167 – The Interview – III
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Qing observed Yuri, carefully examining her reactions.

The young woman was nervous. Of course, that was expected. A bit of nerves were inevitable for any sort of interview.

However, she was extremely nervous. The reaction of someone who had something to hide.

At the same time... There wasn't much of anything for Yuri *to* hide from him.

True, her grandfather was a former yakuza chairman and she herself had been involved until recently according to the information that Qing had gathered, but considering that Asako was the heiress to the Seiryuu clan, that was a non-issue.

The only aspect of Yuri that Qing was unaware of was the reasoning behind her sudden dropout from school.

So far, he had conjectures. Plausible ones.

John had recently taken down the pillar keeping the yakuza culture and organizations alive to the current day, the police were cracking down on any unsavory individuals still persisting on following that lifestyle, and the leaders of the other yakuza clans had voluntarily stepped down and officially disbanded.

From that, Qing hypothesized that the reason for Yuri's decision to drop out of her classes was a result of those circumstances.

Objectively irrational, but subjectively, there was some context that made her believe it was the best course of action.

So Qing wanted to know that. But also...

"Hahaha... I don't know what you mean?"

...He had yet to see Yuri's true nature.

The young woman was polite and nervous. Idly fiddling with her hair, constantly sipping from her glass of water... she seemed to be just an ordinary young high school girl afraid for her interview. One with a polite, prim, and proper personality.

But Qing knew that was a lie.

While all of her public interviews and appearances showed her as a calm and polite young girl, the fact that she had a trained body, moved with the air of someone comfortable with giving orders, and was doing her best to not let anything slip showed that there was more to her than she was letting show.

Considering the circumstances, Qing was sure that Yuri at least had a personality similar to Asako's. At least, in terms of how they acted at their core.

...Well, there was that as well as the journal he saw tucked in the corner of the room filled with very colorful language about trying and failing to reproduce the recipe of a bowl of ramen.

Qing took a sip from his water and tilted his head.

Right now, they were at an impasse.

Yuri was nervous, but it seemed that she had experience in holding back herself considering how she hadn't slipped up yet. At the moment, all she did was stare at Qing with a faint sheen of sweat forming on her brow.

Qing rapped his fingers on the table and said, "Miss Miyamoto."

"Y-Yes!" Yuri flinched and straightened her back.

"You are aware that this conversation is confidential, correct? No matter what you say or how you act, you can rest assured that it will not go beyond this building."

Yuri's eyes flicked to Sitri's notepad.

Ah.

Qing glanced at Sitri and said, "Would you mind stepping outside for a moment, Sitri?"

The silver-haired secretary paused. She pursed her crimson lips and then said, "Are you sure, Sir?" She glanced at Yuri and then said, "It would be a bad idea for a young maiden and someone as handsome as yourself to be stuck in a room together without supervision, wouldn't it?"

Qing resisted the urge to scoff.

Right... Says the apparent demon who kept insisting that she was fine being eaten by a dragon... or eating 'his' dragon.

Instead, he waved her off and said, "It will only be for a few minutes."

Sitri pursed her lips, looking like she swallowed a sour lemon. But then she nodded and grabbed her coat. "Very well, *Sir*. But do not take too long. You have other business to attend to afterwards and Miss Miyamoto has wasted enough of our time."

Yuri's eye twitched, but she simply bowed her head, as if giving a polite apology.

Sitri snorted and then walked out.

The bell chimed, signaling her departure. And then it was just Qing and Yuri.

...Well, he could detect Sitri standing by the door and listening in, but Yuri couldn't, and that was all that mattered.

Now...

Qing looked at Yuri and said, "You are remarkably talented at acting, Miss Miyamoto."

Yuri blinked and feigned innocence. Plastering a smile on her face, she laughed and said, "Thank you? That helps with the kind of job I'm applying for, right?"

"No."

Yuri froze.

Qing rapped his fingers on the table and said, "Project MirAIs is an idol group, true. But it is also an opportunity for those who could not achieve their goals otherwise to do so. You may take on the role of a character, but that character is simply an extension of yourself. Authenticity and sincerity. Those are the attributes we seek."

...Well, the attributes that Qing was using to explain the previous candidates.

John had selected the first members of Project MirAIs on a whim, but it was better to not publicize that fact.

Yuri grabbed her glass of water and took a long sip from it.

Qing leaned back in his chair and said, "I will not force you to tell me the whole story. Neither will I begrudge you for withholding details and donning a comfortable mask. However, if you truly wish to be a part of Project MirAIs, I would like you to let go of that mask." He smiled and said, "After all, it would be terrible if it became the truth, would it not?"

Yuri was quiet. She stared at Qing for a long time and then muttered, "I can't afford to lose this chance though."

"If the circumstances are that dire, I am certain that our CEO will be able to find arrangements."

Yuri was the granddaughter of the Torabu Clan's former chairman and likely a family friend of the current chairman of the defunct clan, Kai.

