Persona 4 and it's world is owned by Megami Tensei. Not me. This just for fun.

Dance of the Cards

I. BLACK DOG

April 2035

Two girls walked side by side down a side street in the small rural town of Inaba. To a stranger they could not seem more different. One was clad in a soft purple Kimono with her dark hair elegantly tied back. The other was in a white shirt and cut off jeans with her shoulder length hair wind-blown from racing up the hill.

"Ack, I can't believe the sun in setting already; it's way too early," said the shorter girl with a sigh as she looked at the horizon.

"Why do you say that?" the other quipped.

"I have to protect my darling little Himeko and the dark makes that harder; especially with all this fog."

Himeko gave an unladylike sound of disbelief, "Should I stop calling you Kotori and starting calling you Lancelot or Galahad?"

"You wound me," but despite her words, Kotori linked her arm with Himeko's free one. "I still don't know why you have to do this... isn't this Natsuko's job?"

"We're really busy at the Inn right now. Some group fully booked us."

Before Kotori could respond there was a strange sound; a sound that didn't seem to quite belong. Both girls looked at each other but kept walking. The sound came again, closer. Himeko tighten her grip on Kotori.

"Don't run."

"How-"

"Just don't."

Kotori knew that tone. In the past it had always served her well to listen so she obeyed without a thought. She scanned the area the best she could without turning her head. There weren't any other people which was a bit odd but not unheard of. Still, it only made everything seem worse.

The sound came again. This time it came from in front of them instead of to the side. There was something moving in the fog. Himeko stopped abruptly almost causing Kotori to fall.

"M-maybe it's that dog everyone has been talking about. That big black one... it kinda looks like a dog," said Kotori. Himeko only stared into the fog; the thing had stopped moving.

"I don't think it's a dog..."

The shape in the fog moved again. It moved far faster than before and straight for them.

Kotori swore enough to make a Yankee blush. Before either of them could move the thing had reached them. It was most certainly not a dog. It was...a blob; a big black blob that was contorted in very disturbing ways. It slammed into them causing Himeko to fall down the incline. When she tried to get up she noticed that her geta strap had snapped. She could hear Kotori yelling at the blob. An idea popped in to her mind. Quickly she untied her Obijime and tied it around her geta. She pulled the knot hard, making sure it was tight. Parting her kimono the best she could she climbed to the top.

Kotori had managed to climb onto a shop awning while the blob was waiting at the bottom. Himeko swung the geta above her head. Hoping to would fly true she released. It hit the thing hard and it turned to Himeko who was getting ready to hit it again. This time she figured she hit something important because it seemed to collapsed inside itself before charging at her. She just barely dived out of the way. There was a shape pain on her left knee but she ignored it, standing and seeing Kotori running towards her.

"It went down the hill."

"Good, it was supposed to. Now we run." Himeko grabbed Kotori's hand and took off. They hadn't gotten far when they heard the creature approaching them again.

"Now what?" asked Kotori.

"The North Shopping District is not far ahead."

"How will that help?"

"It's well lit we'll so we'll at least be able to see what's trying to kill us and hopefully one of the shops will be open so we can duck inside." As she said this the streetlights behind them flickered. "Well, hopefully."

They rounded the corner and it was only then that she remember that Konishi Liquors was closed for the week. The bike shop never reopened and she doubted the Shrine would help with this. The pain in her knee was becoming worse and she could feel blood running down her leg.

"Look!" Kotori exclaimed, "Tatsumi's lights are on! Doesn't Kanji-san have a class tonight?" Just then the strange sound became faster; it gave the girls the extra burst of speed they needed to reach the textile shop.

Himeko reached the doors first. When she pulled it open she half fell inside, Kotori was right behind her and slammed the door shut. Kotori legs then gave way and she dropped to the floor with her hands still on the frame. Himeko slumped against the wall, the pain in her knee becoming too much. She slid down the wall to rest on the floor. The two girls looked at each other. They weren't sure if they should laugh or cry but for the moment laughing won.

"You got blood on your kimono," said Kotori with a giggle. Himeko looked at her knee. It was too bloody to tell how long the cut was and her body was in too much pain to help.

"I'm sure she'll understand; especially if I show up bloody," said Himeko.

"What I don't understand is why you two burst in here like that." A young voice spoke up.

The girls looked over to see Setsuna Tatsumi. In one hand he held a Nintendo DSX the other was on his waist in a pose they assumed was him trying to copy his mother. That only made them laugh more.

"Dumb girls," muttered Setsuna with an exasperated look. "Nii-san's not here." He turned his attention back to the DSX but didn't leave.

"We… um, weren't looking for Akira," said Himeko. "We just..." She stopped unsure what do say next. Thankfully Setsuna didn't seem to notice.

