Witness Stand (3) The Accused

“…”

The judge opened his mouth once as if he wanted to say something. His characteristic white beard swayed to and fro, but eventually, he reconsidered, and shut his mouth.

“W-we have successfully established the defendant’s identity. Let’s get right to testimony.”

I tried to end this conversation as soon as possible, but not letting it end like that, the prosecutor said, “Hold it right there,” and gave an objection.

“I can’t let that statement slip by. Just who do you mean by demon lord? I’d love to hear the details.”
“T-that isn’t relevant to the case at hand…

“Hah? What are you talking about? It’s as relevant as could be. This is a murder case. Just now, the defendant clearly testified, that she was the hero, and that she killed the demon lord. You heard it too, didn’t you m’lud?”

The judge stroked his tufty beard as he took a deep breath, but after a small sigh, he answered. “Hmm, I thought that I had misheard at first, but it does seem my ears are still in working order.”

The prosecutor turned her face away from me, her back trembling.

… This woman was laughing.

“Then let us ask the defendant.”

Her cheeks twitching, the prosecutor continued on. “Is the demon lord you murdered this person?”

The prosecutor held up an enlarged photo of the victim in her right hand for all to see.

Perhaps because the look in her eyes had always been stern, Claudia’s expression didn’t change much, but I’m sure she was trying to get a closer look. She leaned forward to look at the photo.

Thinking of how honestly she’d been answering these questions, perhaps she’d give a simple yes to that query.
When we came all the way here, was it already over…

I was on the verge of acceptance. But Claudia’s response was different from what I expected.

“I don’t know.

Her small voice cracked from a lack of moisture was hard to hear, but I’m sure that’s what Claudia answered.

“You don’t know? You mean to say you convinced yourself some random John Doe was the demon lord and killed them?”

“That’s… um, it was dark at the time, and the demon lord was wearing a hat, so I couldn’t see their face… but… but I… could tell.”
“How?”

The prosecution pressed further, but Claudia was hard pressed to answer that one.

… It was bad the way things were going.
Putting aside whether Claudia was the hero or not, if it’s made that with no basis, she arbitrarily selected some virtuous commoner, and killed them after convincing herself they were the demon lord, the judge’s impression of her would be the worst.

But was there a rational reason?

After thinking a while, I thought up something.

“Oh my, oh my. When I thought you had suddenly grown talkative, now it’s silence, is it? You’re quite the cowardly hero.”
“Hold it.”

I objected. “Even if it were a person of completely unknown lineage, the defendant would be able to determine if they were the demon lord or not. The sword in her hands is no ordinary holy sword. It is unable to cut any lifeforms besides the demon lord, a special sword indeed.”

With my words as the beginning, the court began growing noisy.

“Holy sword?”
“What?”
“Can only cut the demon lord?”

“Based on police investigation, the holy sword the defendant carries, Blutgang, is unable to touch, let alone cut any lifeform that isn’t the demon lord, and it will pass right through anything else. Meaning, by cutting them with her sword, the defendant was able to determine whether her foe was the demon lord or not.”

“I see. How peculiar… but that does leave the question.”

The judge who raised a surprised expression at the start immediately scrunched his brow, making a grim face as he thought.

“If that is true, that would mean the defendant has killed the demon lord. But by my memory, the demon lord…”

“Died fifty years ago. That’s what you want to say, right m’lud?”

 

As Prosecutor Schaefer took on the continuation, the judge agreed. “Hmm, at the very least, that’s how I remember it, but my wife’s been saying I’ve grown forgetful lately, and I’m always being scolded… am I wrong?”

“No, your question is spot on, m’lud.” The prosecutor spoke with a radiant smile. “The strange ones are the defense and the defendant.”

I was about to object, but I was interrupted. “I’m not strange at all!”

At first, I couldn’t tell who had spoken. But seeing Claudia with her whole body shaking, I finally understood that she was the origin point of that voice.

“I’m… I did the right thing! What’s so strange about killing the evil demon lord!? Why am I being chastised for killing the one who throws off the world’s peace!? This is strange, this is a mistake!”

Hah, hah, hah…

Within the silence, only Claudia’s rough breath was audible. Her face was bright red, and her eyes were open wide.

It was as if it was the first time she had raised her voice in her life. Of course, that one was a complete verbal slip, and she had merely become good resource for the prosecution’s attack.

“It does seem the defendant is completely mistaken.”

The prosecution glared at the defendant with cold eyes. Claudia faltered for a moment, but she soon returned the glare with force. Her lips were tightly pushed together, and it looked as if the girl herself was doing her best. But…

I’m sure everyone in the courtroom could notice her attitude was a bluff.

Seeing it up close, it was something that could be understood at once. The more earnest Claudia became, the more power she put into the hand clenching her sword, and it was beginning to rattle loudly.

“Listen well, little girl. This is a constitutional state. Whether evil or good, the law alone is everything. Your self-centered, self-righteous justice won’t do a thing for you here.”

… You’re the evil one for breaking the rules, little girl. The prosecutor said.

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