Drifting in the Wind

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Drifting in the Wind Pinus Sylvestris
Salaryman B icon.png
Knight Scout
Salaryman A icon.png
Armorless Union Assassin icon.png
Armorless Union Member
Kazimierz Streets
Kazimierz Lounge
Kawalerielki Arena
Hotel Room
Kazimierz Avenue
Kazimierz Alley
K.G.C.C. Office
Mansion Room
Young Centaurea is trying to find where her life will lead her, but as the years go by and she becomes more experienced, she realizes she never had the right to choose, and all she can do is drift about in the currents of time.
<Background 1>
[Platinum, then known as Centaurea, walks across the streets of Kawalerielki.]
My life as a student has come to an end...
I, Centaurea, am at a crossroads, about to decide the direction of my life.
There are many options available to students after graduation in Kazimierz.
One could head to the job fairs the big companies hold every year and compete against all the talented graduates for backbreaking work that pays little.
One could also enlist in the military and go through an entire year of hellish training, and then spend one's days on the borders praying that war doesn't break out.
Oh, of course, there is the option of working for the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi, with a bright future ahead of you, but I'm not interested in a career like that one bit.
That's why...
[A knight recruiter approaches Centaurea.]
Knight Scout Miss Centaurea, would you be interested trying out for my company's knight preliminaries?
...when the Rose Paper Union man handed me his business card, I took it right away, trading pleasantries with a surprised expression on my face.
A knight.
Here in Kazimierz, who wouldn't want to be a knight?
Who wouldn't want to bask in the fame and glory, and revel in the wealth while millions of fans sing their praises?
Of course, there are scandals about knights every now and then, and there's even been knights who dropped off the face of the world overnight, but what does that have to do with me?
I'm one of the finest archers there is, and I'm pretty hot too. Most importantly, I'm willing to follow the company's orders.
If I could become a knight, even if I didn't win fights, I could still be an idol in the Eszeweria Knightclub or something, sing and dance, rake in some money while I'm young, and retire early. That wouldn't be so bad.
<Background 2>
In the end, I got second place in Rose Paper's knight prelims that year, and I landed myself the contract of my dreams.
As for the one who got first place? It was a blond man who stank of sunshine...
How do I put it? He's the perfect Kazimierz ideal of the Kuranta. He comes from a pretty decent background too. Maybe Rose picked him to be their champion up front.
Even if not, it would've been tough to beat him in the large-scale prelims.
At least, I didn't stand a chance in the polls.
Oh well, no reason to complain about that.
There's a long road ahead. Who knows? I might get my knight title before him.
<Background 3>
[Centaurea's manager approaches her.]
Manager Rest easy, Miss Centaurea. You'll get a title this time.
I've already confirmed with headquarters. Right now, out of all the contracted independent knights, you have the highest priority.
You might get a little less matches than before, but we'll arrange for you to get more media time.
Just wait a few months. Once you get your title, you'll be the foremost titled knight of your class at Rose.
Centaurea Hm, alright. Thanks.
It wasn't my first time hearing an empty promise like that.
A bright future, shining stars, full support of the Rose Paper Union...
They get all caught up in their own illusions there. No managed independent knight would take their word for anything.
Well, this manager's a nice fella. He's industrious, and he jumps through hoops for me.
To tell the truth, though.
I'm getting tired of this knight business.
Before I even got my title, I'm hitting all the ugly problems a proper knight could possibly come across in her career.
Being told to throw matches is probably the most basic one. Aside from the part where I had to make the loss look legit, it wasn't as rough as the other ones.
At least nobody has figured it out yet, or else I'd lose my knight qualifications.
Having to deal with the made up scandals and the match arrangements that change at any moment for no reason, though. That's really wearing me out.
Do I really have to be running errands like that just because I'm a seed for this year's independent knights?
What are knights anyway?
A product? You pay for them and you get your goods? That simple?
Then what about me?
The only good news I've had recently, if it can be called that, is that my application for a title finally made it through the Court.
