This page includes English translations for the team stories. Which can be found on The King of Fighters XIII website.
The conversation was interrupted by the sound of jet engines overhead. A large bag lay at the feet of Benimaru Nikaido as he watched the plane take off. Duo Lon had nothing accompanying him. Benimaru didn't find this odd. He knew this man lived in a different world than him.
Duo Lon repeated the question that was cut off by the outbound passenger jet.
- "Kyo Kusanagi?"
- "It's pretty much just a checkup. If you're trying to determine how serious things are, Shingo's far worse off after trying to stop Yagami by himself. Just his broken bones alone are going to take several months to heal."
Even still, the fact that Shingo was even alive was miraculous. Surviving with only those wounds against Iori Yagami after Iori had undergone the "Riot of the Blood" was incredibly lucky. With his hands stuck in the pockets of his long coat, Duo Lon heaved a sigh.
- "...And you're going home now?"
- "Well, for now... There's no way he'd back out now, which means he’s going to need a team."
- "Is that how it is?"
- "That's how it is."
He nodded at Duo Lon with a smile, and then a moment later, continued with a straight face.
- "...You're looking for that man, aren't you?"
- ”That man?"
- "Don't play dumb with me. I've met the guy, remember?"
- "...That's right."
Duo Lon, a member of an assassin clan known as the Hizoku, was searching for his father Ron, who betrayed the clan. Duo Lon didn't normally appear in the open, but his recent entries into the King of Fighters tournament were most likely primarily to unearth information in regards to Ron's whereabouts.
- As he brushed his wind-swept hair, Benimaru said, “If I hear anything about him, I’ll let you know.”
- "Much obliged, Nikaido."
- “Don’t sweat it. But in return, if you find that kid, tell me.”
Duo Lon stared at Benimaru without saying a word.
- "...What kind of grudge do you have against Ash?"
- “Well, Ash did fool us all, right? I’ve got no real quarrel with him, to tell you the truth, but I bet my buddy does."
- "Watching out for Kusanagi again? ...You're like his guardian."
- “C’mon, cut it out.”
Benimaru cracked a smile again and checked his watch. He stepped away from the fence he was leaning on and prepared to leave.
- “...It’s almost boarding time.”
- "Take care of yourself."
Duo Lon indifferently tossed out his goodbye to Benimaru. Benimaru slung his bag over his shoulder and began walking off. Duo Lon's parting was cold and detached. Benimaru looked back at Duo Lon over his shoulder.
- "...You know, maybe we'll see each other sooner than we think."
- "Even so, it will be as opponents."
The descent of another commuter jet interrupted their conversation once again. After the jet wash subsided,
Benimaru turned to speak to Duo Lon again, but he found that the tall, shadowy figure was nowhere to be seen.
- "...Heh. I should have known.”
Benimaru collected his bag again and headed towards the exit.
As someone who was unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the real estate market, Benimaru didn't know how much property in this area cost. It was obvious that it wasn't cheap, though. In order for one to own such a large piece of property in such a rich area, you didn't only need wealth, you also required power. And the ancient Kagura clan had that kind of power. Benimaru crouched by the pond in the vast garden and absentmindedly watched the koi swim. He heard the sound of silk and turned around.
- "...When did you return to Japan?"
An Asian beauty in a purple kimono, Chizuru Kagura, inquired of Benimaru.
- "Just a few hours ago."
- "I am jealous of your light footwork."
Chizuru smiled sadly and sat at the veranda facing the garden. Japan's summer felt more humid than normal this year. But the reason Chizuru looked particularly frail had nothing to do with the oppressive humidity. Benimaru waited for the vassal who served him cold ujicha to leave and directly asked Chizuru what was on her mind.
- "Are you still the same, Chizuru?”
- "Yes. My body has recovered, but my power is..."
- "I see..."
- "Oh, yes. I almost forgot something very important. Congratulations on winning the championship."
- "Oh, stop. I won it by default since my opponent went "missing" in the middle of the match... You can't brag to anybody about a result like that."
Benimaru sat down on the bench and enjoyed his chilled tea. The simple, refreshing beverage cooled Benimaru down and relieved some of the weather's harshness. The beverage, however, was entirely unable to take any of the edge off of his feelings. He felt about as far from a glorious champion as was humanly possible.
Chizuru Kagura, the current leader of the Kagura clan, Kyo Kusanagi, the successor to the Kusanagi style, and Iori Yagami of the Yagami style... These three are descendants of the Three Sacred Treasures that fought and sealed away Orochi, the will of earth that tried to purge mankind from its surface, long ago in the time of legends. After Orochi attempted to break free in modern times, the three fought an intense battle and sealed Orochi away once again. But, their paths have become intertwined with a shadowy enemy whose power rivals Orochi's.
That is all they called themselves. They looked like humans, but they possessed some distinct differences. When or where this "Land" was, no one knew. What was known was that they were after Orochi's power. They wished to fill their master with the power of Orochi... That is what Mukai, one of "Those From the Distant Land", had said.
The sound of ice clinking inside a glass was heard. Benimaru didn’t notice when the repetitive droning of the cicadae had ceased, but he was now aware that an eerie silence had enveloped the area. Benimaru looked out upon the vast and elegant garden and proceeded to speak.
- "...So, Chizuru. What's the state of Orochi's seal right now?"
- "Unfortunately... Because my powers were stolen, Orochi's seal has been broken.".
Chizuru tried to relay this information as dispassionately as possible, but Benimaru noticed her brows crease ever so slightly, an indication of the shame she bore.
- "Is there any chance that... Orochi is free and has reincarnated himself somewhere?"
- "That isn't possible. When Goenitz killed my sister and broke the seal last time, it took several years for him to reincarnate. Not to mention that Orochi is still greatly weakened from the battle against Kusanagi and Yagami."
- "So you're saying that it will take quite some time before Orochi becomes a threat again."
- "That is my assumption. However, I must admit that I do not know where Orochi is now. Perhaps Orochi's power has already been given to Mukai's master..."
- "You can't detect that?"
- "...I'm sorry."
Chizuru held her long, black hair and bowed deeply.
- "Without the power of the 'Yata Mirror’, I am unable to even sense the presence of Orochi."
- "You don't need to apologize. It's that kid's fault."
- "Those From the Distant Land" had attempted to trap Chizuru, but it was actually Ash Crimson who ended up stealing her power. Since that moment, Chizuru lost her power as a Sacred Treasure and she no longer possessed the ability to protect the seal of Orochi.
Chizuru slowly fanned herself as she muttered.
- "Ash Crimson... Who exactly is he?"
- "I've been wondering the same thing myself. ...He seems to be affiliated with that group with the long name, but I don't know in what fashion".
Benimaru had crossed paths with Ash twice due to the King of Fighters tournament. To put it bluntly, he knew Ash as a mysterious, freckled kid Who wielded green flames that behaved differently than Kyo's or Iori's. Even Duo Lon, Ash’s old acquaintance, didn't know what he was thinking, or what his motives were.
As Benimaru stood up and gazed at his reflection in the pond, he tried hard to come up with some sort of an answer.
- "Ash and those guys... I thought they were comrades, but yet they fight each other... But it's not like they're old enemies, either..."
- "Perhaps they were cooperating until the child betrayed them?"
- "I don't know... but Elisabeth said she and Ash had the same mission. If we're talking betrayal, she was definitely betrayed by him. He was blabbering about forgetting that mission."
In the last KOF, Benimaru and Duo Lon fought in a team led by Elisabeth Blanctorche. Though she never went into specifics about why she entered the tournament or her relationship with Ash, Benimaru was positive that the two were close.
Benimaru let out a heavy sigh as he brushed his blonde hair.
- "I bet Elisabeth knows everything? Who Ash really is, and what he’s trying to do. ...But no matter how much I pried, she wouldn't divulge anything. I'm sure she'll remain silent."
- "'I feel like I understand her reasoning. ...Not too long ago I found myself in a similar situation."
- "Hm? How so...?"
- "If you simply replace "Those From the Distant Land" with Orochi, then Elisabeth Blanctorche, who views them as sworn enemies, is in precisely my position. Furthermore, that would make Ash Crimson--"
- "Iori Yagami, the loner of the 'Sacred Treasures'?"
Benimaru narrowed his eyes and turned towards Chizuru.
- "Perhaps. As Elisabeth Blanctorche is making a stand against ‘Those from the Distant Land’, Ash has placed himself in a position where he is, communicating with both sides yet is not clearly allied with either."
- "Either way, it looks we'll have to grab the kid and get him to spill what he's planning. We're also going to need to reclaim your power."
- "But if we don't even know where he is..."
- "Don't worry. We'll know soon enough."
As Benimaru made that declaration, the parting words Ash Crimson uttered the last time they met rung in his ears.
- "When he stole Yagami's 'Yasakani Magatama' and fled he said, 'Kyo's next.' "
Along with Chizuru's 'Yata Mirror', Ash also obtained Iori Yagami's 'Yasakani Magatama' during the last tournament. Of the Three Sacred Treasures, only Kyo's 'Sword of Kusanagi' had not been stolen by Ash.
Chizuru bit her lip and murmured.
- "Even if they have not yet obtained Orochi's power, if Kusanagi's power is lost, we will no longer have the means to seal Orochi again."
- "I won't let that happen."
Benimaru's cell phone vibrated in the pocket of his white leather pants
- "Using the previous tournaments as a guide, we know that Ash won't fight Kyo head on. He'll try sneaking in amidst the confusion... He's probably waiting until the next KOF to make his move."
- "Yeah. Why do you think I returned to Japan? Well, besides the fact that I wanted to see your face."
Benimaru dangled his cell phone within Chizuru's vision and winked at her.
- "Unfortunately, that call means that I have to meet up with my teammates. I'm afraid that I must leave."
For Duo Lon, who was born and raised in the cold, dry northern lands of Hebei, Shanghai's subtropical climate and Jiangnan- style architectural influences made him feel like he was in a different country, not just a different province. However, due to the past he had built here, experience by experience, he felt nostalgic every time he visited.
Duo Lon's old friend had been complaining that it was getting harder and harder to live in this town. How could life in Shanghai, which had been transformed into a burgeoning central figure in the world's economy, have gotten harder? Perhaps it was because Duo Lon's friend was the type of person that could only live in the shadows. As the old buildings were demolished and replaced with sky- scrapers, the old ways of living, too, were being plowed over to pave the way for the new ways of doing business. Men who only knew how to live off their brawn were forced to adapt or get swept away with the rubble.
But he's different.
No matter how much the times had changed, no matter how different the city looked, he would never allow himself to change. That is why he found it hard to live in the new Shanghai.
That hardheaded man's name is Shen Woo. Duo Lon had returned to Shanghai to meet this man.
At the end of the last KOF, Shen Woo and his teammates disappeared. Rumors grew regarding his death, but Duo Lon didn't pay them any heed. He knew Shen wouldn't die so easily. He would be proven right soon after he arrived in Shanghai.
- "...That guy stands out no matter where he goes."
Duo Lon smiled coolly when he saw Shen Woo.
The view below Duo Lon, which was a celebratory mood just ten minutes earlier, has been turned into a living hell.
The owner of this restaurant hall, a Chinese triad boss, was holding the party in honor of his 60th birthday. Of course, most of the guests at the party were also triad members.
