A/N: Damn it, just played through Mortal Kombat X's Story Mode – they gave Scorpion's wife and kid ANOTHER name. Nope, nah-uh…I'm not changing it again, it's staying as Jubei.
It was late morning next day. Sitting down and facing the waterfall, Jubei and Kasumi quietly sat next to each other on the ground, almost unblinking as they still struggled to process today's events, and what followed after they had returned home and turned everyone what had happened. Slowly Kasumi turned her head towards Jubei, who rolled his eyes towards her, before both kids turned away from each other blushing madly.
"…so…um…" Jubei finally managed to break the silence, slowly turning his head towards Kasumi.
"Yes?" Kasumi smiled, still blushing.
"Are you…ok with what Ayame-sama told me?" Jubei asked, scratching the back of his head. "I-I mean, told us?"
"It feels weird," Kasumi admitted. "But…that's a good thing, right?"
"I…guess," Jubei shrugged. He smiled, "Yeah, it's not such a big deal. I mean… we spend nearly all our time together anyway so-"
He was interrupted when he felt Kasumi scoot closer to him until their shoulders were touching. Again blushing, Jubei looked down at his feet in a vain attempt to hide his embarrassment. Kasumi just giggled, having made a game out of how often she can cause Jubei to become flustered just by being near him. She never understood why he tended to act that way around her, but it was fun to watch nonetheless and enjoyed the warm feelings that she herself experienced.
Gasping lightly, Kasumi shifted away from Jubei just as they turned to greet Ayane as she ran up to them from the direction of the Hajin Mon village, with a big smile on her face and waving her hand. The first thing they noticed different about her was her hair. It was done up in a ponytail, almost identical to Kasumi's. And for a moment, Jubei noted both looked oddly the same.
Almost like sisters.
"You're back! You didn't come home last night Jubei, I was worried!" Ayane chirped happily. She stopped smiling when she noticed how close they had sat together, and their rather awkward expressions. Also Jubei, again, was visibly injured. "What's wrong?"
"NOTHING!" both of them exclaimed at once, startling Ayane. Embarrassed, Kasumi cleared her throat and reiterated more calmly, "Nothing's wrong, Ayane-chan."
"Yeah," Jubei said. "We-"
He winced when he felt Ayane hand on his face as she looked over his bandages.
"What happened, Jubei-kun?" Ayane asked softly.
"…training accident," Jubei answered hesitantly, and not convincing enough as Ayane gave him that confused look when he knew she knew he was lying. Jubei mentally cursed Genra, not meaning it, for training her in how to read people. "A really bad training accident," again he tried to alleviate Ayane's curiosity.
"We went outside the village yesterday," Kasumi said. "And…that's all we're allowed to tell you."
Ayane blinked, appearing dissatisfied with their explanation but she decided not to press further.
Much later in the afternoon, Ayane forced herself to hold back as she and Jubei sparred before Genra and many other gathered Hajin Mon, the sight of him proven too much for her to even consider fighting properly. Dodging and blocking against the older boy's blows she withheld from striking whenever Jubei left himself open, whenever he wasn't covering his chest or forehead instead she just threw some weak punches which she knew Jubei would be able to block, and was barely able to not stop herself from being knocked down when he countered with his own hard punches.
Frustrated, Jubei caught Ayane's leg when she aimed for his hip, landing a palm blow to her chest and knocking her down, leaving the girl coughing and spluttering on the floor.
"Come on, Ayane," Jubei almost sounded like he was pleading; knowing Genra was watching them with disapproval. "You can do better than that."
Looking up at him pleadingly Ayane shook her head, "But you're still hurt."
"I'm fine," Jubei hissed down at her. "Now, before Genra hurts the both of us-"
He suddenly reeled back when Ayane socked him in the face, causing him to stumble back right before Ayane followed up with a kick to the side of his left knee and brining him down to the floor, crying in pain. The little girl was frowning all the while which no one failed to miss, especially Genra who nodded his approval and smirked behind his oni mask.
"Ow…Ayane…" Jubei moaned as he held his knee. "That was dirty!"
