10/15/04

Disclaimer: The characters in this fic, such as Kurando, Anastasia, etc. don't belong to me; they are property of Midway, so don't sue! 0

Dedications: God, my friends, my cousins, my readers, Midway for gracing this magnificent RPG with a sequel, despite the ending they chose to go off of and finally, sudden inspiration for making me write this during periods of boredom.

Shadow Hearts II: The Princess And The Samurai

Part One: Otherworld

By Tiger5913

"Oh… he's waking up!"

A second groan of discomfort noised from the young man lying on the ground, and the girl cradling his head in her hands elicited a small sigh of relief at the sure sign of recovery, previous fears slightly eased. When his eyelids slowly slid up to reveal twin dazed red irises, he blinked several times before he was able to focus on her face, and softly mumbled her name when he witnessed the worry that marred her cute features. But as soon as his eyes met hers, his compassionate ally beamed a bright, wide smile at him, and then turned to their other companions with a nod, indicating his positive condition. Words of concern drifted by his ears as the seventeen-year-old slowly arose to his feet with the help of his self-appointed 'caretaker' right next to him, generously offering her assistance.

"Hey, Kurando, you all right?" The unspoken leader of the small group asked for everyone as he knelt down near the younger fusionist. "What happened?"

After he made sure his stance was well-balanced and steady, Kurando Inugami gingerly brought a hand to his forehead and glanced around the strange misty setting before calmly replying, "I'm… not sure, Yuri. All I remember is that everything got dark all of a sudden… W-wait, Master! Princess! Where are they?!" His gaze scanned the area frantically at the outcry.

"We haven't seen them anywhere," one of his other allies informed him with a helpless shrug, and then the slender fortune-teller shivered slightly before making her usual pessimistic forecast, "But we're definitely not in our world anymore…"

"Well, there's no use standing here wondering about it!" Yuri Hyuga slammed one fist into the opposite palm in emphasis of toughness as he addressed his friends, "Let's go take a look around; maybe we can find out how to get the hell outta this weird place."

"Yuri, let Kurando rest for a while! I mean… he just got beaten up…!" The teenage girl in their group protested, clinging onto the samurai's arm with an adorable pout on her face.

"Hey, I'm not trying to sound like a jerk, but we really don't have time to waste, Anastasia," the authoritative brunette told her firmly, albeit with a slight edge of apology in his tone.

The young man being talked about shook his head and dismissed the issue. "It's all right; I don't want to be a bother. I can stay here while you guys are exploring the area. I'll catch up when I feel a little better."

"That's nice of you to offer, but…" the red-haired German woman started to say hesitantly, "…are you sure you'll be okay by yourself? It sounds like a bad idea… What if the enemy that's controlling all this shows up and attacks you when you're alone?"

Her companions nodded in agreement, and he opened his mouth to answer, but before any words could escape him, Princess Anastasia Romanov quickly piped up with her own solution, "I'll stay here with him!"

"Huh?" came the instant chorus from the other party members, and even Kurando quirked a brow of astonishment at such a selfless suggestion.

"I'll stay here with Kurando and make sure he's okay!" She assured them with a convincing giggle, but she did grip her mystical weapon a little tighter around the base, while inwardly she recalled what Crests she currently had on hand. "If any bad creeps show up, they'll get a taste of my magic spells!"

Everyone else looked at each other for a bit, silently exchanging messages with their eyes as the younger fusionist recovered and found his voice; "Lady Anastasia, you mustn't put yourself in danger-"

"Oh no, i-it's nothing, really!" the Russian princess grinned with unusual confidence, and then turned a fierce glare to her friends that threatened she would kick anybody who opposed her idea.

"…Yeah, all right," Yuri conceded finally with a slight shrug; almost their entire group knew of her little crush on Kurando, and if they tried to stop her pursuit of him… well, as the saying went, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. "And I know you have a few of your own, but since you'll be taking care of Kurando and all, keep these with you, okay?" He stood up and reached back into the pouch hanging over his rear end to take out a couple of small bags that were used to keep restorative herbs inside, and handed them to Anastasia, who received the items with unspoken relief.

"Thanks, Yuri!" She expressed her gratitude enthusiastically while tucking the curative plants into the heart-shaped pockets of her dark blue coat.

"No problem," he replied casually, and then after wearily glancing at the thickening mist surrounding their small group, he turned to his other allies and declared decisively, "Well, come on, guys. Let's go find out what the hell's going on here."

"Okay!" They consented in unison, and one-by-one with the husky vampire wrestler in the lead, they started heading down the pathway into the unknown, keeping close to their friends in case an enemy appeared out of nowhere.

