This page includes English translations for the team stories. The English translations can be found on The King of Fighters: Official website, while the Japanese translation can be found on The King of Fighters XI website.
Dublin, the capital of Ireland. This old yet distinctly modern city has displayed some the most remarkable economic development in Europe in recent years. This land was covered by glaciers over 10,000 years ago, but with the influences of sea currents the cold of winter is not so sever… …or so that is how it was supposed to be.
Dressed in a tight-fitting coat, Ash continued to shiver slightly. This city, no matter how genial the climate was said to be, was still on almost the same latitude as Moscow and Hokkaido. The two turned off Grafton Street into an alley. Ireland is filled with pubs, and a few in that alley are marked with small signs. They chose one of them and opened the door. Over 10 counter or table seats were open. There were a few customers in the establishment although the time at this time one would still not call evening. It was your typical Irish pub whose customers were most likely neighbourhood regulars.
A middle-aged gentleman sat at one of the tables.
- “Hey, Ash, isn’t that the guy?”
- “Could be.”
- “Uh, excuse me, sir… ‘Are the shamrocks in bloom?’”
The middle-aged man playing solitaire stops his game and looks over at Shen.
- “…You must be waiting for someone, right?”
The old gentlemen struck a puzzled look.
- “Psh, guess not. Sorry to have troubled you, mister.”
Ash was already sitting at a seat at the counter.
- “Let’s see, I’m in the mood for a stout, but do you have anything that’d warm me up?”
The proprietor mashing potatoes on the other side of the counter responded with a friendly smile.
- “A mug of Irish coffee is just the ticket for bone-chilling times like these. Are you a traveller, then? Welcome to Dublin.”
- “Yeah, I’ll take one of those, too.”
Their hot cocktail included sugar, fresh cream and coffee to a base of Irish whiskey. The aroma of the skilfully prepared concoction spread throughout the pub.
- “How about a hand since you appear to have the time?”
The old gentleman they had approached earlier invited the two while shuffling his deck of cards. A second look at the man proved he was of considerable height. Although his hands and feet were slim, he by no means could be referred to as frail.
- “Heh, heh, heh, sounds good. I’m up for a hand!”
- “Oh, brother. You’re really are a sucker for games of chance.”
- “A game of poker, perchance? Or would the game, judging from the location, be bridge?”
- “That would be England. Poker would be just fine for me. Well then….”
Dealt one by one in precise intervals, neat stacks of five cards lay before the two.
- “It’s okay to place bets for each card dealt, but let’s take it slow to begin. …Shall I open?”
- “… …”
Shen’s expression became focused. He smirked to reveal what he had wished to keep hidden. Ash giggled, but, then again, he always did. Compared to the model poker face of the middle-aged gentleman, their faces revealed more stories than the front page of today’s newspaper.
- “Naturally I’m in.”
- “I fold.”
- “Already? No one folds after the first deal!”
The unhappily tossed cards all fell face up: a king, a five, king, five, five.
“Tough break. Maybe the next hand.”
The middle-aged gentleman skilfully snatched up the cards without making a sound.
- “Hey, Shen.”
- “You know what “poker face” means, don’t you?”
- “Are you messing with me? Of course I’ve heard of it.”
- “Well, OK then.”
The gentleman, after displaying a shuffle with dexterity of a magician, had Ash cut the cards. The snap of the cards was delightfully crisp.
- “Your card-handling is impressive. I should be paying for the honor to see such a display.”
- “Much obliged.”
He began to deal the cards again.
- “By the way… ‘Are the shamrocks in bloom?’”
- “Hey, Ash, been there, done that already.”
- “‘They will be, if you wait until spring.’”
- “Wh-…Hey. What was that little drama before?”
- “Open the game.”
Shen grumbled with dissatisfaction, checked his cards and grew more irritated.
- “Jeesh, Shen.”
- “Yeah, I know, ‘poker face,’ right? But more than that…”
- “Later, later. First, let’s play this hand. I’m in.”
- “Hmph. This is bogus! I fold.”
- “…I raise.”
The middle-aged gentleman requested a raise in the wager. But there was no indication of any money, not even a tip, on top of the table. His colored glasses reflected the lighting inside the pub so the movement of his eyes remained a mystery. Or perhaps the tilt of his head was calculated that way on purpose.
- “Hmm. OK, I raise, too.”
- “I raise again.”
- “That’s the second raise for this hand, right? Well, I raise again.”
The two continued to up their ante, but there was still no indication of money or a tip being placed on the table. At this point, the middle-aged gentleman brought the small whiskey glass placed on the edge of the table to his lips.
- “Hey, Ash, just what are you betting on?”
- “Whether this guy will fight alongside us in the upcoming KOF. Didn’t I tell you that?
- “No, you didn’t. And if you lose, what happens?”
- “I pay him with no catch. Of course, if I win I’ll still pay him but he participates in KOF.”
- “Then you’re out of luck no matter the outcome.”
- “I’ll be bringing a long-retired Karnöffel master back into action; that’s about it.”
Shen asks again about the unfamiliar term, but he misses his chance owing to the advance of the gentleman’s game.
- “All set, then? Showdown time! I call.”
Shen thrusts forward to observe Ash’s hand. Jack, queen, seven, seven, seven. Three of a kind.
- “…Somehow it looks like I lose.”
With his hand still face down on the table, as the expression of the middle-aged gentleman changes for the first time, he tilts the glass back and finishes off whiskey.
- “The name’s Oswald. As for this undertaking, I accept.”
Both Ash and the disapproving Shen clasp Oswald’s extended hand and shake to conclude the negotiations.
- “Well, we should discuss the particulars…. Let’s change our venue, shall we?”
As the three rise from their seats, the owner, idle up till now, rushes over to clean up. Ash places a few bills on the table.
- “Thank you for your hospitality, my good man. It was impeccable. Merci. ♪”
Oswald’s hand still lay face down on the table. Oswald puts his coat on at the door, and is already in the middle of making his exit.
Once the three leave, the tension in the pub eases and things return back to normal. The owner turns over Oswald’s hand, which had been left face down on the table. Spade, club, heart. And three aces.
When the owner turns around while incredulously tilting his head, Oswald is standing there.
- “Excuse me, I forgot my hat.”
Oswald removes his hat from the coat hook, places it on his head, and fixes his gaze on the owner over the top of his glasses as he adjusts them with a middle finger. Beads of sweat run down the owner’s back.
- “Well, then, cheerio!
Fatal Fury Team
“Hooray for Kim!”
“We’re rooting for you!”
Kim and Terry are waiting in the airport lobby while Chan and Choi serenade them with feigned, no two-faced and half-hearted cheers. This unprecedented combination was arrived at by a series of twists and turns. When Mai, irritated at Andy’s repeated absences and tired of acceding with the usual “Well, if you two have to enter together, then I suppose it’s OK”, proactively insisted on taking a vacation with him during the period scheduled for KOF, Joe Higashi also took himself out of the running because it overlapped with the Muetai title match. Tizoc, who had joined the team last year, had already entered on another team, provoking Andy to think outside the box.
Just then, as if Heaven-sent, a possible candidate nonchalantly waddled walked by.
“Terry, is that you? You sure have changed.”
Clad in his usually flashy attire and wearing sunglasses, Duck flashed his familiar Mohican hair style, unique gait, and affable mood. This reunion with Southtown’s minor celebrity Duck King gave Terry the feeling that light was at the end of the tunnel. Even more:
“KOF? Great, I’m in. Just the thing to take me out of this current bout of boredom. ♪”
Having secured his assent then and there, the harsh features of Duck’s face, in Terry’s eyes, underwent a miraculous change and he was looking into the face of God.
“Well, Terry, what about the other guy? You need a team of three for KOF, don’t you?”
“Well, I have one possibility…”
Terry intended to rely on the better nature of the Korean Team led by Kim. Since Choi Bounge had sat out last year’s tournament owing to the participation of Jhun Hoon, it stood to reason a little shake-up this year would do no harm. This year, however, Jhun was not scheduled to enter, so the breaking up the team might prove a little…challenging.
“Tsk, tsk. If you can get Kim to join, then, that’d solve everything, right?”
“If Kim agrees to join our team, I could rest a lot easier, but that’s probably impossible.”
“It would put Chang and Choi on the sidelines. They’ve trained for KOF all this time. They’d be crushed if we knocked them out of the picture.”
Duck made an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders: what am I gonna do with this guy?
“Uh, Terry, just think this through.”
“? Uh, OK.”
“Aren’t Kim’s two disciples taking the initiative and joining KOF on their own?”
“Go Terry! Go Duck! Hooray!”
“We know you’re gonna win, all rightey!”
In contrast to the hesitant Kim when this matter was broached, Chan and Choi were at the point of dancing a jig of full approval for Terry’s proposal. Naturally even now they’re completely being it.
“Master Kim, sometimes you have to strike out on your own to take on higher level contests.”
“Rightey-oh. That way we can train with a long-range plan toward the next KOF.”
The two had not forgotten to embellish and justify their own sentiments. Even now when the three had boarded the plane they celebrated their departure and heaped on their praises as they waved a tiny flag. Whatever he knew of the two, if Kim had wanted to find fault, he would be unable to even find even an inkling.
