May 3rd, 5:00pm
Just like Ema had guessed, Iris was in a much better condition when her consciousness returned this time around, though that might have been due to her generally better performance as well. Not only had the channeling lasted a lot longer, Ema had also been able to recall a lot more of her memory. Maya's makeshift Channeling Chamber seemed to have done the trick. Regardless, Iris was still exhausted and feeling dizzy when she came to. In order to give her a chance to rest, Lana volunteered to drive Maya, Iris and me to Misty Fey's flat. There was something we had to do there as well, aside from getting to a bed she could make use of. After all, the mystery of how Detective Gumshoe's car had suddenly broken down was still unsolved. While Edgeworth met with the Detective in order to check on him and poor Maggey, Maya and I would go and try to get information from the only other possible source we had found, and that was the old Edgeworth law firm… The place I had wanted to go to ever since Maya had first mentioned it during today's trial. Originally, Edgeworth had wanted to split the tasks the other way around, so his reaction to my pleading to let me go to meet his old colleague in his stead was met skeptically by him.
'There is a certain case I've wanted to ask him about,' I had told Edgeworth truthfully. 'Also, if he really is somehow connected to the girl who broke in here, I'd like to ask the questions myself.'
That's what I told him, and I was surprised at how easily Edgeworth had agreed to let me meet his old friend in his stead...
The old Edgeworth Law Offices weren't far from Misty Fey's flat. The footway barely took ten minutes. I was taking quick steps, though, to make sure this wouldn't take too much time. It was already past four in the afternoon, and I'd still have to go and interview a certain high school student later on. It was hard to focus on moving forward when a figure that almost had her entire head obscured by a dark purple cloth was walking beside me, though. A pair of comically large sunglasses ensured that her eyes, too, were not visible.
"Er… Is this how you usually dress when you go out?" I asked Maya carefully. She had insisted on coming along with me when I had told Edgeworth that I was going to visit Mr. Shields. Her reasoning had been that she was 'pretty interested' herself. In what exactly she was interested, she didn't tell us.
"Mm-hm!" the reply came with a huge nod. Her voice was subdued, and she evidently tried to make herself sound deeper, "My outdoor disguise to shield my identity from the eyes of the public! Pretty neat, huh?"
My only thought was that if she was trying to not attract attention, she had clearly failed her goal, but I kept that to myself.
"While we're at it, Nick, what's with the hat and the hoodie?"
I couldn't exactly tell where Maya's eyes were, thanks to her monstrous glasses, but I am rather sure that she was eying my current outfit, which was unusually casual for my standards, from top to bottom.
My hand was on my head. I tried to pull the grey beanie down in order to make sure it'd stay where I wanted it to stay.
"Well, Edgeworth warned me that Mr. Shields might not be too happy to speak with the infamous 'Phoenix Wright, Prosecutor with the worst morals in town'. So I decided that it might be good to try and approach him incognito..."
"… And the hair and suit would be a dead giveaway! Got it!" Maya grinned. "If you need any advice, just ask me! As you can see, I know all about 'incognito'!"
I just took another look at the sunglasses-wearing, purple clothed Maya and stayed silent.
(… Yes, not telling her about the outfit before I got dressed was definitely a good choice.)
Before long, we found ourselves standing at the place we had been searching for. A heavy, old mahogany door with a brass sign out front, which had certainly seen a few too many rainy days for its own good, read 'Edgeworth Law Offices' in deeply engraved letters. While the building looked somewhat elegant, the strong signs of aging present on it kept it from looking expensive or aloof. It seemed traditional, but not too remote from the 'common man'. When I recall the few, rare times I had gotten to meet Edgeworth's father, I thought that the atmosphere of the location really suited him. Adjusting my beanie one last time – I felt really paranoid about the possibility that my spikes might be peeking out – I led my hand up to the doorbell and rang it once. A loud, short melody, which I recognized as a rendition of the Winchester Chimes, reached our ears. A few moments later, we heard footsteps. Someone came and opened the door.
"Welcome to our law firm. I hope the way here wasn't too troublesome. How may I help you?"
The one who had opened the door for us was a girl, just a bit younger than Maya, dressed in a cute, but somewhat formal-looking outfit, including a rose-colored blouse she hadn't buttoned. It was hard to tell, but I wondered if what she wore under that blouse might be her school uniform. It sure looked like one. Long and wavy black hair fell across her shoulders and held over her face by a pink hairband. Her eyes were a vivid green. All in all, she gave me the impression of a polite, calm young lady. I felt vaguely reminded of Iris. I was also surprised, because I somehow had expected the chief himself to answer the door… Did the girl work here?
"Er… Good day. We are here to talk to Mr. Raymond Shields…"
"Oh, of course!" She tilted her head a bit and smiled softly. "You are in luck! Mr. Shields is here right now. Come in, please."
Keeping the door held open, she stepped aside and showed us the way. Maya and I looked at each other for a moment before we followed her in. The inside of the firm seemed somewhat newer than the outside, although not exactly modern either. It was a bit more spacious than my own firm, though.
"Sit here, please," the wavy-haired girl led us to a large, green couch and made a gesture towards it. With a polite 'Thank you' each, Maya and I accepted the offer. She then stood before us, tilting her head a bit yet again,
"Would you like some tea? Or coffee, maybe?"
"That is very nice, but I don't really need anything. Thank you," I responded, while Maya thought a bit.
"I'd like some fruit tea, if you have some, please!"
Wavy-Hair smiled, "How about strawberry?"
"Alright, strawberry then."
