and get ME, you oversized piece of garbage!" She stuck her tongue out for good measure, then dodged the youma's clawed swipe nimbly. The youma roared again, and fired shards of lethal-looking metal and glass out of its hands.

"Oh crap," Minako muttered, and dodged those as best as she could as well. However, she wasn't fast enough, and one of the shards sliced her thigh. She hissed in pain.

The youma seemed to think Minako had been subdued enough, for it turned to another bystander that had stupidly stopped and watched the fight from across the street. The man realized the youma's attention had turned to him, for he screamed and began to run away. The youma was quick, however: its arm shot out to twice its normal length and grabbed the man around the middle. Once more it began to draw the pearly light from its victim.

"NO!" Minako screamed, and suddenly she felt something heavy and metallic in her hands. She brought it up in an arc and hurled it towards the youma's head.

The golden chain – for that was what it was – aimed true, and struck the youma on its skull, and then wrapped itself around its neck for good measure. Minako yanked the chain with all her might and then, suddenly – the youma's head flew off. The man it had been holding dropped onto the cement, but appeared unharmed, albeit shaken. The youma's body and head disintegrated into dust, then glowed and vanished.

Minako realized she was shaking where she stood. The chain whip was still in her hands, and she gripped it tightly. It was just then she realized that her ankle hadn't hurt her at all – ever since she'd transformed.

Artemis suddenly popped up in front of her. "Sailor V, we need to go see if those people are all right," he reminded her, his tail switching from left to right. She followed him wordlessly, forbidding her mind from imagining the states the poor people were in…

"You check the man; I'll check her," Minako told the cat, motioning towards the woman the youma had dropped. Artemis pounced on the man, who was stirring slightly. Minako knelt beside the woman and felt her pulse. It beat sluggishly, but there was no mistaking it. She exhaled loudly in relief – no one else's blood was on her hands. Yet.

The unmistakable sound of sirens reached her ears, and Minako stood up automatically. Artemis heard them as well, for he jerked his head at her and ran for a bunch of bushes clustered against the buildings. She followed his lead, and hid herself in the shadows as police, a fire truck and ambulance swarmed the scene.

There were several loud cries and screams as passersby, drawn by the commotion, began to crowd the street. The police kept order as best as they could by pushing the people back so the medics had room to work. Minako watched until Artemis began to tug at her skirt with his teeth. "Come," he ordered. "They'll be fine now." She followed him into a nearby alley reluctantly and powered down. They walked home silently until Artemis dared to venture a question that had been gnawing at him for several minutes.

"Minako," he began, then hesitated. She glanced at him. "When… is Sarah's mother's funeral?"

She stared straight ahead, and he pretended not to notice the sparkles that welled up in the corner of her eyes. "Tomorrow," she grunted, then cleared her throat of the sudden blockage. Artemis kept his mouth shut for the rest of the afternoon.

End Chapter Eleven.

PLEASE READ:

First, let me assure you that I have every intention of finishing this story. It's my baby, I will finish it. However! Having looked back over the first six or seven chapters, I'm very unhappy with how it begins. Therefore, I will not be updating this story. I am going to rewrite the entire beginning, edit everything up until this point, and then repost it anew. I'm going to leave these first rough, eleven chapters up until that time for those who still wish to peruse it occasionally. But there will be no more updates until I post the entire story anew. And it will be very, very different - you probably wouldn't be able to skip ahead even from reading this, because I'm going to be changing a lot. I'm very sorry to those who are still reading this, but I feel that until I have bettered the story and written most of it, it's a disservice to you to keep dragging out the posting dates until I finally get my rear in gear.

Therefore: Don't expect an update (as in the new story) anytime soon, because I'm going to try to write the entire thing first. It's all planned, but I'm going to actually write it so that I can update regularly. Thanks to all who have read and reviewed this story, and I'm sorry if this last chapter is not proportionally satisfactory to how long I made you wait for it.

Peace,

Elen-Di