“Well, no ‘education’ or ‘rehabilitation’ this time, eh? A little disappointed?”
“Not at all. Ha, ha, ha…”
His usual refreshing grin, too, somehow lacked its keenness. At this rate would he be able to give 100 percent during the tournament…? Terry came up with a plan and nudged Kim with his elbow. He hushed the tone of his voice so Duck, sitting on the other side of Kim, could not here what he was about to say.
“Hey, Kim. It’s about Duck, but I wonder if his future is OK, being who he is and all.”
“I mean, if you think about his future, KOF may be just the opportunity to provide him with a little ‘rehabilitation,’ don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I see…You sure have got a point there, Terry.”
Kim regained some of his old zeal, and folded his arms to consider the possibilities. Now came Duck’s turn to nudge Kim from the other side.
“You know, Kim, I’ve been thinking,” he whispered,
“about Terry. Just how long do you think he can keep up that jobless vagabond routine? I worry as a friend, mind you.”
“I think you, Kim, are just the guy to ‘educate’ him about a life more meaningful, eh?”
“Yeah, I see… You sure have got a point there, Duck.”
Kim became even more high-spirited. He flexed his crossed arms. With this new sense of purpose as he looked toward KOF, he was unmistakably on his way to gradually reaching the top of his game. The airplane carrying Terry, Kim, and Duck soared up into the Southtown sky.
“…They’re gone, big guy!”
“Those two have no idea what lies in store for them with Kim in their grills, do they?”
“Not a clue.”
“I’m kinda looking forward to see how their ‘rehabilitated’ when they get back.”
“I’m getting a tad misty without him around.”
“Yeah, just a tad.”
“Stick ’em up!”
The gun-wielding man hollered this out in the reception room the small bank. After some of the few villagers recovered from the shock, they raised their hands and a blond Japanese and black-haired youth winked and obeyed.
(Are you sure about this? Nikaido)
(This’ll be a snap…… But he’s packing a shotgun, so we’ll have to wait until he shows an opening.)
The South of France, a small town of a few thousand. Having arrived here to meet up with someone, Benimaru Nikaido and Duo Lon for the time being opt to feign helplessness and raise their hands over their heads. Were all things normal, Benimaru would have by now neutralized the thief with an over-the-top display, but, even more unfortunate still, there were no women under the age of 50 in the bank.
The town was your typical, small agrarian village, replete with a church and small shops at its centre. It was bustling with livestock, and cows and horses could be seen sauntering through town. Although a bank, it only had a staff of four and the building was ancient without the slightest hint of ostentation. Aside from Benimaru, Duo Lon, and, presumably, the bank robber, the other customers were all locals.
Had they not been invited here by Ash Crimson’s “acquaintance,” there would be no reason for their presence here. They had dropped into this bank to ask for directions and had the misfortune to run into this robber, but this was no pickle they could not easily extricate themselves from
“F-fold your hands behind your head and eat the ground! Hurry!”
The thief was clearly in a state of panic. His lips trembled faintly under the brim of his cap, and the muzzle of his gun dangled up and down, left to right. Inside there were no screams, and the events proceeded with an eerie silence. Gazing through the glass in the wooden frame of a window more suited to the décor of a country home than a bank, one could see a cow pass by a small truck loaded with straw. The sunlight here in Southern France was gentle even in winter and made their predicament of having to suck in the tense air on this side of the glass seem all the more absurd..
(So, what’s your plan…?)
While awkwardly sprawled out on the floor with Duo Lon, Benimaru was the portrait of cool, even having the time to drink in the local ambience. Just how many people would be able to savour the pastoral mood beyond the window while being held hostage by a bank robber? Aside from Benimaru, probably no one.
(What is it, Nikaido?)
A white horse passed by the window.
(…I told you didn’t I? A horse.)
(…That’s a horse all right.)
A whip was placed on the white horse’s back, presumably by the woman now straddling it. Her face was positioned up high, but Benimaru and Duo Lon being sprawled on the floor were just at the right angle to exchange glances. The woman arched her back, gently took the bridle, and snatched up her whip. Her hair was in a bob and her lips were pursed, creating quite the noble air about her.
She was quite the beauty, but Benimaru was. He was, after all, threatened by a bank robber, sprawled prone on the floor, and subject to someone else’s whims. You could call it the worst way to meet someone new, so he had only but to rethink his attack then wrap this situation up in a pretty bow.
Just as Benimaru resolved to do move into action, that young lady on the white horse stormed through the bank’s front entrance, horse and all. When she thrust the whip at the bank robber from her high perch, she loudly declared:
“I command you! Throw down your weapon and surrender.”
The robber was not the only one taken off guard by surprise. The voices that called out seconds later were those of the villagers taken hostage.
“It’s Mademoiselle Elisabeth”
At the echo of the voices of those in the bank everyone felt that the danger had abated, but there was also a rather undeniable feeling of pity towards the bank robber.
“H-hey, lady! Can’t you see I’m armed?”
“My eyes are still flashing. Are you okay, Duo Lon?”
The bank robber was taken down in an instant. Just now did it happen? A brilliant flash had emanated from the hands of this woman called Elisabeth, and the robber along with the others were blinded and dazed. When they were finally able to look around, they saw the robber had already been hog-tied on the floor. Once he was handed over to the police who’d since rushed into the bank, Benimaru and the others were released. The hostages were each interrogated in succession, but there was no mystery behind their involvement in the incident so there were no prolonged formalities.
The woman who moments earlier had been referred to as Elisabeth stood before Benimaru. The woman was of considerable stature and her back still arched, as it was when she was on horseback. Benimaru gave her his name, and after he introduced Duo Lon began to talk with her in his typically joking tone.
“Well, I suppose you had to do that to catch the robber, but I’d of liked to hear at least one word of apology.”
“If you have any complaints…”
Elisabeth responded dauntlessly. If you have any complaints, how about standing up and showing what you can do with your fists before you show me your tail by curling up on the ground.
“Hey, that’s out of line! We acting with the safety of the hostages in mind.”
“Oh, really now? Talk is cheap.”
Elisabeth swatted down Benimaru’s protestations.
“Well, take it easy, Duo Lon and Benimaru. I know you went out of your way to come see me, but the Blanctorches have no desire to associate with cowards. This conversation is over.”
After pivoting on her heels, she started to walk straight out the room. Benimaru gave a little whistle.
“You got a lot of nerve summoning us all the way to France, Madamoisel Hoity-Toity… But sometimes a little nerve can be a good think too.”
“Yeah, hold on there.”
Duo Lon called out to behind the quickly exiting Elisabeth. For the excessively laconic Duo Lon, this was a rare happening indeed.
Elisabeth stopped dead in her tracks.
“I thought you’d know about that.”
“You did your research. Just like a descendant the Flying Brigands. I’d say.”
“I heard your kind of Flying Brigands had been wiped out by “Lon” your leader. But nevertheless…”
Benimaru took his cue to interject.
“Now it’s my turn to ask the questions. Kusanagi, Yagami, Mukai, Orochi, have any memory of hearing names like that around these parts? We were in last year KOF. We know things you couldn’t imagine.”
“…Very well. Fill me in.”
“Well, you should be sounding us out on this, but do you suppose you could join our KOF team?”
“I’ll make my decision after I hear what you have to say. Jacques!”
The old man who up till now been entrusted with the horse’s bridle obeyed and drew near.
“Since I shall now go home, please guide these two to the mansion.”
“Very well, mademoiselle.”
“Well, the, I shall see you later. …Ha!”
She had already straddled her white steed and dashed off like the wind. It was a scene that made one wonder, is this really the 21st century?
“The mademoiselle is curt by nature. Don’t take it personally.”
The old man called “Jacques” bowed apologetically in Elisabeth’s place. He had two bridles his hand. Naturally, at the end of these were connected two horses.
“The mansion beyond that ridge over there is our destination. The horses know the way. Well, then, on your way.”
Benimaru and Duo Lon, having been advised to be on their way, were once again looking up at the muscular physiques of the two horses.
It was well after sunrise when the two men walked up to Blanctorche Manor with the bridles of the two horses in hand.
Over a dozen soldiers in full dress gather at the graveyard on the city outskirts in the midst of a sudden downpour. A coffin and the deep hole it’s destined to rest in have been readied as a passage from the bible is solemnly read from.
“No matter how they’re performed, I hate funerals. You with me, Clark?”
Ralf whispered at a level scarcely audible through the noise of the rain.
“Especially for a fellow contractor.”
Clark removed his sunglasses, revealing the wistful expression on his face. The two had a long association. Ralf tacitly understood what Clark was about to say.
The man supposed to by lying in the coffin had been 59 at the time of his death. He was at an age that had he lived a normal life, he’d probably have had a wife, children, maybe a grandchild or two, and would soon be ready for a carefree retirement. In actuality, though, he had been lugging explosives around the world’s hot spots until the time of his death. He most likely had no family, and even if he did spent most of his accursed life away from them. That, or he had soon separated from his family, having been driven violent by the horrors of war, and led a solitary life. And at this funeral, life’s final ceremony, the only person who was not a soldier among the attendees turned out to be the priest. The priest closed his bible, and in his place the soldier leading the ceremonies gave the order.
