Leona Haidern was introduced to the king of fighters series in 96. And since then, she was featured in every single installment be it a main or a non-canon entry with one exception but more on that later. Needless to say, Leona is one of the most famous female characters of the franchise. And in this article, we will dive deep into her back story, uncover her dark secrets, and learn all about the fan's favorite silent soldier.
Leona is the daughter of Gaidel, one of the 8 elite servants of Orochi also known as the Hekkesshu. Unlike his comrades, Gaidel was a pacifist and had no interest in reviving the evil being.
Abandoning his mission, He settled down in a remote village, got married, and had a daughter, Leona. her name means lioness which implies that she was born in a Spanish-speaking country but that is just a speculation.
Gaidel's peaceful life didn't last long, however, as one day he received an unwanted guest the leader of the Orochi clan, Goenitz. He asked Gaidel to join him in his quest to revive Orochi, but the latter refused expressing his preference for peace and disdain for war and violence.
Enraged by this response, Goenitz left that day only to come back the same night with a cruel plan on his mind. As the leader of the Hakkesshu, he had the ability to trigger a condition called the riot of the blood in other members of his clan and he did just that with Gaidel's daughter, Leona.
The young girl went berserk and unwillingly killed her parents and everyone else in the village. Satisfied with the result, Goenitz locked this enraged state within her until another time when he might need her again, then he just left her shocked and soaked in her people's blood.
Leona lost all memories of this event. Maybe it was As a defense mechanism of her brain to prevent her from going totally mad. She kept wandering aimlessly from village to another until the day when she was found by Heidern.
The leader of the Ikari mercenaries saw in Leona the daughter he lost years ago and adopted her. At first, he was against involving her in any military activity but was surprised when he saw her natural fighting ability. and so he raised her to be a soldier and trained her personally. He even taught her his own unique style of assassination techniques. But even with her combat prowess, Heidern refused to give her any formal rank as this act would put her in additional danger on the battlefield.
|Leona riot of the blood state|
The King of Fighters '96
And at the age of 18, Leona was given her first official mission. With her superiors Ralf Jones and Clark Still, Leona entered the 96's edition of the King of fighters tournament. Their mission was to investigate the reason behind the participation of the notorious crime lord Geese Howard.
The Ikari team had no idea that there was a much more villainous man involved with this competition. The sight of Goenitz making his entrance at the tournament's conclusion filled Leona's heart with inexplicable fear and anger.
She has seen this man before but she still couldn't remember that this was the man responsible for her parent's death. Before he fought the sacred treasures team, Goenitz confronted the young woman and reminded her of her origins, preaching that it was her destiny to serve Orochi.
Though she didn't understand what he meant, that statement left Leona anxious and worried about the future. Luckily, her teammates succeeded to dispel her uneasiness and make her feel slightly better but just for a brief moment.
The King of Fighters '97
Her troubled state carried over to the battlefield and led to her temporary suspension from the service alongside her partners. Wanting to cheer her up, Ralf enlisted them to KOF 97. Though his intentions were good, this idea would turn out later to be really bad. The new faces team, who were actually the last members of the Hakkeshu (in Japanese: 八傑集 or 八傑衆) used this competition to gather the necessary energy for the revival of Orochi.
With the growing presence of the Demon, Leona inevitably fell victim to the dreaded riot of the blood state. She felt her head was going to explode, her vision became blurred and her unique blue hair turned crimson red. Without warning, she attacked her teammates with the intention to slice and cut them into pieces.
Fortunately, the two veteran soldiers managed to best the speed and strength of the wild Leona and succeeded to knock her out. After waking up, Leona realized that her memories were back.
She remembered how she was the one that ended the life of her parents. She became aware that she was cursed by the Orochi blood and could lose control over her body at any time just like how it happened a few moments ago.
As long as she lives, every person close to her was in danger. Overwhelmed by guilt and shame, Leona attempted suicide but was stopped by Ralf at the last moment. He reassured her that she was alone no longer and encouraged her to keep living. Leona had a new family she could rely on now.
The King of Fighters '99
The rising of the criminal syndicate known as Nests two years later attracted the attention of Heidern. He charged Ralf, Clark, Leona, and the newcomer Whip to enter KOF 99 and investigate, suspecting that Nests was behind its organizing.
Leona and her teammates learned that K' and Maxima were related to the syndicate and followed them to the hideout of the tournament's host, Kryzalid. Once he was defeated by the Hero team, the Ikari squad tried to capture K' and Maxima but failed. During the next two tournaments, the Ikari team's main mission was to participate and investigate in order to terminate Nests.
