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Chapter 19 - Vol 5: Neutral Ground

Within the halls of Dissidia Academy, life as a student is an adventure! Follow the Heroes of Final Fantasy as they fulfill the variety of challenges that lie before them, setting the path towards their future! However, underneath the depths of this highly established Academy ... lies a darkness that may throw the entire world into chaos.
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Chapter 19 - Vol 5: Neutral Ground

Chapter 19 - Vol 5: Neutral Ground
“HOLD IT!” Onion Knight hastily shouted out the moment he regained his senses, pointing towards Warrior of Light with a tense finger. “Your Honour, the Prosecution raided the Defendant’s locker without any known authority!”
“… Overruled.” The High Judge Gabranth denied in response, shaking his head sternly.
 “Wha-!? On what grounds!?” Onion Knight blurted in shock at the High Judge, slamming his hands against the surface of the Defence Stand.
The crowd of students that watched the trial were all on the edge of their seats, desperate to find out more. The reveal of the Hair Ornament had taken the entire hall by complete surprise, wondering how this new, unexpected scenario would develop.
“Hm-hm-hmm … Oh, dear Onion Knight, maybe you should use your eyes before calling out such nonsense.” Warrior of Light chuckled in answer, ushering his opponent to glance at his direction.
Onion Knight switched direction and glared towards Warrior of Light with morbid curiosity, feeling as though his rival had metaphorically tripped him up somehow. It was at that moment, he realised he had spoken too soon. Whilst Warrior of Light was holding Rydia’s Hair Ornament in one hand, its reflection of the spotlight above glimpsing brightly and pure; his other hand was also holding out an item, a sheet of paper with lines of detailed text printed from top to bottom.
An Investigation Permit; signed clearly by Headmistress Cosmos herself.
In that instant, Onion Knight’s eyes darted towards the Headmistress’ allocated seat, of whom had perched herself at the corner of front row just like she had in the previous trial. Having noticed Onion Knight’s rather ‘betrayed’ glare, she straightened up on her seat and merely shrugged her shoulders with an expression of awkward guilt.
“Ah-ha-haa …” She anxiously chuckled. “Oops?”
Is that all I get!? A shrug and an ‘OOPS’!? Onion Knight’s mind exploded in backlash, numerous veins bulging from his forehead in rage. Is my respect for you THAT disposable, Headmistress!?
Hastily, Onion Knight returned his attention to his opponent, painfully brushing aside the taste of resentment. He was hastily reminding himself that Headmistress Cosmos had to comply with Warrior of Light’s request regardless of her stance on the matter, keeping in accordance with her overall status as an unbiased role model of the Academy.
His eyes locked on his opponent, Onion Knight suddenly bit the inside of his lip in immense frustration. It was as though he had taken a considerable blow from the get go, being thrown aside without even realising what had occurred. Both Zidane and his own credibility had turned to jeopardy, the two now on a thin line.
This wasn’t helped with Warrior of Light’s smug grin growing more obnoxious by the second, knowing all too well that he had the upper hand thanks to the strong opening.
With only so much as a mere glance, Onion Knight caught Zidane’s current mental state in an instant: he was in a state of panic. The colouring of his skin had turned completely pale, and his body was drenched in a cold sweat. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he fainted at this point, considering his sudden ordeal.
He then switched focus to Rydia, who conveyed a vast array of mixed emotions. There was no denying that she was overjoyed that her treasure finally being found, yet there was a distinct aura that gave the impression that she was both undeniably disheartened and worried about the predicament that had befallen Zidane.
His mind was set. Onion Knight needed answers … and he needed them NOW!
“Warrior of Light, do you have photographic evidence that proves the Hair Ornament was stowed away in Zidane’s locker?” Onion Knight warily questioned his opponent, his expression as tense as it could ever be.
Terra, fidgeting anxiously beside Onion Knight, gazed towards him with an uncertain glare, unsure if this approach was deemed wise.
“No need to worry, Onion Knight, I’ve come prepared.” Warrior of Light cheerfully sighed, placing down both the Hair Ornament and Investigation permit. “See for yourself.”
What followed were two distinct photographs being waved in the air, proving the evidence was as clear as day. Warrior of Light’s confident smirk refused to falter as he held the new pieces of evidence out to the court, showing to his audience that he was in complete control.