That said, Wavy-Hair gave Maya a short nod and walked behind a desk on the other side of the room, where there was also a small table on which a coffee machine and a water boiler stood. The sign on the desk read 'Secretary"… Oh, so that's who she was. Actually, I should have known. Maybe a girl like this doesn't make me think of a secretary right away because of my personal experiences with lawyers – or rather, myself – and younger ladies.
"She seems like a nice girl. Mature and responsible," I whispered to Maya, giving her a meaningful look. What I got in return was a cheeky smile.
"I guess so… But she also seems a bit boring, don't you think? I bet investigating with a girl like that would be a real drag!"
"That's not really what a secretary is for, though."
(And seriously, I'd not mind a bit less excitement in my cases every now and then…)
Wavy-Hair – or, rather, the secretary – had meanwhile finished setting up the water for Maya's tea. She now sat down at her desk and began swiftly typing on the keyboard of the computer that was placed there, accompanied by the soft humming of the machine.
"Excuse me, but do you have an appointment?" she asked, peeking at us from her spot behind the desk.
"Actually, this is sort of a spontaneous visit. I hope that doesn't cause any trouble?"
"Oh, no, not at all, we are veeery used to 'spontaneous visits'!" she replied, confusing me for a moment with the way she'd drawn out the 'e' in 'very'. I thought it sounded a bit mocking, but I had probably been just imagining it. I just wasn't used to polite girls like this.
"If I may just have your names, please?"
The secretary was looking at us in anticipation. I was about to respond when I suddenly felt a lump form in my throat. Names. Oh no.
"E-Er… Names… Of course… Um… UGH-!"
Before I could say anything more, Maya had elbowed me in the ribs, which quickly shut me up. In my stead, she faked a cheerful voice and spoke,
"I am… Mary G. Hilfin! A-And his name's Ni..Nicolas! Nicolas… Enigmar!"
I was fighting the urge to yelp in pain at the bruise Maya had bestowed upon me, so I was too busy to react to any of this right away. The Secretary seemingly took no notice of my suspicious behavior, though, and just nodded with her smile still on her face before she proceeded to enter our names into her databank.
" 'Enigmar'?" I skeptically whispered to Maya while the sound of the secretary's typing still drowned my voice out.
"It was the first name that came to me, OK?"
"But isn't that…"
Just then, the typing sounds from the secretary's desk stopped.
I quickly shut up, pretending I had never said anything. The last thing we needed was the secretary getting suspicious of us. It was a miracle she wasn't already, really. As Maya and me sat up straight on the couch like a pair of kids playing angels in an attempt to hide the fact they had hid a wild ferret in the garage, where it was probably tearing the car tires to shreds that very moment, the secretary stood up from her chair and bowed slightly,
"Please wait a short moment. I will go and tell Mr. Shields that you want to speak to him."
And with that she turned and headed for the door on her end of the room. She went through it, leaving Maya and me behind alone for the moment. My eyes were on Maya,
"Alright, 'Mary'. We are going through with hiding our identities then?"
Maya demonstratively adjusted her headscarf then and nodded, "Of course! This whole place screams 'suspicious', after all!"
I was convinced that those so-called 'screams' Maya was hearing were probably just my own suppressed whimpers at that bruised rib of mine, but I didn't see the point in questioning her judgment right now.
"Don't worry, I will be keeping that dubious secretary distracted! You go, talk to Miles' friend."
"Er… Alright." (How exactly is that girl 'dubious'…?)
The secretary didn't even take a minute to inform her boss of our visit. Just when our short exchange had finished, she came back out.
"Mr. Shields in waiting for you in his office, Mr. Enigmar, Ms. Hilfin. You can go and speak to him now."
"Oh that's alright, Nick here will do the boring talking. I'll be a nice younger cousin, once removed, and wait here! Right, Nick?"
I stood up and made my way towards the door on the other side of the room, where the wavy-haired secretary invitingly held the door for me and closed it the moment I had stepped inside. Maybe it was just Maya's paranoid spy-talk from earlier, but why did I get this eerie feeling that said 'you just crossed the point of no return' when I heard the door click behind me? The atmosphere I was greeted with was a familiar one, though. The office I stepped into looked so perfectly normal, I could have imagined myself working in it. I immediately knew what everything was needed for and that it was standing in just the right place. Whoever worked here had a similar taste in interior design to myself. Or to Mia. It was sort of a mix of both. I liked it. As for this 'Whoever worked here', I was meeting with him now. I found him sitting behind a desk at the far end of the room, looking in my direction invitingly. It was a lanky man with curly, dark hair. He wasn't wearing a suit, but on his head rested a hat – a fedora – that I found triggered a vague familiarity somewhere in the back of my mind. He took it off, though, the moment I entered and bowed a bit while remaining seated, probably as a gesture of respect – one I couldn't return, because it would have ruined my cover. I felt a bit ashamed.
"Hello and good day! You must be Mr. Enigmar?" the man greeted open-heartedly. There was a nice, but somewhat knowing smile on his face. He had a strange air to him.
"Er, yes. That would be me," I replied, still ashamed that I couldn't take off my hat as well, but I tried to at least seem a bit less rude by returning the bow. "And you must be… Mr. Shields, then?"
"The one and only."
I was already walking over to the desk, and began to hold out my hand for a polite shake.
"It's a real pleasure," I said. I found myself confused when my dialogue partner initially remained seated instead of standing up and shaking hands, but quickly realized that he, in fact, was trying to stand up. He took longer to do so than normal. Only when I saw his hand reach behind his chair to pick up a long stick that looked suspiciously much like a crutch – scratch that, it was a crutch – I understood.
