Disclaimer: I do not own Shadow Hearts and I am not making any money off of this story.
I've always been a fan of the Shadow Hearts series, ever since I played the first game so many years ago. Recently though, I've gotten interested in finally writing something for it. This story is based on Shadow Hearts: From the New World. Not the most popular game in the series, but all things considered I thought it was a pretty good game. Now let's get on with the story.
Chapter One: Storms and Shadows
Johnny supposed he should have seen something like this coming. He had been through months of travel, hiked across two continents, fought all manner of monsters and criminals, and finally had his family's entire dark history brought to light. After all that, going back to a normal life had probably been an unrealistic goal from the start.
That wasn't to say that everything that had happened to him was bad, but he had expected things to be simpler after the Gate was destroyed and Lady had been put to rest.
It had been a few months since the final battle at the Gate, and he was officially seventeen again. After a lot of introspection and consideration, he had decided to keep his detective business going. Lenny had tried to convince him to go back and manage his families company, probably to get him away from the danger that he'd seemed to find so much of. But he was determined to make the agency work, and he was nothing if not stubborn.
The fact that he had a new partner may have helped him choose too.
Shania had chosen to join him at the agency over returning to the Grand Canyon and getting marrying her fiancé. She had never explained her reasons for doing so and he had never asked her why. Just the fact that they were working together made him happy.
The cases they got had seemed normal enough at the start, disappointingly so. Missing pets, stolen wallets, and other simple issues or tasks that they could handle without too much trouble, Shania actually took to her new job very well.
His new partner's presence had been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, having an older person working with him seemed to give people more faith in his business. On the other, her presence seemed to attract its share of negative attention as well. Men always seemed happy to see her, especially since she hadn't changed how she dressed. Not that he could blame them for looking at her that way, but a part of him wished Shania was a little more modest.
It was a fairly small part.
Women reacted a bit more negatively. A few of the neighborhood women seemed to be welcoming enough, but others didn't take her presence very well. For some it was simply a matter of the scandalous outfit that she always wore, no matter how practical it might have been at times. For others, it was simply the fact that she was an outsider of questionable racial descent. If it bothered Shania that these women felt this way, she never let it show.
Whatever their feelings about her, Shania created a strong reaction from the community with her presence. Not that she even seemed to notice.
Things had changed just over three months after they had settled in at the agency. The sun had just started to set when a man came in with a job for them. He had seemed a normal enough person, with none of the creepiness that Professor Gilbert, the agencies first interesting customer, seemed to give off. His name was Fred Brown or simply Fred as he preferred to be called. The job he had come to them with was a bit odd though.
Fred ran a butcher shop on the south side of town. But these last two days he had been having some trouble with an animal in the area. By itself that wasn't too strange, not with all of the raw food that he worked with. And while he hadn't seen anything himself, he had found what looked like a large set of claw marks carved into his back door just this morning, probably from some breed of large dog. That had gotten him concerned about the safety of his store and employees, so he had come to them.
He had gone to the police about it first, but they said that they wouldn't be able to get to it for a while. Considering how bad New York could be, Johnny understood how busy they must have been. Not that it made Fred's problem any less important.
But it had seemed like a serious enough matter, not that they had any real work at the moment, but still a better case than they usually got. So with nothing else to do, he and Shania had set out the next morning to locate whatever was prowling through the back alleys of New York.
Johnny had to whistle to himself when he saw the backdoor to the butcher shop. If anything, Fred had understated the amount of damage that had been done to the door. Small chunks of the door seemed to have been gouged out all over the frame and left splinters exposed to the air. Whatever had done this must have been pretty big.
He was kind of surprised that whatever had done this hadn't managed to get inside, but whatever did this definitely got the owners attention.
"What do you think?" Johnny finally asked his partner while she looked over the alley near the door.
"Natan was always better at tracking that I was." Shania admitted as she turned back to him. "But I think that we can find whatever did this."
"Let's get going then," Johnny exclaimed. Not just out of a desire to get to work, it was morning and the shop behind them was open for business. And between the customers, machines and employees, all the noise was starting to give him a headache.
The pair spent the next few hours combing through back alleys looking for a sign of whatever had done this, but nothing had been found so far. Shania said that tracking an animal in the overpopulated city was different than doing so in the wild, he believed her too. Honestly, Johnny was surprised that he hadn't seen more normal animals with all the cats that seemed to go missing in this city.
