October 13th, 9:27 AM
Wright Anything Agency
It was the first time in a while that things were starting to feel... normal.
After coming home from Khura'in, things at the Wright Anything Agency had been pretty weird. Apollo being halfway across the globe was weird. Trucy throwing herself into her magician work to take her mind off Apollo and being away from the office for days at a time was weird. Athena talking twice as much and three times as loud to fill the silence in the office was sweet – but still weird. It gave Nick a creeping feeling of familiarity, and he remembered the way his office gradually emptied out nine years ago after he was disbarred. It made it hard to sit at his desk most mornings.
But then there was Maya, and Maya wasn't weird at all. Even after three years absence, Maya was as much a fixture of the place as Wright Anything Agency as any of its agents, having predated all of them – even good ol' Charley, the eternal office mascot, had been picked out by Maya herself when her sister had first furnished the office. Whenever she had time away from her duties as master of Kurain village, she came down to visit the office. And like some kind of balm, her presence always managed to soothe whatever was ailing the little Agency.
Today, Trucy had a show, as was usual lately. She'd dragged poor Athena off to fulfill her harrowing duty as magician's assistant, leaving Nick alone to hold down the fort. But when Maya dropped by with her usual warning (none) and her favorite watering can for Charley, any loneliness Nick felt slowly started to ebb away. The morning was starting slow without any calls from clients, and as Nick stared out the office window at the hotel across the street, Maya's favorite old Steel Samurai DVD playing on the office TV, he felt twenty four and content again.
Things were finally starting to feel normal, and that should have been the first warning.
He was brought out of his reverie with a start and glanced over at where Maya had moved from the couch to the far window, staring down at the street with a frown.
"What's up?" Nick asked, stifling a yawn as he stood to his feet and peered over her shoulder.
Maya squinted a little in reply. "Hmm."
"Hmm. That kid's been standing in front of the building for a while now."
Nick followed her gaze down to the sidewalk in front of their office building to see a bobbing head of dark hair, shuffling about uncertainly by the entrance. The two of them watched for a minute, but any time the kid looked like they might actually walk inside, they seemed to change their mind and fiddled with a piece of paper instead.
"Maybe we should go down and say something," Maya pondered. "Ask them what the trouble is."
Nick shrugged, glancing at Maya. "Wouldn't that be a little nosy?"
Maya shook her head emphatically. "Of course not! We're just two concerned citizens looking out for a poor, lost kid. Aren't you like the world's biggest softie for kids in trouble, anyway?"
Nick rolled his eyes. "I'm not that bad. Besides, you don't even know if the kid's lost."
"But they could be! Or maybe they might even be a client, trying to make the fateful decision of whether or not to put their life into the hands of the infamous Phoenix Wright."
"Or maybe they're just waiting to meet someone in front of the building." He frowned. "Wait, 'infamous'?"
Maya pouted. "You have no imagination, Nick."
"Ah- I guess it doesn't matter now," Nick mumbled, looking down at the now empty sidewalk. "They're gone."
Maya sighed. "Damn. And just when I thought we were gonna–"
The two of them jumped out of their skin as a knock sounded from the office door, and Maya whipped around to shoot Nick a grin equal parts smug and delighted. Nick bit back a smile of his own and quickly dove for the TV remote, shutting off the Steel Samurai special, while Maya grabbed a random law book from the shelf and tried to look busy. Then they shared a nod, and Nick opened the door with his best professional smile.
"Welcome to the Wright Anything Agency," he said cheerfully. "Come on in."
The boy who stood in the door was indeed the very same one from the street, still wearing his middle school uniform and carrying a backpack on his shoulder and a slightly crumpled sheet of paper in his hand. His hair was dark and straight and worn in a bowlcut, with his bangs hanging a little in his eyes. He seemed hesitant to cross the threshold into the office, but after a moment's thought, he nodded politely and took a step forward, glancing around the room without a word.