As bitter resent filled his heart, Onion Knight watched as the photos were passed over to him by Prishe. Terra shifted closer to analyse the evidence alongside Onion Knight, although wanting nothing more than to avoid its very existence. Copies were also passed onto the High Judge Gabranth, curiously glancing over the evidence with his piercing eyes.
The two photographs depicted Zidane’s locker from two alternate viewpoints: the first portrayed the locker closed and locked up securely with Zidane’s name indicated above the lock, nothing seemingly out of the ordinary; whilst the second exposed the interior in all of its magnificent glory.
Upon closer examination of the second photo, Onion Knight was able to easily identify the Hair Ornament stashed in the far right corner amongst the heap of hastily crumpled P.E. clothing and various scattered class books. It was typical for someone like Zidane to have the contents of his locker in such a state, yet this was all the more catastrophic when realising that it gave the impression that the Hair Ornament was hidden away in such a rushed state.
Onion Knight felt his teeth grind and fists tension up to the point of shaking, losing his mind entirely over such a critical blow. It was as though his mind went into systematic shutdown, attempting to rationalize how he could ideally resolve the issue alongside thinking of questions that could throw off his opponent.
Just then, he felt a light tap on the shoulder. This, in turn, caused Onion Knight to instantly leap up in surprise. He switched to Terra – the culprit of the abrupt poke – with a hopeful glance, his eye lit up at the thought that his dependable assistant would save the day.
… It was the opposite.
Terra was showing an expression of immense concern, her eyes locked in place on the two pictures – more so regarding the first image than the second. Her lips were quivering, her hands shaking; the atmosphere surrounding her was dense with apprehension.
“Terra?” Orion Knight called to her cautiously, his flash of optimism now thrown out the window. “Terra, what’s the matter?”
There was a pause, Terra was attempting to answer but her hesitation was overbearing.
However, she then shook her head, forcing herself through the anxiety.
“Th-these photos … I don’t understand them.” She admitted in despair, pointing specifically to the first photo of the locker. “I can’t find any signs of tampering with the locks nor do I see any evidence of force on the locker’s door, it contradicts itself.”
Onion Knight gave the photos another glance, the line of his sight matching with the placement of Terra’s finger.
She was correct.
The door that enclosed the locker was in perfect condition, not a scratch or dent in sight. Onion Knight further analysed this, recollecting previous inform regarding the mechanics and regulations of the Academy lockers:
-          Only the allocated student would be able to use their specific locker.
-          Lockers are sealed using fingerprint scans, retinal scans, or overall facial recognition – this decision is based on the choice of the specific student when allocated their locker.
-          If a specific locker were to ever be compromised, a security lockdown will activate and alert Headmistress Cosmos along with other members of staff in charge of security.
-          The locker’s security can only be overridden with guided permission of the Headmistress AND the allocated owner.
Then it clicked.  
“Warrior of Light, how were you able to access Zidane’s locker?” Onion Knight hastily interrogated, refusing to let this slide. “Whist you may have had permission to access the locker by Headmistress Cosmos, you would still need have permission Zidane himself before being granted access. So, unless Zidane gave you permission – although I doubt the possibility given his situation – it would have been impossible for you to open-!”
“-The locker was already unlocked.” Warrior of Light admitted with a light shrug, his arms crossed.
“… Huh?” Onion Knight blurted in complete bafflement, his expression dropping its serious glare upon hearing the unexpected answer.
This same reaction was carried over to the majority of the hall, including – but, not limited to – Terra, Rydia, most of Class 13A (Squall was as uncaring as one would expect of him), and especially Zidane himself. Various teachers watched in intrigue, silently wondering how such an occurrence was possible.
This could also be said about the High Judge Gabranth, who had leant back on his seat as he watched the case unfold before him.
“Would you care to elaborate, Prosecution?” Gabranth grumbled curiously, his imitating eyes fixed on Warrior of Light like a hawk.
“Certainly, Your Honour.” Warrior of Light nodded with a slight bow, yet his tone was still relaxed as he kept his gaze on his stumped opponent. “In all honesty, it’s a rather simple case of careless misplacement. When I initially approached the locker after receiving permission of investigation by Headmistress Cosmos, I too thought it was locked. However, upon closer inspection, I had found that the lock mechanism was wedge against a fold of fabric originating from Zidane’s ‘disgusting’ P.E uniform, resulting in the prevention of the lock mechanism from activating.”
And with that, all eyes switched towards an aware Zidane, casting the piercing gaze of disappointment upon him as if they were expecting a more satisfying reveal.
