The day after the murder, Roy was back at the Brunhart Orphanarium standing at the door entrance. Fayne and Navarro stood behind ready and determined to see things through as a clear overcast day showed clouds as far as the eye could see, the grand door opening to reveal one of the local hume police in resplendent blue-steeped chainmail.
"May I help you sir?"
"Mah name is Roy MacGregor, ahm thuh defense attorney for mister Brunhart."
"Do you have identification and a permit to be here?"
"Ah do, same with mah counsel."
Roy brought up both a sealed permit as well as three ID passes showing their particular details. The verified permit was from the local precinct itself to authorise his being here, as well as his own ID from his occupation in Rozarria as a licensed lawyer trained in such cases giving his name, date of birth and a specialised serial number for his occupation. Fayne's identity card was an elaborate-looking thing embossed in metals whilst Navarro's came by a clear seal of approval from the Knight's Academy institute to which the officer nodded at.
"Looks to be in order, my colleague will take you to the crime scene."
Stepping into the manor once again, the place seemed even larger than before now that there was far less people within it. The ballroom to their left was cold and empty bereft of life and table settings, whilst the sound of children had died down almost eerily so. The colleague of the officer guarding the door guided them upstairs, another hume it seemed as the raptor asked:
"Whut happened to thuh children?"
"They are being kept in their rooms, we can't have any of them seeing the place after all."
"Ah see. Is thuh body still up there?"
"No we had him taken away to the morgue, you will have a report sometime in the afternoon."
Fayne murmured something into Roy's ear as they reached the top of the stairwell turning towards the west end to where the crime scene was. He repeated the cleric's question more formally asking:
"Have thuh prosecuting counsel been to check thuh place?"
"They will arrive soon, you got here early."
"Ah lahk to be prepared for anythin'."
"Wish we had been more prepared the day on this."
The room was guarded by another officer, a moogle that was much different despite the blue-steel armour like all the rest of the precinct. Her head was covered by a red official-looking hat like a sorcerer's with a single giant star put upon it, keeping a hand woven constantly upon a single tome of magic levitating between her fingers. The guard that escorted them informed the moogle:
"The defence counsel is here."
"Good, kupo. Here are your gloves, you will have twelve minutes to investigate the room before my spell wears off, then you must leave."
"Whut spell exactly?"
"This crime scene is being protected by a Stop spell, kupo. So long as you are in there whilst the spell is in effect, no object can be moved or interfered with, as well as protecting the room from possible contamination by that I mean you walking into it."
"Ahhh...ah see so it's lahk Stasis with bionic fields."
"UH, never mind ah understand thank you."
"The boy was lying propped up against the front of the desk where the bloodstain is, stabbed with a letter opener right through his left lung. That is all I can tell you, you have twelve minutes. Use your time wisely kupo."
Roy nodded saying this as all three of them were given protective gloves before he stepped into the room, finding the most strange of auras permeating across the room. The office of Mr. Brunhart was now coated by a soft shimmering pink just barely noticeable beneath that of mortal vision, a time-alternating spell that trapped the very room in stasis. True to the time mage's word, nothing could possibly be moved at all, not a single scuff of carpet, book or even the leaf of the tropical plant sitting quaintly right against the far right bookcase at the back wall.
The desk stood on the very left beside them, almost perfectly within hand's reach of the doorknob. The front of the desk was marked easily by the blood splatter on the floor trapped in time but having had plenty of time to coagulate the night before to remain a stubborn mark upon the green carpet as Roy brought up his omni-tool as Fayne asked:
"Are you not planning to record our findingsszh with the memsszhtone? They do offer them to a counsszhel for the court record."
"This is mah memstone," replied Roy, "righ' here, just a li'l different but thuh quality's much better, that way ah can show thuh court whut evidence ah can find in this place by a snapshot of whut we take."
"If they are allowing of it."
"Ah checked with thuh precinct, they said it wuz unusual but it clearly had thuh kind of ability a memstone had so it's good. Alrigh' let's do this."
"The blood tells us where he was," said Navarro calmly, "I will look around the desk kupo."
"Ahll check near thuh window. Fayne, you mind checkin' out thuh bookcase?"
"Not at all," said the bishop, "I will sszhurvey the area."
They quickly began to investigate, combing every length of the office as Roy scanned his eye along the window and its floor region. He also noticed the very thing he had come all this way for, the artifact sitting on top of the bookcase almost mocking him from its peak. Tender glinting spectacles with golden light flecked across its thin subtle crossings, the raptor shook his head clear and made certain that there was absolutely nothing of interest along the window itself. He left the room briefly to ask the time mage:
"Were there any fingerprints on thuh windowsill?"
"Not that we found, kupo. The only fingerprints on the scene that are not mister Brunhart's are on the desk chair itself as well as the murder weapon that we took."
"Hmm, alrigh' then."
He bent down towards the office chair itself, a firm rigid seat with cushioned back and stern legs supporting as Roy saw that it had been dusted down for prints. He did not need to know whose it was to realise they were the size of a child's fingers, wrapped firmly around the front right leg of it as he took a picture.
"Navarro, thuh guard's righ', there's sum kid's fingerprints on this chair leg here."
"Really?" replied Rocino. "That's odd, James said the child was at the desk's front, kupo."
"Hm...how do we know it's thuh kid's?"
"Who else would they be?"
"Ahll ask, SCUSE ME!"
He popped his head round once more to ask:
"Do you know whose fingerprints are on thuh chair bottom?"
"It was the victim's," said the mage guard, "we confirmed it by comparison, kupo."
"Ah cool, thank you."
"You have nine minutes left, sir."
Stepping up their game they further examined the desk as Roy found nothing to be out of place despite not being able to open the drawers due to the Stop spell keeping everything firmly stuck. The desk had a cubbyhole to fit one's legs in, no through way underneath to the other side being blocked by a solid wooden wall with only the smallest of clearance space between floor and desk. But then he saw the locked drawer at the very bottom which seemed to have been rendered half-open.
"Navarro? Could you look at this for a minute?"
She walked over to see the offending drawer as he explained.
"For sum reason this one won't go in all thuh way, ah think it's only been locked halfway."
"Let me see, kupo."
Bending down to a much better height, she looked through the keyhole and began to peer deeper in finding an unusual glint of steel in the lock that she recognised almost instantly.
"This lock has been tampered with."
"There is something trapped inside the lock, something made of steel."
"You think someone's key got broke?"
"No, I think someone had tried to lockpick it kupo."
Roy had to lay down on his side fully to be able to gaze into it, bringing a light down from his omni-tool and trying to capture the best image he could on it by a zoom function. He almost thought it unfair he had all this technology wondering what capabilities a memstone had compared to this, finding an odd but easily highlighted shot of the steel crick in the drawer's lock.
"You're righ'...but they didn't get thuh drawer open."
"No," murmured Rocino, "at least not as far as we know...so we may have a thief as well as a murderer."
"Depends on if they could or not. There anythin' else underneath thuh desk maybe, sumthin' stuck or-"
"No, kupo. Hmm..."
She crawled underneath the desk space where the chair would normally be looking around for any clues possibly unfound by the investigation team. So far nothing was coming up as she slipped her hand underneath the well-dusted clearing space seeing Fayne's feet walk across the other end but the moment that she turned and tried to get up, her hand slipped to grab the nearest thing to balance herself properly. The chair leg which made her understand its purpose.
"The boy was hiding, kupo."
"This chair leg helps me when I was slowly moving myself out, the victim must have been hiding underneath the desk."
"But...huh...that...does make sense for real but...well, if he wuz hidin', then why wuz he at thuh front of thuh desk stabbed an'...why are his fingerprints on thuh chair leg?"
"What do you mean?"
"You didn't grab onto thuh leg when you crawled in, you grabbed on when you crawled out cuz it's thuh only thin' in reach for you. If he wuz hidin' already underneath thuh desk, whut made him want to come out an' face his killer?"
"Either he thought the room was clear, which he couldn't have because you can see anyone's feet from underneath this desk...or he thought it was someone he knew that he could trust."
Roy turned nervous at this supposition before slowly getting up fully to stretch his legs and walk towards the front of the desk asking:
"Howsit goin' your end Fayne?"
"Fruitlessszh," said the bishop at the bookcase, "not one book with any fingerprint on it and forever dusszhted by the wingsszh of time...that damned plant doesszh not help mattersszh either."
"I cannot move it to reach the other end of the bookcasszhe, why even put it here?!"
"Heh, ah dunno, ah think it looks neat thuh way it captures thuh light an' it sorta brightens up thuh place."
"That may be but aesszhthetic will do no good when you cannot reach your tome without forsszhefully moving it."
"...it does look kinda heavy, that's a big jug it has too, almost big enough to cook in."
"We are losing time," said Navarro reminding, "Roy please record this blood stain here."
Heading towards the front fully the moogle began to examine the blood stain itself, a small pool where it presumably had dripped down from the boy's chest. The blood pattern laid at the right section of the desk when facing towards it from the front, but the real interest lied in the smaller bloodstain smeared neatly upon the front of the desk itself just underneath its jutting front rim like a thin red line.
"This is odd, the guard said that the boy was had been stabbed correct kupo?"
"Yes," said the raptor.
"So...why is there blood on the top section here?"
"Huh...that is kinda odd, if he wuz sittin' down here that would be where his head wuz restin'."
"Does that mean he was forcefully shoved against the desk itself?"
"In that case...someone must have stood over he-AGH!"
Navarro almost tripped fully forwards with her head against the bookcase stopping short as she pressed her hand against it. Fayne almost rushed to her aid but she put her other hand out to show that she was balancing alright as she looked back at where she tripped over. A twisted crease of the carpet somehow preserved by the Stop spell, unmoving against the aura.
"You alrigh'?" asked Roy.
"Yes...that crease is rather big, it appears to be tearing upwards towards the desk's direction."
"Huh...that is odd, since nobody wuz in thuh room we have to assume that musta been here thuh day it happened."
"...Roy, may I perform an experiment, kupo?"
She turned around with her heel pressed against the carpet crease before asking:
"Could you get on your knees before me, right here?"
"...damn baby bird you know whut you want-"
"Just do it."
"Ulp, yes ma'am."
Chuckling at this odd request he firmly kneeled down before the knight, his chest reaching level with hers as she explained herself by grabbing slowly onto his armoured chest leaning towards him.
"Try and push me."
"Push me. See what happens now you are at my height, or close enough."
"Do not hold back kupo. I want you to shove me hard enough I reach the desk."
"Ohhhhh...ah see whut you gettin' at, alrigh'."
"And don't tell me when you will do it, it will be more realistic if I do not see it comi-GNNNGH!"
Suddenly shoved hard across the floor he nearly tackled her with as much weight as he could from his kneeled position, the moogle falling backwards nearly towards the desk but not quite reaching it. It did however prove her theory right enough in some capacity.
"Just as I suspected, the crease in the carpet, the way it turns up against the back of my heel was made by someone pushing against another kupo. The killer perhaps forced the child back hard enough to hit against the desk."
"Interesszhting theory," murmured Fayne softly, "but a little sszhircumsszhtantial."
"There is no reason to explain this crease."
"It may have been there before and have no bearing on thisszh casszhe."
"I am simply hypothesising, I am not certain of everything kupo."
"You sszhertainly fooled me."
The moogle rolled her eyes at hearing this before Fayne gave up searching, finding nothing out of order amongst the bookcases as he firmly stood by the lonesome plant bristling soft leaves against him. Snarling at its indifference, he turned towards the rest of the room asking all of them:
"Why would he PUT that plant there, it isszh completely impractical!"
"Enough with thuh plant man," replied Roy, "cummon it's not that big a deal."
"It very well isszh when it obsszhtructsszh literary reach, look at that! I cannot reach beyond the damn plant to get anywhere near thisszh third bookcasszhe! Why could he not have put it there, or THERE even! I mean the door isszh practically wide open and hasszh enough sspasszhe for it!"
