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Offline Trillian

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The Interview
« on: January 08, 2012, 05:39:32 PM »
SAMUEL BRITTON HAD BEEN USHERED to the teacher's quarters by a long-faced student, one that wore a white sash belted about his waist.  The two ends dangled down in a way that made Samuel think was clumsy and unnecessary.  What sort of assassin-in-training allowed a part of their clothing to be caught on something, or caught by someone?  He made no comment, following the level nine student to the room he was supposed to be interviewed in without question.

The door was opened for him, the long-faced student grunted a short command for him to be seated, and Samuel obligingly entered the room, noting that the door at his back was the only way out because there were no windows.  It felt like nighttime in this room, which was styled almost haphazardly - with very little decoration to distract those within it.  A single tapestry covered one of the plain crream-coloured plastered walls, of horses running across a field in browns and golds.  It made him think of autumn.  There were four braziers in the room to give it light and warmth, one placed at each corner.  An unlit lantern sat upon the heavy desk which occupied the centre of the room.  Two chairs were placed at the desk facing one another.  One chair had its back to the door Samuel had just entered while the other faced it.  Samuel moved around the desk and took the latter, not wishing to place his back to the door.

He was only unattended for ten minutes, and patient enough to amuse himself with his own thoughts until then.  He'd completed the entrance tests they'd asked of him, and the interview had been left till last.  During the three days he'd already been at the Academy, he'd talked with four different masters and many students.  The masters had approached him, to discuss his history.  They all knew he'd come from the Society, and it appeared they approved.  It made sense, for his connection to Saint Cuthbert's network was likely more important to them than what skills he may already have.  The written test had been odd; full of theories and hypotheticals, with different languages and illustrated diagrams where he had to fill in the blanks.  One of the questions had been particularly amusing to Samuel, as he sat and stared at it. Declare in detail your vision for your future.  He'd written the words; "What kind of assassin thinks about the future?" as his reply.

He was leaning forward, elbows on the desk and fingers linked together until the door opened, which caused him to sit up and grip the edge of the desk, like a man who expected it to fly away from him.  His expression was keen, however, for he studied the one who entered avidly.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2012, 07:09:54 PM »
Aarik approached the task of this interview as gravely as he approached any mission.  Master Jandah had impressed upon him just how serious and flattering a task this was, how hard he'd worked to get Aarik into this room - in place of the Purificio Master who should have been here and as a trusted representative of the Eruditio House.  He'd also implied that Aarik's success would impress him and the Grand Master very much, but the Apprentice had forced himself to put such things out of his mind.  They distracted him, caused his body to race and he didn't want to lose focus now.  He couldn't afford to, with so much riding on this.

Clad in his usual mid-thigh-length black tunic and tight pants - his black sash today imitating a braid completely encircling his waist with nothing hanging down - and only his dagger and throwing knives to adorn his left hip and thigh, Aarik entered the interview room silently.  His hand still on the door, he paused briefly to take in the dimensions of the room and his interviewee's place in it; sensibly, he'd chosen the chair facing the door.  With that one action, Samuel had already lifted himself above more than half the applicants that entered these halls, his instincts - or perhaps just his life experience - showing that he was no naive boy.  Aarik's lips quirked a little in the corner of his mouth, his surreptitious glancing from beneath his heavy brows ceasing as he closed the door and approached the table.

"Samuel, I'm Aarik, Apprentice of House Eruditio," he introduced himself solemnly, holding his scarred right hand out towards the younger man for shaking.  He stood beside the table to do this, so that Samuel would barely have to stand to respond, intending to bring the other chair over and sit here on the side afterward, angled so that he could also see the door as well as his companion.  Trust was never given, no matter what stories were told of academy applicants or how shiny their results were; he wouldn't be sitting with his back to the door, either.  He waited to see how Samuel would respond to his conciliatory gesture of an offered hand, relaxed despite his instinctive suspicions, expecting the man had the courtesy and training to respond in kind.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2012, 09:18:31 PM »
Samuel's gaze followed Aarik as he approached, wary of the weaponry though Samuel still had his own, though nowhere near ready-at-hand.  He couldn't pull out his short sword in the time it would likely take for this man to throw at least two of his daggers.

Samuel liked the fact they hadn't taken his weapons and possessions off him, even though they'd measured him up for the uniform.  He'd been given a Level One student uniform to wear in the meantime, and it fitted him okay, but not as well across the shoulders as he would've liked.  The tunic was loose around the stomach area too, without a sash to rein it in.  He'd had the option of remaining in his clothes or wearing the uniform they'd provided him.  Since the clothes on his back were all that he'd arrived in, they had smelled and he hadn't anything else to wear, but he'd put them on anyway, keeping his weapons and money strap to his person, remaining comfortable in the clothes he was in.  They were plain, hunter's clothing of green and brown, but they were more finely woven than a common hunter could afford.