He wondered if any of the cats in New York could talk…
Shania finally led them to what looked like a dead end alley, carefully nestled between two large buildings. The alley was cluttered with dirt and bits of junk just like the other alleys had been another thing that had slowed down their search. Otherwise, Johnny couldn't see anything in the alley worth looking at.
His partner didn't seem to have any such problem, her sharp eyes moving over the alley in search of some clue to their illusive prey. After a few moments of observation Shania made her way to the backdoor of the factory on their right. Johnny walked over to join her after she knelt down to examine something in front of the door. It took the young man a moment, but Johnny noticed small claw marks in the stone outside the door.
While not an expert in the area, Johnny thought they looked about the same size as the marks on the door. Though leaving claw marks in stone seemed unusual.
"Looks like whatever did this was inside," Shania said while getting back to her feet. She looked more like she was getting ready to fight monsters than to fight a potentially rabid animal. Looking back, that should have been a major clue that something was wrong with this situation.
The door to the building was locked. Something that didn't surprise either of them, even though the building looked like it hadn't been used in years. Shania stood by while Johnny took a moment to pick the lock, something that took all of thirty seconds to do. Not as quick or dramatic as kicking the door down, but quieter. The inside of the building itself was surprisingly clean, with only a bit of dust and dirt to suggest that the place had been neglected for so long.
It was impossible to tell exactly what had once been made there with the current state of the machinery. But what the pair found inside was far more interesting than that.
Monsters, dozens of them in cages all along the main floor of the building, making all manner of racket as they loudly protested their captivity. Some of the smaller ones were two or three to a cage, but some of the larger breeds had their own. The unusual thing was that each one looked like a twisted parody of some kind of animal. Spiders, cats, centipedes, enormous cockroaches, all twisted into some kind of parody of their previous self. There only seemed to be a few of each kind though.
"I…I don't understand," Johnny finally stammered out, stunned by what he was looking at. "We destroyed the Gate and sealed the Malice away. How can these things be here?"
Shania looked far more composed than her companion, though he could still see the anger in her expression. "Malice has always been connected to this world. The seal keeps it from flooding in but it still finds a way here."
She sounded rather resigned as she said that. But before their conversation could continue, someone else entered the room from a hallway on their right. The man looked at them in clear confusion for a few moments before going for a gun holstered at his hip. He never got a chance to use it.
In the time it took the man to figure out that something was wrong and go for a weapon Shania had bolted straight towards him, quickly crossing the short distance between them. Just as the man was bringing his weapon up the Indian princess landed a solid blow against the man's jaw, immediately following up with a second hit that knocked the man onto his back with a grunt of pain. Pinning the man down, she reached for one of the tomahawks she kept on herself as she pinned his right arm under her leg.
"What's going on here?" she demanded while the man slowly came back to his senses.
The man seemed disinclined to answer until Shania pressed the weapon against his neck. It seemed that sharp metal pressed against skin had a way of getting people talking, who knew. Shania repeated the question one more time.
"We're just…running a business," the man rasped out, clearly a little freaked out by his situation. Johnny, having picked up and tucked away the weapon that had been knocked out of the man's grip, decided to cut in before Shania lost her patience and did something painful to the man.
"If you just answer our questions as best you can, nobody has to get hurt. Do you understand?" The young detective tried to calm their frightened hostage down. His words seem to have some effect too, as the man gave a cautious nod.
"What exactly do you do here?" He'd mentioned a business earlier so that meant the man had a job here.
"Security, I'm a security guard here." That would explain the gun. "Make sure no people get in."
Deciding not to aggravate the man by pointing out how bad he was at his job, Johnny continued his questioning.
"Where do you get the monsters here?" That was important, if someone else was infected with malice and opening portals…
"That machine over there," the man gestured to the far wall, where some newer looking equipment had been placed. "They attach animals to it and they…change, you see them!"
"You use Malice to turn animals into monsters!" His tone was half shocked and half disgusted.
"Why are you so surprised?" Shania spoke up from where she was holding the prone man down. "Malice can turn people into monsters, why couldn't it do the same thing to animals?"
Johnny took a moment to regain his composure before he kept asking questions. This wasn't the same situation as before, no one was creating monsters with magic; there was just a machine like the ones that Gilbert had been using to boost his own power back at the university.
Actually, that line of thought lead to an interesting question.
"Is this place connected to a man named Gilbert?" He was gone now, but he might have shared his research.
"Never heard of him," the man said. "Like I said, I just work security."
"What do you do with these things after you make them?" That was important information.