He marched over towards the door where the corner of the room was, even noting the door was quite a space apart from where he stood waving arms about.
"Sszhee, perfect plasszhe for a plant!"
"Wouldn't that not get sunlight there?" asked Roy. "If you had thuh door open that is."
"I do not care, I jusszht hate the fact we cannot reach that third bookcasszhe when he could have put it HERE!"
The moment he slapped his feet down upon the corner looking at himself, he noted an odd groove in the carpet upon lifting his left foot. It appeared to be an oddly deep indented circle asking:
"What the...wait...wait, wait a minute, hold that thought."
"...that plant...the area of sszhircumferensszhe of thisszh ring indent...look at thisszh."
They walked over to see where Fayne had stood, noticing the odd indent also.
"He DID have it here! Quite a while even!"
"Huh, that's weird."
"That makesszh me even MORE furiousszh! He had it exszhactly where it sszhould be and he moved it, why would he-"
"Are you going to argue about horticultural taste," said the moogle shortly, "or are you actually going to assist, kupo?!"
"...you are right, forgive me I...I cannot find anything of note other than thisszh...what isszh that?"
He pointed towards the side of the door that was facing the wall seeing an odd blemished smear of red at the very middle height of the door as Roy took note of it on his omni-tool, before asking:
"Is that blood?"
"No," said the moogle. "It does not smell like it, plus by this point it would have coagulated if it were kupo."
The raptor went to the time mage once more always at the ready.
"Did anyone notice this red stain on thuh door?"
"There's a red stain on thuh other side of this door."
"...I was not aware of this, we must have missed it."
"It's not blood ah can tell you that, just thought you migh' wanna know."
"Thank you, I will notify it kupo. Four minutes left sir."
With no other further inquiry they returned to the centre of the room trying to formulate a theory in the last few minutes that they had of examination.
"Alrigh'," said Roy, "so far we got a bloodstain, an odd carpet crease, a picked lock, sum weird red smear an' sum odd fingerprints at thuh bottom of a chair's leg. Whut happened?"
"I am still certain that crease means something," said Rocino, "the idea that someone had pushed the boy back into the desk and banged his head harshly-"
"But we do not know if the creasszhe wasszh there before," argued Fayne gently.
"Ah dunno," replied Roy, "ah think that's an idea, baby bird's got an inklin' righ' here. Though...if sumbody had pushed a kid hard enough to go back then it couldn't have been sumbody our height."
"What do you mean by that?"
"If ah pushed Navarro righ' now at mah height, ah would push her downwards cuz of mah direction, not backwards. When ah wuz at her height, ah wuz able to push her back enough."
"Meaning that if her theory holdsszh true then our killer would be no taller than five feet."
Roy winced nervously at the slight prospect of what this meant as Fayne added to try and clear his head:
"There were other mooglesszh and nu-mou at the ball, there are other sszhusszhpectsszh to think."
"It may also have been a child, kupo." added Navarro darkly.
"Yo what thuh fuck man?!" cried Roy. "Don' be puttin' that shit in mah head that's messed up!"
"Why, it's a plausible theory. Children are just as capable of murder as adults, we cannot rule this supposition."
"Man that ain' right, god ah hope that ain' true, that would be fucked up."
"I do not want to agree," said Fayne, "but Navarro doesszh sszhpeak truly, we cannot rule out the posszhibility of a child attacking another."
"Ah guess," said Roy. "Could also have been sumbody short, you got humes an' shit under five feet...we got a lotta work ahead of us either way so let's go, we better not stay around long."
Making their way out of the room with just two minutes to spare, they thanked the mage guarding the scene before returning to their hotel room. Due to James still being a witness, he was staying at a secure location elsewhere in the town safely away from interference allowing Roy to get down to work. Taking up the room that both he and Kruz now shared for sleeping, Navarro and Fayne joined him on the beds poring over the court texts to prepare for what would be the most intensive session of their lives.
For the most part Roy found himself rather confused by the odd wording of its archaic language, asking for help occasionally from Fayne who put it to him in simpler terms. Covering over the case details after reading up on the Archadian court system, they began to narrate it to themselves alone in the room where no one would hear as Roy began.
"Alrigh' so...our victim's a boy aroun' eight years old, he wuz slammed hard against thuh back of thuh desk an' then stabbed by a letter opener. We got two witnesses that saw mister Brunhart actually go towards his office aroun' that tahm of thuh murder, is that true?"
"Yes," said Navarro, "we also have two other witnesses of importance that have been gathered kupo. James and Berniere obviously are two of them."
"Who are the others?"
"A businesswoman and a landowner."
"Heh, sounds lahk a game of Clue."
"It's...a board game back where ah came from, never really played it though."
"What type of game?" asked Fayne.
"Uhh...sum guy's been murdered an' you gotta try to figure out who dunnit, looked kinda complicated to me so ah never got into it, real ancient though, lahk pre-world."
"And thisszh you call a game in your own world?"
"Well not murder itself obviously, just a mystery yanno lahk why people love readin' murder mystery books."
"True...sszhpeaking of murder, or rather the attempt, I wanted to asszhk you about your world'sszh mythopoeia."
"Your religiousszh belief."
"OH, sure go ahead, that is if we got nuthin' else to cover on our court brief."
"We do," said Navarro, "but we can go over them later, I believe we have covered everything that's mostly important kupo. That and we have but two days until the actual court itself."
"Damn, that's fast processing."
"Archadian law prides itself on efficiency...sometimes even moreso over other important virtues."
The raptor sighed shaking his head sadly as he glossed over everything they had with papers stariing up at him.
"...not gonna lie, this case is lookin' kinda grim."
"I warned you kupo."
"That doesn't mean we can't win, if Brunhart's truly innocent then we gotta try, thuh point of bein' a defence attorney is to give your client thuh best possible damn defence an' if thuh truth reveals his sin then fine, justice is done."
"How can you sszhay that?!" cried Fayne. "You are already talking asszh if the sszhentensszhe hasszh been carried!"
"Sorry man...just...need to keep an eye open for disappointment."
"A devil'sszh advocate we do not need anymore than what thisszh paper tellsszh usszh. We are here to defend him, not believe in foregone conclusszhionsszh."
"You're right...hokay, whut wuz your question Fayne?"
The cleric brushed away his papers neatly stacking them up onto one side as he tried to explain himself, Roy sitting up cross-legged and waiting.
"I am very confusszhed by one part of your Chrisszhtian tome, the part consszherning a father and sszhon."
"Abraham an' Isaac, right?"
"Correct, the binding of Isszhaac. Now-"
A familiar sting burned in the back of Roy's head as he resisted the urge. Fayne looked at him oddly as the raptor rubbed his head with warmness saying softly:
"Are you alright?"
"Y-yeah jus-...got a headache from all this readin' heh...anyways go on, whut about Isaac?"
" I...cannot fathom how a god that isszh consszhidered to be sszho beloved and worldly would ever want to demand that proof of loyalty from hisszh sszhubject by ordering the ssszhacrifisszhe of Abraham'sszh own sszhon."
"To prove how strong Abraham's faith wuz in God, how much that he feared His power so that He knew Abraham would not sway from His word, ah think it wuz more meant to be a symbolic sacrifice rather than a real one."
"Over one'sszh own SSZHON?! It jusszht sszheemsszh absszhurdly cruel I cannot fathom, even if he had sszhent one of hisszh own people to prevent it at the ready, that sszheemsszh a rather punitive tesszht of faith!"
"You have to remember that thuh Old Testament an' thuh New were written bah different people, thuh Old Testament wuz basically taken from old Jewish scriptures who were lahk a much older race of people, an' they interpreted God somewhut differently. It's kinda hard to explain for me but thuh reason why there's an odd disparity between thuh way God is in both Old an' New Testaments, is because they were written bah different groups, first thuh Jews an' then thuh Christians."
"Ahhhh...I sszhee, that makesszh sszhensszhe from a sszcholarly persszhpective, they were not originally consszheived together?"
"No, in fact ahm not even sure how long thuh space wuz between when thuh Old one got finished an' thuh New one got made, that's actually a pretty good question ah need to think...most of it's just ol' fables an' stuff, lahk tryin' to teach from example yanno, do this, do that. A lotta stuff in it people don't do anymore cuz it wuz back in old days long ago so there's plenty outdated to shit in thuh Bible...but that don't mean that thuh lessons you learn from it aren't any less relevant to you morally, that's why this stuff endures for centuries."
"Oh well of coursszhe, after all the Light of Kiltia hasszh been prevalent for almosszht two-thousszhand yearsszh, not much of our sszhcripture hasszh been relevant of late but, asszh you sszhaid quite clearly it isszh the moral fiber of it that remainsszh to lead people to greater life and calm more than anything. I do find it odd that your belief holdsszh a monotheisszhtic faith though I musszht admit-"
"Is there not a group," added Navarro, "that believes there is no other god but Faram alone in Kiltia, kupo?"
"Yesszh...but they are more a nuisszhansszhe than anything. Do you have different interpretersszh of your religion Roy?"
"Hohohoho you don' even fuckin' know," said the raptor chuckling to himself, "you got a pen cuz ah got plenty for you."
"Indeed I do, sszhall we sszhtart with the-"
"Woah woah woah woah ah ain't talkin' about EVERY one of 'em, come on."
"...there are that many?"
Roy waved his hand rather iffy trying to sway him off the issue as Fayne understood.
"...mayhapy we sszhould leave thisszh debate for another time, our mindsszh are needed to attend to thisszh court prosszhedure."
"Righ', yes, good idea."
Putting the religious debate on hold they tried to memorise the last bits and pieces they had trouble with before the trial would begin. It was only two days after their having investigated the scene of the murder that they would be in the courthouse of Breekheim, a rather resplendently aged building of stone granite and polished marble floors from the richest quarry. They felt as if they were being welcomed despite its cold austere visage in halls where their feet echoed across the marble waiting for their brief, sitting in a formal waiting room next to a twinset of shining brass staircases curling towards each other.
People roved back and forth on official duties, delegations made, even reporters from the newspapers came along hunting for the latest scoop with both pen and paper at the ready. Roy found himself smirking at how some things never changed from one place to another, noticing also the sculpt architecture showing justice and virtue embodied upon their faces. Regal beings of great eminence holding tomes and lanterns of glinting magicite, acting as both a light source and a beacon of wisdom.
A voice had him turn to look up at a bold-looking hume in a sweeping red cloak with blue armour underneath like that of the Breekheim precinct. His helmet unveiled showing black skin, full cheeks, medium-length black hair that kissed upon his shoulders and a set of piercing grey eyes like winter's frost.
"Are you the defence attorney for mister Brunhart?"
"I ahm...and you?"
"We won't have time to introduce ourselves in court, my name is Gerald Abernathy. I must warn you now that your job is not enviable."
"Whut's that supposed to mean?"
"You and I understand that this is simply an occupation...whether the truth reveals innocence or guilt it matters not to us. The public however will scream for an effigy to burn and since you are new I must warn you...that this town is not forgiving to those who fail their greatest influence."
"You don' have to be formal, jus' say to me 'don't fuck up or else this town is gonna ruin you', we're not in court yet."
"Hm...straight to the point are you?"
"Ah don't need to be, long as people understand whut ah say, mister Abernathy."
"Very well. I shall see you soon."
The hume walked off down the halls with cape flowing very emphatically as Roy shook his head hearing Fayne beside him.
"Do not let him rile you, we have every bit an opportunity to presszhent oursszhelvesszh."
"Ah know...just...hhhhh...a man's innocence relies on me, it's been a while since ah had to be in court to prove anythin'."
"It is not an easy burden," said Navarro firmly, "but if you truly believe in mister Brunhart's cause I will follow you, kupo."
