Kyle concludes his meeting with the Emperor, while the second round of the administrative interviews begins.
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Episode 41. 80kg (6)
"How did you know? Since when did you know?"
"I suspected about five years ago, and confirmed it about two years ago."
The Emperor was speechless. Five years ago Kyle had only just arrived at the Capital. And if he had confirmed his suspicions two years ago, that had happened around the same time as the end of the Skandoan war.
His heart sank. But he put so much work into disguising himself every time he left the Palace.....
‘How did he know,' he wondered, 'when no one else has ever noticed?'
More than that, if the matter was publicized, it would not only undermine the Emperor's authority but also limit his future actions.
"...Are you going to make it public?"
"The nobility would gain more support if this became a matter of public debate, wouldn't it?"
"I suppose they would, yes."
"You rotten bastard! If you were going to go public, you would have done it a long time ago. By the way, I see that your personal seal wasn't enough to win over the nobles."
The Emperor frowned at the vague answer.
"Six months since I last saw you. Tsk tsk."
"What's the reason for the summons, Your Majesty?"
"You're so damned impertinent."
He wanted to say something more, but realized that Kyle had been merely answering his questions.
The Emperor pursed his lips. Kyle was inferior in status to him, but Louis also knew he had committed a great many wrongs against his son, so he held his tongue.
Instead, the Emperor gestured for his chamberlain to come closer. He took a moment to open the file he handed him, and then pulled out a few pages and gave them back .
The chamberlain took the papers, walked over, and politely handed them to Kyle.
Kyle didn't bother to hide the growing grimness in his eyes as he read it.
"Irina Stuart. The youngest daughter of Marquess Malcolm Stuart, age...!"
"Fortunately, the Stuarts have a suitable candidate. Look, I believe she's of acceptable age, and not unpleasant character. I will be selecting the Crown Prince next year, afterall, and it would be beneficial to have a good match in mind to save you the trouble of going through such a cumbersome procedure in the future."
"I'm going to pretend I never read this."
As Kyle turned to leave, the Emperor's words held him back.
"You punk! I'm not finished yet. This is the best prospect you have for a political match. The Stuarts may have stepped out of politics, but they're a highly respected family, have been around for generations, and have a lot of talented people. If you form an alliance with them, you will also gain their resources, so what’s the issue?"
The Emperor leapt from his throne and stood in front of Kyle.
He now just looked like an average peasant.
"Your Majesty, are you trying to give me more power?" Kyle asked without hesitation.
The Emperor immediately recoiled at the question, he was furious, but he quickly composed his expression.
"Or are you trying to take power away from where it is currently concentrated?"
"Either way, as long as the result is satisfactory... It would be equally beneficial for both of us."
"Do you think this would be enough to shake the power imbalance?"
"I don't expect much at the start, but a small crack can go on to break a large dam. The Stuarts are a good family that can be used to hasten that goal."
"I prefer to play chess on my own terms. The Duke of Stuart has politely declined my offer and that's that."
"You’ll need to endure many hardships to get good people and connections."
"I want nothing to do with this manner of business. She's 13 years old, Your Majesty."
"What bearing does her age have on a political arrangement?"
Kyle didn't bother to stifle the laugh that leaked out of him at his father's words.
"Still, Your Majesty, common decency must prevail, and I don't want to feel like a criminal every time I go to bed at night. Goodbye then."
"Tsk, tsk, you need to gather support.....”
"I don't have to gather anything."
"What kind of nonsense is that? Publicly sending those requests with your personal seal counts as an attempt to gain power. What do you mean you don't need to gather support?"
The Emperor was fully aware of the current circumstances, including the princes' rivalries and quarrels over the Imperial Throne.
But he was not yet willing to crown Franz, who had been born from his marriage to Empress Vivian, as the Crown Prince. Kyle was growing in power through his role as a public official and the nobility were split between Franz and Joseph.
Through it all, the Emperor stood idly by.
There was only one reason for his indifference, only one purpose behind his inaction, and that was to serve as a check against the power that was so heavily weighted in favour of Empress Vivian.
What did he mean, there's no point in gathering power in these circumstances?
"Are you giving up?"
"I'm just going about it differently."
"What are you trying to accomplish?"
"I plan on taking the path that His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Helio, took."
The Emperor stared at Kyle for a moment as if time had suddenly ground to a halt. Then he burst into laughter, "Hah!"
The Emperor ordered his chamberlain to bring him wine and offered Kyle a glass. But Kyle politely declined.
"I have another appointment."
"Huh. Very well, you may leave."
After a polite bow to the Emperor, who was once again seated solemnly on his throne, Kyle stormed out of the audience room.
As Kyle walked out, the Emperor's lifelong chamberlain quietly asked a question.
"Your Majesty. Wasn't His Majesty Helio a former Emperor of the previous era? The immortalized Sun Emperor?"
The Emperor tilted his head at his servant's question.
