2/7/05

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

Dedications: God, my friends, my cousins, my readers, Aruze for gracing this magnificent RPG with a sequel – despite the ending they chose to go off of – and finally, sudden inspiration for hitting me on the bus one afternoon and giving me the idea to write this.

Special dedication to: MikoNoNyte, for her endless, supportive encouragement, and her love of Veronica.

Shadow Hearts II: Concealed Corruption

By Tiger5913

They were nothing more than self-righteous, pompous hypocrites.

That's what she thought of them, and she was sure that if the citizens were to give their real opinions on their leaders in charge, the outlook would be similar. The Romanov family certainly had their fair share of flaws, despite the seemingly-perfect situation that they performed for the outside world. There were indeed occasional uprisings that proved the discontent of some of the Russian countrymen, but those were usually put to an end in a matter of hours, or a day at the most. Regardless of that, Tsar Nicholas II was still in control of the country, and he continued to spew forth lies to his people regarding the disastrous conditions of the war. As expected, the noblemen and women residing in his home supported him and aided in the spread of brainwashing.

The voluptuous blonde didn't like staying in the Winter Palace, but she would go there at the request of her lord, Gregori Rasputin. She voiced her disgust to him a few times, and he agreed that the inhabitants of the Hermitage were sickening, with their fake smiles and equally-saccharine words. Although of course, in front of them, she had to play along and claim that she cared for the well-being of Russia so very much, and oh, how fervently she would pray for the emperor's safe return from the front lines. She fronted compassion when the others would ramble on about the conditions of the weary, but ever-noble, selfless soldiers that were risking their lives so that their family, friends, and neighbors would be safe back at home. She would listen and pretend to pay attention to the noble ladies scampering about the palace, sympathizing with Empress Alexandra Romanov on her task of caring for the family so well without her husband by her side.

What a crock of bull.

The boisterous mage knew better – all of the Romanovs had imperfections, especially the tsar – and she grinned at the thought of his most impacting sin. She was reminded every time she looked at the face of her comrade, Nicolai Conrad; he detested the current Russian royalty even more than her lord Rasputin himself, and he had good reason to. Yes, she was truly curious in wondering how the family react if they found out that Nicholas II had a bastard son, who was in fact, currently working with the enemy to dethrone his own father. She knew that the fourth princess, Anastasia Romanov, adored her younger brother very much, but she highly doubted that the girl would shower Nicolai with the same sisterly affection. It wasn't uncommon for majestic men like the emperor to seek such desires from mistresses outside of the marriage, but surely, Empress Alexandra would be furious if she'd heard the gossip regarding his promiscuity.

To her, the aforementioned woman was undoubtedly not one of her preferred people to be around, especially after the buxom mage had witnessed the closeness between her Lord Rasputin and the wretched tsarina. Empress Alexandra truly knew nothing about her advisor, but she considered him a trustworthy confidant, and the two had been known to spend a couple of hours behind shut doors to discuss private matters. The latest gossip amongst the noblewomen was that the pair might have engaged in unscrupulous behavior during the while, and the blonde mage was unhappy to hear that; yet in spite of it, she couldn't feel jealous of them. What her Lord Rasputin did in his own time was his business, and she knew that his overall goal was to seize control of Russia, and it certainly wasn't her place to judge or criticize his methods getting there.

The Romanov children… they irritated her almost as much as their parents did, but at least they had the excuse of being young and ignorant. The crowned prince, Alexei Romanov, was still just a child and so he liked to spend most of his days playing games with his closest sibling, instead of learning the duties of his future occupation as emperor of Russia. Thankfully, the eldest daughters of the Romanov family, Olga, Tatiana, and Maria, had all been married off sometime ago, and were now living with their husbands' households rather than staying in the palace. Their youngest sister caused enough trouble on her own as it was, and even the empress would adhere to that little bit of truth, so in the company of visitors, she usually sent the fourth princess off to study in her room, to keep away and out of trouble.

The contemplative woman disliked Princess Anastasia, who always regarded Lord Rasputin with suspicious eyes, as if she had somehow found out what his real intentions were. But her older and supposedly-wiser parents were blind to the underlying danger, so could a mere fourteen-year-old girl really be more perceptive than them? Apparently, her person was underestimated, and she'd eavesdropped on an important conversation that led to the hastening of the plan to assassinate the tsar. It was unfortunate that the young princess had irrationally tried to interfere, for now it meant that her family would be slain sooner than originally intended. But no matter; the sooner the fallacy was lifted, the better it would be for everyone – as soon as the current incompetent rulers were removed, Russia would finally have a worthy emperor.

However, for the time being, the undercover magic warrior and her comrades had to lay low and force themselves to peacefully associate with each and every single one of the conceited, haughty nobles that were residing in the palace. Such as the woman that was presently heading in her direction, and unfortunately, she couldn't avoid the intersection, so the blonde grudgingly curved her lips up into a partial smile. Due to her rather-brazen attire, most of the noblewomen thought that she was scandalous and presumed her to be a whore, but she herself knew where she stood, and didn't care enough to take their assumptions to heart. When the two crossed paths, they went through the ritual of short, useless conversing that would never have occurred if they'd met on the streets instead of the royal palace.

"Oh! Why, hello, Lady Veronica," the primed lady greeted with an underlying edge of distaste in her voice, and her stress on the title suggested her reluctance in the formal address.

