Words of Farewell

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Words of Farewell An Obscure Wanderer
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Eager Bartender
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Young Male Driver
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Kazimierz Bar
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Kazimierz Village
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In the Grand Knight Territory, Margaret asks about the past after returning from a visit to her grandfather's grave. In the barrenlands, having said their goodbyes to their old friend, Młynar and Toland discuss their future.
<Background 1>
[Kowal and Vogelweide are drinking in Marcin's bar.]
Old Craftsman Marcin, how come this place feels so darn quiet lately?
Bald Marcin You think? Maybe it only feels that way because you have one less person to talk to, now that Maria's no longer around.
Old Craftsman Now that you mention it, I guess that might be it.
I mean, at her age, should really should go out and see the world. It's just, who knows when she'll remember to come home for a visit?
Old Knight You'd better get everything in your workshop in order then, old bones. When she finally gets back, you should hand her the keys.
[Someone enters the bar...]
Bald Marcin Ah, it's been a while, my favorite customer.
[...who is revealed to be Margaret.]
Margaret Good afternoon, everybody.
Old Craftsman Looks like the Radiant Knight can finally catch a breather?
Margaret Everything is starting to move in the right direction, and I'm getting used to handling the desk work.
Old Knight I've been saying this for some time now, but don't try to take on everything. Now that Zofia and Maria aren't around, how are you supposed to deal with all this?
Margaret Yeah, thanks for worrying about me. It's true that there is much I can't handle. All I can do is deal with what I can.
Perhaps it's because I've been away from Kazimierz for too long, or perhaps I just never knew much about the city's rules in the first place.
And now that I must live with these rules for the foreseeable future, I finally realize how little I understood.
Sometimes, I even think that... From what I remember of my time in Kazimierz before my exile, all I ever did was take Grandfather's hand, follow him, and watch the scenery from that safe road.
If I may ask once again, what happened during the years I was away?
<Background 2>
[Młynar meets Toland in a village.]
Toland Ah, what a coincidence. Fancy running into you again, Sir Młynar.
You commissioned the bounty hunters and disappeared just as quickly. That kind of behavior gets you blacklisted, you know.
Młynar ...Do you need something?
Toland Me? I'm just here to take a look at the village. After all, the villagers did send us a message asking for help.
The construction team was supposed to start work today, but now that Gale Industries is under investigation, the land sale has been called off. Or so I hear.
Młynar ...I do read the papers.
Toland Oh, then I'm sure you've also read that the investigation dragged in quite a number of other companies and old noble families. The National Council even dug up a certain old case from a few years ago, all thanks to this.
The ones who took the blame back then are long gone, and not a lot of people still remember how it all went down.
But I'm sure you do?
Młynar If they're no longer around, is there really a point in celebrating this?
Toland I suppose you're right. I'm sure our good noble knight wouldn't consider those men even worth taking revenge on.
As for us lowly bounty hunters... All we did is help pass the evidence from one pair of hands to another. Nothing worth paying any mind to.
But now that everything's been taken care of and the dust has settled... We go pretty far back, right? I think I've earned the right to ask a few questions.
Młynar If it's about Czcibor, I have nothing to say.
Toland Right... I think we both need some time to ourselves. If you still need to mull this over, I shan't bother you.
But I'm sure you know how I managed to find you.
Młynar All I'm saying is... I have nothing to say.
If you're really that curious... He was an unwavering man who rambled on about his impossible ideals for the knighthood, right to the very end.
And if you think this deserves mourning... suit yourself.
Toland Hah, from the sounds of it, that was quite the cruel final conversation.
But since you brought it up, I suppose it's not so bad to talk about it a little.
I remember there was this one time I ran into that self-taught medic of ours. He was with a heavily injured comrade of his, lying on the ground. So he picked up a weapon and sent his friend on his way.
I have no idea what they talked about. All I could see was that he was covered in blood and looked pretty uncomfortable. He must have been depressed, or so I thought.
But do you know what he said after that?
Młynar ......
Toland He told me the blood was too hot.
It might actually be a pretty nice way to go, thinking everything's looking hopeful and that your ideals are about to come true.
Alas, if at the very end you're still only talking ideals, you probably aren't dying with your mind at ease. You could still probably make everyone else feel burnt, though.
Młynar Burnt?...Given the biased ideals he chose in his depression and anger, I have no sympathy for a tragic end.