"Why else would I be here?"
"Ah thought you didn't care about whut happened."
"Of course I do. I want justice to see done more than anything...Fayne is right from before, if I can help speed things up smoothly so justice is done faster without anymore pain and suffering upon this town...I will kupo."
"Good...how's Luke bah thuh way, ah haven't checked on him since yesterday."
"He isszh taking time," said Fayne knowingly, "we are all aware that he isszh in a mourning sszhtate, but I believe he isszh turning himsszhelf around. I believe after what almosszht happened to me he woke up sszhtartling with realisszhasszhion."
"I would be looking after him," said Navarro, "but the case-"
"Baldwin isszh looking after him, I asszhked him to keep company and be a consszhtant vigil for anything our Luke needsszh. He will not be alone unlessszh he sszho demandsszh it."
"Good, kupo. He has calmed down thankfully but he is not out of the woods yet. He needs a steady balance of both companionship and respect for his personal solitude."
"Ah agree," said Roy, "ahll keep a check on him inbetween days whilst we up in court, maybe we should mention to sumbody about that hole in thuh Jagd too so nobody else get hurt."
"Yes...it's time, kupo."
The waiting was soon over as the three went to the designated courtroom. A grand emphatic hall of golden-coloured brass and wooden stands to postulate from, the place would be the perfect battlefield of logic versus mercy. Most of the town's more important dignitaries had come as audience on both sides of the hall sitting behind and far above the defence and prosecution's seats.
Roy stood to the left of the hall in his grey woollen suit, with Navarro in her knightly gown from the ball whilst Fayne just remained in his regular clothes of bishopdom like always. The prosecutor Abernathy stood opposite of him in red cloak and blue armour, his own representatives of law and order being an all-hume team of a stately-looking pale bald woman in black with pinched bifocals, along with another equally pinched-looking woman of a much younger age with tanned ochre skin and smouldering purple hair, wearing also a knight's gown of Archadian silver.
The hall resonated with murmurs as Roy looked about him, recognising a few faces from the party but none specifically, the witness' stand on his left as a lone semi-circle naked before everyone. To his right was the judge's seat which stood tall and dominating over all making one witness seem as if God himself was about to judge thee. He was terrified by its stature, a good ten feet above the ground as Fayne said beside him:
"Do we have everything prepared?"
"Yes," said Roy. "Thuh bailiff gave us thuh coroner's report too when we came in."
"I must admit," said the moogle, "looking over this report I am finding it difficult to think how many other options there must be in this criminal term, kupo."
"A professor ah know once said to me, 'every puzzle has an answer'. An' this is a puzzle that we gonna crack."
"And if this puzzle has an answer that you do not want?"
"Then we'll just have to accept it. But we are gonna damn well try to find whut thuh real answer is."
I'll prove that he's innocent, thought Roy to himself, Berniere begged me, he NEEDED me to prove that Brunhart was innocent and I believe he has to be. I can't let my heart sway me, I know what happens when I let my heart guide me too hard because I believed in something deep. Not anymore...I'm going to find the truth no matter what, the REAL truth and then my own objective after this. ...I'm gonna prove you wrong Sha-Zer-Ah, just you wait, I'll prove to you that the law still makes good when in the right hands...even though I've never actually done a case before in my life, or ever been a lawyer.
His thoughts came back to reality by the call of the bailiff.
"ALL RISE FOR THE HONOURABLE JUDGE GARHEIM!"
They all stood up, the audience included as they ceased their talking rumour. The judge was a terrifying-looking beast, a proud stately hume wrapped fully within a dark black knightly suit of steel that clinked heavily with every step he walked, making his way up to the tallest podium from a side room entrance. His cloak draped magnificently with a flutter that seemed to not exist with no wind in the court to speak, as if a great power of law emanted from his being as he sat down firmly.
Holy shit who the fuck is this guy?! I feel like I'm in the Devil's court!
His helmet was never taken off, with pointed slatted visor and horns twisting metallically above his head as he banged his gavel in the form of a mighty one-handed hammer that resonated across the hall. The gavel looked big enough to kill a puppy with in one strike, his voice booming throughout the audience rattling inside their very bones with a proud stately manner that echoed slightly from inside his helmet, clear and ringing like the bell of a cathedral.
"Court is now in session for the murder of Joshua Alvert. Ladies and gentlemen...I know you must think that this very case you see before you must be an inconceiveably cruel joke, and I know that many of you are well aware of mister Brunhart's reputation. But I must warn you that we are in a court of law and that regardless of what history a person has, they are still accused a criminal. I speak only of that so you know that my purpose is absolute, to be fair and concise towards the facts alone. Are both counsels present and ready?"
"The prosecution is ready your Honour," said Gerald Abernathy.
"Thuh defence is ready your Honour," said Roy MacGregor.
The judge peered over his high seat towards the black raptor on his left below him, curiously cocking his helmet-clad head.
"I do not recognise you as one of our own...and yet you are so oddly familiar to me, who are you exactly?"
"Mah name is Roy MacGregor, ahm an attorney from Rozarria working for Barnham and Associates."
"And what may I ask are you doing so far away upon this case?"
"Ah wuz travellin' to participate in a jousting tournament, your Honour. You may have heard of me at thuh Chocogala."
"...aaaaaaaaah yes, so that's where I know you from. Hmhmhmhm...quite a stir at the Hopkins' place wasn't it?"
"Indeed, a most unfortunate case that wuz."
"I thought you had perished chasing after those brigands from the city."
"Let's just say ahm not a good pursuer, ah found mahself lost after heading through thuh forest. Problems of a wingless chocobo your honour."
"I see," said the regal Judge, "but you have not answered my question truly, why are you here in THIS case?"
"Ah wuz donating some of my profits to Mister Brunhart's charity, when the murder all went down he asked me personally to assist in his cause as defendant, he said that he would prefer sumbody to be an outside influence, therefore not being in any way biased towards his counsel."
"A noble thought," said the prosecutor opposite, "but I know for a fact you already tell a fib. Tell me, was it not mister Berniere Lavant who practically begged you on hand and knee to represent him? One could hardly forget that I'm sure from the day of the murder's happening."
"...you're correct, mah apologies, it wuz mister Lavant who pleaded me to help first, but it wuz Brunhart's decision alone to take me on board this case of his own free will."
"Hm. Very well."
The hume swept his hand out into a gracious bow before him with his cloak sweeping out fast in turn, almost hitting his military advisor standing behind him on his right.
"I will enjoy this battle of wits greatly, mister Rozarrian. Do try to resist the urge to hibernate whilst up here in a colder clime, I know that you may find the mountain region a little...intolerable with your lack of fur."
"Heh...ah would say thuh same for you, except ah see you turnin' blue already underneath that cloak."
Roy smirked at his little snipe back at him before the Judge brought back their attention.
"Back to the matter at hand, would you also please introduce your counsel as well?"
"Yes your Honour, this is Fayne Smithee mah religious authority from Lea Monde, along with Navarro Rocino who is a fully-fledged graduate of thuh Knight's Academy standard."
Glancing with curiosity the Judge cocked his head slightly, asking:
"...a bangaa...as a cleric of all things? Goodness now that is something I never thought I would see."
"Ah hope that is not a problem, your Honour."
"Only if your counsel are not up to snuff, mister MacGregor. Frankly I would have thought that species' disposition of their vocal disparity would prevent such a career path."
"If I may beg your pardon your Honour," said Fayne calmly, "I am well-read in all canon and have been a prelate of Lea Monde upcoming to my thirtieth-eighth year within the cathedral fold. My orthoepy will not be a cumber during the trial, if that be what you are worried about."
The Judge blinked from within his helmet astonished at such a well-refined speech, as he chuckled mirthily at the priest.
"Hmhmhmhmhm...very well priest, I see no reason to stop you then."
"I am grateful to you, your Honour."
The cleric bowed politely hiding a confident smirk of being pleased as punch for not fluffing his introductory line, before the judge continued:
"Mister Abernathy, if you would please introduce our case."
"Gladly," said Abernathy, "around 3:30pm, Joshua was found dead in mister Brunhart's office. He was badly wounded in the back of his head when he was slammed against the front of the desk before being ruthlessly killed by a letter opener stabbed into his still-beating chest."
"Do we know why the boy was in the office at the time?"
"Not as of yet, your honour. A guest of the party, mister James Campbell, found him dead before he ran out to call help. The guards arrived shortly within the space of five minutes making certain no one had left the building...or this region, they have guards at all exits for the duration of this trial."
"I see, very good."
Roy glanced over the autopsy report detailing the boy's injuries, reading over them partially as Fayne translated for him the most important parts.
"Healthy boy, no malnutrisszhion, time of death around 3:30pm, resszhieved a blow to the back of the head forming a concussszhion."
"A concussion?" asked Roy. "Wait he wuz knocked out?"
"Possszhibly, coroner revealsszh that the boy wasszh not in fear for hisszh life, nor wasszh he resszhisszhtant at the time of death due to hisszh musszhcular ssszhtate. The letter opener punctured hisszh lung fatally and he died very rapidly."
"At least he died swift," said Navarro coldly, "that is the only blessing this boy had, kupo."
"Ah have a question on this report!" said Roy out loudly. "it says here thuh boy was not resisting or in fear for his life at thuh tahm of death, why wouldn't he be?"
"Read the part on concussion," replied Gerald calmly, "the boy had been badly knocked out by the blow to the back of his head which brought him down into a state of unconsciousness, or at the very least not coherent. He probably had not the mental strength to compose himself before the killing end."
"Ah see...so he wuz knocked out then stabbed, but that makes no sense. Why would thuh killer go from assault an' then elevate it up to murder? He already had thuh kid knocked out!"
"Perhaps to make certain there were no witnesses?"
"Witnesses to WHUT?! There ain' no other crime in this case apart from thuh murder!"
"I do not know, the mind of a criminal always seems nonsensical to us normal folk. But that's what we are here to find out."
"Was there anything else about the boy?" asked Judge Garheim.
"The boy had two objects on his possession that were of interest. A large key to which we do not know the true purpose of, and several scraps of cloth on his fingernails which are a conclusive match to mister Brunhart's clothing."
Roy tried not to shake his head at hearing this, feeling as if he had already lost but knew he had to be firm as he made his stance asking:
"Whut were thuh reason for mister Brunhart to be accused firstly as thuh suspect? Ah assume that wuz thuh first."
"Three things in particular in order of their discovery. Firstly, two eyewitnesses claim to have saw him heading towards the office before the time of Joshua's death. Secondly, the cloth scraps on the boy's fingernails match that of the cloak he was wearing for the party. Thirdly, we have found said cloak hidden in a nearby room and there are indeed scratch marks upon the front showing the boy's fingerprints on them."
The audience began murmuring with dissent, seeing nothing but an open-and-shut case much to their own disbelief and grievances as the judge was forced to call out with gavel pounding:
"ORDER! ORDER IN THE COURT! ...it seems quite an easy case from this current perspective, unless you have anything to declare mister MacGregor?"
"Well," began Roy, "anyone can wear a cloak. Mister Brunhart's not thuh only one that can wear it, whut if sumbody else wore it as a disguise?"
"And why would they do that?"
"To not be seen committing a murder your Honour, or whutever crime they were committing at thuh tahm."
"And who would dare have such intention to murder a child?"
"Sumbody who did not want to be found out, bear in mind we have no real reason or motive for this to happen, we don't even know WHY this engagement happened inside thuh office."
"In that case, we must best ask the accused himself. Bailiff, bring in mister Brunhart to the witness stand."