"…Good evening," came the wary reply, but she obligingly bowed a bit to feign respect.

"Yes, I agree; the moon is bright and beautiful tonight," she concurred, and then apparently not in the mood to gossip, she pasted a tight smile on her face and announced dismissively, "Well, if you'll excuse me, I have other business to attend to, so I shall carry on…"

Veronica Vera ducked her head down once again, but furtively watched the noblewoman pass on by out of the corner of her eye, while momentarily considering casting a weak-leveled water magic spell to ruin her fancy dress. She managed to resist the temptation, however, and continued strolling through the pristine hallway, heading for the room that she shared with her Lord Rasputin. Earlier, they had spoken briefly, where he told her to meet him a few hours after nightfall, and judging by the light tone of his voice, she guessed that he had good news to share with her. After that, he would probably want her to join him in bed and… 'celebrate' the pleasantry – it didn't faze her, since she had been fulfilling such an activity for him every night since she'd first arrived in Russia. But tonight, it would probably be a special occasion, due to what had happened in the afternoon of that same day.

Just a couple hours prior, Princess Anastasia and her new friends had escaped from the castle, although the empress naturally presumed that they had kidnapped her daughter instead. Veronica had collaborated with her Lord Rasputin in a deceptive ploy that convinced the entire palace that the princess' mysterious 'attendants' were really usurpers of the throne. Now, all of her allies had a price on their heads, especially the leader of their group, a young man by the name of Yuri Hyuga, who had been consistently hindering Sapientes Gladio's latest plans with his interference. But ironically, the Godslayer, that infuriating pest, had actually helped his enemies' cause this time with his foolish and rash behavior, and now everyone in the palace believed Lord Rasputin's conclusion of treachery.

The reminder of their success enticed a small grin to her lips, and then she stopped right outside the room to knock on the door, ever-respectful to her leader.

"…Who is it?" came a cool inquiry from the other side.

"It's Veronica, Lord Rasputin…"

She heard a low chuckle, and then he calmly invited her in.

The voluptuous woman pulled on the handle of the heavy door and entered his private chambers, where she found him standing by the window, his posture straight and revered as he pensively gazed out into the dark night sky. Even though his back was turned, she immediately bowed to him from the waist right after her arrival, her intent utterly earnest and juxtaposed to her halfhearted effort to the noblewoman earlier. Her Lord Rasputin waved his hand to indicate that she could resume her normal position, and then he pivoted to face her, his expression filled with satisfaction as he told her of the additional security that had transpired just recently. Tsar Nicholas II would be returning to Petrograd soon, and with Princess Anastasia and the other pests nowhere in sight, there was no one to stop the assassination that was to take place at the ball.

"Yes, it's just a matter of time now, Lord Rasputin." She agreed quickly, but wholeheartedly.

A mysterious, almost eerily eager light flickered to life in his shadow-shaded eyes as he extended a wiry arm toward her and enticed, "Come, Veronica. Let us commemorate our approaching roles as the new emperor and empress of Russia. In just a few more days, I shall become the ruler of this country, and you will be my queen."

Veronica took in his declaration with a slight start; did he truly want her to rule by his side, as an equal and not a mere bed partner? His smile was enigmatic and a bit beguiling… but she wanted to believe him, her Lord Rasputin, who had received her with open arms when her former teacher, Carla, had pushed her aside in favor of the other student… Both she and that wretched girl, Lucia, had deceived the blonde mage as a young girl, using false friendship and artificial loyalty to pull blinders over her eyes, but she saw past the fallacy and rose above them. Her Lord Rasputin had never betrayed her… in fact, he had given her everything: a new life, a clean slate, a purpose worth fighting for, and most importantly, the promise of a future she'd always wanted. The world was a very large place, but she wanted an important part to play.

All of the earth's leading inhabitants were actors; they put on a performance for certain spectators, and then showed a different act when the audience changed. The Romanov royal family seemed to have perfected the aspect of adaptation, but what they didn't know was that a greater deity would soon lift their curtain. The actors on stage would change, and a new play, an entirely new story would begin, with all the responsibilities that had been left behind. Her former comrade, Lenny Curtis, wasn't prepared enough to harbor such tasks, and so he had been forced to duck out early, but his death was still respectable in her eyes – he fought to the end, and died honorably. He was just unfortunate to have fallen to their enemies' act, and knowing so, Veronica fervently vowed not to make the same mistake, unwilling to lose everything she'd strove so hard for.

That was the immense power of a façade.

But after their plans were executed, her lord Rasputin and the rest of Sapientes Gladio would no longer have to hide behind their pretenses, and could emerge as the new leaders of Russia to influence the rest of the world.

A wicked smile curved her lips at the thought, and thenVeronica took his hand to comply with his request, allowing her Lord Rasputin to draw her toward the bed.

The End

Author's Note: Oh my goodness, no romance! You guys probably think I've gone crazy, teehee… ;) Veronica is one of sub-characters that I found most appealing, and I wondered what her perspective was on the ghastly Russia situation, so I wrote this. Oh, and I probably twisted a part of history by saying that Anastasia's older sisters were married and living elsewhere, but hey, they weren't anywhere in the game, so my weird little explanation or possible scenario isn't too asinine, right? Cough, cough… Anyway, this was my first time writing an SH:C fic from one of the underappreciated, background characters, so I hope I did okay. As always, thank you all for reading, and please leave a review to let me know what you think!

With love for my fans,

Tiger5913