At this point Ayane stopped frowning, instead horrified that she had hurt her best friend and stammered an apology, "J-Jubei, I-I-"
The boy grinned and laughed out loud, "Heh…I didn't see that coming. Right, Genra-sensei?"
Genra shook his head, "Deception. Very good, Ayane."
Ayane's swallowed lightly, taken back that both Genra and Jubei praised her; and even the Tenji Mon watching the spar all approved. She smiled lightly, turning back to Jubei just in time to see him about to level a punch toward her face. Gasping, she quickly ducked her head to the side, his fist skimming past her cheek as she ducked and landed several quick blows to his chest and stomach knocking the wind right out of him and moving out of the way as he collapsed back on the ground.
Taking deep panicked breaths realising that Jubei had tried to get the jump on her, Ayane stuttered in disbelief, "J-Jubei?"
"…g-good one. Thought I had ya' there…" Jubei muttered, before he passed out.
Genra watched on, looking at Ayane with much approval.
'Most excellent,' he thought. 'Raidou, you may have contributed something worthwhile to the clan after all.'
Jubei sighed as he stuffed what few possession he had into a bag and slung it over his shoulder, a tired expression on his bruised, bandaged face. He turned to see Ayane, her hands clasping together in nervousness and a saddened look upon her face. Jubei looked down at his feet, not wanting to repeat what he had just said to Ayane then looking out the window at the night sky.
"Shiden-sama's asked me to move to the Tenji Mon so I'll be closer to Kasumi," Jubei repeated. "And Genra said I have to, so…I guess its duty, I suppose."
"But you already see her every day!" Ayane exclaimed, startling Jubei with her forwardness as she threw her arms around him, tears welling in her eyes. "Please…I don't want to be left alone."
Dropping his bag Jubei wrapped her arms around Ayane and hugged her back, "Hey, it'll be fine. We'll still see each other when me and Kasumi still come around to the waterfall."
Ayane sniffed and looked into his eyes, "Really?"
"I'm still Hajin Mon and we'll always be friends," he touched his forehead with hers. "Right?"
Ayane nodded, closing her eyes and wrapping her arms around his neck, tears still running down her cheek, "Yeah."
Afterward Jubei packed his things. With Ayane still watching with a heartbreaking expression he stepped out of the shack. To Ayane, however, it seemed like he was stepping out of her life as well.
And in favour of Kasumi's.
Early morning the next day, Kasumi yawned and scratched the small of her back through her yukuta as she pulled the covers off herself and left the warmth of her futon and walked towards her door. Opening her door she gasped lightly and covered her mouth with both hands. What she saw outside her door proved to be both surprising and amusing.
The boy himself was already waiting for her. Kneeling on the ground right in front of her door, eyes closed, head bowed and fast asleep. Obviously he had been instructed by her father to wait for once she awoke as any good servant should, but he had declined to mention that he didn't need to be awake. Kasumi smiled incredulously and patted him on the head, drawing a gasp from Jubei as his eyes shot open.
"How long were you kneeling outside my door, Jubei-kun?" she asked. She then noticed the bruise on his face and the bandage across his nose. "And what happened to you nose?"
After breakfast Ryu Hayabasa paid Kasumi's household a visit, and right now he and Hayate watched as Kasumi and Jubei sparred in the backyard, both in their sect's respective fighting style – Tenji Mon and Hajin Mon respectively. Ryu observing how the Tenji Mon favoured strength over the Hajin Mon's speed with Kasumi's blows, despite her age, were powerful enough to knock nearly break Jubei's block. Jubei lightning fast jabs forced Kasumi to keep moving lest she be struck in rapid succession.
Ryu didn't fail to notice that Jubei looked even more injured than what happened yesterday, "So…the village outcast did that?"
"Yeah, Hayabusa-san," Hayate nodded with a frown. "And her name's Ayane, and she's my sister and Jubei's friend."
"Easy, Hayate-sama," Ryu said. "I don't approve of how this village treats her, or anyone because of the circumstances of their birth, whatever they may be." He paused a bit, focusing back on the fight. "She's younger than Jubei, right?"
"And she was able to land a blow on him?" Ryu further inquired, earning a nod from Hayate. "There's potential right there."
