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?

Oh my god, guys. I am so, so, so sorry. Like, you don't even know. What the hell happened. I mean, it's August now. I don't remember anything. I just woke up this morning in an acquaintance's basement with a scorching migraine and some being of indeterminable gender named Trish.

Not literally. But that's exactly what it feels like. Especially after reading over what I have so far of this fanfic. I mean seriously.

But what's done is done. I'm better now, I can get through this. We can get through this.

This is the fifth chapter. Enjoy.


Mount Mihara, Izu Oshima, Kanto Region, Japan.

Especially compared to the better-known Mount Fuji, the 764 meter volcano is by no means the tallest or most remarkable of its kind. A modest and frankly flat-looking, vaguely triangular and greenish crag rising from the heart of Izu Oshima, plain to the point of anticlimactic and not even tall enough to have the obligatory snow cap around its rim that plenty of other volcanoes in Japan have no trouble sporting. All and all, seemingly rather unextraordinary.

And yet, somehow, the mountain and its island managed to be everything but. After all, this "insignificant" landscape had managed to inspire an exiled holy man to worship mountains. This "modest" mountain housed a lava lake that hundreds had chosen as the venue of their suicides. But perhaps most importantly, the epicenter of one of Japan's most devastating earthquakes just happened to be directly beneath this deceptively unimpressive rock.

So, if all of this was true, what stopped Mount Mihara from being the epicenter of this particular story?

~"*"~

A couple of small pebbles tumbled downward as Rosso nudged her foot deeper into a foothold in the basalt carapace of Mount Mihara and paused to adjust her scarf to cover more of her face. Her senses were normally by far keener than any ordinary human's, but after the quake, it seemed her cells rang with a resounding sting from even the smallest of stimuli. The sun was well below the horizon by now, and only a dim blue glow lit the dark stone, but Rosso saw every tiny furrow. The air was only slightly sulfurous, but her head was swimming and the thin fabric of her scarf did little to combat the stench of molten rock and heat. Everything was buzzing and sharp, and Rosso felt her nerves already beginning to fray. Nevertheless, she groaned and continued her ascent.

Rosso knew what this meant. Tonight…tonight, everything felt especially out of place. Beneath the cacophony of sights and smells and sounds lay – no – crept something that instilled an impulse within her that she had only experienced once or twice in the span of her short memory. Run. Turn around and run and don't come back. Forget.

It was that small feeble word that made Rosso grin like a demon and charge onward instead, and she had as soon as she had picked up on its scent, heard its mosquito-whine in her ear as she slept. She was here now, hovering over it, so close, so close—

Rosso gasped and halted, blinking as she gripped the rocks. She was doing it again. Getting worked up and thinking like an animal. She breathed as evenly and deeply as the sulfurous air would allow without making her too dizzy. Rosso had to keep her thoughts simple or she would get to herself and Mikhail would throw her into the loony bin this time, so help him God. So she did.

Rosso hoisted herself over a boulder and focused her keen eyes on the summit, where she could just begin to detect a faint glow. Find it and shut it up.

~"*"~

Kurando rocked violently backwards with the force of leaving Tsukiyomi's consciousness, nearly falling onto the uneven stones beneath him. He had managed to circle unseen around the mountain and land two thirds up the slope, unable to fly any closer without attracting attention from the figures around the lava lake at the summit. Gasping, he knelt down against the rocks and stifled the urge to vomit as his vision gradually normalized and he tried to analyze what he had seen.

It was a small group, maybe eight or ten people, a number Kurando would usually be able to easily take out. Three or so stood together on the precipice over the lake while the rest seemed to be stationed as guards around the vicinity. However, the young swordsman got the feeling that even if he managed to dispatch the guards and get to the three they were protecting, well… one rarely came across a group of suspicious looking people lurking around a lava lake directly over the epicenter of a major quake that weren't up to anything especially sinister.

Sufficiently recovered, Kurando set himself to the task of scaling the remainder of the slope. If he was going to go charging into this mess, he should at least take a look at what they were actually up to.

~"*"~

Rosso lowered herself against the slant of the rock, her breathing silent as she inched closer to the three figures ahead of her, having been able to knock out the measly two guards stationed behind them. Of course, this was no place where she could be too careful. A hand on the hilt of one of her twin knives, she settled herself in the deepest portion of the shadowed alcove she inhabited. She pricked her ears to the voices and held her breath.