Yuri was the last to leave, but before he followed the rest of the brave adventurers, he cast a curious gaze in the direction of the young samurai, and inwardly wondered if he should speak out his thoughts.

"What's wrong, Yuri?" The fourteen-year-old protector spoke up after a long moment of silence.

"So… you can fuse too, eh?" He finally decided to remark with a grin of approval, though there was a sliver of surprise lingering in his eyes.

Kurando gave him a slight nod and quietly admitted, "Yes. I've had that ability for as long as I can remember. I'm… sorry that I didn't tell the rest of you before, but…"

"Nah, we don't mind; you have your reasons. It's just good to know that I'm not the only one with the power of fusion, that's all," Yuri grinned at the knowledge even as a question of uncanny coincidence nagged him in the back of his mind, but this wasn't the appropriate time to do further investigation. "Well, I should go catch up to the others before they get worried. Be careful, you two!"

"You'd better not take too long!" was the sassy young teenager's farewell call.

With a wave of good-bye to the teenage duo, he returned his attention to the main task at hand, and soon too disappeared into the overwhelming mystic smoke of the enigmatic setting. Left at the large circular stone structure with the strange seal in the middle, the two glanced around for a bit, unsure of what to do to pass the time, occasionally exchanging a nervous smile here and there. Kurando wanted to ask why she would volunteer to care for him so avidly when he was still quite a stranger to her and her friends, but his gentlemanly nature prevented him from doing so. He didn't want to seem rude or ungrateful for her help, after all; the awkward silence was finally shattered when Anastasia's concerned kicked in, and she started expressing worry over his condition.

"Oh, Kurando, you must still be tired from that fight! Here, why don't you sit down?" She looked about the small place for an upshot piece of rock that could serve as a seat, but when she found none, thought of an idea to use her thick coat as a blanket, and turned away from her companion. With her back facing him, she unfastened the thick, single round button holding her coat closed and started to shrug her arms out of the holes, all the while inwardly hoping that word of this action would never leave the privacy of her and the samurai. For a girl her age and status to do such a thing would be deemed indecent and shameful by the other members of her fellow aristocracy, and she certainly didn't want to bring rumors of promiscuity to her family. Thankfully for her, in the current situation, the only other person around was Kurando, and he didn't seem to be the snooty type that liked to gossip; besides, she was wearing two additional thinner outfits underneath.

But the young princess hadn't gotten much further before the older teenager walked up behind her and peered over her head, curious about what she was doing, and when he found out, immediately protested, "Lady Anastasia! Please, leave your coat on; I'll be fine sitting on the ground."

After recovering from her surprise that he had discovered her task, she quickly whirled around and fired back with her hands on her hips, "I'm just trying to help! The ground's really hard and dirty!"

"You've already been generous enough," Kurando assured her in his usual calm, but undoubtedly sincere tone as he laid a hand on her shoulder for a moment and nodded at her solemnly before removing his presence. "Thank you for all your help. Let me provide a seat for you if you're worried about the condition of the ground…"

She almost swooned at the brief contact of his hand resting on her shoulder, but shook herself out of the momentary daze when he retracted his arm and turned his front side away from her view. The curious girl quickly re-buttoned her coat before she opened her mouth and started to ask him what he was doing now, but the question never came because she soon got her answer. With a noiseless, yet firm tug, the tail end of his top was pulled up from his waistline, and after untying numerous knots securing many areas, he began to slide it off his shoulders, which made Anastasia blush bright red. She would have been embarrassed with the shedding of the upper portion of his traditional samurai robes if he wasn't also wearing a thin white undershirt, but his chivalrous act in itself still threatened to send her into a fit of girlish giggles.

As Kurando bent down to lay the article of clothing upon the stone-hard ground, she immediately snapped back to her senses and protested, "Oh, don't do that! You'll be cold now!"

To her surprise, he laughed softly, and pivoted to face her when he was done spreading his robe top flat out to make enough room for both of them to sit on, and commented with a partial smile, "He he, I feel kind of flattered that you worry about me so much…"

He was the only person in their group that didn't know that she crushed on him, so she couldn't exactly give him that fairly-obvious reason. "Um… well… I just want to make sure you'll heal up and be okay! We're probably going to face a lot more dangerous monsters in the future, so we all need to be in top shape!"

"Then you should also take care of yourself, right?" The dark-haired warrior stated matter-of-factly, and then after he took a seat, reached up and gently tugged on her arm. "Have a seat, Lady Anastasia. You need time to recover as well."

