The TW Network
King of Fighters Fighters
Fighter ID:
Password
Age
43
Birthdate
September 1
Blood Type
B
Hates
Rugal
Height
192 cm
Special Skill(s)
Hunting
Weight
90 kg
Personal Treasure(s)
Photograph of family
Favorite Food(s)
Black beer, intestinal sausage
Hobbies
Collecting metal figurines, fishing
Fighting Style(s)
Martial arts + self taught assassination techniques

Games
King of Fighters '94, The
Neo Geo
Member of Brazil team.
King of Fighters '95, The
Neo Geo
Member of Brazil team.
King of Fighters '98, The
Neo Geo
Father Team
King of Fighters 2001, The
Neo Geo
King of Fighters 2000, The
Playstation 2
PS2 port only. Unlocked via Party Mode.
King of Fighters '98, The: Ultimate Match
Arcade
Oyaji Team Member.
King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match, The
Playstation 2
Member of the Masters Team.
King of Fighters 14, The / The King of Fighters XIV
King of Fighters 15, The / The King of Fighters XV
Team Rival

Storyline
King of Fighters II
King of Fighters '94
Taking the invitation from "R" in hand, Heidern surveys the view outside his room. The densely growing jungle remains static, but for Heidern it no longer particularly bothers him.

"The mission I wish to entrust you with this time is to destroy the syndicate lurking behind this year's fighting tournament, the King of Fighters.
As he asks Heidern whether he will take the mission, the tone of the executive officer of the international police suggests refusal is not an option.
"Would you be so kind as to show me the invitation in question?"
Heidern asks this question calmly.
He opens the envelope and scans over the invitation. For just an instant, he loses his cool. The letter "R" is all there is written for the sponsor.
"R.... Rugal...."
Heidern mumbles briefly and then recalls the nightmare of 8 years ago.
This was truly an incident worthy of being called a nightmare. His men were slain one after another, screaming ghastly death cries. It is no exaggeration to say that a single man-no, fierce demon-carried out this massacre. He also took Heidern's beloved wife, daughter, and right eye as well.
"It's already been eight years, has it...?"
This nightmare plagues him whenever he recalls the love he felt toward his wife and daughter and the loss of his right eye.
"I'm sorry to be late."
Two brawny men appear in Heidern's room. They are Ralf and Clark.
"No, I don't mind. The reason I called you two here today is...."
Ralf and Clark receive the order for their special mission.
King of Fighters '95
One day, Heidern, the leader of the band of mercenaries, is tormented by nightmares and wakes in a cold sweat.
HEIDERN: "Bah. Yet again...? More dreams of Sandra and Clara.... Even though Rugal is gone, your souls are still not at peace...."
The next day, while Heidern is drilling his underlings, Clark bursts in.
CLARK: "Leader! Th-this was just delivered!"
Ralf, who was training the troops under Heidern's direction, hears the commotion and approaches the two.
HEIDERN: "Hey?! What's going on with you two?!"
RALF: "An invitation to King of Fighters?! And what's with this "R" here...?!"
Heidern silently opens the letter and reads its contents.
HEIDERN: "So that's it...? If this "R" signifies Rugal...No, even if it's not Rugal, if Interpol weren't involved, this thing would have never found its way to me. The honor of this squad is at stake, so we've only but to join this tournament."
RALF: "Leader. You probably know this already, but you can't join it by yourself."
CLARK: "He's got that right. If you're going, count us in, too."
HEIDERN: "Hmph. Those were my original plans. Well, then! Ralf! Clark! We're presently headed to KOF on a special mission."
RALF, CLARK: "Sir, yes, sir!"
HEIDERN: "This "R." It's gotta be Rugal.... He can't be alive.... Rugal, you slime! You're mustache is mine!"
King of Fighters '96
Ralf and Clark stand at attention before Heidern.
HEIDERN: "So, you're both here. Have a seat."
RALF, CLARK: "Yes, sir!"
The two sit down. Clark puts his sunglasses in his pocket.
CLARK: "It's been a while since we've had a briefing. You got a new mission for us?"
HEIDERN: "Take a look at these dossiers. I want you to scan these over first."
The two scan the distributed materials. Suddenly they wince tensely.
RALF: "...The King of Fighters!"
CLARK: "What's this...?"
HEIDERN: "It's just what you see. There'll be another King of Fighters."
RALF: "That means Rugal is back in action once again...?"
HEIDERN: "No, it's clear that the sponsors to this year's KOF are different from last year. We suspect that someone is pulling the strings behind the scenes, but our investigations have not yet born fruit. It's safe to say that there's nothing sinister about the competition."
CLARK: "If there's nothing fishy about the competition per se, does that mean our mission has something to do with the competitors."
HEIDERN: "Oh, someone's on the ball this morning."
RALF: "Would you care to expand on that?"
HEIDERN: "We've confirmed that Wolfgang Krauser, Geese Howard, and Mr. Big are among this year's KOF contestants."
Ralf lets out a whistle of surprise at the intel.
CLARK: "Wow, all the big names in the underworld, huh?"
HEIDERN: "Yup."
RALF: "So, what's our next mission all about?"
HEIDERN: "As with the previous competitions, I want you two to enter KOF and keep an eye on those clowns. Guys of their stature...I can't imagine them participating in a competition like this unless there's something more enticing to them."