He stood to meet Aarik properly, taking his right hand and shaking it while also bowing his head a little in deference.  His gaze didn't waver from Aarik's own, however, and both of them realised that there was a lot of training that had gone into the other.  "Well met," he said courteously, his voice soft because of their proximity to one another.  He'd never been a loud type of person, anyway.

Samuel's mouth twitched a smile when he observed Aarik's careful nature.  It seemed the Academy was a place to watch one's back in.  In a building full of assassins, it would be unwise not to.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2012, 09:44:20 PM »
After settling himself on the seat to Samuel's left - a calculated distance back from the table, knees spread and ankles linked beneath his chair, hands loosely clasped together in the gap between his thighs, back straight and shoulders square - Aarik looked his companion over a little more closely.  He was much older than the usual applicants, in his twenties at least and that piqued the Apprentice's interest.

He'd had some time with Samuel's test scores and the notes that had been made on him, had memorised the key points and mentally noted the things he wanted to ask about during this interview, but he couldn't remember the man's age.  That was nervousness for you.  He'd come in here as prepared as he could be, deliberately carrying nothing so that he appeared casual and confident (hoping that any that followed him might shuffle papers, scribble notes in Samuel's presence, and look less professional to the applicant all-round) but he wondered now if that had been the right choice.  Oh well, it was too late to back out now and doubting minds begot their own prophecy, as a master of his was wont to say.

He smiled (a sensual and inviting gesture that he'd practised in looking glasses until it was exactly perfect) at Samuel once his gaze had returned from its perusal of the other's body and met his eyes once more.  It didn't hurt to start out friendly.  "House Eruditio values, above all else, knowledge.  Your entrance answers and scores indicate that you are of a like mind.  What do you seek, by entering the academy?" he queried, tilting his head just so to indicate avid interest, after his steadily-paced sentence was out.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2012, 11:10:35 PM »
Samuel remained still for his appraisal, highly aware of how the other's gaze flowed over him, landing on his weapons, his hands, his muscles, and finally his face.  The smile was likely supposed to be disarming, and Samuel had no doubt that the most charming individuals were selected to perform the interviews, in order to glean as much information about the applicant as they could.  He was wary of that smile, but he answered it with a warm one of his own anyway.  It was difficult not to.

The statement made was interesting, and confused Samuel a little.  He wasn't so rude as to ignore the question put to him, but he wasn't so intimidated that he held his tongue after his response.

"I seek instruction on how to become an assassin, as does every applicant.  Tell me," he said, with barely a pause.  "Does Eruditio accept every student into its house, as does Libramen?"  He'd gleaned a little information from his time at the Academy, mostly from the other students.  The Level Ones had been so thirsty for audience that they'd been willing to impart a great deal of information about the houses and the masters who ran them.  Unfortunately, he'd been placed on a bit of a leash, and his minder had found him and returned him to his quarters to await the next round of tests.

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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2012, 01:27:04 AM »
Aarik's smile changed and became scornful, his grey eyes dancing even though only half his mouth showed his amusement.

"No.  House Eruditio is far more exclusive.  We seek the best minds, the insightful, the learned.  Those that hunger for knowledge, that seek answers and, moreover, create the questions that confound others.  In the areas of potions, healing and scientific endeavours we are the best; House Eruditio strives to understand the mechanics and the biology of the world and bend it to their will.  Our disciplines are strict and meticulous, the rewards for perseverance glorious and revelatory - for what better prize can there be in all the lands than knowledge?" Aarik asked rhetorically, the glorious and reverant picture he'd been painting of his house coming to a close as his words died away.  He'd been looking skyward at the end of his comment; now he looked back at Samuel, his gaze steady.  His expression was quietly curious once more, his face serene.

