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THE KING OF FIGHTERS 2003
KOF2001
TEAM STORY
HERO TEAM FATAL FURY TEAM ART OF FIGHTING TEAM KOREA TEAM
IKARI TEAM OUTLOW TEAM WOMEN FIGHTERS TEAM BENIMARU TEAM
HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS TEAM K' TEAM 3 SACRED TREASURES TEAM

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS TEAM STORY

 It is early in the afternoon of a weekday and empty seats are prominent in this first-class car of the bullet train.
 Athena Asamiya is sitting in a window seat, heading for her next concert venue in Fukuoka. Her manager has been directed to meet up with her at Hakodate. Now, she travels alone.
 The train slows and comes to a leisurely stop.
 "Kyoto. This stop is Kyoto."
 The announcement echoes over the platform.
 When the door opens, a familiar face is smiling in Athena's direction.
 "Long time no see, Athena."
 The attractive blonde is dressed in the sprucely designed uniform of a girl's high school. She is Hinako Shijo, one-fourth Russian and the daughter of a model upper-class family.
 "So, Hinako, how have you been? Forgive me for calling you here."
 "Oh, it's no bother - as luck would have it our family has villas in Kyoto and Kobe."
 Without giving second thought to her blatantly bourgeois remark, Hinako shoves the backpack she had strapped to her shoulders onto the luggage rack above.
 CREEEEAK.
 The luggage rack squeals ominously. The backpack is loaded with weights of ten kilograms or more. Judging by the groan of the rack, Hinako's lugging more weight than usual.

 Appearance, bearing, word and deed - all are what the dreamy-eyed Hinako is about, but because her dream is starting a sumo team at her girl's school, one cannot resist feeling that this young lady comes from a different cookie cutter.

 In the meantime, Hinako has plopped down in the seat next to Athena. The first thing she says,
 "Please accept my condolences."
 A closer look reveals that Hinako conscientiously wears a symbol of mourning on her uniform. Athena, who is obligated in her line of work as a pop idol to remain unfazed by most things, finds herself flustered by this current situation.
 "Y-your...condolences??"
 The flustered Athena hesitantly takes the condolence gift Hinako extends to her.
 "Master Chin did pass away, didn't he? Just how old was he anyway?"
 "U-uh, no, the Master is still fit as a fiddle, in a manner of speaking."
 "Athena, I know being in denial is part of the grieving process, but if you don't accept reality..."
 "Uh, I don't know what impression you're under, but the Master is in the pink. He still drinks a gallon of alcohol a day, naps, trains Kensou, and watches after Pao."
 "Oh, really? I am so sorry. I just assumed the reason for you asking me to join you in KOF had to be because the Master had died and you needed an extra team member."
 "No, that's not it at all. Anyway, let me return this to you."
 Athena meekly tries to return Hinako's condolence gift.
 "Ah, please keep it. You can always hang on to it until you need it again."
 (Until I need it again...?)
 There is no malice to Hinako's statement. Athena understands this, but....
 "Wow. So Kensou isn't entering the tournament this time either...?
 "As a matter of fact, he isn't. He's got a lot of other stuff on his plate..."
 Athena casts her eyes downward. Yes, this time things are different.
 "Then who will be our other member? I rather think that Chang Koehan would be a most excellent choice."
 "I-I'm not too sure about him."
 "Ah, you're probably right. He can't really manage a sumo wrestler's butterfly coiffure, can he?"
 "U-uh, you do have a point there. Do you have anyone else in mind?"
 "Hmm. I can't come up with anyone who's suited for sumo, though..."
 "That's okay. That's okay. It doesn't have to be a sumo wrestler type."
 Athena can't bring herself to say she'd prefer someone other than a sumo-type.
 Of course Athena too has considered prospective teammates, but....
 "Hey, you're Athena Asamiya, aren't you?"
 "Huh? Oh, you want an autograph, right? Just a second. My pen...."
 "No, that's not it. You're entering KOF, aren't you?"
 Athena and Hinako both blink and do a double take at their new acquaintance.
 She's a rather spunky-looking teenager, a bit shorter than Hinako. Her face and manner seem feline. She sports a miniskirt, blazer and bunched up socks - in short, she's a typical Japanese high school student.
 "Yes, I'll be in it, but...how does that concern you?"
 "Your team's short a member, isn't it?"
 The girl helps herself to the seat next to Hinako.
 "Uh, I suppose it may be."
 "Hmm. I guess our organization's info is sometimes useful after all."
 "I beg your pardon?"
 "Oh, nothing. By the way, have you considered me for your team?"
 "J-Just like that? Who are you anyway?"
 "Oh, I'm sorry. Allow me to introduce myself. The name's 'Malin.'"
 "So you're name is Malin, is it? I'm Hinako Shijo. That's an unusual name you have there; your family name's "Ma" and your given name is "Lin," I gather. What Chinese character do you use for "Ma?" Maybe the character for magic? Or is it the "ma" for "manuke" - you know, the word that means "bonehead"?
 "......"
 "U-Uh, don't let her offend you. Hinako didn't mean anything bad by that. Words just flow out of her like...well, no need to get yucky here."
 "No, the name's just one word, 'Malin.' Works on its own, don't you think? So, are you going to put me on your team, or not? I'm getting off at Osaka, so you got to decide quick."
 And as if on cue, the announcement is heard throughout the train: "Shin-Osaka. We will soon be stopping at Shin-Osaka."
 The time for decision instantly arrives, but there is no need to mull over an answer.
 "We appreciate the offer, but no."
 "What? Why? Tell me, why?"
 "The KOF tournament is the peak of fighting competitions. Though I do say so myself, Hinako and I are exceptional fighters. I appreciate the sentiment, but..."

 "You doubt my abilities?"
 "Doubt? I don't even know your abilities. We've just met!"
 "...Shoot. Okay, you don't need to hit me with a hammer. I'm out of here!"
 The train slides to a stop at the platform of Shin-Osaka Station.
 Malin bolts up with a bang as if she has kicked her seat and abruptly exits.

 "Uh, Athena, are you sure you made the right decision?"
 "Yeah. I had no choice. This isn't some high school athletic event."
 BAM. BAM.
 Appearing out of nowhere, Malin is now outside, rapping on the bullet train's window.
 In her hands (?), she holds two ribbons of different colors that flutter in the breeze.
 "??...Hey, those are...!!"
 In a panic, Athena and Hinako run their hands through their hair.
 Gone.
 One of the ribbons that tied Hinako's long blonde hair and the ribbon used to gather Athena's hair together to conceal her identity are gone.
 (When did she...?)
 Athena springs from her seat. She looks as if she intends to catch up with Malin.
 At the same time, however, the bullet train has pulled out from the platform.
 The train begins to accelerate.
 The form of Malin smiling ear to ear and waving her trophies in the air slowly recedes.
 "Oh, fudge...how stupid could I have been?"
 Hinako consoles Athena who is slumped down in her seat.
 "Cheer up. We can still find another team member."
 "But...Huh? Hinako, under your ribbon!"
 A small scrap of paper is secured under Hinako's remaining ribbon.
 Athena quickly removes the paper and checks its contents.
 "If you change your mind, give me a call. Malin. 090-XXXX-XXXX."

 After reading the note, Hinako and Athena press their faces to the glass of the train as if to look for Malin.
 The sight from the window, however, is no longer that of the platform but the buildings and streets of Osaka's north side.
 Nevertheless, the two feel as if they can catch sight of Malin in the landscape streaming by, and they continue peering out the window for some time thereafter.

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