“For the soul the brave of a brave soldier cut down in battle, Jim Oldgate…”
The tone of his voice was undeniably one of grief for his fallen comrade, but the quality of his practiced delivery suggested he had sent off a number of men up till this point.
Barring the priest, everyone in attendance raised their right hand in perfect unison. Included in the front row along with Heidern stood Ralf, Clark, Whip and Leona. Whip held a small white flower in her left hand.
Only his dog tag and that white flower were placed in the coffin. The flower in Whip’s hand was a favourite of the departed. His actual remains, however, had been blown all over the battlefield, impossible to retrieve
When the salute ended, the coffin was placed into the ground and buried. The soil soaked by the rain fell on top of the coffin, producing mercilessly loud thuds. Once the work had ended, the soldiers dispersed alone or in tight groups.
“Ralf, Clark, a word, please.”
The one-eyed man dressed in a formal uniform of the first rank called Ralf, Clark and Whip to stop.
“I’m going to have you three join KOF again this year. And, naturally, this is an order.”
It was just as they had predicted. But the exclusion of Leona weighed on their minds. Must be due to the fact that…
This confirmed Ralf’s very fears, and not only that Heidern continued, “However…” It’s almost certain that they’re trying to exploit the power of the Orochi in some form. In the previous tournament they succeeded in unleashing the Orochi, perhaps as the first step toward that end. Under that influence, Leona had temporarily lapsed into unconsciousness. It would be a rather difficult task to return her to normal.
And there’s one more thing to worry about.
“Commander, I think it may have something to do with this mission but…”
“What is it?”
“It’s about the giant airship we reported to you during our mission directly before our participation in the previous tournament. I thought some details remained unclear.”
The one-eyed mercenary replied without a change in his expression or the tone of his voice.
“…We’re still looking into that matter.”
“Is that so? I couldn’t get it out of my head, being such a peculiar incident.
“You’ll be briefed if we learn any details. Meanwhile, concentrate on your new mission.”
“The infiltration party will consist of you three―Ralf, Clark, and Whip. Dismissed.”
The three stood at rigid attention as they watched Heidern walk off. The first one to break the ice was Whip.
“Well, there’s something you don’t see too often, huh Captain?”
“Commander Heidern lied to us.”
“What do you mean, ‘So?’” snapped Whip, not making an effort to hide her displeasure.
Whip went on to explain that the ones putting their lives on the line for this covert investigation were themselves. If they weren’t going to receive the information they needed, just who would be taking the greater risk?
“Whippy, do you know the name of that flower you’re holding?”
It was the last one remaining from the funeral offering. In Japanese it’s called a “kobushi,” a flower of the magnoliaceae family.
“Yeah…it’s a magnolia.”
“In the language of flowers, that’s ‘trust.’ Just how long do you think Clark and I have been with the Commander? If he decides there’s no need to tell us something, he won’t.”
Whip still had something she wanted to say but managed to suppress the urge.
It was Clark who had up till now kept his silence, but his eyes twinkled behind his sunglasses.
“I can’t believe Ralf actually used the expression ‘in the language of flowers.’”
The laughter of Ralf and the others faintly reached the ears of Heidern, who had put some distance between himself and the graveyard. This time Heidern was supposed to lead quite…perhaps a force the size of a small country’s. It was certain that he was keenly aware of the weight of his responsibility, but there was another reason beside that for his melancholy.
(Adelheid…. Surely that was the name of that young man.)
Leona was close nearby. The silent girl soldier made no attempt to brush back her blue hair dampened by the rain.
(You are not the only one to suffer from the fate of your bloodline…)
A bar somewhere in Southtown. The backdoor opened just as the clock indicated two minutes after six. The invigorating aroma of lime and gin wafted within the bar that had just opened.
- “…You’re two minutes late, right?”
The beautiful woman in the flower of her youth with her elbow on the bar and gaze fixed on the clock whispered as she ascertained the noise of the door opening behind her.
The request for the three agents to enter KOF and carry out their investigations had been made the previous day. The actual client remained confidential, but the request had come through Seth, who served as liaison, and the three most capable agents suited to this mission were selected. Vanessa and Ramon had been sitting at the bar since a few minutes ago, with Blue Mary, a.k.a. Mary Ryan, the last to arrive.
- “Hey, get it together. Two minutes could be fatal in our line of work.”
- “I’m no fan of overly serious people, but when the going gets tough… Get me?”
As she was received her ribbing in stereo by two who were typically loathe to find fault with others, Mary removed her jacket and plunked herself down on the stool next to Ramon.
- “I’m sorry. I won’t make the same mistake again.”
The duo seemed convinced by her apology, at least for now. Although there is no meddling in the matters of others among freelancers, each party is compelled to perform their respective duties to perfection―face every difficult request to the best of their abilities.
Nevertheless, after a brief toast and confirmation of a few matters, the three soon engaged in chit-chat.
Seth had already informed each agent of the details and course of the investigation beforehand. And they were all familiar with each other’s style of combat. There was a tacit understanding among the members that they had no need to stay with each other to train for the tournament, and if they did what they had to they were otherwise free to do what they had to. They were all adults here.
Quickly polishing off her beer, Vanessa called the bartender to explain a cocktail recipe to him. The other two were interested how it would turn out. For a faithful beer drinker like her, this was rare behaviour.
- “That’s three ounces of gin and an ounce of lemon juice. Add two spoonful's of sugar and blue Curacao to the mix. And finish it off with some sparkling wine….”
- “Isn’t that…a ‘Blue Mary’?”
Mary was familiar with this recipe although she had never heard it before, or had she? No, this cocktail surely was not anything she’d committed to memory….
- “Oh, you’ve heard of it?”
Vanessa seemed delighted by Mary’s seeming familiarity with her request. The refreshing sound of the shaker was already clickety-clicking behind the bar.
- “I learned it during my old days at the national training institute. It’s called…”
- “Yeah, yeah. Butch. Wow, that’s a shock. Do you know him?”
The contents of the shaker were poured into an ice-filled wine glass, which was then filled to the brim with sparkling wine.
- “He was younger back then, but he sure was quite the officer. If I’m not mistaken, he wanted to be assigned to the special services, but I wonder what he’s up to now.”
- “…He died.”
All went silent. Only the sound of fizz from the sparkling wine faintly crackled into the gloom that had insinuated itself among them.
- “My father and Butch were colleagues. Both of them were in the president’s bodyguard detail with the special services.”
Mary spoke in a flat monotone, as if reading an old newspaper article. It happened during the assassination attempt on the president a few years ago. The assassin’s bullet fired at the president during a parade. The two special service agents guarding the president died in the attack. And both of them were related to Mary….
- “Yeah, now I remember. That incident became big news in Mexico as well.”
The glass Ramon nursed in his hand was covered with sweat, dampening its coaster.
- “This leather jacket was a present Butch gave me. He also taught me the Command Samba. It took me quite a long time to recover from that loss.”
Mary tried to lighten things up with a smile, but it was clear to anyone who saw it that her smiling face was forced. The bartender behind the counter silently polished a glass, but kept an ear bent to take in their conversation.
- “…These days I’ve been a bit off my game, haven’t I.”
Mary muttered this after a considerable amount of time had elapsed.
- “Are you still worked up about that? It’s not like you’re Japanese―two minutes is nothing!”
- “Yeah. That was just a little verbal jab to break the ice of our first meeting.”
Mary calmly shook her head. No. I used to be quick with a smile. But these days…
- “I’ve just got to regain my composure a little, that’s all.”
The door to the bar suddenly flung open to let a throng of barhoppers flood in. It was almost time for things to start picking up at the bar―a bit too “wholesome” for a trio of agents to chew the fat over old times. The three got the hint that it was time for them to leave.
The city had now fully taken on its nighttime mien when they left the bar. Everywhere they looked, buildings rose into the sky like walls, and from every wall lights winked and blinked to encourage the jovial mood of those below.
- “I think you can wait until tomorrow morning to ‘get your composure back,’ can’t you?”
Ramon attempted to entice his new, blue team member into some real merrymaking.
- “I know a place nearby where I can treat you to some tequila that will curl your toes.”
- Over the mountains,
- far to travel, people say,
- Happiness dwells.
- Alas, and I went,
- in the crowd of the others,
- and returned with a tear-stained face. *
A small girl plays alone in a narrow park facing the parking lot of the massive general hospital.
- “That girl is Diana, isn’t she?”
Kula asked the tall woman at her side. The girl was always here at the designated time and remained here for a certain amount of time. Pale and slight, her play, if one can call it that, consists solely of a short-lived sit on the swing.
- “Would you like to be her friend, Kula?”
- “…Uh, huh.”
I’ll try to talk to her tomorrow. She looks like she’s so alone. She must be about three years younger than I am. She always comes out of the hospital, but I wonder if there’s anything wrong with her. I got it. I’ll introduce her to Candy, too, if things work out. I’m sure she’d hit it off with Candy, too.