RALF: "So what are the rules this time around?"
HEIDERN: "It's in the dossiers, but it's going to be a team competition like the last one."
CLARK: "So basically we should use the same line-up as then, right?"
RALF: "If we team up together this time, it's going to be a cakewalk. Guess we'll be taking the victory prize on the way."
HEIDERN: "As far as our team is concerned, there's been a change to the line-up."
RALF, CLARK: "Huh?"
RALF: "You mean you're making one of us sit this one out?"
HEIDERN: "No, you two will take part as before. This time I'm taking myself out of the actual operations to oversee the mission."
RALF: "So you won't be fighting alongside us?"
CLARK: "But that means were a member short.... Teams are supposed to have three members, aren't they?"
HEIDERN: "Don't worry. I've prepared a suitable addition to your squad."
RALF, CLARK: "Suitable addition?"
HEIDERN: "That's right."
Suddenly there's a knock at the door.
HEIDERN: "Come in."
A young girl of 17 or 18 enters.
RALF, CLARK: "!"
HEIDERN: "This is Leona. This'll be her first mission."
Leona gives a slight bow of greeting. She remains silent. Taken aback, Ralf and Clark can do nothing but stare at young girl.
RALF: "Is this some kind of joke? She's just a kid...."
HEIDERN: "That doesn't sound like you. If there's one thing I've told you, I've told it to you a thousand, zillion times.... And what is that, Clark?"
CLARK: "Judging the punch of a shell by its casing is the sign of a rank amateur. Right?"
HEIDERN: "That's the one. You three will make up this mission's squad. It's not just an order, it's a necessity for the success of this mission. Do you have a problem with that, Ralf?"
RALF: "No, sir. I don't."
HEIDERN: "I take it, then, you accept the conditions for this mission. I have something to add about the overall direction of this mission. Leona will notify you of all directives from me, so you do as she says."
RALF, CLARK: "Yes, sir."
HEIDERN: "OK. Sit down, Leona. Synchronize your watches. Wait for 16:35. Five, four, three, two, one...synchronize. The mission begins at oh-five fifty tomorrow morning. Assemble at warehouse six at the docks. Any questions?"
RALF, CLARK: "Sir, no, sir."
HEIDERN: "Very good. So see you at warehouse six bright and early in the morning. Dismissed!"
RALF, CLARK: "Yes, sir!"
Heidern leaves the briefing room. Ralf and Clark look to Leona.
RALF: "My name's Ralf. This here is Clark. Nice to meet you."
Ralf extends his hand as if to keep Leona, who has risen from her chair, from leaving the briefing room. She gives a limp handshake. Leona then attempts a hasty exit, but Ralf does not release her hand.
RALF: "We didn't get your name yet, did we?"
Leona glares at Ralf. Clark keeps a watchful eye over the proceedings.
LEONA: "Leona...it's a pleasure."
RALF: "The pleasure's ours. Say hello to the lady, Clark."
Ralf directs Leona's gaze with his thumb toward Clark. Clark extends his hand.
CLARK: "Clark. Take it easy on me, OK?"
She remains silent, and she simply shakes his hand. Unlike Ralf, Clark quickly releases loosens his grip, and Leona rushes from the briefing room. Clark looks at Ralf. He shrugs his shoulders.
RALF: "Whaddya think?"
CLARK: "Beats me. Typical for a first meeting. She seems like a competent soldier to me..."
RALF: "Yeah, I guess."
CLARK: "We'll be working together with her come the dawn. Much as I hate to admit it, she may just work out. We'll have to trust our leader."
RALF: "That sounds prudent..."
Clark puts his sunglasses back on.
CLARK: "Well, I guess we'll have to change our attitudes and work to succeed in our mission. That's our only choice."
RALF: "You said a mouthful. And I'm never washing this had again."
King of Fighters '97
A battlefield in one of the world's hot spots. Ralf, Clark, and Leona are in the midst of a mission.
RALF: "How far to our destination?"
CLARK: "Thirty seconds."
RALF: "Where's Leona? Do you think she'll be able to rendez-vous with us?"
CLARK: "I suppose. What are you all jumpy about?"
RALF: "Uh, nothing. Nothing at all."
Leona has already reached the destination before her comrades. She scopes out the surroundings.
LEONA: "...!"
She sees a young boy lying near the collapsed house.
LEONA: "Is he still here...?"
She runs to him and scoops up the young boy.
LEONA: "Hey, wake up...."
The gasping boy opens his eyes. Seeing Leona, a look of fear seizes the boys face.
BOY: "N-no...! Please...don't kill me...!!!"
LEONA: "..."
All of a sudden, Leona loses her grip on reality. The boy's voice echoes in her head.


