Operation story: MN-3

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Kazimierz Bar
Kazimierz Arena
Nearl Estate Living Room

Before operation

At the after party, the crowd chatters about the past and a corporation makes a sponsorship offer. The next match is close at hand.
<Background 1>
[A party is held in Marcin's bar to celebrate Maria's first victory, with everyone toasting her.]
Everyone Cheers—!
Old Craftsman Congrats, kid! That was a beautiful match! You're much stronger than V now!
Old Knight Yes, she is, but who made you the judge!?
Old Craftsman Huuhh?!
[The old Kuranta knight and Ursus craftsman have a brawl again.]
Zofia Why are you two fighting again...? Hey now, stop it. You're disturbing the other customers.
Maria Ahaha... They're arm wrestling already...
Bald Marcin That was a good one indeed, kid. This one is for you.
Maria Ah... thank you!
Bald Marcin Not only did you manage to find Szewczyk's weakness, you even finished him in one blow. You did really well.
The fight lasted for almost twenty minutes. Maria had been at a disadvantage during most of the fight, but she turned the tables on him with just one crucial strike—
—Very well done.
Maria I-It wasn't anything special... I wouldn't have been able to do it if he wasn't wearing a flawed set of armor...
I'd never heard of the model Jack 2 before... If the cooling system could paralyze the armor even for a short time, then it's definitely still a prototype.
Bald Marcin —That said, Szewczyk's an experienced competition knight, and endorsing untested products actually isn't that uncommon at all. He also managed to hide the armor's weaknesses well.
Don't be so humble. It's barbaric, but the Major has always been about results and results only.
Maria O-Okay...
Zofia ...Maria!
Maria Yes, ma'am!
Zofia Don't get too ahead of yourself!
Maria Right!
Zofia You need to know how to control your emotions—Don't just act normal, you need to proactively reflect on yourself and normalize your emotions...
...The less you think complacency's an issue, the more dangerous it is. It's very difficult to realize yourself just what victory does to your emotions...
And that carelessness... will... be the end of you!
Maria G-Got it!
...Auntie? Are you drunk?
Zofia No! And don't call me "Auntie!"
[Meanwhile, the old Ursus craftsman wins the fight over the old Kuranta knight.]
Old Craftsman —I won!!
Old Knight Sod it, Kowal. How did you get this buff in just half a year?!
Old Craftsman I've been fixing pipes. You've got a problem with that?
Old Knight Hmph...
Maria Kowal, Vogelweide, is Zofia...?
Zofia Maria... Call me "Auntie"... one more time... I'll... mess ya upp...
Old Craftsman Yeah... Looks like she's really drunk. Don't see that often.
Zofia I... I'm not... drunk!
Old Craftsman Fine, whatever you say. Maria, take your aunt to the couch in the back. Let her sleep it off there.
Maria Eh... O-Okay... Auntie, lift your leg up...
Zofia Who's yer "Auntie?!"
<Background fades out and in>
Old Craftsman Zofia can usually really hold her liquor... Well, not that she can drink as much as me.
Old Knight Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just because you had drinks with a few folks from Yen once, you're all full of yourself? Have you no shame, trying to beat a young lady at downing booze?
Bald Marcin She's under a lot of pressure... It's her first time watching a match as a coach, and she had to listen to Greatmouth Mob jabber on and on.
That brings back memories... *Sigh*, I've been like this ever since Maria won. I guess I'm old now.
Old Knight What are you talking about? We're all about the same age!
Bald Marcin I guess that means I'm actually old, then.
Old Knight Hey.
Bald Marcin ...Yeah, how long ago was it when Zofia first stepped into the arena? Twelve years ago? Fifteen?
Old Knight How old you are is none of my business, and I don't remember exactly when, but Zofia's not that old...
Old Knight It was nine years ago, wasn't it? The Blood Knight, The Radiant Knight, The Black Knight... It was three seasons ago.
Bald Marcin The Black Knight... That Caprinae, huh? Feels like a lifetime ago.
Old Knight Well, she won the three Majors before that too. The media likes to treat her like some sort of emblem of that generation or something.