"O-okay!" She tried not to seem too eager about sitting so closely and right next to the object of her affections, and merely smoothed out the back of her coat before lowering her bottom to the blanket-like cover. Inwardly, she squealed in excitement at the opportunity, but Kurando was pretty mature and probably wouldn't appreciate such a childish gesture, so she carefully kept that reaction tucked away inside. She could always babble about it later to her favorite companions anyway, either the intelligent white-furred wolf, or the tall, hulking blond vampire that was rather protective of her. For now, the young princess just sighed dreamily, simply happy with taking care of, and getting the chance to spend some alone time with the newest addition to their group of allies.

"Hey, Kurando…" she started to say with slight pink dotting her cheeks.

He turned his head to look at her. "Yes?"

"We… we didn't hurt you too badly, did we?"

"No," he assured her quietly with a negative shake. "My fusion form is fairly stronger than my normal human body, and can endure more attacks. The only thing I have to recover is the energy I used in order to fuse in the first place."

"Oh… I get it," Anastasia replied demurely, nodding slightly as she inwardly recalled the long periods of recovery time that their group would occasionally have to take before their leader was well enough to continue their journey. It had always taken place after a particularly drawn-out battle with a fierce opponent, and it seemed that the more powerful of a monster he fused with, the more fatigued he felt afterwards. Everyone certainly was surprised to find out that the mysterious young samurai could fuse, but despite his hostile intentions during the fight, Yuri had instructed the others not to use too much force. Of course, the princess agreed wholeheartedly with that command, and obeyed it willingly, but she had to admit there were a couple of instances when she wondered if Kurando would really harm her with that hovering form.

"Does it… bother you?" The seventeen-year-old spoke up just then when she fell silent with her thoughts.

"Huh?" She blinked several times in slight bewilderment, and eagerly averted her attention to her companion after she had regained her focus. "Does what bother me?"

"My… fusion ability," he glanced off to the side as he admitted so, not wanting her to see the concern and insecurity in his crimson dark eyes.

"Oh, that? No way!" Anastasia quickly shook her head, and a small frown creased her brows when she saw him looking away. "Yuri has it too, and none of us have a problem with it! Don't worry, we like you just the way you are!"

She immediately blushed after saying the last part, but Kurando turned back toward her with a slight smile that indicated his gratitude. "Thank you for the assurance, Lady Anastasia. There aren't… there aren't very many people in this world that would accept someone with my… strange ability. I don't use my fusion form very often because I never know if I'll run across one of those people. It can stir up quite a bit of trouble when revealed to the wrong person…"

There was much sympathy on her face when he told her of the prejudice, but she instantly thought of his close companions and wondered, "Do Mr. Kawashima and Yoshiko know?"

"Yes, they both do," he informed her with a nod, then continued further, "my master is a friend of my family. My mother told me that she and her brother, my uncle, both knew Master Kawashima when they were younger."

"Oh, your mom and your uncle know him too? Where do they live? You didn't tell us you had blood relatives around; we thought Mr. Kawashima and Yoshiko were your only family," when the princess realized what she was instigating, she quickly covered her mouth with a fierce blush.

"Well, the question never came up…" Kurando pointed out simply, but he didn't seem to notice, or mind that she had implied she thought he was an orphan; he himself knew full well that he had been quite enigmatic since the beginning. "But if you'd really like to know about me, I wouldn't mind telling you."

"Yeah, yeah!" She encouraged him enthusiastically, clapping her hands together in a show of overeager anticipation. "Please, go ahead!"

"All right then," he nodded, and then his eyes wandered off to the side before he started to speak, "Firstly, my mother lives in the Inugami Village today. I was born and raised there, but upon her insistence, I left when I was in my early teens to seek out Master Kawashima in hopes of learning from him. I'm not sure if even Yuri can tell, but I don't always have full control over my fusion ability… Aside from practicing swordplay, Master Kawashima has also been teaching me how to calm myself down and achieve peace of mind, which he said would help subdue the demonic influence of the fusion form."

"Is it hard to control?" she wondered innocently, not having the chance to be placed in such a situation. "I haven't seen Yuri have trouble with any of his demon forms yet… but he does look like he's in a lot of pain right before he fuses."

"I've just met all of you recently so I don't know any of you too well yet, but from what I've witnessed in our allied battles so far, Yuri seems a lot more experienced in fusing than I am," the samurai admitted humbly, not an ounce of shame in his earnest tone. "Perhaps if I continue traveling with the rest of you and gain more experience in fighting, I can learn to control my powers sooner."

"I'm sure you will! And we'll help you any way we can, so feel free to ask!" Anastasia beamed proudly as she gave the firm proclamation.