The sound of chains addressed everyone's attention to the side entrance where witnesses would wait in separate rooms away from each other. The old middle-aged nu-mou did not even smile, his beard hung low and sullen as his shoulders hunched over with long prison garments forming a robe that sweeped around his feet with tail shuffling meekly underneath. His grey numbered shirt, hands and feet bound by magicite chains as he stood solemnly upon the witness stand, feeling the weight of pity and outrage from all above him made him look a most pitiful sight. The Judge spoke first solemnly with an odd respect for the accused.
"Would you please give your name and occupation?"
"My...my name is...Matthias Brunhart. I am the founder of the Brunhart Orphanarium."
"And what duties, as founder, do you perform at this orphanage?"
"Well...almost everything really, I teach the children, manage their food and study lessons, finance for upkeep and bringing in new textbooks, adequate medicine, mainly I am of a managerial position to make sure that everyone has what they need."
"How long have you been the founder of this orphanarium?"
"Forty years. I divorced from my wife and kept the estate in our agreement whilst she took half of our inheritance from my father. I decided that I wanted no more to do with the socialite lifestyle of earning this money for nothing and decided to do good with it."
"And so you founded the orphanage," said Mr. Abernathy, "the true making of philanthropy. Until one grievous mistake."
"Do you really think I would ever raise my hand against one of my own dear pupils? Whatever evidence you have-"
"Let us do this by the numbers please. I know you are a great and beloved person in this township but you must respect the fact that I must adhere to the law by all means. Now, mister Brunhart, tell us what you were doing on the day of the murder between 3pm and 3:30pm."
"F-fine...very well, I...was engaging in the party amongst all the benefactors when, around 3:10pm, one of the young children had taken a nasty fall and had to be assisted. I took my leave shortly and went to the upstairs medical facility where I remained for its entirety...except for one point where I ran out to get some paper towels from a nearby bathroom, we ran out of gauze and I needed something to staunch the wound with. I bumped into a lady who had gotten lost and showed her downstairs to the women's lavatory whilst taking some paper towels with my apologies. I was not even aware of what had happened until I heard someone screaming for help the other end of the corridor. When the guards arrived I had managed to help the child recover by then safely and then, before I knew it, I was being accosted for murder."
The Judge nodded and allowed the prosecution to cross-examine, the red-cloaked hume standing perfectly postured with hands behind his back.
"Can anyone attest for this as to your whereabouts?"
"Then, you say no one had assisted you in this matter? Was there not a doctor on duty in your orphanage?"
"There was but for the sake of this child's privacy I will not divulge this information and nor will she."
"What about the child herself? Would she not have made a witness as your patient?"
Matthias fidgeted slightly as he rubbed the inside of his left wrist before recomposing himself.
"...she was unconscious, she had fainted from the sight of her own blood and passed out. It was a very nasty fall."
"May we even know the child's name?"
"No. I am strictly bound by the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement."
"You are not a doctor."
"But there was a doctor present."
Navarro leaned close to him as she murmured swiftly into his ear:
"He is lying kupo."
"I read his body, he is lying about where he was."
"H-how do you know that?!"
"Most people have an innate urge to look to their left when they lie, kupo. He also has an odd habit of rubbing the inside of his left wrist with his right fingers."
"Ahhh yesszh," said Fayne, "you can read body language can't you, that isszh your great sszhkill!"
"Only in battle to know which way the opponent will strike but I suppose it can do good here."
"So," replied Roy, "you could maybe give me a heads up on when someone is lyin'?"
"Mostly, I will do my best kupo."
"So allow me to clarify," said Gerald sternly, "you claim you were nowhere near your office between 3pm and 3:30pm but you are not able to tell us WHERE exactly and you have no one willing to vouch for you as to your whereabouts."
"That is correct," said Brunhart.
"Oh well we can just wrap this case up and go home CLEARLY this sounds a rather convenient excuse to get away with murder."
"I would NEVER harm a child!"
"Then why won't you validate yourself by telling us who you were with?! If you truly are innocent you can clear yourself easily!"
"It is not that simple. I am sorry but I will not break my oath towards doctor-patient confidentiality. If you so incarcerate me from that, then so be it."
"...no further questions, your Honour."
The audience murmured with greater suspicion but the Judge's stern looks around the room kept them silent without using his gavel.
"Does the defence wish to cross-examine?"
"No need your Honour," said Roy firmly, "mister Abernathy has asked all our questions for us, we would lahk to speak to thuh witnesses an' see if we can't compose thuh real picture from this."
"Very well, bailiff take mister Brunhart away."
As the sound of chains clinked off towards the side area Fayne turned harshly towards his colleague with a quiet outrage whilst Gerald Abernathy consulted with his counsel privately.
"What are you DOING?!"
"We can't get anythin' out of him, he clammed up real tight."
"But he sszhaid he wasszh not THERE!"
"We have no proof of that, no evidence cuz if we did we would have this case closed. We have to work on thuh next witnesses an' see whut we can find out."
"I agree," said the moogle, "Brunhart is useless for the moment due to his confidentiality contract, we must find a way elsewhere kupo. Annoying as it is I will respect his wishes."
The first of the witnesses was brought in, one they almost immediately regretted ever meeting. A loud-faced man of pink cheeks, wattled chin and the loudest blue suit they had ever saw in Ivalice strode up towards the witness stand. His movements jangled like a percussive maintenance, golden cufflinks shaped like buckles along with his buckled belt as he pursed his lips into a duckface. Roy leaned away upon recognising him faintly before the Judge simply barked:
"Witness, state your name and occupation."
"WHAT IS THIS?!" his voice boomed even louder than the judge's. "WHAT SORT OF QUESTION IS THAT TO ASK ME?"
"THAT SORT OF QUESTION YOU NEED NEVER ASK ROBBIE BUCKLER, HEIR TO THE BUCKLER THRONE AND PROPRIETOR OF ALL THINGS BUCKLED! ROBBIE BUCKLER CAME HERE ON GOODWILL TO ASSIST IN A COURT DRAMA, AND IS VERY BUSY ALREADY! YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL TO ROBBIE BUCKLER!"
"Witness, please address yourself properly, name and occupation."
"ARE YOU DEAF?"
"We are now," murmured Roy.
"ROBBIE BUCKLER HAS INTRODUCED HIMSELF ALREADY, TO EVERYONE AT THE PARTY ALMOST, WERE YOU NOT ATTENDING SIR?"
"You WILL address me as 'your Honour', NOT sir now would you PLEASE introduce yourself by just name and occupation?!"
"...WHAT A STRANGE MAN YOU ARE!"
"DON'T...push me, you are in a court of law and you will adhere to our standard NOW! Name. Occupation, or else I will have you thrown into the cell for contempt of court!"
"WHAT CONTEMPT IS THERE AGAINST ROBBIE BUCKLER HIMSELF? WHO WOULD DARE HAVE SUCH CONTEMPT?"
"What a stupid affair," murmured Navarro.
"S'lahk watchin' a gun fire at a hurricane," replied Roy.
"Hmhmhmhmhm...how very apt."
"Your Honour," said Abernathy out loud, "allow me. Sir, could you please introduce yourself formally to those from outside our fair region who have not had the...pleasure of knowing you?"
The witness blinked like a frog as he smacked his chapped lips.
"IN THAT CASE ROBBIE BUCKLER SHALL GLADLY INTRODUCE HIS LEGACY, A MAN OF ERRANT CAUSE AND ABSOLUTE WILL OVER ALL THINGS BUCKLED! ROBBIE BUCKLER IS A NAME YOU CAN TRUST, A PRIDE TAKEN WITH EVERY STRAP BUCKLED DOWN TIGHT ACROSS OUR FAIR REGION!"
"So, in short, you are Robbie Buckler and you are the owner of the Buckler brand emporium of buckles."
"THAT IS CORRECT, FOR THOSE OF YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION!"
"How could we not?" said Roy rolling his eyes.
"Thank you Abernathy," replied the Judge, "I did not want to have to throw our first witness to the dogs already. Now, mister Buckler, you are here because you claimed to have seen mister Brunhart around the time of the murder."
"YES ROBBIE BUCKLER HAS WITNESSED THIS. BUT HE DID NOT HAVE THE CHANCE TO SPEAK WITH ROBBIE BUCKLER AS ROBBIE BUCKLER VERY MUCH NEEDED TO CONDUCT SOME BUSINESS WITH HIM."
"I see. Now, tell us in exact detail what happened between 3pm and 3:30pm."
Roy prepared himself wishing he had earplugs. Then he realised he had his nanos but then realised even worse he had to pay attention groaning silently with hand upon his forehead.
"ROBBIE BUCKLER HAD BEEN SEARCHING ALL DAY FOR MISTER BRUNHART, FOR HE PROMISED THAT HE WOULD CONDUCT BUSINESS WITH ROBBIE BUCKLER WHILST AT THE CHARITY BALL! IT ALMOST FELT LIKE HE WERE AVOIDING ROBBIE BUCKLER BUT FARAM KNOWS WHY! ROBBIE BUCKLER STAYED IN THE DINNER HALL ENGAGING TO COMMUTE BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE, WHEN HE CAUGHT SIGHT OF MISTER BRUNHART'S PAINTED CLOAK AT THE HALL ENTRANCE! BUT HE HAD LEFT HIS CLOAK BEHIND SO ROBBIE BUCKLER WAITED BESIDE IT HOPING THAT HE WOULD RETURN! ROBBIE BUCKLER HAD NO TIME WAITING AROUND AND HEADED BACK INSIDE THE DINING HALL BUT KEPT NEAR THE ENTRANCE UNTIL HE HEARD MISTER BRUNHART! HE RETURNED TO FIND MISTER BRUNHART HEADING BACK UPSTAIRS TOWARDS HIS OFFICE BUT WOULD NOT HEED ROBBIE BUCKLER!"
Once the entire courtroom had stopped ringing, everybody allowed themselves to savour the peace and quiet that would never come again. Then it was gone again.
"WELL, HAS ROBBIE BUCKLER BEEN OF ASSISTANCE TODAY?!"
"...yes," murmured the Judge gravely, "you have, Robbie Buckler."
"GOOD! ROBBIE BUCKLER DOES NOT LIKE BEING IN A COURTHOUSE, TOO NEW AND MODERN FOR ROBBIE BUCKLER!"
"How is a courthouse modern?!"
"ROBBIE BUCKLER CONDUCTS LAW ON HIS OWN ESTATE WITH HIS OWN TRADITIONAL LAWYERS BY THE BARTER SYSTEM! WE SENTENCED A MOOGLE TO EXILE FOR STEALING THREE OF ROBBIE BUCKLER'S STRAWBERRIES, ROBBIE BUCKLER KNOWS HOW LAW WORKS! ONE IS AN OFFER, TWO AN ACCIDENT AND THREE IS A THEFT, THAT IS HOW IT WORKS ON ROBBIE BUCKLER'S ESTATE!"
"ENOUGH! Prosecutor I leave him to you."
"Yes your Honour."
Mr. Abernathy faced him once more as they prepared themselves wishing for it to be over.
"Mister Buckler, were you able to speak to mister Brunhart at all?"
"NO, ROBBIE BUCKLER HAS NOT."
"When did you last see him?"
"TODAY, AS HE WAS BEING TAKEN UP TO THE WITNESS STAND!"
"N-no, I mean back on the day when you last saw him."
"BEING TAKEN AWAY BY THE GUARDS!"
"You-...hhhhh, my apologies, let me be more clear, when did you last saw him between the times of 3pm and 3:30pm on the day that the murder happened?"
"AH! ROBBIE BUCKLER SAW HIM CLIMBING THE STAIRS HURRIEDLY AROUND 3:22PM! ROBBIE BUCKLER ALWAYS HAS HIS TIME PERFECTLY MEASURED TO MATCH IVALICIAN STANDARD IN THREE SEPARATE REGIONS!"
He produced from his pocket a gorgeously golden pocket watch with a buckled clasp upon it, weighty enough to crack someone's head with it as it showed all of the constellations for each month within. True to his word it was exact to the time currently as Abernathy grinned succinctly.