Maria Oh, the three-time consecutive winner?
Old Craftsman Yeah, normally, they don't pick words that common when they come up with titles, lest they get repeated and complicate things.
But that Leithanien lass. She actually deserves the title "Black". She's a monster, no mistake.
I heard she's working for some large company outside the country, tsk, tsk.
Old Knight Someone like her's no knight... Not in my book.
Maria I-I see...
Old Knight ...Maria, has Zofia ever told you anything about her career in the Major?
Maria No. There are the videos and stats from each season, but she hasn't told me anything herself...
I think Auntie Zofia made it to the top 16 that year, and during the round of 16...
Old Knight That's right. She was heavily wounded.
Her opponent was the "Fissure". That reminds me, did he enter the Major this year?
Bald Marcin ......
Old Craftsman *Sigh*... Why are we talking about the past? We're here to celebrate Maria's win!
That wasn't a very fun story anyway. Let's move on to something else!
Maria Actually... I'm kinda curious about that...
I managed to win, but it doesn't seem like Zofia's very happy about it... She didn't even say anything and went straight to drinking...
I'm sure she thought really hard about all this for me... I don't want to let her down... so I want to know more about her past and how she feels about everything.
Old Craftsman Well... You're just like your sister when it comes to that.
Maria Me?
Old Knight That's right. You're always quick to notice if something's amiss, and you always try to do something about it.
That last attack of the match. Did Zofia teach you that?
Maria N-No, actually—
Bald Marcin You copied Margaret's move?
Maria Eh? Oh, umm... Yeah... was it obvious?
Bald Marcin Hahaha, of course. You two are so alike! And I'll never forget that day.
The miracle of the Radiant Knight, the youngest ever champion. She accomplished all that without help from anyone else.
And she doesn't show it, but Zofia actually really looks up to Margaret.
She was just a lady-in-waiting to your family, but she really tried her hardest. She even had us old farts help her train...
She entered the preliminaries, won, and made it into the Major... From the beginning all the way to the end, she didn't accept any sponsorship offers, nor did she ever ask anyone for help.
Heh... I even introduced her to a few small businesses I knew back in the day, but she turned down every one of them.
Old Craftsman ...Those companies are all trash. She made the right call to turn them down.
Old Knight Shut up. That's exactly why "Fissure" defeated Zofia.
Maria What happened...?
Bald Marcin Maria, a competition knight needs a lot of resources... That's something you'll come to know... The weapons and equipment you bring to battle could be the difference between life and death.
Szewczyk probably only lost to you because the armor they made him wear had a design flaw.
Suppose he wore a set of armor that had no flaws at all, maybe even with far superior capabilities. What happens then? Do you think you could've won?
Maria I...
...Probably not...
Bald Marcin That's the kind of opponent Zofia faced. Flawless armor, weapons, and support. The difference between them was immense.
Zofia paid for her own equipment. She perfected her technique all alone, and she made all the connections herself. It was just her, and she fought so hard.
Old Craftsman ...*Sigh*.
Bald Marcin We never did anything for her except watch her get hurt and throw in the towel.
Was there anything we could've done?
Maria Marcin...
Old Craftsman At the very least, you could help Zofia train the kid.
Bald Marcin Hahaha, I doubt Maria would want to be coached by ol' one-armed Marcin, the same man who had a hand in Zofia's injury, indirectly.
Maria No, I would love to! I've always admired all of you! I mean it!
[Someone is entering the bar.]
Bald Marcin Hm? It's not often we get other customers. How unusual...
Old Knight You'll probably go out of business at this rate.
[The visitor, a male corporate Kuranta, approaches Maria.]
Corporate Employee ...Uh.
Excuse me... Are you Maria Nearl, the knightess?
Maria Uh... That's right.
Corporate Employee Pleased to meet you, Ms. Maria. Do you have time to talk right now?
Maria Sure, is there something I can do for you?
Corporate Employee I'm here to represent the Słoma Corporation... Here is my business card.