"As for my uncle…" his tone lowered, Kurando paused for a moment in respect prior to mentioning the deceased. "My uncle passed away about fifteen years ago. I'm afraid I can't tell you very much about him because I myself only met him once as an infant, a few months after I was born, so I never had the opportunity to get to know him…"

"I-I'm sorry!" The abashed girl immediately apologized for touching upon a sensitive subject, and a worried frown marred her brows. "I… I didn't mean to bring up something so sad…"

"Don't worry, Lady Anastasia," he raised his hand to stop her. "Honestly, I'm rather curious about him myself, but my mother has always been strangely elusive whenever I ask questions… But she did promise me that she would tell me one day, when she felt that I was ready to hear everything. I'll just keep on living my life on my usual basis until then."

"Maybe she's waiting until you can control your fusion power?"

"Maybe. We'll have to see, I suppose," he shrugged a bit as he replied, and then turned to face his companion again. "Anyway, what about you, Lady Anastasia? Would you mind if I asked where you're from? Your clothes look rather different from what most people wear around here… and my master mentioned that you had formal ambassador papers from a foreign ruler that helped him bail all of you out from the Mikasa."

"Well, um, I, heehee…" the young princess giggled awkwardly and began to trace the fur along her thick blue coat as she wondered how the samurai would take the news of her status. "I…I'm from Russia! My family and I live in Petrograd."

"Russia, eh?" Kurando noted with an edge of amusement in his voice; he immediately thought of that large country currently being involved in the world war, but decided against mentioning it in case that was a fragile subject. "So, do many people in your country dress the same way as you? Judging by your coat, I'd guess that the weather there must be pretty cold."

"Yeah, it snows a lot where we live," she informed him with a confirming nod, and then blushed slightly as she looked away and revealed just a hint of information, "But… no, not a lot of people wear clothes like mine…"

"Oh, you're one of a kind then," he remarked with a partial grin, boyish charm lighting up his eyes soon afterwards that immediately threw Anastasia into a dreamy daze.

"Th-thanks!" she managed to reply after she had recovered herself once again, her cheeks flushing even more. "Your, um, outfit looks pretty neat too…"

"This?" He gestured at his own attire. "It's called a hakama, traditional wear for a typical samurai. The material used to make a hakama is pretty lightweight and thin, so this isn't very ideal for cold weather; many people, and myself included, usually have to wear additional clothes underneath."

The attentive girl nodded in-tune with his words, all the while silently absorbing the information that he was telling her. "Is Mr. Kawashima teaching you how to become a samurai?"

"Yes, he is helping me with the training," the young swordsman replied with a slight smile. "I want to become a samurai so I can protect my mother and everyone else in my village. I am the next in line of succession, and I have to fulfill my duty."

"I think you'll do great, Kurando! You're so dedicated and everything that there's no way anything can stop you!" Anastasia piped up confidently as a grin that accentuated her usual adorable self spread over her lips, but then the moment passed and she shivered from a sudden eerie feeling that settled in over the atmosphere. "Gee, I wonder what's taking everyone so long…"

"Maybe we should go find them now," her older companion suggested, slowly rising to his feet with a serious expression. "I'd hate to be sitting by so leisurely if the others get into some kind of danger…"

"Okay, let's go then!" She quickly agreed and jumped up into a standing position, then stepped off of the robe top on the floor and gestured for Kurando to do the same before she bent down and gathered it in her hands. "Here, put your, um… hakama back on!"

He nodded and started to reach for it, but instead, the princess slipped one of the sleeves through his outstretched arm, and then moved to the opposite side to don on the other one. After she did that, she glanced at the dangling strings for a few moments and realized she had no idea how to tie them, so she just stepped back with a blush, allowing the more-experienced samurai to finish the task. Kurando quirked a brow in curiosity at her action, but he thought it was just her way of showing concern for him again, and idly went to tie the knots himself that secured the hakama top around his form. Anastasia watched him quietly, unsure of what to say, and soon started rummaging through her belongings to make sure she had everything before they set off in search of their other allies.

"Are you ready to leave, Lady Anastasia?" The teenage fusionist inquired after his attire was properly set, and had laid a tentative hand upon the hilt of his sword in early precaution.

"Y-yeah, let's go!"

The energetic girl trailed closely behind him as he led the way down the misty stone path, her deceptively-deadly egg clutched tightly in case an enemy attacked all of a suddenly. As the circle with the mysterious seal was soon left out of sight, it became a little harder to see through the thick fog, and Anastasia elicited a small gulp in nervousness as she hastened her pace. The outline of her taller companion was still visible, but the further they traveled, the more edgy she grew, and her head instantly whipped to the side when a springing boing ensued just then. Curious about its source, her steps slowed a bit as she glanced toward the direction of the strange sound, wondering what could possibly be causing a noise that was so out-of-place.