"You are never off about your time I see."
"NEVER! ROBBIE BUCKLER IS NEVER NOT PUNCTUAL, IT IS OTHER PEOPLE THAT ARE NOT PUNCTUAL SUCH AS MISTER BRUNHART!"
"Thank you, no further questions your honour."
Roy could already feel the threatening pierce of Garheim's stare upon him knowing he did not want to ask. Gerald consulted privately with his counsel murmuring with surreptitions as the Judge asked reluctantly:
"Does...the defence...have anything they wish to ask?"
"...your Honour, ah know you'll hate me for this. But ah do."
"Nnnnnrrrrrgh...very well, but make it quick, I would rather like to leave with my ears intact."
"Ahll be merciful. Mister Buckler."
"Why did you need to see mister Brunhart so urgently?"
"ROBBIE BUCKLER HAD A VERY IMPORTANT PRIVATE MATTER THAT WE CANNOT DISCUSS, DO NOT QUESTION ROBBIE BUCKLER! IT IS UNGENTLEMANLY TO PRY INTO ROBBIE BUCKLER'S AFFAIRS AND HAS NO BEARING ON THIS CASE!"
"Uh...whut sort of business does an orphanage have to do with bucklers if ah may ask?"
"ROBBIE BUCKLER'S BUSINESS IS EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS, FOR HE IS THE SOLE SAVIOUR OF ALL GOOD DECENCY IN BUCKLERDOM, THE ONE WHO KEEPS MEN'S PANTS AND WOMEN'S SHOES FIRMLY CLASPED TIGHT AND UPHELD WITHOUT NEED OF EMBARASSMENT!"
"Ah...ah see alrigh' then, when you said you saw mister Brunhart, how did you know it was him?"
"HE WORE HIS PAINTED CLOAK, CLEARLY IT WAS HIM!"
"But did you ever see his face?"
"ROBBIE BUCKLER IS A MAN OF EGALITY, HE HAS NO NEED FOR FACES."
"ROBBIE BUCKLER BELIEVES IN THE FORMALITY OF FACELESS IN CORPORATE, A DAY WHEN ALL BUSINESS SHALL BE CONDUCTED UPON EVERY MAN'S WORD AND NOT WITH THEIR OWN FACE FOR THERE IS TOO MUCH RELIANCE UPON PEOPLE RECOGNISING EACH OTHER'S FACES AS CLEAR IDENTITY, AND FACES ARE MOST DISTRUSTABLE!"
"U-u-u-um...that's not even a word, also that's not whut ah asked, just answer me ONE thing. Did you see mister Brunhart's face?"
"YES, BUT ROBBIE BUCKLER NEVER SPOKE TO HIM AT THE BALL, THIS IS THE PROBLEM THAT ROBBIE BUCKLER FACES WHEN ALL SO MANY FACES ARE AWARE OF HIM, YET NONE WOULD EVER WANT BUSINESS WITH HIM! NOT LIKE THE WORDS OF A CONTRACT THAT NEVER FAILS ROBBIE BUCKLER!"
"ALRIGHT AH GET IT! Let...me be clear, DID YOU...see mister Brunhart's face when he wuz going UPSTAIRS to his office?"
"NO, HOW COULD HE, FOR HIS BACK WAS TURNED TO ROBBIE BUCKLER! LIKE THE MU BEFORE THE ZAGHNAL, ROBBIE BUCKLER KNOWS THE LAW OF ZAGHNAL AND YOU MUST NEVER TURN YOUR BACK TO ONE! OTHERWISE ROBBIE BUCKLER MAY POUNCE UPON YOU, WITH MOST IRREPARABLE HOSTILITY!"
"So, how did you know it wuz even mister Brunhart if all you saw wuz a cloak, but you never saw his face? Ah mean you did say earlier that you saw his cloak hanging up on thuh entrance hall unattended, so that could mean anyone took it!"
"HIS TAIL, ROBBIE BUCKLER NOTICED THAT WHITE TAIL HE HAS ALWAYS DRAGGING BEHIND HIM! VERY UNUSUAL, WONDEFUL PLUMAGE OF PURE WHITE, NOT LIKE THE USUAL ORANGE TUFTS OF NU-MOU TAILS, ROBBIE BUCKLER CAN APPRECIATE A GOOD MAN WHO LOOKS AFTER HIS OWN TAIL! ROBBIE BUCKLER HIMSELF EVEN LOOKS AFTER HIS OWN TAIL!"
Everyone simply blinked with alacrity at his words and Roy almost wanted to ask such a question to it. But the Judge was right on him before he even could:
"DON'T you DARE ask him that MacGregor, we are done here! Bailiff please let Robbie Buckler go before he gives Judge Garheim a brain aneurysm."
"WHAT A GOOD BUSINESS THIS WAS!" said Buckler. "ROBBIE BUCKLER WOULD WISH TO GIVE YOU HIS BUSINESS CARD BUT .UNFORTUNATELY ROBBIE BUCKLER HAS GIVEN THEM ALL AWAY AND HE CARRIES NO MORE THAN FIFTEEN CARDS FOR THEY ARE NEVER MORE THAN A DIVISIVE OF THREE!"
"BE QUIET! GO, NEVER DARKEN MY COURTROOM AGAIN!"
Without another word the court reigned in silence once more as Judge Garheim leaned back with a deep heavy exhale as no one dared to speak anything. No one even dared cough for fear of what he would do to them until he spoke once more with hands clasped together calmly.
"Now that my ears have stopped ringing...why don't we call in the next witness? Bailiff, bring in the second witness!"
As the bailiff went back towards the witness rooms, Roy could not help but turn towards Fayne asking:
"Where's FG an' Berniere, they found thuh body first shouldn't they be more important?"
"Witnesszhesszh are brought in order of being resszhieved or notified of during the crime. The firsszht witnesszh to sszhpeak sszhall be brought forth firsszht."
"But...FG found thuh body first."
"But he did NOT inform the guardsszh firsszht, that wasszh apparently Robbie Buckler."
"...man that don't even make sense."
Either way their next witness was someone they didn't recognise, except Fayne who noted the large red-brimmed hat and gorgeously white fur with red lips upon the edge of her snout. Her hat covered most of her face as the Judge said:
"Witness, state your name and occupation."
"My name is Madison DuClare. I am a business owner in Archades."
"Hm...normally we would not allow such haberdashery in our court for obscuring the face, could you please remove your hat?"
"Obscurity creates intrigue, desire...mystery."
She lifted just enough of her hat to reveal gorgeous baby blue eyes sparkling as Roy resisted the urge to gasp. Fayne too was rather struck by her beauty as she smiled winking at them before she continued.
"I am certain you understand the same thing too, your Honour. There must be plenty of admirers upon you, what with that imposing helmet upon you so that none may see your face."
"My helm is matter-of-fact," said the lawman ruling, "not a token of haute couture."
DuClare leaned forwards with her hands covered in gorgeously sleek gloves that slid straight up along her arm the elbow.
"And here I thought a hume as dignified as you would know plenty about haute couture."
"Hmmph...well, whatever you may believe is up to you, what was your purpose at the banquet?"
"What else my dear? To be a benefactor of such a great philanthropist that he is...hmhmhm...despite all of his harsh troubles of the past few years."
"And what troubles are that may I ask?"
"Well that of his wife's divorce and everything, terribly messy, news remains ardent still amongst Archades' cornershops and we are all very envious of his great and magnanimous dignity to help those poor children."
"I see...were you a frequent donator?"
"Actually no, I only just started personally. My former employer before I took over the business I am at which specialises in only the utmost exquisite ingredients for the accessorising of fashionista, donated in her name and now I myself carry on the role as promise to her. I never break a promise, and here I was expecting a rather blase affair, my first time at the orphanarium and everything. I fear our donation may come to a bitter end after all this state of affairs. I would not want to suspect him after hearing all that I have heard but, well...I feel my duty call upon me to better society as it is."
"Do not worry," said Mr. Abernathy, "should mister Brunhart become unavailable to continue running the orphanarium we have legal standing powers to assist it."
A tender smile came across her face but Navarro could only cock her head with ponderment at what this lady was. Judge Garheim however simply allowed her to begin her purpose being here.
"Tell us what you saw between the hours of 3pm and 3:30pm, madame DuClare."
"Gladly. May I have some water first, I am rather parched from all the excitement."
"Very well. Bailiff."
She waited for a glass of water and softly sipped it with utmost confidence, a most startlingly cool-headed woman despite where she was as she sighed with half her drink gone leaving a touch of lipstick.
"Ahhhh...lovely, thank you your Honour now...here is what I saw. I was on my way to the library, for I heard that the orphanarium had a most wondrous collection of books and I was curious of their tastes. I am not sure what reading level the children are at but suffice to say I was most pleased by such a marvellously humble collection. As I slowly made my way back, I heard quite a commotion from upstairs and wondered what had occurred as I strode myself on and saw the patron himself. Brunhart had bumped into a lady by accident, looking rather fraught with something as he guided her to the downstairs bathroom, silly little thing seemed lost. I saw him very clearly heading back upstairs towards his office afterwards, not stopping for one moment even after a very loud hume had shouted out to him. That is all I saw."
With a courteous bow of small apology, the Judge nodded at this concise testimony frankly glad to have someone of a much quieter tone as he called on Mr. Abernathy.
"The prosecution has the floor."
"Thank you your honour," said Gerald, "now, miss DuClare, you said he had a confrontation with a woman?"
"Yes," replied Madison, "I heard as I turned the corner, who I believe was calling out that she got lost and was desperately looking for the bathroom. Silly girl."
"And then mister Brunhart ran back upstairs is that right?"
"And you are certain it was him?"
"Absolutely, I never forget a face, it helps when you are a haute society business of Archades after all...especially not one so harrowed and runaround like his was as he stormed straight back upstairs without even acknowledging someone shouting at him."
"That would be mister Buckler...do you know what time this happened?"
"I believe it was...3:21pm, yes, I remember it was on my pocket watch."
She offered up her pocket watch of yet another golden gorgeous object that also provided the correct time at hand, not as fanciful as Mr. Buckler's but still of worthy value whilst Roy murmured:
"Does everybody got a fuckin' watch at these gigs?!"
"Yes," said the moogle beside him, "it is very high society to have a pocket watch on you, kupo."
"Whut if it hadn't shown thuh correct tahm though?"
"The pocket watches are powered with magicite, they cannot be wound to give the wrong time nor are they tampered with so easily."
"Seriously?! Fuck, they're pretty reliable huh?"
"Precisely, a witness with a pocket watch is as credible to their timeline as a coroner's would be."
"No further questions," said Mr. Abernathy.
With open silence as his invitation Roy stepped forwards slightly to bring forth his own cross-interrogation.
"Ahll say one thing, you certainly dress better than most socialites did at the Chocogala."
"Hmhmhmhm, well, your keen eye is most certainly not lacking I must say."
"Definitely better colours, ah seen sum hideous choices back over in Archades."
"Clearly not of my good store dear sir, tell me, do you have need to wear that old woollen thing?"
He looked down at his grey lawyer suit with a tender grin.
"I think a fine upstanding gentleman such as you would look good in a sharp baby-blue, something lighter to bring out those strange rings around your eyes."
"Heh, ah appreciate it but this is a court room not a sales convention."
"Ah, of course...my apologies please ask away my good gentleman."
The Judge said nothing of this but his look towards Roy said everything as he stood firm to attention.
"You are a recent benefactor of mister Brunhart's estate, is that correct?"
"That is correct."
"May ah ask, why were you so eager to see thuh library?"
"What self-respecting nu-mou doesn't love a good read? I simply wanted to see this man's tastes since I was giving my money to him, perhaps even make a few recommendations from myself upon a good cultural impresse, you can tell a lot of things about a person by the books they read."