When the cartel's main HQ was destroyed by K', Kyo, Iori, and Kula The Ikari squadron learned that all the syndicate bases stopped functioning. It was the end of Nests, but they didn't have the time to rest before they were affected by another mission.
The King of Fighters 2003
In 2003, The Ikari team received invitations to the KOF's tournament. Those invites were curiously familiar as they had the ominous "R" seal on them. Worried that Rugal Bernstein may have returned, Leona, Ralf, and Clark entered the competition under the orders of Heidern to investigate.
They fought their way to the finals and were invited aboard a ship called Sky Noah. It was then when they met the hosts of the tournament. Adelheid and Rose Bernstein. The children of the former crime lord Rugal were behind its organizing.
Just like his father, Adelheid enjoyed fighting strong opponents and so he challenged Leona and her team. After vanquishing Bernstein junior, Rose wasn't happy with the combat result and had the intention to execute the Ikari team.
But Adelheid who had good sportsmanship, stopped her arguing that they won fair and square. He let them leave the aircraft unharmed. And for the first time, the Ikari Warriors have officially declared champions of the king of fighters.
Little do they know, a group known as Those from the past were actually the ones pulling the strings from the shadows. They used the competition as a means to break the seal of Orochi.
And because of that, the Ikari team had no time to celebrate their victory. Ralf and Clark had to use all their strength to subdue Leona who once again entered the riot of the blood state and this time, they were both nearly killed.
When she came back to her senses, Leona was shocked to find out her teammates lying on the ground and badly injured. Ralf ordered her to contact HQ for an immediate pick-up, as he and Clark could no longer move.
This was the second time when Leona tried to kill her friends and she nearly succeeded. The incident had a big emotional trauma on her. As a result, Heidern pulled her out of the team so she could have time to recover properly.
The King of Fighters 2011
When Ralf and Clark entered KOF 11 to secure evidence from those from the past, Whip was ordered to replace Leona.
The King of Fighters 2013
During the events of KOF 13, Heidern was contacted by Adelheid requesting to work together in order to stop those from the past. Leona who had overcome her trauma was sent to join the tournament with her teammates.
Although the presence of Orochi was stronger than ever during the competition, she resisted the urge to go berserk and managed to keep her senses in check. But at the tournament's conclusion, Leona lost consciousness. She woke up several days later and found her teammates gathered around her. Consoled by their concern, Leona laughed for the first time.
The King of Fighters 2014
When Verse was destroyed at the end of KOF 14, Heidern ordered his subordinates to truck the resurrected individuals. He informed Leona that Gaidel was not yet confirmed, however.
She expressed that she was more concerned about her unstable state. But after seeing her teammates joking about the time when she nearly killed them, She felt much more relieved and ready to face whatever the future throws at her.
Fighting Style & Powers
Leona is a charge-based character that employs a more agile variation of the Heidern self-made fighting style. The said style has an emphasis on her cutting hand strikes. Just like her adoptive father, she uses special bladed gloves to execute most of her attacks like the moon slash and her famous desperate move; the V-shaped slash.
Being a soldier, Leona has some deadly tools under her sleeves. For instance, her earrings are actual bombs that have caught many of her opponents off guard either by throwing them in their direction or directly planting them in their bodies.
Her superior officer Ralf has also some influence on Leona's combat style. This can be seen with her blowback attack that is an imitation of Ralf's. As the daughter of one of the Hakkesshu, Leona has Orochi blood flowing in her veins.
This means she is susceptible to enter the riot of the blood state whenever Orochi's presence is strong. Her strength and speed increase drastically. she starts to behave like an enraged animal, running on her four limbs and attacking whoever crosses her path.
However, Leona seems to have slightly learned to control this enraged state to some extent. When Orochi's presence in the week, she can use the power of the riot of the blood for a very brief moment to increase the damage of her attacks.
You can tell when this happens when her hair turns red. In KOF 2002 and 2002 unlimited match, She can willingly go full berserk by sacrificing half of her remaining health. But these games are non-canon.
Speaking of non-canon entries, In KOF 98 she inexplicably salutes Chang of team Korea. Though the developers have confessed it was a glitch, it became a very popular subject among the fans speculating that maybe there was "something" between these two.
17 years later, Leona and Chang salute each other once again in KOF 14. Leona dislikes the sight of blood which is ironic knowing that most of her techniques are slash attacks. But it becomes understandable when one remembers her terrible past.
She often belittles her opponents stating that they can't win against her. But her statement masks a feeling of pity and worry rather than arrogance. After all, she always had trouble expressing her feelings.
She even rarely talks to anybody besides her teammates, for she is constantly afraid of losing control over herself and hurting others. But being a member of the Ikari mercenaries, Leona feels blessed to be part of her new "heavily armed" family.