--- "Please...don't kill me...!!! Don't...kill...me!"
The tone of the boy's voice has clearly changed in quality. Leona fights to regain her lucidity.
LEONA: "Kill...? Who...? Kill who...?"
She snaps out of her trance. But a clearly different scene than before comes into view. Along with that, the form of the owner's voice becomes distinct.
--- "Don't...kill...me...Leona!!!"
The figure of a blood-covered young girl sears itself into Leona's retina.
LEONA: "...! M-Mama...!? Why...?!"
A disagreeably warm sensation is felt around her feet. The area of the feeling gradually begins to grow.
LEONA: "Papa...!!!"
Leona's father clings at her feet. He opens his mouth as if trying to say something.
LEONA: "No...! Not that...!!!"
All of a sudden something grips her shoulders. She looks back to see Goenitz standing there.
GOENITZ: "Now...relieve your father of his pain as you did with your mother...."
LEONA: "No...it wasn't me...."
GOENITZ: "No. It was you. You killed her."
LEONA: "N-n...ohhhh!!!"
Leona feels the sticky warmth of blood throughout her hands.
GOENITZ: "Yes, it is so! Look closely. Look at your own hands!!!"
Leona looks at her hands. Both of them are drenched in blood. She can see the figure of her father who has breathed his last breath.
LEONA: "Ah...Aaaaaah...."
Ralf and Clark have arrived at the rendez-vous point. They see the motionless Leona's in view.
RALF: "...? What's she doing spacing out like that?"
CLARK: "Ralf, watch out!!!"
The sound of artillery passing overhead comes from behind the two.
RALF: "Oh, no! Get out of there, Leona!"
Leona remains frozen. Ralf and Clark rush toward her.
RALF: "Get out of there, Leona! Leo-naaaaaah!!!"
All of a sudden Leona comes to her senses. A vision of the battlefield flashes before her. The sound of artillery approaches.
LEONA: "...I...!"
RALF: "Leo-naaaaaaah!!!"
Leona can see Ralf rushing toward her. Once again Leona mind goes blank. The sound of explosions echoes in her head.

Heidern's office. Heidern takes in the view outside his office window. Ralf has the floor. His hands are wrapped in bandages.
HEIDERN: "So, just what do you have to tell me?"
RALF: "I want you to tell me just what is going to be done about the failure of our mission...."
Heidern looks around to face Ralf, who stands behind him.
HEIDERN: "Failure of your mission? Granted, there was an accident. But you fulfilled the objective of your mission...."
RALF: "No, that's just a product of our efforts, but in actuality we failed: we failed to save the survivors. We failed as professionals."
HEIDERN: "You're pretty hard on yourself. The bodies of those survivors of which you speak, however, are still unaccounted for. Our investigations revealed no bodies. Only Leona confirmed the presence of any survivors at that time. And as far as Leona goes.... That's that, isn't it? So, what more do you want?"
RALF: "For the time being, I want you to remove me from active duty...."
HEIDERN: "Are you telling me to suspend you?"
RALF: "If that's the way you want to interpret it, that's copasetic with me."
HEIDERN: "...Very well. But there's one condition. If I'm going to suspend you, I must suspend the whole team. If you agree to that, I'll accede to your demands."
RALF: "Are you asking for our collective responsibility?"
HEIDERN: "That's what I'm asking. I'll inform you of the period of suspension subsequently. That will be all."
RALF: "Sir! Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!"
Ralf takes his leave. Heidern calmly reclines back in his chair.
HEIDERN: "Concealing one's intentions from a superior and taking such an insolent attitude.... Do you actually think I don't get what you're up to?"
Heidern takes out an envelope from his drawer.
HEIDERN: "The King of Fighters...hmmm."


Ralf heads for the briefing room. Clark appears around the corner.
CLARK: "So how did it go?"
Ralf begins to remove his bandages.
RALF: "He bought it hook, line, and sinker."
CLARK: "Oh, really...? But do you think he really bought it? What'll we accomplish by entering KOF during our suspension?"
RALF: "Think of it as rehabilitation."
CLARK: "Rehabilitation? Leona's? Ralf, are you willing to go to those pains for her...?"
RALF: "Don't get me wrong. If she keeps going in this manner, I just may find myself pushing up daisies. I'll have no part of that. No how, no way."
CLARK: "Is that...all you're worried about?"
RALF: "Yeah, so?"
Clark can't help but smiling.
CLARK: "Hey, I've got no problem with that...."
The briefing room. Leona waits for the two. Shortly after, the two enter.
RALF: "Our punishment has been decided. All of us have been suspended."
LEONA: "Really...?"
RALF: "But were not going to be idle during that time. Our "mission" during our suspension has already been determined."
LEONA: "What are we going to do?"
CLARK: "We're going to enter the King of Fighters."
LEONA: "...?"
RALF: "We can't let ourselves get out of shape, can we? Clark, show her the files."


