The high inquisitor was completely serious when he charged Ves with the crimes of sacrilege and blasphemy!
Even if the latter stood on shaky grounds, the former was already serious enough to condemn him to death!
His status as a foreigner and a guest to the state wouldn't protect him from the death penalty in case the Ylvainan Inquisition found him guilty. Any foreigner and non-believer who voluntarily entered a religious state implicitly or explicitly accepted their house rules!
If foreigners objected to these unfair rules based on religious rather than legal grounds, then they shouldn't have visited the state in the first place!
Therefore, even if his status as a de facto Journeyman afforded Ves some protection, he could not count on the MTA to bail him out of his own stupidity!
The inquisition didn't target him this time due to his status as a mech designer. Instead, they approached him as a faithless foreigner who nefariously wanted to damage the religious institutions of the Ylvaine Protectorate!
Ves grimaced as he stared right back at High Inquisitor Poxco's glowing eyes. He was reminded of the Ylvainan spin of justice, and how it could easily go astray.
He learned enough about the Ylvainan Inquisition that nothing good would happen once they took someone into custody. Almost no one escaped punishment once they fell into their clutches as they were very effective in extracting 'confessions' out of their captives.
As long as Ves ended up in their dungeons, he would definitely undergo a lot of torture in order to force out all of the secrets he possessed!
This was completely unacceptable to him! Nevermind stealing the holy relic and whatever else the Ylvainans accused him of. If he was forced to reveal his deeper secrets, then that would definitely spell the end of him and his entire family!
Seconds passed as Ves contemplated a way to avoid falling into the custody of the inquisition.
"Does Director Cecily Curin know of this?" He asked.
"She knows." The high inquisitor smirked. "I'm afraid that there is nothing she can do against the magnitude of the charges arrayed against you. The proof we've gathered has given us sufficient grounds to take you away. Will you surrender to us peacefully or are you going to launch a last-ditch attempt to escape?"
Ves knew his chances of escaping was extremely miniscule. Xefin Lin Poxco came highly-prepared this time. Not only did he bring five well-prepared junior inquisitors, but he also brought along over thirty guards who were loyal to the inquisition!
It was impossible for him to eliminate them all with a single blast of his Amastendira. The forces of the inquisition weren't stupid enough to clump together and had already spread out over the entire workshop. Not only did they cover every angle, they also sealed every possible exit.
Even if Ves somehow overcame the entire inquisition, who knew how many infantry and mechs of the inquisition waited outside the mech workshop!
Ves glanced towards the Protector guards. Many of them wore full-face helmets, but those who exposed their faces showed obvious hesitance. They weren't on the inquisition's side, but neither did they have the obligation to defend Ves against their persecution.
As for the Avatars of Myth, while they came with a handful of mechs, they would never be able to survive once they opened fire. That would make them enemies of the entire planet, star system and state! There was no way they could get away with helping Ves resist arrest!
The grimace on his face deepened as he realized he possessed very few options to extricate himself from the inquisition. The Sparous Vize and the Rising Red Dragon were still in the hands of the Protector guards, so Ves and Ketis wouldn't be able to suit up before the Inquisition forces peppered their bodies with rounds and laser beams.
Perhaps the only reasonable way he could escape this predicament was by activating his Full Stealth augment on his System comm. As long as he sneaked out of the mech workshop and entered the city, he'd be able to switch to his Privacy Shield and remain out of sight of electronic surveillance while he escaped further.
Yet this was still not an ideal solution. As long as he resisted arrest, both the Ylvainan Inquisition and the Protectors of the Faith were compelled to hunt him down no matter the cost. Ves would find no safe haven on the planet and trying to smuggle himself out of the star system was incredibly difficult!
More than that, resisting arrest would also invalidate everything he worked for during this business trip!
How could he abandon his goals just when he was so close to making them come into fruition? He already completed the mechs he set out to design and produce! He just needed to hand them over to Madame Cecily or the Curins in order for them to showcase the foreign-designed mechs in public!
The high inquisitor coughed. "As much as it amuses me to see you denying your guilt, we don't have all day. We have a missing relic to return and you are our primary suspect."
Time was almost up. Just as Ves blinked to Lucky in order to help him with his escape, another group of Ylvainans entered the workshop!
"STOP, Your Excellency!" Calabast shouted in her identity as Madame Cecily! "While it is within your right to charge Mr. Larkinson with sacrilege and blasphemy, the Curins will not allow the inquisition to obtain sole custody of the accused! No matter the proof you've gathered, he is an esteemed guest of the Protectorate, and the handling of his case must proceed with utmost fairness!"
"What is the meaning of this interruption?" High Inquisitor Poxco frowned. "Your presence here changes nothing. The law is on our side."
Calabast offered a smile. "That may be true, but the Attendants of Ylvaine have been persuaded to take a lighter hand in this case. I believe you should get in touch with your superiors."
The high inquisitor frowned deeper but followed her suggestion. A minute later, he looked angry.
"Director Cecily! What is the meaning of this!? What bribes did you Curins offer to stay our hand?!"