"Oh, excuse me!"
I quickly pulled back my hand and attempted to help Mr. Shields down again – there was really no need to exhaust himself like this for something as pointless as standing up to shake my hand – but instead of taking my help and seating himself once more, he swung himself up, transitioning his weight out of the chair and onto the crutch. Then, he threw an arm around my shoulder and patted me on the back.
"No worries, no worries! Uncle Ray's legs here might not be what they used to be when he still was a wee kid, but that doesn't mean I can't take the time to greet a guest appropriately! Still, I'm not much of a handshake guy anyway… How 'bout a hug instead?"
Before I had even decided if the guy was serious or kidding, he had already squeezed me between his arms. It was such a strange, unfamiliar feeling, I froze on the spot. I had never had a man hug me before. Actually, the only people – aside from my parents and Iris –who had ever considered me "hugging-material" were Maya and Pearls and even with them, this gesture was reserved for rare occasions. The older man getting so… 'affectionate' with me sure took me off guard.
He seemed to be very aware of how uncomfortable I was feeling at the moment, at least if his laugh was any indication.
"Ah, excuse me, good boy, didn't mean to startle you! One's definition of 'personal space' just changes a bit once you spend some time abroad!"
"Abroad?" I asked, trying to sound interested. Only a good first impression would earn me the trust-points I needed to get the information I wanted. "What kind of places have you been to?"
"Oh, lots of places, France, Canada… you name it," he grinned, but I couldn't tell if he was being proud or just friendly. His expression turned just a bit more serious for the next line, "Knowing different law systems is a part of being a good lawyer too, you know. I swore to myself that I was going to live up to this place's name in every way I could, and no silly old prosthetic is gonna keep me from doing so."
He sat down again and lightly hit one of his legs with his crutch after he had done so. A wooden sound was heard.
(Living up to the place's name… I can understand that,) I thought to myself. (I wouldn't want to disgrace Mia's name in any way either…)
So far I had a rather good impression of this person – aside from the hugging thing, of course. He was just as different from Edgeworth as I was, yet I could see how the two of them would get along well. They seemed to have the same determination and diligence in their work. Those German lessons I had been thinking about earlier were starting to sound more and more inviting.
"… Then again, you probably didn't come all the way here in order to talk about this old man's aspirations in life, did you?"
"Yes… I-I mean, no! Ah, I mean, not that they're uninteresting, but..!"
I, on the other hand, was not exactly giving that guy the impression of being good with words right now. I heard him chuckle at my futile attempts to make sense.
"Hehe… Don't worry, good boy, just calm down, OK? You're with a friend! I was once young, too, you know!"
(…'was' young? How old is he?)
As usual, my unspoken question was answered by my dialogue partner's next line,
"Once you reach your thirties, you start seeing life with different eyes, you know? That's when one gets more "settled", so to speak."
(… In your thirties, hm…?)
I was trying to imagine myself in four years or more based on what Mr. Shields had just told me, when he added,
"…Of course, some people just can't deal with pressure."
(… Aaaand that would be my category.)
I sighed to myself.
The outstretched hand of Mr. Shields waited for me, offering the announced treat.
"Oh... Yes, thank you…"
I didn't know where he had gotten it from so quickly, but I saw no reason to decline, especially seeing how I had already declined the secretary's tea earlier. The people here were so nice, not accepting their hospitability was almost a crime.
Mr. Shields and I were sitting across from each other now. He bent forward a bit, his arms resting on his desk, as he went on,
"Well, let's try this again. What brings you to Uncle Ray's humble office?"
I quickly chewed to swallow the bite of cupcake I had taken,
"I'm… here to ask some questions, actually."
"Oho, a quiz is it, then?" Mr. Shields chuckled. "Alright, hit me, "Quizmaster". Let's see if I can walk home with the million in my pocket!"
I laughed at the joke, though more because I was trying to be polite than due to actually being amused by it. The sad thing was, given some certain previous experiences, I could actually see myself make the same joke… when I'm getting desperate…
Deciding how to move on now was a bit complicated. There were several completely different things I wanted to ask him about. What should I start with? Eventually, I settled for the question that I personally found more urging,
"So, I heard you were involved with the Gramarye trial last month," I started. "I've wanted to get some information about that case. Could you help me, maybe?"
"Hm… The Gramarye case? Of course, I remember that one. Was quite a rush," Mr. Shields moved his head a bit. He seemed to be thinking. What didn't change was that knowing smile on his face. "… Come to think of it, my client's name for that case was 'Enigmar', too. Any relation, hm?"
"A-Ah, n-no, not really!" I quickly tried to talk myself out. Badly. "'Enigmar' is… a pretty common name, you know! Like Smith! Or Miller!"
I couldn't help but flinch when Mr. Shields said this without even bothering to change his expression,
He grinned, "Those all make the hit-list, right? Smith, Miller, Wright… Strange, though. I never knew 'Enigmar' was that common, too. Well, you always learn something new!"
I refrained from sighing deeply. It seemed I was safe for now.
"In any case... I'll try to tell you what I know about the trial. Though, it might not be as much as you're hoping for," he seemed a bit more serious for just a moment. "I was only appointed it last moment, because Mr. Shadi's previous attorney bailed out during the final preparations, you know. His second switch in attorney, in fact. It was quite a hassle. I had barely any time to even read through the court record."
"Was that the reason you..."