His doubts don't even compare to everything I've pondered over the years.
If you wanted to find out what drove him to such extremes, be it pain or ambition, then I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.
Toland Really? What a shame.
Młynar Surely you've seen enough men stray onto the wrong path?
Toland A few years back, we had a small skirmish with another band of hunters in this area. He lent us a helping hand. Or rather, he chased away both sides.
A campaign knight who'd choose to go on patrol all over the place on his own... Quite interesting, wouldn't you agree? At the very least, I'd say he was a stronger man than a certain noble scion who was working an office job in the Grand Knight Territory.
Młynar This isn't the time for your jokes, Toland.
Toland Hah, don't be so serious.
I even heard that, after this whole conspiracy was exposed, some of the Infected workmen were given protection in secret, sparing them from becoming needless sacrifices in the political struggle's aftermath.
–And well, I found you through them.
What do you think now, Młynar?
It's been years.
A knight should not remain forever in doubt. He should have an answer that he firmly believes in.
Młynar ...I've never had an answer.
Kazimierz does not need an answer from me, either.
Toland ......
Młynar I'm an ordinary man, nothing more. Why ask me?
Toland Then perhaps... you should think about doing something other than holing yourself up in the Grand Knight Territory again.
You can't keep blaming yourself for his death, much less go this far to atone for it.
Eager Bartender –Excuse me, are you two tourists?
Our beer is known far and wide, so would each of you like to try a pint? You may, of course, drink outside if you'd like.
Toland No thanks. Weather's getting cold.
[The bartender leaves.]
Toland ...Too bad. I only turned her down because of how dreary drinking by myself would be. Otherwise, I could really use some booze to lighten things up.
If only Czcibor had behaved himself for just a couple more days, we could've had a blast at our reunion party.
That way, you could've kept a clear head and stayed out of it. No one would've blamed you for it.
Młynar ...I never said I'd stand aside and do nothing.
However, I was the one who refuted his ideals. I listened to him until the very end...
...and I killed him.
Toland ......
Młynar But I... I respect his life nonetheless. If only for his final question and nothing more, I must find an answer.
<Background 1>
Margaret I visited Grandfather's grave this morning.
I thought about a lot of things as I stood there. My regrets about the past... and for certain things in the present.
I really wish I could still talk to him, tell him about all this, seek his advice, but all I could do was say my farewells after such a long absence.
...It hadn't sunk in until after I'd finished all my work last night and set down my pen. He truly isn't with us anymore. I didn't have to keep my voice down so as not to disturb him.
Old Knight Gah, don't blame yourself, Margaret.
We all know you couldn't have made it back, nor should you have.
Margaret Nonetheless, I still feel terrible for not being able to stay by my grandfather's side, or to hear his final wishes.
...Maria told me that he sent a Messenger for me from his deathbed.
Old Craftsman Huh. Now that you mention it, yeah.
But Kirill seemed even happier when the Messenger told him she couldn't reach you. After all, if a Messenger can't find you, then an assassin sure as hell can't.
He told us himself that he'd rather the children of the Nearl family grow up elsewhere, instead of Kazimierz as it is now.
At the very least, I'm sure he'd be more than satisfied if he could see you now.
Margaret Thanks...
So, how was the family after Grandfather passed away?
Bald Marcin Not gonna lie, some folks still have it out for the Nearls. Even the Messenger he sent after you got shot by an arrow not long after she got back. She had to hide out here for a while.
Old Knight *Spit*. Just a bunch of cowards who've only got the balls to ambush a Messenger. If someone really dared to pick a fight with the Nearls, we wouldn't just sit on the sidelines and watch.
Margaret ...I see.
I should've realized sooner that this sort of thing could happen. Only Grandfather's reputation was shielding us from these attacks, covert and otherwise.
Actually, I was threatened too, not long ago.
Old Knight Who's got the balls to pick a fight with you?!
Margaret Oh, no, not me directly. A friend that I had recently met at a welfare event was injured. I only found out afterward.
Apparently my speech offended some members of the G.C.C. They sent an anonymous letter warning me to be more careful about what I say.
But I understand that this didn't happen because of a single speech or turn of phrase. It's more likely that they simply used that as an excuse.
Perhaps such attacks will happen again and again, until I'm made to cower and stop being a thorn in their side.
Of course, I don't plan to let that happen. I will keep fighting, and do everything in my power to protect others. I just thought you should know.