"It's not just us who object to the rough treatment you have in store for the accused." She spoke. "The Kronons have expressed an interest in treating Mr. Larkinsons fairly as well."
Ves turned his attention to the Protector guard captain who stood at the side. He seemed to be holding a private comm call with his superiors. After the call ended, the man stepped forward.
"Director Cecily is correct. I have been informed that the Kronon Dynasty wishes to ensure that Mr. Larkinson is to be treated with dignity and respect!"
The underlying meaning was obvious. Both the Curin and Kronon Dynasty threw their support behind Ves. While the Ylvainan Inquisition could still ignore their objections due to the severity of the accussations they brought forward, their own mother organizations reined them in! High Inquisitor Poxco just learned that he lost much of his power!
"Let us discuss what will happen with Mr. Larkinson and his work while he is taken into custody." Calabast suggested.
The three representatives of the three leading dynasties gathered together to hash out the messy situation. Ves tried to listen in but Calabast had already activated her signal jammer.
Five minutes later, the three separated. Xefin Lin Poxco looked as if his entire day had been ruined as he turned his attention back to his target.
"Mr. Larkinson. Please come with us. You will be taken to a secure villa that is jointly guarded by the Ylvainan Inquisition and the Protectors of the Faith. There, you will wait until your case is brought up to the local tribunal."
Ves looked at Calabast, who nodded. "It's okay. The Protectors of the Faith will make sure that nothing will go amiss."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Trust me on this. The inquisition aren't allowed to bring out their thumb screws while you're in custody. Just surrender quietly and don't give them a reason to curtail the privileges I've secured for you at great cost."
This compromise solution sounded a lot better than ending up in the sole custody of the inquisition.
"Very well, director. I will trust you this once."
Upon High Inquisitor Poxco's nod, the junior inquisitors stepped forward and strip-searched Ves. Their hands and their sensors swept over his business attire, sniffing out his comm and the handful of tools and gadgets he stuffed in his pockets.
Once they became assured that Ves no longer carried anything on his body but his clothes, they shackled his wrists together with solid manacles made out of compressed alloy.
The Ylvainan Inquisition really didn't want Ves to escape!
A handful of Protector guards joined the inquisitors as they calmly escorted their captive to their shuttle.
As Ves was being guided out of the workshop, he turned around and saw to his relief that Ketis and Lucky had been entirely neglected during this whole spat.
Calabast stood close to Ketis and whispered some words to her. Ves counted on the spy to keep the younger woman safe and out of the reach of the inquisition.
The shuttle took him to a guarded villa in the outskirts of Krent. Ves saw a couple of mechs bearing the colors and markings of the Inquisition surrounding the entire site.
Mechs dispatched by the Kronon Dynasty were also arriving. They walked in from several directions and seemed to crowd out the mechs of the inquisition!
With the Protectors of the Faith out in strength, the Ylvainan Inquisition wouldn't dare act improperly!
As Ves settled inside the plain and largely-empty villa, he waited for someone to give him an explanation. A few hours passed by until Calabast arrived at the villa and managed to force the inquisition to allow her to meet with the captive.
"You're in a lot of trouble, Ves." She said while raising her finger in a strange gesture.
The gesture warned him that the entire villa was under constant monitoring. Everything they said and every reaction or fluctuation in their bodies would be scrutinized by the inquisition. They would definitely use the evidence they gathered to reinforce their accusations!
Understanding this, Ves decided to don the image of innocence as his mask. Although it wasn't flawless, at least it suppressed his unconscious body language from giving away his guilt.
"I'm innocent!" He said emphatically. "Whatever the inquisition accuses me of, it's false!"
"I know." Calabast lied. "You were nowhere close to the grand cathedral while the relic went missing. However, the Ylvainan Inquisition claim that even if you haven't yanked the relic from the grand cathedral, they are convinced that you are definitely related to the theft."
"What is their proof?" He asked.
"In order to justify your arrest to the Curins and Kronons, the Ylvainan Inquisition has revealed they have found microscopic particles that used to be part of the holy relic during a routine search of your room at the guest compound. The particles they found underwent multiple lab tests owned by different factions. Each of them have matched the particles to the nutrient pack wrapper that went missing."
Damnit! Ves didn't think the inquisition would snoop around in his room so thoroughly! Even though Lucky ate the entire holy relic, some minute portions must have spilled out of his mouth or something!
Next time, Lucky should close his mouth while he chewed! And he should also use a plate while eating! Letting remnants of his food spill onto the floor was bad hygiene!
Ves maintained his innocent act. "I don't know where those particles came from, madame. For all I know, someone or something sneaked into my room and dropped a few crumbs. I'm being framed!"
"I believe you, but proving that will be difficult. You should be aware that this is the first clue we've found that could lead us back to the missing relic! Many Ylvainans will side with the inquisition, giving them ample support for them to find you guilty regardless of the questions we raise in front of the upcoming tribunal!"
In other words, regardless of whether the proof was adequate or not, the inquisition could still condemn Ves as long as they had the public on their side!