The third interview heats up and Tara is put on the spot.
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Episode 46. 80 kg (11)
The interviewees were nervous. No wonder. Half of the field would be eliminated in the third round of interviews.
Desperate to find an opportunity to speak, the impatient interviewees joined the debate between Hans and the interviewers, stumbling over themselves to show off their knowledge.
While Hans cleverly slinked away like a man who had accomplished his job.
Now that I thought about it, I needed to say something as well.
I was a little dazed because I had let my guard down after the second round. And I found all the hand raising and conversation confusing and overwhelming.
Some of the questions included examples from books I had been studying in the family archives and my room.
It was just a matter of interjecting at the right time, but, oddly, I kept missing the timing.
Both Chloe and Jason had made decent statements about economics. Aria, for her part, had been able to neatly handle a question about Court etiquette.
Chloe seemed to have caught the eye of the interviewer from Inner Palace.
Jason's comments were useless flattery, but, knowing his position, several of the interviewers and Prince Franz seemed to take a liking to him.
This interview was important for me, but it was also important to know where my brothers and sisters would be working, so I had to watch closely.
I observed the proceedings as intently as possible.
The number of people who hadn't spoken had dwindled to about ten, and this included both Logan and I.
But not long after, Logan stepped forward.
Logan calmly stepped forward and provided answers to several of the interviewers' questions related to military logistics.
Logan was usually a good listener, and I was curious to hear what he had to say.
"... Ease of transportation is key to getting supplies to the troops stationed along the border in a timely manner. So what we need is standardized road expansion. This was proposed to the Imperial Domestic Council a year ago, but for some reason it hasn't been passed. As a result, the roads are still incomplete as you approach the border, supplies don't arrive in time and troops are constantly exposed to harsh conditions. It's no wonder morale is low."
There was a murmur of appreciation among some of the Military personnel. It didn't have the same effect as Hans's speech, but it was a sign that his insightful words had struck a chord.
"Hmm, that's a good idea. Another interviewee with a different opinion...!”
"Your name is Logan, from the Elias family?"
Second Prince Kyle, who had been completely silent up until this point, had finally opened his mouth.
The room stirred for a moment. Even Logan, who had remained calm until now, tensed for a moment, his jaw stiffening.
Even the interviewees who were formerly desperate to stand out began to pay attention to Kyle's words.
"Yes, Your Highness."
"How did you know?"
"What do you mean?"
"I was wondering how you knew about an agenda item that's been pending before the Palace Council for a year."
"I'm a Military school graduate. I was granted permission to access the council records because I believed it was necessary for me to be informed about the armed forces I may be called upon to lead in the future."
"That's a good mindset."
"If this agenda item is brought up again at next month's council meeting, I'd need to make some additions to it so we could pass it, but what would you suggest?"
"Morale suffers as supplies arrive late, and, as a result, the defense of the Empire's front lines, its borders, slackens."
"That's what we've been arguing about all along. We had a similar debate including that argument a year ago, and we had a similar debate using that point a decade ago, the point I made was identical, so why would they suddenly pass the resolution now?"
"Even so, I think it's a dereliction of duty not to address the problem when you're fully aware of it. The council has an obligation to debate and address it urgently."
"Admirable sense of duty. Logan Elias, do you know how much the yearly military budget costs?"
"I believe it's 50 million gold."
"That was last year. This year it's five million less. 45 million gold."
45 million? How much is that? Two gold is a month's salary for a maid.... Hmmm. One, one, ten, a million... Whew, that's almost a few trillion won!
"Increasing the budget is not an easy thing to do, and even though there are good reasons to widen the roads for supply lines, we haven’t done so due to sensitive budgetary issues. If we're going to pass a motion here, we need a good reason to pass it despite the budgetary issues. What reason could be used to justify that?"
Logan didn't have an answer. Rather than looking stumped, he looked more like he hadn't really thought about it until this moment.
A few interviewees raised their hands and offered answers.
"We could increase the budget again."
"We could cut the soldiers' salaries to pay for it."
"We could get the soldiers to lay the roads themselves."
And then there was silence.
Kyle listened to all of the answers with surprising patience, even though he was holding back irritation.
There wasn't much time.
I wanted to move on to the next issue quickly. I vowed the next question would be mine, no matter what.
"I suppose one person can't be expected to run both the Military and the security services at the same time. I presume you're asking because the motion hasn't passed yet and you don't know how to accomplish it yourself, Brother?"
Franz said sarcastically, as if sensing a good opportunity.
"Not at all, Brother."
Kyle replied slowly. He didn't even turn his head toward Franz, and instead sipped the tea in front of him.
"Well then, tell us how."
Excited, Franz rushed onwards, impatient to hear the answer, as if he had forgotten his role as an interviewer entirely.
It was Franz himself, after all, who had blocked Kyle's motion a year ago.