It was this very hall full of triad members that Shen Woo had plowed a dump truck into. In the chaos, Shen jumped out and began pounding on all, the shell-shocked gangsters. Tables were toppled-everywhere, and wine and food was strewn all over the place. Shen Woo was quickly making messes out of all the guests, as well. They had a massive advantage in numbers, but mere numbers were no match for Shen's sheer violence.
The triad members crumpled like a soufflé, unable put up any real resistance.
The men did not use their guns, in fear of hitting their friends, but in the end it would have made no difference. Shen Woo's rage and power wasn't something that you could defeat with muzzle velocity and laser sights.
Shen's fighting style in no way conjured up the image of what one could consider a "martial art.” Unlike Duo Lon, who relied on the art of stealth, Shen was a straightforward brawler, through and through.
As he strode over to the fat boss's immobile body and punched his teeth in, Duo Lon made his presence known.
Shen shook the blood from his fist and looked around the quiet hall. He noticed Duo Lon next to the dump truck waving his hand.
- "...You sure made a mess."
- "If a guy's gonna mess with me, they gotta know that I'm gonna make a mess outta them."
Shen flashed a beaming grin.
Duo Lon glanced at the bloody old man at his feet.
- "What did these men do to you?"
- "They hired a hitman and tried to bump me off."
Shen pulled on the bandages on his arm and neck to show Duo Lon. His wounds were already nearly healed. Since Shen was alive, Duo Lon knew the assassination attempt failed, but Shen wasn't the type to just leave it at that. As he heard the sound of sirens approaching, Shen shrugged and spoke to Duo Lon.
- "Well, let's talk later. We'll sneak out through the back entrance while the coast is still clear."
- "It's tough being a triad member. You can't call the police, even after something like this."
- "Heh, yeah."
Shen waded through the legions of incapacitated gangsters and made his way to the back alley. Duo Lon sighed and followed suit.
- "...So, Duo Lon."
After they'd reached a dark alley, Shen spoke.
- "You know where Ash is?"
Shen had just asked Duo Lon the question that Duo Lon had travelled here to ask him. He couldn't help but smile.
- "What? What's so funny?"
- "Nothing... So you do not know either."
- "Huh? Whaddya mean 'either'?"
- "I came looking for you because I was hoping that you knew Ash's whereabouts."
Shen frowned and clicked his tongue. The stray cats stopped their search for food and immediately bolted.
Duo Lon turned his collar up and looked at Shen through the corner of his eyes.
- "...What happened between you and Ash?"
- "A lot. It pisses me off just thinking about it, but to make it short, that Ash kid tricked me."
The two naturally headed toward a bar by the canal that they often frequented. The sun, well on its journey towards the west, placed their shadows on the empty warehouses with its last light. Shen rubbed a scratch on his cheek and asked.
- "...So, why are you searching for Ash?"
- "Well, to be honest, I'm not looking for Ash. Do you remember Elisabeth?"
- "Yeah, that uptight chick that was your teammate."
- " She is looking far Ash."
- "Okay. So why is she looking for Ash?"
- "I don't know the details... But it seems that strange group is tied to her search."
Shen's smile had the look of a wild beast. Whenever this occurred, it meant that he could smell a good fight.
- "...And even though it's not my job, I must say that I am a bit curious to discover what Ash is trying to do."
- "You are? I can tell you I ain't."
- "I figured as much."
What Shen is interested in, however, is whether he would get to fight a strong opponent or not. He was a simple man with simple desires.
- "...You know, if we start tracking Ash, we will undoubtedly run into some worthy opponents."
- "Even if we don't, I can't leave my score with him unsettled. There's supposed to be courtesy between good friends. If he wants to party like we used to, he needs to pay for what he did."
- "Is that how it is?"
- "That's how it is."
- "And what will you do?"
- "I'll have to give him one big punch square in the face."
Shen raised his fist into the air.
- "...Well, he's like my flunkie. I'll let him off with that much."
Shen draped his arm over Duo Lon's shoulder and entered the bar. They had both long forgotten about the triad. It was just another day in the life of Shanghai's God of War.
By the time Benimaru arrived at Shingo Yabuki's hospital room, visiting hours had nearly ended.
- "Sorry, buddy,l tried to get here earlier, but I'd forgotten how horrible Japanese traffic was."
- "Hey, don't worry about it! I'm just thankful you're here to see me."
Shingo sat up in bed and then bowed his head to Benimaru.
- "Yo, Daimon-sensei! It's been a long time since I've seen you, too."
Goro Daimon, replied with a grunt of acknowledgement and a poker face. Benimaru knew that Daimon's thriftiness with words wasn’t because he had angered Daimon. The two go back quite a ways, and Benimaru had learned to read his expressions.
Benimaru looked Shingo over and assessed his condition. Shingo was covered in bandages and casts.
- "You're looking well, Mummy-man.”
- "Well, my only standout feature is how tough my body is."
- "I can't argue with that."
- "Hey, Benimaru! Aren't you supposed to say something like, 'That's not true'?"
Shingo smiled and scratched his head.
As a participant in the last KOF with Kyo Kusanagi and Iori Yagami, Shingo protected Kyo from Iori, who lost control of his blood, and suffered heavy injuries. The fact that he's able to joke after being on the receiving end of such punishment is testament to his toughness. It wasn't going to be long until he jumped out of bed and started training again. That's just the kind of reckless young man Shingo Yabuki is.
- "By the way, why you do you have this entire room to yourself?"
- "Oh, Miss Chizuru got this room for me."
- "Chizuru did?"
- "Yes. I told her there was no need, but she said it was all her fault, and insisted..."
- "I see..."
Shingo joined Kyo and lori, a combination of personalities that was like oil and water, and tried to get the two to fight alongside each other because he knew it was Chizuru's wish. Normally, Chizuru wouldn't have felt responsible for Shingo's injuries. A good martial artist is fully aware of the risks that fighting brings. But even though Chizuru didn't ask Shingo to enter with those two, she felt that this would have never happened if Ash hadn't stolen her power. Iori entering the Riot of the Blood was clearly the result of Orochi's seal being broken.
Benimaru glanced at the time to see how long he had left before visiting hours ended. He still wanted some answers from Shingo.
- "You blacked out before I could ask you last time, but... what happened there?"
- "I'm sorry, I don't really know... All I know that Iori suddenly went crazy and attacked Kyo, so I jumped in to help and stop him..."
Shingo looked down and his voice trailed off. Daimon tapped Shingo on his shoulder and offered him some comfort.
- "...Don't let it get to you."
- "Even if Goro or I was in your place, I doubt that we would have fared any better against Yagami like that. He isn't human when he's like that; he's a monster."
Benimaru knew that what they said wouldn't really comfort Shingo, but he was unable to think of anything else to say.
- "...So Ash appeared immediately after that?"
- "Yes. I don't remember much, but Ash walked behind Iori and pulled something out of him, like his soul? I don't know... Then Iori collapsed and--"
- "That's when we arrived."
- "I think..."
When Benimaru's team arrived, Kyo, Iori, and Shingo were all out cold. Only Ash was still standing, with that cold, irritating sneer on his rain-soaked face.
- "...Oh, yeah. So what happened to Ash after that?"
- "He escaped."
Benimaru scowled while recalling his own failure.
- "Duo Lon, Elisabeth, and I... We tried to catch him, but he just disappeared like a puff of smoke."
This revelation shocked Daimon so much that his normally stoic demeanour cracked. Benimaru sourly nodded in confirmation.
- "Yeah. That was probably the power of the 'mirror."
- "Miss Chizuru's...?"
Ash had used the power of the "Yata Mirror" he'd stolen from Chizuru to disappear right before Benimaru's eyes. It was a display to show that Ash had completely mastered the power.From Shingo's eyewitness account, Benimaru confirmed that Ash had stolen Iori Yagami's power as well. Next time they meet, Benimaru knows that Ash will have also mastered the power of the "magatama". Daimon scowled and folded his arms.
- "So that would mean that Kyo is Ash's next target..."
- "That's right, and where is Kyo?"
Shingo and Daimon looked at each other and shook their heads.
- "He was hospitalized for a check-up, right? Which hospital?"
- "It was here, but he bolted before they could check up on him..."
Benimaru smacked his forehead and moaned.
- "That idiot...!"
Benimaru and Daimon were forcefully ushered from the hospital. The sun had set and it had become a humid midsummer night. Benimaru walked along the streetlamp-lit road with Daimon.
- "What do you think Kyo's doing right now?"
- "I don't know..."
- "Maybe he's being sensible for a change and training in the mountains."
- "...He did that once, didn't he."
- "Yeah. I understand not wanting to look like you're trying too hard, but he's a bit extreme."
It was a surprise attack, but Kyo was defeated by Yagami all the same. It undoubtedly hurt his pride. It wasn't hard for Daimon and Benimaru to envision Kyo training in seclusion to hone his skills in order to overcome that defeat.
- "...Kyo'll be fine."
- "Isn't it dangerous to leave him by himself?"
- "I doubt that he'd be very happy under our guard, either."
- "...You're right."
- "If you want to get stronger, ultimately you’re going to have to do something about it yourself. It's the same for us, right?"
Daimon nodded heavily. As a man who has taken on all challengers to standatop of the judo world, he knew the harsh rigors of pushing oneself very well.
- "So the only piece of the puzzle left is Yagami, but... Well, if Kyo moves, so will he. The only thing we can do right now is..."
- "How about it, Benimaru? Why don't you come to my university's dojo?"
- "Whoa whoa, give me a break, man."
Benimaru protested and looked up at his smiling teammate.
- "I just got back today. I still have to recover from jet lag; let me relax tomorrow"
- "I was kidding. For a martial artist, knowing when to rest can be just as important as training yourself."
- "...You just made a joke? Looks like it's gonna snow tomorrow."
Benimaru momentarily forced the anxiety out of his chest and offered up a smile. He looked up at the night sky, which was nearly devoid of stars.
A young man dangled his legs off the cathedral's edge and raised his hand towards the starless sky. Satisfied with the workmanship of the artwork on his polished nails, the young man lit a plume of green fire at the tip of his finger. Whenever the flame wavered, the flame's hue changed to red, sometimes blue... As the young man watched the change in color, he flashed a small grin.
The right bank of the Seine, Paris's 18th arrondissement. The cathedral is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, but no one would think to visit this section of the landmark.
- "...Ash Crimson."
The young man clenched the flame and whipped his head around to determine the source of the unexpected interruption.
- "You didn't claim that power just to play around with fire, did you?"
- "Botan... was it?"
She had just suddenly appeared... The young man flashed a cold smile as he observed the young woman perched dangerously on the edge of the dome.
- "You came all the way to Montmartre, just to tell me that? You guys have more time on your hands than I thought."
Botan raised her brows in anger and tossed the white envelope in her hand at the young man.
- "-- Ash Crimson. Here's your invitation for the tournament."
The young man caught the envelope and twitched his freckled nose.
- "You're giving one to me, too? How gracious of you. Or do you just not have anything better to do?"
- "These are the final touches. Don't screw up."
- "It's not like I work for you people. Stop trying to boss me around."
- "Why. you..."
Botan was infuriated at the young man's insolent words, but quickly recollected herself.
- "Watch your mouth. If it hadn't been for him you wouldn't even be alive today."
- "I'll work hard enough not to be considered incompetent. Will that be all?"
- "There's still something?"
- "Blanctorche entered Paris."
The smile momentarily disappeared from the young man’s face. . .
- "If she gets in Our way, you must dispose of her."