Clark hands Leona the files.
RALF: "It appears that all of the entrants have been determined. We're not listed, but we got a genuine invitation."
Leona looks over the materials. Her gaze freezes on the figure of an unfamiliar boy.
LEONA: "Who's this boy...?"
CLARK: "Oh, a new face. He's young, but he's one tough cookie. Look familiar?"
The entrant and the boy she recalls from the battlefield overlap in her mind's eye.
LEONA: "...Not particularly...."
RALF: "We don't have much time until the tournament begins. We should leave as soon as possible. Any complaints?"
CLARK: "Understood."
Ralf takes a peek at Leona who appears to be staring off at some far place.
RALF: "Leona, is that all right with you?"
LEONA: "Understood."
Leona responds as if nothing is bothering her. Ralf exchanges glances with Clark and shrugs his shoulders. Leona once again looks to some distant horizon.
King of Fighters '99
Several figures move in the darkness.
"Lights!"
A "Click!" and the surroundings are bathed in a brilliant light. The wide, unoccupied floor is illuminated. It's obvious someone left this place in a hurry.
RALF: "Again...?"
CLARK: "Well, it's always adventure, isn't it? Day in and day out."
RALF: "Just how many times has this happened? Right when we think we've got 'em, they escape as if they were on to us."
CLARK: "And it's kind of creepy that we don't have a clue what they were up to here."
Leona, standing next to the two, senses something. She makes a dash toward the direction she intuits where her target is.
RALF: "Hey! What's going on, Leona?!"
Leona plunges into the darkness. The sound of blades clinging against each other rings out.
"WAIT!!!"
A young woman...no, the voice of a young girl can be heard.
The lights trail in the direction of the voice. A girl holding a whip snaps it around the knife that Leona is holding out and she whisks it from her.
CLARK: "Leona, stop. Who is it...?"
Leona steps back. The girl lowers her readied whip and salutes Ralf.
GIRL: "I'm from Axe Platoon."
RALF: "Axe Platoon? Aren't they supposed to be investigating another objective 20 kilometers from here?"
GIRL: "A number of platoons have been dispatched on this mission. A majority of the objectives are linked by underground passages. I followed one of them and ended up here."
CLARK: "So that's it, is it? Well? Did you come up with anything?"
GIRL: "I can only reveal the exact details of my investigation directly to my superiors. But I will say that all of the objectives are linked together and it appears that large-scale espionage has been taking place."
RALF: "Espionage? What kind?"
GIRL: "I can't tell you that. Excuse me. It's time for me to report back."
She turns her back to the three, and goes back into the darkness. Ralf and the others see her off.
RALF: "They're really robbing the cradle these days, aren't they?"
CLARK: "Yeah, I thought Leona was young, but she must be just out of diapers."


A few days later.
In Heidern's office. Leona, Ralf, and Clark stand at attention.
HEIDERN: "Take a look at this."
Heidern plops an envelope before the three. Ralf examines its contents.
RALF: "An invitation to KOF? There's another one this year, huh? Hmph.... Whoa! Four members to a team this time around, is it?"
HEIDERN: "That's what it says."
CLARK: "So I guess we'll be teaming up with our commander to enter this time around, huh?"
HEIDERN: "That's a big negative there, Shades! You should be able to see what's coming! Aniticipate!"
Clark takes the invitation from Ralf.
CLARK: "The venue of the tournament is.... Hnh...?"
RALF: "What is it?"
Clark hands the invitation back to Ralf.
CLARK: "Didn't you catch it?"
RALF: "Don't rush me.... What's this...? That's creepy. The more matches you win, the closer you get to a worse place."
CLARK: "It's a collection of all the places where we've been outwitted in all our recent missions up till now."
HEIDERN: "That's not the only thing. It appears that this year's tournament has none of the excitement of the same magnitude as last year. It seems that this tournament will most likely be a private affair."
RALF: "Just what does HQ think about this?"
HEIDERN: "The formation of a head office for espionage operations was decided on today. I'm to be the leader."
CLARK: "And just what does that mean for us?"
HEIDERN: "You'll enter the tournament and investigate what's going on behind the scenes of this year's event."
LEONA: "Understood."
RALF: "And what are we supposed to do about our missing member?"


A knock at the door comes from behind the group.
HEIDERN: "Enter."
The door opens. A familiar young woman enters.
CLARK: "You're...it?"
HEIDERN: "She's transferred here from Axe Platoon. She has nearly completed her investigations."
GIRL: "It's an honor to serve with you. My codename in Axe Platoon is...."
RALF: "WHIPPY?"
Clark lets out a giggle. The girl shoots him a questioning look.
GIRL: "...What, do you mean by that?"
RALF: "It's your codename, isn't it? A simple mnemonic device is the best thing in a codename. You use that whip so they must call you 'WHIPPY,' don't they?"
GIRL: "It's 'SALLY.'"
Clark plays with the letters in his head.
CLARK: "S-A-L-L-Y means 'sortie'? How swashbuckling!"
RALF: "SALLY?' That's a bit simple, isn't it? Oh, well. I look forward to serving with you 'WHIPPY.'"
Ralf extends his hand but receives a salute in turn.
LEONA: "Pleased to meet you."
Leona salutes the new addition. Next, Clark extends his hand.
CLARK: "Pleased to serve with you, Whip."
Her expression is a little disingenuous but she flashes him a smile.
HEIDERN: "Ooh, I like that. And I like you. The pleasure will be all mine."
Whip shakes his hand.
CLARK: "Quite a grip there. Doing work like this at such an age must be tough."
HEIDERN: "Not necessarily. I get a lot of laughs compared to where I used to work."
Clark looks over to Ralf. Ralf replies with a shrug of his shoulders.
HEIDERN: "Well, let's carry out a short briefing and get you on your way. Meet me in the briefing room in ten minutes and bring your gear. Dismissed!"
EVERYONE: "Yes, sir!!!"
King of Fighters '00
The surface of the ruins. It is not a relic of the past, but ruins that suddenly burst forth from the womb of the earth.
Emitting a sound that one would think it's crying like a baby, the edifice screeches and surrounds itself in smoke, as if cradled by it.
The smoke does not let up. It smolders in the nasal cavities, and visibility is far from satisfactory. But gradually things become visible.
Twelve seconds later...
Heidern stares at the smoke before him. A single shadow is at its side, as if cuddling next to it.
Heidern continues staring at the sight and calls to the figure that is most likely one of his soldiers.