“Wha-? H-Hey! Why are you all looking at me like that!?” Zidane spat out consciously, feeling the pressure of the countless glares were psychologically crushing. “I can’t help it if my locker’s a mess! … It just wouldn’t sit right with me if it was tidy, that’s all!”
The crowd of on-looking students all then glanced away with murmurs and grumbles, some individuals now cursing him to get the ‘guilt’ verdict. Zidane, in turn, dipped his head as the constant cynical mumbles enclosed around him.
Bang! Bang!
“Order in the court!” Gabranth raised his voice as he pummelled the gavel.
“So, there you have it.” Warrior of Light spoke out in pride, as if ready to conclude this entire farce. “Our ‘oh-so-innocent’ Zidane made the valuable mistake of leaving the locker unlocked as he rushed to hide the-!”
“OBJECTION!” Onion Knight bellowed in haste, halting Warrior of Light’s triumphant monologue. “Let’s not get carried away here, Warrior of Light!”
“Ooh? Is this the signs of desperation I see, Onion Knight?” Warrior of Light wondered with a condescending chuckle, thinking that was the only reason for the rude interruption.
“Hm-hmm … If only that were the case.” Onion Knight returned with a witty comment, subtly shaking his head. “The nonsense you were about to gush out with would merely be a possibly. In fact, that ‘possibility’ would practically be miniscule if we were to remind ourselves of what we resolved in the previous trial, the most glaring examples being the fact that Zidane was still at the scene of the crime AND the likelihood of the second suspect!”
“Hmph! Zidane could have easily hidden the Hair Ornament in a temporary location during the times of the crime scene and when we found him.” Warrior of Light shrugged carelessly, finding this irritating.  “He could have returned at any point between then and now to transfer it to a more secure location.”
Onion Knight shook his head once again. “Wrong! Your argument is flawed, Warrior of Light! There was never a time Zidane could have possibly been able to hide the Hair Ornament, he was found merely seconds after the assault took place. Not only that, but someone was always watching over him during the follow-up and aftermath of the previous trial, including YOU.”
Warrior of Light fell silent, deciding not to speak back.
“My theory – and one that would hold significant weight – is that Zidane’s locker was accidently unlocked ‘before’ the incident had occurred.” Onion Knight continued on, refusing to falter for a second. “Because of this, our mysterious ‘second’ suspect was able to hide the Hair Ornament inside the locker not long after the incident, further solidifying Zidane as the sole possible suspect to this case. Face it, Zidane was framed!”
BOOM!
Warrior of Light slammed his palm against the surface of his stand, eyes sharpened with a powerful glare towards his opponent.
“You call my possibility ‘flawed’ and then you follow up with THAT!?” He growled intensely, “Such absurdity, Onion Knight! Your theory would suggest that it was a coincidence your ‘second’ suspect happened to find Zidane’s locker open after escaping the crime scene. How would the suspect even know about the locker in the first place?”
“Simple. The second suspect may have already known about the locker before the event, deciding it was plausible to use it as a possible catalyst in further framing Zidane as the culprit.” Onion Knight dispelled the question in an instant.
Warrior of Light gave a low sigh, “We’ll see…”
However, Onion Knight then turned to the High Judge Gabranth, “Your Honour, I request for the Hair Ornament and the photographs to be placed as evidence for this trial.”
Gabranth nodded firmly, “Hmm … I’m surprised you didn’t ask for this at the start.”
Bang!
“No…” A trembling voice whimpered beside Onion Knight. “This is bad…”
Swivelling on the spot, a shocked Onion Knight caught a glance of Terra shaking violently and breathing at a rapid pace. She was chewing the edge of her thumb nail in desperation of keeping her thoughts in line.
“Terra, what’s the matter now?” Onion Knight questioned in deep concern, showing positivity in his tone of voice. “There’s no need to worry, we’re still fighting this battle headstrong.”
“I-it’s not that, there’s something else…” Terra slurred her words as she spoke, her terrified eyes lowered towards the surface of the Defence Stand. “B-but I … I don’t know what it is.”
Onion Knight watched her curelessly, unable to grasp the issue that faced Terra. He wanted to find out the issue, but her words were far too vague to understand.
“Ah … just another piece of detail I forgot to mention before we move on, Onion Knight.” Warrior of Light then called to him as if in realisation, his previous intense aura dissipating.