With that, Botan disappeared from the martyr's hill overlooking Paris.
The young man casually stuffed the invitation into his pocket and twirled his hair as he grumbled.
- "...She's as diligent as always. I was hoping I could relax a bit..."
In an instant the young man was engulfed in red flames and in another he had disappeared from the scene.
We look forward to your participation in THE KING OF FIGHTERS.
Benimaru Nikaido looked over the elegantly simple invitation, mildly surprised that the tournament was being held so soon after the last one.
- "'R', huh? Brings back old times."
His mouth formed a smile.
- "...Who is this tournament's host?"
Daimon mumbled his suspicions aloud while he sat in the back seat of Benimaru's blue convertible looking at his invitation.
- "Well, Rugal got taken out in his hideout's explosion..."
- "According to Chizuru, the media's really going all out with coverage this time. Well, when the official press conference happens, we'll know who's holding this thing."
Benimaru steered his car on the highway to the airport and bobbed his head to the music pumping from his speakers.
- "Still, I can't believe Kyo left the country just as I came back."
- "Well, that does sound more like him than him going off and fining in the mountains."
- "Well, when a guy who hates effort puts forth some on his own, it's a good thing, right?”
Benimaru had received a phone call from Kyo last night. Kyo didn't provide any details, but he told Benimaru to pick him up at the airport and hung up. Benimaru wasn't really upset, but he was relieved to hear of Kyo's safety.
Benimaru parked his car and beamed a huge smile.
- "Now then... Time for Japan's greatest team to reunite!"
They had fought Orochi, fought NESTS... In the end, it always seemed like the biggest moments and the biggest victories came when these members were together. There were several regular teams, but Benimaru knew that they were the best. Benimaru and Daimon headed toward the airport lobby.
Duo Lon looked over at his travel companion as they entered the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Ile-de-France. The long flight had taken a toll on Shen; he was constantly yawning.
Shen seemed irked by Duo Lon's interest.
- "It's rare to find a man who is so thoroughly unsuited to the City of Light."
- "Shut up."
- "...Let me just say this now."
As they passed through the turnstile and stepped onto the escalator, Duo Lon issued a mild warning to Shen.
- "Our team leader this time is most likely the type of woman you hate the most."
- "What, outspoken, arrogant, or aggressive?"
- "All of the above."
- "And one more thing. You fit the profile of people she hates the worst to a tee."
- "The hell!?"
- "So, accept that information, and cope with it."
- "Easier said than done, buddy... Besides, if she wants us on her team, shOuldn't she be heading over to Shanghai?"
- "The fact that‘she doesn't know that indicates that she's lived a fairly sheltered, privileged life. Stroke her pride a little bit and deal with her."
- "Tch... Unlike you, I'm honest. If there’s something that pisses me off, I'm gonna come straight out and tell her."
- "I'm fine with that. ...But remember, our objective is to find Ash. Don't forget that. Don't let anything else get in your way."
- You don't need to tell me. I need to crack that punk across the face."
Shen crammed the already wrinkled invitation into his pocket and adjusted his gloves.
The bright sun awaited the two as they exited from the subway station. Duo Lon took a step onto the grounds of Paris, and realized that he too was completely unbefitting to this city.
It was a pleasantly cool night in Japan. And yet, something caused Chizuru Kagura to lay completely awake in the dead of night. The full moon light shone through the shoji and dimly illuminated the room with a blue hue. When Chizuru noticed a slim silhouette appear in front of the shoji, any traces of sleep she had completely vanished.
- "Who's there!?"
Immediately after she asked for the intruder's identity, Chizuru felt foolish. She didn't need to ask; she should have immediately known who this visitor was. The visitor noticed Chizuru's moment of weakness.
- "...You've become weak, Kagura."
A cold smile appeared.
- "You too..."
Chizuru sat up from her futon.
- "You too have lost your flames, am I correct?"
- "What does that matter?"
Chizuru had no reply for the arrogant response. She knew that he must have knocked out the many guards that patrolled the estate. Even though he'd lost his purple flames, his strength hadn't faltered. This represented a world of difference when compared to her own situation. After she lost her power of the Yata Mirror, she lost her will along with it.
"I came to see if your power had returned... But it seems I do have to kill that kid."
As she sensed the man shift his weight and begin to depart, Chizuru extended her arm and asked the visitor to stay for a moment.
"Wait, Yagami! This is a big chance for you!"
"The flame of Yagami has been bound to the power of Orochi for the last 660 years. But you've lost the power of the Magatama now and your flames... You might now be able to escape the curse of Orochi."
The man scoffed at Chizuru's suggestion.
- "...I'm me. I don't give a damn about the Yagami bloodline."
Chizuru realized how pointless the things she was saying were. The flame of Yagami, the Magatama of the Yasakani... Since they were fused together with the blood of Orochi, in order for him to ever part ways with Orochi, he must permanently forsake his own flames. But at the same time, she would also lose one of the "Three Sacred Treasures"—the means to seal away Orochi--forever. This dilemma caused Chizuru despair.
- "Don't worry. Your mirror will return," the man reassured Chizuru.
- "......But of course, this time you'll lose your sword."
- "Don't do it, Yagami!"
Chizuru got out of her futon and opened the shoji. But the moon only illuminated the quiet garden. The red-haired visitor was nowhere to be found.
Whenever large trucks passed underneath, the walkway shook.
Exposed to the elements, the walkway paint had peeled, and rust slowly ate away at the structure. The dilapidated structure looked like an animal carcass left to rot in the sun.
Iori Yagami climbed the skeleton and stopped to view the night's moon.
When the cigarette in his right hand was reduced to ash, Iori spoke.
- "...What do ghosts want with me?"
His line of sight moved from the heavens to the earth, locking onto a shadow lurking by the edge of the walkway.
- "Have you appeared to spit your grudges at me? Or do you feel like dying by my hand again?"
The darkness responded to Iori's words.
- "That's some way to greet us, Yagami... It's been so long."
- "Look at the sky once more. ...Don't you remember what I told you before? We'll meet again on a full moon."
The seductive voices elicited no immediate response from Iori. The shadow squirmed under Iori's gaze. Quietly, gradually, the shadow began to take form.
When it finally made the transition from the 2nd dimension to the 3rd, the shadow had taken on the look of two shapely women in business suits.
Iori cast aside the cigarette butt and muttered.
- "...What regrets do you have that tie you here?"
- "Regrets? We have none."
The redhead Vice answered as she twisted and stretched her body. The display made her look like a snake ready to strike.
- "...It wasn't our desire to come here."
- "So why are you here?"
- "I wonder why. ...Maybe it's because you were all so much more incompetent than we expected?"
Mature, the blonde woman, answered Iori cryptically as she held the eyepatch on her right eye and smiled.
- "...What are you trying to say?"
- "Kagura was defeated, and now you too, Yagami? By that Ash Crimson boy?"
- "We're hearing that some strange group is after the power of Orochi, right? ’Those From the Distant Land,’ was it?"
- "...I don't care."
- "Of course you don't. You don't even care about yourself."
- "But we have to care."
- "It's vexing just having someone come and take Orochi's power, you know?"
- "That's why we came. Because you humans couldn't prevent it from going this far."
The three eyes of the women shone mysteriously. Iori's lips curled into a wicked smirk.
- "I commend you for coming all the way here to clean up Kagura's mess. But what can YOU do?"
- "I think the proper phrasing is what can WE do? We both have reasons to use each other, right?"
- "You want to find Ash Crimson, and we are looking for that group... If we form a team and advance through the tournament, we'll certainly both achieve our goals.”
- "...I say this every time, but it's a pointless farce."
- "You’re right. But in the end, the fastest path is to play along with that farce. And you can't play without teammates, Yagami."
Iori let out an apathetic grunt and started walking. He passed between Vice and Mature and walked down the staircase.
- "Let me tell you now: If you don't serve my purpose--"
- "Yes, we know already."
Vice stifled her laugh.
- "We'll be looking forward to seeing your strength without your flames. I'm sure you won't disappoint us."
- "...Your smooth-tongue hasn't faded even after death, I see."
As he reached the bottom of the stairs, Iori stopped and turned around
The women were gone; the only thing Iori saw past the front of his hair was the blue moon.
Iori pulled out another cigarette and lit it with an old lighter...
The grass-covered plain rustled in the wind.
The residence of a bloodline that stood for generations was now almost completely melded with nature. There was scarcely a recognizable trace left of the palatial home here in southern France. The bone-dry fountain and charred pillars were nearly all that was left of the opulence that once existed here.
Elisabeth narrowed her eyes and cast them toward the sky. How many years had it been since the great fire that razed the giant mansion and the rest of the family to ashes...?
As she thought about it now, she mused that the great fire might have been an omen or perhaps the doing of someone sinister.
But Elisabeth still had no answers. Only two people remained to bear the weight of the family. They lived like sister and brother.
However, half of that pair wasn't here...
As she clutched a few pictures that were taken at this courtyard one day, Elisabeth, draped in black, stood and stared for several hours straight.
- "I know. ...Just a little longer," Elisabeth responded.
The wind gently blew her black veil.
Shen glowered at his demitasse on the table. The ferocity with which his knee shook showed the irritation of the man from Shanghai. After he downed his remaining espresso, Shen knit his brows.
- “He won't last three seconds,”
Duo Lon thought to himself. Three seconds later on the dot, Shen raised his fist and was about to slam the table.
- "Stop it."
Duo Lon lightly caught Shen's fist and saved the table from being pulverized. Shen glared at Duo Lon before just clicking his tongue and shaking off his teammate's hand.
Montmartre, filled with artists and tourists, shone brightly in the early summer sunset. The long shadows of the men on the promenade almost looked artistic.
Duo Lon, a man who lived in the shadows, couldn't help but let out a small chuckle as he realized just how unfit for this city he was.
Hearing that, Shen glared at Duo Lon again.
- "...What's so funny?"
- "I was just thinking about how much we both stick out in this city."
- "Hey, I didn't come here 'cause I wanted to."
Shen spat those words out and flicked the edge of his demitasse.
- "...So, what the hell’s up with this?"
- "With what?"
- "We got called all the way here, ya know?"
- "We did."
- "There’s two of us, one of her. She should be the one heading over to Shanghai! Why do we have to haul our asses all the way here to France?"
- "Because we were summoned," Duo Lon replied nonchalantly.
Of course, Shen was not satisfied with that answer.
- "...She's here."
Shen responded to Duo Lon’s declaration by turning around grumpily.
- "I apologize for keeping you waiting."
Elisabeth apologized but offered no reason for her tardiness.
Shen bolted up violently, looked over Elisabeth in her funeral outfit, and shrugged.
- "Well, look who’s all dressed up and entirely late. You coming from a party or something?"
Ignoring Shen’s sarcastic words, Elisabeth took a white envelope from her handbag.
- "Your invitations?"
- "Of course-"
- "We got ‘em."
- "Then there should be no problems. Let us meet again at the venue one hour before the match."
Elisabeth's lack of concern shocked and infuriated Shen.
- "Listen, you told us to come here, so we came from halfway across the globe! Then you make us wait all this time, you show up for 20 seconds to see our invitations, and that’s it!? You ever hear of a phone!?”
- "Calm down, Shen.”
Duo Lon soothed Shen and stood up.
- "...Our first match is here in France. Just think of this as a head start."
- "So what, we go prance around and go sightseeing now!? You were just talking about how you don't fit in!"
