The Mech Touch Chapter 1232
1230 Flawed Mask
A few days went by as Ves remained under house arrest under the watchful eyes of the Protectors of the Faith and the Ylvainan Inquisition.
He didn't dare do anything funny such as pulling out his System comm from his Inventory because such acts were far too conspicuous.
After meeting with the lawyers that Calabast assigned to him, Ves understood that aside from guiding him through the formalities, they weren't very helpful.
"If Calsie was here, she'd probably suffer a stroke when she sees how awful the Ylvainan Inquisition conducts their trials." Gavin noted during his visit to the villa. It took a lot of effort to grant him permission to meet with Ves in the first place. "The inquisitors who drag people to trial have already judged them guilty. The tribunal is just a safeguard in case the evidence brought forth is too flimsy to pass the smell test. In practice, the inquisitors on the tribunal almost always side with the inquisitors who accuses someone of damaging the Ylvainan Faith."
Ves nodded. "I've read up on their history. The inquisition and their kangaroo court is a relic of the First Calamity and the Great Flight. Back when the Ylvainan Faith was under constant attack, the fleeing refugees suffered many betrayals from their fellow Ylvainans. While there are many devout believers among their number, some of them weren't as eager to die for their beliefs. While plenty of cowards renounced their faith and fled from the refugee fleets, a small number of them stabbed the Ylvainans in the back by sabotaging the ships or passing on information to their pursuers."
"Traitors need to be dealt with quickly."
"Yup. With how desperate the Ylvainans were trying to flee those star sectors, they couldn't afford to hold proper trials. That is when the Ylvainan Inquisition came into being. They received a strong mandate to protect the Ylvainan Faith by rooting out traitors by any means necessary. And to their credit, they were remarkably effective, mostly due to the broad range of power at their disposal."
"And that has hardly changed after they settled down in the Komodo Star Sector." Gavin noted.
"The Poxco Dynasty turned the inquisition into their militant arm after the founding of the Protectorate. With such solid backing, the other factions in the state failed to diminish the power of the inquisition even after they were no longer as necessary as before."
This resulted in an anachronism that was the Ylvainan Inquisition. The conservative, tradition-bound citizens of the Protectorate really disliked rapid changes. Institutions dominated by the traditionalists virtually remained the same even after several centuries had passed!
"How is public opinion shaping up, Benny?" Ves asked.
He didn't have access to the galactic net during his house arrest. He became completely dependent on others for outside news.
"Well, as we predicted, the traditionalist media outlets have turned most Ylvainans against you." Gavin shook his head. "The citizens of the Kesseling System are particularly furious at you. The holy relic that went missing is one of their most valuable cultural treasures. With the proof the inquisition has presented, the public is pretty much convinced you're the mastermind!"
"Because I'm a faithless foreigner, right?" Ves asked sarcastically.
"The Ylvainans can't imagine that one of their own would dare to desecrate the great prophet's possessions. It's much easier for them to believe that a foreigner who has no respect for their faith is responsible instead."
This was what the Ylvainan Inquisition wanted to publicize. As long as they succeeded in demonising Ves, the Curins and Kronons wouldn't be able to back him up anymore.
However, the court of public opinion was a double-edged sword. In the right circumstances, the monster that the inquisition had unleashed might very well turn against their benefactor!
Ves smirked. "Have we succeeded in shifting public opinion."
"We have. The Curin Dynasty did everything possible to stoke the public into demanding the tribunal proceedings be made public. Even if most Ylvainans are indignant at you, the Curins took advantage of their fury by channeling that into demanding that your trial be broadcasted live! Right now, the inquisition is still sticking to their guns, but we expect they'll cave within a day."
"Hehehe." Ves deviously chuckled. "Since the Inquisition tried so hard to turn my trial into a witch hunt, we might as well run with it and blow it out of proportion!"
Both of them saw a lot of advantages to shining a light on the usually murky tribunals of the inquisition.
While Ves cared more about the opportunity to present his case to the public, Gavin and the others on his side realized another advantage to holding the trial in public.
A smile appeared on Gavin's face. "Now that the tribunal is on track on becoming public, the Ylvainan Inquisition can't pull off their usual shenanigans. All their other tribunals took place behind closed doors, so they easily got away with any irregularities and miscarriages of justice. Together with replacing two of their inquisitors with real judges, your trial will probably be the fairest the Ylvainan Inquisition has ever held in their history!"
"That doesn't necessarily mean I'll be able to walk away, though." Ves sighed. "The 'evidence' they presented is extremely compelling."
Gavin dropped his smile. "That's true. The microscopic particles they found in your room have been verified more than a dozen times. They even matched it with samples taken from similar nutrient pack wrappers that the Attendants of Ylvaine kept in their collection. All of the findings point out that the particles definitely belong to the holy relic taken from the grand cathedral."
"I'm innocent!" Ves exclaimed for the umpteenth time! He was constantly wearing his mask of innocence during his stay in the villa. He wanted everyone who monitored his life signs to receive the impression that he wasn't involved. "Why in the galaxy would I want to steal a nutrient pack wrapper of all things? I can get millions of them by ordering a container worth of nutrient packs!"