"…father doesn't like to discuss what Genra-sensei wants to do with Ayane," Hayate stated, forlorn.
"What about Hasashi Jubei?" Ryu turned his head full toward Hayate. "Mugen Tenshin took in an outsider. Shiden-sama must have plans for him."
Hayate chuckled, "Yeah. Him and mother."
"Oh. What's that?"
They were interrupted when both Kasumi and Jubei let a loud war cry, followed by the sounds of fist making contact with each other…
"MY FACE! OWWwwwwww…Kasumiiiiiii…whhhhhyyyyy?"
…and both teens turned to see the youngsters writing on the ground, Kasumi clutching her gut while Jubei grabbing at his face, both groaning (in Jubei's case whining) after obviously landed an incapacitating blow on the other. For once Hayate didn't panic that his sister was hurt, instead sighing and motioning Ryu to help him get his younger siblings back on their feet.
"Jubei's like a brother to you," Ryu queried. "You worry for him like one."
"I guess he is," Hayate shrugged as he helped Kasumi up. "Alright, you two…time for the older boys to spar for a while."
Night had fallen. Ayane sighed as she stared at her barely eaten rice bowl, still in her Hajin Mon uniform. Glancing out the window, she wondered if Jubei was enjoying himself right now with Kasumi and Hayate, mingling with the Hayabusa clansmen as the village celebrated their continued alliance. Only the Tenji Mon of the Mugen Tenshin would be at attendance, leaving the Hajin Mon to remain within the shadows, except for Jubei – Kasumi's servant.
She bristled at that. Lowering his own bowl Genra noticed how sullen she appeared.
"You miss Jubei?" he asked.
Ayane looked up from her bowl at her master. She nodded.
"It's his duty to be by Kasumi's side," said Genra. "You will know this when the time come for you to serve Mugen Tenshin."
"Yes, sensei," Ayane answered. "I know."
Both them turned towards the door when they heard knocking. Genra answered, pulling the door back to reveal none other than Jubei, dressed a brightly coloured yakuta that had been lent to him courtesy of Ayame, and immediately Ayane came to life; smiling brightly and getting up so fast she spilled her rice.
"Genra-sensei," Jubei grinned. "Ayane-chan."
Genra returned the smile, "You're here to take Ayane to the festival, I suppose?" He then crossed his arms, leaning his face down towards Jubei's and he teased, "You're not content with just one girl, namely Kasumi-sama?
Jubei blushed lightly, and when he turned to Ayane he wilted slightly at the sight of her puffed-up cheeks and her rather pouty, red-faced glare. Chuckling nervously, Jubei stated, "Lady Ayame wished to have words with Ayane, Genra-sensei."
This gave Genra pause, "I see."
"Lady Ayame sent for me?" Ayane queried, looking uncertain. "Why?"
"I think you'll be able to ask her," Jubei smiled. "She sounded like she really wanted to see you."
Ayane blinked in surprise.
"And I was hoping you could join me, Kasumi and Hayate-san afterward."
She lit up almost immediately. Turning to Genera with a hopeful glint in her eyes, the old man nodded and gave her a kind smile.
Ayane was glad that they didn't happen upon too many people on the way to the chief's residence, having all gone to the festival that was already in full swing in the village centre. Jubei smirked as they stepped in through the front entrance and Ayane appeared fascinated that Kasumi got to live in such a big house and Jubei visited almost on a daily basis so he could be by their mutual friend's side.
Stepping into the main family room, Jubei was surprised to find Ayame was waiting for them, albeit sitting behind a screen with her back turned towards him. Lighted lamps were all around the room, giving the room a sort of warm glow that contrasted with the darkness outside and the lights of the festival some distance away. Turning around and seeing Ayane keeping her distance, he motioned for her to step forward into the light.
"Lady Ayame," Jubei said, bowing his head towards the screen. "Ayane is here at your request."
At first silence was his answer, Jubei sensing that Ayame was feeling…some kind of inner turmoil he couldn't put his finger on. Ayame then broke the silence…
"Thank you, Jubei. You may go now. Enjoy the festival."