The three, two men and a woman, stood together in a rough triangle. Hardly dressed for the occasion, they were all dressed like European socialites, like they were mingling at a cocktail party instead of plotting something questionable above a bubbling caldera. Honing in on them, Rosso recognized the brusque clips and consonants of Russian. She smirked behind her scarf. Finally, a language she knew she, uh, knew. Christ.

"…Then you have it?" the woman asked. She clung to the arm of the tallest of the men, a thin man in charcoal pinstriped wool.

The other man sighed. "Not all of it, not just yet…but enough to proceed, wouldn't you think, Florien?"

The tall man opened his mouth but was interrupted by his companion.

"You were supposed to have it all done a week ago," the woman chided, her perfect mouth in a tight line, "We can't afford any more delays like this. As we speak—"

"Emiliene," Florien cut her off, gently placing a hand on the small of her back. The woman gazed up at him pleadingly and trailed off. Florien cleared his throat.

"It – or really, he, I should say – is becoming less and less stable the longer he remains incomplete," he intoned, "You saw what happened today. One little slip and we very nearly lost everything."

The other man nodded grimly. "I understand, sir, truly. I've only hit a snag in obtaining the appropriate materials. You see—"

"What's so hard about it now?" Emiliene once again interjected, Florien this time not stopping her, "You didn't seem to have much trouble at all before. And it's not like you have to do anything different to this set of articles, am I right, Felix?

Felix continued to bob his head. "Of course, madam. Nothing at all. It's just…it seems the energies are a little bit stubborn is all. I've made extensive adjustments and my staff is carefully monitoring them for any improvements."

The three were silent for a while. Emiliene continued to glower.

"That doesn't change the fact that you're still not finished."

Felix was beginning to look visibly gray in the dim lava glow. He lowered his gaze to his feet.

"Yes, madam."

Florien regarded the other man with aloof indifference.

"Would incorporating what we have stabilize him any more?" he inquired placidly.

Felix twitched a little and regained his composure. "Eh, with the data we have so far—"

"Yes or no, Felix.

The smaller man winced. "Yes, sir, I would say so," he muttered.

Florien sighed in an almost bored manner.

"Well, we're already here," he droned, "And he's already all the way down there, and we all know how cranky he gets…"

~"*"~

Rosso was growing more and more uneasy. She had known that this wasn't just a guns-and-swords sort of thing from the start, but there were only so many things she knew of that they could be referring to and they were all messy. Maybe she really should have let the Organization know what was going on. Or at the very least left them a note telling them where they should look for her charred remains. She could almost hear Mikhail cursing and nagging around his cigarette on the other side of the rim…

Rosso froze, fingers tightening on her knives. Shit. She glanced over at the still motionless forms of the guards she had previously knocked out, noting that they were still indeed unconscious. She hadn't heard anyone come up, but there most certainly was someone there, not even twenty feet away. She couldn't hear breathing, but she could almost see the air moving. More guards? But then again, she hadn't even considered anyone following them. Rosso barely stifled an exasperated sigh. What was with her lately? Nevertheless, regardless of what they were up to, she couldn't take any chances.

Rosso paused, though, knives half-drawn, and looked back at the three ahead of her. Now you just stop right there, she scolded herself, You have WAY more important things to worry about right now…

~"*"~

Nearly crawling on his belly, Kurando inched his way just within earshot of the group and immediately identified their language, inwardly cringing. He should've known they might be involved. He listened hard, regretting not perfecting his Russian when he had had the chance. At best, he had the vocabulary of a six year old. The swordsman watched the taller man give his female companion a long, contemplative stare before she finally gave a relenting nod. She answered with a tired slur that Kurando only just barely translated into an affirmative. He silently nudged Mumeiro a fraction of an inch out of its scabbard with his thumb.

~"*"~

"Shit, just do it, Felix."

Rosso's knives were halfway out of their sheathes and she was slowly sunk lower into a crouch, coiling like a snake. This is going to be good.

She was just beginning to release her leg muscles into a spring when the stone beneath her suddenly bucked.


Ok. So…

Yeah. I wish I could say that measly bit of storyline was worth the wait, but I've kind of known exactly what was going to happen since around September.

I'm really not happy with anybody's POV right now or really the better part of this chapter, but I waited around trying to achieve absolute perfection I would never get to writing the good parts and you would never hear from me again. At least that's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.

But we're not going to talk about that. Just stayed tuned as usual, if you will. More chapters soon. I swear. I've actually already started on the next chapter.

Toodles.