- "If you don't feel like sightseeing, why don't you go eat crab?"
- "I just..." .
As the two volleyed back and forth, Elisabeth took the opportunity to depart the scene. Her back did not have her usual aura of courage but instead seemed rather small. Shen grunted as he watched Elisabeth leave and asked Duo Lon in a hushed voice,
- "...What’s the deal between her and Ash?"
- "I don’t know. It seems they are relatives or something... or perhaps something deeper."
- "So she’s not telling us a single thing and yet is asking us for our help. Don't you thinkIthat she’s pushing it?"
- "If you're not satisfied, why don't you look for another teammate?"
Duo Lon quietly looked at Shen.
- "If there’s anyone who'd take you in now..."
- "Well, I guess I DO have more enemies than friends."
Shen poked a little fun at himself and laughed.
- "...Heck, I might as well make him pay for it."
- "What are you talking about?"
- "Crab. After this tournament's over, we’re going to eat a bunch of crab, us three."
The King of Fighters tournament... The world's biggest martial arts extravaganza, with the world as its stage, will begin shortly. From summer to autumn, the world’s foremost fighters will vie for the most coveted title in their field.
Shen put his arm around Duo Lon's shoulder.
- "Well then, let's go grab ourselves a drink."
- "Do you know a place?"
- "Hell no."
- "I figured as much." '
Duo Lon thought back to the map of Paris he’d studied earlier and started for the nearest Metro. No matter where the place, obtaining a perfect knowledge of an area is a habit Duo Lon’s background as an assassin has burned into him. As they took the steps underground, Shen asked Duo Lon where they were headed.
- "The 13th arrondissement."
France is home to one of the largest Asian immigrant populations in Europe, and the 13th arrondissement boasts one
of the world's largest Chinatowns. Duo Lon knew that there would be liquor and food there that would suit the two. Most of all, he felt that the atmosphere would make them feel a bit more at home and calm their nerves.
Suddenly, Shen stopped at the landing and turned around toward the surface.
- "...What's wrong?"
Shen exaggeratedly shook his head and displayed a sarcastic grin.
- "People have different reasons for fighting, huh."
- "A bit late for that now." '
- "Yeah, it's a bit late. ...I don't give a damn about other guys reasons."
- "..Let's go."
Shen and Duo Lon disappeared into the darkness of the subway. Compared to the warm sunlight that shone on the City of Light, the chilly darkness felt much more at home to them.
As the sun set, the wind grew stronger. Just a few moments earlier, the walls of Basilique du Sacre’-Coeur were colored a deep red from the sun. Now, the illumination from the streetlamps temporarily painted them white. There were fewer tourists in the area now, although there were still plenty.
- "I sense him."
Elisabeth spoke to the old butler by her side.
- "He's no longer here. ...But he definitely was here."
- "Do not worry, Jacques."
Elisabeth smiled faintly at the worried old butler and removed her veiled hat. . .
- "I am not losing my spirit. Today... I was simply building my resolve."
- "If he still claims to have forgotten his mission... it is in that moment I will need resolution."
- "Milady, that's...!"
- "I am okay."
A white, needle-like light overflowed from Elisabeth's clenched fist. Pushing back the darkness of the night, Elisabeth’s internal light illuminated her face.
- "So long as there is light in my heart, I shall...!"
Team Ikari Warriors
In the underground shooting range, the sound of gunfire intermittently echoed throughout the compound.
Leona lowered herl'high-caliber handgun and removed the magazine.
In the booth next to her, a girl with short hair was also practicing. The gun she was using was bigger than Leona's
government-issue: a Desert Eagle—something a girl her size would normally have trouble holding, let alone shooting.
And yet the girl looked quite comfortable with the weapon and shot one round after another, easily coping with the recoil. After spending all her rounds, she removed her earmuffs and looked at Leona.
- "Is your grouping bad because of the gun? Or is it because you're not concentrating?"
Leona chose not to answer the girl--Whip-but instead looked at the targets in the distance. It was obvious who the better shooter was. Leona assumed that the difference in their results was simply a matter of skill and not guns or concentration.
Leona reloaded her gun and murmured in a low voice.
- "...Am I under your surveillance?"
- "Do you have reason to believe that you should be under surveillance?
- "......I have a record:"
In a previous King of Fighters tournament, held by "Those From the Distant Land," Leona lost control of her blood. For this reason, Leona wasn't assigned to the last King of Fighters, and Whip was called upon to replace her.
- "I hear you reported to your superior that you wanted to enter this year's tournament. Do you have a reason?"
Leona put on her earmuffs to pre-emptively silence any further questions Whip had.
Heidern was silently paging through documents with his back to his subordinates, when he let out a sigh and spun his chair around to face them.
- "I received a request from Leona to participate in this operation."
- "She made a direct request? That's pretty out of the ordinary.”
- "So it's going to be Colonel, me, and her?"
- "Not necessarily."
Heidern tossed the documents onto the mahogany desk and looked up at Ralf and Clark.
- "Before I make my decision, I want to ask for your opinions. Leona went completely out of control two tournaments ago. Do you think she should be allowed on this mission?"
Hearing that, Ralf's lip bent upwards.
- "Why would you ever bother asking us that, Sir? We would both go anywhere you ordered us. If your orders are for us to team with Leona, then we will; ask us to take Whippy, and we will. There's no need to ask us, is there, Sir?"
Ralf’s joking answer turned Heidern's frown into a curt smile.
- "You're the ones that'll be in immediate danger. I felt that I should respect your opinions."
- "Orochi is the cause of her loss of control. And right now, Orochi's seal is broken. So, she's technically a threat wherever she is."
Clark calmly voiced his opinion and Ralf nodded in agreement.
- "He's right. Besides, if you were so worried about us now, don't you think you should've worried about us during the showdown with Orochi, Sir?"
As he stroked his stubbly chin, Ralf began to clench his fists.
- "Well, if she ever goes berserk again, I'll knock her out of it,even if it means giving her a couple lumps."
- "You heard the Colonel, Sir. You don’t have to worry about us. Compared to being thrown into a jungle full of guerrillas empty-handed, KOF is paradise."
- "Yeah. Plus, this tournament is supplying a hotel room with a comfy bed, and I can say goodbye to rations for a change."
- "...It seems asking you two was a stupid question."
Heidern closed his eye and stood up.
- "We will deploy a fleet of ships 50 kilometers south of the stadium the Bernsteins constructed for the finals and set up headquarters there."
- "Roger. But, Sir..."
- "What is it, Clark?"
- "Why is the Bernstein girl, Rugal’s daughter, holding KOF? Her reasons don't exactly seem valid."
- "We aren't certain yet... but there is a high probability that group is behind it. Stay alert."
Ralf and Clark saluted Heidern and left his office.
- "Yo, girlies."
After Whip and Leona had unloaded several magazines worth of bullets into their targets downrange, their superior's booming voice filled the range.
- "You two both practicing your shooting? Good."
Whip saluted properly and then asked Clark--not Ralf--her question.
- "Lieutenant, about our next mission--"
- "Whippy, you'll be backup this time."
Ralf shot down Whip's inquiry with a mischievous smile.
- "There should be an official notice tonight, but this tournament'll be me, Clark, and Leona."
Whip then made an exaggerated shrug.
- "I figured that would be the case."
- "Heheh, you just think about how you're going to get those delinquent punks of yours into this mess. They may be punks, but they're still added firepower when it counts."
- "It’s not my duty this time to get them to enter."
While Whip sulked, Leona silently saluted.
- "...Thank you very much."
- "Thank the Commander. We'd do our best no matter who's our teammate."
- "Well, don't worry. EVen if you mess up like last time, we’ll take responsibility and bring ya back."
Ralf grinned as he displayed a fist as hard as a rock. Whip piped up and chided Ralf coolly.
- "Even if it comes to that, make sure you don't beat her to death. You really aren't one to talk when it comes to matters of keeping oneself in control, you know..."
- "Huh!? Whaddya talking about? Talking about me like I'm some kinda klutz!"
- "It sounds like you actually consider yourself a skillful man, Colonel. I must say, I've never heard anyone else express that opinion, Sir."
- "You too, Clark!?"
The shooting range echoed with Ralf's yelling and Clark's laughter. Despite having a big mission ahead of them, they had no worries. For Leona, who grew up with the smell of gunpowder, no matter what the battlefield is, they can remain at ease.
Her blue hair shaking, Leona's lips loosened just a bit.
Noticing the slight change in Leona's expression, Ralf gave her a cold, hard stare.
- "You just laughed,didn't you!?"
- "Wh-Why you—"
"You ordered me to laugh more, Colonel."
Unable to field a retort, Ralf drove Clark and Whip into fits of laughter. .
Leona didn't know what awaited them in the coming battles, but she knew for certain that a fearsome enemy lay ahead. The true enemy Leona must face isn't the one that will appear lined up against her as an opponent, but rather, the other her that would appear in the midst of battle—the cursed "blood" that coursed through her veins.
She had conquered this enemy once before. She cannot deny that it may return. Perhaps it is an enemy she must fight as long as she lives.
But to Leona, avoiding a battle was not an option. That's why she requested to participate in this mission herself.
This enemy was powerful. Even so, she vowed that she would not lose. Leona was so resolute in her convictions because she believed in her tough comrades in arms. After all, they were the onlv reason that she was able to smile ever so faintly...
"...Well, I won't get too caught up in the details, but I collect the rounded off part of the interest, the fractions of a cent. Over time all those little bits add up. People aren't going to notice if a half cent is missing from their account. By the time the banks catch it, it's too late. I leave behind no evidence, except in here."
Maxima tapped his temple with a finger and unplugged the cable connecting the PC to his body.
"In other words... We have enough money to play around for the next month or two. What do you wanna do, partner?"
"Don't ask me."
K' draped on the couch lazily and halfheartedly tossed darts at the dartboard. He wasn't awful, but he wasn't good either.
K’ had no interest in playing darts; he only did it because he was bored. He had been with Maxima for quite some time, but his lack of motivation hadn’t changed at all.
Maxima picked up a paperback sitting next to the monitor and looked up at the grimy ceiling.
“This is boring being cooped up in here... Why don’t we head to the tropics for a nice vacation?"
K' swatted aside Maxima's suggestion and punctuated it by tossing another dart at the board.
Just as he released the dart, the door opened without a knock, and a girl with chestnut-colored hair popped her face in.
Before K’ could extend his gloved right hand, the girl’s hair glowed blue and she froze the dart in mid-air. Kula Diamond nonchalantly picked the dart up and tossed it back to K’ as if nothing had happened, and then knelt in front of the mini- fridge in the corner of the room.
"It’s so hot! Do we have any popsicles?”
"How would I know?"
K' spat out an annoyed response as he looked over the frozen dart.
"Princess, you can enjoy your youth all you want, but be careful of bad men, okay? There are plenty of people who want to catch us.”
For a while, they were forced to flee from Heidern and other international security outfits because they were classified as terrorists—remnants of NESTS. However, after cooperating with Heidern, their wanted status was cleared (of course, if you looked deeper, it was obvious that they weren't exactly law- abiding citizens). Despite this, it wasn't as if they were completely free of worry. A number of groups were still hunting them.
"After all, our bodies aren't exactly stock."
Maxima looked up from his book and shrugged his shoulders.
"There are plenty of folks out there who want to become the second NESTS. In those guys' eyes, we're--"
"I don't care about that!"
