The First and Second Princes make an appearance at the exam interviews, meanwhile Kyle is summoned by the Emperor.
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Episode 39. 80 kg (4)
Both brothers had blond hair and blue eyes, but Joseph was noticeably more handsome than Franz.
His golden hair spilled onto his forehead, with a lustrous sheen straight out of a shampoo commercial. His deep blue eyes had a soft look to them that made for a gentle impression. There were likely countless women in the Empire who admired the Third Prince.
As a prime candidate for Crown Prince and a favorite of the nobility, Prince Franz Amure appeared to be valiant enough on the outside.
He had the same blue eyes as Joseph, but they held a different expression. His short blond hair and plump body gave him a relaxed, easygoing appearance.
The fact that both of them had bothered to show up for the administration interviews at all, when every minute of their day was tightly scheduled, showed how important the exams must be to them.
Clearly, the results of this examination meant something to the princes.
It was probably because they wouldn't get many chances to fill the palace with their own people, so if you thought about it, it wasn't surprising they chose to serve as interviewers.
.... But, was Prince Franz really unaware of Prince Joseph's ambition?
By now, most people in the Empire saw Joseph and Franz as a team. Joseph was his brother’s greatest ally, and his name was constantly on everyone's lips.
However, in many empires and dynasties, brotherly relationships had been the source of much antagonism, betrayal, and sacrifice in the struggle for power.
To suggest that Joseph was really his brother's ally? And for Franz to believe that to be true? Nonsense.
They may be related by blood, but their ambitions outweighed that.
<The Ocerian Chronicles> had ceased publication after episode 60, so I didn't know who the next Emperor would be. By that time, the conflict between the princes had already escalated to a fever pitch that had resulted in House Elias's destruction.
Specifically, it had been the Second Prince, Kyle Amure, who had pulled the final trigger and decided my family's destruction...
While Joseph may appear to be siding with Franz at this point in the story, by the end of The Ocerian Chronicles, his true nature had been unmasked and he had bared razor-sharp claws of his own.
As far as I could tell, Joseph was a predator who had already spotted his prey and was breathlessly stalking it. Yet it remained to be seen whether he was a tiger, a hyena, or a wolf.
"Now, then, let's get started. First up, Lord Lewan of House Spencer."
The man whose name had been called responded with a loud "Yes!" and the interviewers' questions began in earnest.
The questions were generally centered around his fitness for administrative work. Most of the questions were asked by the interviewers from the Imperial Secretariat and they only asked simple questions to ensure they stayed in the princes' good graces.
Occasionally, Prince Franz himself would ask a question, often in the guise of a comforting appeasement when the interviewee was somewhat embarrassed and unable to answer.
It looked like his strategy was self-preservation. Perhaps he didn't want to make enemies of any of the noble families? The nobility was his main power base afterall.
He would ask things like, “I've heard that your family are all scholars and are unrivaled when it comes to research. Is that true?"
Every time Franz asked such a question, the tense atmosphere would soften and Prince Joseph's brows would furrow slightly.
Meanwhile, Prince Joseph didn't ask a single question.
Eventually, it was finally my turn.
"You're Lady Tara of House Elias?"
"Y- Yes, I am."
I wasn't stressed mentally, so why was my body so tense?... Haa.
The interviewers looked me over with familiar assessing gazes.
I wasn't embarrassed. I was used to the head to toe glances, but the way their eyebrows and the corners of their mouths drew downward was unpleasant. I could see them thinking, 'Why does she look like that... How can she expect to work in that state?'
Their gazes reminded me of my older judgmental coworkers from my job in Korea.*
As if that wasn't bad enough, the interviewers' disapproving stares triggered a series of stifled snickers from the other interviewees.
A mustachioed interviewer, who had censured the other candidates for their attitudes, looked at my documents and repeated the same question he had asked the others.
"Which department do you want to work for?... Oh, my."
The interviewer's brow furrowed as his eyes flicked between my documents and my face, as if he was having trouble recognizing me. His demeanor was such that I wouldn't be surprised if his eyes eventually popped clean out of his head.
"The Ministry of Security?"
The interview room erupted in laughter at the interviewer's baffled question. Even the princes, who hadn't paid much attention to me until now, glanced at me in surprise.
I could practically see the thoughts they must all be having.
'She must be crazy. She's just trying to get attention.'
'Her? At the Ministry of Security? They say she couldn't even leave the house until three months ago... The rumors about her being crazy must be true!'
And so on.
"Well... Yes. I would like to work in the Security Department, if given the chance to do so."
I paused for a beat to make sure I didn't stutter again.
Another interviewer, a bald man, didn't even bother to hide his derision when he asked his question this time.
"Did you apply to the Ministry of Security knowing what kind of work they do?"
A flagrantly dismissive remark.
The Imperial Security Department had access to sensitive and classified documents. I could be forewarned of any dangers within the Empire, be better able to anticipate future rebellion and conspiracies, and as a bonus, I would be able keep an eye on Prince Kyle while also getting a chance to work for him.
It truly was the best place for me to work.
The only question was whether Prince Kyle would hire me and I'd get my 206 gold, but that was a problem for another day.
"Yes, the Department of Security-"
I had just opened my mouth ready to provide a carefully planned answer that would satisfy everyone, when Joseph Amure, who hadn't opened his mouth in any of the Group 7 interviews so far, spoke up.