"We sell them," the surprise on his face must have shown because the man continued. "I know it sounds nuts, but people really buy these things. I hear some make them fight, but I don't know exactly how," The man seemed…well, not more comfortable from the way he was sweating, but less tense as time passed and his throat wasn't cut.
"How many have you sold so far?" Was this the reason that one of these things was loose on the streets of New York, because someone had purchased one of these as a pet and lost control of it?
"I'm not sure," less than satisfied with the answer, Shania applied a little more pressure. "Seriously, we ship them about every two weeks. Next shipments in…six days I think."
"How long has this been going on?" Shania spoke up again.
"Don't know, but I've been here just over five months now."
There were dozens of things that Johnny still wanted to ask, many of which the clearly uninformed man probably couldn't answer. But for some reason one of the least relevant ones came out of his mouth.
"If you're a guard, why weren't you here or by the door?" Because from what he could see, the front door was boarded up and the only other way out was through an entrance that looked like it was there to let trucks in. Probably how they moved the creatures, but he couldn't say for sure.
"I…was asleep in one of the offices. I was tired and these things give me the creeps."
It was such a simple answer that the detective couldn't help but chuckle. His amusement was cut short by a deep growl from the door they had come through, but not bothered to close. He bad feeling got even worse when he turned around enough to get a look at what had made the sound.
It looked like it had been a large dog at some point, but Johnny couldn't tell the breed just from looking at it. All of its fur had been lost from the sick transformation it had been put through. Skin was even missing at points, showing off dark, sinewy muscle underneath. Johnny could actually make out the creatures spine through its thin flesh, while white empty eyes seem to look right at him. A chain with a skull hanging on it was wrapped around its neck. The only normal looking thing about it was the rows of sharp teeth it was showing off while it growled.
In the second it took him to process this, the creature had started in on him at a dash.
He was distantly aware that the man they were interrogating was screaming something while Shania yelled to him, but only a single word stuck out at him, Necros. Was that was this thing was called? But most of his mind was focused on something else.
"Hail Exceed," the powerful ice spell caused a wall of razor sharp icicles to form in the space between them. A powerful attack that the Necros quickly dashed around before it kept coming at him, barely losing momentum in the process.
But the time he'd gained was enough to palm a knife and prepare to launch another spell. This one intended to do more than just buy some time. With another cry, the Bright Decide was launched at his enemy, appearing like four beams of light that homed in on the creature. One of which went wide and struck a wall, which the other impacted the floor right in front of the creature. The final two beams were dead on, causing the creature to cry out in pain as part of its back was completely disintegrated by the spell. Stunned by the attack as it was, the creature still managed to leap at Johnny as it closed the remaining distance between them.
Prepared, he rolled to the side and lashed out with his weapon as the creature passed by. The blade bit into the monsters side, drawing black blood that quickly began to seep from its new injury. The creature stumbled, but started to turn around to come at him again.
Preparing himself, Johnny had to wonder why his partner wasn't helping him. Not that he wasn't capable of handling himself with all of the experience he had, but some assistance would have been nice.
His answer came when the creature was suddenly dragged pulled from him, claws pawing at the ground as some invisible force dragged it from its enemy. It seemed to gravitate towards the cages, the occupants of which were making an even greater racket as they themselves seem to draw together. Hovering above them was the source of the act, as she had been so many times before.
Thunderbird, using her Gathering ability to draw all of the monsters together, though this was the first time cages had ever been involved as well. The metal prisons seemed to slow the spell down some, but soon the horde was tangled in a ball that the Necros found it caught in, trapped between two cages. That task completed, Thunderbird started another spell and a dark cloud seemed to form above the pile as its caster gathered the needed energy.
Knowing what was about to happen, Johnny moved back a few steps as he reached into a jacket pocket to grab his camera. A true Snap Collector never wasted an opportunity to get new pictures after all!
Dark energy seemed to form into blades above the pile before swinging down and tearing into the horde, their containers offering no protection. Once, twice, more blades continued to cut into the pile, spraying blood and flesh across the room. Once the thirteenth blade had fallen the attack stopped, the Evil Shade spell having done its job. No more movement or sound came from the pile of corpses and shredded metal in the middle of the room.
Looking around, Johnny idly noted that their hostage had disappeared at some point during the exchange. The fight hadn't lasted very long, most fights didn't. But that short amount of time would have been more than enough to slip away when nobody was watching him. Collecting the quick succession of snap cards being released by his camera, he looked back at Shania. For whatever reason, she was still in Thunderbird form, though she had landed a short distance from the slowly disintegrating pile of bodies.
