The Ylvainan Inquisition initially planned to hold their tribunal in some dark and underground facility. However, that changed when they were forced to make a lot of concessions in order to ensure the trial could proceed fairly.
For this reason, the trial took place at Kesseling VIII's high court. While the venue was situated in the heart of Krent, the wide-open plazas and avenues around the court building offered enough space for an entire mech regiment.
The Protectors of the Faith came out in force this time. Not only did they assign an entire mech regiment around the court, they also deployed many other units in the neighboring districts. They took security so seriously that they evacuated all of the surrounding buildings beforehand!
The Ylvainan Inquisition deployed their own mechs and troops, but their numbers paled in comparison. They were only there to show the flag at this point.
Ves exited the shuttle with his hands free but his arms held in place by two heavily-armored Protectors. His guards didn't think Ves would be able to pull off anything by himself, so they skipped the manacles this time.
That was good news for him. If his hands were shackles while he attempted to escape, it would have been much harder for him to do so if he was restrained!
No crowd of protestors stood outside to jeer at Ves while he was being guided into the court building.
However, once he entered the courtroom sometime later, the people sitting in the gallery immediately jeered at the foreigner!
"Foreign devil! Your end has come!"
"Return our relic!"
All of the Ylvainans in the gallery were local citizens. Many of them even lived in this very city and possessed a deep sense of ownership towards the holy relic that resided in the grand cathedral.
Since the tribunal had to be public, the inquisition insisted on an audience. The reactions of the crowd served as a useful backdrop to condemn Ves for his alleged crimes against the Ylvainan Faith.
Ves inwardly smirked. The live broadcasts were already useful. Having an entire gallery of people just a stone's throw away from the counsel table.
As he took his seat, his counsel attempted to advise him on how to conduct himself, but Ves dismissively waved his hand.
"It's too late for that." He said. "We've already prepared as best we could in the limited time available."
His attorney was a slick-haired high flier in the service of the Curins. He was one of their best lawyers on their payroll, but the tribunal being held right now was something very new!
To even call this proceeding a trial was a mockery of the word. Only a couple of hours determined the life and death of Ves. He would either be able to walk out of the courtyard as a free man or sneak out after causing a lot of mayhem and confusion.
Either way, he was determined to get out one way or another.
After a bit of delay, the judges finally entered the courtroom. They took their places at the bench, which had been modified to accommodate the tribunal.
Sitting to the left was Judge Okin Fillis, the high court judge who was in the pocket of the Curins. Despite his allegiance to the Shepherds of the Flock, he didn't carry the Curin surname, which lent some credibility to his impartiality.
While the average Ylvainan didn't know any better, anyone in power would easily see that Judge Fillis would definitely acquit Ves as long as there was even a scrap of doubt.
Sitting to the right was High Inquisitor Kelly Ixef Poxco. She was a middle-aged woman with a severe face that looked as if it could scare ghosts to death.
Ves knew it would take a miracle for High Inquisitor Ixef to disagree with her fellow inquisitor.
Perhaps even many average Ylvainans didn't believe she would side with Ves. And that was okay! Ves was the great blasphemer and devil! He deserved to be condemned by the inquisition!
Therefore, even if she was partial towards the prosecution during the trial, no one cared. She merely had to adopt a neutral facade in order to maintain the dignity of the inquisition during the broadcasts.
Perhaps deliberately arranged to sit in the center was the only true neutral judge worth mentioning.
Lieutenant Colonel Kelber Kronon differed from the other two judges by his direct connection to the main branch of the Kronon Dynasty. This esteemed pedigree afforded him a lot of respect. As a main branch member of the Kronon Dynasty, he was definitely instilled with all of their core values.
Every Ylvainan placed a lot of expectations on the main branch members of the family.
While they received a lot of privileges and could easily obtain a cushy job, the expectations on them were high.
Those who failed to live up to their family names would be withdrawn from their positions and be sent somewhere far away so that their failure wouldn't stain their dynasties!
Obviously, Judge Kelber Kronon shouldn't be one of them. The old man gazed at the surroundings with evident irritation.
He struck the gavel on the bench. While this simple act only released a single striking sound, it also activated a hidden command. The courtroom exerted an invisible wave of pressure on the gallery, forcing many of them into silence.
While they could still talk, none of them dared to do so at this moment.
"The tribunal is in session." Judge Kronon declared.
What happened next pretty much ran on autopilot as far as Ves was concerned. The only people who spoke out were the judges, his counsel and a very familiar high inquisitor.
Xefin Lin Poxco wore his hood down this time to present an amiable face to the gallery and the broadcasts. He presented the key evidence that tied Ves to the theft of the holy relic with excruciating detail.
"As you can see from the conclusions of over fifteen lab results, the microscopic particles we've found in Mr. Larkinson's accommodations are definitely related to the missing holy relic!"
"Analysis of surface debris attached to the particles revealed that some of them are unique to the environment of the shrine at the grand cathedral."
"Frequent jamming and signal blocking..."