Please accept my apologies. My company's representative has sent several invitations to your residence, but we have yet to receive a reply. I'm sorry for visiting you here uninvited.
Maria Oh... uh... I think... there's a bit of problem with our mailbox... Haha...
So, did you need something from me?
Corporate Employee You see, my company is one of the sponsors of the Eszeweria Knightclub. Its leader was very impressed by your performance against Mr. Szewczyk.
As soon as he found out you are not currently affiliated, he wanted to know if you would be interested in a contract with the knightclub, and contacted our business department to facilitate discussion...
Maria ...They want to sign me?
Corporate Employee Yes... and actually, our CEO is very interested in having you on board...
Old Knight (Kowal, isn't Słoma the food company that has straws in their logo?)
Old Craftsman (You moron. Why don't you take a look at the logo they stamped on those saltines you're eating?)
(Eszeweria is one of the top 100 knightclubs... Though they're a bunch of businesspeople more interested in making money from sponsorships and ads than entering competitions...)
Corporate Employee Not only that, but MARTHE Kazimierz's PR Department has also pledged to cosponsor all of the knightclub's future developments with Słoma, should you agree to sign with the club.
Maria MA-MARTHE!? You mean that MARTHE?
Corporate Employee Yes, that's correct. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach...
[Zofia, who has sobered up, interrupts the talk between Maria and the corporate Kuranta.]
Zofia Mm... How did I... How long have I been out?
Maria Oh, Zofia, you're up.
Not that long. You slept for about ten minutes only...
Zofia I can't be napping. We still have to plan out where we're getting the rest of our points this month—
Corporate Employee ...Zofia? I-Is that you?
Zofia Oh. Yeah, I remember you. You're that young manager at...
Corporate Employee No, not anymore... Now I'm just a... nobody running errands for Słoma...
I see, so "Whislash" is Ms. Maria's coach. All the better.
There are many young and enterprising knights like you two on the Eszeweria Knightclub's roster. The business department has many ways to further your reputation and worth without merely resorting to tournament matches...
Maria But it sounds like...
Zofia ...You'll be something like a star or an idol. Your face will be all over the intercity net, and no one will care about your scores in the competitions anymore. They'll just be throwing money at whatever they see your face on.
Maria That's kinda hard to believe...
Zofia That's how the industry works. They spend nearly all of their budget on finding spokesmen. Then, they film some phony ads to try to make a buck from the ordinary folks.
It's simple, and it's a lot more effective than you think. Makes you wonder where the problem actually lies.
Corporate Employee ...That is more or less the case, if put in less flattering terms. However, on behalf of the General Chamber of Commerce, the Słoma company can promise that you will still be conferred both the knighthood and a title.
Zofia ...What do you want to do?
Maria This is way too sudden, I...
Zofia Honestly... I think it's okay to accept their offer.
Maria Eh?
Zofia You won't need to put yourself in harm's way, and the family will keep its nobility. It's a good deal. You might even have a bigger garden than me come this time next year.
Maria But yours is full of nothing but weeds. I'm not sure what I'd do with a garden even bigger than that...
Zofia Hm?
Maria N-Never mind.
Corporate Employee If you agree right now, we have an agreement here, ready to go. Rest assured, you will find the terms very favorable.
Maria ......
I'm sorry... but I don't want my family crest to become some commercial trinket. At the very least, I don't want to have to rely on anyone...
Corporate Employee ...I beg your pardon?
Zofia Maria?
Maria Yeah, I know, Zofia.
I don't like how Uncle Młynar does things, but I don't want to bring shame to Margaret and Grandpa's struggle.
So... I'm sorry, but I don't think that is the right path for me to take...
Corporate Employee ...Well... your response is certainly... unexpected...
H-However, the General Chamber of Commerce has prepared for you an assortment of proposals—Please have a look.
Zofia The Chamber? Isn't this usually under the Association's purview?
Corporate Employee Err... I-I'm sure you understand. This is why our CEO insists you join us...
Zofia ......
Maria Yeah, thanks... but... I'm sorry, I have to refuse.
Corporate Employee Y-Yes, I understand. Right... You refuse... uhh...