…to what Jubei bowed his head, "Thank you, Lady Ayame." Walking out of the room he turned back to Ayane, his reassuring smile easing her nervousness some. "You'll be fine, Ayane-chan. I'll see you soon."
Ayane nodded, "Ju-Ju."
Her back still turned to Jubei and Ayane, Ayame to keep the smile off her face and the happy tears out of her eyes. In spite of everything, in spite of herself, Ayane really did have people that cared for her. Hayate, Kasumi, Jubei, they loved her, accepted her. They accepted Ayane, where Ayame couldn't bring herself to.
But starting right now, that had to change. Ayame couldn't decide if this was the right thing to do, but she felt that Ayane had the right to know. She heard footsteps as Jubei stepped out of the house, followed by Ayane kneeling on the floor. The candles in the room providing light flickered briefly, as if in time to Ayame heart skipping a beat as she worked up the courage to talk to her.
"Lady Ayame," Ayane responded respectfully, remembering what Genra taught her to say and to act in the presence of her betters. "I'm…here at your request."
Ayame sniffed lightly, and smiled, knowing Ayane wouldn't be able to see it. "Thank you for coming, Ayane. It must have been difficult doing so, with so many people making you feel unwelcome."
The girl tensed up lightly, hearing the warmth in Lady Ayame's voice. She smiled, dipping her head light in case someone saw it, and judged her as being unbecoming of a ninja. "It wasn't hard, Lady Ayame. I live to serve," Ayane said, now feeling confident in herself in the presence of a Master Ninja, and the clan chief's own wife at that. "And…those bad people don't upset me anymore."
Ayane shook her head, smiling, "I'm friends with Kasumi-chan and Hayate-sama. They…they take care of me; they show me how to be as strong as they are," her smile became fonder and she blushed lightly, "And Jubei-kun."
"I'm glad," Ayame said, sounding restrained. "I'm…very glad to hear that. I always believed your four would become friends."
Ayane's smile disappeared when she heard that, "You have?"
She heard Lady Ayame sigh and trail off, "I always believed…"
Silenced passed by, both woman and girl kneeling on the floor, Ayane still watching the woman through the screen with her back turned to her, the way the candles were illuminating the room creating a very somber atmosphere. Ayane swallowed lightly and looked at her knees, Lady Ayame's silence serving to make her feel unsure of what to say or do.
"May I ask you something, Lady Ayame?" Ayane asked.
"Anything," Ayame replied. She tensed lightly, "You can ask me anything, Ayane."
"It's about Ju-Ju," Ayane explained. "He said he thinks he remembers living here once with you and Kasumi-chan." She rubbed her arm nervously, "I...I was hoping I could find out for him, Lady Ayame."
Ayane tensed when she was met with silence. She felt herself holding her breath slightly when Ayame quietly repied, "Do you…really wish to know?"
The kunoichi-in-training reacted like she had just received her answer.
"Yes, my lady."
She could see Ayame bow her head lightly from behind the screen. "Jubei…did live here for a time. I…" the woman paused, Ayane sensing emotion creep into her voice. "…I wanted him to grow up in this household alongside Kasumi and Hayate, out of respect for his parents, where he would eventually come into his duty as Kasumi's protector. But…after you arrived-"
Ayane's eyes widened upon Ayame mentioning her.
"…I…couldn't bear keeping him knowing that I had done away with you, that I was raising him when I should have been doing the same with you. I took one look into your eyes when y-you were born, and I saw… Raidou staring back at me-'
'Raidou?!' Ayane thought alarmed. She heard that he has been exiled from the clan after committing a heinous, irredeemable crime. She couldn't help but start piecing things together.
Ayame continued, "…and every time I looked at Jubei he kept reminding me…" she paused, Ayane seeing her mouth a hand towards her face to wipe the tears away. "When he was just starting to learn how to walk I…I gave him over to the Tenji Mon and Genra so that he could be with you. You needed him more than Kasumi did."
"…" it almost felt painful for Ayane to comprehend what Ayame had just said, especially that it involved her somehow coming into Lady Ayame's life. "I-I don't understand, Lady Ayame."
