The Other Tendo Girl
Full Summary: While the rest of the Tendo household was wrapped in their own dramas, no one would have suspected one of Soun's daughters to be living a double life. Poor girl, cursed as she was, she bore her sentence in silence. When the truth came out, no one would have been surprised if it had been Akane, who was perpetually asking for trouble, or even Nabiki, who often stuck her nose in places it didn't belong, but jaws dropped when it was pointed out that, no, it was the third daughter, the one quietly sipping her tea, the one who had never spoken an ill word and went out of her way to smile for everyone. Yes, it was this daughter, the quiet daughter, the "too too nice girl" who left the world spinning on its heel.
Chapter 1: Curses
The real story began years before even Kasumi was born, before her parents were anything other than mild acquaintances. It all started with an accident, a tiny mistake that was brushed off as nothing by the parties involved as they went about their daily lives.
The future Mrs. Tendo had been quite adventurous in her youth. She was a vibrant creature and the most un-ladylike tomboy south of Tokyo. On one of her conquests she came into contact with a most beautiful artifact, a delicate silver bracelet that simply belonged on her wrist.
It wasn't stealing per se, and she very much doubted the abandoned shrine she had found it in would truly miss it. So with a laugh and a playful smile, Kimiko pocketed a very dangerous artifact.
One of the most distinguished memories of Kasumi's childhood is the image of her mother, heavily pregnant and shaking in panic.
"Where's Mommy's bracelet Kasumi? Did you take it?"
Kasumi couldn't remember a time when her mother wasn't "sick", but on that day Kimiko looked particularly pale and ashen. "Where did you put Mommy's bracelet?!"
Terrified of her mother's unusual behavior, Kasumi thrust out her wrist from which a silver trinket dangled. She didn't mean to upset her mother; she had only been playing dress-up and needed some jewelry for the ball.
Kimiko snatched at the bracelet like a starved lioness after a gazelle, but no matter how much se pulled and tugged, the bracelet didn't budge. It remained, gleaming ever so smugly, on her oldest daughter's wrist.
It was only a few days later when strange men began appearing in her house. While her mother's color had improved, she still blanched every time she spotted one of them. She kept fussing with Kasumi's sleeves, insisting that she wear her winter clothes despite it only being Autumn.
"We can help her." Kasumi overheard one of the men telling her Mother. "Kasumi is young, we can teach her how to control it."
Her mother kept shaking her head in stunned denial, her hands clutched over her swollen belly protectively.
It was a few days later that the announcement came. Her mother said that Kasumi had been selected for a special Martial Arts program to represent the school of Anything goes. Her father had a mixed reaction to the news; he was incredibly proud that Kasumi (at such a young age too!) had been selected for such an enterprise, and it reminded him of his own days of romping through the wilderness from temple to temple trying to learn the secrets of the Art.
Yet... Kasumi was so young and Kimiko said Kasumi would be gone for a long time, years even. He couldn't imagine being away from his little girl for so long.
"It's for the best," his wife insisted.
Soun still had to think about it for a few days as he battled a storm of fatherly instinct. In the end, he aquiessed with his wife. It was for the best. For the sake of the school, for the future of the art, Kasumi would go on this training journey. After all, Genma would have done nothing less for his heir.
On the day of her departure, her mother had been crying, blubbering, "I'm sorry Kasumi, I'm so, so sorry!" over and over as desperate fingers tugged at her hair. She didn't understand then what her mother had meant, and she would only come to realize the full horror of her situation in the years to come.
But back then, on that dark, desperate day, she had only returned her mother's embrace and smiled softly. "It's okay Kaa-san. I'm not afraid."
Perhaps she should have been.
To this day, she could still hear her mother's agonized sobs when she released her tiny hands. Soun held his wife back, his expression equally pained, but when little Kasumi looked back over her shoulder she saw her mother's fingers stretching for her, tears streaming silently down her face.
They sent her letters of course. Her father's were full of encouragement, and he often sent her stories of his own training days and his own pride at her accomplishments.
Her mother's letters told her of the events at home, Akane's birth, and what Nabiki found in the backyard, but there was one letter from her mother that her sensei held onto for her.
"When you're ready," he said.
Her time at the… dark place, was nothing like her father had described in his stories. For one thing, she didn't see many of her so called classmates other than at chance encounters in the training area. Most of the time it was just her and sensei, and long hours of dull meditation.
"Too small," he poked at her ribs, "Better to train spirit first, master ki."
As she grew, the nature of her lessons changed. The soft planes of her body were hardened, and she learned ugly lessons about pain and sacrifice. She stopped writing home; first because sensei wouldn't let her, then later because her mother wrote that:
Daddy doesn't need to know about the bad things. It will only upset him. These lessons are important, Kasumi, and we don't want Daddy angry for no reason.