"Well...that may be one thing, bu-"
"Tell me, what books do you read good sir?"
"Uh...w-well uh, really thuh last thing ah read wuz a religious scripture."
"Ohhh a pious person are we? How noble. That to me speaks of a certain rather single-minded passion towards one objective...regardless of anything else."
Her tender smile belied a certain passive-aggressiveness that rubbed Roy up the wrong way. Navarro could not help quipping as an aside:
"She has a point, kupo-"
"Mah next question," interrupted Roy, "is as to how you recognised mister Brunhart? Did you see his face?"
"Clear as daylight, wearing his cloak et al painted gorgeously with the hands of many children...that he so...cared for."
A small look of sadness twitched in her eye but nothing could be made of it. Navarro tried to look for any signs but shook her head firmly to Roy as DuClare finished her statement.
"He raced himself back up towards the staircase with white tail flashed behind him well-groomed to perfection, I daresay he can move very fast for a male of his age."
"...hm, ah see. No further questions."
From bad to worse, Roy felt as if every new witness came up with something more incriminating as madame DuClare was excused, curtseying after drinking the other half of her glass empty. The bailiff took her back to her waiting room as the crowd turned farther with dissent, their lack of confidence for Mr. Brunhart's innocence showing clearly all the more as the atmosphere turned heavy upon the utahraptor's counsel. The Judge only spoke once the people's voice had died down.
"Two witnesses so far have stated clearly they saw mister Brunhart heading upstairs. Whilst Robbie Buckler, egregious as he may be, was able to provide a certain point of time, miss DuClare has confirmed the face beneath the cloak. The only reason I am continuing with the rest of our witnesses is out of respect for the institution of law, so we will not waste time further. Bailiff, bring in Berniere Lavant."
Roy turned nervous upon seeing the moogle knight walk solemnly towards the stand as if he were the one accused, the bailiff taking him by a guarded hand before kneeling at the side of the witness box. The moogle looked rather awkward showing only his ears above the pulpit Pressing a button on the lower half, the platform Berniere stood on slowly raised itself by mechanical workings underneath the witness stand until his head was now in full view, his hands behind his back sternly awaiting the Judge to call on him.
"Would the witness please state his name and occupation?"
"...my name is Berniere Lavant, kupo. I am the leader of Clan Herne."
"You are a regular benefactor is that correct? I've heard of your clan with great appeal amongst the courts in Archades."
"We are of some repute," he said calmly forced, "but my clan is not here at the moment for they are busy with some more important duties. I however kept my promise towards an annual pilgrimage to supply my profit earnings to the orphanage kupo. Some birds come back to roost with greater opportunity."
"Lahk thuh dove with an olive branch," said Roy smiling.
"You...might say that, I am not sure what you mean but yes, kupo."
"I see," said the Judge, "so that means you know Mr. Brunhart well?
"Yes, I do. I was a former occupant of the orphanage and was raised by him, kupo. He...well, one might say he is like a father figure to me."
"If I may ask, since you are seemingly more close to him than others, how long have you lived at the orphanage?"
"Since I was born...literally."
A look of crestfallen came to Navarro's eyes as no one dared say anything, the Judge gently rubbing his helmet feeling confused by this statement.
"I...don't really follow, what do you mean by literally?"
Berniere sighed bitterly with annoyance, coldly staring at the judge a good ten feet above him.
"My mother gave me away, I was an unwanted pregnancy and she left me on his doorstep, is that enough melodrama for your daytime opera kupo?! Or should I tell you all about my childhood fears as well?!"
"There is no need for that," warned Judge Garheim, "we are simply here to ascertain your relationship with Mr. Brunhart."
"Mr. Brunhart is a kind and wonderful man who has done NOTHING but selflessly devote his life to aiding children around Ivalice! I do not think how you can POSSIBLY accuse him of murdering a child, that he himself had raised, it is impossible! There is NO MOTIVE-"
"Mr. Lavant, please control yourself or you shall be forcefully removed."
"...fine. I will play along with this foolish court for now if you so wish it-"
"That is enough! Now, tell us what you saw."
The lone moogle composed himself with a clearing of his throat, focusing on his memory as he softly closed his eyes before recollecting.
"I was heading across the hall from the ballroom to the upstairs area, which is on the way to the upstairs restroom kupo. It was around this time, I believe 3:25pm or later, that I saw someone run down towards me from Brunhart's office. It was mister Campbell, he had come screaming with cries of murder that a child had been killed inside Brunhart's office kupo. I could not stop myself from running down the hall hoping that I could do something...that maybe he might have been wrong and that maybe there was still a chance to save him......he was not breathing. I am sure everyone else at the party heard me from inside that office too so I have......I have nothing more to say, kupo."
His brief but concise testimony was both a blessing and a curse for Roy, knowing that while it did not further accuse Brunhart any it also did not help him at all, the Judge nodding firmly asking:
"Mister Abernathy, would you care to cross-examine?"
"Gladly," said Gerald, "my first question to you mister Lavant is, why did you not use the downstairs bathroom since it was near?"
"I don't trust that one," said the moogle, "I was in that place for twelve years and the sink taps never worked. I hate people who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom and I very well do not wish to be one of those. Mister Brunhart, for all his eccentricities was at least a formal man who knew how to clean himself properly despite his insistence to not wear gloves, kupo."
"He never wears gloves, all the other staff members do but he is the only one not to ever wear them, even when out gardening he never wears them. Hmhmhm...he...he once told me when I was a moglet that the reason why, was so that he never missed a chance to feel the warmth of a child's rosy cheek blistering with joy. He always kept his hands clean because of that kupo."
Berniere smiled with an odd blissful look, the happiest he had been for a brief instant before his face had fallen once more realising on where he stood. Mr. Abernathy simply nodded allowing this reprieve before continuing.
"Very well. But, before mister Campbell approached you, did you notice anything else unusual or perhaps see mister Brunhart's whereabouts?"
"No. I did not see him other than around 3:10pm when he ran upstairs to see if someone was alright."
"Ah yes, the little girl with the bad fall."
"...little? No she, she was not little kupo."
"She was a maid, she came down awfully sick with something I think it must have been something allergic."
"Wait," said Roy, "um, forgive me for steppin' in on your uh-"
"Mister MacGregor," demanded Garheim, "unless you have something to object to then you shall wait until it is your turn to cross-examine."
"Oh...righ' s-sorry mister Abernathy."
"That's quite alright," said Gerald politely, "I understand considering that mister Lavant was the one who practically BEGGED you to be mister Brunhart's defence, is that not correct?
"Y-yes," replied the moogle, "I...I want to apologise for the egregious display, kupo. That was...unbecoming of a knight."
"It is understandable concerning the circumstances, but please respect that we lawmen are simply trying to form duty and reason within a natural raw chaos that is the aftermath of a criminal action. Now, continuing my line of inquiry, you do confirm that mister Brunhart left the main hall around 3:10pm to where?"
"Upstairs," recalled Berniere, "I could tell he was off to the medical centre we have on the upper floor kupo."
"I see. No further questions."
Roy stepped up in turn as he began his own questioning, already having some ideas of what to ask with hand on desk firmly leaning forwards.
"Mister Lavant...tell me about this maid you saw."
"Because it's very odd that mister Brunhart would tell us that he wuz helpin' a little kid when in fact it wuz one of his own maids, ah'd lahk to clarify this."
"...why do you want to know?"
"Because ah asked you."
"I do not think that is relevant kupo."
"Mister Lavant, ahm tryin' to form a picture of whut really happened, please do not fight me on this."
The Judge calmly brought his gavel towards the moogle as if casting a deathly spell.
"You will answer the defence's questions, considering you were the one to first call him to this case I think you should be a little more reasonable."
"You are in NO position to call anything reasonable...'your Honour'."
Berniere's voice darkened as it dripped with stared with eyes piercing into Garheim's helm trying to stand him down, insolent to the very bitter end as the Judge did not move one inch returning the confrontational favour. Everyone felt a sharp icyness upon the room seeing moogle versus hume with fingers curled upon creaking wood threatening to break from such a tense atmosphere. Almost they expected a fight then and there before Roy decided to play peacemaker, knowing there was now unbreakable silence wrought between them.
"Mister Lavant, just answer this one question for me. Wuz thuh maid you saw, hurrying upstairs with Brunhart in tow, a hume with long red hair?"
"Yes," said the moogle, "but it was more medium-length, somewhere near to her shoulders kupo. I do not remember much else other than that."
"When you first entered thuh room where Joshua wuz, did you find anythin' unusual or out of place inside that office?"
"...there was one thing."
"It was something I had not noticed until my memory started clarifying for me...something about the room was now different from its usual state and I had been pondering on it ever since then to help this-...the plant."
"The plant that Brunhart has, it was an old gift from a previous benefactor who now makes his business as a farm rancher kupo. It had been placed in another spot."
"I KNEW it," murmured Fayne eagerly.
"Where wuz it normally placed?" asked Roy.
"Normally it would be at the corner right next to the entrance kupo. When you close the door it accentuates the lighting of that corner very neatly as it had always been rather bare, but when I got there it had been moved to near the bookcase. I saw nobody else within that room but me...and that boy...h-he had no reason to be in this."
"......no further questions your Honour."
He gave him peace allowing Berniere to walk away without a single word, his shoulders fallen heavily upon him as he gazed towards Navarro with utmost bleak despair. She stepped down from the defence stand to reach out a hand to him in passing briefly as he softly grabbed hers in turn. But the moment he grasped her fingers his eyes turned wide with horror as suddenly he broke down in tears before the entire court, snatching his hand away from her to cover his face.
No one said anything, Navarro backed away slowly to where Roy still stood as he shook his head with deep sense of pity. Once Berniere had been taken away fully by the guard bailiff, the Judge cleared his throat to dissipate some of the room's atmosphere slightly before he spoke thusly.
"We only have one more witness to this case before we must call our verdict. Bailiff, when you are ready, bring us mister James Campbell."
Alright, thought Roy to himself, this is it, FG's got to have spotted something different, something that we all missed, there's nothing I have that really fits who did it so don't fuck this up for me now FG. I don't want this man's death on our conscience anymore than you do, I heard something on that omni-tool before you cut me off...so let's hear it.
Once that familiar brown raptor had walked into the court, Roy almost felt a smirk come across his face at an old fantasy of his. No longer appropriate but he found it odd that the moment he finally managed to get FG inside a court upon the stand to be judged, was as a witness not a suspect. He suddenly felt awkward, as did FG seeing him upon the defence stand but also noticing Fayne and Navarro standing next to him as he struggled not to look completely surprised by this.
"Witness," began the Judge once more, "state your name and occupation."
"...uhm...o-okay, alright, my name is James Campbell. I'm the leader of Clan Koridai."
"Hmmm...and what was the purpose of your clan being here exactly?
"My friends Fayne and Baldwin, from Lea Monde, they wanted to come up and donate like they do every year at the orphanage. They come from the grand cathedral and they asked us for help escorting them."
"And where is your clan now?
"Well...Fayne and Navarro are over there on counsel, I dunno what's really happening quite frankly."
"Objection!" cried Abernathy. "Your honour, I feel somewhat suspicious we now have a witness and two members of a legal counsel on the same clan."
"Hey I didn't ask them to! I was in the police station all night and then I got moved to some new place I got no idea why they're on the defence's side we never even met all that week!"
"Is this true counsel?"
The glare of the Judge from within his helmet was penetrating but they had no reason to lie as Navarro took her cue.
"Yes, kupo. Mister Campbell has not been in any contact with us since the day of the murder under guard at the precinct. We offered our help to mister MacGregor being that he required both dignitaries of a religious authority and a militaristic authority, of which me and Father Smithee are capable to be representing of."