"Seriously, Himeko we need to do something about your knee...and your face."

"My face?" She reached up to touch it only to wince. The skin felt raw. "Most likely from when I fell down the hill." They were silent. The adrenaline was wearing off. What had happened seem to be a lot more real now, as well as what could have happened. That thing...

"Oi, Setsuna, get your mom. Himeko needs to be patched up."

Setsuna looked up from his game. "Why?"

Kotori glared at him and pointed to Himeko's knee. Setsuna came over and his eyes widened when he look at her leg. Without a word he ran up the stairs to the side of the shop.

"I hope none of Kanji-san's students show up. I doubt it's good for business to have a bleeding girl on your doorstep."

"One in a kimono, to boot." Kotori gave a weak smile. "You look like you came out of a horror movie."

Himeko gave a short laugh "Yeah..." She trailed off and rested her head against the wall.

"Setsuna told me that your leg was going to fall off." Yuzuki Tatsumi walked into the room with Kanji right behind her.

"I doubt that but is still hurts."

"Hmm." Yuzuki gave Himeko a glance-over. "Indeed. Kanji please pick Himeko up and follow me. You too, Kotori."

Kanji walked over to them and knelt in front of Himeko. "...If you don't mind..." Himeko shook her head, she didn't mind at all. Kanji lifted her with ease and followed his wife, with Kotori close behind.

Kanji set her on a chair in the nicer half of the mudroom where Yuzuki kept her medicines.

"Now if I remember correctly, you have no problems with any medicines," Yuzuki said as she cleaned Himeko's leg with a damp cloth.

"That is correct."

"Good," and so Yuzuki set to work.

"What happened?" asked Kanji. Kotori and Himeko look at each other.

"Well, I kind of fell down the hill by the sweet shop."

"You'd have to do more than just fall down the hill to do this. The hill will only explain your face. There is gravel along the wound. That hill doesn't have gravel." Yuzuki set aside the soiled cloth.

"She kinda tripped when she got back up the hill." Kotori thought it was best not to mention that a big black blog attacked them.

"What's this?" Everyone but Yuzuki looked up at Setsuna. He was holding Himeko's make-shift weapon. The geta was slowly swinging back and forth. Himeko couldn't think of anything that didn't sound insane but thankfully she was saved from answering when the door opened.

"I'm h-" Akira stopped. He looked rather surprised to see everyone. Kotori took the distraction of his arrival to snatch the geta away from Setsuna. She silenced his half protest with a glare.

"Welcome home son." Yuzuki double checked to make sure she had completely cleaned Himeko's wound. Said wounded girl hadn't even noticed her finishing cleaning it. "Okay. All clean. I have some basic skin patches. It doesn't work as fast as the ones you'd get from Yasoinaba Hospital but they are much better then stitches."

"Stitches?" Akira dropped his sports bag at the same time he kicked off his shoes. He came over and knelt next to Himeko and looked at her knee. Now that it was all clean and the numbing agent was working it didn't look that bad, only about as long as her finger. "What happened?"

"A hill and I had a disagreement."

"And she tripped" added Kotori.

"Yes, I tripped. Not very fun." Himeko gave a small hiss of pain when Yuzuki lined up the patch and pressed it on.

"There, all patched up. It will take a few days for it to heal completely." Yuzuki started wrapping up Himeko's knee, "So don't bend. This also means no inn work. I don't care if the King of Denmark comes to stay; just stay out of the way for a few days."

"Understood." Himeko knew better then to argue.

"Good. Akira, help Himeko to the van. You go too, Kotori. I'll take you both home." Akira nodded and the three of them left out the door Akira had just come in.

"That's it? You're just going to let them go?" Kanji grinned. "You getting soft in your old age?"

Yuzuki gave him a playful shove. "No, but I can see that they won't tell us. I've worked in my field long enough to know when someone won't talk. We'll see if we can get anything out of them later." She stood on her toes to give him a kiss. "Keep Setsuna out of the freezer. I don't know how long the Amagis will hold me up."

"That will cost you one more kiss."

"So greedy." Nevertheless she gave him another one.

Morning

"I can't believe you tripped, that's so dumb."

"Hey. If you weren't pedaling a bike uphill I'd smack you." Himeko sighed. "You show no respect to your Nee-san."

"Forgive me, Aneue."

"Takahito you do know that my knee will heal and then I will enact my revenge." She grins, "Of course I could just go to your school and hug you in front of the main gate."

Takahito almost stopped. "You wouldn't!"

"Only if you're nice," It was just too much fun to tease him. She heard him sigh.

"Fine. I'll be nice." Takahito sighed again but Himeko could hear the grin in his tone.

He pulled just past the gates of Yasogami High School where Kotori and Akira were waiting. Akira lifted her off the bike.

