The streets are already bustling with activity while
the steam and aromas from open-air shops and stands
ascend into the sky.
It is amply bright outside, but the sun has not completely
risen; dark shadows dance on the ground in between
the shops of the marketplace.
Alone, a behemoth of a man stands out from the throng.
"Nuts. That Ash. Calling me here at this time
of the morning."
Dressed in his usual ultra-casual style, a jacket slipped
over his bare torso, anyone passing along the street
would recognize him. In Shanghai he is the man called "Shen
Woo." Shen means "god" and Woo the Chinese
word for "battle." Naturally, this isn't
his real name.
"Ah, ha, ha, ha. You're here. Shen, long time
no see! So, where is a place that will feed us some
delicious crabs? You must know, right Shen?"
"Ash...who'd eat crab at this ungodly morning
"Lighten up there, pal. Then how about a little
dim sum before Duo Lon gets here?"
The young Caucasian with platinum hair gathered up
in a katyusha is Ash Crimson.
Alabaster skinned with blue eyes. Freckles still remain
on his cheeks positioned over the edges of a mouth
contorted into an impertinent smirk.
You could call him a handsome lad or not, but it is
certain that he is enveloped in a strange sort of magnetism
that garners glances. His body is slight but sinewy.
"Crab, this early in the morning..."
Thrusting forward through the crowd, Ash finds Shanghai
crabs dumped into a wooden crate, wriggling gloriously
in the display window of a shop.
"Look, look. They look spunky. Your buying, right?"
"Who's buying? Give it a rest. And in the first
place, do you even eat crab? Tourists from Europe tend
to shy away from our local delicacy, you know?"
"I love crab. And after you hear what I got to
tell you, I think you'll gladly foot the bill."
Ash's mischievous expression is reflected in the window
of the shop.
"One guy said the clown who ate Shanghai crab
for the first time was extremely courageous...or just
amazingly intelligent. It's the truth, Ash. So what's
your important story?"
And then: the reflection of the figure of another tall
man appears in the glass of the show window which would
be difficult to be called polished.
Ash and Shen, without looking back, continue pretending
to keep judging the quality of the crabs.
Shen clicks his tongue slightly. Although distracted
by the conversation, being snuck up on so easily...?
"Ah, ha, ha, Duo Lon. It's been awhile. How have
you been? How about we talk somewhere out of the way
while we fill our bellies?"
"This place looks good."
Even the fresh air of morning becomes cold and gloomy
around this guy.
The figure of the tall man, dressed in a costume luxuriously
embroidered, appears from the pallid shadows between
the buildings. Duo Lon. All but the age of a young
man, he is actually a member of the "Flying Brigands," a
group of assassins who reside in the back regions of
He is laconic with a presence that naturally overwhelms
people, and bears a sad countenance.
"Ta-dah! Can you believe it? This came to me in
What Ash produces is an envelope sealed archaically
THE KING OF FIGHTERS.
The world's largest tournament of varying fighting
Both Shen and Duo Lon are aware of this.
And they both know it is a team event of teams consisting
of three fighters each.
Annually some sort of crisis accompanies it; in other
words, an event with attitude.
"I won't pull any punches. I want to join this
thing. So, I'm hoping you'll feel the same. How about
it? Will you enter with me?"
"Sounds like fun. OK, I'm in! I've always wanted
to be in KOF, at least once. I'll go anywhere where
strong opponents can be found."
"That's the ol' pepper, Shen
. Happy to hear it.
How about you, Duo Lon?"
"Ah, ha, ha, ha
. Then it's all decided!"
"As a matter of fact, the application of
we three has already been made
. It would have been
a real bummer if either of you had refused to accompany
"Say what? You already entered us? ...Ah, whatever.
I'm pumped up for this!"
"...What are you scheming? Huh, Ash?"
"Oh, come, come, Duo Lon. It's nothing of any
"And if I had said I wouldn't do it...What would
you have done?"
"...Hmm. What would I have done?"
Grinning like the Cheshire cat, Ash laces the invitation
between the fingers of his left hand and plays with
Supple fingers are they, which look like they have
nothing to do with combat. And his nails are adorned
with nail art.
From the four corners of the invitation interlaced
in Ash's fingers burst emerald flames.
The entire invitation is swiftly consumed by flames,
but the vigor of the flame does not abate and a pillar
of flame bursts from Ash's left hand.
A spiral of wind breaks out at his feet, blowing up
Ash's platinum blond hair, and the flames burn even
higher and stronger. He laughs. At the depths of his
innocent and capricious giggle an inscrutable something
certainly squirms. A few passers-by notice the green
pillar of flame but are dumbstruck with astonishment.
Ash shakes his left hand dramatically outward.
The emerald flames jump from his arm. Drawing a gentle
arc that slips between Shen and Duo Lon in an instant,
it brushes by the face of a girl passing nearby and
The draft blows the girl's hair. Promptly thereafter
at her side, the thing that was a bee a second before
falls to the earth motionless, burnt to a crisp, in
a pile of white ash.
"That was close, young lady. Ah, ha, ha
"Il n'y a pas de quoi."
Ash replies with an exaggeratedly old-fashioned bow
"OK, playtime is over. To make things worse I'm
totally whacked from being called out so early in the
"I love mornings in the spring. They say, 'The
season is spring. The time of day is morning. The time
of morning is seven.'"
"Who says that?"
"Hmph. For someone raised in France, you have
Duo Lon breaks out in a rare wry smile. Although he
feigns a cool, adult air, his youth is given away when
"As God makes evident in the sky. All in the world
Well, that's it. Take it easy. Just take it easy. Ah,
Their participation in the tournament had already been
confirmed by the KOF Management Organization three