"I guess all that's left is to have a look around," his partner only looked back at him. "You want to wait here while I look upstairs?"
She nodded and, with a quick flap of her wings, took off through a missing section of window near the roof. Johnny figured she was just hoping to get a glimpse of their missing hostage. Pushing that out of his mind, he went off to search the rest of the building.
It didn't take him very long to finish his search, the state of the second floor clearly showed that no one had been through there in years. He settled for looking over the rest of the first floor closely, but while it was a bit cleaner there were no real clues to be found. Although he did manage to find the cot that his former hostage had claimed to have been napping in before they broke in.
Only one of the offices appeared to have been used, and there wasn't all that much in there. A manila envelope with a little over two hundred dollars in it, he pocketed that. A couple of catalogs that were advertising monsters of all things! Gregor, the name of the giant cockroaches he had seen, were the cheapest creatures at a hundred dollars a pop. Centipede, Death Snail, Hell Cat, Necros, all of these monsters and more advertised in high definition photos with a description and price tag attached.
The business man in him actually weighed this as a concept, considering startup costs, target marker and other things. Ignoring all of the moral issues with the situation, someone could actually make a lot of money off of this if they could find the right buyers. He also found a small post it note stating that a Necros, which was in fact the name of the monster that attacked him, had escaped from its cage after conversion just the other day.
Well, at least the client would be happy that his animal problem was over. Even if he would never know the full story behind it all, his business was safe.
There were a few other things as well, pages full of scientific formulas that he didn't even know how to begin deciphering, paper, pens, other miscellaneous office items. He stuffed the first in his jacket for future reference. But there was nothing to suggest who was running this place, where the other monsters had gone, or even where he could go to get his answers. Finally finished with that, Johnny went over to deal with the last problem in the building. The only thing left out of place in the old building was the machine sitting against the wall. Something that, for the safety of the world, should never have existed in the first place, yet here it was.
It wasn't a very large machine, all things considered. There was a glass container, though mostly empty, with drops of what appeared to be liquid Malice inside. There was a needle like device on the other end of the machine that looked like it was used to inject the destructive substance into its unwilling hosts. Other than that, there were only a few buttons and a small screen on the front of device.
He waited a few more minutes before Shania came back in through the window, gliding to touch down next to him gracefully. Her sharp, elfish features were drawn into a smile while she looked back at him. Something about this situation definitely seemed off, but now wasn't really the time to deal with it.
"I guess all that's left is to destroy the machine," Thunderbird nodded and raised a hand towards the device. Dark energy warped in front of her hand before lashing out as a purple orb.
Evil Eye, while a far weaker dark element spell than the one she'd used before, still proved too much for the delicate device. Thin metal instantly gave way to the attack letting the sphere burrow inside before detonating, shredding delicate wires and causing the machine to shake and shoot out sparks. This didn't seem like too big a problem until the container filled with Malice blew. Somehow the contents of the container engorged the sparks as the fire began to spread across the ground and walls.
"We should probably get out of here," Johnny yelled, moving for the entrance. While this part of the building may have been relatively clear, there was enough gunk and grease to make sure that the top floor of the building turned into an inferno.
He was more than a little surprised when a pair of arms wrapped around him from behind, easily lifting him as the figure kicked off into the air again. Passing them both through a spot where a skylight had once covered a small part of the building. Johnny wasn't able to do much more than hold on as the ground fell away beneath them. Meanwhile smoke began to flow out of the whole they had just passed through. This wasn't the first time he'd gotten a lift like this, but it was still unfamiliar enough to make him nervous.
The flight only lasted a few minutes until they the two set down on top of the apartment building they were living in. During the flight, Johnny had managed a quick call on his cell phone to the fire department. With so many buildings close together fires could get really bad in New York, hopefully the fire department would be able to keep the blaze under control.
But now that they were back on the ground, Shania still hadn't let go of him. Now that he wasn't distracted by other things, the feel of her chest pressed against his back was more than a little distracting. And…was she nuzzling him? He thought with a blush.
Shania had been acting oddly ever since she'd transformed, come to think of it. With that in mind, the younger man managed to wriggle out of the older woman's grip, something that only seemed to amuse her more.
"Seriously, Shania, what's wrong with you?" She had never acted like this before and it was confusing him.
Thunderbird only shook her head again, giving him another one of those mysterious smiles before a flash of light left Shania standing there. His partner looked very tense now that she was back in human form. With a move that could only be described as curt, the Indian princess gave him a sharp nod and stalked away from him.
Johnny shook his head and wondered if he would ever really understand that woman.