The following day the girl never came to the park even though it was her usual time. Kula sat on the swing all by herself and gently swang back and forth. She looked up at the square of sky visible above the buildings. The puffy white line of a jet stream floated in the high, high sky The white trail drawn in the sky faded slowly as time passed.
- “It seems she died yesterday, Kula.”
- “Uh, huh…. I thought so.”
Diana leaned her back up against the support bars of the swing.
- “She had a series of surgeries, but she couldn’t pull through. They were able to extend her life through certain procedures, but she just gave up."
- “They attached various machines to make her heart and things move.”
- "…That girl didn’t want to go on living, did she?”
- “Oh, heavens no. Why do you say that?”
But I’d do anything to keep on living Kula said to herself. This body, too, isn’t normal. I wouldn’t mind ending up like Candy. If I can go on living. Or…
- “Or maybe there’s something different between me and that girl.”
Diana was dumbfounded by Kula gazing fixedly into her eyes
- “Uh, Diana. What’s the difference between that girl and me?”
- “I’ll return your memories to you.”
I’m sure that’s just what he said. But my memory that was supposed to have been restored is nothing but vague images and fragments. Just how many memories were planted, and how many are actually mine? Why do I continue to fight? K’ had the feeling he had seen this small town he was supposedly visiting for the first time somewhere before. As he walked around, he recalled a variety of memories. But these were not memories that man had promised to restore but memories he himself never had superimposed over his own. N.E.S.T.S., KOF, Maxima, Kula, Kyo Kusanagi, Ash Crimson…Mukai…. If the true memories of my past ever return, just what will happen to those memories I’ve made up till now?
- “…Hmph. I’m definitely not myself.”
I’ll leave worrying about things like that to Maxima and the others. The only worries I should have are how I’m going to settle my accounts with the likes of Ash, Kyo Kusanagi, and Mukai―each and every one of them.
Looking up at the sky in this unfamiliar town, he sees a single jet trail. I’ve seen this cloud somewhere before. That is, I think I have. (Whose recollection is this?)
Maxima stepped on to the veranda off his room just as the mandarin orange of early morning yields to ultramarine. He craves his first cigarette in a long while and pokes around his chest pocket, then he finally remembers: he’d given up smoking years ago.
He can spy K’ as he looks down on the street from his veranda. He looks as if he has spent the day wandering around and is on his back home.
Maxima took some time to consider his sidekick. K’, with the transplanted strengths of Kyo Kusanagi. The supernatural being, Orochi. And the Mukai who seek that power. If people could change their own fated lot. Against the laws of nature, to survive on their own terms. That once unimaginable “Second Flame of Kusanagi” it very self…
- “Well this is a change of pace. Is something wrong?”
Fresh from his journey, K’ returns to find Maxima gazing up at the sky from his veranda.
- “No, nothing important.”
Maxima scratches his head.
- “‘Over the mountains, far to travel, people say, Happiness dwells.’…I guess.”
- “What are you talking about?”
- “Happiness lies far beyond that jet trail up there, I suppose.”
- Poem fragment: Carl Hermann Busse, “Over the Mountains”
Destroy the Way of Kyokugen.
Toward this end, Eiji Kisaragi committed himself to rigorous physical trials. Leaving home and family behind, he ran through fields and took up residence in the mountains to temper his body through painful trials.
Just how many days and months had elapsed in this pursuit? Sensing the fruits of his labours had paid off, Eiji finally descended from the mountain. There was no other venue than KOF to vindicate his honor. But to participate in that tournament, he required two other allies sympathetic to his cause.
(Yes, they too must share my rage for revenge.)
Eiji possessed confidence in his own power, but since KOF had to be a team effort, he needed not only skilled fighters but common enemies of the Way of Kyokugen…. That was to say, he needed to allies that shared his objective.
One possible team member soon came to mind: Kasumi, the expert in the Way of Todo, daughter to Ryuhaku Todoh. Eiji immediately set to find her, explain his aims, and entreat her to join up with him.
- “To win KOF…. No, should we defeat the Way of Kyokugen, that renown is sure to reach the ears of your father, Master Ryuhaku.”
- “I certainly cannot deny that! Very well, if you think I can help then count me in!”
Since this aim jibed with her original goals, Kasumi was quick to accept the offer to join the tournament.
- “Well if that’s decided there is one thing I must make sure of.”
- “And what may that be, Mistress Kasumi?”
- “Whether that rumour that Takuma Sakazaki was defeated by the mysterious miscreant is true or not.”
- “Harumph. What foolishness…”
Eiji could not even entertain the thought: “Takuma Sakazaki, defeated?” Unlike Eiji, however, who had been living in self-imposed exile on a mountaintop, Kasumi, in her limited contact with the city around her, had often heard this “rumour”―an urban legend, perhaps? Kazumi had even nosed around the neighbourhood of the Kyoku Karate dojo.
- “Yeah, Takuma was beaten senseless by some thug―Heard he’s in the hospital now.”
The truth was plainly obvious. Kasumi rushed to the hospital, for how could the housewife living next-door to the Kyokugen dojo be wrong?
- “Forgive me, Yuri. If I weren’t in such a sorry state…”
- “Father, you promised not to mention that.”
- “I just have one regret. Never seeing the third generation of Kyokugen… Ack! Gah-ha!”
- “Master, I told you not to strain yourself!”
(H-how could this be happening?!)
Kasumi, who had been watching this play out as she hid in the shadows of the nurses’ centre was amazed at this shocking turn of events: Takuma Sakazaki? Knocking at Death’s Door?!!!
- “What do I do? What should I do…? If Father hears about this it would kill him for sure!”
- “It’s just one big case of hypochondria!”
- “Yeah, hypochondria, and it’s terminal…Huh? Hypochondria?”
- “Shoosh! He’ll hear you!”
In contrast to Kasumi, intending to hide herself clumsily in the shadow of a pillar, the somewhat smaller young girl slinks along the walls undetected with sleek, cat-like movements. Spying Kasumi, she notes that the patients and nurses are shooting her suspicious glances, but no one takes not of this girl here. Kasumi is completely oblivious to the vital difference between herself and she.
- “Weren’t you in last year’s KOF tournament with Athena and Hinako?
- “Uh-huh. The name’s Malin. You must be, Kasumi.”
- “So, Mistress Malin! Will you do us the honor of helping us out?”
- “You betcha! I’ve been looking for someone to join forces against those Kyokugen creeps, too! So you came along at the right time!”
Kasumi and Malin, having taken their business to a coffee shop near the hospital, summon Eiji to let him in on the developments. The proposal for Malin to join their team is also broached, thereby bringing about the auspicious beginning of the “Anti-Kyokugen Team.”
- “Well, that’s that, but what of that previous matter regarding him faking it all?”
- “Huh? He can’t be faking something like that.”
How could anyone be taken in by that two-bit performance? Does this girl really have what it takes? Malin saw right through it, but just hemmed and hawed like some braying donkey.
- “I checked it out. There’s no mistaken it.”
Malin pulls out a weekly from the coffee shop’s magazine rack, her forehead crinkling with concentration. A special article on the upcoming KOF tournament opens the publication and some of this year’s prospective team groupings are included along with the contestants’ photos.
- “Hmm, so why would Takuma Sakazaki pull something like that…?”
- “Beats me; I’m no psychic.”
Malin pulls out a ballpoint pen and begins to scrawl things all over the magazine.
- “By the way, what’s your reason for holding a grudge against the Kyokugen, Malin?”
- “They’re always finding fault with my fighting style; so what if I use weapons?”
- “Ha, that’s ridiculous.”
A little chuckle ushered out from under the mask that covered half of Eiji’s face.
- “I’m of the mind that even heavy firearms are fine―combat’s supposed to be all about the clash of weapons, am I wrong? Against weapons? Ryo Sakazaki, what a priss!”
- “I’m not talking about Ryo; it’s Yuri’s who gets my goat.”
As the conversation continues, Malin continues to doodle busily. The picture of Yuri in the magazine now includes a cross-shaped scar on her forehead and a copious collection of protruding nose hairs―a bit of graffiti overkill, perhaps?
- “Well, well, we each have our reasons to fight. In any case, we stay together until the end of the tournament. Agreed?”
- “Agreed. As the honor of the Way of Todoh depends on it!”
- “OK. Leave it all up to me, Malin. ♪”
And so the surprisingly swift formation of the Anti-Kyokugen Team was concluded. Although vastly different tenor of the team compared to last year’s incarnation gave him pause, Eiji was, for the time being, satisfied. The other two were no more than placeholders. If the situation demanded, he was prepared to defeat all of his enemies on his own.
- “Heh, heh, heh, Kyokugen stooges…this time I turn the tables on all of you!”
Kyo and Iori Team
- “So, Kagura, I guess I can’t count on your entering the next KOF tournament, huh?”
- “It’s not so much my physical condition as, well, I’m no longer…”
Chizuru Kagura, nay, Chizuru Yata, gazed down dejectedly in her hospital bed. There situation was far beyond Shingo’s comprehension, but now that her “power” as the Third Heavenly Vessel had been purloined by Ash Crimson, the young woman could no longer be counted among the ranks of Kusanagi and Yagami.