Well... Ms. Zofia, Ms. Maria... This isn't part of the business proposal, but please at least hear me out...
Maria Uh... your teeth are chattering... A-Are you crying? All I did was decline your offer... It's no big deal!
Corporate Employee Uh, n-no... I'm simply hoping that... in the event that anyone else comes to you—Ms. Maria, in particular—with any business propositions, please—
—Please seriously consider accepting! I'm begging you. This is very important to us...
N-Now... please excuse me... before I embarrass myself any more...
[The corporate Kuranta leaves the bar.]
Old Craftsman Helping other companies out...? That's a new one.
Old Knight Yeah... That's really strange.
Zofia ...Maria, when is your next match?
Maria In three days.
Zofia Who are you up against? Did the Association contact you?
Maria Uh... I guess not?
Zofia Let's go home, Maria. Judging from your performance this time, you still have lots of room for improvement.
Old Craftsman Now? We haven't even started celebrating!
Bald Marcin Kowal, let them go.
Zofia, be careful. Keep an eye peeled.
Zofia —Yeah, I got it. Let's go, Maria.
Maria Okay, wait up—!
<Background black>
??? ...Ingra? "Brassrust" Ingra? The National Council let him go again?
Well, what did you expect? That huge megacorporation has his back... The Victorians he crippled must be peeved.
But well... This is perfect.
<Background 2>
[The audience cheers as Maria's second match is about to begin.]
Greatmouth Mob Ladies and Gentlemen!
No promises, no rules, and no limits!
Here, we have two knights, their armor, a battlefield, and nothing else! Rules, conditions, arrangements, protective measures, nothing!
As the most important preliminary event of the Kazimierz Major, these tryouts have been going on for three months already, and there are still contestants throwing their hats in the ring!
Even so, I dare say, what we're about to witness today is unlike anything we've seen before!
The contestants standing before us now both come from long lines of knights!
Yes, yes, I can hear you hiss. Worry not! This will be among the most entertaining matches you've seen, and I put my career and reputation on the line to say that!
You are bound to start cheering the moment you hear their names! You have my word!
First, on this side, we have the youngest son of the Ingra family, Olmer Ingra!
[The audience cheers as Olmer Ingra enters the arena.]
Greatmouth Mob That's right. He's the one who been taken to court countless times for crippling anyone who dares cross him, and thanks to the coffers of his countless sponsors has been ruled innocent over and over by the National Council! "Brassrust" Ingra!
The Butcher of the Field from the Bloodboil Knightclub! The ruthless knight who has never allowed even a single opponent to step out of the ring in one piece!
He will beat his armor, his rage, and his mercilessness into the heart of each and every one of his opponents! And most likely their skulls, too!
And on the other side! The other side—
Oh, ooh! One of the oldest knight families, Nearl! Let us say their name out loud! Nearl!
The hero of Kazimierz who outsmarted the Leithaniens all by himself, the Tenebrous Knight who assassinated the king's traitorous retinue, and, last but not least, the Radiant Knight, the embodiment of shame who was exiled for getting infected!
All of them came from this family!
What's that? Not up for a history lesson? Fine! Well then, who managed to defeat the Roar K.C.'s vanguard, Szewczyk, before she even got her own title?
Who's the Roar Arena most popular knight of the month?!
Will all this change because of this one match? Will "Brassrust" bash in this pretty little face of hers?
Let us welcome—Maria Nearl—!
[The audience cheers as Maria enters the arena.]
Maria Nearl vs Brassrust Olmer Ingra.png
Greatmouth Mob What will be the outcome of this battle? Who will reign victorious? Pick up the terminals next to your seats and start voting!
You know the rules! Your monetary support won't influence the match's outcome, but it will directly influence whether your wallet's empty or brimming with cash!
<Background 2>
Zofia —Maria!
Maria Eh?
Zofia Let's forfeit this match... okay? Just listen to me this once. Just this match...
Maria ...Auntie?
I've already entered the battlefield... As a knight, I mustn't back down.
Zofia ...You're right.