Kula slammed the fridge door shut and spun around to face Maxima. She was definitely in a bad mood.
"Uncle, there's nothing in the freezer!"
"We got ice, right?"
Maxima raised his glass filled with whiskey on the rocks. As a cyborg, Maxima never really gets drunk, but he does drink occasionally for the taste.
"I don't want plain ice! I want popsicles, sherbet, that kinda stuff!"
"Oh... Nothing's left?"
"Nothing! It's all gone!"
"Just shut up, you brat..."
K' was already bored with playing darts, and had put his legs on the arm of the sofa to take a siesta. The way he lived, not moving or doing anything he felt was pointless, emulated that of a beast of prey.
Kula glared at K'.
"Did you eat my popsicles, K'?"
"Are you stupid? Why the hell would I eat that sweet crap?"
K' looked at the girl through his sunglasses and clicked his tongue.
"If you're gonna accuse someone, look over that way."
Kula's icy gaze shifted towards Maxima. Maxima tossed his book and raised both his hands in mock protest.
"I swear, I didn't eat them."
"Then Why aren't there any left?"
"I don't know. Maybe you ate them all."
"I didn't eat all of them! I'm sure of it!"
"Well, they're gone, so there isn't exactly much I can do about that..."
"Fine then! I'm going to get more!"
With her cheeks defiantly puffed up, Kula pulled out her cell phone and began pressing the keys as she left.
Still lying down, K' lifted his sunglasses and looked toward Maxima.
"You giving that kid an allowance?"
"Me? Of course not. If I gave her any money, it’d just turn into ice cream."
"Then what the hell's she planning to do? She's not gonna rob an ice cream truck, is she?"
"She wouldn’t do anything like that. ...But, if you're THAT worried, why don't you go with her?"
"Yeah, right. All she does is rummage through the junkyard all day. What the hell is fun about that?"
"It’s important to her. She's looking for parts. Watching over her is our role as adults, right?"
"That ain't my role. You can do that crap."
With that, K' turned his back to Maxima.
After K' turned over 13 times and Maxima had finished reading his book, wobbling footsteps from the underground stairway were heard.
After taking a sip of the watereddown alcohol, Maxima stood up.
Kula returned carrying a huge polystyrene box.
"Yo, where'd you get that?"
"A delivery man just delivered it to me!" :
K' sat upright and looked at Maxima. There were only a handful of people who knew that they were hiding out in the underground room of this abandoned scrapyard. Even fewer would know to address a package to Kula.
K' then had a realization and laid back down.
Kula tore through the packaging and started devouring a bucket of ice cream.
Looking into the box, Maxima put a hand on his chin and gave a whistle of admiration.
"Whoa man, that's top-class Belgium chocolate ice cream... This one's French, Italian gelato... This is all primo stuff."
K’ picked up the polystyrene lid and tossed it to Maxima.
"The address is from some department store... But take a look at the sender's name."
Maxima's eyes flew open with shock as he read the name. At that precise moment, the cell phone on the table rang. K' put his sunglasses in his pocket and answered the phone grumpily.
"...Who the hell are you?"
"That's not how you should greet someone. It's me, remember?"
"You old ass...!"
Hearing the old man's voice set K' on edge.
"How'd you get this number?"
"Well, you know, stuff happens. ...Oh yes, I sent a package the other day; did you get it?"
"So it WAS you."
K' glowered at Kula, who was lost in her ice cream bliss, and raised his voice.
"Whaddya want? What're you scheming?"
"Scheming? That makes it sound sinister. I was just—"
"Listen, old man, I'm not entering KOF."
K' interrupted Chin Gentsai and yelled with finality.
"I'm not going to get baited by your ploy just to get slammed with consequences, like last time!"
"Hrm... This is quite a pickle."
"Yeah, well that's your problem. I don't give a damn."
Maxima beckoned K' over to the PC he was sitting at.
"That call's from Master Chin, right?"
"Master my ass. Guy’s as dried up as beef jerky..."
"Just look at this."
K' glanced at the monitor and suddenly kicked the door.
"You damn living fossil...! Don't go using MY name! That's identity theft!"
"What are you talking about? I don't understand what you're saying."
"Don't try to act stupid! You entered our names into KOF without our permission!"
"Er, I’m sorry, but that wasn't me."
"Yeah, right! Who else Would do something this stupid!?"
"Oh! Me, me! I did that!"
Hearing Kula's admission, K' almost dropped the cell phone.
“W-Wait, YOU entered us into KOF, princess!?”
"Yep. He said he would give me ice cream if I did."
"That old man."
Maxima buried his head into his palms.
"That old man got us..."
"See? Is the misunderstanding all cleared up now?"
"Why you... When did you convert her...?”
"Ho ho ho... She and I are cell phone buddies. Jealous?"
"Shut up, you leathery sack of bones!"
In a rage, K' crushed the cell phone in his hand and plopped onto the sofa.
"...So, what're we gonna do, K'?"
"What else? we're gonna ignore the hell outta it."
Her mouth still sticky from the ice cream, Kula protested.
"You can't do that! I made him a promise, so we can't ignore him! You can't break promises!"
"YOU promised. I didn't promise. He didn't promise. This is your mess!"
"Fine then! I'll call Seirah and form a team with Uncle! You can sit here and starve to death!"
Kula piled all the other ice cream buckets in the freezer, and left the room in a pout with her half-eaten bucket of ice cream.
Maxima let out a sigh as he saw her storm off.
"Well, well... I didn't think we would get ourselves outwitted like that. I guess we shoulda checked her cell phone, huh?"
"The heck you talking about? We haven't been outwitted. We're just gonna ignore this.”
"And you just saw how well she's gonna take that, right?"
"You're honestly suggesting that we play along with this crap? You must really have a lotta time on your hands."
“As a matter of fact, I do. ...Well, I can’t just let her go alone, but there is something else.”
"I'm interested... I want to see how this mess all plays out. I guess you could say I'm rubbernecking.”
"...Well, aren't you just Mr. Curious."
"Now then... I'll be off to go and amuse the princess."
Maxima's chair creaked as he stood up. As he ducked to step through the door, K' mumbled under his breath.
"...Try and make sure that I don't have to take a turn."
A grin appeared on Maxima's face and he stifled a laugh as he looked back at K'.
"Roger. ...I’m sure we can handle it by ourselves."
"Shut up. Hurry up and go."
K’ chucked the remains of the cell phone and lay down on the sofa, turning his back toward Maxima.
There wasn't anything K' hated more than KOF.
As summer drew near in the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere was about to catch its last glimpses of autumn. And even faster than the new season’s arrival, a young man was traveling the world. But his journey would soon come to an end. Nearby a man plied his craft on a bandoneon and cranked out an Argentine tango that was heard in this back alley.
The fact that he'd been in this country for over a month but had not yet learned a single step meant that Benimaru would surely mock him, but the young man didn't come here for dance lessons.
He whistled along with the music and made his way up the neon-hued back alley with a hand jammed in the pocket of his leather jacket.
Then... The young man suddenly jumped back.
He dropped the knapsack slung over his shoulder and raised his fists. A thin red line of blood materialized on his cheek.
"....Who are you guys?"
The young man called out in a low voice as he stood seemingly poised to attack the darkness.
"...Kyo Kusanagi, I presume?"
A tall and slim youth with a mushroom cut emerged from the shadows and addressed the target of his attack with an air of arrogance. Along With him was a short bob-haired girl who huddled unusually close. Both of them had sickly pale skin that stood in stark contrast with their unnaturally dark eyes.
"I recognize this feeling."
As he looked at the two, the young man—Kyo Kusanagi—gently pressed the wound on his cheek.
"...You're part of that whatever group, huh? What the hell do you want with me?"
The young man did not answer Kyo's question, but sat there and toyed with some sort of string. Kyo squinted to see what the young boy was playing with. It was a black leather eyepatch. When he realized what the item was, the image of a certain one-eyed mercenary veteran immediately appeared in Kyo's mind.
If that eyepatch was from where Kyo thought it was, then this young man must be very skilled. The boy's build was much too thin to be that of a martial artist, but Kyo had fought enough to know that his frail, slight body could still hold some extraordinary power.
"I see, so you're not just a sewer rat. ...Still, what business do you have with me? If you're just gonna stay silent, then get outta my way"
"Heh. You're full of energy, but that's it."
The young boy mockingly put the eyepatch on his right eye and pointed at Kyo with his right hand.
"...This is the first time we've met, but it seems I miscalculated you, Kyo Kusanagi. I didn't think the successor to the sword was this weak."
The boy and girl shared a laugh after gesturing at the cut they gave Kyo with their surprise attack. Kyo didn't show any anger in response to their taunts. Instead, he smiled.
"You're about 100 years too young to be talking smack to me, kid."
"Seriously? You haven't noticed yet?"
Now it was Kyo who pointed at the young man. Around his chest, the summer sweater he was wearing had turned to
The look on the boy’s face tensed up in shock. He now realized that the moment he attacked, Kyo not only dodged, but let out an immensely accurate counter-attack. More importantly, he realized that if Kyo was serious, he likely wouldn't be alive to have this conversation...
The tone of contempt had now completely disappeared from the boy's voice.
"...So now I've miscalculated you twice. You are better than I thought."
"I'm glad that you can see that now."
Kyo rolled his neck and smiled.
"Then, I guess it's my turn!"
The moment before Kyo started to close the gap, the boy tossed Kyo an object.
A confused look made its way across Kyo's face. A white envelope 'bearing a red seal with the letter "R" pressed into it... This object was familiar to him.
"...Why do you have this?"
"We wanted to make sure you showed up, so we came to hand you this invitation personally. ...But of course, it seems like this was an unnecessary precaution."
With that, the mushroom-haired youth and his silent partner backed away.
"I gave you the invitation, Kyo Kusanagi. The guy you're looking for will most likely be there. ...We'll see how you do."
"You just shutup.”
As the two disappeared into the darkness, Kyo stared at the invitation. He didn't need to break the seal; he knew what was written inside.
Kyo stuffed the envelope in his knapsack and smiled.
"Well, as long as it'll get me fired up. I’m gonna beat that punk to a pulp."
While he waited for the light, Benimaru started up a conversation with Kyo.
Kyo stifled a yawn after he bluntly ended the conversation. Just an hour before, Benimaru and Daimon were reunited with Kyo Kusanagi at the airport. For better or for worse, he was the same as before: standoffish and childish. He left the country to train, but it seems that the only thing that he improved was his physique. Benimaru made eye contact with Goro Daimon through the back mirror and shot him a knowing smile
Kyo shot Benimaru a cold glance from the side.
"What do you mean, 'What?"'
"You just laughed, didn't you?"
"No I didn’t."
As Kyo reclined the passenger seat back, he gazed out the window.
"What is it, Kyo?"
"What about your job?"
"I am always a judoka. You don't have to worry about me."
As Benimaru stepped on the accelerator, he chimed in.
"Goro here is taking a break from his teaching duties until the tournament is over."
"Hmmm. So I guess you can't lose, for the sake of your students reputations."
"Of course I won't. ...It's the same for you, right? None of us can accept being defeated here." .
Greenery zoomed by in a blur in Kyo's view. Kyo smiled weakly.
"...Hey, Benimaru, Daimon."
"It's a bit late to be asking, but are you sure?"
"About entering this tournament. I don’t know who's holding it, but the guys pulling the strings are those punks."