- “Honestly the only thing I’m now capable of is prayer. And I pray that Kusanagi and Yagami will join forces to fight once more….”
- “That’s in the bag!”
Shingo, for what it was worth, forcefully asserted that that was the case, but the intentions of all parties involved were anything but.
- “I, Shingo Yabuki, will ask them myself! If I get down on my hands and knees, Kusanagi, even Yagami, are sure to gladly accept!”
- “…and so I beg you, please enter this year’s KOF with Yagami, Kyo! And do it gladly!”
- ”Just what are you on, Shingo?”
Kyo, as anticipated, could offer this cruel response to the kow-towing Shingo who found him by happenstance on the street. Without giving him a second glance, Kyo quickly continued on his way.
- “But you teamed up with him before, didn’t you?!”
- “That’s because Kagura asked me. How could I turn her down? And that Yagami clown would never agree in the first place!”
The previous tournament in which Kyo, Iori, and Chizuru Kagura entered. That miraculous and seemingly magical team, a result of the subtle relation of hundreds of years among the three, reforming is difficult to imagine now. To begin with, they’ll need one more member with Kagura out of the picture, but can a substitute that would satisfy both Kyo and Iori be found?
- “If that’s the problem, I may have a solution!”
- “…What now? I’m listening, just listening, so spit it out.”
- “How about me?! The one and only Shingo Yabuki!”
Shingo’s face beamed with a smile, but there was no hint that his smile was in jest or a joke. Put bluntly, he had to be serious.
- “One of you is too many. And I’m not listening.”
The long summer day draws to an close, yielding to the waning moon rising in the eastern sky. A humid evening. The wind has died down and two wisps of smoke rising in front of a gravestone rise unwaveringly into the sky. One more shadow approaches the man lingering in front of a small grave.
- “Is that your idea of incense, Iori?”
- “… …”
A lit cigarette butt rests sideways in the incense holder at the foot of a grave. Another smolders between Iori Yagami’s lips. Their smoke climbs into the sky like two threads. Both stand on either side of the grave, faces motionless and looking in other directions.
- “I wonder how many years this year makes.”
- “…When did you start asking people questions you already know the answer to?”
The two speak in a monotonous murmur. Their usual sharp exchanges are absent. The tiny gravestone serves as a talisman preserving the peace. The chirping of the cicadas deserted by the evening can be heard off in the distance.
- “Your disciple has been bugging me every day with his yammering. Handle it.”
- “I’m supposed to be responsible for a groupie’s behavior? You handle it.”
- “…Suit yourself.”
Yagami flicks his burned-down cigarette butt to the ground, pulls out another, and puts it between his lips. Kyo, standing close by, extends his lighter. The roughly treated antique has chipped plating in a number of places and sports some sort of inscription. Its lid flicks open with a ping, then a scratch of flint and a burst of flame. Only Kyo’s right arm points toward Yagami while his body and face continue to face forward.
- “You actually need to carry around a lighter?”
- “It was a gift.”
Yagami produces his own lighter from his pocket and ignites it, lighting his cigarette as he protects the flame with his free hand. Kyo clicks his tongue and closes the lid to his lighter. The area grows a shade darker. Yagami pivots directly sideways and slowly begins to leave, stopping a few steps later.
- “… …”
- “What can I do for you, Yagami?”
Kyo responds, still facing toward the grave as he had been.
- “I will settle things with you one day. You shall die by my hands.”
- “… …”
- “But before that, we have another thing to take care of.”
- “…So it seems.”
The sound of Yagami’s gait once again echoes in Kyo’s ears. The sound gradually grows fainter and finally becomes inaudible. The lights of the graveyard switch on. The place where Yagami was standing is picked out by a dreary spotlight. A crimson stain can be seen on the butt he flicked to the ground.
The first round of KOF at its Japan venue. Shingo awaits the arrival of Kyo and Iori at the front gate of a castle designate as a world heritage site.
Far from securing a promise from the two to enter the tournament, he went ignored and even came close to actually being killed by Iori a few times. In spite of his refusing to be discouraged, his entreaties, in the end, came to naught.
Shingo remembers his own words of a few weeks ago:
- “It’s OK, then, because I’m entering your names anyway.Be sure to show up! I’m counting on you!”
Art of Fighting Team
- “Forgive me, Yuri. If I weren’t in such a sorry state…”
- “Father, you promised not to mention that.”
- “I just have one regret. Never seeing the third generation of Kyokugen… Ack! Gah-ha!”
- “Master, I told you not to strain yourself!”
A short while after Ryo Sakazaki was attacked during the last KOF tournament… Misfortune piles upon misfortune: a series of projects crucial to the Garcia Foundation concomitant to this year’s event make Robert’s participation impossible. At this rate, Ryo and Yuri’s participation will also become an undeniable reality.
- “So won’t you lend us a hand, King…? Ack! Gah-hah!”
Since the tone of Takuma’s voice over the phone seemed feebler than usual, King rushed to the hospital, making the effort to bring a bouquet of flowers just in case. But when she arrived for her visit, she was in for a surprise. Takuma, who had supposedly been hospitalized for nearly a year, appeared strangely in the pink and as muscular as ever. Yuri, too said to be worn out from nursing her father, seemed equally healthy.
- “Any-anyway, here. Flowers for you. Enjoy.”
- “Sorry for worrying you, King…. But when all of those flowers have fallen, I’ll be dead.”
- “Father, don’t be so negative!”
- “Oh, in the end to never see the third-generation of the Kyokugen lineage.”
Just then a passing female nurse peeked into the sickroom.
- “Good gracious, Mr. Sakazaki, what are you up to today?”
- “Huh? Oh, nothing. Nothing at all….”
- “My, my, my. That’s not like my usually plucky Mr. Sakazaki, is it?”
- “Y-you must have me confused with someone else.”
- “Yeah! This is just…Yeah! The last burst before the candle flame goes out!”
- “That’s right! I can count his days left on my hand!”
The nurse, looking as if she still had something left to say, pushed Yuri and Robert from the room.
- “You guys…”
King pinched the bridge of her nose as if she were getting a headache in her eye and shook her head in disgust.
- “Mr. Sakazaki, time for your examination.”
A nurse different than the one before entered.
- (Nuts, why do these nurses keep coming in here one after another?!)
- (Maybe because this is a hospital.)
The nurse, not giving a second thought to Robert’s feelings, stuck the thermometer in Takuma’s mouth in a business-like manner.
- “That reminds me, Mr. Sakazaki.”
- “W-what is it? Gah-ah Gah-ha.”
- “You wouldn’t know anything about someone, perhaps due to a lack of hospital food, sneaking out of the hospital at night recently to go to the drugstore across the street?”
- “I wouldn’t even venture a guess. Gah-ha, Gack!”
- “That person puts on a long-nose goblin’s mask to hide his identity, but you really honestly don’t know a thing about it, do you?”
- “N-nope, don’t have a clue.”
According to the nurse, the hospital patient wearing the goblin’s mask has outstanding physical abilities allowing him to easily leap over the two-meter high hospital gate to invariably buy Japanese soba noodles at the drug store. The thermometer reads 36.5 degrees centigrade. Nothing wrong here, thought the nurse.
- “…and that’s why I came to see your father.”
- “Sorry, King. I’m so sorry! …Forgive my father’s, my sister’s and my foolishness.”
Ryo bows his head to King as he referred to everyone in his family as equally foolish.
- “Enough. Anyway, I suppose you’re still doing nothing but training, huh?”
- “Huh? …Yeah, well. My students have all gone home. Now’s my time.”
A trace of the sacred is present in the dojo now free of the noise of clashing children. The floor is swept and cleansed clean from corner to corner. A fresh sakaki plant lies on the Shinto altar. Crispy pressed training wear is at the ready. Silence reigns over this space.
- “So, how is his physical condition really? Since he’s in the hospital is something wrong?”
- “Are you referring to his wound after the last KOF? That was mainly an old injury acting up again, which was treated and he was quickly released. He’s been admitted for tests this time.”
- “My father’s no spring chicken. They tossed him in the hospital for a week coinciding along with a thorough checkup. And they found high blood sugar, something with his liver, so thanks to that he’s been getting some quiet time.”
- “If he has too much free time, he may plot another incident like this.”
- “…I suppose so.”
The silence hurts his ears with the break in the conversation. Ryo eyes suddenly race around hinter and yon to come up with a topic of conversation.
- “W-well, it’s true my father’s condition isn’t perfect. And it’s no lie that Robert can’t devote himself to KOF this year. Me and Yuri need to worry about our reputation, and, to tell the truth, bringing one of my disciples to KOF would be pushing it.”
- “Then what are you going to do?”
- “It’s a good opportunity to throw in the towel. And there’s time to think about me finally getting serious about running the dojo, I suppose.
A breeze blows through all of the opened windows in the dojo.
- “I suppose you’ve reached your own “Kyokugen,” you own limit?
