165 – The Interview – I
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Early Wednesday morning. November 27th, around 8 AM.

Winter continued to draw near, and the temperature outside continued to grow colder. Despite that, the sky was a clear blue with only a few white clouds lazily drifting across. Warm and scenic enough that it would be possible to mistake the season for spring... if not for the chill and the snow drifts scattered along the sides of the streets.

"H-H-How can you b-b-be fine in this c-c-cold?!" Sitri shivered and tugged her fluffy gray parka close to her chest.

Qing shrugged. "I am accustomed to the cold."

It came with being the Azure Dragon. Even forced back into a human form, water, ice, and cold were an intrinsic part of his being.

Because of that, even though he was just wearing a simple black suit and pants, he was perfectly fine.

Sitri rubbed her arms and then gave Qing a pointed look. "I'll say. Not even warming up to me even when I threw myself on you..."

Qing coughed and turned his attention to their surroundings.

Last night, since it was finalized that Sitri was going to work as his secretary, a lot of work had to be done. Forging the necessary documentation and identities for Sitri, listing her as a foreigner from Europe staying with a work visa, fixing her strange issue of not being seen by mortals due to her existence being unstable, getting her proper and modest clothing to downplay her naturally immodest body...

All of that, paired with instructing Sitri of what her job entailed and how to act...

It was a long night. But even so, the night passed and it was time for Qing's next order of business: interviewing Miss Yuri Miyamoto for Project MirAIs.

To that end, Qing and Sitri were walking downtown to meet the young woman at God's Tongue Cafe.

And speaking of the meeting...

Qing glanced over at Sitri and said, "You remember what to do?"

Sitri rubbed her arms again and then nodded. "S-Stay quiet and take notes."

Seeing her still shivering from the cold, Qing sighed and pulled Sitri close, draping his arm over her shoulders. At the same time, he quietly casted a magic formation to warm her up.

Sitri flinched and said, "M-Mister Long-"

"This is only for now. You will need to grow accustomed to the weather in the future, Sitri."

Sitri blushed, but then let out a happy nod. "Yes, Sir!"

Qing sighed. "You are far too enthusiastic about your new job, Sitri."

"What can I say? I like roleplay."

Qing pointedly ignored Sitri's response and her suggestive stare. Instead, he said, "I will be doing most of the talking for this interview. Your role will be to take notes about Miss Miyamoto's responses so that I can assess your skills and where you can improve. Understood?"

"Yes, Sir!"

Qing stared at Sitri and said, "Remember. Professional. I understand that you have an exuberant personality, but-"

Sitri rolled her eyes. "You worry too much. I wasn't trained as a Demon Lord for no reason. I know when to be modest and polite."

Qing raised an eyebrow.

Sitri blushed. "T-That was an exception! It's because you're weird!"

"As you say."

The two rounded a corner, bringing God's Tongue Cafe into sight.

Seeing that, Qing stepped away from Sitri and pulled his arm back.

Sitri looked a bit disappointed, but she quickly smoothed her expression and straightened her posture, just like an attent secretary should.

...Though, considering her appearance, it made it seem more like she was cosplaying for roleplay like she mentioned instead of actually being a secretary.

Qing resisted the urge to sigh. Instead, he took the lead and said, "Follow me."

"Yes, Sir!" Sitri quickly moved to Qing's right side, straying slightly behind him to show deference. At the same time, she pulled out a notepad from her parka, along with a pen.

...Qing decided not to think too hard about where she was keeping them and instead pulled out his own small notepad and pen from his pocket.

As he did, he made a quick review of what he knew.

Yuri Miyamoto. Granddaughter of famous chef and infamous yakuza chairman, Minato Miyamoto. High schooler that dropped out in last year. Pursuing a culinary career and looking for a way to make ends meet. Someone who applied through a means that should only be available to people who were close to Beta...

There was a lot that Qing wanted to ask Yuri about, but for now, it was probably better to just get a feel for her personality.

They arrived at the restaurant. Qing nodded and opened the door, walking inside with Sitri following after him.

