Goku (DragonBall GT: Final Bout) says...
You look strong! This should be a good fight!
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King of Fighters XI
Storyline of King of Fighters 11, The
Dublin, capital of Ireland.
The new old city, developed successfully for untold years.
Though it was once covered with glaciers, the ocean currents blessed it with relatively mild winters... or so it once was.

"You're lying, Shen."
"I did say 'relatively' mild, Ash."
Ash gathered his coat closer to his body and tried to keep moving.
Pleasant though it could be, this city was on the same latitude as Moscow and Hokkaido.
When it got cold, it got SEVERELY cold.
The two missed Grafton Street and entered an alley.
Ireland is full of pubs, and this alley was crammed to the gills with little signs.
The two made their choice and opened the door.
There were dozens of barstools and tables.
It was not yet evening, but there were still a few patrons.

Just as one would expect of an Irish pub, all of the patrons were locals from the neighborhood, and the atmosphere was calm and relaxed. At one table sat a middle-aged-looking man, lining up cards.
"Hey, Ash, how about him?"
"Maybe."
"Hey, you... uh... 'Are the clover in bloom?'"
The man looked up from his game of Solitaire and fixed his gaze upon Shen.
"...I take it you have an appointment with someone."
The man wore an expression of doubt.
"Bah. Guess not. Sorry, old man."
Ash had already taken a seat at the bar.
"Hmm, I heard the stout is good, but do you have anything to help me warm up?"
The bartender behind the counter looked up from mashing potatoes and gave a warm, friendly smile.
"When it's this cold, the best thing in the world is an Irish coffee.
You a traveler, then? Welcome to Dublin."
"Yes, give me one of those."
A hot cocktail made of sugar, whole cream and coffee in an Irish whiskey base. In no time, the scent drifted out to fill the pub.
"If you have time, I'd like to take you on."
The old man called to the two while cutting the deck of cards.
On closer inspection, it became apparent that the man was rather tall. Although he was slight of build, he did not appear weak. He gave off a sense of hiding his own motivations, but he was exceptionally polite.
"Heh heh heh, all right. Let's go a round!"
"I swear. You never could pass up a chance to gamble, Shen."
"How about poker? Or is bridge the local game?"
"That'd be English. Poker is fine by me... so shall we?"
The two were dealt five cards each, lined up as flawlessly as if they'd been measured out with a ruler.
"Now that the cards are dealt, you may place your bets, though I suggest you aim low at first. Open the game."
"..."
Shen's expression shifted. Far from the confident smirk he wore before, it had crumbled into disappointment.
Ash gave a lighthearted laugh, but this was hardly unusual.
It was a strange comparison with the middle-aged man, whose face may as well have been carved out of granite.
"I'll bet, of course."
"...Why not fold?"
"Are you nuts? I can't back out now."
All of the discarded cards were now facing up. King, 5, king, 5, 5.
"That is a shame. To the next hand, then?"
The middle-aged man silently and skillfully collected the cards.
"You know, Shen..."
"What."
"You do know what a poker face is, right?"
"What do I look like, an idiot? Of course I know what it is."
"All right, then."
The gentleman shuffled the cards with the dexterity of a master stage magician, then had Ash cut the deck. It had a pleasant, dry sound.
"You're pretty amazing with those cards. I'll bet you could make a pretty penny with those skills."
"You flatter me."
He began to deal the cards again.
"By the way... 'Are the clover in bloom?'"
"Hey, Ash, he heard it the first time."
"'They don't bloom until spring.'"
"Wha--... you ass! Why didn't you reply when--"
"Open the game."
Shen grumbled under his breath and examined his cards, only to be disappointed once again.
"Dammit!"
"Oh, come on, Shen."
"Yeah, yeah, poker face, I get it, I get it. I still want to know what's going on."
"There's time for that later. First, let's finish playing. I'll bet."
"Heh, there's a shock! I fold."
"Raise."
The gentleman laid down another bill.
But there was no sign of any paper money or chips on the table.
Because of the tint of the man's classes, it was impossible to read his eye movements.
Or maybe he'd calculated that angle on purpose?
"Hmm. Well, I'll raise also."
"I'll see that, and raise again."
"Another betting round? In that case, I'll raise one more time."
Though the two had both elected to raise the stakes, the table still bore no sign of money or chips.
Having come this far, the gentleman was left with no other options.
He took a sip from his whiskey glass.

"Okay, Ash, what the hell were you betting on?"
"So that we could get him to take part in the KOF tournament with us. Didn't I tell you?"
"No, you didn't. So what happens if you lose?"
"I'll just owe him money. But if I win, he's going to participate in KOF."
"Heh, neither way sounds like much of a victory to me."
"I couldn't pass up a chance to bring a Karnoffel player out of retirement, now could I?"
Karnoffel? He'd never heard the word before, but the old man interjected before he could ask.
"All is well, then? Showdown..."
Shen peeked at Ash's hand.
Jack, queen, 7, 7, 7. Three of a kind.
"...It would appear that I lose."
For the first time since beginning to deal, the gentleman's expression changed, and he drained his whiskey completely.
"My name is Oswald. I'll do what you ask of me."
Oswald shook each of their hands (though Shen did so only reluctantly), and the deal was done.
"If we're going to talk further, we should go elsewhere."
As the three stood up, the barkeep came by to tidy up after them.
Ash left a sizable tip.
"It was quite good, sir. Merci beaucoup."

Oswald's cards lay where they had been left on the table.
Oswald had his coat on, and was already headed for the exit.

Once they left, the atmosphere of the pub became light and genial again, as was usual.
The barkeep lifted the face-down cards of Oswald's hand.
A spade, a club, a heart. Three aces.

As he stood and inclined his head in puzzlement, Oswald reappeared.
"I'm sorry. I forgot my hat."
Oswald took his had and pushed up his glasses with his middle finger, staring at the barkeep through them. The back of the barkeep's neck suddenly broke into a cold sweat.

"Farewell, then..."


Since 2006
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