"Your test scores indicate that you are such a person, Samuel, although you have a distinct and troubling lack of vision.  You might be better suited to one of the lesser houses, after all - but it's best to be sure," Aarik intoned with a sigh, the tenor of his voice carefully modulated to project disappointment, his silvery eyes almost sad as they gazed upon the applicant, slyly elevating Eruditio above all others.  "Tell me, why is it that you believe assassins would have no plan for the future?  Do you really have nothing guiding you or was that simply an impertinent jibe spurred by test questions you disapproved of?"  Now, Aarik's expressive eyebrows lifted, his face opening up as he watched Samuel with interest.  Every move was part of his play, every insinuation that Samuel ought to be ashamed of his offhandedness planned, every casual remark about his house deliberately implying that it was the superior choice out of all of them.  Personally, he'd been highly offended by that juvenile answer on Samuel's test (one of the only ones repeated in the Grand Master's notes for all to consider) and it needed justification.  Contextualisation.  Explanation.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 07:20:18 AM »
So this apprentice was a fanatic.  There seemed to be more than a few of them here, religiously pursuing the mindset of their house masters because they were unable to think for themselves.  How did it matter, what house someone came from, once they'd graduated?  How did it matter, whether a student was better at potions than this person or that person, for everyone had their own strengths and weaknesses.  It seemed hubris was Aarik-Apprentice-Of-House-Eruditio's weakness.  He certainly viewed his house highly, more than likely because he was in it.  Samuel's eyes danced with a hint of amusement as he thought this.

Doesn't everyone who comes here hunger for knowledge? he thought but did not say.  He would never question a Master in such a way, and considered that this apprentice was high in the rankings if he was interviewing him.  Samuel had been told at the beginning of his tasks that Masters would be the ones testing him, questioning him, judging him.  But here Aarik-Apprentice-Of-House-Eruditio sat, attempting to goad him with veiled insults.

"An assassin that plans for the future has something to lose," he clarified.  "When you have something to lose, it holds you back."

He wondered if Aarik-Apprentice-Of-House-Eruditio would contradict him.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2012, 03:05:53 PM »
Aarik's right eyebrow quirked and he took a moment to process that point of view, calculating an argument against or around it.

"It's a weakness?" he offered, in the manner of someone agreeing wth Samuel's idea and extrapolating on it.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2012, 04:05:49 PM »
"If something's holding you back, it's not a strength," Samuel said wryly, hoping that Aarik wouldn't need him to spell everything out like he was doing so now, or else this interview was going to be torture.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2012, 04:24:19 PM »
Internally, Aarik was gritting his teeth, now getting the impression that this applicant was very full of himself - he'd have thought that his greater-than-average age would be an asset, but now he was seeing how it could be a drawback.  Certainly a challenge to overcome.  How to change a man's opinion when he'd had much longer than the usual children that applied to make up his own mind?

Likely by opening his eyes, rather than attempting to lead him to conclusions he can't seem to make, he thought to himself, finding the positive mindset that he attributed his success to and allowing it to guide him.

Very deliberately, Aarik sat forward, his forearms on the table and his linked hands hovering over it as he stared directly into Samuel's eyes.  "You have a very defeatist attitude.  You're accustomed to failure," he accused, allowing his companion the chance to counter it before he continued.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2012, 04:52:44 PM »
Samuel felt the bubble of laughter rise up and heard it escape before he could swallow it down.  He had an idea that this reaction would likely irk his interviewer, for nobody liked being laughed at, but saying such things was ridiculous.  Where were the questions?  Wasn't this an interview?  Unless they were supposed to record reactions to things said.  That stopped the laughter, but it didn't stop him from smiling at Aarik.  Now, that would be smart, because that would identify someone's nature.  He hoped his one would be positive.

"No.  I don't fail."

He thought he better make that clear, right now.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2012, 05:35:11 PM »
"Really?" Aarik asked mildly, looking skeptical about the fact that Samuel claimed he never failed.  He didn't respond to the laughter, even though it was somewhat annoying.

"I would have thought that making no plans for the future - due to the fact that you could lose something and that's a weakness - is an acknowledgement that failure is an option.  There's no problem with making future plans... unless you're afraid that something will stand in the way of you achieving it.  And you'll fail.  Since you're not interested in allowing yourself future plans, I can only conclude it's because you've failed before and you don't have the guts to state aloud what you deserve from life."

Though his tone hadn't changed overly much from the way it had sounded on his first word, the very particular twist his lips had adopted showed that his words had snide intent.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2012, 09:31:19 AM »
Samuel certainly took offence at the implication and assumptions.  The laughter was completely gone from his eyes and he stared at Aarik in a way that was not a glare, but hardly a friendly manner either.

"Call it what you will.  Next question."

He would not talk about this further unless Aarik-Apprentice-of-House-Eruditio managed to structure his opinion as a question.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2012, 11:27:13 AM »
As he would never display his chagrin, so too did Aarik resist gloating when he saw that his point was made.  He decided he could meet Samuel's demand and continue with the interview but, internally, he was very pleased that he'd made it clear that this 'experienced' applicant still had things to learn from life.  The best learning would happen in Eruditio, naturally, but he would make that point eventually.

