Shanghai, China. It was seven in the morning.
The streets were already full of activities, with heating emitting from the food stalls and the aroma of delicacies lingering in the air.
Although the sun had not risen, the day had already started.
A well-built man was very prominent among the crowd.
Shen Woo: "Hey, Ash. Why have you asked me out so early in the morning?"
Donning a jacket that was casually wore over his body, even people along the streets knew him. He was the man who had been well-known as 'Shen . Woo'.
In the Chinese language, 'Shen' signifies 'God' while 'Woo' represents 'Martial Arts'. Of course, this was not his real name.
Ash: "Ahahaha, so here you are. Shen, it has been a while! Do you know of any stall that I can find great crabs? Do you, Shen?"
Shen Woo (speechless): "Ash... Are you sure you can eat so much early in the morning?"
Wearing a head band over his white hair, this european man was Ash Crimson. He bore skin white as snow and had blue eyes. There were freckles on his face and he constantly wore a playful grin.
His looks might not have been associated with the word 'handsome' but he did possess charismatic attributes that would attract people to him. He wore tight-fitting clothes over his lean body.
Shen Woo: "It's difficult to find crabs in the early morning..."
As both of them walked on, Ash located a shop with glass walls that was selling fresh crabs.
Ash: "Haha, they are alive! It's your treat."
Shen Woo: "Dream on and take a break, you fool. Are you sure you can eat them? Almost all our european visitors stayed clear of crabs when they heard about them."
Ash (with a mischievous grin): "I love crabs. Also, you are going to treat me if you want to listen to my important news?"
Shen Woo: "You sure are brave to take up crab-eating then, especially in the morning... Oh, what important news were you referring to, Ash?"
At this moment, the reflection of a tall man was cast onto the glass walls both of them were facing.
Duo Lon: "......"
Although both of them had noticed his arrival, Ash and Shen Woo continued to discuss about the crabs.
Shen Woo gave a discerning look and though he did not say anything, it was clearly a cold welcome to the person at the back...
Ash: "Ahaha, Duo Lon. It has been a while, how are you? Ah, let's go in and talk over tea."
Duo Lon: "Here? Alright."
As he spoke, even the fresh air of the morning had become stale and icy cold.
This man wore a classy robe hand-stitched with patterns of dragons. Duo Lon should still be relatively young but he was actually a member of the infamous Hizoku Clan. Furthermore, he appeared to be seated on a superior position in the clan.
Even if he remained silent, he would inevitably let out a threatening aura. Upon close observation, his eyes revealed subtle signs of sadness.
Ash: "So---! It's like this; I've received this thing."
He then took out a letter, sealed with an ancient wax seal.
'KING OF FIGHTERS'
It is the world's largest free-style martial arts tournament. Both Shen Woo and Duo Lon had heard about it.
The tournament is based on a 3-member team and every year, it has been held due to various reasons.
Ash: "I'll not beat about the bush. I've decided to participate in this tournament and I hope both of you will too. How is it? Shall I count you guys in?"
Shen Woo (excitedly): "That sounds very interesting. Cool, count me in! I'll like to try out this KOF Tournament. Hopefully, I'll get to meet up against some strong opponents."
Ash: "That's very good, Shen. I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much. How about you, Duo Lon?"
Duo Lon: "......Alright."
Ash (excitedly): "Ahahaha! That settles it then!"
Ash: "To tell you guys frankly, I've already signed you guys up for the tournament. If you guys had not agreed to it, I'll be in deep trouble."
Shen Woo: "Are you serious? You've already registered for us? ......Okay, I'm very interested in participating anyway."
Duo Lon (coldly): "......What were you up to, Ash?"
Ash: "There's nothing, Duo Lon. It's no big deal right?"
Duo Lon: "If I say that... I'm not participating, what will you do?"
Ash: "Well.... If that's really the case, then there's nothing I can do too?"
Ash smiled like a playful cat while he held the invitation letter between his fingers of his left arm, fiddling with it. It would be difficult to associate his soft fingernails with that of a fighter. Furthermore, nail art was crafted onto his nails.
Green flames then started to ignite the letter and it burnt quickly. The flames did not grow any weaker as it burnt on.
Ash then swung his arm and the greenish flames left his hand. The flames flew between Shen Woo and Duo Lon and brushed by a nearby girl. The flames disappeared abruptly at that moment.
The girl's hair flew graciously in the winds. Beside her face, the flames had already turned into white ashes and they fell onto the ground softly.
Ash (awkwardly): "Oh, that was a close one, my fair lady. Ahahaha."
Girl (confused): "Hmm...? Oh, thank you."
Ash (shyly): "(exaggerated traditional words which resembled courtesy and politeness)"
Shen Woo: "Are we going anywhere else? It was weird enough getting up so early anyway."
Ash: "I love the mornings of spring. Didn't you guys have a Chinese saying that depicts 'the spring is the best time in a year, the morning is the best time in a day, and 7am is the best time in a morning'?"
Shen Woo: "Hey, you cooked up that last part."
Ash: "Ha. It's a interest I've learnt growing up in France."
Duo Lon gave a forced grin. Ash looked a lot more matured when he was quiet but once he started laughing, he resembled more of a child.
Ash: "Shen, there's nothing so great in this world anyway. So we must always learn to relax... Relax. Ahahahaha."
Their application to participate in the tournament had been approved by the KOF committee three days ago.