Maya looked up sharply, the book dangling from her hand, forgotten along with her favorite studious legal assistant routine. Her eyes widened as she looked at the kid, gaping a little. It wasn't until he caught her eye and started to look flustered that she finally seemed to snap out of it, smoothing over her expression. "Oh– hello there!" she said cordially. "Maya Fey, spirit channeler and legal assistant extraordinaire at your service." She held out a hand to the boy, whose face seemed to light up a little at her words.
"Um... I'm Kageyama Shigeo," he said, taking her hand hesitantly. "But most people call me Mob. It's nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too, Mob!" Maya broke into a wide smile and gestured to one of the couches in the center of the office. "Please, have a seat!"
Mob gingerly moved a plate of floating spaghetti from the cushion and sat down.
Nick and Maya sat across from him on the other couch, waiting expectantly. But Mob said nothing, instead looking curiously past the two of them at some point above their heads. Nick glanced over his shoulder, but there wasn't anything there.
That seemed to shake Mob from his thoughts and he met Nick's eye with an unexpected intensity – or perhaps it was the lack of intensity that was unexpected, because Mob's face was awfully blank, despite the sensation that the boy could see straight through you. It made Nick's hairs stand on end a little, and by Maya's quiet intake of breath, he suspected she felt the same.
"W-What can we do for you?" Nick asked, clearing his throat.
Mob pondered this for a moment, glancing down at the paper in his hands. "Well... I need a lawyer," he began slowly, "but I'm afraid you might not take my case."
Nick blinked. A lawyer...? For a middle schooler?
"Well good news!" Maya said cheerfully. "Nick here will take on any case, really. One time he represented a whale. He's not very picky."
Nick grimaced, but that seemed to get a small smile out of Mob.
"What Maya means to say," Nick sighed, "is that the Wright Anything Agency will do... well... anything you need us to do. You can count on us!"
Mob nodded slowly, and it didn't occur to Nick how stiffly the boy had been holding himself until Nick saw his shoulders start to relax as if his whole body had sighed in relief. "Thank you," he said. "Then I'll tell you my story, if that's okay."
Nick and Maya leaned in closer, nodding in encouragement.
Mob took a deep breath and said, "I work at the Spirits and Such Consultation Office."
Nick stiffened and glanced at Maya out of the corner of his eye. As master of the Kurainese technique of spirit channeling, Nick knew she was particularly sensitive when it came to phony mediums, psychics, and the like. It was an affront to her culture and her beliefs. But strangely, she nodded him on, quite literally on the edge of her seat.
Mob continued, "My Shishou is a psychic named Reigen Arataka. I perform exorcisms for him sometimes, but last night he went on a job alone." His eyes flickered like he was glancing at something on his left, but it was so quick, Nick thought he might have imagined it. "Since it's Friday the thirteenth, we get a lot of prank calls and false alarms from the evening before into the morning after, so I usually don't need to come into work during that time."
Maya's eyes were like saucers. "You... exorcise spirits?"
Mob nodded timidly. "I'm an esper as well. I can't do any kind of seances or channellings like you, though," he added, glancing at Maya.
Maya chewed her lip, but didn't say anything more.
Mob cleared his throat and plowed onwards, squirming a little in his seat. "I... know Shishou went to answer a call from last night about a haunted house, but late last night on the news, they were saying he..." He frowned a little, his fingers leaving more and more creases in the paper as his grip tightened. Nick felt the hair begin to stand on the back of his head for reasons he couldn't quite explain, and when he glanced at Maya, he saw that she had turned a little pale.
But after a moment, the strange pressure in the air subsided and Mob's expression evened out once again. "They were saying someone had been arrested for a murder at the house Shishou went to. When my brother and I went to the police station to ask about it, they said Shishou was the one who had been arrested."
Nick's heart sank. "So then your boss, he needs a lawyer because he's been charged with murder?"
"And you think there's no way he could have done it?"
Mob rubbed his chin in thought. "...No, he couldn't have."
"That was a really long pause, kid! Are you sure you believe in him?"
