"Come now, Ms. Brown, no need to look so alarmed." Eliza looked up to see Kenta's cold smile. "As we stated, the women were already dead before we acquired their skulls."
Small comfort, Eliza thought as her mind conjured up an image of bat demons sneaking into a morgue, finding Spiker and Sponge's bodies and... Eliza's stomach lurched and she shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself.
Was this to be her fate, then? Another ghastly trophy for the Kurosaki war chest? Would she soon be decapitated or would the removal of her head come after he demons had drawn out her death?
"No need to look like that, Ms. Brown. You will not share the same fate as Spiker and Sponge." Eliza looked up at Takashi's words. The demon lord turned to his niece. "I believe my niece wanted something more suitable, didn't you, Rin?"
"Yes, Uncle," the half-demon replied. "Spiker and Sponge were the true abusers of my brother, but I have little sympathy for someone who could have helped an orphan child avoid a harmful situation-" Rin glared at Eliza "-and chose not to."
"To say nothing of the other children under her care," Sosuke added.
"Indeed so, my son," Takashi agreed. "But James is part of our family. Doing him and him alone harm is what Ms. Brown must answer for."
"But I didn't harm James," Eliza protested. Desperation had flooded her words, but the matron didn't care. "I made a mistake, yes, but I'm not the only one!"
"Yes, you said that before," Kenta said, eliciting a hissing chuckle from Shinobu and some of the other bat demons.
"Then you should remember me saying that I can only do what I can for the children. Children need consistency; they need a place they can call a permanent home while they're still young if they are to move forward with their lives after losing their parents. That is what I can give them."
"Do tell, Ms. Brown, are you trying to convince us of your noble intentions or are you trying to convince yourself?" Takashi asked. His words, though spoken softly, were like tiny daggers into Eliza's heart. The matron lowered her eyes as the demon's words hit home.
"You knew that Spiker and Sponge had no real interest in James's welfare, didn't you, Ms. Brown?" Lady Suzume asked softly. "Even if you didn't hear what Shinobu did, you could tell that they weren't good guardians, yet you placed James with them anyway because, in the end, it was the easiest course of action, was it not?"
"I.... yes," Eliza whispered. The guilt she had felt since reading about James's adventure- temporarily numbed by the trial- returned with a vengeance. Tears leaked from her eyes as she looked back up at he assembled demons. "I'm sorry."
"You're only sorry because you're being forced to take responsibility for your actions," Rin growled. "You're not innocent."
"No," Takashi agreed as he rose to his feet. "But then, if you were innocent, Ms. Brown, we would not be here today." The demon's wings unfolded slightly as he stood, their edges lined with bony spikes that glittered like knives in the candlelight.
"Eliza Brown," Takashi intoned, "By the testimony heard here today, as well as your own admission, I hereby determine, that knowingly placed the child James Henry Trotter- a child of the Kurosaki family- in a harmful situation. As such, you shall suffer as my niece's brother has suffered. Rin, would you like to contest my ruling?"
The half-demon eyed Eliza with cold contempt.
"While I don't think Eliza Brown is evil, she deserves to be punished. I can see the guilt in her eyes. As such, no, Takashi oji-san, I will not contest your ruling. I only ask that I be allowed to carry out her punishment myself.
A murmur of approval ran through the room and Takashi nodded.
"As James's closest kin, such is your right, Rin." Takashi nodded at the four demons who had escorted Eliza into the room. "Now, let the sentence be carried out."