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THE KING OF FIGHTERS 2000
KOF2000
TEAM STORY
HERO TEAM BENIMARU TEAM FATAL FURY TEAM ART OF FIGHTING TEAM
IKARI TEAM PSYCHO SOLDIER TEAM WOMEN FIGHTERS TEAM KOREA TEAM
IORI YAGAMI

IKARI TEAM STORY

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 thisé—shocked 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.

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