I was talking a bit slowly, because I didn't want to strike any nerves and as a result, I didn't even get to finish the sentence. Instead, Mr. Shields just gave me a big shrug and finished it for me,
"The reason I lost? Maybe, but I'm not sure it really changed all that much. Mr. Enigmar might be great at magic and card games, but when it comes to anything else, he'd not exactly get an 'A-Rank', if you know what I mean."
By now, I had noticed that Mr. Shields had a tendency to add the quotation marks with his fingers. It just strengthened the weird atmosphere that surrounded him, but didn't change that he seemed like a great person to me.
"Right… He ran away from court before a verdict could be handed down, after all."
Mr. Shields clapped into his hands when I said this,
"Oho! Very good, very good! I see you did your homework, Nick! … I can call you 'Nick', right?"
Somehow, I couldn't say no to that guy. It must have been that strong aura of his. It confused me. And so, I could only helplessly watch as the number of people calling me 'Nick' went up by one.
"Great! Anyway, yes… He fled the courthouse, just when his verdict was supposed to be spoken. Had the nerve to use his poor daughter for it, too…" This was the first time I sensed something like 'hostility' in his voice. It made me listen up.
"He used his daughter for it?" I asked. "How?"
"I'm not entirely sure, but from what she said when I spoke to her afterwards, I think he somehow made her believe the whole 'disappearing act' was a show and got her to assist him in his escape. Poor thing. I didn't talk much to her, but she seemed like she didn't really understand anything outside of her world of illusions and showbiz yet. I doubt she was even aware of what was really going on… At least until it was too late."
Did her father really use her like this? How could he? That poor, sheltered girl, who had full faith in her only parent… I had found a way in which she was just like Pearl, and that didn't exactly help my anger against Mr. Enigmar. In fact, it made it even worse. Apparently, I wasn't alone with that feeling.
"Pretty outrageous, huh? Believe me, if Uncle Ray here could tell old Shadi his opinion, it wouldn't be pretty." Despite jokingly calling himself 'Uncle' again, he sounded much more serious than before. "There are two things I hate above all else, and those are dirty tricks and betrayal. Especially 'parental' betrayal."
"Two inexcusable things…" (That sounds familiar.)
"A father is supposed to sacrifice everything for his child… Not the other way around," Mr. Shields told me his opinion. "I will never understand men like Mr. Enigmar, who use their children to their own advantage…"
"It's not just men who do this."
I was thinking out loud more than consciously saying this. Mr. Shields chuckled.
"That might be true, yeah, but… let's just say previous experiences influence a man.
While I was still wondering what kind of 'previous experiences' he might be talking about, he went on.
"It's good to know that the other side exists too. For every horrible parent in this world, there will always be one other who is amazing at their job, right? Anyway, what else would you like to know about the case?"
I took just a short moment to think, before I found my answer.
"The prosecutor," I said. "That's something I don't know anything about yet. Who prosecuted the Gramarye case?"
"That is the thing you don't know?!" Mr. Shields seemed downright shocked to hear that. Or maybe he was just making fun of me, because his reaction seemed almost too exaggerated to be true. "My, my, Nick, and here I was thinking that this would be the first thing anybody would find out! It was in the headlines after all!"
I hadn't been aware that this was such a high-profile case, but maybe I should have been, given the Defendant had been a celebrity. Still, what was this about the prosecutor?
"Yes, the headlines," Mr. Shields confirmed once again, before doing the quotation marks again, " 'Genius Gavinner's First In-Court Gig Crushed by Unannounced Guest-Show'… ring any bells?"
"No… not exactly…" I had to admit. All I could think of was that was an odd way to phrase a headline about a murder trial. Then again, maybe it was just his way of phrasing it that should have 'rang a bell' for me, because somehow, in the back of my mind, I did feel like there was something familiar to it.
Mr. Shields went on.
"Hm… Well, maybe he's more popular with the female crowd, after all. The only reason I assumed the guy was something of a matter of 'trivial knowledge' already was because my young partner wouldn't stop going on and on about him, you know..."
"You have met her, haven't you? I am talking about the young fledgling that let you in, of course."
"Oh… you mean your secretary," I replied. "So, is she a fan of this prosecutor? Is he a celebrity of sorts?"
"A star, and if she is to be believed, a rising one too," Mr. Shields nodded at me. "His name is 'Klavier Gavin'."
"Gavin…" I was just about to say how the name sounded familiar to me, when suddenly my mind flashed back. Back to the day before yesterday. Back to loud, screeching sounds, headaches, yelling, screaming and the tinnitus related to it. "Wait… HIM?!"
"Ah, so you have heard of him!" Mr. Shields grinned at me. I think my shock probably amused him. I still couldn't quite wrap my mind around the information.
"That guy prosecuted a murder case? But isn't he a bit young for…"
"Seventeen years old," the older man explained to me. "Upstarts like this have been getting more common in the prosecutors' office in recent years. He's one of two young 'prodigies' born in 2002 who graduated this year, in fact. I personally don't mind, though. Uncle Ray here got his own badge at eighteen. So I'd be a hypocrite if I complained, right? The future lies in the hands of the youth, they say!"
Seventeen… Eighteen… were these really the common ages for getting your badge nowadays? Suddenly, I felt so old. Still, that wasn't the point.
(I knew he was a lawyer,) I thought to myself. (But I didn't consider he could have been the guy who prosecuted that case. His 'Objection' the other day caused me to black out… could this be the reason why?)