Onion Knight turned to him with eyes focused, mentally bracing for what was about to occur.
Warrior of Light continued, “You see, I made a slight error … I was not the one who initially found the Hair Ornament in Zidane’s locker as I earlier claimed. In fact … someone had beaten me to it.”
Onion Knight felt his body freeze.
An error…? His thoughts wondered cautiously, No … this was no accident. He set this up!
“Your Honour.” Warrior of Light announced to the court in a clear manner. “I would like to call up my first witness to the stand.”
Gabranth nodded without second thought, tapping his gavel in approval.
Bang! Bang!
What followed were the echoing tapping sounds of footsteps, drawing closer as the First Witness approached the Witness Stand. Onion Knight, Terra, Zidane, Rydia, and the entire hall of students and teachers watched in silence as the witness took to the stand, the atmosphere of the hall growing denser by the second.
Her long, luscious fair-blond hair, held firmly within a dark-blue ribbon, swayed as she stepped forward. She had the stance of a proud individual, confident in her well-kept appearance and high respect amongst both her peers and fellow students.
Standing tall at the witness stand, her confident blue eyes cast upon the court before her: Celes Chere was set to testify.
“Please state your name and Academy status to the court.” Warrior of Light confidently requested to her, straightening his tall posture as a sign of formality.
“My name is Celes Chere. I am the Class President of Class 13F and a member of the Academy’s Student Council.” Celes proudly announced in response, proving there was depth behind her confident appearance.
Celes … so you were the one who found Rydia’s Hair Ornament? Onion Knight watched on in a calm mind, finally being able to connect the dots surround Celes’ mysterious ‘contractual agreement’ with Warrior of Light. Damn … No wonder.
Just then…
“Celeeeeeeeesss…!” A single cry from Terra abruptly called to her, tears comically from her eyes as she noticed her long-time friend take the stand.
“Terraaaaaaaaaa…!” Celes cried back in response, completely losing her proud aura within the instant of noticing her friend in dire need.
Before anyone realised what had occurred, Terra leapt from her station on the Defence Stand and threw her arms around Celes, sobbing away as Celes embraced her like an older sister comforting a younger sibling.
Both Onion Knight and Warrior of Light watched the two close friends embrace in complete disarray, oblivious to how this occurred. The two had even glanced at one another wondering ‘what in the world was happening?’ … only to shrug at one another with blank expressions. 
“There, there … no need to worry now.” Celes whispered to Terra in a motherly tone, patting her head in a consoling manner. “You’re standing strong, and that’ all that matters … so, don’t falter so soon, Terra.”
Terra nodded, taking this time to recollect herself.
However, Celes then turned to face the court with a piecing glare, refusing to hold back from expressing a long awaited opinion as her gaze switched between Warrior of Light, Onion Knight, and the High Judge Gabranth himself.
“Mark my words, you three, if I see Terra cry or terrified during the remainder of this trial … there will be dire consequences.” She warned them in a vicious yet passive tone, the light in her eyes disappearing as she spoke. “She is a delicate gem that must be protected with care, do you understand?”
“Y-YES, MA’AM!” The three hastily answered as they straightened up, their fearful stuttering voices echoed throughout the hall in sync.
It was a peculiar sight; witnessing such high figures of authority within the court case obeying a single female student’s command. And yet, the crowd of students watching the event came to a swift understanding that this was the influence of such a being like Celes.
Celes gave a single nod in acceptance of the three’s answer, before turning to her friend in a softer tone, “Now then, Terra, you can go back to your stand.”
That was … random. Both Onion Knight and Warrior of Light silently commented to themselves as if in sync with each other.
Stepping away from her close friend’s welcoming embrace, Terra gave Celes and uplifted nod, showing renewed spirits in what was ahead of her. Onion Knight watched as his defence partner returned to his side, still unable to grasp what had just happened yet appreciative of Celes giving Terra that much needed reassurance and friendly comfort.
With everything now back in order, the trial continued on as if the abrupt random occurrence never happened in the first place.
Clearing his throat, Warrior of Light was the first to speak again, “*Ahem*… So then, Celes, if I may ask before we begin the testimony: have you swayed to a specific side at all in relation to the court case?”
Celes shook her head, showing her prideful aura once again.
“No. I deem myself neutral to this case and only strive to find out the truth.”
“Hm-hmm … A fair outlook.” Warrior of Light nodded accordingly, satisfied with the answer given. “I have no need of further questions. Please, enlighten us with your testimony in regards to how you found the Hair Ornament in Zidane’s Locker, Miss Chere.”