Ahh... my long career as an independent knight is finally coming to an end.
Soon, I'll have my own title and crest. I'll be on all the billboards soon after that.
No one's ever been eliminated at this point. Which means...
I can probably expect to get my title after this match, and finally become a real knight.
But, well, the fate of "Independent Knight Centaurea" in this match is sealed–
I'll lose.
<Background 4>
What's the deal with this Kuranta today?
I was already pretending to be exhausted, even signaled to the referee that I was out, but he kept attacking.
Some kind of victor's spoils? He knew he was gonna win and he still treated me like a pet fowlbeast, chasing me all over the arena just to humiliate me.
If... If I didn't have to pretend I was hurt, then I'd have–
I guess Dad was right. Getting humiliated in the arena is part of being a knight.
Like, if you won't be humiliated, you've only got two choices. You beat everyone down, legit, under the rules–
–or you disappear without a trace after showing up on the news.
<Background 3>
The Rose Paper Union is putting all its independent knights on a variety show today.
The Union rented a whole competition arena to film the show, and even invited a few popular titled knights on as guests.
But right before the rehearsal, a few uninvited guests paid us a visit.
[Several Armorless Union assassins show up.]
They dragged all the knights into the corner and interrogated us one by one.
Chewed out by the Armorless Union, the knights all withered away in fear of drawing their attention.
Even the bad tempered knights weren't as mouthy as usual. They kept their heads low and followed the Union men's every word, cooperating fully with their investigations.
These were the Knight-Assassins.
After a few of the knights had breakdowns, a few others blurted out some juicy tips, the Armorless Union took one knight away with them.
As for the show, we ended up starting after a four hour delay.
What happened to the knight that got taken away? No idea. Nobody ever heard anything about him again.
<Background 4>
Not long after that incident, I get a phone call.
*ring* *ring*.
[Centaurea's phone rings and she picks up the call.]
Centaurea Phew... Hello.
??? Good afternoon, Independent Knight Centaurea. Congratulations on your forthcoming title.
Centaurea I have no idea how you got my number, but if you're calling about business, talk to my manager. Thanks.
??? It doesn't sound like you are very fond of your job. I can hear the exhaustion.
I can offer you a job that's far more suitable.
You only need to pass a simple test, and the job will be yours.
While I'm still being confused and hesitant, the man on the other end of the terminal keep going.
??? The arena's too small for you, isn't it?
By the time you release your bowstring, the arrow has already made it to the other end of the arena.
With the job I'm offering, you will find the salary as satisfactory as that you've received as a knight, and you will also have much more freedom.
If you like, Miss Centaurea, your arrows could pierce even the night skies of the Grand Knight Territory.
I await your reply.
As soon as he hung up, I received an address on my terminal.
I don't know what to expect, or what they are going to test, but...
"If you like, Miss Centaurea, your arrows could pierce even the night skies of the Grand Knight Territory."
Sounds better than shooting commercials.
<Background 5>
[Centaurea walks through the avenues of Kawalerielki.]
I made my way to the address. A flower shop. When the owner noticed me, he hands me a bouquet.
The bouquet has a note. Another address along with some information and a name.
It's the name of my last opponent. The bad-mannered Kuranta.
There's also an arrow hidden inside the bouquet. A military-grade, rhombus-shaped arrow. No manufacturer or serial number listed.
If I'm allowed to see all this, I must already have this organization's trust, if only a bit.
But it also means I have no actual choice.
Could I go back and be a regular knight after getting "their" invitation?
It's either completing their test or showing up in the next day's newspapers.
I can already imagine the headlines–"Independent Knight Centaurea Dies at Home in Freak Accident."
Hmph, no real choice at all...
<Background 6>
I don't like to kill, but, right now, I have lots of reasons to do in this guy. That guy enjoying his massage chair in front of his floor to ceiling window.
Maybe it's to calm me down, but the data lists every last detail about this independent knight–
He was paid to pull out of the fight. But he wasn't happy with his company's arrangement, so he beat down the opponent in the arena and humiliated the company director.
