Hell no I don't own Shadow Hearts or any of its characters. If I did, I wouldn't be drabbling all over Fanfiction, now would I?

Chapter 1

She had almost escaped.

Frantic, uneven footprints spotted with dark blood broke the thin snow to where she lay in last year's blackened leaves.

She still clutched a gun that almost killed her and might've saved her.

She had almost escaped...just like he had almost made it in time.

Now her bloodied face stared still and empty like a doll's, strands of damp auburn hair clinging in the crimson stickiness...

His own roaring scream cocooned him, unfamiliar, vulgar and red as his beloved's spilt life as it seeped into the frozen soil.


A pretty oval face appeared behind the frosted window pane and smiled in recognition. The door opened a second later.

"Naniwa!" Saki Inugami greeted the older man, giving him a brief hug as he stepped within the doorway,"It's nice of you to stop by! How have you been?"

Naniwa Kawashima chuckled softly, amused as always by how readily affectionate the woman was. "Fine, fine. Just stopping by on the way to Tokyo. And you?"

The widow smiled, clasping her pale hands in front of her. "I'm alright. Please, come in. I'll make some tea."

Soon the two were seated in the quiet parlor of the Inugami house, chatting casually between sips. They came to a lull in the conversation, however, and Saki tugged absentmindedly at the sleeves of her plum-hued kimono, bistre eyes watching the steam rise from her tea cup. Naniwa shifted slightly in his chair.

"So. How is he?"

Saki sighed, glancing up at the man and regaining her polite smile. "Oh, you know...he's...better," the beautiful widow remarked gingerly, raising a slender finger to caress the dripped green glaze that decorated the ceramic cup, "It's been five years, but...well, he becomes more and more of a Hyuga everyday, I think."

"I see," Naniwa replied, nodding.

The parlor grew silent once more, the only sounds being of the soft breeze of the approaching autumn in the leaves outside. However, a moment later, Saki rose her head and peered in the direction of the foyer.

"Speaking of Kurando, I believe that might be him now," Saki half-mused as the front door opened a second later.

Saki's predictions being accurate as always, Kurando Inugami soon stepped into the entryway as his mother came to greet him. Naniwa followed, eager to see his young student after so long.

"Welcome home, dear!" Saki greeted, hugging her son warmly before he even had a chance to hang up his worn haori, "Naniwa's here, as you can see."

"Indeed," remarked Kurando as his mother released him. Smoothing his clothes, he met the elderly man's gaze. "Hello, Sensei. It's good to see you're well."

Naniwa nodded, his usual sage smile somewhat stern as he surveyed his former charge. The 26-year-old had grown since he had last seen him; his shoulders were a bit broader and his frame had gained a little more muscularity. His hair, once kept neatly trimmed below his ears, was now long enough that he kept it tied back. His face, though, seemed more drawn and angular than it should be, shadows gathering under his eyes and cheekbones. And his eyes...the crimson irises remained gentle but had taken on a sort coolness he had never noticed before. It was a while before the older swordsman spoke again.

"Thank you," he finally answered, "I could say they same for you as well."

Kurando, sensing his teacher's sudden scrutiny, made no audible reply and went back to hanging up the garment and removing his sandals. Saki, glancing back and forth between her son and the older man, smiled cautiously and conveniently removed herself to make some more tea.

Evening had fallen on the streets of Yokohama, the daily bustle of the little city finally beginning to slow down. The western horizon shone a pale orange-gold above its rooftops and gilded every window within its reach. All that could be heard was the creaking of vendors' carts being wheeled away for the night and the occasional chirp of a bird. That, and the hushed banter of a man and woman lounging on the second story balcony of an old inn.

"Now tell me why we're here again?" the man groaned at the woman.

"You're going to argue with me even though we're already here?" the woman grumbled, her mind on other things as she gazed into the yellowed clouds.

"Well you could atleast come up with some remotely believable excuse as to why we've gone AWOL. Halfway across the globe, I might add."

The woman's lips curved slightly.

"Come now, Mikki, you know I'm not entirely sure why I go the places I go sometimes," she chipped blithely, "And besides, I thought you might like a little break from Prague. It's been rainy lately."

The man glowered at his companion, who still sat surveying the iridescent firmament, the colors reflected in her strange eyes. Realizing that there really was no arguing with her, he let out an exasperated sigh and slid further back into his chair.

"Well, I guess if you put it that way..."

Kurando sat heavily on the edge of his low bed, absentmindedly working at the ties of his wristguards as he reflected on his and Naniwa's earlier conversation.

"You're concerned that you don't see her, aren't you?"

The comment had caught him completely off guard, and Kurando would've gone as far to say that it was even uncalled for, but it had also hit home with the deadly precision that was characteristic of his sensei. It had been one of those moments, rare since his early training days, when he had been left in a frustrated, wordless struggle by the old man, who was right as always. He could only nod a slow 'yes' after a considerable pause, his throat suddenly too dry to emit anything more than a croak, and attempt to occupy himself with something else.

Naniwa's hand caught his shoulder as he moved past him.

"You will. In some sense or another, you will."

Kurando froze, meeting Naniwa's gaze. He could tell that the uncertainty swirled visibly in his expression, and that there was no way to hide it behind his usual facade. He could feel his face growing hot.

Catching himself, the young swordsman cleared his throat and nodded once more. "Thank you, Sensei."

Naniwa, in turn, patted his student's shoulder and turned on his heel to join Saki in the kitchen.

Kurando's eyes moved by their own volition to a small, rough square of handmade paper on his nightstand, the little red maple leaf embedded in it mirroring the hue of his irises, and sighed in spite of himself.

End of Chapter 1

So yeah, that was the first chapter if you couldn't tell.

Review, my pretties.

Not that I'm saying it will help me update faster, but in theory, it might help a little...

Hearts to all.