But what did this mean? I could only wonder to myself. I knew Zak Gramarye was the Defendant. Trucy was his daughter. And now it turned out this Gavin had been the prosecutor… All these people caused me trouble with my Psyche Locks when I first heard about or encountered them here. And I only started remembering details about the case after one of the locks had shattered. That meant the Psyche Locks and the case were connected. Except…
(Wait… If everything about this case causes me to react…) my eyes were on the man before me. (How come he doesn't…?)
I had taken a while to realize this, but now it was clear as day. Gavin had caused me to black out. Trucy had caused me to black out. Talking about her father, too, had made me feel faint. If the Defendant and Prosecutor of this case caused such extreme reactions in me, how come the Defense Attorney didn't? There was an explanation, though: It wasn't him. He wasn't the one who defended Zak Gramarye in the trial that my memories were blacking out from. There had been, what, two changes in Defense Attorneys throughout the whole thing? How come? Maybe Zak Gramarye… Mr. Shadi Enigmar had been searching for a specific kind of attorney but couldn't find someone like that? … But maybe, he had found that kind of attorney. In the version of the trial that I was supposed to remember. In 'my world'.
"… Nick?" I distantly heard Mr. Shields say. "Everything alright, good boy? You look a bit pale."
I didn't respond. My thoughts were going too fast for me to pay attention to him.
… If all that was different in this place was different due to the lack of DL-6, and yet this one case stayed mostly unaltered despite this, it would mean that the Defense Attorney Mr. Enigmar had found in my world was someone whose ability to be present was 'impaired' here, because DL-6 didn't happen… someone who, for example, ended up not becoming a Defense Attorney at all…
… Who was I kidding? There was only one answer that made sense.
(…It's me. That's why the few memories of that trial that I have are so clear and detailed. I was there. The lawyer who defended Shadi Enigmar… was me.)
A sharp, piercing pain. A shattering sound that probably only I could hear. My balance was suddenly gone. I heard Mr. Shields shout something, when I, just at the last moment, managed to grab on to the table and keep myself from falling out of my chair.
"I am… okay…" I lied through my teeth, holding my head, desperately trying to hide my pain. "I am…"
I am in the courtroom. The air is tense. Same old judge, same old crowd up in the gallery, waiting for the trial to start. I spot Maggey somewhere on the other side. I wonder if she will cheer for me or for the other side this time around. It doesn't matter too much, though. I am not nervous. Not that much. I can't be nervous. I'm not a young rookie anymore. I have a name to live up to. It's not just my own name.
I'm not nervous. I can't be nervous. So I'm not.
There's no one standing beside me. I'm on my own today. Alone? … I'm not nervous. I've done this many times before. I know exactly what to do. I know that I am good. I know that I can do it. I'm not nervous. I look across the courtroom. The young man over there is younger than Maya. A year younger than Ema even. He's just a kid, right? I'm not nervous. I don't have any reason to be. I can't be.
There's a girl in the gallery behind the Defendant's chair. Her big, blue eyes shine with curiousness. I don't think she knows where she is. I don't think she understands what is happening. If Maya were here, she would say she's cute. But Maya isn't here. I'm on my own. Alone? … I'm not nervous.
I remember something.
'There is one cherry tree that always blooms way late, close by the village. Hey, how about we have a picnic there, after you're done? All of us together! C'mon Nick, it's gonna be fun! See it as a victory celebration. We both know there's no way you're gonna lose, right?"
I'm not nervous. My voice is absolutely calm when I speak to the judge. I have no reason to be nervous. I have done this many times before. I know exactly what to do. I am experienced. Not a rookie anymore. I have a name to live up to. I am not nervous. I can't be. I shouldn't be. I can stand on my own two feet.
Mia, can you see me?
"Mr. Enigmar? Is everything alright?"
I've not been out for long, as much as I can tell, but my spacing out had definitely been enough to get Mr. Shields worried. I sit up straight again.
"Yes, I am OK. Just a little… dizzy spell…"
I'm really a horrible liar. But even if he questioned it, what was he gonna do? Force me to go to the hospital? He knew even less about these sudden blackouts than I did, and that was probably for the best. More importantly… I had managed to take down yet another of these Psyche Locks.
(So I defended in that trial… Meaning I lost,) I thought to myself. (… That's it? Is that the reason why I've been blocking it all out? Just because I didn't win? Come on… I know better than to be a sore loser. No, that can't be all that happened…)
And I was thinking this not just because I knew myself well enough to be sure that a loss wouldn't traumatize me that badly. It's never been about winning to me. I would feel regret because of my client… But I definitely wouldn't go into denial or anything among those lines. So I could only keep wondering what exactly had happened. I was closer than ever to finding out now, though. I could feel it.
I tried ordering my thoughts again. I could think about what I had found out just now later, I had to focus on the here and now. Especially because Mr. Shields was still giving me a rather skeptical look at my claim of being "okay". I had to get the conversation going again before he could interpret more into this.
"Thank you… Mr. Shields. This was really useful information," I told him with a nod. "Um… I was wondering… You wouldn't happen to know what the deal was with the two times Zak Gramarye ended up switching lawyers?"
"My, my, for someone not in direct relation to the case, you sure want to know a lot about it, Nick." The grin on his face had returned. "How come?"
Great. This was just the one question I had been avoiding. What should I say now?
"Well… I was just wondering if it might be possible to track the escaped Defendant down, is all," I finally lied. "After all, he cowardly left a child behind, just like you said. He should be brought to justice, right?"
"True, true," Mr. Shields agreed very eagerly. "Though, as Mr. Zak Gramarye's lawyer, I probably shouldn't agree with that sentiment, should I? I have to act in his interest after all."