Here we go … Onion Knight sharpened his glare as he waited for what Celes was prepared to reveal.
Terra, however, had a rather abnormal glint in her eye, as though inner confidence surfaced even if it was for a mere moment.
Gabranth sat up on his seat, prepared to hear out the Witness.
 
Witness Testimony 1: Celes Chere.
 
“Some time after the incident had occurred; I was standing before my own locker tending to my belongings for the upcoming lesson. Considering that the Student Council Meeting had not long concluded, I deemed it necessary to store my meeting folder away out of convenience. I was the only student in the locker area … at least, as far as I was aware at the time. However, as I was about to leave, I heard a loud ‘bang’ far off to the left of me. I turn and see a glimpse of a shadow swiftly disappearing off around a blind corner. I didn’t know whether my mind was playing tricks on me or not, so I decided to investigate where the noise originated from out of curiosity. And, low and behold, I find Zidane’s locker open and the Hair Ornament stashed beneath the bundles of clothing.”
 
Witness Testimony … Complete.
 
The High Judge Gabranth began to stroke the side of his faint stubble, his focus primarily on making sense of this new testimony. The entire court was silent, the majority of whom taking to opportunity to process the contents of Celes’ words. The atmosphere was dense with anticipation, waiting for the testimony to be dissected.
Warrior of Light specifically was standing with arms crossed and a smug grin casted towards his opponent. Onion Knight, on the other hand, had jotted down notes regarding the testimony and began to highlight specific areas that he felt needed questioning or further elaboration. Considering that this was a precise and detailed testimony – as expected form someone like Celes – Onion Knight had a decent amount of new information to go on.
That being said … there was nothing here that he would consider to be contradictory or would justify an ‘objection’. Because of this, he was rather relieved, solidifying his trust in Celes’ honesty.
“Before we begin with the Cross-Examination; Miss Chere, based upon your current testimony, is it safe to assume that you are the owner of the photographic evidence showcasing the locker?” Gabranth curiously wondered, linking up the probability.
“Yes, Your Honour.” Celes nodded. “I took those photos immediately after I found the locker. Warrior of Light”
“I see … I shall update the records accordingly.” He then accepted, jotting down notes specifying that Celes was the initial owner of the photographs. “Although, this does raise an important issue…”
At that very moment, the High Judge Gabranth eerily twisted towards Warrior of Light, his eyes glowing red with unbound malice. Warrior of Light felt his entire body freeze up at the sight of the High Judge suddenly glaring down upon him, giving off an aura so thick that it could literally choke him if he were to make one false move.
“… You lied to the court, Prosecution.” Gabranth murmured in a horrifyingly dark tone, his piercing eyes sharp enough to strike the heart of the bravest of adversaries.
Onion Knight leaned forward as he was drawn into this peculiar development, an eyebrow raised as his morbid curiosity peaked. He was intrigued, and desired to see where this leads.
“I-I’m sorry, Your Honour!?” Warrior of Light blurted in bewilderment, almost toppling over upon hearing the absurd accusation.
“And you call yourself a Warrior of the Light … for shame.” Gabranth continued eerily, his words stabbing Warrior of Light’s prideful self-esteem without hesitation. “KNIGHT OF THE ONION! Please educate our naïve fool of a Prosecutor on the specifics of his ‘grave’ mistake!”
A dark, twisted smile formed across Onion Knight’s expression as he straightened up to speak, “With pleasure, Your Honour. You see, whilst Warrior of Light admitted Celes had found Zidane’s locker before her did – as part of his ‘dramatic’ transitioning, no less – he neglected to inform the court that the photographic evidence was in fact taken by Celes and NOT by Warrior of Light. As a result, our Prosecution had taken the credit of the evidence without acknowledging the true owner!”
Warrior of Light leapt to defend himself, “T-That was a mere oversight on my account! Such accusation does not warrant-!”
“ENOUGH!” Gabranth bellowed furiously, her powerful voice shaking the entire hall like a quake. “I hereby issue you a penalty for ignorance of citing the owner of the photographic evidence to the court! Be sure not to make the same mistake ... otherwise, you will face the worst of consequences.”
With that, the High Judge pummelled his gavel hard against the surface before him.
BANG!
