Prologue: A Diabolical Excuse

Eee, I finally got round to posting this!
I do not own the characters or setting, as they belong to Yu Wo. Any anachronisms, OOC-ness or just plain bad writing is, of course, entirely my own fault.

Twelve men sat in darkness around a table. No-one so much as dared to breathe; the only sound came from the nervous rustling of papers.
 “This isn’t good,” someone said. The others could hear the cracks of age and fear in his voice, much as he tried to hide them.
 “I think we’ve already established that,” came a deep, ringing bass. “The question is what we should do.”
 “Cover it up, of course!” somebody laughed.
 “Are you crazy?! Are you insane?” One of the knights stood up quickly, knocking his chair to the ground with sheer force. “We’ll never manage! The truth will get out somehow!”
 “I have to agree with Vaign,” a man purred. “There is no roof which does not leak and no floorboard which can’t be pried loose. People will find out about it somehow.”
 “Are you guys idiots? Actually, was there even a point in asking that? We’ve managed to cover up how dysfunctional we really are for over 700 years, so how hard could it be to cover up a bishop fiddling around with demons?”
 “But innocent people are dying!” someone protested, his voice penetrating the gloom. “Doesn’t that matter to you? Shouldn’t we do something to protect them?”
 “Besides, there’s no evidence that the Bishop of Seabloom actually is responsible for the demon outbreak.”
 “Chasel is right,” rang a man’s voice, old and cracked but capable of bringing the room to silence. “But the people of Seabloom evidently don’t think so, and it’s damaging our reputation. And if this spreads to the capital...” An ominous quiet hung in the air.
 “...If this is so important, we should go and investigate it.” Someone spoke quietly but clearly, leaving everyone’s mouths hanging open in wonder. Then a chorus of agreement started up, men’s voices babbling away like a stream.
 “What are we going to do about our students?” someone asked. The room quietened again as they all considered what to do.
 “Seabloom is a pretty place,” a man murmured.
 “If they were with their parents, they would have been helping on farms right now, since it’s summer.”
 “It’s been four or five years since we took them...shouldn’t they have adjusted by now?” somebody mused.
 “Neo, do you remember anything that isn’t to do with war, fencing or the princess?”
 “Hey, you weren’t supposed to know about that! And yes, I do remember things that aren’t to do with fencing! I”
 The old man sighed. “Gentlemen, the point has been adequately demonstrated. Now, should we continue discussing the matter at hand?” His voice was cold and sharp, cowing both the men while the others wondered exactly what point he was referring to.
 “A holiday would be good for them, I suppose. They deserve a chance to enjoy themselves.”
 “...No. Once you sign up to be a Holy Knight, you never go back.”
 “We can’t keep them here while we’re away, that’s for sure. They’ll tear the place up.”
 Again a chorus of agreement.
 “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a holiday for them...”
 “Neo,” a bass voice growled, “you are not using this as an excuse to torture a group of fifteen-year-olds!”
 “We can use this as a chance to put their training into practice, though,” someone pointed out.
 “That’s all very well and good, but you’re dragging them into a demon outbreak and a murky clerical struggle. If they get tangled up in that, well...”
 “I’m the strongest Sun Knight in history!” Neo yawned. “What makes you think I can’t handle the demons? I’ll get them safely back if they can’t make it themselves. As for the clerical struggle, how much harm can a bunch of 15-year-olds do? No one will take them seriously.”
 “Do we need to point out the humongous mistakes in your logic?”
 “Yes, Hermis, you do.” Neo started to unsheathe his sword.
 “Enough! No fighting,” called the old man. “Are we taking the students along with us or not?”
 “How safe will they be?”
 “They’ll mess everything up!”
 “What are you talking about?! It’ll be an opportunity for them!”
 “...Why do I not want to put this to the vote all of a sudden?” the Pope sighed.