- “This is the Kyokugen dojo, isn’t it? You’ve reached the limit of your strength.”
- “You’ve got to be kidding, King.”
Ryo had this to say. The way of the warrior is long and deep. I’m just a tyro. I have a lot of training and battles ahead of me….
- “Then fight. This isn’t like you, is it? Fighting tournaments on the level of KOF don’t come along every day, do they?”
- “But the member…”
- “Ryo, all you have to do is now is just ask ‘Give me a hand.’”
- “…I guess so. Thanks, King. I’m obliged to you.”
- “That’s just like King. She saw right through my skillful ploy.”
- “At this rate I know I’ll never see the face of the third generation….”
- “I’ve got it, Master! As far as Kyokugen’s third generation goes, Yuri and I…Ooof!”
- “Mr. Sakazaki, there is no punching in the patient’s rooms!”
- “Anyway, time for my next plan. You two, listen up.”
- “… …”
Fatal Fury MOW Team
With its huge amount of prize money and its invariably mysterious turn of events, B. Jenet, leader of the chivalrous band of Lillien Knights has decided to enter KOF.
The House of Behrn, is a one of the world’s most prominent financial entities. And Jennie is its only daughter. But this gajillionaire’s daughter to which the epithet “well-bred young lady” no longer applies is no more. In spite of her fine breeding, her behaviour is rash. She has already set her sights on her team’s two other members. One is a wandering Chinese boxer, the other a pro wrestler.
- “Hello, is your name Gato, perchance?”
- “…If it is, what’s it to you?”
The oncoming passer-by is a tough-looking Chinese man all would do well to avoid. Looking into Gato’s grim gaze is somewhat akin to having a knife thrust before your face and significantly decreases your penchant for chit-chat―if you’re normal, that is.
- “You and me entering KOF together, what do you say? ♪”
Jenet began her negotiations without a hint of fear.
- "I’ll divide the prize money three ways: 60, 20, 20. I’ll bear the necessary expenses. As for transportation, I place the Lillien Knights’ submarine at your disposal. ♪"
- “… …”
- “Tut-tut-tut. Okay, I’ll divide the prize money equally. That should seal the deal!”
- “Out of my way, toots.”
People passing by this exchange had begun to worry for Jenet due to her inability to discern the other’s hate. This conversation was not bound for a peaceful conclusion.
- “Hey, still not good enough? Then…”
Gato forcefully shoved Jennie aside and walked on. Her pace, however did not waver.
- “How about information regarding your father, then?”
Gato stopped dead in his tracks.
- “…Just what would you like to tell me? How much do you know about me?”
- “Don’t underestimate the intelligence network of the Lillien Knights! Oh, no, no!”
Jennie chided, but over half of what she said was a false show of strength. Gato had been traveling in search of his father, who was also his target for revenge, so he had himself been trying to scare up some information here. Were anyone to ask around, they would know what he was up to. But one problem remained. Would this ploy work?
- “Have you ever heard of Kyokugen?”
It would be rare for anyone who had any appreciation of the fighting arts not to. Each year this orthodox school of karate was invariably in the running to win KOF. Takuma Sakazaki, especially, now over fifty years old and showing no signs of letting up, was pretty famous. Everyone in Southtown confident in their abilities had also heard rumors of Takuma’s assault at the hands of a mysterious assailant and his hovering between life and death.
- “Just his name…you have to be kidding!”
- “I don’t know the specifics, but if you help me out, I suppose I could expand my investigations. How about it?”
- “… …”
- “That’s decent, isn’t it? Information on your father plus a cut of the prize money―40-30-30. OK?”
- “…So, I can’t go into detail, but I have to enter KOF with that scary violent guy. Boo, hoo.”
- “Wow, that’s rough. So, what does that does that have to do with old Tizoc here?”
The pro wrestlers’ locker room, just after the match has ended. This place supposedly ensuring a sufficiently spacious area seems rather cramped when the gigantic figure of the 215 centimetre-tall Tizoc occupies it. Naturally, this room was restricted to wrestlers only, but when Jennie pretended to be an enthusiastic fan bearing a bouquet of flowers, getting to this point was a snap. Jennie forced up some more tears and continued to plead her case.
- “I’ve learned a few fighting moves myself. But…”
Being of a timid nature, be it the difficulty of getting through KOF or fighting alongside Gato is a real trial for delicate little me. No food has passed my lips for days, and I can’t get a good night’s sleep for the worry, Jennie explained.
- “Then I saw your valiant figure before me―you who never gives in to dirty tricks, the bird who fights for the children. I thought surely you’d come to my aid.”
Tizoc, listening attentively with his arms as thick as logs folded, nodded deeply.
- “I see your position. I’ll help you.”
- “What? So simply?”
- “Did you say something?”
- “No, nothing at all.”
- “KOF is known for its generous prize money. I’d have liked to have made some “Tizoc Seats” at the venues so the children could have seen matches for free.”
- “R-really? Then I’ll divide the prize money among us: 60-20-20.
Tizoc once again bowed deeply.
- “Money is no problem. It’s all about ‘heart.’”
This time Jennie nodded deeply, sympathizing with his sentiments: “You said it.”
- “But if you could increase my take just a tad, it sure would help out the orphanage―it’s having such a time making ends meet.
- “… …”
- “No, I guess I won’t push it. I’m sure you have a variety of expenses to bear.”
- “…OK. OK! I’ll make it 40-30-30. But that’s the best I can do.”
- “Oh, Captain, welcome back!”
- “How did it go, Captain? Are Gato and Griffon on board with your machinations?”
- “… …”
- “What’s wrong? Did they turn you down?”
- “No, everything’s peachy! We’re doing this gratis…”
Jennie responded dispiritedly.
- “Surprisingly, it’s hard to turn a profit when everyone’s got their hand out. Yoh, ho!”
Psycho Soldier Team
- “Long time, no see… Things going all right with you, Athena?”
Shii Kensu, having trained under Chin Gentsai’s tutelage this past year, is back. His face fiercely taut, his body tempered like steel, his body beefed up for action. His psycho power more polished than ever. Those he passes on the street cannot help looking back at this very model of a warrior…
…thinks Shii Kensu alone, no real change in his appearance being all that noticeable. Nevertheless, since his self-confidence has slightly improved, it appears his attitude is a little more majestic than usual. Athena is slated to arrive shortly at the pension where they will train for KOF. Kensu strains to pull some large objects and a small paper box packed with pork dumplings as a treat for everyone and be the first to arrive.
- “Pork dumplings…”
A girl sits on the ground cradling her knees, looking small and quiet. Her gaze slides to the box of pork dumplings as Kensu raises it. Testing her, the girls gaze shifts to the right as he moves it right. To the left as he moves it left. Clothed in a loosely fitting outfit, her puffy hair is tied with a peach-colored ribbon. Her big eyes but part of her youthful features and her age is in the vicinity of a sixth-grader.
One almost gets the impression you can hear the sound her gaze gives off. Kensu weighed in his mind the girl and the pork dumpling box a few times then sighed with regret.
- “My name is Shii Kensu, but you can call me Kensu.”
- “I’m Momoko!”
Holding the big pork dumpling with both hands, Momoko energetically introduces herself as she gobbles down her treat. …Perhaps she’s a fourth grader?”
- “Hmm, Momo-chan, is it? Are you lost, Momo-chan?”
- “Don’t call me Momo-chan!”
Momoko strongly objects. It’s just that she doesn’t know where her house is. (Wouldn’t that mean you’re lost?) Kensu suppresses his comeback, leading him to think that evinces, in some way, his emotional growth.
- “So, whereabouts is your house? Is there some sort of landmark nearby?”
- “Let me see. There are three big cherry trees in a park near my house.”
- “You don’t say? That’s right by where I’m heading. Well, shall I take you there?”
The sky on the outskirts of town is clear and the weather fine. Nothing wrong with a little walk. And I can also treat myself to a nice little chat.
- “…So, anyway, this girl’s an idol, but she’s totally hot on me.”
Climbing over the gently sloping hill they spy the well-kept lawn of the small park. Three old cherry trees stand there, and were it spring, they’d be quite a sight to behold.
- “She never tells me she’s an idol, but I’ve caught on to her.”
- “Is that so?”
- “She’s nowhere near my level, but she is a force to be reckoned with.”
- “Yeah, I know, she’s been in KOF.”
- “O-of course! You’ve done your homework!”
Kensu, his mood improved, was now talking up a storm. Each year we always top the list of possible winners, but that old alcoholic keeps insisting on joining every year so we, thanks to that albatross around our necks we often come up short. Yeah, my covering for him helps, but even a so-called Psycho Soldier genius like me can only do so much. Then there’s the kid and panda to consider, talk about rough. You probably don’t know about them, but my life sure is no picnic!
- “Ah! It’s Athena!”
- “…Say what?”
- “Momo! Just where did you run off to?”
Athena Asamiya, who had been in the park, begins to run towards them. And Momoko, too, bolts from Kensu’s side to energetically embrace her in greeting.
- “I was so worried… Oh, Kensu, too? What’s up?”
- “…We haven’t seen each other for a year, you know. That’s harsh, Athena.”