“*Gasp* N-NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo……..!!!!!!” Warrior of Light yelled at the top of his lungs as he broke down on his stand, his inflated ego shattering like a plane of fragile glass as he took the hit on his reputation.
Witnessing his rival fall in despair, Onion Knight couldn’t help but break out a smirk of satisfaction, taking in this glorious moment as a memory that will never be forgotten.
However, he then caught a glance of Terra staring back at him somewhat passively, showing a rather disappointed expression.
“…You two are as bad as each other…” She muttered underneath her breath, shaking her head in dissatisfaction as she switched her focus back onto the case at hand.
“Wait … what do you mean by that, Terra?” Onion Knight questioned in a sudden conscious manner, unable to figure out the depths of her words. “Terra…? Terra? Am I being ignored!?”
He was being ignored.
“Defence, you may now Cross-Examine the Witness!” Gabranth swiftly announced, breaking the existing atmosphere and turning it on its head.
 
Cross-Examination 1: Celes Chere.
 
Onion Knight cleared his throat, gathering the questions in his thoughts as he met eyes with the Witness.
“Celes, I must first commend you on giving the court an informative testimony.” He began with a positive tone, knowing he needed to keep her on his side.
“Thank you, Onion Knight, I’m relieved that I didn’t disappoint.” Celes acknowledged in gratitude, a small smirk having broking through as she nodded.
“If I may, I would like to ask a few questions so that I along with the rest of the court would grasp a more educated understanding on the matter involving your testimony.” He continued on, his mind consciously flicking through the various questions that needed answers to. “First of all, were you aware of the incident during the time it occurred?”
Celes shook her head immediately, honesty shining brightly within the blue irises of her eyes, “No, I wasn’t aware of it at the time.”
“Understandable.” He whimsically ushered, his attitude calm whilst his mind sped through the entire library of information filed under this case. “So, if you could think back for me, did you hear any peculiar banging or abnormal noises coming from the 4th Floor during that time?”
Celes shook her head once again, “No, I was already close to the Ground Floor of the Academy. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to have heard anything from the 4th Floor due to how far down I was. As I stated in my testimony, the ‘only’ abnormal noise was the bang when I was tending to my own locker.”
Onion Knight pressed on without hesitation, “In regards to the ‘mysterious’ perpetrator who used Zidane’s locker and caused that ‘bang’ noise in the process, you stated that you had caught ‘a glimpse of a shadow swiftly disappearing’: Were you able to spot any distinct detail of the person before they disappeared.”
Celes was about to shake her head once again, yet halted and pondered the question for a little longer, “I would say that I didn’t see anything significant … but now that I think about it, I’m not too certain.”
“What do you mean by ‘not too certain’?” Onion Knight questioned as he noticed the slur in her words, almost forgetting that he was standing on a box the moment his feet shifted to its very edge.
Celes paused momentarily, considering her next words, “I *… sigh* As stated in my testimony, the person had left before I could catch any significant detail of what they were wearing at the time. I can, however, certainly the person was Male. He was average height and had a somewhat broad build to him.”
Her statement helps to further separate Zidane as the suspect based on the description … but it’s far too vague for me to link it with anything else. Onion Knight analysed in deep thought, cupping his chin as his eyes lowered.
Terra was also in the midst of thought, however was uncertain if this would get them anywhere. Not only that, but she wondered about Celes’ personal wellbeing. She noticed her close friend’s uncertainty beginning to arise even before the last question was asked.
Could she be holding back…?
“Celes, I need you to think harder about who you saw back then.” Onion Knight stated in a pressuring manner, not letting this go until he found a possible lead. “Was there any specific detail you may have noticed? Was the person wearing jewellery? Was his style significant? Was the person wearing a school uniform or not-?”
“HOLD IT!” Warrior of Light abruptly interrupted as he threw his index finger towards Onion Knight’s direction. “Your Honour, the Defence is purposefully pressuring the Witness even though she clearly stated, both in testimony and now, that she wasn’t able to catch any detail of the person in question. I request he stands down.”
Gabranth nodded sternly, “Yes. Onion Knight, please stop pressuring the Witness any further than what is required.”
Onion Knight felt his knuckles almost slam against the surface of his stand, frustration almost taking over him. His eyes were locked glaring towards Warrior of Light, knowing that his rival was watching him in return with a threateningly cunning gaze. As though able to read the mind of his opponent, Onion Knight grasped that Warrior of Light was warning him ‘not to overstep his boundaries’.