"H-hello?" She called out and timidly headed toward it, her intention to follow Kurando forgotten for the time being, all the while trying to remember if any of her other friends were carrying around something with a bouncy ringing sound. Maybe the doll of that retired puppeteer had a few loose springs inside –

Just then, practically out of nowhere, a creature jumped out from the smoky mist and smacked her in the chest, sending the young princess falling back onto the ground with a shrill scream of surprise. The monster appeared fully in her view when it came forward and emitted a strange noise, seeming to laugh at her foolishness, despite its strange own composition of a thin talisman with both a light and dark side. Although Anastasia still retained her weapon in hand, the initial shock of the sudden strike had replaced her thought of attacking, so when her opponent advanced toward her, she mutely crawled back. It was the same reaction she had when she first discovered Kurando lying comatose in the strange otherworld, and then he arose with harmful deliberation and fought against the rest of the group in his fusion form.

"Ahhh!" She cried out loudly when she finally found her voice, and then awkwardly scrambled to her feet, her hands preparing to toss her flying egg at the uncanny monster even as she screamed once more, "K-Kurando!"

"Lady Anastasia!" The princess heard the faint reply from a different area, and thinking that he was too far away to reach her in time, she threw her weapon at the bouncing creature, and the force she used did knock it back a couple feet. More alert now, she steadied herself as she slowly edged toward the opposition slowly after it bounced up to a stance, and inwardly made sure there was enough time to hit it at least twice before she made another attack. But before she could do anything, a fierce cry suddenly noised as the monster was sliced in half with a flash of silver indicating its defeat, and then drifted to the ground in two pieces. Anastasia blinked once and peered past into the fog to make out the approaching form of her samurai companion, who quickly sheathed his sword as he made his way toward her, concern evident in his eyes.

"Lady Anastasia! Are you all right?" He immediately asked upon arriving, and was instantly greeted with a lunge from the fourteen-year-old, her hands tightly clutching his arm as she buried her face into the soft material of his hakama sleeve.

"Y-yeah, but that thing almost scared me to death, jumping at me out of nowhere like that!" She somehow managed to reply in spite of being pressed directly against him, and when she realized what she just did, hastily leapt back away from him as her cheeks colored from the blatant boldness of her action. "Oh, s-sorry about that…! I-I was just so relieved to see you!"

Kurando appeared just a tad flustered, but he assured her gently, "It… it's all right, Lady Anastasia. With an environment like this where it's hard for us to see where we're going, we need to stay close together until we find the others, so it might be better if you held onto my arm…"

"R-really? O-okay, then!" Anastasia perked up at the prospect, and willingly obeyed by re-grasping a hold of his forearm, then tried to excuse her overexcitement by relaying softly, "I mean, since you don't mind…"

He shook his head, and then gave her an assuring smile. "Don't worry, Lady Anastasia. I'll keep you safe."

She nodded quickly; fully believing that he would in fact protect her as much as he was could, and just made a mental note not to stray away from him again. "Well, let's go find Yuri and everyone else now!"

"All right," the young samurai agreed as he began to stroll down the pathway once more, and all the while he kept his instincts on high alert should another monster emerge to attack his partner.

As the duo traveled deeper into the magical world, Kurando silently recalled his companion's generous offer to stay by and look after him until he had recovered from the battle well enough to wander around. Although he had initially thought her to be somewhat childish, he discovered that Anastasia was rather mature for her age when the situation called for it, and he admired her determination, and even her stubbornness. The feel of her small hands trustingly holding onto his arm was somewhat… soothing, and warmth of slight bashfulness spread within his body when he realized how closely she was staying next to him. He knew that the girl usually hung onto his every word and paid close attention whenever he spoke to the others, but new to the concept of romance, he wasn't sure what to make of it, so he decided to just see what would happen as their journey continued.

One thing was for sure though – out of all the new friends that Kurando had recently made, he wanted to get to know Anastasia better first…

The End

Author's Note: And here's another Shadow Hearts II fic completed! On my favorite couple too! Yay! D When I saw Anastasia being so concerned about Kurando lying passed out on the floor, I thought that she might stay with him if he needed time to heal up. Sheesh, did Yuri really expect him to go exploring around the otherworld when he just got beaten up by everyone else in battle? Sigh… Anyway, thank you guys for reading this! I was thinking of writing more Anastasia x Kurando fics based on selective scenes from the game, so if you readers would like that, please leave a review and let me know! :)

With love for my fans,

Tiger5913