It when she started realizing that there was a difference between telling the truth and telling people what they wanted to be the truth. Kasumi didn't want to lie, so she didn't say anything and let her father make his own assumptions.
In the end, they didn't keep her as long as was initially promised. Upon her mother's death, her mourning father demanded that she be returned home, and so she was.
She had stood at the entranceway, hair still dripping with rainwater, and wondered at how different the place looked.
The bracelet on her wrist jingled. It was a simple chain interspersed with silver beads, yet it sparkled softly as it gracefully draped over her wrist in a distinctly feminine manner. However, to the young Kasumi it felt like a weight beyond measure, a manacle or a shackle made for iron or stone.
Akane toddled by, still wobbly on her tiny legs. She paused, her round face tilting up to stare at Kasumi curiously.
For a moment, white-hot fury tore through her, and she vindictively imagined grabbing that tiny wrist and letting the bracelet slide onto an arm that was still chubby with baby fat. It would be so easy.
"I'm so sorry Kasumi!"
She could have slapped herself in shame. She felt sick and nauseous, and hated herself for considering such a thing. Her mother would have been ashamed of her. Isn't this why she had agreed to go with the strange men in the first place? To protect the ones she loved? To save her mom and her unborn sister?
"You must be Akane," She smiled as she knelt before the wide-eyed toddler. "I know we've never met, but I've heard so much about you. I'm your big sister."
Tentatively, Kasumi reached for her hand, and warm chubby fingers curled around her own. The blue haired girl smiled shyly.
Something warm bloomed in Kasumi's chest, and she felt an overwhelming amount of affection, something strong and fierce and protective.
"My name is Kasumi," she spoke softly, reverently, "I'm going protect you. I promise."
Because some things were worth fighting for, worth sacrificing everything for. 'Oh Mother,' she thought, 'I understand.'
She was sitting in a park swing after school one afternoon when they next came for her. She didn't have to ask who they were here for; she simply stared up at those grim expression unblinkingly.
The nearest man reached for her, but she scooted back on her swing. Gripping the metal chains tightly, she prepared to spin off the plastic seat and dash away from them if they tried such a thing again.
Yet, the two men in suits shared a look and seemed to be pleased with her reaction. "Miss Tendo," the older one said, "We are here to assist you with the second stage of your training."
She stilled in realization. It wasn't over yet. Really, she should have known better; sensei had stated as much during her training. Her mother had signed a contract, and Kasumi would honor that contract.
They looked tense, as though they were expecting her to throw a tantrum or take flight, but even as a child Kasumi understood the real weight of the bracelet in her hand. If she ran off, if she fought back, they would just chain her up again and drag her back to headquarters.
If she behaved, they'd let her stay with her family.
Kasumi was no fool. Oh sure, there was some slim chance that she could slip away, vanish into the folds of the world where no one would ever find her, but then they'd come after Nabiki or Akane. After all, a deal was a deal.
Just the image of these men dragging little Akane off to the training center, had her fists curling. Head bent, she glared at the ground. "I want to keep my family safe."
The tall man smiled kindly. "You will," he assured her, "In fact, you already have."
Soun Tendo watched his girls practice their katas with no small amount of pride. Akane's kicks and punches were forceful while Kasumi's grace made it seem more like steps to a dace with one movement flowing into the next. Perhaps it was merely a difference in their ages, but Soun couldn't help but feel as though their was a vast difference in their potential.
Kasumi was light on her feet, agile and quick. Akane had a strong base and heavy punches. While Kasumi's style involved fast darting moves with precise jabs, Akane was more inclined to maintain a firm foundation and use her superior strength and endurance to achieve victory.
Both very different styles, neither of which were wrong, but Soun had felt (though he was careful to never show it) that there was something special about Kasumi, a prodigy that was ready to bloom before his eyes. She was the type of student that would make any sensei, any father, proud. She was his heir and was destined to carry on his legacy.
He was so immensely proud of her.
Which is why it was so hard to accept her abrupt withdrawal from martial arts.
"But Kasumi," he whined trailing after her, "how could you do such a thing. Have I been a poor teacher?"
"Really father," she replied soothingly, "Don't be so hard on yourself. Violence just isn't the right place for me."
"But Kasumi," he pleaded, "Martial arts isn't about violence; it's about protecting others you care about."
The girl stopped in her tracks, shoulders stiffening. For a moment, Soun dared hope that he was finally getting through to her, but when the kindly brunette turned back around, her eyes were cold and full of disdain.
"Just like you protected mother?"
It was spoken quietly but with all the sharpness of a knife, and it pierced through Soun Tendo's composure like a needle popping a balloon. His thoughts stuttered to a halt as he stared at his oldest daughter who was glaring at him with words left unspoken.