Silently, Onion Knight switched to his defence partner, wondering if she had any questions to ask Celes. However, Terra turned to his direction and shook her head in silence.
… Onion Knight was stuck.
“Defence, do you have any further questions to ask the Witness?” Gabranth called upon him, noticing the abnormally long pause. “If not, Miss Chere would be allowed to exit the stand.”
Onion Knight scrambled through the ocean of his mind, hastily think of effective questions to as Celes. He knew there was something he needed to ask, he just couldn’t grasp what it was.
“Celes, when you found the contents of Zidane’s locker, were they exactly as seen in the photos?” He then queried the Witness, having glanced over the testimony notes hastily.
Onion Knight had resulted to throwing any question that came to him, desperately hoping it would fall through.
Celes simply nodded, “I had not moved, or even touched, anything that was inside Zidane’s locker. The photos you see before you show the exact condition of the locker as of when I found it during the time I was there.”
Onion Knight bit the inside of his lip irritably, cursing his usually ‘vast’ intellect on failing him when he needed it the most.
“There is no point in getting worked up over this, Onion Knight.” Warrior of Light muttered with a chuckle, shrugging his shoulders in a nonchalant manner. “Accept it; you have no more questions left to ask.”
There was silence.
Onion Knight couldn’t deny it at this point; he had no more questions regarding this testimony. Without any valuable detail regarding the person who hid the Hair Ornament in Zidane’s locker, there was no way he could pursue this aspect of the case any further. In addition to this, he would lose Celes as an effective witness to this case, resulting in the information gained during their meeting two days ago practically worthless to this case.
Having lost the momentum of his forward-thinking, Onion Knight turned towards Celes hopelessly.
She was glaring back at him with a stern expression.
Onion Knight felt his heart leap up in fright upon seeing Celes with such piercing eyes. He was dumbstruck, unable to grasp the reason behind this tense expression.
However, it then occurred to him: Celes was expecting him to question her on a specific aspect of her testimony. Whilst she had stated that she was neutral to the court case, there was a miniscule sway in her bias indicating that she wanted Onion Knight to succeed in proving Zidane’s innocence.
A silent chuckle escaped Onion Knight’s breath, finding Celes’ subtle indications rather peculiar. And yet, that expression she gave was what he needed to confirm that this Cross-Examination wasn’t over just yet.
From Celes’ stern expression alone, he knew: there was a flaw in the testimony.
Feeling as though a sudden spark jumped his mind back in gear, Onion Knight glanced over the Witness testimony notes once more. From an initial examination, the testimony was seen as flawless to him. It was well informed, detailed, and consistent. So then, what was missing?
He then thought back to his meeting with Celes two days ago, reflecting upon what they discussed about the room directly below the scene of the incident.
It was then when it had occurred to him that he needed to link up this testimony to when Celes found out about the contents of Laboratory Room 1. That very room holds to very key that could throw this entire case on its head.
But the question still remains: How would he be able to link up this testimony to Laboratory Room 1?
Terra watched Onion Knight as her own curiosity rose, wondering what was on his mind.
Flashbacks then occurred as Onion Knight continued his swift analysis of the testimony:
“After Friday’s Court Trial … I decided to do my own digging.”
Celes’ voice from two days ago echoed throughout the vast reaches of Onion Knight’s mind.
“I cannot say much, but I can admit that it was in relation to my testimony on how I was able to find these.”
He found it.
“Well then, it seems you have no more questions to ask the Witness.” Gabranth concluded, his patience waning. “Miss Chere, you may exit-.”
“HOLD IT!” Onion Knight bellowed unexpectedly, intentionally cutting of the High Judge. “Your Honour, I have one more question to ask the Witness! Please don’t send her away just yet!”
“Tch! You dare interrupt the High Judge Gabranth!?” Warrior of Light yelled out in protest as a self-elected stand in for the High Judge, finding Onion Knight’s lack of respect intolerable. “He was just about to conclude the Cross-Examination before you opened your-!”
“So be it, one more question.” Gabranth unexpectedly accepted with a huff, completely ignoring Warrior of Light’s support. “However, just so we are clear, Knight of the Onion … my patience is at its limit. Prove to me that I have made a valued decision.”
Warrior of Light crossed his arms and veered away in an angered mumble, “Oh, for the love of…!”
Onion Knight returned his focus to Celes immediately, his eyes lit up like a revived flame.