"…Ayane," Ayame voice was could barely be heard. She turned her head to look at the girl over her shoulder. "The truth is…I'm your mother." Ayane gaped a little with this sudden revelation. Ayame sniffed, "Forgive me…."
She wanted to cry, to scream, to demand why it is now that Lady Ayame decided to tell her this painful truth. That all this time both Hayate-san and Kasumi were her brother and sister, and that she had been cast out and hated all her life was…because of Raidou, who she realised was her father. That Jubei, someone didn't even share the same blood as Ayame had been allowed to stay and not her, even if it had been for a short time right before he was sent to live with the Hajin Mon, and with her. And now, the Tenji Mon was taking him, her first and true friend, away from her and making sure he would always be Kasumi's side. Her half-sister's side.
Did everyone really hate her so much? Was her life really so worthless?
Ayane wanted to cry. Instead, she sucked it up and just stared at the wooden floor for a few moments. She then bowed her head, her face now devoid of any kind of emotion.
"May I take my leave, Lady Ayame?" her voice also devoid of emotion.
"…" Ayame sighed, sadly. "You may go, Ayane-chan."
The kunoichi-in-training then stood up and walked out of the living room, leaving Ayame alone. When she was confident that her daughter was out of earshot, the woman no longer stopped herself from breaking down into tears.
Candles, booths, food, all around revelry and Jubei looked like the only person that wasn't enjoying himself. He worriedly looked over his shoulder in the direction of the chief's residence. A half hour has past and still he was expecting Ayane to appear at any moment and confident that she would not be afraid to come out in public, not with him, Kasumi, Hayate and Ryu around. Speaking of whom, he realised that in the sea of Mugen Tenshin and Hayabusa clansmen here to attend the festivities he had lost sight of the others.
"Hey, Ju-Ju-kun," dressed in an adorable blue yukata, Kasumi grabbed his sleeve seemingly out of nowhere, a smile on her face and stick of takoyuki in her mouth, handing one over to Jubei. "What're you doing standing here for? Nii-san and Hayabusa-san are right over there." She pointed over at the two teens waving over to them.
Taking the stick of grilled octopus wrapped in balls of dough, Jubei bit one off, wincing slightly as they were hot and prompting Kasumi to giggle, Jubei answered with his mouth full, "I was waiting for Ayane to show up."
Kasumi's smile became even brighter, to the point that she was beaming, "Ayane-chan's coming to the festival?"
Swallowing the piece of takoyuki and sticking his tongue and waving at it in an attempt to cool it, Jubei gasped out, "Right after your mother wanted to speak to her."
"What about?" Kasumi pressed, concerned.
"Beats me," Jubei shrugged. "Something important."
"Hey, Kasumi, Jubei," Hayate approached them, smiling. "You two trying to get lost?"
"I was waiting…" Jubei started.
Only for Kasumi to excitedly interrupt, "Ayane-chan was coming here."
Hayate's brows raised themselves as he looked around past the crowds surrounding, hoping to pick out a flash of purple somewhere. "Really?" he asked. He looked disappointed, however, when he couldn't pick Ayane out of the crowd. "Did she say when she would come?"
"Err…no," Jubei replied. "Ayame-sama wouldn't keep her for long, right?"
Still in her ninja garb, Ayane knelt on the wooden floor of her shack, deciding not to go to the festival after all. Truly alone now it would seem, knowing that Jubei wasn't going to come back now that he would be waiting on Kasumi for the rest of his days like some common servant for some spoilt little princess. Her friend, her cousin, her half-sister, had absolutely everything that should have been shared with Ayane. Her mother, her brother, and now Jubei – her best friend, the only person besides Genra who truly cared for her, taken from her and given to someone who already had everything she could ever want.
And she felt absolutely nothing now; no anger, no sadness, nothing. It was all spent back at the chief's household. The moonlight shining through the window onto her reflected off the tanto as she drew it from its scabbard, face expressionless. And as if severing herself of the invisible chain she had imagined herself bound to Kasumi, she cut off her ponytail, letting her hair down.
'I don't need any of them,' she thought, determined. 'I'll show them all.'