Normally, one of those transgressions would've been enough for a court to sentence him, but, because of his name, no one dares.
No one wants to get on the bad side of an old, prestigious family.
I guess that's why Kazimierz needs Knight-Assassins.
I think to myself, hold my breath and concentrate, pulling back my bowstring–
The arrow draws an arc in the air and bores through the window, his forehead, and his massage chair, before burying itself in the expensive hardwood floor.
If we faced each other in the arena, I'm sure a knight like him would have taken a long time to bring down.
I would've had to figure out how to pierce his armor, I would've had to throw in lots of flashy moves to please the crowd.
But this way?
I just have to nock my arrow and pull back the string–
And bam.
The chair is still giving him his massage, but he'll never get up out of it again.
*ring* *ring*
[Centaurea's phone rings and she picks up the call.]
Centaurea Hello.
??? Wonderful work, Miss Centaurea. You masterfully gathered your intel and picked the finest vantage point from which to carry out your mission. Superb execution, considering your age and talents.
From here on out, you are part of the Armorless Union.
We've concluded our negotiations with the Rose Paper Union too. They agreed to terminate your contract, and you will receive a mental health compensation payout.
Please come to the General Chamber of Commerce's headquarters tomorrow morning. Someone will meet you there for the follow-up arrangements.
Centaurea Alright.
So what should I call you?
??? .......
You may call me–
<Background 7>
[Centaurea walks through the lobby of Kazimierz General Chamber of Commerce's office.]
That's the kind of place Kazimierz is.
Though she had a bright future ahead of her, Independent Knight Centaurea ended up serving under Platinum of the Armorless Union, after taking a phone call and passing a test.
It's also thanks to him that my archery is getting better.
Compared to the short-range, rapid firing I had to do in the arena, I'm much better suited to long-range sniping. Maybe that's why Platinum asked me to join the Armorless Union.
But he also taught me a lot of things I never thought about before.
Management, leadership, staffing, and command.
Hmm... maybe he's trying to develop my leadership skills, training me to work in management?
I guess it wouldn't be so bad to sit in an office and boss people around, without dirtying my own hands.
<Background fades out and in>
After three months, the people have long forgotten there was ever an independent knight called Centaurea.
Her manager has already been reassigned to other knights who made it through the preliminaries.
Her fans turned their eyes to the luster of other knights.
Even the girl who was once her greatest fan, the girl who once camped outside her door every single day just to catch a glimpse of her, already joined another knight's fan club.
Even when they walked past each other, it seemed like the girl didn't recognize the woman who had once been her idol.
It was as though she never existed.
Forgotten so soon after shining so brightly.
Maybe that's the fate of all knights.
But being in the Armorless Union is different. They hold a knight's life and death in their hands. Even the most prideful knights are afraid to speak up before them.
That is, as long as we don't mess up the jobs the bosses hand down to us.
After all... K.G.C.C.'s directors don't like seeing the words "mission failed" on their reports.
And if we do screw it up, even Platinum himself gets an earful.
<Background fades out and in>
[A K.G.C.C. spokesman is talking with an A.U. assassin.]
Spokesman That's how the Armorless Union works?
Armorless Union Member ......
Spokesman I'm sure I was clear that there's nothing more important than intel!
I don't care whether that knight's dead or alive, but you let him send out top secret intel?
Centaurea ......
Spokesman "The target planted fake transmitters to deceive our assets and hid a miniature transmitter with his body, allowing it to send out information"?
You couldn't have been more careless, could you?
You took care of the guy, but what about the problem?!
Have you taken care of my problem?!
Armorless Union Member (Purses lips)
Centaurea (Looks at Platinum)
The spokesman has been yelling at us for over an hour already. It makes me wonder just where a big shot finds so much time to waste yelling at people.
Or he just wants to waste his precious time talking down to his contractors?
But he can yell however he wants. There's something else here that has piqued my interest.