"Is that you, Ralf?"
The shadow begins to assume the form of Ralf.
"My status report, sir."
His voice is steady but a quick glance at him makes it apparent that he's pretty banged up inside.
"How did things go?"
"We recovered everyone. Clark and Leona both suffered external injuries but wounds are nothing serious."
The exchange lasts exactly twenty seconds.
"That's going to swell up like a blowfish."
Ralf doesn't follow him.
"What?"
"I can see it."
By following the trajectory of Heidern's stare, Ralf finally realizes what he's talking about. The smoke subsides.
Heidern does not alter his expression. But a pained grimace seizes Ralf's face. He recalls an unpleasant memory.
The cause of it appears before his eyes once again.

Following the smoke is a huge hole.

Straight underfoot there is a huge, gaping hole as if some giant object had fallen from the sky and tore a hole in the earth before coming to a stop.
And farther down there is a "lid" that fits the size of the hole perfectly.
A few figures are already standing near this lid, performing some sort of procedure.

"Is that it?"

"That's it."
Ralf points exactly at the position where the figures are engaged in their project.

Under the "lid" there is yet another hole, and most of the workers are gathered around it.
"The very ground is crumbling. The thing that covered us from above was that lid. That hole had the lid on it that we opened to escape is.
"What sort of condition was it in?"
"The direct hit of the cannon shell did quite a lot of damage to the ground. It completely smashed it in. I was totally focused on the incident that was taking place right after I came to."
"Commander!"
A member of the survey team approaches the two who swivel to look back.
"I have some news. We investigated below the "lid," but we found no survivors. The only things left behind was the disk we obtained here."
"Baloney!!!"
His emotions increase the length of Ralph's stride.
An enraged Ralf simultaneously appears in the squad member's eyes. The disk he holds out is knocked into the air and it lands with a plunk.

"No way! No survivors, you say? Where are the bodies? Have you found any?!"
Ralf's sticks his face into the squad member's again, violently bobbing it in and out of the latter's field of vision.
A feeling of overwhelming pressure seizes the squad member's neck and his vision clouds up. The only thing that is clear while in his gradually fading consciousness is the clear reverberations of Heidern's voice.
"Wait."
As he picks up the knocked-away disk, Heidern restrains Ralf with a glance.
"Let's hear the details. You weren't able to find any survivors, uh, I mean, bodies?"
Ralf realizes his excessive transgression as his superior officer puts a stop to his folly. The squad member opens his mouth even though he appears on the verge of collapsing.
"I...am...sorry. I take back what I said. We were unable to find any survivors. But a body ws found."
"What...!!!"
As Ralf once again begins to crowd the squad member, Heidern puts himself between him and the hapless investigator, then continues his questioning.
"Were they male? ...Female?"
"M-Male."
"Any special characteristics? Did you check it out?"
"Did you say...special characteristics?"
Hit with an unexpected question, he goes through the fragments of memory and information among which remain none to answer the question.
The squad member takes out a memo on which various fragments of information were listed and begins his report, regaining most of his composure.
"I'll report the information that we have ascertained at the present time. The sex of the corpse was male, as I mentioned before. One area of the body was significantly injured, but the body was for the most part unscathed. As far as his clothing is concerned, he was wearing a coat equipped with some form of armaments. And, this...I don't know whether I should mention it...there was something puzzling...."
Heidern answers the pausing squad member.
"Was it his face?"
"Yes, sir. Have you heard about it, commander?"
"Good job, soldier. Continue your investigation."
Heidern's words drown out the squad member's question. No, Heidern intentionally cuts off him off. Appearing upset, the squad member returns to his mission while Heidern presents Ralf with the disk.
"Does this look familiar?"
The disk in Heidern's hand still bears the code on it that Ralf had seen once before.
"...Serial code...1012-710...!"
Ralf's memory is as clear as ever. Just whose disk is this?
Ralf, however, denies his impulse to utter the answer.
Heidern cannot help but notice that the expression on Ralf's face clearly gives away that reluctance.
"This must be Whip's disk, isn't it?"
There is no reply. Heidern takes this as an affirmation.
"I'll continue to survey the site. I want you to analyze the contents of this disk. Whip was also a member of the intelligence division. Maybe she obtained some intel before her death."
"Death...!!!"
Heidern ventures to say what Ralf could not bring himself to do. Heidern holds the disk in front of Ralf's eyes as he approaches, as if trying to negate this possibility.
"It's an order."
As Heidern passes him the disk and begins to leave, Ralf, in a rare moment, stops his superior officer with a thinly voiced appeal that seems to squeeze out through his mouth from deep down in his throat.
"Sir...may I ask you a favor?"
Heidern does not look back. Ralf continues, ignoring this reaction.
"I want you to assign me to the investigation."
An instant passes. Naturally, there is no response. Ralf reflexively grabs Heidern's arm before he can walk away.

"I beg you."

He increases the strength of his grip. His hand is covered with injuries.
This hand speaks volumes to what appalling measures Ralf must have gone to escape.
Heidern places his own over this injured one. But Heidern's gesture is not one of approval to Ralf's request; no, just the opposite. Heidern tightens his slightly more powerful grip on Ralf's arm.
An chilling sound issues from it. Coupled with this unexpected surprise, a pain heretofore unknown to Ralf runs through his limb.

"Gah...ugh...!!!"
Heidern looks down at Ralf who has dropped to his knees.
And even farther above the two, the rays of the sun suddenly begin to look upon the two through the spaces in the clouds.
Ralf looks at Heidern's face, but the expression on the face above his conveniently hidden by the sunlight behind him; Ralf cannot confirm his expression.
The increasing shadow of Heidern's grows colder than ever, and Ralf finally opens his mouth.