Go get him, Maria.
Show everyone here what you're made of.

After operation

Facing the brutal Brassrust Knight, Maria tries her best to level the playing field, but gets a scolding along with an injury. Elsewhere, the Armorless Union seems to be making a move.
<Background black>
Maria, you are gifted with a pair of pegasian eyes.
Maria. Stand. Come, come forth.
<Background 2>
[The audience cheers after Maria dodges Ingra's attack.]
Maria —!
Brassrust Knight Haa... haah...! You dodged it!
Very well, I'll let you keep your right hand for just a little longer... Just a little longer.
Maria (—These aren't tears... It's sticky... Is it blood?)
(...So much blood...)
(My heart's beating way too fast... I...)
Brassrust Knight Pathetic. The way you swing your weapon is no better than those clowns knocking at the knightly orders' doors. It's laughable.
Aside from your looks, you are nothing like the Radiant Knight.
Maria I... I'm not going to lose!
Brassrust Knight Good, now I want to tear your face off even more, you naive noble prick!
[Ingra relentlessly attacks Maria, who have a hard time dodging and blocking them.]
Greatmouth Mob Ingra! He's chasing her like a storm!
This is the most destructive match the Roar Arena has seen this event—! The Butcher of the Field! "Brassrust" Ingra!
Just last month, at the season's first event, poor "Foehn" got absolutely decimated when the "Brassrust" kept pummeling him until all of his limbs were crushed!
You heard that right! He pummeled with his bare hands! That's definitely not the kind of thing you'd expect a knight carrying a giant axe to do!
All eyes are on Maria Nearl here at the Roar Arena today, but is this also where we see her meet a bloody fate? Let us know what you in the audience think!
Just like that! "Brassrust" Ingra! Smear the battlefield with your opponent's blood!
[The audience cheers as fatigue began to overwhelm Maria.]
Maria Haaahh... haaahhh...
(Everything feels so heavy—)
[Ingra strikes the distracted Maria, but...]
<Background fades out>
Zofia Maria! Just forfeit!
It's one match! There are other chances to score the points you need—!
Auntie Zofia... What are you talking about?
I can't hear you... I feel dizzy... My shield feels so heavy...
What am I... doing... The knight competitions... In the arena...
I need to... open my eyes!
<Background fades in>
[...she narrowly parries it.]
Maria Haa... haah...
Brassrust Knight Hah! Not a bad counter—That really gives me all the more reason to tear you apart!
But it'll be no fun if we end this so quickly. I'll smear your blood all over that irritating face... the Radiant Knight's face!
Maria We both know... you're at your limit too.
Brassrust Knight Hah! A little blood's not going to stop me!
[Maria and Ingra charge at each other and the audience cheers loud.]
Zofia Maria!
<Background fades out and in>
??? Well... I didn't expect Ingra to join the fray so soon...
??? The National Council let him go early. Hmph, it's like the whole trial was just a sham.
Looks like the corporation coughed up quite a bit of money for him.
??? Uh huh... the Rose Paper Union's full of money anyway.
It really pisses me off. They're raking in money manipulating public opinion, and other unscrupulous means. That commentator even dared to talk about it openly in a public event.
??? That just says they aren't afraid.
??? Yeah, I mean, what do they have to be afraid of?
??? Well, they have us to be afraid of. Ingra's a bad loser, and I'll absolutely destroy him.
??? Come on, didn't we agree to let me fight him?
Before that... If the young Nearl doesn't come up with an idea soon, she won't make it out of this in one piece.
<Background fades out and in>
[The audience cheers.]
Greatmouth Mob —Her blood is still in her body! Maria Nearl is much more stubborn than any of us could've thought!
What are you waiting for? Doesn't a knight like her just tear at your heartstrings?! Don't forget! Thanks to the generosity of the good-hearted souls at Roar Guards Company, this season's commission fee is just half the normal rate!
—Hold on! Something's happening here!
The two of them are at a standoff, but Maria's laid down her shield! What is happening here?! Is she hoping to take on Ingra's giant axe with that fragile sword of hers?!