During his training in a far-off land he had eagerly awaited this moment, but Kensu now scowled at having his various hopes for this reunion ruined. And what was up with the kid, anyway?
- “Let me introduce you. This is Momoko, who at the recommendation of the Master is going to enter KOF with us.”
- “…Come again?”
- “We’ve already completed the provisional entry. You, Momoko, and I are going to be the New Psycho Soldier Team!”
New? What’s this “new” stuff? He knew that the Psycho Soldier Team sat last year’s tournament out, but what did this all mean―why not the Master, or Bao?
- “No, I mean…You we went through this with Bao, but was our only choice some grade-schooler, and to top it all of a girl? I think the Master has finally gone senile.”
- “Hey, I’m no grade-schooler!”
- “Then you must be in junior high, huh? I’m certain about that…”
- “I’m in high school!”
- “In high school?! Get out of here! At any rate this girl who looks like a grade-school student in a violent tournament like KOF…”
- “You did it again! Grade-schooler! I am not in grade school!”
With this Momoko ended her objections and flashed Kensu a “gotcha” grin somewhat akin to a high school student.
- “Hey, hey, Athena.”
- “I heard you were an ‘idol?’”
- “That’s right. That’s how I put food on my table. What about it?”
- “You’re also head over heals in love with Kensu, aren’t you?”
Kensu coughed as if he had been drinking water that went down the wrong pipe. He had realized what this girl was now talking about.
- “And Kensu is a ‘Psycho Soldier Genius,’ isn’t he?”
- “…H-he just may be.”
- “Is the Master really an ‘alkee-holic’ and an ‘albatross?’”
- “B-beats me.”
- “Do you think Kaoru is ‘creepy’ and a ‘pain in the neck?’”
- “…Uh, Kensu, may I have a word with you?”
- “H-hold on. Now just hold on, Athena. This is not like it may seem…”
The next week, KOF applied for formal entry into the KOF tournament. Among the names for their team was listed Athena Asamiya, Momoko, and Kensu, the Psycho Soldier Genius.
Adelheid & Rose
After a sightseeing flight of close to a year, the giant airship Sky Noah now once again rests in the docks where it first came into being. The alabaster-skinned man with red pupils scans over various documents presented to him and scribbles his signature.
- “Herr Adelheid, regarding the tune-up, it looks I can get her back to you in a fortnight.”
He hastily turned aside the factory chief’s amiable estimate to walk out of the dock. Now autumn, the cobblestones of Warsaw were wet, but the thick clouds covering the sky were floating on their way to the horizon. As Adelheid broke his gait hoping to dash into a nearby shop, he became aware of a presence lingering behind him. A man dressed to the nines in military attire from head to toe was standing there.
- “Still know how to ride a streetcar?”
- “…Yeah, I hear it’s just like riding a bicycle.”
Poland’s winter is an early visitor. This brief season, referred to as “Golden Fall,” offers not only a time for the most abundant harvests but also a tinge of the already severe cold of the continent.
The two men walk in concert through the city. The history and heritage of the town seems like something out of the Middle Ages, but this city, which was mostly destroyed during World War II, is actually brand new. The cobblestones on which the two trod, however, just may be over a several centuries old.
- “Has it been a year since then? …What a coincidence.”
- “You said it.”
Heidern responded without the slightest disturbance to his precise military gait. And was what he affirmed the amount of time or the coincidence?
- “So you’re here on business, then?”
Adelheid’s glance shifted to the ostentatious dress uniform. Its military origin was clear to anyone, but not a single type of seal of national origin was attached.
- “A funeral. For one of my men…. No, a friend.”
A silence and tension nestled in between the two, laced by intimacy and timidity. As if in indication of that subtle relationship, a little bird landed at a point equidistant between the two and after it chirped a moment flew off. The cobblestone road they walked along led to an arched bridge. On reaching this bridge spanning a tributary of the Wisla River, they heard the cries of a child down below.
- “I can’t do it anymore, Dad! My arm’s going numb!”
- “Don’t give up, it’s a test of stamina! I’ll get the boat closer. You reel it in. If it gets under the boat, the line will snap, so stick the tip of your pole into the water because I won’t get upset. Got it?"
The small boat under the bridge drifts slowly by. A son and father are on board, the boy’s rod having apparently snagged an extraordinarily big catch. The toy-like rod is bent to breaking, and the line, taut as a steel wire, streams through catch of the cheap reel. Only the line seems up to the current task. And it’s a wonder that it has not snapped yet. Although the two cannot understand their conversation in Polish, they recognize the familiar drama of a child pleading for help and a father offering advice, checking the impulse to step in. The child soon stops crying, grits his teeth, and starts to concentrate on handling the rod. The father manoeuvres the boat, offering brief, precise directions.
The boat gradually drifts from the bridge and flows about 100 yards downstream. On the small boat, the sight of the father lifting a large silver fish, roughly the same stature of the boy’s, can be made out. The boy is plunked down on the deck, rod still in hand. Very likely his arms are now shaking, and his face flush as he gasps for air. Adelheid slowly expels the breath he had been holding.
- “Well, that’s a relief. But why do you suppose the father didn’t try to help out?”
- “Because he’s the boy’s father, that’s why.”
Heidern’s watch beeps. Adelheid steals a sideways glance of his expression, and understands with a feeling as if he were reading through a textbook―so that’s it. A father telling his child about things is like.
- “I’m kind of jealous of that kid. I’ve no memory of my father doing that for me. Come to think of it, I’ve never even held a fishing pole.”
- “How about you? Ever been fishing?”
The sun is setting, its rays dancing off of the river’s mirror-like surface. A speck floats with the sun at its back in the sky downstream where the boy and father had been. The rotor of a helicopter becomes faintly audible.
- “…Yup. Frequently. Marine fishing is a hobby of mine.”
His slightly trembling lips and voice are drowned out by the roar of the rapidly approaching helicopter. It stops directly above Heidern and hovers. Adelheid covers his face with his arm against its howling gale. Within the roar and whirlwind, Heidern grabs onto the rope ladder dropped in front of him.
- “I didn’t want to call you by this name…. Adelheid Bernstein.
A sharp pain simultaneously shot through both of their hearts. It was a vaguely, no, in all actuality, clearly anticipated conclusion. Adelheid could find no words to respond to this fresh torment. Heidern remarked over the head of the speechless young man:
- “When we next meet, I will be…count me among your enemies.”
Inside the helicopter picking up altitude and flying toward the setting sun. When Heidern eased into his seat and closed his eyes, he let out a deep sigh quite uncharacteristic of him.
- “…I don’t recall summoning for you people. And I’m sure I designated another pilot.”
The figures of Ralf and Clark were sitting in the cockpit. Ralf was lighting a cigarette with his banged up oil lighter, and Clark looked as if he was taking in the Polish sunrise over the top of his glasses as he gripped the control stick.
- “Our mission hasn’t begun yet. Call this off time. Don’t get your blood pressure up.”
- “It appears Leona and Whip aren’t with you.”
- “We’re off to for some drinks among a few old veterans. We told the kids under thirty to take their candy and go home.”
- “…Thanks. You got me out of quite a jam.”
Heidern expressed his gratitude in a faintly audible voice. A sweet smell ill-suited to the inside of a military helicopter wafted through the air. When he opened his eyes, Heidern saw a white flower with big petals inserted into the metal clip of his seatbelt.
- “By the way, Commander, do you know the “language of flowers” for that flower?”
- “Can’t say that I do.”
- “According to Ralf, our expert in the language…Hey, cut it out, Ralf!”
- “Shut up, Clark! That gag is really getting old!”
- “Hey, Ralf! Don’t strangle the pilot…Do you want us to go down again?!”
The out-of-place magnolia flew from the helicopter, unlogged by the shaking and wind.
(I wonder if it fell into the boat that man and his son were in?)
Heidern closed his eyes again to enjoy a brief nap until they reached their destination.
- 3 p.m., local time.
One “human” is soaking up the sights of this metropolis of the Far East where Ash Crimson and friends were said to have gathered last year to form their team. His thin and small physique is clothed in Chinese vestments, his hair long. At a glance his style suggests that of a woman, but his body is flexible and covered with tautly tightened muscles. It would be difficult to discern his sex at a distance.
- "If you know your enemy as you know yourself, you can win a hundred battles…. I guess a little preliminary investigation couldn’t hurt…”
Shion is her, that is, his name. His name in this time frame, that is, but he too has finally come to take a shine to it.mAt first he was surprised in the state of human propagation, but it is surprisingly similar to that of the past if observed very closely. The more their tools and buildings change, the more they stay the same.
- “You murderer!”
As they had done continually since ancient times, shrill screams amplified by the darker side of human nature echoed through the city streets. The crowds of Shanghai thinned slightly in front of a large building. The people gathered around that area on cue of the scream thronged in unison around the exit, camera flashes illuminated a number of people, and mikes thrust forward like a ring of spears.
(…Hmm. One of those rituals called a ‘trial.’)