It's just like the Major. It's only thanks to the support of my friends that I could finish the competition.
Old Craftsman Eh, why even mention it? Can't we at least help the Nearls out in their time of need? Besides, not a single one of the folks that came looking for trouble knew how to fight if their lives depended on it.
Bald Marcin Don't forget to come to us for help just because you're too busy with work.
Margaret Thanks for always being there for us, everyone.
Old Craftsman Aw, our little Margaret is starting to act more and more like a real Knight Primus.
Margaret No, I've only just gotten back to Kazimierz. There are still so many responsibilities I must shoulder, but don't fully understand.
Bald Marcin Right, Margaret, you're Rhodes Island's liaison with Kazimierz. They take care of quite a few Infected, don't they?
Are the Infected and medical personnel there part of those responsibilities too?
Margaret Oh, there is nothing to worry about on that end. Rhodes Island has attempted aid in places where their status is even more complicated than it is here. They know how to navigate these societal pitfalls much better than me.
That said... There are quite a lot of Infected who don't want to go through with the treatment, and that's actually our biggest problem.
Bald Marcin Hm... Because of money?
Margaret Right. The emergency treatment that they provide is only temporary. To continue to suppress the Oripathy's growth, you have to keep buying medicine in the long term.
The way Kazimierz is now, there's no path for the Infected other than becoming a knight. Some will never be able to afford the cost of ongoing treatment.
There are also many who think Rhodes Island is just trying to squeeze money out of them. After all, it is an incurable disease.
–Sorry for rambling, I always get carried away whenever I talk about the Infected.
Old Craftsman Well, you've got no one to vent to at home. If you need someone to talk to, you could do worse than us.
Besides, hearing you worry about all that stuff really brings it home that you're an adult now.
Margaret Haha... Master Kowal, do you remember my parents' portrait we have in the hall at home? The one from their younger years?
I only noticed this just yesterday, but I look almost the same age now as they do in that painting.
Old Craftsman Hah? Well, when you put it that way, time sure has flown by.
Margaret Right, I feel the same, and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to stop by today.
I remember back when my parents had just left. I had just learned to read well enough to take in a whole novel.
Back then, looking at the illustrations in those knightly legends, I always thought the female leads were drawn based on Mother.
But what kind of knights were they, anyway? When they left, I wasn't even old enough to seriously spar with Father in the training grounds.
And once, during a duel, Uncle Liam told me I resembled my father...
Old Knight That punk Schnitz, huh...?
Back when I was still a campaign knight, I'd never seen a young man better suited for the word "talented."
Even setting aside being Kirill's oldest son, he was unstoppable. Legends about him were already spreading like wildfire when he was still a squire...
[Margaret's phone rings...]
Margaret Sorry, I have a phone call.
[...and she picked it up.]
Margaret ...Negotiate which occasions call for deploying the Infected diagnosis technology? Very well, I'll pass it on and make the preparations.
Bald Marcin Sounds like the Radiant Knight is busy.
Margaret I'm sorry. I was hoping to stay a little longer.
Old Knight Go on now. Us old folks aren't going anywhere.
<Background fades out and in>
Old Knight Hmph, I'm still thinking about the Nearls. It's been a while since anyone's mentioned Schnitz.
Old Craftsman It's too bad. He could've gone down in Kazimierzian history as a hero like his father. Hell, he should've.
Old Knight Right. I just never thought a bright light like his would turn out to be a brief spark on the battlefield.
Remember how we were launching a counterattack on the fortress at the easternmost point of the battlefront? And there was a squad that cut off Ursus's first wave of reinforcements?
Old Craftsman Hah, how could I forget? Back then, I really thought the two of them would stand side-by-side on the battlefield as leaders of the campaign knights in only a few more years.
Old Knight I remember I was planning on sticking around until both the Nearl young'uns had made a name for themselves.
Who would've thought that by the time we finally left the battlefield, there wouldn't be any Nearls in the campaign knights.
Old Craftsman *Sigh*... And that punk Młynar left of his own volition.
Old Knight Well, it's not like he led a real knightclub.
Schnitz wanted to include them in the operation, but the other knightclubs pushed back, and Młynar just didn't want his friends bullied.
..."How could a bunch of refugees who simply want to break through the fortress and return to their homelands possibly compare to us knights?"
Speaking of, where did that punk run off to? I should've asked Margaret just now.