Since he'd begun the interview with a free-form question based on the most significant note made about Samuel's test answers - a challenging way to begin, but he was happy with the risk he'd taken - Aarik now returned to the scripted questions that every academy applicant was asked.  The set enquiries were written out before each interview and handed to the interviewer in advance, usually the day before so that they could become familiar with them.  Each house had a selection of questions (most often in the form of hypothetical situations) in the test, designed to elicit responses that would tell them if the interviewee was suited to their house or not.  The questions changed occasionally as masters thought of new and exciting ways to drill into the psyches of applicants - or when a question hadn't worked as well as expected - but change wasn't common.

When Aarik had received the scripted questions the night before (it had takens many hours of negotiation to gain him this role, apparently, for he believed he'd received them much later than usual) he'd committed them to memory.  Eruditio students learned such skills very early on, and they became the experts at building a memory castle as they progressed through their years of study.  Memorising the eighteen questions hadn't been difficult for Aarik but recording the correct and detailed answers afterwards likely would present a challenge; one he relished.

Even with every word Samuel said being busily noted, examined and associated in his head as he progressed through the questions, Aarik was able to draw some very unsettling conclusions.  The way the younger man spoke made him realise that House Cruori would be intensely interested in this man; when he described how he'd deal with Cruori's hypothetical situations, they implied blanket gore and a thirst for blood that such a sadistic house would exalt in.  Samuel answered well for Eruditio's questions too, though, for he was highly intelligent, logical and saw connections that most didn't.  There was competition afoot, though, and it was his responsibility to see that his house was given the advantage.  Somehow.

Once the scripted questions were completed, Aarik presented his next question seamlessly, though he supposed Samuel would notice the transition back to the theme with which he'd begun the interview.  "So why is a man that doesn't plan for the future here?" he asked mildly, his eyebrows lifted.  He was sitting back in his chair now, legs stretched before him and hooked at the ankles, his hands resting upon his thighs.  The picture of indifference (except, perhaps, for the fact that his left hand was rather close to the weapons he advertised as wearing).

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2012, 11:37:15 AM »
Samuel answered all the questions as best as he saw fit.  As Aarik mentally predicted, Samuel noticed the change in style for the questions, and hadn't expected Aarik to return to the original topic.  It was a good question of course, and one he'd thought would be asked of him early on.  When it hadn't been, he'd incorrectly thought it wouldn't be asked at all.

He didn't like the way Aarik had leant back and moved his hands closer to his weaponry.  Samuel felt threatened by the gesture, whether it was calculated or not.  He also shifted in his seat, his hands resting at the edge of the desk, gripping it lightly.  If Aarik intended on throwing a dagger, Samuel would react by tipping the desk and using it as a shield.

"I'm too dependant on the Society," he said bluntly.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2012, 12:10:43 PM »
Aarik smiled but this time there was no calculation to it; he was genuinely pleased by the answer he'd received from Samuel and also by his instinctive reaction to his position.  The man was astute in so many intellectual ways, it was reassuring that he responded to so subtle a move on his part - though Aarik had changed position throughout the interview, it was the first time his hands had even alluded to an offensive act - and Samuel had immediately picked up on it.

"How strong do your obligations to them remain?" he enquired, interested on a personal level.  He'd committed to the academy from a very young age; he couldn't imagine what it was like to switch loyalties after so long and was intensely curious about it, even though it wasn't his place to be.  He deserved something for doing his job well, though, surely - even if he doubted he'd get an honest answer to something he'd likely lie in bed thinking on for a good amount of time that night.  He reached up to scratch at his nose with his left hand and when it returned to his lap, it entwined with his other hand in the gap between his thighs.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2012, 12:29:32 PM »
"They assign me with tasks I must fulfil," Samuel explained, "and I am obligated to perform those tasks, as I am reliant upon their funding."  He waited for another question to be asked, and when it didn't immediately come, he expanded on his answer of his own volition.  "I don't wish to become a goat herder for my spending coin, so I seek out a profession which suits me best."
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2012, 12:38:30 PM »
"And after you've been trained - by us - to be the best, will you return to the Society and obey their whims once more?" Aarik asked smoothly.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2012, 12:52:02 PM »
"I haven't planned that far ahead," Samuel said, his eyes twinkling with humour again.  He hadn't forgotten the bite Aarik had taken out of him over it, but he'd forgotten how it had made him feel.
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Re: The Interview
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2012, 01:07:45 PM »
Aarik allowed a smirk of concession to twist his lips, conceding Samuel that dig; in his opinion, it was further acknowledgement of the point he'd scored, anyway.  "How many have you killed?" he enquired, moving the questioning along.