Nine years later and that much time in service within the shadows of the Hajin Mon, there were no trace of that sweet girl left to find within Ayane. Now sixteen, she had grown into an absolute deadly ninja, the ideal kunoichi: her purple hair tied back with a black headband tied into a ribbon. She had a beautiful oval shaped face, a small, petite frame, an impressive bust for her age and a preference for purple colored ninja garb, enough for any hot-blooded male (and the occasional female) to drop their guard around her, and then death would follow for the hapless male.
Her personality, attitude, and her relationships with those she once called friends had soured considerably over the years, especially following the Dark Dragon Blade debacle two years back involving Master Ryu Hayabusa. It mostly stemmed from her jealously of Kasumi, that she had lived the life cruelly denied her – without love or acknowledgement from her own mother - where Jubei had been her only friend, and now with him being forced to be by Kasumi's side away from her, when the 'princess' already had her…they're…AYANE'S brother Hayate, was salt in the festering wound. But quickly realising how childish such jealously really was she devoted herself to perfecting herself and her abilities beyond any other shinobi in the clan, the lowly 'cursed child' rising up above everyone else.
Including Jubei, with whom she was sparing with right now within the Hajin Mon's training grounds out in the forest. She had forced him onto the defensive, the taller seventeen year old boy blocking each of Ayane's blows, obviously waiting for an opportunity to counter. Jubei Hasashi was definitely something to look at: Almost as tall as Hayate but with more of a wiry, athletic build. He was handsome looking, with his shaggy black hair kept back by that yellow piece of cloth recovered year ago – cut thin and worn around his forehead like a bandanna, contrasting with his black Hajin-Mon uniform, which he always wore whenever he was on assignment, which was sometimes alongside Kasumi.
That bit of knowledge infuriated Ayane and prompted her to break Jubei guard with a kick, knocking Jubei back some before unleashing a series of quick jabs aimed at Jubei's chest. Jubei barely was able to block them before grabbing her right hand and delivering a knife blow to the side of the head, winding her before flinging her body over his shoulder and onto the ground. Snarling in pain and frustration, Ayane quickly performed a leg sweep and hitting him in the left knee, not managing to knock him down by causing him freeze up and grunt in pain, leaving him open for Ayane to leap up at the taller boy, planting her feet firmly on his chest and push off him, levelling a spinning kick to the face that this time managed to floor him. Ayane landed on the ground, prostrated.
After a few seconds, Jubei managed to pick himself up, rubbing his back and groaning through his pained smile, his other hand nursing the bruise on his face. "I concede, Ayane-chan. The match is yours," he said, running a hand through his dirty, sweat-covered hair.
His smile faded when he noticed jaded Ayane looked, her eyes narrowed dangerously at him. Before he even knew what hit him, Ayane suddenly appeared in front of him and struck him in the gut with her knee, knocking the wind and saliva out of him, his eyes bulging out in surprise as he doubled over, right before Ayane brought his elbow down on his back and knocking him flat onto the ground, coughing and struggling to get back up on all falls.
Ayane snorted as Jubei looked up at her, confusion and hurt on his face in equal measure.
"I decide when the match is over," she declared, sounding venomous enough to freeze Jubei's spine. "Hasashi-san"
She turned and headed out of the Hajin Mon doji, leaving Jubei on the floor. He almost managed to get back up on his own two feet, right before he collapsed on the grass. Pained tears welled in his eyes; ever since that festival almost nine years ago this wasn't the first time Ayane had given him such a beating during their spars.
A/N: Yeah, happy days are over and done with. That's it for the Childhood Arc.
Yeah I'm shameless, I might have inserted Jubei as the main man in both Kasumi and Ayane's lives in place of Hayate, not that he's no longer important because, hey, he's their brother. It's because, honestly, Kasumi and Ayane fawning over Hayate is creepy as hell.
…by the way, wife and son's name is Harumi and Satoshi in Mortal Kombat X. I think it's a mistake; they were called Kana and Jubei in the comics.
Any hoo, Earthrealm Tournament Arc begins next. For now – reviews, comments, concerns?
And thanks to RealRemainder for proofreading.