There's an enormous difference in both size and power!
I can't emphasize this enough—! Commission's half off! Isn't this act of courage worth a few dozen gold coins?!
[Maria drops her shield and stands to face Ingra, even though she is noticeably fatigued.]
Maria Hahh... haahh...
Brassrust Knight ...Not bad, kid... A faint light envelops your blade. Is this your last gasp?
Ha, excellent! I'll rip your arms out, and gag you with your own flesh—
[Ingra charges at Maria...]
<Background black>
I must win... I must...
What am I doing... Are you meant to kill your opponent in the knight sports?
I don't need my shield... I can't block his axe...
He's hurt too, but he doesn't care... He's like a monster, and he enjoys killing...
How should I... face an enemy like him... An enemy? Isn't he a knight?
A knight...?
Memories of Margaret.png
"To be a knight is to be the noble light that illuminates the land..."
<Background 3>
Maria Ahh—!
Zofia ...Came around finally?
Maria Auntie...? What... happened...? Oh.
Zofia Do you remember now?
Maria ...Did I lose?
Zofia Yep.
Maria ......
Zofia But Ingra passed out too. Neither of your scores changed at all.
Maria I-I see. Phew... That's good—
Zofia It's not good! You're hurt!
You should've forfeited the match, going up against an opponent like that! It's just a single match! There are so many ways for us to get those points back!
If you just want to get a title and keep your family's nobility, there's no reason to go that far—
Maria I... I never thought about forfeiting, not even once.
Zofia Maria!
Do you have any idea how lucky you are to get out of a fight against Ingra in one piece?
If you get hurt again, what good does getting into the Major do to you?!
Maria ...He's really strong, but...
Zofia He's not like the other knights. He comes from an insanely well-off family, and he's only in the competition to hurt people. He lives for it. That's the kind of man Olmer Ingra is.
Maria, if you get hurt like this again, I won't let you fight anymore.
Maria I—
Zofia Listen to me!
Maria F-Fine...
Zofia Don't move so much. Get some rest.
That match ended in a draw, but you'll have more and more companies trying to woo you... Marcin and I will turn them down for now. Try to rest up and get better.
Maria Yeah...
Oh... What's that sword?
Zofia ...That's the sword I used to carry. I dug it out while you were training the other day.
Maria But why are you carrying that sword specifically...?
(Even though Zofia's already...)
Zofia No reason at all.
But if something bad happens to you because of him, I'll kill him personally, even if it means I'll have to face the National Council.
Maria Y-You're way overthinking it...
...Can I see it? It kinda looks like it hasn't been used in a while.
Zofia No. Get some rest.
Maria I might start to rust if I lie in bed all day...
Zofia No dice.
Maria Please, Zofia! Auntie! I won't ask for anything else! I'll be good and rest up!
Zofia *Sigh*... You're becoming more and more like your sister...
Take it. Don't you do anything weird with it. I'm quite fond of it.
Maria Eh... This is pretty dusty...
Zofia That's the proof that I treasure it!
<Background 1>
Bald Marcin Where are you two going, carrying all that stuff with you?
Old Knight We're going to pay Maria a visit.
Old Craftsman I will never forgive Ingra for doing that to our girl...
Bald Marcin Spare her the noise and give her some peace and quiet. Zofia will take care of Maria.
Old Craftsman Well, I can't just sit around and do nothing! Did you see that last swing Ingra took at her? What happens if that comes back to haunt her?
Old Knight We've got an old knight and an old craftsman here. There's bound to be something we can do to help.
Bald Marcin What if you run into Młynar instead? Do you think he won't throw you two out the door?
Old Knight ...That prick wouldn't dare do that to us when his old man was still around, and I know when to run if it comes to it!
[Platinum enters the bar just as the old knight and craftsman leave.]
Bald Marcin ...Hmm, the moment the two of them left, I got a new customer. They just might be the albatross around my neck.
Welcome. It's been a while since we've had such a beauty in here. What can I get you?
Platinum Hm...
...This one has a pretty name. Let's go with this one, the "Thorn Tear."