I decidedly shook my head, "After doing this to his own daughter? Believing in his innocence in the case is one thing, but that's just where loyalty stops, even for me."
"Even for you… hm?"
I closed my lips tightly. Stupid! Was it really so hard to just watch what I was saying? Well, then again, I guessed that by now it didn't make much of a difference anyway. If my sudden dizzy spell just now hadn't made Mr. Shields suspicious of me, then my strangely specific knowledge of the case had for sure. But in the end, it wasn't like that could do anything, right? He had no way of connecting that to who I really was. The only question remaining in my mind was why he hadn't thrown me out by now, but maybe that just wasn't his style, so to speak.
"Anyway, I'm sorry, Nick, but I really can't help you there," Mr. Shields went on as I was still thinking of what to say next. "By now I've told you pretty much everything I know about the case myself. It's not much, but it can't be changed. I am sorry if your trip here was for nothing."
"No, no, it's fine, really." I quickly responded. "What I learned here was really very useful. Thank you a lot. And… also…"
But then I hesitated. The next questions were much more risky than what we had been talking about so far. Given how I had been acting till now, how suspicious would it be if I asked these things now…?
"… Hm? 'And also' what, Nick?" I heard Mr. Shields repeat after me. He put his hand on his Fedora hat and adjusted it a bit. "If there's anything else you wanted to ask of ol' Uncle Ray, just go for it."
'Just go for it' was easier said than done, given that I had no idea what kind of reaction my next questions could cause. I had a bad feeling about it, but on the other hand, this might just be my only chance to find out about these two things. I had to go on.
(So… Here goes nothing.)
I took a breath and went on.
"Mr. Shields…You were involved in a case filed as "BD-7" a few years back, correct?"
Raymond Shields' eyebrows pulled down the moment the case's name fell and the corners of his mouth dropped. All smiles wiped off his face like that, he spoke in with a far more serious tone..
"I sure do," he said. "The victim was my mentor… and friend."
"I'm sorry. That must have been hard."
Nobody knew this better than me, after all.
"It's been years. It may sound cold, but… after a while, one just becomes comfortable with the thought of never seeing someone again, no matter how impossible it seems in the beginning," he replied and, for once, his mood didn't suddenly shift back to "cheery" again. "Still, this case has been over for years. How come you ask about it now, Nick?"
"Well, there have been a couple of attempted thefts in connection to it lately," I tried to explain.
"Attempted thefts, huh?"
"Yeah… Please don't think we're making any assumptions now…" The truth was that we definitely had been making assumptions, but he didn't need to know that. "… but they found this at one of the scenes."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the business card the girl with the ponytail had thrown at me, in order to present it to him. My dialogue partner's eyes widened a bit.
"… This is…!"
There was some actual, genuine surprise on Mr. Shields face when I showed it to him. That was enough to tell me I was on the right track.
"It's yours, right? We wondered if you knew anything about it," I explained, sharpening my look a bit. "Do you have any idea who might be behind these thefts and why they have your card?"
It was now Mr. Shields's turn to seem hesitant to speak, but, much to my surprise, no Psyche Locks appeared. Did that mean he wasn't planning on hiding anything from me? For the first time since I had mentioned BD-7, the older lawyer's smile reappeared on his face now. He seemed as calm as ever, though strangely amused for a reason I couldn't pinpoint.
"So, she dropped my card, hm? The thief, I mean."
"Yes, that she did," I nodded, just before I finished fully processing what he had just said. "-Wait! How did you know it was a 'she'?"
Mr. Shields chuckled and gave a short shrug.
This was as far as he got. Because that very second, a loud sound pierced my ears.
The door. It came from the door. In a sudden reflex, I turned, almost throwing over the chair I had been sitting in. And then, I became of aware what it was I had heard…
There was nothing to think about that moment – especially not about something as puny as having ruined Maya's disguise – and I found myself leaping to the door, grasping for the handle and throwing it open, not paying any attention to Mr. Shields or his reaction. This was the second time today that Maya's scream had caught my attention… I could only pray the reason was just as pathetic this time around as it had been last time. But if it wasn't…!
The waiting room opened up again before me and I stormed in. The sight I was faced with wasn't alarming at first glance: Maya sitting in the chair, just where I had left her- Except, upon second glance, there was something very alarming to it after all: The fact that her hands were bound together behind her back to the chair.
"Niiiick!" she called out when she saw me.
I ran up to her, "Maya! What happened here?"
"J-Just untie me!" she pleaded. "This isn't comfortable at all!"
I decided that I could still ask Maya questions about just who had done this to her after I had gotten her hands free. However, before I could step behind the chair, there was a voice,
"No step further, Evildoer!"
I don't know why, but somehow, this actually did cause me to stop in my tracks. Probably just because of the suddenness of the proclamation, though.
'Evildoer'? What was that supposed to mean? I looked around me. It was impossible for me to pin down the source of the voice, until it suddenly rang out again. This time in a loud, penetrating laughter.
"Aha! Aha! HA, HA, HAR!"
And then I knew where the voice had come from, though my mind was telling me: 'No. That can't be.' My mind was proven wrong, though, when, just like my ears had suggested, something above my head moved and caught my attention. Before I could turn my head and look at the object, it had already leaped down from the ceiling and landed right in front of me. It turned out the "object" was, in fact, a "subject": A girl, younger than Maya. And this time around, I immediately recognized her.
"It's the Secretary Girl, Nick!" Maya shouted out, "She was the Underbed-Ninja all along!"
