King of Fighters: it's the ultimate annual fighting tournament, a place where the mighty form teams of three and battle it out in no-holds barred fighting brawls to prove ultimate supremacy. Many legends have come from that tournament... Kyo Kusanagi, the ultimate fighting warrior, Iori Yagami, the sadistic mystery man, Terry Bogard, the all-American street brawler, and Ryo Sakazaki, the martial arts dragon, just to name a few. Kasumi Todoh, while not a legend, has had impressive enough showings at KoF, where she's been invited back. Sure, she wasn't on the same level as people like Kyo and Iori, whom they begged to come back every year, or had regular teammates like Ash Crimson or K', but if there were vacant spots on the roster, Kasumi was usually one of the first people they called.
So, King of Fighters was also a great place to make friends, and Kasumi, on that bright, warm day in Jersey City, was hanging out with her most recent teammates, in the most recent KoF, the "KoF XI" tournament... Kasumi in full Way of the Tooth gear, a young man in a purple ninja's outfit that hid his face, and a bratty young woman with a gangsta-like headband and a yo-yo on one finger, all stood outside the local convenience store, sipping down extra-large sodas that they all knew weren't healthy for them.
Kasumi Todoh, Eiji Kisaragi, and Malin were collectively known that year as the Anti-Kyokugenryu team... three mid-card fighters gathered under their mutual hatred for the art of Kyokugenryu, the 'invincible' martial arts that the legendary Sakazaki family practiced, and had spread out through Japan. They had their reasons... for Kasumi, the Sakazaki family had ruined her family's business, and Ryo personally had bloodied her father to a pulp years ago. Eiji's career was derailed by the Sakazaki family... the last year's tournament was his first since 1995. And Malin... well, she was late signing up that year, and needed a team.
The XI tournament was over, however, and everyone was anxiously awaiting the beginning of the XII tournament... which might be months from now. Sure, Kasumi was honored that her teammates had come all the way to America to see her again, but deep down, she knew they were probably just wasting time until the next KoF.
And Kasumi Todoh wasn't even sure she'd go back this year if she was invited... KoF wasn't nearly as popular as it was years ago. The fighting tournament's popularity had peaked in '98, and ever since then, it'd been going steadily downhill. Maybe I should just cut my losses, she thought as she watched her former teammates taking in America for the first time, and stay here with father.
Malin, the blond-haired brat/thug girl, was the first one to speak up. "So... how's your old man?"
"Huh? Oh, he's... well, we're all adjusting. America's a... weird place."
"I still don't know why you bother staying here", the purple-clad ninja man, Eiji, spoke up. "I mean, I could understand why you'd want to get into wrestling, but wrestling in America? No offense, Kasumi-chan, but I think your old man's going senile."
Kasumi snarled, finishing her big gulp, and almost tossing it at the man. "Father's not senile. He's got a very good reason why I should join an American wrestling federation."
Malin cocked her eyebrow at this remark. "And that is... ?"
Kasumi closed her eyes and sighed for a minute, the frustration almost boiling over. If these people, whom she'd trained with for months, couldn't understand her or her father... and her old 1996 teammates, King and Mai Shiranui, were far too busy being fighting superstars to even bother with their one-time partner... then maybe she didn't need KoF after all. Crossing her arms under her chest, Kasumi looked up at the roof of the dojo the three were lounging in front of.
"Dad, why am I wrestling in America again?"
Slightly surprised, Malin and Eiji followed her gaze, looking up and seeing the old master himself, Ryuhaku Todoh, working hard on re-shingling a few of the tiles on the old world style dojo. A few beads of sweat trickled down his face from the heat of the black tar he used to set the shingles back in place as he looked over the edge.
"Easy publicity, my little opium flower", Ryuhaku, the man most simply knew as Todoh, replied. "These Americans are so fat and lazy and disorganized, that you could even topple the men with great ease. And every time you go out there, and squash a weak, worthless American wrestler, like that Felix character this week, you're showing these people just how powerful the Way of the Tooth is. That means more business for the Dojo, and more fat, lazy Americans to whip into shape."
"I don't think Felix is American, dad", the young martial arts mistress replied, "But I do see your point. When I break that Didgeridoo in half, it'll be in the name of the Way of the Tooth!"
Kasumi turned her grin back to her old teammates. "See? I told you my dad was on top of things."
Eiji nodded slightly. "Sorry I ever doubted him.", he replied, slightly sarcastically. "I think I'm gonna get going... night will be falling soon. And that's, you know... ninja time."
Malin sighed, tossing her empty cup into the middle of the Dojo parking lot, reaching into her shorts pocket and pulling out a small, blood-stained rock hammer. "I'm gonna go help control the pet population.", she said in a tone that made Kasumi unsure of whether she was joking or not.
"Yeah... you guys are gonna come watch me this week, right? This ASW is a local, New Jersey thing, so we won't be traveling around the country..."
"Sure", was the immediate reply from both, but Kasumi got the feeling she wouldn't be hearing from either of them for a while as they walked off, and Kasumi was left to pick up their trash...