Not only that, but if the reason she had to drop out of school was a result of the yakuza disbandment, Qing was sure that John would do something to remedy the situation. And if not, his wife would definitely do something about it... If only to avoid the countless other times similar situations had occurred with John back in the Three Realms.

Yuri didn't say anything for another long time. But then she said, "Is your boss that nice?"

Qing snorted. "John is too nice for his own good at times, yes."

Yuri started to nod. But then she froze, her eyes suddenly growing wide.

Qing frowned. "Is something the-"

"Wait. Wait, wait, wait." Yuri stood up and waved her hands around. "Your boss- No, the CEO of Myth Incorporated. His name is John?"

"...Yes? Have you not seen the news or kept up with social media recently?"

Yuri shook her head. "I've been too busy applying for jobs and doing the paperwork to get out of school as well as dealing with grandpa's situation- Anyway, that doesn't matter!"

Qing raised an eyebrow. "I would think that such events matter a great deal... but go on."

Yuri pointed at Qing and said, "You! Your boss! Is his full name John Smith? An arrogant looking pretty boy blonde foreigner that doesn't have a single shred of shame in his body? A crazy bastard who likes running around and showing up master cooks and flipping over their lives?"

"That... is a rather colorful description of him. But yes." Qing paused, suddenly feeling a headache growing.

"That bastard's the one who created Project MirAIs?! No, the one I'd be working under if I joined?!"

A bell chime echoed through the cafe. The sound of someone entering the cafe.

Sitri walked in, her eyes narrowed at Yuri.

"A-Ah. I-I mean-" Yuri stammered, suddenly cowed by Sitri's presence.

Sitri clicked her pen and put it away into her coat, along with her notepad. Afterwards, she looked at Qing and said, "Sir. We are out of time."

That was a lie. Qing was the one who set the schedule, and the only item left in the near future was to meet with the last candidate on his list later that evening over a video call.

Still, considering the sudden development and Yuri's reaction... as well as the fact that John had *once again* left out important information about a potential candidate, it was better to call it a day.

Qing stood up and bowed his head towards Yuri. "My apologies, Miss Miyamoto. Have a pleasant day."

"N-No. Wait. I can-"

Qing turned around and started walking out, running through a very thorough and colorful letter he was planning to send to his boss. That, and plans to talk with Miss Yue to drag out the name of every other beautiful young woman that John had come into contact with since *apparently* they were all applying to join Project MirAIs.

He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, muttering, "I don't get paid enough for this..."

Sitri walked over to Qing's side and gave him an assuring pat on his shoulder. After that, she turned back to wave at Yuri. "Don't call us, we'll call you. Tah-tah~!"

Yuri paled, shakily sinking back into her chair.

-----AI|IA-----

"Hmph." Sitri huffed and grabbed Qing's arm, tucking it against her chest. "What a rude girl." She looked up at Qing and said, "You aren't planning on hiring her, are you?"

Qing sighed and gently pried Sitri away. "Personal space, Sitri."

Sitri rolled her eyes but took a few steps away.

Since the interview was done, that meant that Qing was free for the day... At least until the other one later in the evening. But more importantly, that meant it was her chance to spend more time with him!

Eyeing her new 'boss', Sitri subtly adjusted her coat to emphasize her chest, just like her Mom used to say.

'Your body is a weapon, Dear, and love is war. Don't be shy!'

...Unfortunately, it seemed like Qing was an icy glacier since he noticed but didn't react. Instead of addressing it at all, he said, "Did you take notes?"

Sitri smiled and pulled out her notepad from where she was keeping it warm and handed it to Qing. "Of course I did!"

Qing nodded and grabbed the notepad. But then he paused and sighed. "Please tell me that you were keeping this in your coat pocket."

Sitri nodded. "I was keeping it in my coat pocket."

"...That's a lie, isn't it?"

Sitri smiled and said, "Of course! Sir wanted me to lie, so I'll do it in a heartbeat!"

"...How is that man still sane?"

Sitri tilted her head. "Hm?"

Qing sighed. "Nothing. Now, I wanted to compare notes on your impression of her so-" He suddenly cut off, stopping in mid-stride.

Sitri came to a stop as well and said, "What is it, Sir?"

Qing lowered his notebook and rubbed his temple. "Sitri."

"Yes?"

"I asked you to take notes on the interview, did I not?"

"You did."

"Then can you please explain these?" He held the notepad out to Sitri and tapped on the first page.

Sitri took the notepad back and read what Qing was pointing at.

[Qing pays more attention to nervous women.]
[This girl's soooo fake.]
[Why is it so cold?]
[Maybe Qing likes classy instead of lewd? I should see what fashion trends are in.]
[Boooring.]
[Gotta make sure to reel Qing in. I don't want any competitors.]
[A dropout?! At least finish high school, idiot!]

Sitri looked back at Qing and tilted her head. "I don't see a problem?"

Qing groaned.

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