"Great Thief!" the ninja… secretary… wavy-hair corrected Maya. "I've got a Yatagarasu badge, see?! And the bed thing… That was just once…"
Wavy-hair pouted at the last two sentences. Apparently she didn't have too fond memories of hiding under that bed either. Meanwhile, my mind was still boggled. I just couldn't believe it. Mr. Shields' Secretary… She was the pink thief? That kind, polite, soft-spoken girl?
… Were there no normal women in this world?!
Now that I thought about it, it was obvious; the same face, the same eyes, the same hair color and stature. I should have recognized her right away, but I didn't. Maybe Maya somehow did, though. Was that the reason she had wanted to observe her? In the end, it didn't matter. What mattered right now was the fact that between me and the tied up Maya was a 5'4" teenager. I tried to change that by running a circle around her, but she stepped in my way.
"Nope! No chance!" She said, stretching out her arms as if to erect an invisible wall. "You will not get away so easily now, fiend!"
"Get away?" I stared at her in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"
She rubbed her finger under her nose, proudly.
"That you can't just run! I, the Great Thief Yatagarasu, have stolen your precious thing!"
"Precious thing?" I asked.
"I'm not a 'thing'!" Maya complained, making me realize what Wavy-Hair was talking about.
So that girl really was that Yatagarasu Imitator who was going around. Though, someone still had to explain the difference between 'theft' and 'holding hostages' (poorly, but still), to her. This all left me wondering what the whole point of all this was, though.
"C'mon Nick! This is really starting to hurt, y'know!" I heard Maya call for me again, and I nodded.
"Just a moment!"
But I didn't get further than a few steps. The self-proclaimed thief got in my way again.
"You're not going anywhere!" she yelled in my face, striking a pose. "Not before you reveal all of it!"
This was getting ridiculous. As Maya was slowly starting to grow very impatient, I could just keep hopping in circles, just to have Wavy-Hair step in my way every time I tried to approach Maya. Of course, I could have just pushed her out of the way, but that didn't seem like a nice thing to do… Then again, she did tie Maya to a chair. Maybe I should consider it.
"Reveal everything!" she repeated in reply to my question. "The whole truth! All of your evil, shady business and so on!"
And then, suddenly, something clicked in my mind. This girl was after Phoenix Wright… The other one, the Prosecutor, who was supposed to be here. Of course… That's why she had broken into the office and the apartment, after all. It had all been in search of information about his "secret". And now, she was holding Maya hostage in the hope of getting this information… Except she didn't know she had the wrong 'Phoenix Wright'. What to do…?
"Don't play dumb!" The girl stood right in front of Maya now, pouting like my asking response had personally offended her. "You know exactly what I mean! You are with them!"
"What are you talking about…?"
Something was starting to move in my head. No matter how confused I was about this whole situation, one thing was becoming progressively clear: This girl… She knew something. Something I didn't know. Something I probably should know. And that was she was trying to ask me about. The reason she broke into 'my' office and home… and had manipulated the car.
…Wait, that didn't make sense. If she wanted to talk to me, why would she be trying to kill me? In fact, if it was really me she was after, she wouldn't be doing this right now. She was only holding Maya hostage, but the door to the offices was still very much unlocked, so it wasn't like I couldn't just leave if my life was really in danger. Plus, if she had really wanted to get rid of me, she could have just insisted I have a coffee earlier and poisoned me. Either way, something didn't fit.
"What am I talking about? Shouldn't that be obvious, Mr. Super-Prosecutor? For such a high-ranking villain, you are pretty slow!" The girl insulted me, as her expression turned harder. She glared at me with full seriousness.
"I have evidence, you know! You may hide it from the law, but you can't hide from the eye of truth! You are connected to it… 'The Network'."
"A…network?" I asked, confused. "A network of what…?"
It wasn't the girl who responded to this question for me, but a voice from right behind me. Raymond Shields spoke in a serious tone.
"Most think it's only an invention of conspiracy theorists… Others are convinced that it has already assumed full control over everything and everyone with any significant level of authority in jurisprudence whatsoever. Either way, with their existence not even proven yet, "The Network", should it actually exist, is the most successful criminal institution of our time and age."
"A… criminal institution?"
"They exist!" I heard the girl with the wavy hair yell from Maya's side. "They control it all, in this state… The police, the lawyers, the judges, politicians, the big companies… even the Mafia and Crime Rings!"
I turned my head to face the girl again, looking at her in confusion.
(They control… everything?) I wondered to myself. (Why does this sound familiar… And what has this to do with anything?)
"It started out as just a single corporation, led by a selfish man… But since nobody caught them, they ended up allying with a whole line of similar-minded groups! Assassins, information-gatherers, smugglers, media-manipulators, corrupt lawyers… They all banded together and created an Organization that would be absolutely invisible to the law. That is 'The Network'! It's true, we have proof for it!"
Before I could expand on that short question, it was being answered… from behind me. As I turned to the voice, Raymond, now standing right in front of the door that led outside, was speaking.
"Kay here and I… We have been investigating into this for a while, you see. We found a lot of things… None of which are actually useful in court, sadly. That's how law works. You need legally acquired, tangible evidence. We didn't have any of this… until now."
My eyes were wide. Was he saying what I thought he was saying? That he… and that girl… they were allies?
"You are all the evidence we need. Because… if we get just one of the involved to talk… We can crash the entire system in one blow! Like this! BAM!"
The girl stomped on the floor like she was Godzilla and trying to flatten a building under her foot. She seemed incredibly enthusiastic when she did that and giggled cheekily.
