“Everyone, please settle down. The trial will begin now.”
The elderly presiding judge solemnly announced the opening of the court.
We were in a courtroom in the Imperial capital city, Ruhm.
Joel’s trial was about to begin.
Claire-sama and I were attending the trial as witnesses for the defendant’s side.
Well, even if I called it a trial, it was different than one held in twenty-first-century Japan.
Trials were barely carried out in accordance with the law, and the verdicts were highly dependent on the impressions that are left on the presiding judge rather than viewing it objectively.
Generally, the defendant side was more at a disadvantage than the prosecution.
This aspect was something that I viewed as strangely old-fashioned.
By the way, the presiding judge was a priest that was sent over by the Spirit Church.
The Spirit Church played a part in the judicial system of this world as well.
There was an audience surrounding the area, watching over the trial.
There were no seats in the courtroom, so everybody had to be standing.
“Now then, let’s begin with a statement from the prosecution.”
The man that sat across from us stood up as he answered.
He was probably a lawyer.
He was of regular build and height and didn’t really have any particular characteristics about him, but his sharp gaze gave off the impression that he was skilled.
The person that was sitting right next to that lawyer was a woman by the name of Berta, who got up and walked over to the witness stand.
“Berta Balke over there was assaulted by the defendant, Joel Santana. The incident occurred within the Empire—”
The lawyer delivered a clear and concise explanation of the case from the plaintiff’s seat.
With the use of various hand gestures and his tone of voice, he appealed to the judge with his unwavering claims.
As expected of an expert of the field.
He was probably used to this kind of thing.
As if they had prepared everything together perfectly, when the lawyer recounted the details of the assault, Berta, who was sitting in the witness stand, shed some tears.
“With all of these facts laid out, I would like to assert that the accused is undoubtedly guilty.”
The judge looked like he was deep in thought as he nodded.
We’d been in trouble if that were enough to convince him, though.
“Moving on, let us hear from the defendant’s side.”
The criminal defense lawyer replied as Joel took up the witness stand.
“The prosecution has brought up nothing but circumstantial evidence. To begin with, there’s no concrete evidence to be found in this case besides the plaintiff’s testimony.”
The prosecutor interjected.
“There were numerous injuries found on the victim’s body. The wounds were deep and the scars that will be left behind are enough to make a woman feel ashamed. There’s no reason for us to lie about it.”
“I will accept the objection. I think the prosecution has come up with a very convincing argument.”
The judge accepted the prosecution’s allegations.
Things were not going well for us.
“B-But Your Honor! The incident happened indoors and there were no witnesses. It would be much too reckless to convict the defendant solely based off of a testimony from the prosecution!”
The criminal defense lawyer was a lot like the lawyers you’d find in the twenty-first-century.
If you couldn’t find a lawyer to represent you, the state would assign one to you.
I don’t think he’s incompetent by any means. If anything, considering how much he’s getting paid, his abilities must naturally be top-notch.
“In that case, the defendant should refute. When and where was the defendant at the time of the incident?”
“I refuse to testify.”
Joel replied curtly from the witness stand.
The prosecutor smiled at his answer.
“Is the defense giving up their right to testify? In that case, I have no choice but to conclude that you are guilty.”
“I didn’t commit the crime. However, I just can’t answer that question.”
“……. This is quite troublesome.”
The only reason why Joel wasn’t being sentenced right now was because the presiding judge was lenient.
It was nice that the judge just happened to be this person, but if it were anybody that was a bit more on the short-tempered side, it wouldn’t have been strange if Joel was given a guilty verdict right away.
“Your Honor, will you please grant me permission to speak as a witness?”
I raised my own hand and asked for permission to speak.
“Who might you be?”
“I’m from the same country as Joel, and his teacher.”
“Hmm…… Very well. I’ll allow it.”
“Thank you very much.”
I stood up and looked at Joel.
He stared back with an expressionless gaze.
“Joel, I looked into what you were doing at the time of the incident. You were in Berta-san’s home when the assault happened, am I correct?”
The audience started to buzz upon hearing my statement.
“Hold on. You are acting as a witness in order to help defend Joel Santana, right?”
The judge asked to confirm.
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“……. I’m not exactly satisfied with this, but very well. Please continue.”
I moved from Joel and walked towards Berta.
“Berta-san, I know that working at the bar is just one of your jobs, but you have another job somewhere else too, don’t you? Although it’s not a job that you’d like to make public.”
“Objection. That’s a baseless accusation.”
“It’s not baseless at all. Claire-sama.”
When I called for Claire-sama, she stood up and brought some documents over to me.
“These are the testimonies that we’ve gathered from the people that have received your services from the job in question. I would like to submit these as evidence.”
Claire-sama presented the documents to the judge.
“All of these testimonies are from stage actors and actresses, huh. They requested…… makeup services?”
“Yes. Berta-san has a job as a cosmetician.”
Berta’s face was distorted upon hearing my remarks.
I mentioned it a while ago, back when all of the whole cooking stuff happened, but in the Empire, flashy and luxurious things were frowned upon.
Therefore, even if makeup was something that suited many women’s tastes, becoming a professional in that field was something that was highly and publicly discouraged.
It was no wonder that Berta wanted to keep it hidden.
“Berta-san seems to be a well-known makeup artist. And without actually having heard of her, Joel went to go see her to make use of those services. Isn’t that right?”
Joel remained silent.
“I’m not quite following. How is this related to the current incident? In the end, Joel really did go and see Berta, didn’t he? If that’s the case, then my doubts are getting deeper. What exactly are you getting at here?”
The judge was visibly confused.
Well, it was no wonder that he was.
What I was about to say was something that probably wouldn’t make sense to the average person here in this room.
“Joel, may I continue talking? I want to respect your dignity. If you wish to keep everything a secret even at the cost of receiving a guilty verdict, I will speak no further.”
“Even if I continue to testify like this, surely, you wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the Empire either way. That’s why, I won’t force you to do anything. However――”
I stared directly at Joel as I spoke.
“But let me just tell you this. I don’t want you to get sentenced for something you didn’t do, and I’m prepared to support you however I can for the very thing you are trying to hide. I want to worry over these things with you.”
There was a disheartened look on Joel’s face.
Most likely, he was feeling conflicted.
It was only natural, considering the circumstances surrounding him.
I patiently waited for his remark.
“…… I understand.”
Joel had made his decision.
All that was left was for me to try my best and clear Joel’s charges.
“As I mentioned before, Joel went over to Berta’s house to seek her services as a cosmetician.”
“Like I said, why would he do that? It’s not like he’s a stage actor or anything, right?”
“Yes, you’re not wrong. She just wanted to wear regular makeup.”
Everybody had a look of incomprehension as I spoke.
“Joel is a woman.”