The accused emerged from the exit, surrounded by those called lawyers and security. Save himself, his slackly contorted smirk and those dull eyes ridiculed all humanity. Shion had seen this specimen before. This serial killer was often featured on TV and in magazines. Among his obvious crimes were the indiscriminate killings of eight victims and slicing off the right ear of the ninth during which he was arrested. A woman shrieked a blood-curdling scream in front of the fiends wall of security.
- “Murder, murderer! Someone kill him! Do to him what he did to others!”
The appeals of the woman were heartrending. Today’s decision of the court was the accused had been mentally compromised due to drug use at the time of the crimes and although sentence was passed, his term was set at 30 years. Now still in his twenties, he would be able to return to society in the prime of life.
The woman grabbed at those in the crowd as she made her appeals. Wouldn’t someone, anyone kill him? Please. Someone…?
- “You’d do. Him! Kill him! Let him at least feel a fraction of the pain he inflicted on others!”
The woman tugged on Shion’s sleeve as she implored him to action. Her hair was brittle; streams of tears and snot streaked her unmade face. Ire mixed with fear burned deep in her eyes that bulged from her face with crazed rage.
- “Hold your tongue, woman! Be gone!”
The gaze of Shion attempting to push the woman aside locked with the accused.
Then, unmistakably the accused killer laughed mockingly at him.
Shion’s hands placed on the woman’s shoulders stopped and pulled her back to him.
- “You just got your wish. Wait here.”
He gently pushed her back. This action bespoke of his power. The woman stumbled back to the ring of flash-bursts. Shion turned to take in his surroundings. There he spied a building under construction off to his side where iron pipes lay in heaps, along with other implements, a grinder, and an industrial cutter. In the bustle of Shanghai, everything was available. Shion nodded approvingly.
- “These will do.”
Seizing a lead pipe, he quickly thrust its tip into the nearby industrial cutter. Sparks flew and in less than three seconds he had cut the edge diagonally. He grabbed the improvised spear in his hands and checked its balance. Not bad!
Up till now, every human in the street had been focused on the man and his vicinity. Their enmity toward him seemed to emanate from them like smoke. Shion slowly tilted his spear, then looked up at the jagged patch of sky visible among the building tops. The giant belly of a passenger plane eclipsed the barely visible sky. Its roar drowned out every other sound. And the spear silently soared into the air.
The other sounds soon returned to the world.
An instant later the beastly screams echoed through the city of Shanghai. The spear Shion tossed into the air had somehow upon reaching its apex come to point precisely at the back of the man as he leaned forward and found its mark. The spear had impaled to the ground passing through the back of the torso, coming out of the front of the lower torso then going the front of his right groin once more. After his initial squeal, the muscular abdominal pressure burst his belly open. The concrete stairs of the courthouse were spattered with red and black gore as if someone had knocked over some chum buckets at the fish market
The pale woman now unable to scream slowly searched for the figure of Shion. He was heading toward her, brushing back his hair. Shion’s victim remained impaled and had since stopped breathing, his head and arms slumped forward like a cheap, broken doll.
After a momentary hush, the plaza began to buzz like a disturbed hornets’ nest. Some fled without looking back. Others crouched down surveying the situation around them. Some vomited on the street. It was a scene of complete chaos.
The woman knelt down at Shion’s feet, petrified with fear. Even her chin and fingertips were trembling violently. She had realized it coming here. The heart of the person standing before her was not even faintly beating. Those eyes were as cold as a shark’s swimming in the deep ocean. He had no concern for the sorrows or joys of the small fish swimming before him. His distaste for one of them drove him to bite him in two, making him nothing more than a plaything.
The woman’s cries, however, were at the volume of a buzzing mosquito, those humans around her had lost the composure to notice them. The humans wrapped in fear and calamity had become a mindless rabble.
With an utterly disenchanted look, Shion abruptly turned his back on the woman and the plaza.
- “If you don’t know your enemy nor yourself… Silly humans. One thousand years have passed and they haven’t evolved one iota.”
When referring to the whole of the world as Gaia, one of the most powerful world wills representing it is the being called “Orochi,” deeply rooted in the Far East, Japan especially.
The existence of the world will is not just a singularity. The existence of two world wills is supported by data that can be trusted to any degree. But when the scope of research is broadened, theories make the case for over 10 of these beings. Each of possesses its own particular characteristics. The Orochi being tolerates the existence of humans as long as they are a part of nature, while another that does not is also said to have once existed. The second world will mainly exerts its influence over western Europe. And there is a tribe that serves it (the Orochi Yaketsu-sho in opposition to the Orochi). Here for the sake of convenience we shall refer to this tribe simply as “they” or “them.”
As mankind abhors the wolf, so, too, do “they” hate humans. Since the age in which humans had not yet gained such influence, it is believed this tribe has persisted in this hostility. Their name comes up in various mythologies and religions through the ages. They are sometimes called “the devil,” and since their powers overwhelmingly surpass those of humans, they have been both reviled and revered as gods…
When humans exhibit power in groups as humans, however, the balance of power gradually begins to crumble. People living in ancient Europe since time immemorial have sought to crush them one at a time as if grinding herbs with a mortar and pestle In contrast with Asia, which values harmony with nature, Western Europe’s conquering, surpassing, and reigning over nature is due to their passage through this process. Or, perhaps, conversely, as they possess this type of knowledge, they have exorcised their “devils” through this long battle over several hundred years.
At any rate, “they” gradually became cornered. From the time before Christ to 600 A.D., they slowly walked their road to annihilation and the stream vanished as if disappearing in the sands of the desert. Subsequent to this, any materials indicating “their” concrete actions was destroyed.
Consequently, one world will completely vanished here.
※ ※ ※
The story shifts to the present day. Since it is a relatively recent incident, many probably still remember these. One is the “Grand Cross” in which the planets of our solar system aligned in a cross shape in 1999, and their “direct alignment” occurring in 2000.
You know the results of these. Aside from the clamour caused by some cults, these two astronomical events began and ended as quite normal events. Directly before and after these, various strange phenomena were recorded and reported, but most of these were unmistakably insignificant, unrelated events.
I’d like you here to consider the photograph here included with this document. This was secured by a certain American organization in 2000 and includes this file which has been preserved in its original form. In the centre of this picture seven to eight human-looking images appear, and this is one instance of reports and pictures provided by locals to the area which purport humanoid creatures from outer space. (This material was deemed worthless and was made open to the public a few years after the incident.)
I’d like you to pay attention to the person in the centre right of this picture. This person (?) resembles the man referred to as “Mukai’ who was regarded as the ringleader of a syndicate that clandestinely sponsored the worldwide fighting tournament “The King of Fighters” in 2003 and through his exploitation of this event released the heavily guarded Orochi by breaking the magical seal. Similarly, the woman on the left side is one of the Three Holy Vessels of the Orochi, and is possibly the same person who controls the leader of the Yasakani Clan through mind control, but this was clarified through the investigations of an outsider.
I firmly believe that the incident above illustrates a time-leap phenomenon utilizing the rare condition of planetary positioning occurring once ever few hundred years. Simultaneously, in an historic interval around that time both of these individuals supposedly appearing in different locations are unquestionably one and the very same.
I will first proffer my conclusion. They most likely individuals from the “Far-away Past Land of ‘They.’” I hope you do not find my reasoning preposterous. Below I explain the decisive key to the linking of these two incidents which, at a glance, appear unrelated…
- “…Reckless fool.”
The visible pattern tattooed over the man runs up and down his body, glowing blue. His gigantic eyes and long legs give him the aspect suggestive of an insect or reptile. At the end of his arm a man gasps for air, the hand firmly clenching his neck. The documents in his right hand rustle as the hit the floor.
Snap! A grisly sound testifies that his neck has broken like a twig. A slight man with the mien of a woman picks up the documents scattered at his feet and scans them over.
- “…That was close. Even though he’s didn’t grasp our true nature, he almost managed to uncover the core of our being. Had this been made public, I’m sure my long-planned project would have come to nothing. But we can’t avoid those few leaks at this point.”
- “That’s why I told you to take care of any humans who has seen this. …Seen the identity of the Mukai.”
- “What are you going to do? In the little time we have arrived “here,” I won’t let you say that time, information, and connections are not crucial to us.”
- “Shion, when all is said and done, you hold the Mukai in your hands….”
Shion shrugs his slight shoulders. The man in front of him swiftly shifts his shape from a reptilian being to human form.
- “Mukai, you, if you betray me….”
Magaki, having assumed full human form, shakes his arms in front of him. The air is rent with a sound like ripping paper. At the other side of the vortex can be seen an indescribable purple zone. Magaki calmly inserts his foot into the vortex.
- “I have no inkling toward betrayal. If I can enjoy a blood-boiling battle, that’s enough for me. But, Magaki, don’t go too far in your underestimation of humans, agreed?”
- “Is that you talking or parroting Mukai? You should learn to talk for yourself.
The vortex to the other dimension gradually disappears. No one but Magaki knows what goes on there.
(“Someone I can entrust with possibility?” Nonsense.)
Magaki’s face formed around that of the standard human grins ghoulishly.
- “Then so be it: I’ll have them show me just what that ‘possibility’ exactly is, won’t I?”