From beginning to end, Platinum hasn't shown even the slightest interest in arguing or defending himself.
That's not the Platinum I know.
At the very least, he's definitely not patient enough to put up with the same man yelling at him for so long.
If Platinum was really ticked off, the frail, fancy-pants office worker wouldn't be breathing right now.
But he managed to bear with it.
Not only is he swallowing his pride, he's doing his best to play at obedience.
And all because the man in front of him is a spokesman, and a member of the K.G.C.C.
The little conference of admonishment lasted 1 hour, 36 minutes, and 28.36 seconds.
The parties in attendance included the spokesman, an office clerk, Platinum, me, and seven other Armorless Union members.
He was the only one who talked during the whole meeting. As for us, well, it didn't seem like we even had permission to speak.
That was the day I finally figured it out.
Both the knights and the Armorless Union are just employees of the General Chamber of Commerce. We're nothing different compared to the guys who sit in the office, yawn, and type away at their documents, making phone calls.
The only difference is that our work is much harder and we get paid more.
That's really the only thing that separates us.
<Background 5>
It was a regular rainy night when the Lazurite paid me a visit after I'd taken care of a knight.
[A male, blue-haired "Lazurite" of the A.U. asks Centaurea something.]
"Lazurite" My little pegasus, I'm looking for Platinum. Have you seen him?
Centaurea My master's out on a mission right now, Lazurite.
"Lazurite" Haha, is he now?
What sort of mission?
Centaurea He didn't tell me.
"Lazurite" Then did he tell you he had doubts about this mission?
Centaurea No, he didn't, but I kind of sensed it.
"Lazurite" ......
You're an honest one, little pegasus.
Well, since you shared what you know about Platinum with me, let me tell you what I know as well.
"Platinum" is dead. On the path of betrayal, even.
Centaurea !
I knew that he felt something for his target.
But I never expected him to give his life for hers.
"Lazurite" You see, it would be very inconvenient for this position to go unfilled, both for me, the Darksteels, and the General Chamber of Commerce directors.
How about this, little pegasus?
Why don't you be the next Platinum?
Put on the spot like that, I can't knee-jerk an answer.
If I say yes, is Lazurite going to spare my life? If I say no, am I going to die?
All I can do is stand there and mutter incoherent words.
I'm just not brave enough to answer him.
Even though I'm Platinum's student, and I might be able to succeed him just fine, I'm not his only student.
Besides, if Platinum just betrayed them, how does it make sense to have his student become the new Platinum?
Not to mention the more senior Armorless Union members. Technical skill or command, they're way more capable than me.
Why me?
Why me, of all people?
Seeing me standing here like an idiot, Lazurite chuckles a little, and shoves a badge into my hand–the symbol of "Platinum."
"Lazurite" Silence means yes.
Do your new job well, Platinum.
And then he leaves. And there's Centaurea, who is now Platinum, with a knight lying there on the ground.
<Background 7>
It wasn't until I became Platinum that I understood how hard things were for him.
Every day, the K.G.C.C.'s directors dish out difficult assignments to the Armorless Union.
The Lazurites take care of the top priority missions themselves, while Platinum has to both assist the Lazurites and assign hands to take care of the directors' other problems.
Platinum has to manage, command, and take to the field personally. There's no more tiring job in Kazimierz.
Thankfully, everything he taught me came in handy.
After I made a few mistakes and got yelled at by the spokespeople a few times, I started to get the hang of things, and, just barely, I'm finally a decent Platinum.
If I could quit, I would hand in my resignation to the K.G.C.C. the first opportunity I got.
With so much responsibility and risk, plus how exhausting it is, who'd want a job like this?
But, you know, I don't have a choice here.
<Background 5>
[Centaurea's – now the Platinum of the A.U. – phone rings.]
One thing that sucks about being Platinum...
You never know when you'll get a call from the K.G.C.C.
From their headquarters in the center of the Grand Knight Territory...
...to the edges of the nomadic city, at the plates' bridging points.