"I admit, I find this to be a rather ill omen. But since I know very easily that no one has spoken to any of our witnesses from outside of our case you will be allowed to cross-examine your leader. However..."
He leaned forwards with clawed gauntlets scraping across the varnish of his ruthless podium.
"If I so much as sniff a possible conspiracy amongst you I will render your counsel null and void...is that clear?"
"Perfectly, your Honour kupo."
Roy tried not to quiver at the sound of the lawman's voice before the inquisitor turned towards James with his hands tented before him. FG felt like wanting to confess to every single thing he had ever done, were he about ten years younger.
"Mister Campbell, you were first to find the victim's body correct?"
"That's 'your Honour', not sir."
"S-s-sorry, sir, your Honour."
"...for someone apparently known as leader you have very little confidence in yourself."
"Sorry I'm not good in courts...your Honour, I can't fight legal things very well, I'm a warrior not a lawyer."
"Hm, very well. Describe what you witnessed between 3pm and 3:30pm."
The raptor steadily composed himself as he began clearing his throat taking slowly with his memory.
"I was on my way to the bathroom upstairs, the downstairs one was kinda iffy so I didn't wanna use it. I got upstairs, and I heard a loud thud from the office down the hall. I thought someone had fallen over so I called out for mister Brunhart, thinking maybe I dunno that he was nearby, he was the only guy I could think of so...I opened the door...and...I saw the kid just lying there against the desk. He wasn't moving, and he had this letter opener sticking right out of his chest like really gone deep. I called for help and ran before I found Berniere at the top of the staircase so I told him what happened wanting him to call the guards. Then he ran to the room as if he didn't believe me so I just ran down to the dining hall and screamed the place down. That's all I did."
A firm nod from the Judge seeing nothing out of order as the prosecutor stood first.
"You said you heard a loud thud from inside the room, how far away were you?"
"I...I don't know I think maybe about three doors down?"
"I see, can you describe the noise?"
"It DEFINITELY sounded like something heavy fell onto the floor."
"Like a child's body?"
"...I...I wouldn't know what that really sounds like thankfully...it sounded a lot heavier to me like something solid, but, I'm not sure. I just went in and saw the kid then I ran back out."
"Why did you call out for mister Brunhart exactly?"
"I...he was the only guy I could name thinking maybe he was upstairs and might have fallen over, I saw him leave the dining hall before then so I just assumed."
"Did you ever see mister Brunhart again in all that time or even upstairs?"
"...no. No I didn't."
Navarro's eyes widened as she saw something she could not believe. She said nothing however as the prosecution made its rest before Roy was up next.
"Mister Campbell, when you entered thuh room, did you notice anything out of place?"
"N-no, just the kid's body."
"Berniere said in thuh initial guard's report that you ran up to him screaming about a killer in thuh building. Did you see anyone else?
The moogle stiffened her lip fiercely as James finished his statement, pulling Roy in close with a whisper.
"I just assumed there was, and that people were in danger."
"He's lying, kupo."
"Wh-whut?!" gasped Roy discreetly.
"...ask him again if anyone was in the room."
"Are you absolutely sure you saw no one else?"
"Yes!" cried FG. "There was...no one else in that room what else do I have to tell you?!"
"What is he playing at kupo?!" snarled the moogle.
"How do you know he's lying?" murmured Roy.
"His eyes...they blink left when he lies, I've seen him done this before back when we first met. Press him again but not too obvious, ask him about other things."
"Did you perhaps notice sumthin' inside thuh room, perhaps sum object out of place?"
"Wh-what are you saying?!" cried FG. "Why are you two whispering to each other I told you I only saw the kid, there was nobody else in the room!"
"...ah never asked if there wuz any PERSON inside thuh room...I asked about anyTHING else in thuh room."
James' eyes blanched suddenly as he quickly struggled to catch himself.
"I-...I-i-i didn't mean, not anyone or anyTHING in the room, jus-"
"WUZ there anybody else in the room?"
"Wh-why are you trying to pull words out of me?!"
"Why are you panicking? If there really wuz nobody else in the room then you wouldn't be so flustered."
"LOOK there wasn't anyone in that room but me, when I opened that door I saw nothing else, you got it?!"
"You're being defensive...James, are you hidin' something from me?"
"The fuck's your problem I'm trying to help you dammit!"
"And I am here to search for thuh truth no matter whut it might uncover, so don't you ever lie to me on this stand!"
"OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE! YOU NEVER FUCKING BELIEVE ME YOU SHIT, I SWEAR TO GOD I SAW NOBODY ELSE!"
"WITNESS!" roared the Judge. "Cease your tone now or you shall be forcibly removed."
"I'M SORRY, your Honour but HE just keeps riding on my ass about this!"
"ENOUGH! Mister MacGregor, you are dangerously close to badgering the witness are you absolutely certain you want to pursue this?"
Roy stared down upon FG as did Navarro coldly glaring. The raptor could not handle both of their piercing gaze as he gulped silently, a slight shake of his head as if almost pleading them not to before Roy turned to Judge Garheim.
"Yes. Ah want to pursue this. Mister Campbell! Ah believe you are not bein' truthful with us."
"...you heard a thud in thuh office, remember? That wuz why you went, now it stands to reason that if there wuz a noise that would mean SUMBODY wuz in there! You claimed that when you walked in, you only saw thuh boy, is that right?"
"So WHUT made that noise?"
"I DUNNO, MAYBE SOMETHING FELL!"
"Wuz anythin' knocked over, moved, replaced?!"
"Then...whut...made that noise Campbell?"
The black raptor slammed his fists hard upon his desk with vicious stare as he startled James slightly.
"I DON'T KNOW!"
"YOU ARE HIDIN' SUMTHIN' FROM THIS COURT! You saw NO ONE leave that room yet you heard a noise where Joshua wuz found dead which can only mean one of TWO things! Either it wuz Joshua who just got killed meanin' sumbody HAD to be in that room to have done it, OR sumbody wuz hidin' in that room after Joshua wuz killed an' you never saw them escape, which ah find very hard to believe."
It was then that James cursed Roy silently for his stubborn arrogance, biting his lip fiercely as he shook with frenzy clenching his fists. He shook his head bitterly trying to scare him off, pleading with his eyes not to pursue this. But he knew that Roy was the most stubborn motherfucker in the universe, besides himself.
"I-i...m-m-maybe...maybe I never even heard a noise, maybe I just imagined it!"
"BULLSHIT!" roared Roy. "YOU are thuh only one to ever mention that noise an' you EXPLICITLY told us that you did, there wuz NO ONE ELSE who heard that noise because YOU were thuh closest one to it an' THAT wuz why you went to that office, you had NO OTHER REASON to go in there!"
"ALRIGHT FINE, FUCK IT FINE I SAW HIM! I SAW HIM OKAY, I SAW MISTER BRUNHART, HE WAS IN THAT OFFICE WITH ME!"
"I SAW HIM! HE WAS HIDING IN THAT ROOM SOMEHOW HE SNUCK UP BEHIND ME AND SLAMMED INTO ME WHILST HE RAN OUT THE DOOR, YOU HAPPY NOW?! YOU FUCKING HAPPY NOW YOU STUBBORN-AS-FUCK SHIT?!"
The audience began gasping riled up with sudden shock, frightful of this revelation as James began to sniff back tears of rage amidst the clamouring outrage of the court. The Judge's hammer resonated like the force of Mjollnir as he bellowed out:
"ORDER! ORDER IN THE COURT!"
The crowd died down into submission as he leaned forwards with a terrifying quietness.
"...mister Campbell...are you absolutely certain that it was mister Brunhart you saw exit the office?"
"Y-y-yes...yes it was...I'm...I'm sorry Roy...I-i-i'm sorry but it was...it was him."
"No," murmured Roy, "n-no, it...you've got to be joking."
"I KNOW IT WAS HIM! HE HAD HIS CLOAK ON HIM ALL PAINTED UP WITH HIS TAIL ALL WHITE BEHIND HIM, I SAW IT FLASHING AT ME BEFORE HE SHUT ME IN THAT OFFICE! I tried to open it and get after him but he slammed the door right in my face and knocked me on the fucking head with the doorknob! He was gone by the time I got up and went into some other door someplace and I couldn't...find him, I'm...I'm sorry."
Silence reigned the court for those few minutes as Roy shook his head sorrowfully. He could see no way out of this, a lost cause as Fayne and Navarro looked at him with pity finding no conclusive reasoning behind it all.
"How...could he have hidden in that room kupo?"
"The plant," murmured Fayne.
"The...the plant I wasszh...complaining about, remember we sszhaw it had been moved, the ring indent behind the door? If I could have hidden behind that door sszho could...he...hoh godsszh..."
The Judge nodded firmly upon hearing this full testimony as he said to James on the stand:
"Mister Campbell...I understand that you want to protect a man who you thought was good. But he is a criminal and all criminals must be punished. Your attempt to obstruct justice will be met with harshly, following a penalty to your clan."
"I-i-i wasn't sure about it!" he cried in defence. "I thought, I thought maybe it was another nu-mou, s-somebody else even but the more I thought about it, it...couldn't have been anyone else."
"In that case, we will adjourn. Bailiff, take mister Campbell away and bring in mister Brunhart once more."
The guard took James away with a mournful look upon his face, regretful eyes looking to Roy for an apology as he sympathised in return. His head went in his hands on the desk as he shook his head with Navarro beside him saying:
"You did everything you could, kupo. But when the matter of the fact is that there was nothing but the murder by itself, then there truly is no other way to solve this puzzle."
"N-no...that...it can't be, it fuckin' shouldn't be why would he do this? Berniere told me, he BEGGED me for his innocence."
"The heart oft-cloudsszh the mind in judgement," replied Fayne, "all too easszhily can we complicate the two."
"He wuz so sure of it...he knew, i-it felt lahk he knew deep down inside that Brunhart couldn't do it."
"None of usszh can believe it...that isszh what makesszh thisszh murder all too gruesszhome."
With heavy sigh he could do nothing as Brunhart was dragged back in, feeling the atmosphere of the place instantly tell him what his verdict would be. His hands shook, tears bitterly down his cheeks as he shook his head towards Roy. No one said anything as he was taken up towards the witness stand but Roy slowly pulled out something from his pocket. A small golden coin, not gil but of something else entirely emblazoned by an odd set of curved lines and the letter L, rubbing it in his hands with one finger stroking along the front as he squeezed it tightly.
"Mister Brunhart," began the Judge, "you are aware of the charges before you?"
"Y-yes," said Matthias weakly. "I am."
"Then you know truly that we have come to a verdict regarding your fate on this very act. Whatever you claim now will mean nothing for there can be no other suspect in this terrible crime but one who stands before me. Matthias Brunhart...do you accept your judgement?"
A flash of green and mottled-white the height of a child flew into the room and shoved the bailiff out of the way and grabbed Brunhart by the leg ruthlessly, screaming with hot cheeks glistening as the intruder roared with defiance.
"I WON'T LET YOU!"
"YOU DIDN'T DO IT! I KNOW YOU DIDN'T, PLEASE DON'T TAKE HIM FROM MEEEEE!"
"WITNESS!" said the Judge demanding. "Get back in your designated chamber, you are within a court of law!"
"WHAT LAW IS THIS?! YOU WILL SENTENCE A MAN OF GOOD WILL TO DEATH, HE DIDN'T KILL JOSHUA! HE DIDN'T KILL HIM!"
"GUARDS, TAKE HIM AWAY!"
"I KNOW YOU DIDN'T DO IT PAPA, I KNOW YOU DIDN'T! WHY WON'T YOU TELL THEM THE TRUTH!?"