Those From the Distant Land-Benimaru and Daimon had both have encountered the group in the previous tournaments. They are quite aware of this group's capabilities. Neither Benimaru nor Daimon so much as flinched.
"Well, I figured as much."
Benimaru said as he smiled coolly.
"The stronger they are, the more fun the fight will be."
With his huge arms folded, Daimon gave a big smile.
"...It WAS a bit late, wasn't it?"
"Hrm‘. Late it is."
Kyo closed his eyes and sulked. When the young man returned to his homeland, the northern hemisphere was definitely in the heart of summer.
The summer heat was warming up their spirits. The same friends, the same summer, and maybe that man will be... That was all it took to start Kyo's fire burning.
Team Psycho Soldier
Kensou saw it, and he couldn't unsee it. He saw something he knew he wasn't supposed to. Kensou felt that it was his duty to make sure that others knew what he had seen.
"I think Master might be cheating..."
Hearing Kensou blurt out that sudden accusation, Athena Asamiya covered Bao's ears. She hoped that she was quick enough to shield Bao from thoughts of the man who raised him being an adulterer.
Athena scowled and glared at Kensou.
"Kensou, what are you saying!? Master wouldn't... you know, cheat...."
"Athena, what are you talking about!?”
"Tag! Momo, your turn!"
"Sure thing!" .
During a break between their training sessions, the students were taking a rest under the shade of the bamboo grove. Their elderly kung fu master was nowhere to be seen.
Athena walked over to Kensou, who was sitting on a rock, and chided him in a hushed voice.
"There are things that you shouldn't joke about, Kensou!"
Their master, Chin Gentsai, was married to a woman who had shared the hard times with him for many, many years. Athena and the others look up to her like she's their grandmother. The couple are quite fond of each other, so much so, that they even make Athena blush from time to time. Chin often boasts that "Grandma is the world's most beautiful woman."
This is why Athena found it so hard to believe that the same Chin was cheating.
"No, no! It's not a joke!"
Kensou leaned towards Athena and whispered.
"I saw it!"
."I caught him red-handed! Well, not red-handed, but something darn close!"
"What do you mean!?Just tell me."
"Well... It was last night..."
Late one night, Kensou snuck out of his sleeping quarters after double-checking that Bao was sleeping soundly in the bed next to him.
”Ow ow ow ow..."
Kensou winced in pain as he patted down his head with a towel he'd soaked in cold water from the well behind the temple. The pain from the day's lessons had begun to subside.
"Phew... Man, I'm beat."
Kensou leaned against the well and enjoyed the relief the jury-rigged cold compress provided him.
"Master's been going too hard on us recently. We're gonna be spent before the tournament even starts."
Kensou and theothers had been vigorously training for the past week at an old temple in preparation for the upcoming
King of Fighters. Despite being used to intense training, Chin stepped up the current regimen, and as a result, Kensou ended up with a lot more cuts and bruises.
As Kensou was looking up at the moon, he heard a voice from somewhere.
"Was that Master's voice?"
Kensou slung the towel around his neck and skulked toward the direction of the voice.
The light of the full moon created shadows in the bamboo grove, and the night wind gently rustled the leaves.
Past the bamboo grove was a round boulder, and sitting atop that boulder, Kensou saw the silhouette of the old master, Chin Gentsai.
It wasn’t rare for Chin to sneak out at night and enjoy some liquor under the light of the moon. But tonight, something was different. Instead of holding the gourd Kensou was accustomed to seeing, Chin had a cell phone in his hand and was apparently enjoying a conversation.
'"Huh? Who is he talking to?"
Kensou listened carefully as he ducked out of sight.
”...So you see, young missy, could you? Please? Please? Just for me!"
"If you do what I ask, I'll buy you something delicious at one of those fancy cafes!"
From what Kensou could make out, it seemed that Chin was talking to a young girl, one that he had met before.
Chin Gentsai is a master of Chinese kung fu, but he is also pretty easygoing for an old man. Even knowing that, Kensou still considered this behavior out of the ordinary for him.
”It can't be—"
As the idea dawned on him, Kensou turned pale.
"Oh no...! This isn't good! I need to tell Athena!"
"'...So there you have it. Totally caught him in the act."
As she listened to Kensou's explanation, Athena's scowl only deepened.
"That's it? That's all the proof you have of Master cheating?"
"What more do you need!? Why else would Master be on the phone with some girl in the dead of night?"
"I know, I know! I have a good idea!"
As Kensou and Athena were trying to convince each other, Momoko jumped in.
"We should check Master's cell phone!"
"Well that would be the fastest way, but..."
”L—Look, Momo. Master has a right to privacy, too, y-- Huh? Momo, weren't you watching Bao?"
"Oops, I forgot."
Momoko smiled sweetly. Bao, whose ears Momoko was supposed to be covering, was nowhere to be seen.
"He's over there!"
Kensou and Athena looked over to where Momoko pointed and noticed Bao talking to a certain elderly gentleman.
"Hey, Bao! What're you talking to Master aboutl?"
Kensou and Athena couldn't tell what the two were talking about, but when they saw that Chin and Bao were looking their way they knew that they were the subject of the conversation.
After talking with Bao, Chin let out an exaggerated cough, put his hands behind his back, and walked over to Kensou.
"So, Kensou, I hear you're quite interested in my relationships."
"Hm? Did you want to see my cell phone?"
"You don't think that I'm cheating, do you?"
"O-Of course not! I would never think that! I believe in you, Master!"
Kensou felt Athena and Momoko staring bullets through the sides of his head. Kensou tried to deflect the unwanted
attention by countering.
"...B-But, y'know! Y-You were talking on the phone with a girl, right!? You shouldn't go around hiding things from your
"'I wasn't hiding anything. I was just making sure I didn't disturb your sleep."
"Well, then who is it you were talking to?"
Chin's smile beamed as he stroked his white beard.
".......Well, if you really want to know, I'll tell you."
"Really. But only if you can get me to say, 'I give up,’ in battle. If you can do that, heck, I'd be willing to introduce you to her!"
"'All right! Then let's get this show on the road! A deal's a deal, okay!?"
"Ho ho ho."
Kensou slapped his cheeks to revitalize himself and headed toward the waterfall with Chin. It was fairly common for Chin to make his students practice in the basin under the waterfall to work their legs.
Athena watched a pumped-up Kensou stride off with a purpose and Chin skip off merrily. She then turned and asked Momoko a question suspiciously.
"...Momo, did that seem odd to you?"
"If you ask me, I think Kensou just got played by Master. That guy's a sucker." .
Momoko laughed and began nibbling on a pork bun.
"So you think all this 'girlfriend' talk was just a ploy to get Kensou serious about training?"
"I’don't know... Maybe he IS really cheating."
"Comeon, let's go!"
Athena and Momoko chased after their Master.
Despite Kensou's best efforts, they wouldn't learn the truth behind Chin's "girlfriend" until just before KOF began...
Team Women Fighters
"I left them!"
Mai Shiranui was-insistent.
In a department store located in the Knightsbridge district of London, thousands of people were shopping away as if to mock the world's economic problems. Mai and her friends were among those shoppers.
”That's right, I left! I didn't lose my place on the team, I gave it up!"
As she relaxed in a tea room after a hard day of shopping, Mai took a long whiff of her tea and gave a big nod, mostly to convince herself that her previous statements were true.
"I see. So Terry and the guys are reforming their old team.”
Yuri mumbled to herself as she filled her cup with tea. Mai propped her cheek with her hand and smiled.
"Well, obviously Terry wouldn't have a problem finding teammates, but Boxer Boy would. I didn't want to ruin his comeback by filling his spot on the team."
The King of Fighters tournament was about to begin. A worldwide tournament where the greatest fighters gathered,
and competitors constantly formed new squads with one another. Before the final roster was announced, this was pretty much the only topic of conversation amongst anyone in the fighting world.Even Mai Shiranui had envisioned of teaming up with Andy Bogard for this installment of the KOF.
But her hopes were dashed. Andy wanted to return to his roots and team up with Terry and Joe.
A smile of relief appeared on Yuri's face as she placed her tea cup on the saucer.
"...But that’s lucky for me, though."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"I mean, since I'd already decided that I wasn't going to enter with my dad and brother. If you weren't free, I might not have been able to enter the tournament."
”I guess it worked out for everyone then. ...Oh, did King do the paperwork already?"
"What about me?"
"Oh, it's King!"
King, dressed in a chic jacket, stood behind Mai.
"Hello, you two."
King ordered a cafe au lait and sat down. Her hairstyle and her clothes might make her appear to be a handsome young man from far away, but up-close, her feminine beauty is unmistakable. In fact, King caught several of the men seated at the adjacent tables sneaking long glances at her. After she placed her fedora in her lap, a look of surprisecrossed King's face.
"Huh? Yuri, you cut your hair!"
"Oh, you noticed?"
"Hmmm... You look good with short hair."
”Heehee... Maybe I should become an 'adult' like you!"
"What are you talking about, Yuri?"
As Yuri bashfully smiled, Mai glanced over indifferently.
"’You're not an adult just because you cut your hair. Besides, everyone knows that a Japanese woman looks best with long, black hair."
"Well, I'm an American, so that doesn't apply to me."
Suddenly, Yuri remembered something and produced a magazine from her purse.
"Oh, yeah! This is completely unrelated, but can you take a look at this, King? I picked this up while I was passing though Paris, but I can't read French, so..."
"What is it?"
King glanced at the cover and concentrated momentarily.
"Yeah. It looks like a special on the female fighters entering this year's tournament, but..."
"Huh? That's odd..."
Mai closed her fan with a snap and raised her voice in protest.
”No one ever interviewed me! If they're writing an article like that, the first thing they're supposed to do is come to me."
"I didn't speak to them, either. How about you, King?"
"This is the first I've heard about this."
"Wait a second..Who exactly did they interview if they didn't ask any of us?"
"Let's see... Kasumi, Xiangfei, that Malin girl... But they spent the most space on that British millionaire girl..."
"Jenet...? Oh, that beastly vixen that beats others with her high heel?That girl needs to put some clothes on."
Mai was clearly filled with rage. Yuri shrugged and countered her teammate's remarks.
"Look, Mai... l can understand getting on her for the high heel thing... But you of all people can't really say anything about other people wearing too little..."
"That entirely different! This is traditional garb passed down from my ancestors! Nevermind that, what does it say, King?"
"Let's see here..."
King skimmed the article while sipping on her cafe au lait.
"Let's see... It seems like an article on the next generation of female fighters."
”Huh? Next generation?"
"It's asking, 'Who will be the queen of fighters for the new era?’ From the sound of the article, it looks like Jenet is
planning to enter KOF."
"Huh...? Wait, she's not going to enter with an all-girl team, is she?"
"It sounds like that's what she's planning to do. When this interview was written, the application deadline hadn't passed yet, so she didn't specify who she was entering with."
”Hmmm. That could be fun. Don't you think so, Mai?"
Yuri looked up as she poured milk into her tea. Mai flashed a mischievous smile. , .
"It does indeed. If we run into them during the tournament, then we can prove to the millions of viewers worldwide that this 'new generation' can't hold a candle to the original legends."
"Although, they might not even make it past the preliminaries."
"That's true! It's not easy to do with in KOF with a last-minute team."
"What are you two babbling about..."
King softly cleared her throat to interrupt Mai and Yuri's self-congratulations.
"If you get arrogant like that, someone's going to catch you by surprise." .