"I cannot very well entrust a survey mission to a squad member who has not satisfactorily recovered from his injuries. Analyze the disk!"
"You don't know for sure! You don't know she's dead!"
He knows his behavior is vain.
But for Ralf this action was the only method before him.
As before, Ralf is unable to discern Heidern's expression.
Indifferent words are spun from the cool shadow.
"Yes. That's why I'm saying we should set things straight. That disk just may be the answer to your hopes."

"...!"
Ralf is shocked at thisÑshocked at himself for concluding that Whip must be dead.
And Heidern had realized his fatalism too. Heidern already begins to walk away.
Ralf is unable to pursue him any further.

Just how long was he there?
Without giving any time for thought, Ralf remains here kneeling.
The sunlight from on high has become more intense, making the contours of the huge hole that spreads before his eyes more vivid.
The hand that holds the disk.
The hole that widens its maw before him.
Something snaps within Ralf.

"Aw...nuts!!!"

Ralf beats the ground. He hits it hard. Again. And again.
The strength that wells up from the anger at himself moves to his fists, showing no signs of abating. His fist aches, as if it is about to be torn apart.
Along with the pain comes the realization that this is his atonement for assuming the worst about Whip.
But for Ralf, however, this is not the time to rationalize his thoughts.
Unbeknownst to him, his fists covered in blood, are no longer red but instead encrusted in sticky mud.
"----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------!"

In stark contrast to the serene landscape, Ralf's screams usher forth to break the silence.
King of Fighters '01
A swarm of construction workers and equipment work at a fevered pitch under a starless sky. Resting on an outstretched tarp in an elevated thicket, some figures stifle their breathing and observe operations on a site for KOF 2001.
"(Well? Can you see anything, Leona.)"
"(Not a thing.)"
"(You said that before. So, what is it?)"
"(Like I said, nothing....)"
Leona answers him as she looks through her night-vision scope."
"(What could they be up to? We know that this year's sponsor has the backing of NESTS, right? There can't be nothing going on.)"
" (...)"
The previous tournament...the man, gone in the wreckage... feelings when he viewed the video data, the only "keepsake" of the event...But after that, came the information from the intelligence agency that he was still alive...Could he really be alive...?
"(Commander...Commander.)"
"(Uh, yeah, sorry. All right, let's call it a day. Leona! Let's rendezvous with Clark."
" Yes, sir."

A cobalt blue sea stretches out under a bleached white city built out of stucco and sun-dried brick.
In this picture-perfect city that looks as if it would be included in a feature article for a travel magazine from Japan or thereabouts is a safe-house used as a focus of intelligence by the mercenary squad.
"Clark. So how did things go with you?"
"I came up empty. I even tried the military circuit, and there's no mistaking that this year's KOF is an official tournament."
"Is that so? ...Then what about NESTS?"
"There's no doubt that this year's KOF sponsor is linked to NESTS, but we don't know what their objectives are."
"Impossible! NESTS destroyed an entire city during the last tournament, didn't they? They can't be going to all this trouble for just a mere sporting event."
"But all reports attributed the incident to the fall of an artificial satellite...."
Leona mumbles.
"Nuts! We have nothing to go on with this intel!"
Ralf pounds the top of his desk.
"Well aren't you the little hothead."
Everyone looks in the direction of the voice in unison. And there they see him, the man with the eyepatch, standing in the doorway. It's the leader of this mercenary squad, Heidern.
"Leader!"
"Feast your eyes on this!"

Heidern plunks a thick pile of documents down on the desk. Three Ss appear on the top page of the pile, which means "top secret" in this squad. Ralf snatches up the stack of documents and scans over them. As he leafs through the documents, Ralf's face turns flush and he mumbles as if groaning in pain.
"Just what in blazes is this...?"
Clark and Leona peek at the document in Ralf's hands. A photograph that looks as if it was taken by a surveillance satellite is attached to it. The image is extensively blurred by a sort of electronic "snow," perhaps the result of some new kind of jamming device. It's impossible to distinguish any fine detail, but the group can see a giant black shadow.
"...This is all we have to go on. That, and this here."
Heidern pulls out a pamphlet and tournament entry tickets for this year's KOF tournament.
"Four tickets, is it? That leaves us a bit short of entrants. Last time...."
"Clark, take a look at the list of entrants."
The three do as instructed and scan the roster of fighters.
"Whippy!"
Ralf screeches wildly, hardly apropos of the situation.
"It's her all right. The genuine article, the one and only Whip. She's got all bases covered, I see."
"That little minx! Not even a phone call!"
"And it doesn't stop there. Check out the team she's on."
More surprisingly, the party finds among the list of entered teams the name of...
"NESTS! You got to be yanking my chain! A NESTS team?"
"NESTS is a completely secret syndicate...only but a handful of the privileged few know of its existence."
Leona once again blurts out the blatantly obvious.
"But if Whippy is listed among the tournament's participants, that means she has already been accepted as a team member. So, Leader, who's going to be our fourth team member?"
"...This time I'm going to join you in the tournament."
"Whoo! That's too much!"
"...OK, enough banter for now. All of you, gather in the briefing room!"
"Yes, sir!"
The three salute Heidern in unison. While they salute, something pops into Ralf's mind. What's going to happen this time around...? But we'll have to play this out. Yup, we'll just have to play this out.
King of Fighters '03
The border of a certain country. Twenty-three hundred hours.
A full moon floats in a boundless sky with nary a trace of cloud.
The wind velocity is 1 meter per second. The temperature is 19 degrees centigrade. The humidity registers at 50 percent.
Without fog, one cannot hope for a shielding mist.
It is a 3-P night (peaceful, pleasant, and placid); in other words, the conditions are altogether unsuitable for this top-secret invasion.
"...Nuts. Hey, Clark. Couldn't you have chosen another day for this?"
"Don't set your guns on me! Right, Whip?"
"The changing of the border security force comes but once a month. ...It was Ralf who judged today as the only opportunity for our raid."
"That's how I remember it."
"See. Even Leona backs me up!"
"Jeesh! Doesn't anyone feel like sticking up for their leader? Everyone's so freakin' logical all the time!"