Brunhart said nothing as he cast his shoulders sullenly, downwards with a heaving weight as he shook his head remorsefully. But Berniere was insistent as he snarled up to him:
"I know...I-i know why you won't speak kupo. You can't hold this silence forever, who will look after her?! Who will look after her, when HE takes her away and there is NOTHING SHE CAN DO!? WHAT'S THE POINT, WHEN YOU LET HIM WIN WITH HER HAND IN BONDAGE, AND YOU LOSE EVERY-G-GET OFF ME!"
Two armed guards from the near corridor rushed in and suddenly grabbed Berniere by the arms. But the knight refused to let go, grappling onto Brunhart's tail as he tugged fiercely.
"NOOO! NOOOOOOOOO PAPAAAAAAAA!"
"YOU ARE IN CONTEMPT OF COURT," roared Garheim, "YOU WILL BE PENALISED FOR THIS!"
"THIS SYSTEM IS IN CONTEMPT, KUPO! YOUR STUPID WORTHLESS SYSTEM IS THIS HOW YOU WANT THIS?! IS IT?!"
Squeezing tightly onto the tail, Berniere turned towards Roy screaming with fury in his eyes as the tail was pulled out from underneath the prison robe. Black-brushed tips became scrunched thickly between the moogle's fingers as the nu-mou grabbed on tight to the witness stand to prevent himself from falling.
"I TRUSTED YOU! I BEGGED YOU TO HELP ME YOU WORTHLESS FUCKING SHIT LIZARD!"
"THAT IS ENOUGH KUPO!" roared Navarro. "THIS IS NOT BECOMING OF A KNIGHT HOW DARE YOU INSULT HIM WHEN HE DEFENDED YOUR FOSTER FATHER'S INNOCENCE!"
"FUCK YOU! YOU'RE MY FRIEND AND YOU BARELY ACKNOWLEDGE THIS PAIN INSIDE ME! YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT ME, OR ANY OF YOUR FRIENDS UNLESS THEY HAVE FEATHERS KUPO!"
"SHUT UP! STOP GRABBING AT MISTER BRUNHART'S TAIL LIKE A PITIFUL CHILD AND ACCEPT OUR FATE KUPO!"
Eventually the guards managed to tear him off from mister Brunhart with a few black hairs falling from Berniere's fingers much to the nu-mou's wincing pain as he said nothing. In the midst of screaming as the moogle knight was removed, Roy could not take his eyes off of Brunhart's tail as something clicked inside of him, whilst the Judge readied his sentencing as the screams began to fade.
"Now that we are done with a most unbecoming knight I am prepared to pass sentence. As I was saying, with all the evidence that there is, there is no refute to be made in your defence anymore so I will bring mercy upon you in my swiftness. I hope that the Gods can grant you the same-"
Never had a voice so deep had echoed almost booming across the entire room, resonating at least three times before they all stared down upon Roy with finger out fully from his left hand in accusation. His body surged with inner strength pulsating through to his very clawtip as he stood rigid before the court like a bold warrior at the gates.
"Wh-what are you doing?!" cried Gerald. "What did you jus-"
"WHAT IN GODS NAME IS IT NOW?!" roared the Judge interrupting.
"YOUR HONOUR WAIT!" replied Roy. "AH HAVE PROOF! SUMTHIN' THAT CONTRADICTS ALL OF OUR WITNESSES' TESTIMONIES!"
"Wh-WHAT?!" shrieked Abernathy with fright from his counsel. "Wh-you-...HOW?! WHY have evidence and bring this up NOW before the sentence, that's impossible! We have all our evidence logged, none of it contradicts any of our witnesses' statements, if you have evidence upon you that is hidden then it is NOT admissible in court, YOU KNOW THAT!"
"You're right," said Roy with smug excitement, "ah don't have any evidence upon me, an' ah do know ah can't just suddenly pull out sum dumb shit because that would be illegal ah mean...come on who thuh fuck would do that?! But ah do know ONE person that does hold legal evidence in this very courtroom!"
"...mister Matthias Brunhart HIMSELF!"
Shocking outcries from the audience rippled like tidal waves of burning oil as Roy pointed fiercely towards the nu-mou, the Judge's gavel slamming with thunderous outcry down upon the podium.
"Mister MacGregor, what in the name of FARAM are you drivelling on about?!"
"Mister Matthias Brunhart...could you please show thuh court your tail?"
"I-i...beg your pardon?!" asked Matthias.
"Indulge me fer a minute, it might just save your life, show thuh court your tail righ' here."
Nervously he lifted his tail up high enough to show the court, a prodigious length of 17 inches of thick pale smooth fur with bristling black hairs rabidly crisscrossed upon the top of it. Gerald Abernathy realised with shock upon his face taken aback at this.
"WHA-...h-h-how did I even MISS that?!"
"Because nobody thought," said Roy, "to even look at thuh suspect himself. No one knew, because nobody even mentioned it, not even mister Brunhart an' not even me so ah ask him now, mister Brunhart...why is your tail black when everybody else we spoke to said it wuz white?!"
"W-well," said Brunhart nervously, "I was playing with the children as you could see from when I had my painted cloak on and, hmhmhm...one of the little rascals had used my tail as a paintbrush to draw the walls in their drawing room with, they always love to paint with my tail."
"And whut colour wuz your tail originally?"
"White...naturally that has always been part of my family but I was so embarrassed I wore a silk sleeve for the tail which was white at the party so that none would really notice for that would...look unbecoming."
"Really? ...wait, wait if you had a silk sleeve on your tail, then where is it now?"
"I...I-i don't know, I must have lost it I...I remember going to the bathroom, there was a lady I bumped into who had gotten lost so I went downstairs with her to show her the way and I decided to take some paper towels for the accident of that girl. I remember noticing with a brief embarrassment I did not have my silk sleeve with me when I went back upstairs."
"Whut tahm wuz this?"
"Why did you not use your cloak for this accident? It's already stained as it is, could wipe it up."
"No, that, I did not want to use it for cleaning up, I needed something to act as gauze and we had run out, the cloak with paint on it could have been in danger of contaminating a wound from when the child had a fall...that is why I did not wear the cloak when I went to deal with it. It doesn't matter in the end because I saw it was not there where I had left it, someone must have taken it for washing I think. That is why I did not take it with me when I went upstairs."
"Why didn't you say anything?!" cried Abernathy "About leavin' your cloak behind, you said nothing of this in your original testimony!"
"You never asked me, about the cloak that is, I apologise for omitting that detail but I did not want to waste the court's time by mentioning every single thing of my clothing, I was going to put it in the laundry anyway and more assumed that someone had hauled it off for cleaning either way. I apologise again but it did not seem important at the time, especially when I had been incriminated already!"
"Ah...well, either way ah believe mister Robbie Buckler attested to this truth by sayin' that he saw your cloak hung up on the entrance hall lobby! That, an' you just proved miss Madison Duclare's statement about seein' you leave thuh women's bathroom downstairs after bumpin' into that lady! Mister Abernathy, wuz there a silk tail sleeve in mister Brunhart's possession at all when he wuz taken for questioning?!"
"No," said Gerald clenched with fist, "h-he...did not have one on him, in fact I am...most very certain he never had one on when we took him nor did we ever find one in his office."
"Huh...THAT'S weird, cuz everybody ELSE testified that they saw mister Brunhart because of his white tail INCLUDING our mister James Campbell who saw SUMBODY flee thuh room!"
"AH, but that must have been the silk sleeve he was wearing at the ball therefore he is still suspect! Robbie Buckler says he saw him heading upstairs towards his office and very clearly remembers a white tail!"
"AHHH, but we do not even know WHEN he lost that sleeve, an' if ah remember correctly there's mister Robbie Buckler's testimony saying he saw mister Brunhart's cloak hung up on the entrance hall lobby! Where wuz thuh cloak found bah thuh way?"
"In one of the rooms next to the office...it does have Joshua's fingerprints on it however."
"So does thuh fingerprints of every child in that drawin' room!"
"What if mister Brunhart had his tail painted AFTER the murder was committed, to throw everyone off the tracks?!"
"Then we can prove it! Paint dries doesn't it, your Honour, is there a way we can date how old thuh paint is on his tail?!"
"We can," said Garheim sternly, "it is admittedly an odd contradiction that nobody has mentioned this blackened mark upon his tail, and seeing we could not find any sight of the silken sleeve even disposed of in a room not even with the cloak, I cannot render my verdict just yet. Bailiff, take mister Brunhart away and have his self examined to see how long the paint has dried on his tail. As for the two of you, counsels you are to investigate further into the events of yesterday by your own merits. Until we can find the correct time of our contradictory suspect's state, this court is adjourned until the seventh. Dismissed."
The gavel came down for the last time as a hollow ring across the courtroom. Roy sighed deeply after the Judge did the same with Gerald Abernathy taking his leave, his own counsel following through a separate hallway. Navarro looked up at the utahraptor frankly stunned by their fortune's change as Roy chuckled to himself with a flip of the coin promptly into the air before he caught it deftly, the glinting golden light briefly catching the light as she murmured shortly:
"I cannot believe this, kupo."
"You...literally left it to the very last moment, do you PLAN on giving me a coronary?"
"Hey, nobody noticed his tail until Berniere started screamin' thuh place up, probably best to thank him for it."
"When he is not held in contempt of court that is. Fine...we have managed to save him from the noose just yet."
"What do we do now?" asked Fayne.
"We shall reconvene at our room and plan out a course of action for tomorrow. We have two more days to see if we cannot wrap this up in its swiftest, as well as to check on Luke, kupo."
"I agree, particularly I am mosszht intrigued by that medical room Brunhart mentioned, do you believe we may find evidensszhe in there?"
"Ah hope so," said Roy, "thuh police will be all over it too so maybe we might have sum hope, we just need to find out where this sleeve got too."
"The downstairs bathroom," said the moogle, "he mentioned that too, that is also one other place we must look, we will go tomorrow once the guards allow us to."
Heading back towards the inn, night had not yet fallen as people piled out of the courthouse in small droves of excitement and heart-stopping frenzy from the furore of courtroom drama. Roy's counsel had left by a side door to avoid the potential crowd as well as any reporters snooping around desperate for a pick at the sumptuously juicy news that lied within. But not before they made a sidetour towards the local stables where their flock was kept.
A gentle-looking stable with a small field out back to play, the clan's herd was busily resting within their allocated stalls with names of their riders and themselves scrawled onto each swingdoor now locked securely. It was a rather pleasant home away from home with cool bristly hay and fine herbs of sharp taste from the mountain region amidst the red wooden walls and straw-covered flooring.
The rest of the chocobos, sensing the relief and aggravated musk of tension from their riders began slightly turning uneased right before Navarro brought out a small packet of juicy herbs to feed each of them with. A hefty portion from their hands as they shovelled it down with large beaks, the black raptor making his way towards Luke who currently was being tended to by Baldwin. Always he sat in his stall bleakly curled up with his bangaa rider beside him stroking him cautiously.
"How is he?" he asked.
"Not sszho bad," said Baldwin, "he'sszh more jusszht...not really moving again but not asszh uh...crazzhy like he wasszh before."
"I see," replied Rocino, "have any of the others approached him kupo?"
"I think Dahlia'sszh one keepsszh trying to, sszhe triesszh to nip him a little, sszhorta perk him up a little. He doesszhn't really resszhpond but sszhe'sszh trying at leasszht."
"Good, that is all we can do. Thank you Baldwin."
The bangaa shrugged nervously as he kept stroking Luke's feathers brushing him nice and clean.
"You were right about...what you sszhaid, if I had losszht ssszhomeone I wouldn't want to be alone all the time but alsszho be able to...be alone asszh well."
Navarro nodded firmly as they looked over the rest of the herd before leaving. Baldwin felt Luke nudge him softly, trying to push him away indicating that he wanted to be left alone as the bangaa took his leave in turn. Everyone was tense, including the chocobos who both feared for their riders' mindsets as well as their own bereaved member of the flock, waiting to see what the next few days would bring.