'Like you protected me?!'
Kasumi spun around, marching off before she lost her temper and said something she would truly regret. She had sworn to protect her family, and keep them far from her ugly world of contracts and obligations. She didn't know how much longer she could keep her act up; eventually it would become obvious that she was receiving outside training, that her moves weren't meant to disable but to cripple or kill.
And she didn't want Akane, who had taken to imitating Kasumi and copying her every move, to likewise follow in her footsteps. No, the agency was no place for Akane, her bright and beautiful sister.
"Your shorter reach will give you a disadvantage," her new sensei explained to her, "A staff is a good means to compensate for that. Use your speed to dodge his fists, and use your staff to strike him down."
"Hai," Kasumi nodded obediently, but she still held the staff stiffly with no small amount of reservation.
The trainer was familiar with a certain amount of reluctance in his young charges. To a degree, he admired them for it: their youth and humanity. It was a shame that such things needed to be torn out of them so they could be remolded and reshaped in to a proper weapon.
"They're not really people, Kasumi-chan. They're just objects. From now on when you look at those targets, do not think about them as being the same as your family or me. Tell yourself that 'This is not a person. This is an obstacle. It has no feelings. It has no family. This is only an obstacle, and it is standing in my way.' Can you remember that?"
"This is not a person," the young girl dutifully repeated. At first it was spoken with uncertainty, but with time, the words would become cool and flowing like poetry.
I will protect my family.
"This is an obstacle. It has no feelings."
I won't let this curse beat me.
"It has no family."
I will do all that is necessary.
She felt a chill, like a cold breeze sweeping up her spine, over her scalp and then flaring outward.
"This is an obstacle. It is standing in my way." Kasumi gripped the wood pole arm more surely this time, her stance easily shifting into something familiar.
By the time the trainees became adults, they had grown quite lethal. Yet there was something chilling about standing in their presence, something not right with their eyes. Perhaps it was the training or the nature of their work, but whatever the cause, the result was nothing to sneeze at. Sure, she might be a cute little girl now, but give her a few years and she'd be positively ruthless.
Plus, there was that curse of hers...
"That's it," her sensei said softly, "Good, now widen your stance and relax your shoulders."
Kasumi did, and once more turned to face her opponent, a young boy not much older than herself. "This is not a person," she affirmed while she looked him dead in the eye. "This is an obstacle."
It always amazed Hikari-sensei what alter egos his new charges would adopt. For example, he had previously reared a boy in the Juubin district who was pretending to be a happy-go-lucky delivery boy who was saving up to buy a "cute fluffy puppy."
The Tendo girl, however, was raised under a family that breathed martial arts, but rather than stepping into the role of a talented student and using that as an excuse for her abilities, Kasumi backed out, retreating behind a smile and a spatula.
It puzzled her teachers why she would do this when she was one of the few recruits that actually could "bring her work home" without anyone batting an eye. Instead, the Tendo girl retreated from the family's spotlight like a fearful child. She hid in plain sight behind a warm mask, a quiet disposition, and a pleasant smile, but Hikari-sensei couldn't understand why she would alienate herself so completely if she didn't have to.
He asked her once, and the girl had just shrugged before going back to her katas. "I want to protect my family."
Sometimes he wonders if the persona she created was simply the person she wished she could be, loving and kind and caring. She wanted to be able to be soft-spoken and gentle, wanted to be able to smile at people and mean it. Maybe it was just her way of rebelling against the agency; but maybe it was just her attempt to give the Tendo family back what they had lost.
Soun Tendo didn't understand how his eldest daughter could be so easy-going about some things and yet so particular about others. Like brooms, for instance. Now he could take her shopping for any number of cleaning instruments, wash cloths, cleaning solution, and furniture polish and the girl would put on that careless smile and say "Whatever you think is best father."
But not brooms, oh no, those were a different matter altogether. Kasumi would happily spend hours going from one store to the next, testing the balance and weight of each one. Then when she finally found one of interest, she would spin it about like a baton, and tap the handle on the self, testing its durability.
What was even more bizarre is that she seemed to careless about the quality of the brush, even seemingly preferring those with less bristles.
He couldn't understand how her mind worked in such manners. He used to hope that she was developing a new kind of martial arts, and by the way she skillfully spun the broom, Soun wouldn't have been surprised if she hadn't already. Yet, he never saw her practice, and she never seemed to hold even a passing interest in the lessons he gave Akane.
It was disappointing to say the least. He had long hoped that Kasumi would be the one to carry on the school, but for some reason, the girl seemed to have lost all interest in the field, preferring to spend her time cooking or tidying up after her sisters. Why? Why would she do such a thing? Where had his heir gone? When did his beautiful daughter become so… plastic?