Bald Marcin If she didn't bring it up, he probably hasn't written back yet.
Old Craftsman He used to leave home for months or years at a time, didn't he? Don't worry about him. Margaret's here to take care of the family. Things'll get better, slowly but surely.
<Background 2>
Toland ...I won't ask what you two talked about in the end.
You made your decision.
But if you told me that there's no longer a place for knights in Kazimierz, I suppose I wouldn't disagree.
The vast majority of folks prefer the performers in the arenas, who can help them forget their hardships, over a knight who can actually shatter their suffering.
I mean, they don't actually want to see their lives shattered. It's a waste of time and effort. Besides, putting up a struggle till the very end rarely ends well.
Młynar ...He understood that, no doubt.
Toland I'm sure he did. And both of us have known that for a long time now, too. He simply chose... to bang his head on the past, straight-on.
Well, well. We said give us some peace and quiet to think on things...
Not that either of us will ever have peace again.
A fowlbeast cries out. It is a unique cry, one that can only be heard before the coming of winter.
On hearing it, one thinks back to years past, to the fresh snow they tread upon and the frost on their weapons.
Though it was but a single snowflake silently falling into the abyss, they heard the long, roaring echo of the winter's northern winds.
Toland That said... sometimes I think, hey, even a good-for-nothing like me can do some good and rescue folks.
So who exactly are these "vast majority of folks" we're blaming here?
Młynar ......
Toland When you look at it that way, maybe it's not all that disgraceful to be just an ordinary person.
Besides, he returned the sword to you.
Młynar ...There's no place for such a sharp weapon in today's Kazimierz.
He needn't have gone through the trouble.
Returning to their small huts in the corner of the village, the repatriated Infected workmen quietly walk past two neighbors who are discussing how to work together to collect the resources they need to make it through the winter.
Both the white haze of their breaths and the smoke from their kitchens slowly dissipate in the breeze.
They will never again wonder where they would spend the winter should the construction team arrive.
Toland Speaking of which... Pinus Sylvestris asked me to pass on this letter of invitation to you.
[Młynar reads the letter of invitation.]
Młynar ...From Rhodes Island?
Toland They may be a foreign company, but you're already pretty familiar with them, aren't you?
I know you aren't too interested in their particular business... but you should keep the letter.
They actually helped us out a little when we pulled our little kidnapping stunt.
The business permit I got from them definitely came in handy, not to mention the combat support from the young Pinus girls. I really owe them a huge favor.
Now, while you know I'd love for you to join me, alas, I get the impression you haven't changed your mind. So I might as well repay that favor now.
Besides, my guess is that their "Doctor" must've told you something... About your brother and his wife.
Maybe a message from the Grand Knight? Perhaps Rossi's intention was to drop Margaret a hint, and in the end our favorite negotiator chose to pass the word on to you?
Młynar Even when speculating, you should know there are lines you shouldn't cross.
Toland Hah, let me have my fun.
So you plan to keep looking? Even though there hasn't been any news of them whatsoever?
Młynar ...I have no reason to abandon hope.
Toland Even if that hope is baseless?
Młynar It's more than enough.
...I was in the Grand Knight Territory for ten years, and all the hope I had those ten long years does not even compare to this hope.
Rather, only someone extremely childish would be satisfied with their life, this era... and themselves.
Toland Well, ain't that the truth.
Speaking of which, somehow I doubt you've written to Margaret lately.
Młynar Do I need to? She's more than capable of taking responsibility for the trouble she invites.
Toland But what if the problems she runs into are ones you've dealt with before? Shouldn't you step up, as her guardian?
Młynar She should be following her own path, not mine.
Toland So, where will you go now?
Young Male Driver Excuse me, sirs?
Would you happen know where Dzwonek is at the moment? Is this the right way?
Huh? You don't know? I see, I guess I'll keep driving and find out.
Little Girl's Voice I don't wanna sit in the car anymore–
Young Male Driver We're almost there, sweetie. Just sit tight a little while longer. Daddy will get you a piccolo, okay?
You can't buy hand-crafted Leithanian instruments anywhere else.
[The driver returns to the car and speeds away.]
Młynar ......
He remembers practically every road there is, but not one of them points at a city that's always in motion, moving ever forward.
All roads have their destinations set in stone. What he seeks lies beyond any road.
Młynar ...If a man is but a lost wanderer, what does it matter where he is, or where he's heading?