"I leave you in the care of your knights, Princess." Takahito took off a bit faster than the history teacher liked. He yelled after him but Takahito didn't care, he just wanted to be out of his sister's range. Himeko just shook her head. She was the one who was a knight yesterday, but that's what happens when one has the name she has.

"Akira, I shall never forgive you for calling me Princess."

"What?" He looked shocked. "I did that when we were five."

"Yes, but since then everyone wants to call me Princess."

"Akira, I need to talk to Himeko about something. We'll see you in class." Kotori linked arms with Himeko.

"Feel the love." Akira walked toward the building ignoring the first year who giggled as he walked past.

"What did your parents do?" asked Kotori in a hushed tone.

"Mom almost dropped the tea tray and Dad didn't say anything."

"Well, he hardly ever does."

"He has different types of silences; this was a bad one. Thankfully, mom was a bit too frantic to notice any holes in the story and Setsuna wasn't there with the geta. I doubt Dad bought it though..."

Before she could continue the girls overheard some third years talking.

"Yeah, I know. Shin-kun said he saw it too! He's the Public Morals Committee Leader so he won't lie. That black dog showed up by the Flood Plain," said the girl with long hair.

"He might have just said that to impress you. More and more people claim to have seen it. I doubt most of them have. It's just a fad," said the one with glasses.

"Waa, now you're just being mean." The seniors walked out of hearing range.

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. Loads of people have seen this "black dog" but it didn't bother them. I asked a first year boy to tell me what he saw and he described what we saw before it came closer. Why did it only attack us?" Kotori asked.

"I don't know. I don't think it's the best idea to research this online."

"If you say so. The strange thing is that I'm not freaking out over this. I mean...I didn't really think you would be, but I thought maybe I would, just little, but I'm not. Strange."

Himeko decided not to comment.

"Anywho we should get to class Limpy; don't wanna be late."

Lunchtime

Kotori leaned back, enjoying a spot of sun, "Akira's taking too long."

"You could have gotten the drinks yourself," said Himeko.

"We flipped for it. He lost, so he goes. I bet he's taking his time on purpose so I'll go next time."

"The fiend."

"Yes. Speaking of the fiend, tomorrow is his birthday. Are you doing anything?"

"Not now. His mother specifically told him to take a rain check for whatever we had planned. And her word is law."

"Well, Dad has some conference thing in Tokyo so I was thinking you could stay over at my place this weekend. It's closer to school and..." She lowered her voice. "We can do something about the dog thing."

"Like what?"

"I dunno something. I mean it attacked us-"

"So you think it's a smart idea to go looking for it." Himeko gave her friend a flat look.

"It hasn't done that to anyone else. Maybe there was a reason or maybe it will start attacking people. We should stop it. No one will believe us if we say a big black blob attacked us."

"Kotori..." Himeko trailed off when the door opened. Akira was back.

"Sorry I'm late." He handed them the drinks out before sitting next to Himeko. "Hosoi-sensei held me up. He was going on about the fog and about what happened before, with the murders. He thinks that they'll happen again; that the fog will take us over." Akira took a sip of his drink. "He seems really frazzed out."

"What does the fog have to do with it?" asked Kotori.

Akira shrugged. "Some thought the fog was poison. That's why almost all households still have gas masks. The new mayor was a part of the voting to keep them."

"That was optimistic of her." Kotori stretched as the bell rung. "Anywho… Himeko, remember to ask your parents about staying over at my place. It will be fun! I'm going to go. Sensei will kill me if I'm late. Akira you can get Limpy to class."

"We're all in the same class..." However it was too late; she was gone.

After School

Kotori waited until Akira had left for club to talk to Himeko. "Let's talk to Hosoi-Sensei."

"Why?"

"Cause he might know something."

"I already know about the fog."

"What! Since when?"

"Since a while ago. My great uncle talked about it once. No one could find anything about it. Some claimed it made them sick while others were fine." Himeko shrugged. "You can ask him. I'll stay here. I need to finish this before I go home."

"Fine." Kotori pouted and left.

A short while later she came back looking highly disappointed, "Nothing. He's said nothing of use. It's annoying when you're right."

Himeko laughed. "Come I'll take you to Souzai Daigaku to make up for it." Kotori perked up.

Since they were the only two there Kotori figured it was safe to talk about the big black blob; which she had dubbed Triple B.

"Akira interrupted before you could tell me if you wanted to go find the Triple B with me."

"With you? Before you asked if we should."

Kotori shrugged. "I was bored in History, it gave me time to think."

"Well I can't let you go on your own..." Himeko gave a long sigh. "Look, I see no reason my parents won't let me go to your place. We'll do something then. So don't do anything before that got it?"

"I'll just get things ready. I won't go after Triple B without you. Promise."


Many thanks to Firewater Fox for being my beta.