Disclaimer- I do not own Shadow Hearts (From The New World, specifically) and… stuff. Sigh, what do you expect, my heart's just not in it.

Opening Notes:

Alright, well, this will be the first bit of fanfiction I've worked on in several months… hopefully I'm not all that rusty and I can fully get back into the swing of things. Seriously, I feel incredibly nervous just typing this up. As stated in the oh so wonderful and energetic disclaimer above, this is based on the latest addition to the wonderful SH series… which I went out and thankfully bought the last copy of just last Thursday. Basically this means I will probably hold off on heavy updating 'til I get further in the game. Eh… sorry, I know these author's rants probably annoy me and all, but I feel it is (somewhat) necessary and at least a bit (very little) helpful. You can skip them, anyway (please don't).

Right then, down to business. This particular fic is set as an AU with only one real major change to the storyline planned as of now. Key words, as of now. The change should be readily apparent by the end of this chapter. Eh…. Basically, this will touch up on the major events of the game and how they differ slightly with this addition. However, I also hope to add in some, ah, behind the scenes stuff. Ya know, character interplay that isn't captured in the game? Yeah, the good stuff. It can only be so entertaining to 'novelize' and read pre-ordained events set in stone, or uh… digital coding or whatever the 'ell's written on my oh-so-precious SH-FTNW DVD. Mmmkay… that should be it for this, but there could be ending notes as well, ya never know (and in case you haven't noticed, I'm fond of adding things in parentheses). Right, enough ranting, the story begins!

"Speech", Thoughts, Sounds or "Exclamations" (see: Frank)


Guidance To Hearts

Chapter 1: Something Uncanny This Way Comes?


Two Days Distance From The Grand Canyon…

Tossing a small stone into the air and catching it again repeatedly, she did her best to whittle the time away minute by tedious minute. Perched comfortably atop a smooth-topped, shoulder-height boulder with her chin nestled in her hand, Shania appeared to be the very epitome of boredom. With her legs dangling carelessly over the edge of the rock and occasionally rocking to and fro in a display of casualness, many would believe her to be daydreaming or perhaps even enjoying the sunset. Only a fool, however, would mistake such apparent nonchalance for a lack of attentiveness- and it would easily be their last mistake, if their intentions were less than friendly.

Tonight was her turn to watch over the others as they slept, guarding them from any nocturnal visitors bearing ill will. Sadly, in this day and age people were included in this category as often as the demons and beasts that sometimes roamed the countryside. It was a harsh lesson that all travelers were forced to learn early on and one that all too often came through experience.

Shaking herself out of such unpleasant musing, Shania paused in her one-sided game of catch just long enough to adjust her position and idly brush several strands of errant hair from her eyes. Settling back into the habitual rhythm of rising and falling earth, the young spirit fusionist turned her attention back to the horizon. With the tiniest bit of surprise she noted that the sun had already sunk beneath the edge of perception and allowed the stars to shine in their full glory. Releasing an almost inaudible sigh of annoyance at the brief but dangerous lapse in her awareness, she marshaled her focus once again in preparation of an arduous but hopefully uneventful night. It sounded more wistful than vexed, though, even to her own ears.

On a sudden whim, she glanced back to the dying campfire where her companions were resting. Or, at least, were supposed to be resting. Natan remained in his traditional position- cross-legged with head bowed, hands lightly gripping both weapons. His back facing the glowing embers, the burly warrior remained vigilant even while asleep. Frank, despite her early impression of the oddball ninja, continued to surprise her. Flopped down on his stomach with arms pulled close to his sides and knees bent outward, the normally hyperactive shinobi was making quite a spectacle of himself. Anyone within a two hundred yard radius could probably locate him just by the sound of his snoring. Only the occasional telltale glint of sharpened steel peeking out from his sleeves gave any indication that he was not as easy a target as he wished to appear.

Neither of these were her concern at the moment- they could easily take care of themselves. It was to the preferred sleeping bag of the group's youngest member that her attention was turned, a glaringly yellow thing adorned with the same odd ghost mascot that occupied its owner's jacket. The most prominent feature right now, however, was its conspicuous emptiness.

