The Seniors' footsteps echoed throughout the dim passageway in shiny marble. They walked the last few yards before the Senate entryway in silence.
In Orma, the Senate was composed of the most powerful and eminent Goblins in the city. It scrutinized every decision made by the King. Caesar had no full power and every issue was indeed to be debated by the Senate. Equally, the Senate couldn't issue decrees without the King's final approval. They were the two mutually greasing wheels of the Goblin political mechanism, which guaranteed the best functioning of the power network. Every friction between them would put the State stability at risk.
However, Crispius knew perfectly well that the Sect of the Worthy was increasingly yearning for power and had begun to oppose Caesar's decisions through every Senate representative. The Senior in the Tenth Phase was deep in thought and, as he pondered over Orma's status quo, he reached the entryway together with the other two right behind him.
They were enveloped by a dazzling light. The white marble walls glimmered with every sunray, making the room an outstanding sight to behold. The warm beams of sunshine were beating on the three Major Seniors' faces. The faces, visibly marked by time, of the three men who presided over the most important proceedings of the Royal Academy.
Crispius, Binius, Philopappus.
One was impartial; the other two sided with one of the two greatest powers in Orma each.
Actually, Orma had a third great power, namely the Guild of Life and Death. The Guild though was more active militarily than politically.
Crispius took a few steps forward under the grave gazes of the Senate members. Everyone knew perfectly well that the final outcome would only depend on Crispius' judgement.
As he approached the ancient bleachers where the Senate members usually sat, Crispius' gaze turned to look at his right, where a human in chains was standing still. He blocked the Mana of everyone under the Third Phase. The human's face gave off a seraphic peace. His inscrutable eyes bewildered Crispius.
Crispius glanced at Binius and Philopappus, who glanced back at him and nodded. He stood opposite the human. His voice resounded loudly. The Senate, that had been slightly bustling, fell silent.
"We are gathered here today to preside over this humans' trial. He tarnished himself by committing an unrighteous crime, murder, perpetrated against three young Goblins."
A few feet behind Helial sat Caesar, who was staring at his disciple from the senators' seats with worried eyes and furrowed eyebrows.
"He's charged for having killed three Goblins with to reasonable ground. Three Court disciples," Crispius added.
A deep contempt flashed on Helial's face at these words.
Three Inner Court disciples? You wouldn't have made this fuss for three plebs!
The Senior's words betrayed the not-so-implicit value given to the Orman social pyramid. The lives of three Goblins from the Inner Court were noticeably more valuable to the Senate than those of the common people.
Once again, Hades' mindset seemed to echo throughout the Goblins' worldview. The Goblins treated life just like Hades did, judging people by some sort of price tag.
Helial shook his head, but remained silent.
While Crispius got into a detailed description of the seriousness of the indictment, by listing out previous cases in an exemplary declamation, Helial heard a voice inside his soul.
"Are you aware that they're gonna kill you?" asked the Devil chuckling to himself.
"Very likely," Helial let his voice resound back and shrugged.
"And are you aware that I won't rescue you?"
"I am," Helial said. The Devil wouldn't save him from death to avoid affecting his personal growth. If Helial had had the Devil to rely on at last, then he wouldn't have unlocked his full potential. Hence, the black-banged kid would never let him escape from the clutches of death. Helial had to stand his ground, alone.
"Why did you even do it?" asked the Devil with a puzzled smile on his face.
"Why shouldn't I?" Helial let a loud laughter echo out inside his Soul along with his words, "why on earth? I could have let them free after beating them, but would they learn the lesson? Don't think so. I don't care if I stand here, in front of my brother or anywhere else. I don't want my actions to be limited by my fear for consequences. If there are consequences, I'll accept them willingly."
The Devil nodded slowly and said: "But you have to be strong enough, in order to accept them."
The corners of Helial's mouth curled up in a smile as he said: "I know."
Then, while Helial was secretly talking to the Devil, a solemn voice deafened him aggressively: "Human! How do you plead?"
Helial's gaze lingered on the forehead of the man who had addressed him with that reprobative tone. He slightly furrowed his eyebrows before relaxing them a moment later. Crispius. Helial had read about his heroic deeds in the history books of the library. The information spoke clearly; that man was one of the most influential figures in the whole capital. Crispius didn't stand for any faction. He would have made the perfect ally to be protected by, if Helial hadn't killed three Goblins in the Royal Academy.
Helial's voice sounded seraphically calm: "I plead guilty." His expression didn't show that slightest hint of shame as he spoke.
The Senate went into an uproar.
"Execute that bastard!"