It's like a ghost that wanders the city.
You can always find a poor soul called Platinum wherever you are.
You just dial her number, have her take the call and make her listen to the K.G.C.C.
And Platinum can't refuse whatever it is they want.
Which is why–
[Platinum picks up the call.]
Platinum Go ahead.
??? Hello, Platinum. We have a secret mission for you. Please see to it immediately.
Platinum Hmph... Go ahead.
??? We want you to make sure that Glorious Shield Industries' Chairman doesn't attend the General Chamber of Commerce's board meeting tomorrow.
Platinum Y-You mean...?
??? Right, and we would prefer that he has no more involvement in Glorious Shield Industries' affairs in the future.
Platinum I don't think I'm allowed to go after someone that high up.
??? This mission was originally meant for the Lazurites, but they recommended you for the job.
That's why your phone rang.
Here is the mission authorization passcode–
Please confirm.
Platinum Confirmed... It's a match.
??? Very good.
Do not disappoint us.
[Platinum hangs up.]
It's easy to make a regular Joe disappear, but it's no simple task to have a K.G.C.C. director die under mysterious circumstances.
To make sure, I gave Lazurite a call.
He told me I just had to pay a visit to the Chairman's lounge at Glorious Shield Industries headquarters.
Apparently, this isn't going to be very difficult. Everything is already in order, and no one will be there to stop me.
After he hung up, I breathed a long sigh.
If that's what Lazurite says, what else am I supposed to do?
There are only four hours until daybreak.
<Background fades out and in>
To make sure the Chairman has no way out, I stationed an Armorless Union squad around his children before heading to the company.
Then, I waltzed in through the front door.
Just as Lazurite said, Glorious Shield HQ is all prepped and ready.
The lobby doors are wide open. The security guards are away, all the detectors are undergoing maintenance, and there's a temporary card key in the most conspicuous spot on the front desk counter. And that card key–
It has access to the top floor, where the Chairman's lounge is.
<Background 8>
As soon as I walk into the room, or should I say the floor, I spot the Chairman, still working tirelessly in front of his large terminals.
Before he notices me, I have already broken his neck.
After I check his vitals and make sure he's gone, I report to Lazurite.
Per the usual procedures, I would get a phone call from the K.G.C.C. right away, so I'm not in a hurry to get out.
It's a phone call. Why does it matter where I take it?
I pull the curtains open. Through the giant floor to ceiling windows, I gaze out at the brilliant lights illuminating the Grand Knight Territory's night sky.
<Background 5>
When I was still a student, I admired the knights.
After I became a knight, I learned the secret of the Knight-Assassins.
These days, as one of the Armorless Union's leaders, I still have to listen to every word the K.G.C.C. directors say.
And now, by pure coincidence, I've offed one of their directors.
My parents once said. My sharp eyes will bring honor and glory to my family.
But what am I seeing with these eyes now?
I see the vast, dark wilderness beyond the borders of the Grand Knight Territory.
I see the colorful neon lights emblazoning the whole Territory.
I also see the General Chamber of Commerce headquarters in the dead center, towering above everything.
And the radiant night sky above it.
As long as I can see, I can understand.
Above these pillars of capitalism and beneath the earth that the city drives over, there are a pair of invisible hands puppeteering the directors.
Compelling them to stack bricks, tiles, and steel to the tops of those buildings, adding ever more to the tower called Kazimierz.
But like the puppets they are, if they don't keep their masters happy, they get replaced.
He's not the first, and he's definitely not the last.
Through the General Chamber of Commerce, this pair of hands can reach anywhere in Kazimierz.
And you can never escape them, so long as you walk the world.
<Background 8>
[Platinum's phone rings...]
Platinum Hmph...
[...but she didn't pick it up...]
Platinum *Sigh*... Can't I at least get a little time to veg out...?
[...as it keeps ringing...]
Platinum I'm so tired...
I want a vacation...
[...but she picked up the call anyway in the end.]