"The relic that went missing isn't a normal nutrient pack wrapper."
"Nutrient packs should at least contain their original contents in order to be collectible." Ves peevishly muttered.
He still found it ridiculous that a worthless object turned into a priceless cultural heirloom because it used to belong to a great figure.
Yet Ves shouldn't complain. He took advantage of the Ylvainan propensity to worship every object that was tangitably related to Prophet Ylvaine in order to refine a powerful spiritual fragment.
Not that he saw anything wrong with that right now. He was innocent!
While Ves and Gavin didn't discuss their defense strategy because the inquisition was listening in on their conversation, they both knew that their chances weren't great.
Three judges decided Ves' fate. One of them was a Curin and would likely be on his side. The other one was an inquisitor who would definitely side with High Inquisitor Xefin Lin Poxco.
Therefore, the only judge that mattered was the military judge sent by the Kronons.
While Ves and his lawyers intended to cast a lot of doubt on the evidence the inquisition had gathered from his room, just yelling at everyone that he was being framed likely wouldn't be enough.
The entire guest compound was under constant monitoring. Hardly anyone could have sneaked in to drop a few particles in order to frame Ves of a crime he didn't commit.
There was a very big chance that the military judge might side with the inquisition due to the weight of this evidence!
This was also why Ves didn't put his faith in his lawyers and the legal proceedings. No matter how much they leveled the playing field, the inquisition were old hands at this. Their meticulous and extensive preparations prior to taking him into custody proved that they weren't complacent.
For this reason, Ves wanted to flip the table and make a personal appeal to the public.
"How are the rest holding up so far, Benny?" He idly asked.
"I've been in touch with the LMC, but they can't really do anything on their end. Leland has been more helpful to us. He managed to get the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved. The Bright Republic's embassy in the Protectorate has already stood up on your behalf. It's only…"
"They don't have any power in the Protectorate." Ves summed up. "The Ylvainans don't regard foreigners very highly, and their long-standing isolation hasn't helped the Bright Republic establish a strong presence in this state."
Most Ylvainans really couldn't care less about what the Bright Republic thought of their treatment of Ves. So long it became clear that Ves deliberately desecrated one of their great prophet's relics, they couldn't wait to tear him to pieces!
If the tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to the only penalty in consideration for such a grave violation, then Ves didn't intend to put his head on the chopping block.
If this worst-case scenario came to pass, Ves would instantly be ready to summon both his System comm and the Amastendira.
His Inventory was one thing the Ylvainans weren't able to rob from him. With these two objects, Ves stood a decent chance at fighting or sneaking his way out of the tribunal.
He could count on Lucky to help bail him out as well. Ves hadn't seen his cat ever since he was taken into custody, but there was no way that Lucky would stay on the sidelines.
Still, once he used these means to escape captivity, it was hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Not only that, but he'd also be making an enemy out of the entire Protectorate and vindicate the Ylvainan Inquisition that he posed a threat to their state.
The staff he brought along would also suffer. Ves knew very well that the reason why Ketis, Gavin, Leland and the Avatars of Myth remained stuck on Kesseling VIII was because the inquisition implicitly treated them as hostages.
As long as Ves behaved, the inquisition didn't have an excuse to target his staff.
Still, if it came down to it, Ves would definitely take action to preserve his own life regardless of the repercussions of his actions.
He really didn't want to be forced into that corner, though. Until the situation had reached that point, he would do his best to escape from his predicament.
"Has there been any news about my mechs?"
"The Curins are doing all they can to get your mechs out of the depot. It hasn't worked. Surprisingly, the Kronons lent their support behind the Curins. They're pretty adamant about releasing the Transcendent Messengers to their rightful owner."
"Unlike the Poxcos, the Kronons appreciate my mechs." Ves smiled. "Support from the military will be very helpful in counterbalancing the Poxcos."
"It's not enough, though. Even if the Kronons are apparently huge fans of your mech, the inquisition hasn't made an exception to its rules this time. They're really determined to keep your Transcendent Messengers buried."
Ves knew that his six hero mechs were fantastic enough to sway public opinion. Sadly, the inquisition knew that as well and became incredibly obstinate about keeping them out of sight so they wouldn't 'corrupt' more Ylvainans.
"Since the Protectors of the Faith are well-inclined towards my mechs, have they offered any other support?"
"Plenty, but mainly by ensuring that the tribunal will proceed as fair as possible. To the Kronons, designing a great mech does not excuse the theft of a holy relic. The higher ups want the truth to come out so that they can admire your mechs without feeling any guilt."
"That sounds fair enough."
The support from the Kronons had been critical in restraining the inquisition. The Curins alone wouldn't have been able to stop the inquisition from acting with impunity.
In a way, Ves liked the Kronons the most due to their honesty. Even if the Curins were on his side, Ves didn't like the way they bent the rules and played favorites. He much preferred to be treated fairly.
"It's too bad that fairness appears to be a foreign concept in the Protectorate."