There is still quite a hike to the danger zone near the border.
A hint of tension clouds the faces and the behavior of these invaders, but the true test awaits a few kilometers down. That is where the carnage will take place.

Though night, the wasteland illuminated by the full moon's glow is amply bright.
The pace of the mercenaries garbed in field gear is light, but they fear being fully exposed. Though they know no watches them, they instinctively seek cover, from rock to rock and shrub to shrub. His trademark bandana gives Ralf away. Clark's the one with sunglasses forever fused to his face. Leona, the laconic lady warrior, and the master of the bullwhip, Whip, bring up the rear. The four shadows silently press on.

"!!!"
Whip, taking up the rear, suddenly freezes, produces her bullwhip, and readies herself. All quickly follow suit, a reflexive action brought about by their training.
At the slightest indication, the forward three immediately assume combat positions.
"Hey, what's going on, Whip...ster?"
When Ralf glances back and focuses on Whip, the image of her immediate vicinity being covered by a dark shadow hits him hard. A giant darkness grows behind her; and the "shadow" slowly engulfs the frozen Whip, followed by Leona, Clark, and Ralf himself.
"Leona, can you make out its speed?"
"Going by the shadow's velocity, I'd judge it at five to six kilometers per hour."
"Hmm. An observational flight, perhaps? Clark, what's the objective's height and size?"
"It's altitude's got to be about 1,000 meters. The total length...."
"Well? What's the objective's size?"
"Four hundred meters. Give or take."
"Four hundred meters?! Don't you think you're a little off?"
"I'm not off. It's about 1,312 feet, or 1,320 Japanese shaku. That's 212 Ralfs lined up end to end!"
"Uh, thanks. What's that length in cigarettes placed end to end?"
"Four thousand four hundred forty-four."
"...You scare me sometimes, Clark. So that balloon's bigger than an aircraft carrier?!"

The massive flying ship drifts through the sky.
The shadow hangs over all four, continuing to obstruct the moonlight.

It seems the objective has cut its engines and is drifting. It makes no noise. By the light of the moon, it is difficult to determine the ship's color, but it appears to be coated in a dark blue tint. The noble and elegant design is a lithe streamline shape.

"You got pictures, didn't you, Whipster?"
"......"
"Whips...Oh, all right, you little twit! Whip! You did get pictures, didn't you?!"
"Yup. And the data's already encoded and compressed. Shall I send it to Heidern?"
"It's got nothing to do with the mission directly...but we can't ignore it. Just that monster nonchalantly floating near the border's hot zone is one big piece of intel."
"Our position may be given away with the momentary transmission of this data."
"No kidding. How long do you think I've been doing this anyway? I know the risks. Send it!"
"Yes, sir."
Leona does not avert her gaze from the giant flying ship leisurely flying on by. She continues to study it, as if trying to remember something, and whispers to herself:
"I've seen that ship.... I just know it."
"You're rationalizing, Leona. You can't possibly recognize that levitating leviathan."
Ralf and Clark frown simultaneously.
There is no way Leona can know this craft. But this sense memory...?

* * * * * * * *

"Mistress Rose, the four life signs we picked up previously have begun moving again. It lasted but a moment, but there's a trace of an electronic transmission being sent - a transmission of encoded data. Perhaps agents from some sort of intelligence service?"
"Oh really...? Any word from my brother?"
The answering voice is that of a youthful woman. She is oblivious to the contents of the report.
The compact control room of the flying machine is packed with myriad consoles. A blonde girl appears on one of them. It is likely a closed-circuit system allowing direct communication with this girl in a separate room.
"Are we to rendez-vous over the Pacific as planned?"
"Yes.... Tedious, isn't it, Gwan?"
The girl called Rose coos to her black panther crouching at her feet while playing with her blonde tresses. Rose strokes the beast's brow with her foot, as if it were but a house cat.
"And what of those four we previously detected?"
"I'm not interested. Leave them."
"Very well...."

* * * * * * * *

"Heidern. KOF has just begun in all venues throughout the world."
"Good work."
The one-eyed mercenary Heidern is currently in cahoots with Interpol, investigating the hidden mystery behind KOF...the King of Fighters.