"...I'm tired." He said, with a serious expression on his face.
"Yes, Your Majesty."
At the Emperor's signal to say no more, the chamberlain quietly stood aside.
Despite his exhaustion, the Emperor didn't return to his inner palace chambers, instead he just sat there on the throne.
Louis Amure's thoughts drifted to his long-deceased grandfather, Emperor Helio Amure.
His reign as Emperor was short, but he was famous, and there were many stories that arose from his rule. Despite being a great warrior, Emperor Helio had not originally been entrusted with the position of Crown Prince and had lacked the support of the nobility.
At some point, he had captured the support of the aristocracy, but "captured" wasn't exactly the correct expression.
Eventually the nobles had been more than eager to join his side. Prince Helio became the Crown Prince and quickly ascended to the position of Emperor.
‘He plans to make them come to his side by their own volition... That bastard.'
Kyle walked into the reception hall with a big grin on his face.
"Do you have an appointment?"
"I made a promise to take her down a peg, and I intend to keep it."
"Down a peg?"
"Where are the interviews?"
"Ah... I submitted your name as the representative of the Department of Security."
"Okay. Let's go."
"But what do you mean, down a... Ah!"
Nick shook his head as he watched Kyle storm out of the reception hall.
"He still remembers that..."
The Grand Hall of the Imperial Palace.
The princes did not participate in the second interview. There was also a new set of interviewers for the physical testing.
I glanced at all the interviewees gathered in the practice hall and began to organize my thoughts and mentally prepare for what was to come.
I had read about the third round of interviews in the novel, but I didn't know what Jason's schemes would be.
Nevertheless, the reason I thought Jason would put his plan into action in the second round was because it presented the perfect opportunity for humiliation.
I hadn’t been sure, so I’d decided to focus on the parts where there was the highest probability of interference.
A short time later, to my delight or misfortune, Jason walked up to his group of cronies, nudged them, and soon things were underway.
"...Interviewers, th-this isn't fair!"
A smirking man with brown curly hair stepped forward from the group just as everyone was getting ready to take the practical exam.
Tommy Rabbie. Crony Number 1.
The lanky guy right behind him was Bob Mitchell. He was Crony Number 2.
"That's right. Why do some of us have to work hard and participate in the physical exam, while others get to stand to the side just because they're women. This is so unfair!"
At his words, all eyes were suddenly on them and interviewers seemed to be watching the situation with some embarrassment.
Then, as one of the younger interviewers was about to step forward, an older, more senior-looking interviewer stopped him and shook his head.
Hmm... That little bastard had actually done it.
‘Jason, you little shit! One day you'll thank me for saving your ass and regret this ungrateful behaviour!'
Finally, the last to appear, a fat, hawk-nosed man followed the rest and spoke, "that's right. This interview is humiliating for us as men. It should be more fair." Crony Number 3, Sam Maddox.
After all, it could hardly be called a party until the entire gang showed up.
The younger interviewer stepped forward and interrupted Sam Maddox.
"Um... Unfortunately... Well. The physical test has been ordered by the Emperor. Furthermore, 80% of the applicants are men, and all the women have applied to work in the Inner Palace. So there's no need for the female candidates to take this test."
Those in the practice hall who were watching the tense exchange seemed to calm down at the interviewer's words. But then, one of the men standing beside Jason stepped forward.
"Very well, but I'm sure there are some ladies who are not applying to work in the Inner Palace, and if so, they should also compete in this test honestly. All the candidates here have been preparing for this test for a long time, so please take that into consideration."
As if on cue, the public official in charge of conducting the physical interview stepped forward and spoke.
"Well... that makes sense, but there's no way a lady would have applied to work anywhere except for the Inner Palace...!"
However, he trailed off when he saw the crowd's reaction.
Every person from the Group 7 interview was staring at me. The gazes of everyone in the room slowly turned towards me as they followed the stares of my former group-mates.
Damn it. Yes, I knew this was coming, but it was still embarrassing.
I closed my eyes tightly, opened them, and then took a step forward.
"I applied to the Ministry of Security."
"My God. Is she mad?"
"Oh! Who is she?"
"That's Lady Tara from House Elias."
"The Elias Family has a daughter like that?"
"You might not have heard of her in the provinces, but she's kind of famous in the Capital, she's a stuttering, room-bound fatty... Hmm... At least that's what I heard, but no one was expecting to see her here."
"I was surprised to see her here today as well! And it turns out she doesn't actually stutter that badly."
The sound of murmuring voices erupted all over the room, getting progressively worse, louder and louder.
"I heard that she has a lot of issues, not only physically, but mentally as well. So I wonder what they were thinking when they accepted her as an interviewee. Someone like that... It must be because she's from House Elias, right?"
"Tsk, tsk. It looks like House Elias is trying to be a bigshot."
Even though the performance hall was spacious, the derogatory words and stares seemed to trap me in a vortex of air and sound.
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