Fabien (Fighter Destiny 2) says...
To the ring.
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King of Fighters XI
Storyline of King of Fighters 11, The
Roughly a year ago, after a sightseeing flight, the giant airship known as the Sky Noah returned to the dock where it was initially built. A pale young man with crimson eyes signed the official paperwork distractedly, without taking any notice of what was on them.

"Okay, Master Adelheid," the dock manager said. "We should have everything up and running normally and get it back to you within two weeks." He spoke as quickly as civility allowed, then made his way to the outer docks.

It was autumn in Warsaw, and the pavement was wet, with thick, heavy clouds streaming across the sky.

As he rushed into a nearby store, Adelheid sensed the presence of someone standing behind him. It was a man, clad head to toe in a military uniform, giving off an air of extreme precision.

"Did you remember to ride the tram?"
"...Yes, thanks to you."


***

Winter in Poland always comes early, and although they were now in the middle of what they referred to as "The Golden Autumn," and the flowers were in full bloom, the looming presence of the harsh winter to come could still be felt across the continent.

Two people stood side-by-side, walking down the street. The storefronts looked to be carrying on traditions and history dating back to the Middle Ages, though in fact, much of the city had been destroyed in the Second World War.

"It's been a year, hasn't it? ...Quite a coincidence."
"Yes, it is," Heidern answered calmly, keeping the crisp, measured pace of a soldier. Had he come to deliver good news, or was his presence here truly just coincidence?

"You're here on business, aren't you?"

Adelheid's gaze fixed on the man's extremely formal uniform. Though even a child would know him to be a soldier at a glance, he wore no emblem or seal declaring what country he served.

"In a manner of speaking. It's for a funeral. He was a subordi--," Heidern cut himself off. "He was a friend of mine."

A long period of tense silence passed between the two men. It conveyed both familiarity and nervousness. A small bird swooped in and alighted on the ground between them, looked around for a moment, then flew away again.
The two continued their walk toward the nearby archway. As they neared the branch of the Vistula River, they heard the shouting of a child from beneath the arch,

"I can't do it, dad! My arms are going numb!"
"Don't give up. It can take a while. See there, it's getting closer to the boat. Reel him in. Once you get him in the boat, put the end of the pole back in the water before you cut the line. Do you understand?"

A boat was drifting slowly by under the bridge. A man and boy were in the boat, obviously father and son, and the boy was struggling desperately with a fishing pole, trying to reel in a sizable catch. His pole looked more like a toy, with a poorly made reel attached by steel wire. Only the fishing line itself appeared to be of any quality. Even so, it was fairly miraculous that it hadn't broken by now.

Though neither of them understood Polish, it was easy enough to figure out that the father was instructing his son how to reel in the catch and not to let go, under any circumstances. Sure enough, the child ceased his complaining and focused on trying to claim his prize. The father turned the boat precisely and continued giving instructions to the boy.

The boat gradually drifted around a hundred yards downstream from the bridge. It was possible to make out a large, silver fish that the father was trying to extract from the boy's excited hands. The boy fell over onto his backside, hands still clutching the fishing rod. They were likely shaking, judging from his flushed face and ragged breathing. Adelheid took in a slow, deep breath and calmly let it out.

"Ah well. I wonder why the man didn't lend his son a hand with that, though."
"Because he's a father."

A small, beeping alarm sounded from Heidern's watch.
Adelheid gave him a sidelong glance, and upon seeing his expression, suddenly felt as if something clicked into place... as though something suddenly made sense. Was it the role of the parent to teach the child everything there was to know in life?

"I envy that boy," Adelheid said softly. "I have no memory of my father ever teaching me anything. And no matter how hard I try, I don't remember ever having anything like that fishing rod, either."
"I see," came Heidern's neutral reply.
"Do you ever fish?"

As the sun went down, the surface of the water glittered like a mirror. The two in the boat had long since floated downriver, and there was merely a point of light where they had been, reflecting back up from the sun. From the same direction came the sound of a helicopter's whirling rotors.

"...I do," said Heidern. "I'm pretty good at it, in fact. I like to go after the big ones."

The very faintest hint of a tremor was in his voice, but it was lost in the din of the nearing helicopter. Finally, it hovered just overhead, but Heidern seemed completely unaffected.
Adelheid, on the other hand, had to bring an arm up to shield his face against the roaring wind. A rope ladder fell from the now-open door of the vehicle, and Heidern took ahold of it.

"You never wanted his name... Adelheid Bernstein."

As one, both men felt a sharp pain stab their hearts. It was ending somewhat... no, exactly... as had been expected. In the midst of his pain, Adelheid found himself at a loss for words. As he rose above the silent young man, Heidern called down to him.

"When next we meet, it will be as enemies."


***

As the helicopter ascended further and flew in the direction of the setting sun, Heidern took his seat, closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh, very unlike his typical, taciturn self.

"...I don't remember calling you. The pilot must have gotten orders from elsewhere."

Ralf and Clark sat in the cockpit. Ralf had lit a cigarette with his well-worn lighter, and Clark wore his usual shades and grasped the stick, gazing off at the Polish sunset.

Ralf looked at him nervously. "The colonel and I still have a mission to finish, sir. We had to get going. I hope you're not upset."
"I see Leona and Whip are not here...."
"I was thinking the three of us could go out drinking. I gave the under-30s something to distract them, so we're in the clear."
"...Very well. Nicely done."

Heidern thanked the two quietly. A sweet smell filled the cabin, a scent quite unsuited to a personal airplane. As he opened his eyes, he noticed a large, white flower tucked under one of the seat belts.

Ralf pondered for a moment, then turned to Heidern. "By the way, commander, do you know any romantic way to say ‘flowery words'?"
"...I have no idea."
Clark gave Ralf an incredulous look. "Colonel, why would you think a military man would know anything about that?"
Ralf flushed, practically lunging for his neck. "Oh, shut up, Clark! I told you to stop trying to embarrass me!"
Clark began to panic a bit. "W-wait, Colonel! I'm still trying to keep us in the air! Do you want us to crash?!"

The magnolia flower, so foreign to the interior of a helicopter, was caught up in the wind and shaking of the aircraft, and blew away.

"Who knows," thought Heidern, "Perhaps it will land in the boat of those two we saw earlier." With that, he closed his eyes once more to catch what sleep he could before arriving at their destination.


Since 2006
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