A bell chimed and a female voice called out from the back. "Sorry! We're not open for business yet!"

Qing brushed off his suit and then said, "Apologies for the intrusion, but we are not here as customers."

Some rustling echoed from the kitchen, and then a young woman with a blonde ponytail walked out. She wiped her hands down on her apron and then frowned. "Not customers? Then who-" She paused, settling her gaze on Qing's professional attire before glancing at Sitri. She blinked and then her eyes widened. "The interview!"

Qing put on a calm smile and said, "Yes." He pulled out a business card from his suit and handed it over. "Qing Long, COO of Myth Incorporated. And you are Miss Yuri, I presume? The young woman I spoke to on the phone the other day?"

"Yeah- I mean, yes! That's me." She glanced down at her dusty apron and work clothes, her eyes widening in panic. She glanced back up at Qing and said, "Um... G-Give me a bit to change! Be right back!" Before Qing could respond, Yuri dashed back behind the curtains to kitchen.

Sitri took off her coat, folding it and tucking it under her arm. After that, she stared at the curtains before shifting her gaze to Qing. "I thought it was just me... but do you have that effect on all girls?"

Qing resisted the urge to sigh and said, "No, Sitri. Miss Miyamoto is just nervous."

Thankfully. He didn't know what he would do if he had to deal with another lovestruck young woman... Especially one likely to work in the same company.

"Good." Sitri nodded. "Less competition then."

That time, Qing did sigh. "Must you always have that on your mind?"

"My Dad said that persistency was key to making someone fall in love... so yes."

Qing shook his head. Ignoring his secretary who was extremely transparent about her desires, he decided to take a look around the surroundings.

The cafe was small, but it was well kept. The tables and booths were clean, the floor was spotless... And since Yuri was the only person Qing could sense on the premises, it seemed that she was the one responsible for the state of the cafe.

That spoke wonders for her diligence and personality. At the least, she wouldn't clash with Miss Yozora in that regard. Although...

A sharp gaze.

Qing frowned and took a look around the place again.

Sitri noticed and said, "Is something wrong, Sir?"

Qing's frown deepened. "...No. I just thought I sensed something off for a moment there."

For a split second, Qing felt clear hostility. A tangible killing intent that shouldn't be possible for mortals. But it immediately receded.

Qing hummed and spun his pen around. "Miss Miyamoto might be more interesting than I anticipated."

Before Qing could dwell on the matter, Yuri walked back out from the kitchen. This time, she was dressed in a light blue blouse and jeans. Her face a bit flushed, she bowed her head and said, "Sorry for making you wait!"

Qing waved his hand. "It's fine, Miss Miyamoto. If anything, we should apologize for intruding so early."

Yuri raised her head, though she still seemed worried. "No, I'm the one who made the appointment, so- I mean... Um, do you want to take a seat?"

Qing tilted his head and carefully said, "If that would make you more comfortable. However-"

"Great! Right this way!" Yuri stiffly walked over to the table and pulled out some chairs. Waving towards them, she said, "Sit down, please!"

Sitri frowned and leaned over towards Qing.

The Azure Dragon glanced back, raising an eyebrow.

Sitri glanced at Yuri and then cupped her mouth and whispered into Qing's ear. "Are you sure that she isn't crushing on you?"

Qing slowly nodded.

Yuri flinched and then held up her hands. "U-Um, make yourselves comfortable! I'll grab some drinks... Water! I'll get water. Be right back."

The young blonde woman dashed back into the kitchen. Shortly after, the sound of running water echoed, along with clattering glasses.

Qing frowned and then sat down at the table.

Sitri sat down next to him, placing her coat on the back of her chair.

Qing rapped his pen against the table and stared at where Yuri had vanished.

...Strange. The situation was far too strange.

It was one thing for Yuri to be nervous about an interview... After all, she was a young woman applying for an important job.

But why did it seem like she was desperately trying to avoid drawing attention to something-?

"Hm?" Qing blinked and then noticed something in the corner of his eyes. "That is...?"