"Keep my apprised of the steady progress of our two participating squads."
"Yes, sir. And here are the estimated specs of the flying ship from last month's report."
"Estimated?"
In an exceedingly brief alignment of characters, the following appeared on the submitted transparency:
'Total length less than 400 meters. Total width, less than 50 meters. In addition to a maximum speed below 180 kilometers, a flight range of 60,000 kilometers is estimated. All data computed on the basis of image submitted.'
"For that amount of investigatory time, we still don't know the owner of this particular vessel?"
"My apologies. The tangible and intangible hurdles to attaining such intel were considerable. Further, the vessel, we surmise, is apparently equipped with some sort of radar-jamming system. ...This is all just supposition and conjecture on our part, though."
(This worries me... ...What is this apprehension I feel?)
Heidern orders further inquiry into the mysterious flying ship, but the submission of the official report from the investigative agency is scheduled for a date after KOF's conclusion.
Regardless, it was subsequently made known that the name of the sky ship was "SKY-NOAH."
And its owner...
King of Fighters XI
Ten soldiers in full-dress uniform gather around a gravesite, as the sky begins to release the first hints of a coming downpour. As the coffin is prepared to be lowered into the hole, a pastor reads a passage from the Holy Bible.

Ralf made a quiet aside to Clark, his voice obscured by the sound of the falling rain. "No matter how many of these I have to attend, it never gets easier."
"That's the price we pay for being mercenaries," Clark replied. His sunglasses were off, revealing a gloomy expression.
Ralf and Clark had known each other for many long years, and each knew there was no need to say anything further.

The man being interred died at the age of 59 years old. Had he lived a normal life, he should have had a wife... kids... even grandkids. He should have been preparing for his upcoming retirement, to live out his final years relaxing. However, he spent his life with guns and ammunition as constant companions, and even if he'd had a family, the lure of the battlefield would have eventually torn it apart... and he would be just as alone as before.

And so it was that all who attended his funeral, save for the pastor, were fellow soldiers.
The pastor closed his Bible, and the commanding officer prepares to give his order.

"We have come to pay our final respects to Jim Oldgate, a fine comrade and a true hero..."

Though Heidern felt certain that his subordinates grieved for the loss of a comrade, he glanced at each of them in turn, noting their unflinching, stony expressions.

"Present ARMS!"

All in attendance, except for the pastor, brought their right hands up to salute in seamless unison.
Attending were Heidern, Ralf, Clark, Whip and Leona. Whip held a small white flower in her left hand.

The casket held nothing more than a set of dog tags and another white flower. In life, the deceased had always had a preference for them. Upon his death, his remains were scattered such that it had been impossible to retrieve them.

When the order was given, the soldiers dropped their salute, and the casket was lowered to the bottom of the grave. The rain began to fall harder, each drop giving off a heavy noise as it struck the empty coffin. At last, the work was finished, and the soldiers began gradually to disperse.

"Ralf & Clark, I need to talk to you," Heidern said, his spotless regulation dress uniform marred only by his eye patch. He then called Whip over as well.

"As you know, it's time for another King of Fighters, in which you are to participate. That is, of course, an order," he said.

All of them had expected this, but they were slightly troubled by the fact that Leona was being left out of the conversation.

"We've established that Mukai's colleagues are most definitely not part of the Orochi Hakkesshu."

Though Ralf's concerns had not diminished, Heidern continued on. These folks most definitely had plans to make use of Orochi's power. This had apparently been why, in the last tournament, they had broken the seal on Orochi itself. Its influence had once had a devastating effect on Leona, causing her to lose her mind and become brutal and savage until she had been restored to her normal self. She had no memory of her actions in this time, but snapping her out of it had been exceptionally difficult.

One other thing preyed upon his mind.

"Professor, I get the feeling there's some connection between that and this mission..."
"What's that?" replied Heidern.
"Just before the last tournament, we received reports of a mysterious giant blimp. I think we may be able to get some more specific information on it this year."

Without so much as a mild tremor in either his expression or his voice, the one-eyed man replied, "...Continue your investigations."
"I see. Something about this has been bothering me."
"You'll have the details as soon as I do," said Heidern. "For now, I need you to concentrate on your current assignment."
"Yes, sir."
"The three participants will be you, Clark and Whip. That will be all."

The three of them stood at attention as Heidern took his leave. Whip was the first to speak.

"Colonel, don't you think this is a little strange?"
"What do you mean?
"Well, wasn't Heidern lying just now?"
"...So?"
Whip felt that the situation merited more of a response than "So?" But she held her tongue. They were going to be the ones risking their lives on an assignment. So why weren't they being given all the pertinent facts? Didn't that just make it more dangerous?

"Whip, do you know the name of the flower you're holding?"
Only one of the flowers remained. In Japan, they were called "Kobushi," and were a type of magnolia.
"...It's a magnolia," she said.
Ralf nodded. "To put it kind of fancily, it's just about trust. I can't even begin to tell you how many years we've been with the professor. He says only what he feels he needs to say. Nothing more."
Whip just barely managed to bite back a reply.

"Oh, yeah..." Clark, who had been silent throughout it all, replaced his sunglasses in their accustomed position and laughed. "That's the colonel's idea of 'fancy talk."


***

As Heidern continued walking, the sound of Ralf and the others' laughter made its way faintly to his ears. Now, the responsibility for commanding a national army fell to him. He was well-aware of just how heavy a burden that responsibility could be, but that was not the reason for his heavy heart.
"Adelheid...," he thought to himself, "Yes, that was that young man's name."
Leona walked along with him, never straying far from his side. She was soaked, but made no motion to get the water out of her blue hair. She was the reluctant daughter of a soldier.
"If I can protect just one from that cursed bloodline, you will be that one..."