"Aren't you angry about it?"
”Not at all."
After she closed the magazine and handed it back to Yuri, King finished her cafe au lait.
"I don't need any extra motivation to get fired up. I give it my best in every match." .
"Well... Of course, we plan on doing that too, but--"
"Then that's all we need. Come on, let's go."
King stood up and pointed toward the ceiling.
"Huh? Where are we going? We're not going to your bar?"
"I was thinking about ordering a new dress first."
Mai and Yuri simultaneously blurted out their shocked response and stared at each other.
"Why are YOU shopping for a dress?"
"Yeah, that's totally out of the ordinary for you."
King cast a glance back at her two younger teammates over her, shoulder and shot them a wink.
"I wanted to wear something nice to the celebration party."
Momentarily confused, Mai caught what King implied and snickered. She hid her lips behind her fan and whispered to
"You know King's really ticked about that article, right?"
"Yeah. It's just like her to proclaim victory like that."
"You two! I'm leaving you behind! Or do you not want new dresses?"
"Oh! We're coming!"
The two grabbed their shopping bags and hurried after King.
"Hey, why don't we reserve a place for our celebration now? Oh, what about Richard's place in South Town?"
"That sounds good. If we had the party at my place, I wouldn't be able to relax."
"Over there nobody minds if we cause a ruckus. ...I think."
"As long as it isn't at my place, I don’t care where."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean!?"
The women loudly chatted as they rode the escalator to the next floor.
As they looked outside they saw a zeppelin in the London sky that glowed red from the sunset.
The King of Fighters...
The world's largest martial arts tournament was about to begin.
Team Fatal Fury
South Town East Island, United States. Pao Pao Cafe main branch. It is hallowed ground for those who their living as
South Town was, in fact, the birthplace of the famed martial arts tournament "King of Fighters". Pao Pao Cafe quickly
became a hot spot for fighters by virtue of offering exciting fights night after night.
The cafe was filled with the melody of the berimbau and the merriment of the customers. It wasn't even dusk, but the place had already begun filling up with customers, who were eagerly waiting for the show to start.
Joe Higashi started to get caught up the excitement and nostalgia of the situation. However, after he looked down at
the entrance once’again from his 2nd floor terrace seat, his footabruptly stopped tapping to the beat.
Joe exhaled a sullen sigh.
"Damn those fame-whore brothers..."
With his hands jammed firmly in the pockets of his hoodie, Joe looked up at the ceiling.
"Making the world's fighting super-star, the great Joe Higashi wait? Who do these small fries think they are big-timing me like that!?"
"Who's a super-star?"
The owner of the Pao Pao cafe, Richard, appeared with a big mug of beer in tow. Richard and Joe go back a long way, which is why he was doing a shift as a waiter for Joe.
After he set the beer and a plate of deep-fried alligator in front of Joe, Richard flashed Joe a knowing smile.
"Terry being late,well, that's old news, but it's rare for Andy to be late. I wonder what the reason is."
"...Probably not a good one."
Joe grabbed the mug and chugged the beer.
Joe Higashi, the current and strongest Muay Thai champ in history, Terry Bogard, the legend of South Town, and his
younger brother’Andy Bogard, a renowned Koppo master...
These three formed a team to enter this year's KOF. The three fighting masters entered the KOF as this team
countless times. Despite the fierce competition of the tournmant, they've always been a formidable lineup.
But in recent years, Joe and Andy had been unable to participate due to personal reasons, which forced Terry to
enter with other members. It has been a while since the three fought together.
And yet, Terry and Andy are late for their appointment with their former teammate. Joe has been waiting here for over 30 minutes.
That was the source of Joe's annoyance.
Joe held his fork backhanded and filled his mouth with the fried alligator pieces.
"Those blondie brothers... If they're not here in 30 minutes...”
Joe spat out under his breath.
"Hey Joe, they're here."
Joe tossed his fork down and leaned over the railing to find a man with long blonde hair and a brunette bombshell. It was Andy Bogard and his self-declared fiancee Mai Shiranui.
"Oh! Over there! Hey, Joe!"
Mai, took notice of Joe and Richard and began waving happily at them. .
"Tch... Those two flirting with each other in front of me!"
After seeing Mai on Andy's are Joe gritted his teeth.
'"Hm? What's wrong Joe? You say something?"
"He's not taking this tournament seriously! Look at the fool ;he's just falling all over Mai..."
"It doesn't look that way to me... Don't tell me you're jealous of him, Joe."
"I never said that!"
Joe's face flushed red as he slammed his fist on the table.
Andy and Mai arrived upstairs.
"Hello, Joe!" . ‘
"Sorry for being late. The plane was behind schedule."
Andy extended his arm for a handshake, unaware of Joe's irritation. His face bore an earnest grin.
"Well... I guess I can't blame you for that..."
Hearing Andy's excuse, Joe's anger had subsided some. Joe ignored Andy's extended hand, and instead, thrust a forkful of fried alligator at Andy. '
"...So, what's with Terry?"
"Huh? Terry's not here yet? ...Hm? Alligator isn't all that bad."
Andy took a seat next to Joe and ordered himself a drink.
"I'll take a beer too, Richard!"
Mai raised her hand as she slid a chair up next to Andy's.
"Okay, two beers, then?"
"Oh, and can I reserve this place for a celebration party?"
Joe tossed Mai's question back with a hint of contempt.
"...Hey, Mai. You entering the tournament, too?"
"Well of course!"
Mai produced a white envelope out of her purse and smiled.
"Well, you know, it's just not a KOF without me, right? Well, the other girls from the original team decided that we should reunite, so we'll be taking the championship. Sorry boys!"
"She's been like this ever since we got on the plane."
Andy sighed as he lookedover to see Mai confidently chuckling behind her fan.
Joe finished his beer and smirked.
"Hey, everyone's free to have their dreams. But here in reality, Joe Higashi and the two funny brothers are the only ones going home with the title."
"It seems everyone's raring to go after that little break, huh?"
Richard laughed cheerfully, as he set down a round of beers for the group.
"And speaking of the devil, the Legendary Wolf himself is finally, here!"
Richard gestured behind him, just as Terry climbed the stairs.
Mary was accompanying him. Seeing the two side-by-side, Joe's beaming grin faded into a frown.
"Hey! Everyone's already here?"
Terry winked and tipped the brim of his cap.
"What happened, brother? You're late."
"I got to South Town last night, but I overslept at the station. By the time I woke up, I was supposed to be here, so I called Mary and asked her to give me a lift."
As Terry nonchalantly explained the situation, Mary gave him an exaggerated slouch.
"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't use me as a taxi. I haven't heard from you in ages, and then you call me up out of the blue because you need a ride!"
"Haha, I'm sorry'bout that. You're a real lifesaver, Mary. Thanks!"
"I-I'm sorry my ass!"
Joe knocked over his chair as he stood up and interrupted the conversation. He jabbed an angry index finger at Terry's face and started yelling.
"Hey, Terry! If you're gonna be apologizing, isn't there someone else you're forgetting!?"
"'...Huh? Are you okay, Joe? Why are you so ticked?"
"I said, apologize,,dammit! It's not like this is the first time you've left me waiting for you—"
"Hey... Did any of you hear this rumor..."
Andy sidestepped Joe's rage, and cut in with a serious look on his face.
"I heard that Raiden and Hwa Jai are entering this tournament with Kim."
"Raiden and Hwa Jai... Yeah, I've heard that rumor. But I wonder if Kim's actually planning on reforming those two."
" Hey, if they're strong, then I don't have any complaints. As long as I can get in a good fight."
"That's what I expected you to say, Terry."
As if to make up for lost time, a lively conversation spontaneously emerged from the evening. The friends stayed animated until Terry had a sudden realization.
"...Is that the reason you're all wound up? You and Hwa have history, dontcha Joe?"
"Wha!? Who you callin' nervous!?"
" Uh, you? You've been on edge this entire time."
"You... Cut the crap!"
Joe completely'snapped and flipped the table in front of him.
"What the heck!? You drunk already or something, Joe!?"
"You shut up! First I'm teach you that nobody disrepects Joe, and then you're gonna apologize!"
"I don't really get what's going on here, but... OK! Let's check each other's strength before we get to the tourney!"
"Wipe that grin off your face!"
Joe and Terry both leaped over the railing and landed in the center of the battle stage on the first floor. The crowd immediately went wild after seeing the two famous fighters take to the stage with such panache.
"Damn you two! Hooking up with ladies in front of me...!"
"What was that? I can't hear you over the crowd!"
Joe threw off his hoodie as he studied Terry rocking into his fighting rhythm. Terry looked as cheerful as ever, and Joe could feel that familiar fighting spirit well up.
"A friend's a friend, but we need to settle this for good before the tournament starts. We can't be an effective team if we're wondering who's the strongest."
The thrill of the impending fight had instantly sobered Joe up. Though the fight had arisen from disrespect and rage, standing in front of a powerful rival provided Joe clarity of purpose. Despite their differences in personalities, when all is said and done, Joe can't deny that he's just a simple man who lived to fight just like Terry did.
"Let's Fight! Here I come, Joe!"
Terry suddenly darted right in front of Joe. Joe sensed immediately that Terry's skills hadn't waned in the least, and he
could no longer contain his excitement.
Joe responded by dashing towards Terry and uncorking his own punch.
"I'll show you... When we win the championship, I'll be the one getting the women! Those cheers are gonna be for me, the legendary Joe Higashi!"
After a day's worth of training, Chang Koehan lay spent against the dojo wall when Choi Bounge burst into the room.
"Hey, Chang!" '
"Huhhh? Whaddya want, Choi? I'm not moving a muscle until dinnertime..."
"'Kim's training is tough... but I’ve come up with a way to free ourselves from this hell!"
"Really!? You sure, Choi?"
"This can’t possibly fail. This'll work 100% guaranteed!"
"Well,what’s this plan?"
"Take a look at this!"
Choi hopped ontoChang's shoulder and pulled out a magazine. It was a Korean martial arts magazine with a special spread on the upcoming KOF tournament.
Chang looked at the page Choi pointed to and let out a heavy moan of despair.
”Ugh... We're already on the list of expected fighters... Even if we win the championship, Kim isn't going to let us go. All that we’d ever get from entering is... tired..."
"Not that! Over here! Look at the 'Predicted Newcomers' corner!" .
"'Hm? Whoa, take a look at these guys! They look like criminals."
"It’s even better than that! They don’t just look like thugs; they actually were thugs!"
"...So, what’s so great about that?"
"Don’t you see? It's simple! We'll just talk Kim into realizing that these guys are in more need for reform than we are!"
"Ooooh! Choi, you’re a genius!"
Chang’s hunger and exhaustion had rendered him unable to move.,However, once Choi’s plan registered in his brain, he instantly sprung up.
"Let's hurry and recommend these fools to Kim!"
"It'll be the birth of the new Team Kim!"
The sound of Chang’s footsteps echoed throughout the room as he bolted off with Choi still hanging on his shoulder.
East Island, South Town. Summer was drawing near. Swimming season hadn’t quite begun, and as a result, Sound
Beach was completely deserted, save for two men.
The two men started walking toward each other. At about 10 feet away, the large 6-foot man spoke suspiciously.
"...You're Hwa, aren't you?"
The second man also had a tone of surprise in his voice.
"Didn't you cut your ties with Geese and return home?"
"That's my line."
These two men knew each other from long ago.