Guilt rolled through him every time he caught her buzzing about the kitchen, and somehow he couldn't shake the feeling that this was somehow his fault. Had he been a poor sensei? He could not recall a specific cause that had resulted in Kasumi's change in demeanor. Perhaps he had been too hard on her or perhaps he had spent too much time on Akane, and Kasumi misinterpreted his attentions as favoritism.
Soun had sworn long ago never to show favoritism towards any of his daughters, but if he had ever been pressed to choose among them… Let it be said that the reason he may have once focused more attention on his youngest was not because he found the elder lacking. Far from it. He had been afraid that abundant praise of the elder's accomplishments would discourage the younger girl.
Perhaps Kasumi sensed it too, the subtle resentment. Resentment that it was she, who treated the art as though it were a hand grenade, was so superior, such a wellspring of pure talent. Yet the one who loved the art, lived the art, breathed it from the moment she woke till the moment her eyes closed in rest, was built to be a bulldozer—rather than a masterful dancer.
Poor Akane. Poor Kasumi. Poor Soun who stood between them both as a sensei and as a father and watched as one daughter, with the careful understanding only an older sibling could possess, bowed down from the unspoken contest.
Akane would be the heir. She would inherit the dojo.
Kasumi, however, would slip quietly into the folds of obscurity, letting the rush of the others' busy lives trample over her. Her father was heartbroken, but what could he do? How could he help his first-born if she wouldn't let him?
Her classmates had started behaving oddly as of late, Kasumi noted, but she could tell the exact moment it happened. Graduation was nearing and the senior class was abuzz of where everyone was going next. Tatsumi was going to work in her father's business, learning the ends and outs so one day she could take over the corporation when he retired. Mosina and Kylie were both shipping off to prestigious universities while Aymee was going to attend school overseas.
Everyone had plans. Everyone had bright faces with beaming eyes for the future. Everyone, that is, but her.
"Kasumi, what are you doing after graduation?"
She had tried to hide it for a while, often shrugging her shoulders and saying she hadn't decided yet, but there was only so long she could put it off for until her friends began pressing her in earnest for her real answer.
"Come on Kasumi, you can't be serious. You must have some idea. I mean, this is the rest of our lives we are talking about here."
Finally, after months of procrastination, she let one part of the truth slide out. "I think I will just stay home. Take care of my father and sisters."
Her friends blinked at her in disbelief.
"Why is your dad sick or something?" Mosina asked.
"Oh no, Father is quite healthy."
"Then why…" the other girl trailed off, wary about overstepping personal bounds.
Tatsumi, however, had less tact when it came to sensitive manners. "Are you telling me you want to stay home cooking and cleaning after your family all day like a housewife?!"
"I want to take care of my family," Kasumi replied stiffly.
The three other girls traded telling looks. "Oh, well that's nice I guess."
Kasumi recognized that look of quiet judgment, that cool condemnation. Why in this day and age, when a woman could chase any career she had her heart set on, would anyone settle for being a dusty, boring old-fashioned housewife?
Fury rose within her, and for a moment she imagined shouting out the real reason she was staying home. Why was wanting to take care of her family such a big deal anyways?! She was doing what she wanted and that made her happy.
She hated those carefully sculpted expressions on her friends' faces, that inferred judgment of boredom, that this life couldn't possibly be fulfilling, that others wouldn't choose to live this way.
'But,' Kasumi thought with a grimace, 'why should we all choose to live the same way, or think the same things are fulfilling? And why should we have to? Women don't have any duty to not be "stereotypes" any more than they have a duty to embody them. None of us can live each others' lives.'
She hated that look of distorted pity on Kylie's face as though Kasumi was not truly fulfilled and was lying to herself about what she really wanted. She hated Mosina's irritated frown and how she suddenly looked down on her long time friend as though she were a threat to the accomplishments of the gender revolution and career women everywhere.
She hated the ways boys started to look at her, either as a trophy or as something that would slow them down. She looked like a deadweight, a cute face at best, but still just a glorified maid who wouldn't be contributing to household income.
She wanted to roll up her sleeves and show them that the scars weren't from "cooking accidents." She wanted to point out the calluses on her hands, the muscles that didn't come from hours spent folding laundry, the stamina in gym class that none of the other girls had and how she had to hide it so carefully and quietly because she couldn't stand out. She wanted…
Kasumi squashed those thoughts firmly. It didn't matter what she wanted. Instead, she smiled pleasantly at the dumbstruck expressions of her classmates and former friends before spinning on her heel and walking away.
A/N: This story is based on an idea that was spinning around in my head for a while: an alternative answer to why Kasumi, the heir of the Tendo dojo, suddenly dropped martial arts and picked up an apron.