This one was partly personal and partly personality-revealing.  If Samuel was a meticulous notetaker who was able to tell him every man, woman and child he'd ended, it would allude to his suitability to Eruditio.  If he couldn't name an amount but could discuss the methods... he was likely bound for Cruori, despite Jandah's wishes.  That wouldn't be good for either of them.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2012, 01:11:07 PM »
"As many as required," Samuel replied, keeping it vague and not liking where this new strain of questioning was leading.  The hypotheticals had been interesting, even fun to reply to, but this wasn't something he'd expected either.  He doubted they would be asking their youngest applicants this question, and knew their minimal age of acceptance was fifteen (and therefore possible that those teenagers had made kills), but it rang on a more personal level.  This was Aarik asking, not the Academy - though it had chosen him to ask their questions.

Unfortunate.
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2012, 01:17:02 PM »
"Define 'required'," Aarik shot back unblinkingly.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2012, 01:29:22 PM »
"Required comes from the verb, to require. It means that something is necessary."

He knew his remark would be unwelcome, but so was this line of questioning.
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Re: The Interview
« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2012, 01:42:58 PM »
"It's interesting, the way you do that," Aarik observed lightly, tilting his head and peering at Samuel as if he were an unexpected outcome in a vial in his lab.  "Like you think sarcasm is an acceptable form of response.  As opposed to answers.  Which are required."

He allowed but a breath for his more authoritative tone - and his admonishment - on that last word to register, before he continued.

"I asked you a simple question.  It's fascinating that you choose not to answer it; have you no pride in your work?" he enquired, still looking at the applicant like that same very interesting vial-inhabitant that might yet start to bubble and steam if he watched it long enough.  "Or are you unable to give me details?"

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2012, 01:51:37 PM »
Samuel thought over his answer, now that he'd been told he had to give a definitive one.  He settled on an answer that he knew wouldn't be liked or even believed, but it was best.

"If you need a number, put down zero.  There's no proof I've taken anyone's life."
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Re: The Interview
« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2012, 02:00:33 PM »
Aarik chuckled, his expression condescending.  "How quaint.  Plausible deniability... in an assassin's academy," he announced drolly before all mockery disappeared from his face and he was once again staring at Samuel from beneath his eloquent brows, his stoney eyes twinkling with residual false humour.

"Don't be coy, Samuel.  You're among... colleagues now.  I want more than a number.  I want your answer and an explanation as to why you continually evade giving it, now."  The corner of his mouth quirked minimally, as if he'd just wished the man a very nice day, rather than giving him a direct order to answer and a demand for what was, essentially, an apology.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2012, 02:10:06 PM »
Samuel stared back at Aarik, unwaveringly. The other man genuinely wished to know, while Samuel really didn't want to tell him.  It was a battle of wills.

"I had the understanding this was an interview, not an interrogation.  You have my answer."

He kept his expression pointedly neutral, though his fingers whitened as the grip on the table increased.
INFUSCO : Ben : Hugh : Lan Bao : Mick : Todd : Vincent : Win :
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Offline Existentially Odd

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2012, 02:28:32 PM »
Aarik could only assume that there were ties binding Samuel from his pathetic Society, for no assassin he knew would ever balk at the opportunity of a free and interested audience wanting to listen to the details of how skilfully they'd executed their work thus far.  It reminded him that the applicant was no assassin just yet; a handy perspective to maintain.

"This is both interview and interrogation," he countered.  "And when I leave this room and return to my chambers to make note of everything you've said, I'll very carefully outline how ridiculously idealistic and unsuitable for this life you are; to apply to an assassin's academy and pettily refuse to present your portfolio for perusal... ?  No wonder you've never planned for the future.  You can barely see past your fucking nose," he chided, lifting his chin damningly and very deliberately looking down at a man who might, on many fronts, be considered his equal.

He certainly was not, when he played ridiculous, cloak and dagger games before someone who was his superior, though.  What fool applied for a job and then chose to hide his past experience?  Madness!  And childish to play such games.  Samuel had obviously experienced too much failure in his life - and Aarik would note that, too.  Despite sounding emotional about the applicant's actions, the only true thing he was feeling was disappointment at that specific moment.

Offline Trillian

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Re: The Interview
« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2012, 02:31:51 PM »
Samuel listened to the outpouring of derision calmly, and waited for Aarik to have finished before making his own statement.

"So be it," he said, without concern.
INFUSCO : Ben : Hugh : Lan Bao : Mick : Todd : Vincent : Win :
HALFLIGHT : Graille Min Sayer :