The giant man's name is Raiden, a wrestling heel that was once hired by Geese Howard as a bodyguard and entered KOF in its early days. He was dressed in a nice tailor-made suit, but his 6- foot, 463-pound body gave off the same presence outside the ring as it did inside it.
The other man, decked out in a Hawaiian-print shirt, was the former Muay Thai champion, Hwa Jai. After his career hit a tailspin due to a title fight defeat at the hands of Joe Higashi, he, like Raiden, entered KOF as a hired fighter for Geese. But this was many years ago. As Raiden said, they had both cut ties with Geese and returned to their homelands to restart their careers. Raiden returned to the ring, and Hwa was training for a comeback.
So why had Raiden come from Australia and Hwa Jai from Pattaya to meet in South Town now?
Hwa walked toward Raiden and gave his former co-worker a defiant glare.
"Well ,out with it! What’d you call me here for!?"
"Whaddya talkin' about!? You called ME here! I was wonderin' what YOU wanted from me, calling me all the way out here. And depending on your answer, I might not let it slide."
"Huh!? What the hell would I possibly want from you!?"
"You got a big mouth for a fighter who’s as washed up as you are."
The eyes under Raiden's mask narrowed and glimmered with aferocity. Seeing that, a reckless smile crossed on Hwa's face.
"Hey, Raiden... You know that this isn't the KOF that Geese used to run."
"So what?" ‘ .
"'So the matches ain't rigged! You mess with me, and I'll kick your flabby behind to a pulp!"
"Wait a second, you two!"
A sharp voice halted the two combatants just as the two were about to begin their fight.
Raiden and Hwa both turned to face the voice at the same time. An Asian man stood on the breakwater at the edge of their line of sight.
"You two do not need to fight. It is I who called you here."
Hwa tried to make out the man walking towards them. He inched toward Raiden and asked his old co-worker a question underneath his breath.
"...Hey, Raiden. Haven't you seen this guy from somewhere? Isn't he--"
Raiden stiffly nodded.
"He's one of the oldest regulars of KOF, Master Kim, the face of Korea. You've seen him on TV and stuff, right?"
"That’s him! The whatever of the tae kwon do world, blah blah blah something about justice?"
Hwa's line trailed off. At first glance, it might have looked like Kim was simply walking forward, but Hwa realized that Kim’s deliberate steps left no opening to attack. Despite being on unstable sand, Kim had walked a path toward them as straight as an arrow.
Raiden cleared his throat.
"You just said that you're the one that called us, right?"
"'So, what does the famous Master Kim want with us?"
"I will be frank."
Kim looked at Raiden and Hwa alternately and fearlessly announced, "I want to form a team with you two for the
"...Gonna form a team with you!?"
Kim, clad in a white polo shirt, folded his arms in front of the two flabbergasted men and displayed a disappointed look.
"I think you two have great potential."
"You two have so much Skill, and yet you join up with a villain such as Geese Howard and rig matches. If that is not a horrible waste of skill, what is?"
"Er, I guess you’re right, but we cut our ties with Geese a long time ago, Kim..."
"Y-Yeah, that's right!"
"We've started new lives as honest fighters in our homelands."
"So you see, I've promised myself..."
Kim continued on, completely ignoring Hwa and Raiden’s protests.
"I will bring you back to the path of righteousness!"
"B-Back to the path of righteousness... Wait, d-don't tell me..."
"Through the intensity of the battles of KOF, you will also battle with your inner demons and win! I would like to help
you! That is my duty!"
Inspired by his own speech, Kim clenched his fists as Raiden and Hwa looked at each other.
"H-Hey Raiden! .This isn't--"
"Yeah, it is. This is Kim's infamous reformation..."
"Why the heck are we getting this treatment now!? We cut our ties with Geese a long time ago!"
"Well, yeah, but if you asked us if we were good guys, I don't think either of us could say that we were."
Kim continued his seemingly interminable speech about the majesty of tae kwon do, the greatness of doing good deeds, and the bright future that is borne from that.
Hwa clicked his tongue and shot a glance over to Raiden.
"...Wanna just jump him here?"
"Go for it. Then you won't have to worry about your comeback match for a looooong while."
"Well, then what-the hell do we do, dammit!? You aren’t seriously thinking of teaming up with him?"
"That ain't a bad idea there, Hwa."
”Think about our future. Getting some good PR at KOF isn't a bad thing. If we come away from it with the title, it'd make it easier for us to negotiate big-money fights. You'd be able to clean up your dirty image and kick-start your comeback, right?"
"I see... With a goody two-shoes like Kim announcing that we're good guys, it would..."
“It's nothing.We just play along with his little act as long as we're a team."
"Yeah, and I'm sure I'll run into Joe in KOF. Heeheeheehee..."
The two glanced at each other and chuckled.
On the sands of Sound Beach, a new Team Kim was born...
The news quickly spread across the world and shocked all those who knew Raiden and Hwa Jai, save for Chang and Choi, the true masterminds behind this new team.
Art of Fighting Team
.....That afternoon, Takuma Sakazaki was shocked by his beloved daughter, Yuri. . .
"Yuril? What happenedl?"
Yuri was tightening her belt when she heard the inquiry.
’"What's wrong, Dad?"
”Don't you 'what’s wrong' me! Your hair! I'm asking you what happened to it!"
Yuri's hair used to drape down to the middle of her back. Her new hairstyle was cropped closer to her shoulders. As she patted her newly shorn locks, Yuri smiled.
"There's a new hair salon along my jogging route, so I went inside to check it out and--"
Takuma raised his voice, cutting Yuri off mid-sentence. "That's not what I'm talking about!"
Besides Takuma, Yuri, and Ryo, there were some white belt students scattered about the dojo. All of them had stopped in their tracks and now stared at Takuma with bewilderment.
They had no idea what the real reason Takuma suddenly exploded at Yuri was.
Ryo frowned and walked over. As Yuri's older brother, he was pretty sure he knew why Takuma was irritated, so he
understood his reaction. But if he didn't step in soon, he knew that Takuma might embarrass the family in front of their
"Hey, Dad, look--"
"You shut up! Listen, Yuri! What I want to say is--"
"What's wrong, everybody?"
Just as Takuma was about to start a lecture, Robert Garcia arrived.
"Oh? Yuri, you cut your hair?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah."
"Hmmm, short hair works for you as well. You look cute."
"Oh, Robert, stop that."
Yuri and Robert smiled as they looked at each other.
"So, Yuri, can you be my opponent?"
"Sure, as long as you don't go easy on me!"
"But of course. I can't take it easy on you anymore."
Takuma butted in with a sour look on his face.
"If you want a sparring partner, then I'll be your opponent."
"Huh? You, Dad?"
"Since when did I become your father!? Anyway, Yuri wouldn't be enough of a fight for you."
"Wait a second, Dad--"
Upset, Yuri was about to explode in anger when Ryo stopped her.
"Yuri, stop it.”
"But he's being selfish! And did you hear what he just-"
"Well, I do kinda understand where he's coming from."
Yuri stared at her brother in shock as she heard those words.
"We're in front of the students; just let it go for now."
Robert hurriedly changed into his karate gi, tied his belt, and stood in front of Takuma. He looked toward Ryo and Yuri and shot them a wink and a knowing smile. He apparently discovered the source of Takuma's foul mood as well.
Ryo slapped his hands together and silently apologized to Robert, then encouraged Yuri to start sparring with him.
"Geez! Why are all the men in my family like that!?"
Yuri vented as she stirredher iced cafe au lait with her straw.
"Ryo was like, 'Oh,’ you cut your hair? Is that so?’ He didn't even say if it looked good or not! And what was with Dad going off like that!? They need to be more like you!"
After they had finished practice, Yuri and Robert went to a quaint cafe with a view. She said she wanted to go shopping, but all Yuri actually did was complain to Robert.
"They may call your father the Karate Demon, but he's still human. He's just worried about you, just like any normal father would be."
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"Well, I don't really want to butt into your family business too much. Why don't you ask Ryo about it?"
Robert set down his cappuccino and ended the discussion. Yuri didn't really understand what he said, just as she didn't understand what Ryo had said earlier.
"...But, speaking on behalf of Shisho, I don't think he wants you to continue karate.”
"Huh? He wants me to quit?"
“'No, not quit. He just wants you to stop entering tournaments and stuff. After all, you originally started karate for self-
defense, right? But your level of karate skill is far beyond self- defense, and ydu're participating in tournaments without even blinking. ...It's a bit of'a contradiction, don't you think?"
Yuri had no answer for Robert. It was true that she began karate for self-defense. But before she knew it, she had begun seriously training. Now she's become a mainstay of the King of Fighters tournaments. What was once for self-protection has become her motivation to go out and risk serious injury.
As Yuri looked down, she heard her brother's familiar voice. She glanced in that direction to see Ryo waving at the two from the bottom ,of the steps.
"Let's go home, Yuri!"
"I called him. You might not look good on his piece of junk bike after riding in my car, though."
Sipping on his cappuccino, Robert saw Yuri off.
Ryo's bike ran out of gas. It must have been a hassle for Ryo, as he had to push the heavy bike home, but perhaps it ended up all for the better.
"Now that I think about it, he's only ever seen you with long hair."
Ryo and Yuri's shadows grew long on the sunset-tinged asphalt.
"Yeah. The last time you had short hair was in junior high."
"Oh yeah. When I was on the softball team, huh."
"But Dad wasn't around then."
Yuri finally realized what her brother and Robert had been trying to tell her.
Takuma disappeared when Yuri was young and he wasn't there to see his daughter grow up. By the time he was reunited with his children, Yuri had already become a young lady.
"That's why he gets like that. ...I think Dad's really worried about you now. Seeing that you changed your hairstyle, he
thinks there are a million reasons that might've happened."
"But he never says anything about you."
"That's because I'm a guy and you're a girl. ...lt's about time you thought about your future, too."
Those words nearly set off an explosion of laughter from Yuri. She had never thought she'd hear her karate-crazed brother talk about responsibilities and a life outside of fighting.
Ryo furrowed his brow and looked at Yuri.
"What was that look for? I think about the future too, you know."
"Oh, really? What do you see in your future, then?"
"Mastering Kyokugen karate?What else?"
"l figured you'd say that."
Yuri laughed at Ryo's predictable answer. Ryo was a straightforward man, and that was literally the only way he
could possibly respond to that question.
"*sigh* You must have inherited Dad's awkwardness. ...I feel bad for King." .
"Hm? What was that, Yuri?"
Yuri bolted off ahead of an utterly confused Ryo.
"I'm just gonna jog first!"
"That's fine, but don't be out too late!"
Yuri looked over her shoulder toward Ryo and added one final bit of information.
"I'm entering KOF with King and Mai!"
"What!? Hold on! Yo‘u're just telling me this now!?"
"You guys can have your sweaty man team! I'll show you and Dad just how much I've grown and that you don't have to worry about me!"
Yuri sped up, to put more distance between her and her brother, as she heard the pace of his footsteps quicken.
As he watched Yuri disappear into the distance, Ryo knew he wouldn't be able to change Yuri's mind.
While Takuma doesn't speak about it openly, Ryo knows that his father has always been worried about Yuri. This sentiment has only gotten more intense recently.
When Takuma heard of Yuri joining the tournament with another team, Ryo was sure that he would blow a blood vessel.
All Ryo could do was figure out how he would calm his father down when Yuri finally informed Takuma of her entry into KOF.