On and on, the high inquisitor elaborated on how thoroughly the inquisition had analysed the particles they found in Ves' room.
Almost an hour into his spiel, Xefin Lin Poxco presented his most egregious finding!
"After extensive analysis by some of our best forensic scientists, we have concluded that these particles had only spilled onto the floor of Mr. Larkinson's room for one reason. If our worst fears are right, then it is likely that he has destroyed the holy relic in his possession! There is no other explanation for these particles to separate from the main body of the relic!"
"You are Ylvaine's worst nightmare!"
Ves pressed his lips and ignored the outrage from the gallery. The people who were hurling insults and abuse at him were just a tiny sample of the countless number of Ylvainans who were echoing these thoughts from their homes!
He had to hand it to the high inquisitor. He sure knew how to rile up the crowd. The high inquisitor was pretty much addressing the gallery from the start, knowing that public opinion was the most important variable in this unprecedentedly public tribunal.
Judge Kelber Kronon didn't want the proceedings to turn into a circus, though, so he quickly struck the gavel and forced everyone to pipe down.
Aside from presenting an excruciating analysis on the evidence the inquisition had gathered on what had happened to the holy relic, the high inquisitor also spent some time on disparaging Ves' mechs.
"Look upon the face of this foreigner." High Inquisitor Poxco theatrically swept his hand towards Ves. "Despite his seemingly harmless facade, there is only greed and malice in his heart! This black-hearted mech designer is the vanguard of an invasion of foreigners who are determined to destroy our Ylvainan way of life and to hollow out our faith! His motives couldn't be any clearer when he designed his blasphemous mechs for the Curins!"
A noisy and distorted projection of the Transcendent Messenger design came into view. The projection was so hazy and messed up that none of its majesty and X-Factor could be felt!
Ves' counsel stood up. "Objection! This projection is not an accurate depiction of my client's work!"
"Overruled." High Inquisitor Kelly Ixef Poxco immediately stated. "Projections of objectionable materials are regularly censored in order to protect everyone from viewing obscene material."
Ves gripped his hands into fists. How dare this biddy call his mech design obscene! If not for being put on trial, he would have punched her in the face for insulting his work!
Xefin Lin Poxco continued as if he already expected this result. "The so-called 'Transcendent Messenger' is a travesty of a mech design! You can already tell its blasphemous purpose from its name! Calling his creation by that name is an indirect way of claiming that these mechs are a higher incarnation of Prophet Ylvaine!"
Gasps of shocks emanated from the crowd.
"Think about what this means!" Xefin yelled. "Mr. Larkinson is essentially alluding to us that the great prophet lives on as his mech design! That is a bald-faced mockery of our faith and our belief that Prophet Ylvaine has reincarnated elsewhere in the galaxy or already transcended to a higher state ahead of time!"
The crowd grew more and more outraged as the high inquisitor painted the meaning of the mech in the worst possible light.
"Perhaps Mr. Larkinson is misguided. Perhaps he concedes that the great prophet may have reincarnated after his death. Yet his answer to this mystery is that Prophet Ylvaine has reincarnated into a lifeless mech design! Either he has the biggest misunderstanding of our beliefs, or he thinks he can use our prophet for commercial gain!"
The outrage that erupted forced the judges to call the gallery in order! Even after multiple waves of pressure engulfed the onlookers, their rage hadn't subsided!
While the judges were able to employ a more drastic measure to mute the voices, they were reluctant to do so.
Eventually, the excitement died down as High Inquisitor Xefin Lin Poxco raised his palm. This indicated that his control over the gallery exceeded that of the judges!
"Brothers and sisters of the faith, the fate of the Protectorate is at stake. The great deceiver who sits there is but the first among many. There are thousands more nefarious mech designers like him in the Bright Republic and countless more in the rest of the star sector. In their boundless greed for power and wealth, they will not hesitate to profane our faith like Mr. Larkinson had done in order to sell their mechs! We must slam the door in the face before they barge into our holy state and butcher our beliefs!"
Although it should have been highly inappropriate to veer into politics, it was still allowed. Tribunals often dealt with cases which had the potential to upset the entire Ylvainan Faith.
In a way, the high inquisitor was correct. Ves did wish to sell more mechs and open up the Protectorate. Yet his intentions weren't as malicious as Xefin Lin Poxco described.
Ves firmly believed that his business dealings with the Protectorate had always been mutually beneficial! Even though the traditionalists had the most to lose, the rest of the state would definitely be able to enjoy a lot of prosperity as they caught up to the rest of the galaxy!
Unfortunately, no one believed him right now. The picture that High Inquisitor Poxco painted was remarkably similar to the nonsensical accusations the True Believers yelled at Ves at the Grand Church of the Grey Martyr.
This only worsened his impression of the Ylvainan Inquisition. The high inquisitor went too far in painting Ves as a blasphemer and a devil!
Ves became increasingly more dour. His eyes burned as he bottled up his fury. Right now wasn't the time for him to strike.