While a wide range of insults and slanders rained down on him, Helial began to turn his head left and right extremely slowly, ignoring every offence directed to him. He started examining that place. The walls were frescoed and embellished with low reliefs. The marble the Senate was covered with had some special properties which would let it resist a Third Phase assault without a single scratch. But it was not like there were chances of an assault, anyway; the room was indeed full of the strongest men in Orma, who could have stopped anyone with a slap of their fingers. Even an Immortal would have had a hard time trying to escape.
"Quiet!" boomed Crispius. The Senate obeyed immediately.
Crispius' gaze turned to look at Helial as he scanned every syllable: "Are you really pleading guilty for the cold-blooded murder of three Inner Court disciples?"
Against all expectations, Helial smiled and said: "I am. I plead guilty of the murder of three Inner Court disciples."
Crispius stared at the weird smile on the guy's face and, before the Senate could hurl at him again, he raised a hand with a sharp and meaningful movement. "And what were your reasons to do that?"
"They were raping a girl," Helial said calmly.
Crispius furrowed his eyebrows. The report he had received didn't mention that.
"It's all lies! You're just the umpteenth cruel human that steps in here! Three of those Goblins were part of the Sect of the Worthy! How dare you smear my Sect's name?" Binius suddenly shouted. He unleashed a suffocating Aura that dashed towards Helial as though trying to suppress him on the spot and turn him into ground meat.
Philopappus closed his eyes and unleashed his Aura in response. It immediately blocked that of Binius.
"Binius! The trial must be carried out according to our law. Do you intend to kill the guy before Crispius makes his decision?! We agreed to defer the judgement to him and step back to guarantee impartiality, didn't we?!"
Binius kept silence as his face blushed heavily. Philopappus had caught him on the wrong foot.
Meanwhile, Crispius had stared at them in silenced.
The whole Senate began to discuss in whispers.
"The final judgment will be Crispius'?" a member of the Senate asked.
"Apparently," said a member of the Sect of the Worthy between gritted teeth.
Crispius heaved a sigh. His shoulders had been burdened with a heavier weight than usual, that day.
"If what you say is true, then why would the servants and the guards do nothing?" Crispius asked Helial.
Helial curled his lips in a disdainful expression. "It's you, Crispius, that Orma boasts as its altruist hero, isn't it?"
Crispius raised an eyebrow, astonished. Did the human know him?
"How dare you talk like that you filth-" Binius assailed Helial, but Crispius' terrifying Aura almost choked him dead and he resolved to stay quiet.
"Shut up," Crispius whispered to prevent the crowd from hearing them. His eyes were flaming.
Binius swallowed what he was about to say back into his throat. He bowed slightly, cursing the damned strength of that old hero.
Crispius focused back on Helial. "It's me, indeed. I am one of the Major Seniors of the Royal Academy."
"You led the Goblin army towards many victories. You have always fought for your people. And yet you're speaking naively." Helial stopped talking and waited for a reaction. The entire Senate was listening with eyes open wide to the insolent words of that human, but no one dared interpose. They all waited for Crispius to say something which would stop the guy's ramblings.
Crispius furrowed his eyebrows. Against all the Senate members' expectations, he only said: "Go on."
"You're wondering why the guards didn't mention the **** thing, right? We, it's clear: the life of an Inner Court disciple is more valuable than that of a simple girl. That's it. What conspiracy did you imagine? Every servant knows that, every guard knows that. And you know that as well."
Crispius narrowed his eyes. That human had hit a sore spot. His words were likely to be true. Every servant from the lower classes suffered violence and discrimination on a daily basis. And no perpetrator stood trial thanks to their social status. These abuses had been going on for too long.
The weak were weak, and got suppressed by the strong. The strong dictated laws and justice. Justice depended on the will of who stood on top of the social pyramid. Crispius thought of the naivety of that guy and a sympathetic smile spread over his face.
"Whoever owns a great talent is a priceless resource for Orma. That's why some lives are more valuable than others," said Crispius in a sigh.
"And that's also why I am guilty of protecting a girl and executing three deranged Goblins, isn't it? Because they happened to be stronger than her," Helial blurted out as his lips shaped a bitter smile.
His words struck Crispius, who felt a deep wring at the heart. And yet he was right; things stood just like Helial had described them. It was just that hear it aloud was enormously more painful than just accept it as a matter of fact.
But Crispius had to hold back. He declared: "In this world, the strong dictate our law. Only who stands above the others can rule over them and decide what is right and what is wrong."
Helial nodded with a singular light in his eyes and said: "Alright. Then let me decide what is right and what is wrong."