Instead of responding to Franz's cajoling, Kyle slowly surveyed the room, his gaze landing on the exact spot where I stood. One corner of his mouth quirked up.
'What the hell, is he smiling at me?' A chill ran down my spine.
An uncomfortable feeling of foreboding screeched through me. I shot him the world's most intense glare to silently express my thoughts.
‘No! Don't! Don't! Don't drag me into the middle of this! I don't want to be scrutinized and judged again. Noooooo!'
Hoping that the words flashing through my mind at that moment would be conveyed, I quickly hid behind the large interviewee next to me.
"Before I do that, I heard that there's an interviewee who applied to the Ministry of Security and did amazingly well in the second round of interviews."
One by one, people's eyes were drawn towards me, and eventually I was once again the center of attention.
It was so shameless, the way he was pretending to acknowledge me. I wanted to grab the corners of his mouth, yank them up and twist them violently. But I had to hold it together. I was the underdog of all underdogs here. I was a super-ultra-underdog.
The now-all-too-familiar chatter emerged around me, radiating outwards like a ripple in a pond.
"Since you applied to the Ministry of Security, you must have some familiarity with the Military, and.... Well, you've been so quiet Lady Elias, what do you have to say?"
So this was how he was planning on flattening my nose, was it?
Honestly, I hadn't thought much about it. The Ministry of Security was focused on the internal affairs of the Empire, but this was about Military policy for foreign defence.
When Logan mentioned it, I had just thought to myself, ‘Oh, I guess that’s a thing,’ and didn't spare it much thought.
I needed to calm down, calm, calm...
"W-What? W-What was the question?"
It was the last thing I wanted to respond with. But I had no choice. I had to stall for time.
I glanced to the side and saw Jason smiling at me like years of weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
Aria couldn't take her eyes off of Kyle, Chloe's brow was furrowed, and the other interviewees were looking at me with eager anticipation.
"Have you thought of a way to pass the 'standardized road expansion' motion regarding the Imperial borderlands?"
As I continued to glance around, the faces of the people watching me immediately imprinted themselves on my mind.
"Well, that's because I'm not....”
"It's okay to say you don't know. You've already demonstrated the capabilities of the Elias family. If you don't know, then it's okay to admit you don't know, Lady Elias."
Seeing my embarrassment, Franz Amure took my side with a genial smile. Normally, I would have laughed at him for being so obvious, but now I was grateful that he had helped stall for time.
If I couldn't answer the question here, the third interview would be a loss.
The problem was that I was too preoccupied with paying attention to what other people were saying.
I squeezed my eyes shut to concentrate, and my mind began to sift through the newspaper articles I'd been reading.
"G-give me a minute to think."
'Calm down. Think of the information, categorize it, synthesize it, and you'll get an idea...'
Soon, the newspapers I had been sorting through in the office building archives flashed through my mind in a panoramic slideshow.
And then some words popped into my head. My eyes widened.
Hah! Holy shit!
My mouth opened for a moment at the unexpected thought and then quickly closed.
Could I say this? Could I really do this? What were the odds?
My head was spinning with all manner of complexities. I ran the numbers of all the possibilities over and over again.
"Lady Elias, If you don't know, just say you don't know. It's almost time for the third round of interviews to end."
Kyle watched patiently as Tara stood like a statue, unmoved by the interviewer's urging.
She had been chosen by Andrei, and she had shared her opinions with Lloyd, the patriarch of House Elias. Moreover, she had predicted the thoughts of the Second Prince himself and deployed House Elias’s knights.
She said she was going to work under his command, so she should know this much.
If she hadn't thought about it, she'd have to think about it now and find a way.
As she stood there, unable to answer, people were expressing their disappointment, accusations, sneers, and cynicism.
The chatter grew louder and louder until it reached even Kyle's ears. The useless backward clamouring of the nobility.
'There’s no end to their snobbery.'
[... He's an illegitimate bastard.]
[His Majesty didn't even know he existed. Oh my! Look at his eyes!]
[He has a long way to go if he wants to catch up with Prince Franz. He grew up with commoners after all.]
An old memory flashed through his mind, one he hadn't thought of in years.
He had also experienced this all-too-familiar chatter. Feeling like he was getting lost in the strange sensation, Kyle took another sip of his tea to distract himself.
This, too, was something she would have to bear.
"Uh, Your Highness, may we move on to another question?"
Even at that, Tara just stood there.
"Do you have a response, Miss?"
"Perhaps that was too difficult. Let's move on."
"What? What do you mean 'move on'? Come on. Now tell me. What is the solution?"
Franz wasn't alone in his insistence on hearing the answer.
The interviewees in the room also wanted to know what the mysterious 'method' was.
Their interest in gossip had already faded into the distance.
What was the method the Commander-in-Chief of the Military had mentioned? What was the solution to the issue that had been unresolved for years, or even decades?
The solution was just on the verge of being revealed.
"The repercussions will be massive."
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