Climbing to her feet and surveying the area with a growing sense of urgency, Shania was fully prepared to jump down and awaken her remaining companions when she finally spotted the missing member. Lying atop a small hill several yards away from the camp, his head cradled on intertwined hands, Johnny appeared to be… star gazing. Resisting the urge to either snort in irritation or breathe out a sigh of relief, she eased her grip off her holstered tomahawks. No sense in drawing the weapons unless she was going to use them and she wasn't planning on walloping the younger boy. Not until after he explains himself.

From his relaxed position, Johnny suddenly felt an inexplicable urge to get up and run. Fast. The feeling passed just as quickly, having only managed to elicit a small twitch from the young detective. Dismissing the strange momentary sensation as fatigue from journeying so far, he continued to study the stars shining overhead. Although he loved New York, it was impossible to glimpse such natural beauty through the city lights. Even with all the exhaustion from moving about greater distances than he was used to, it was a fair tradeoff for such a rare view. Absorbed in his thoughts and the scenery, it didn't quite register that someone had sat down nearby until several moments later. Still, it did not truly sink in for several minutes. Fortunately, by then he had already attached a name to the partially illuminated shadow. Huh… Shania? Does she want something?

So, he'd finally noticed her had he? It only took him three minutes she thought to herself, a bit miffed. Of course, it was only because he was making himself an easy target, not because he neglected to acknowledge her presence in any way. He just had to learn how to survive out on the road, that was all.

Rather than attempting to draw his attention or berate him about leaving the safety of camp at night, Shania chose to simply wait and observe the stars as well. Finally, when she sensed that she had his attention, she spoke. "So… do you know the names of the constellations?"

The choice of topic surprised her as much as it did him. Honestly, she wasn't sure why she asked him that of all things. Still, the look of blindsided surprise on Johnny's face made it more than worth it. "Um, ah…" The young detective was sitting up at this point, wildly gesturing with one hand as he floundered for an answer. "Er… no." His shoulders drooped, and he eyed the dirt in front of him like it was the most interesting thing in the world.

Doing her best to stifle a bout of laughter, she barely managed to contain it in an amused smirk. "Really? What kind of detective can't even name the stars, hmm?"

At this, the younger boy became flustered once again, sitting straight up and attempting to formulate a reply. That did it. Despite her best efforts, she began to chuckle at his antics. Teasing Johnny was strangely enjoyable and always entertaining, if only to see his comical reactions. Of course, she refrained from doing so in any serious situations, such as in battle- no need to have him trip over himself or drop his knife, after all. The image refused to go away, and she laughed all the harder. Seeing this, his expression and demeanor changed from thunderstruck to sulky.

Her laughter died away a few moments later, but it could still be heard in her voice as she addressed him again- or rather, the back of his head, since he had crossed his arms and refused to look at her. "Alright, I'm sorry. How about… I teach you then? Since it is something that all great detectives should know and all."

If he detected the hint of joking in the last part of her offer, he didn't show it. Whirling around to face her nearly fast enough to give himself whiplash, indignation had quickly and easily been replaced with excitement shining in his green eyes. "Really? You'll teach me all about them?"

Instead of answering in words, she simply smiled at his childish glee- only this time, a tiny measure of affection was present as well. Turning toward the dark line the sun had disappeared under, she pointed to a cluster of stars and explained, "Do you see those stars there? That is the constellation known as Cancer."

"Like my Stellar Chart?" He asked with enthusiasm, hanging off her every word.

"Yes, that's right."

As the hours danced along, Shania began to enjoy the experience more and more. This was the first time in her recollection that she actually taught someone else something. Usually, it was Natan teaching her about various things, drawing from his years of wisdom. For once, she almost wished the night would continue on rather than light up with the rising sun, drowning out the stars that she now pointed out to someone she was starting to consider as more of a friend.

And for the first time, she was glad that something eventful had happened during her night watch, if not quite the way she had imagined.

Ending Notes:

Right, well... this is actually only the first, like... third of chapter one. Seeing how long it took me just to write this much, I was thinking I'd toss this out here so you could tell me how it looks, before continuing in with the rest. I really need some input 'bout remaining in character, grammar, spelling, what have you. So uh, thanks in advance. Really. And I know, it looks like a One Shot right now... it isn't!