“Celes, in your testimony, you had stated to the court that the event regarding you finding Rydia’s Hair Ornament occurred not long after the incident itself took place.”
Celes nodded in confirmation.
Seeing this, Onion Knight crossed his arms and gave off a confident smirk as he let loose what was on his mind.
“So, my question is: Why was this not brought up during Friday’s court trial?”
Celes’ eyes widened, a gasp of shock escaping her. The crowds of students suddenly caught on to this with heightened intrigue, shuffling up on their seats as some began to whisper amongst one another. Warrior of Light was even caught out by this, dropping his ignorant expression as he listened in. Terra, on the other hand, observed cautiously, realising where Onion Knight was going with this.
“… I didn’t have the chance.” Celes murmured hesitantly, her gaze shifting away awkwardly.
“And why is that?” Onion Knight pressed her, refusing to let her escape. “There was countless times where you could have brought up the subject; in my personal opinion, directly after Bartz Klauser’s testimony would have been perfect.”
“I…”
However, Onion Knight didn’t stop there.
“Warrior of Light!” He abruptly called to his rival.
Warrior of Light straightened up in surprise, completely oblivious to the possibility that he would be called upon by his opposition.
“From what I have been told, you had entered a ‘contractual agreement’ with Celes at some point before this trial, enforcing her that she was not allowed to speak directly about her testimony to anyone until she took the stand today.”
Warrior of Light kept silent, his expression firm as he listened to his court rival.
“I believe the court has the right to know, Warrior of Light; when did you find out Celes was a witness to this case?”
Having been forced into a psychological corner, Warrior of Light released a long bitter sigh. He was next to realise what Onion Knight was referring to.
“Friday … soon after Academy hours.” He muttered arrogantly, regretting his decision to speak almost immediately.
The entire hall gasped. The crowd of Academy students watched in shock and awe as they finally caught on to this revelation.
“And there we have it.” Onion Knight concluded as he returned his focus onto the Witness. “Celes, I would like you to admit to the court the reason as to why you ‘opted’ to hide eligible evidence – namely, the location of Rydia’s Hair Ornament – during Friday’s trial.”
Celes, feeling as though she was just taken through a high-speed rollercoaster ride, took in a deep, refreshing breath. She took this opportunity to regain her thoughts, deciding to ultimately comply with Onion Knight’s request … even though she knew it was going to happen eventually.
“Yes, I purposely neglected to tell the court about the location of Rydia’s Hair Ornament during Friday’s trial.” She admitted truthfully, a faint grin breaking through as she spoke. “You see, I had originally planned to speak up in court that day about its whereabouts. However, I then stopped and thought to myself: ‘Why not I just wait and further investigate the incident myself after the first trial finishes? If I followed through with this, I would have a stronger testimony during the next trial and help resolve the entire case in the process.’ And so, after the previous trial concluded and Academy hours ended, I stayed behind and commenced with my own personal investigation.”
Gabranth nodded as he listened to the Witness’ explanation, his eyes closed and expression firm.
“It was a decision most noble and valiant, Miss Chere, yet I must condemn such actions as foolish.” He stated, seemingly not approving of the idea whatsoever. “Your initial testimony had served its purpose, and ultimately resolved the location of the stolen Hair Ornament. However, I must now ask for you to testify to the court on your findings during your ‘personal investigation’.”
He banged the gavel, concluding the current testimony.
 
Cross-Examination 1 … Complete!
 
Onion Knight felt his shoulders drop as mental exhaustion struck him hard. After a moment of refreshing his mind, his glanced curiously over to Celes, feeling somewhat apologetic for throwing her into the ‘deep end’ during the conclusion of the Cross-Examination.
However, what caught his eye was Celes’ returning gaze and confident smile.
“… Well played.” She coolly murmured in acknowledgement.
Onion Knight didn’t know how to respond, finding it odd that she was congratulating him for calling her out. Grinning back, he straightened his posture once again, reminding himself that he needed to be in top form.
Shifting to the opposing side, Warrior of Light was glaring at his rival with antagonistic eyes, his arms crossed and body tensioned as his frustration rose up deep within. Observing Onion Knight overcoming each challenge irritated him beyond belief, reflecting upon the results of the previous trial that were still fresh in his mind. However, he was patient. The trial was far from over, and it was only a matter of time before this ‘battle’ turns in his favour.
For within the grasp of his right hand, currently hidden from view … was a single USB Memory Stick.





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