There was a touch of awkwardness as the evening drew on, but there was too much to do for Johnny to just drop it all and try and figure out what was wrong with his partner.
The fire had been contained, though it had taken more effort than it should have, possibly an effect of the malice in the building. Still, they should probably have been grateful that the remaining malice hadn't caused some kind of fire spirit to grow out of control. Unfortunately, the activity would make sure that whoever had been operating out of the building did not return. Worst still, any physical evidence may have been missed would have been destroyed along with the fire.
At least there was nothing linking them to the event, There was no way that he could explain that they had accidently set the building on fire to prevent more monsters from being created. People could be incredibly blind about some things, no matter how much evidence was slapping them in the face.
He had given the gun he'd picked up to Lenny to be disposed of, ignoring the butlers obvious shock over being given such a weapon. As long as it wasn't put in a position where it could be used to threated people again Johnny didn't care what the other man did with it.
Looking over the papers that he had grabbed for a second time didn't lead to any new ideas, neither did the third time. He just wasn't sure where to go from here with the little information that they had available.
Shaking his head, Johnny carefully filed the papers away in the studies safe. There was no reason to tempt fate by leaving these materials out in the open to be stolen. He and the others could look over them again tomorrow while they tried to figure out where to go from here. They would have to report back to Fred, his problems were finished for the moment.
For now, dinner and a warm shower would have to be enough to relieve some of the stress that the day had put on him. All they could do was their best after all.
Shania couldn't claim to be as relaxed as her partner at the moment, though the source of her stress was not the same as his. After almost an hour of trying to calm her through meditation the Garvoy warrior had finally given up and lay on her bed as she stared at the ceiling.
Today had been the first time that she had used fusion in some time. There simply hadn't been any need to since she had settled here in New York. Oh, there had been a few times when violence had been necessary, usually when dealing with a criminal or an overeager admirer who didn't understand the word no. But there had never been a time when she had needed to resort to such measures against ordinary humans.
The spirits that she made contracts with had a presence within her, this was nothing new. But this had been the first time that those spirits had ever really tried to influence her actions like this.
The battle had been like any other; easier even considering that most of her opponents had been trapped at the time. Though she honestly found the idea of anyone trying to make a profit off of such dark powers insane, even madder were those who would actually purchase such creatures. They would damn themselves and others with their actions. That was an issue that would have to be dealt with at some point.
Once the battle had ended Shania became more aware of the presence of the other being within her, and as such hadn't been able to properly react to the things that Johnny had said and simply tried to put some distance between them. It wasn't that the spirit had been controlling her or anything; it was more like a firm nudge against certain emotions. Shania had not been prepared to deal with emotions that she had so firmly suppressed for so long, not at all. She had finally lost control when she had been forced to take Johnny into her arms to escape the inferno he had accidentally started.
Once the immediate danger had passed she had found herself feeling the warmth of one of the few people that had never given her reason to doubt them. What she had felt at that moment, she wasn't certain how to put into words, so she held him close as she moved them towards home.
Once she had finally come back to herself she had been too embarrassed to try and talk to Johnny. She still wasn't sure of her ability to look him in the eye. Not so soon after whatever had happened.
Rolling onto her side, Shania decided that she would deal with the problem later…much later. After she had time to deal with what she was feeling, things would be better for all of them.
"They have to be," she whispered as she closed her eyes and let sleep claim her.
I think that went pretty well, but now I'm curious to know what you think. So please, take a second to leave a review and tell me what you thought. I don't have much experience with fight scenes so I'd really appreciate the feedback there. Now, I'll close things out with a few after chapter notes.
First, this story assumes that the good ending takes place and Shania comes to work with Johnny at the detective agency. Anything that happens after that is fanon and a product of my own imagination.
Second, this will be a fairly short story, probably only four chapters long. But I hope that you will all take the time to enjoy it. Even I'm not sure where some of the chapters will take me, so we all have something to look forward too.
Third, all of the monsters that I named are actual enemies from the Shadow Hearts series. They just weren't in From the New World. If you want to see what they look like, you can look them up on the Shadow Hearts wiki, though the pictures aren't all that great.
Fourth, I would like to hear what you think about the characters I'm using. Have I kept Johnny and Shania basically in character? I know that there wasn't a lot of character development here, but that wasn't the point of the chapter. Please let me know what you think.
Finally, I'll ask again, please take a moment of your time to let me know what you think after such a lag between stories. An in depth critique or a quick compliment, both would be greatly appreciated. I have never heard of an author slowing down because of too many reviews.