'What the hell?'
He tossed his papers aside, as if all this was a mere nuisance.
"We all know what the Ministry of Security does and I'm sure you're fully aware of who the Commander-in-Chief is. But is the Elias Family aware of this?" Joseph Amure asked briskly.
His expression was blank. He resembled a finely sculpted statue.
"My family is unaware of which department I applied for."
'Ha. Well, then.'
'She knew she was going to make a big splash, and she still did it.'
Little did they know I could hear them talking about me, clear as day.
Unlike Prince Joseph, who stared at me with a thoughtful 'Hmmm.' Franz laughed heartily, tapping his fingers on the desk.
"Hahaha. Well, well, well! The Elias Family truly is special. You still have time to finalize your choice of department after the interviews, so you'll be able to discuss it with your Family Head. Oh, yes and please convey my compliments to Count Elias for the soldiers he sent to me."
Oh, my God... Why on earth would he mention the knights our family sent to him now?
The interview room fell silent as if a bucket of cold water had been thrown on it.
He laughed heartily, and I felt a sudden impassioned urge to stab him in his stupid neck.
The interviewers were flustered, Joseph was shaking his head in disbelief, and the other interviewees glared at me with disgust.
I suddenly felt like I was burning under the heat of their venomous gazes.
I could feel the tingles of their stares piercing me all over my body, and I had to resist the urge to rub my arms to dispel the sensation.
It seemed that the qualifications of the children of House Elias had already been decided.
I passed the first round of the interviews in Group 7 thanks to the influence of my family.
The Second Prince's Palace, Office.
It had been ten minutes since Kyle had returned from training, and he was now wiping his sword down with a dry rag.
Nick eyed Kyle from where he was standing.
Walter had abandoned him, and he was left to brood about what would happen to him.
Already, he was fantasizing about Walter being verbally stripped bare, and having to run around the training grounds dozens of times. He had already imagined him kneeling and begging in front of him hundreds of times, but it still didn't relieve his frustration.
'Ha, if only I'd noticed them one second earlier...'
There was no use for resentment, however. He could do nothing but vow that next time, he would spot the Emperor's palace guards sooner when they came to deliver a summons.
His Master's hands were gentle as he polished the sharp edge of his blade. Perhaps his Lord was going to push him to the limit once again?
"B- But, Your Highness? If you don't attend his summons this time, h- h-... He said he'll order me to patrol the gardens naked."
Nick's voice quivered, it was horrible to contemplate.
"It is what it is."
"P- Please, spare me, Your Highness."
"Isn't that better than what Walter had to do?"
'Are those really my only options?'
But Nick mentally weighed the severity of his own punishment against what Walter had been made to do last month.
Walter had been forced to spend three days at the Amure Imperial Palace by the Emperor's side dressed as an apprentice knight. He'd had to help the Emperor with his daily chores, even late into the night. He even had to follow the Emperor to the bathroom and inspect his bowel movements. It was hard to think of a punishment worse than that.
After those three days Walter had been very grateful to attend military training again. He'd acted like a brand new knight who had just taken his first oath of allegiance.
The words, 'Why can't you just get along with the Emperor?' threatened to burst from his throat, but Nick forced them down with superhuman will.
He pleaded with his Master with the world's saddest, most pitiful expression on his face, his eyes sad like a puppy crying in the rain.
"...Your Majesty, the ladies of the court will see me naked before I can even get married. Think about it. I'll never be able to enter the palace again, and that's just as well. Who in the world would marry a knight who used to stroll naked through the palace gardens? Haa... I'm haa...."
Kyle glared at Nick, who was still gazing at him with that incomprehensible, pleading expression on his face. He wondered where on earth Nick had learned to do that. Kyle sheathed the sword he'd been polishing and turned his back on Nick.
"Hmph. That punishment sounds about right. Next time I see one of my knights get out of line, I'll punish him the same way...."
Nick dropped to his knees with a whimper, about to wrack his brains for another solution, when Kyle interrupted him.
"Stop that. It's disgusting."
Nick saw a glimmer of hope in his Master's words, so he continued to plead.
"Please! Defend the honor of the Order of the Phoenix, Your Highness!"
"Nick Bright. I can see right through your trickery."
'Ah... Maybe he'll do something!'
Nick raised his head with hope in his heart. The expression on his Master's face indicated that the impossible might actually happen for once.**
Apparently, the puppy-dog-in-the-rain look had worked so Nick made the same expression, this time with a bit more gusto.
"Nick Bright, if you look at me like that one more time, I'll kill you."
"Yes, Your Highness!"
"He must be having fun because his threats are becoming creative. It's about time. I owe him a visit. Let's go."
"Yes, Your Highness! You are my hero, my light, my....!"
He only stopped talking after Kyle whacked him on the back of the head with a loud thud.
Nick followed Kyle, laughing bashfully as his Master strode ahead.
"Hee hee hee. Walter, that asshole, he's going to die of jealousy. Hee hee."
* Here Tara uses the slang word 꼰대 - kkondae. Which refers an older conservative person who looks down on the younger generation with an air of superiority and exercises their power over them because of their age. Essentially the Korean version of the 'entitled boomer' who hates on younger generations for being lazy and makes life harder for them at work.
** A Korean idiom used here, 가뭄에 콩 나듯 'when beans grow in a drought' - when something very unlikely or miraculous happens
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