My heart turned heavy and I sweated when I became fully aware of the situation. Only now, I realized how surprisingly firmly Shields was standing in front of the door. It didn't take a genius to see what he was doing this for – He was blocking my path. Sure enough, I would be able to push him out of the way if I needed to, what with his prosthetics. But even if I could flee, Maya couldn't. And if Mr. Shields wasn't with me, that meant nobody could help her, except for me. There was no one except for the four of us in this building. It was then that I realized that this must have been what they had planned all along. The whole purpose of dropping that card in front of our feet… It was probably to lead me here. And my bringing Maya along, I dragged her right into it… right into their trap. I swallowed heavily…
"So, Mr. Phoenix Wright. What will it be?" the girl adjusted her scarf a bit. "Your friend is waiting. If you let us record you testifying, I'll undo her binds right away! But… if you don't, I can't do that. In fact, if you decide to not testify at all… I guess we'd have to just leave her like this…"
The girl crossed her arms, seeming a bit impatient. However, the person with the least patience left in the room had an actual reason to be as tense as she was.
"N-Nick!" Maya leaned forwards on the chair, staring at me pleadingly. "Please…!"
I stared at Maya before me, sweat dripping off my forehead and then my eyes jumped between the wavy haired girl and between Mr. Shields in the back of the room. What was I supposed to do? Even if I wanted to comply with their demands, I couldn't. I didn't know anything about this 'Network' I was supposedly part of. There was nothing I could tell them. There was only one thing I could try to do. Just a second more of fearful eyes were enough to get my body moving before the brain had even finished thinking the thoughts. Not saying a word more, I dashed forwards, aiming to push Wavy Hair aside and get to Maya.
… She jumped, got a leg in my way and struck my shin with it, ensuring that I would trip. My glorious rescue action came to an abrupt end here. I found myself on the floor, my nose hurting, as it had hit with whole force. My head, too, was spinning. But I wasn't out yet. As quickly as possible, I tried to get back onto my feet. But… the moment that I raised my head a bit, I saw something.
A gloved hand was stretched out in my direction in an offering manner. From above me, I saw the wavy-haired thief, her hair falling left and right from her shoulders, bent over me, smiling.
"Congratulations!" she grinned. "You passed."
My expression probably couldn't have been anymore dumbstruck.
Before I could take the girl up on her offer – I mostly didn't because my mind lacked the capacity to do so right now – the girl had already grabbed my hand and pulled me up. Her head turned to the side as she lifted my weight,
"Hey, Maya, you can get your arms back in front now!"
I didn't understand a thing right now. 'Baffled' would have been a gross underestimation of my current mental state. Maya, who had looked at me like she was fearing for her life just a moment ago, suddenly, without any effort worth mentioning, let the rope around her wrists fall off and brought her hands in front of her body. Perfectly healthy and happy, she sat up straight, looking at me.
"Nick, you look a little pale," she informed me, smiling. "Except for your nose, cause it's all red... You fell pretty hard, hm? Clumsy you."
I just looked at Maya. I'm not sure if my face had any emotion on it. If it did, said emotion probably didn't impress her much. Her grin was just as bright as that of the girl who had now finished pulling me up. I was standing on my feet.
"Hehe… We got him good, didn't we?" It was the wavy-haired thief's voice that mused this in joy. And then, Maya joined in.
"Yep! See, just like I told you. I knew Nick wouldn't run away."
"Ah, I see." Raymond Shields joined in with the two of them and grinned along. "So, that's what your plan was. I was wondering if it was that."
Left behind in the midst of the three grinning conspirators was I. Confused.
I shook my head.
"Could anybody explain to me what's going on here!"
Taken aback by my sudden yell, Maya ended up stepping back, tripping over the chair she had been sitting on and falling backwards.
Of course, I immediately rushed to help her, but you couldn't say it didn't serve her right, could you?
Let me tell you a little secret, guys: This chapter has actually been finished… for three months. And even before that, the gist of it was already written out for about half a year.
So, why did it take me so long to finish it, then? Why, you might wonder, am I uploading this only now, a week after the Dual Destinies release?
Well, to be blunt; I don't like this chapter. I really don't.
I was dissatisfied with it all along. Tried to improve it, read it over and over and over, changed stuff around, made it longer… In the end, I still don't like it. But now, Dual Destinies is out in English. I have played the Japanese version, already altered parts of the upcoming plot to include Clay Terran in this fic (Oh, yeah, that was another reason I kept the hiatus up; I decided that future chapters are gonna feature minor Dual Destinies Spoilers when I finished the game last summer. I waited so I could keep in-tune with the English localization.) I decided it was time to end this pathetic hiatus and finally get this thing going again. Especially seeing how my situation has changed.
You see, I live in Japan now. Exchange Scholarship until next summer. And if there is one thing I have already learned here, it's that procrastination is a vice that is avertable. Which is why I am starting to try averting it now. I need to finish this fic. I need to do it, not just for all of you who are still reading it, but for myself.
This fic is part of what got me where I am right now. Part of what made me more confident in myself and my own skills. I owe it to this fic to complete it. I owe that to myself. I can never give up on it, even if I turn into a giant slowpoke.
That's why you never have to fear this fic getting dropped entirely. Unless I die. But let's hope that won't happen.
OK, now that we got this out of the way, a few things on the current Ace Attorney Situation on my end:
I love Dual Destinies, I don't think it's the best game in the series, I think the localization once more brilliantly captures the spirit of the original, Athena Cykes is my new favorite character, I ship Apollo and Athena with a passion, and making it an ensemble game was a brilliant idea.
That would be all.