Nick was a little startled by the matter-of-fact response. That time, Mob didn't hesitate. "Shishou would never harm another person. I know he didn't hurt anyone." He said it with the same kind of mild mannered honesty Nick might use if someone asked if he was sure that Maya had watered Charley today. The answer seemed obvious. Nick nodded slowly, and Mob continued. "So I went to the detention center this morning to ask him what happened, and he said..." Mob hesitated, glancing at Nick uncertainly. When he spoke again, he changed gears. "He said Serizawa-san was looking for a lawyer. So I called Serizawa-san and asked if he'd found one, and he said he'd been turned down by every one he called."
Nick's chest tightened as he looked a little more closely at Mob's eyes, half hidden under his bangs. Dark circles hung beneath them like bruises. The kid obviously cared a lot about his mentor.
He glanced over at the space beneath his window at the ghost of an eleven year old bloodstain that had never quite come out of the carpet.
"...Why was his case turned down?" he finally asked, turning back to Mob.
Mob fiddled idly with the paper in his hand, nearly crumpling it beyond recovery. "Because..." He took another deep breath. "Because the killer was a ghost, and Shishou was possessed."
A heavy silence hung in the air. Mob looked anywhere but at Nick and Maya, who exchanged a glance with one another, and they knew they were both thinking the same thing.
After a moment, Mob cleared his throat nervously. "I-I came to you because of this," he said, holding out the now nearly illegible paper. But when Nick took it, he recognized the photograph at the top of the page as one of Dahlia Hawthorne.
"I was looking for other lawyers who might be espers," he explained, a little sheepish, "but I found that article about a spirit testifying in court with the help of a medium." Mob's earnest gaze turned to Maya. "I thought if anyone would believe me, it would be you."
Maya looked at the picture of Dahlia, eyes narrowed. "Ah."
Mob started to fidget again and turned to Nick. "I-I don't have much money, but I'm sure Shishou would be able to pay whatever fee you need."
Nick hesitated. Just the memory of Dahlia and Iris's trial was already starting to make him feel ill, even before they'd started looking for any spirits. And if he felt ill, he knew Maya must have felt even shittier. "Well... I don't kn–"
And suddenly that pressure was in the air again, sending a chill down Nick's spine. But as Mob scrambled off the couch and lowered his nose to the floor, a lump rose in Nick's throat. The poor kid was trembling. "I know this is a lot to ask," Mob said quietly, his voice muffled by the carpet, "a-and I promise after this is over, we won't bother your agency again. But please. I... don't know what else to do."
Before Nick could speak, Maya walked over to kneel beside Mob and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, Mob?"
Mob looked up nervously, and Maya coaxed him into sitting up straight. "Remember our name?"
"...The Wright Anything Agency?"
"That's right. And that means we'll do anything to prove our clients innocent." She winked. "Even a little ghost hunting."
Mob's eyes went wide. "Then you'll-?!"
"We'll take the case," Nick said firmly, kneeling down at Mob's other side. He smiled warmly, helping Mob back up to his feet. "Your boss must be a good guy if he's got somebody like you working for him."
Mob's face turned pink and he stammered out a polite denial, brushing the dust off his pant legs. Nick grimaced, making a mental note to vacuum the carpet in the office ASAP.
"T-Thank you," Mob said, bowing low, his voice suddenly effused with an unexpected warmth. "I can take you to Shishou, if you want."
"Give me just a second to lock up," Nick said, "we'll meet you downstairs."
Mob nodded and bowed again, then scurried off down the hall.
When he was out of sight, Nick turned to Maya and laid a hand on her shoulder. "You okay with this?" he asked quietly, frowning. "Like... really okay?"
Maya nodded, grinning. "Especially since I was right about you being a big ol' softie for kids in trouble."
Nick rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he mumbled. "Even if we're defending a fake psychic, though?"
Maya blinked. "Fake? What do you mean?"
"...Not real? Unless the definition of 'fake' has changed since the last time I read the dictionary."
She gaped at him. "Nick, are you serious right now? Like really really for real? You couldn't feel it when he walked in the door?"
"He's a real psychic, you dummy!"
Nick raised an eyebrow, looking back at the doorway where Mob had just disappeared.
Well, he thought tiredly, so much for being back to normal.