CHAPTER 14

THE CITY

MAYA:

Yeah okay. I was kind of worried. What if Nick got in trouble for his channelling? We don't know there were no witnesses! And the truth is important. Besides, they can figure out if you're lying.

So when the police questioned me before, I did tell the truth. I just left the part where Nick 'transformed' out. I told them the attacker was about to stab me, when a bird flew in and pecked and burned him, till he ran away. So they decided I was crazy after being hit on the head before, but, at least, obviously the victim in this crime, we both were.

And now I'm back at the Justice Department for yet more questioning! Nick, too, but we have to be separated, so we don't 'collude with lies' or something... I'm really happy we used our 'contacts' to get a different prosecutor, the one I saw last time went a strange colour when I said I was attacked by someone looking like Kristoph Gavin and choked "You're crazy, ja?" Seems he was pretty desperate to not have to take the case! Then when they said they couldn't contact us, while we were in our accidental hibernation or whatever, they were more than happy to have an excuse to 'have to' give it to someone else...

Our new prosecutor whipped Nick a few hundred times before she took him off to questioning. "I am doing this as a favour to you, Phoenix Wright!" She's back specially from her position overseas! "And another hundred for that 'Jury Trial'!" I averted my gaze and shuddered as he was led away. What could I do?

Mr Edgeworth's here too. He didn't take the case himself, because everyone knows Nick and him are friends, and the accused are already screaming 'bias', like I and Nick already have the justice system rigged. And the jury is all Nick's 'fault' and all. Mr Edgeworth pulled enough strings recently for that... But since he's not officially in charge, he can give us more insider info more freely!

"Well, you are fortunate that the police are convinced you are not at fault in this crime, as multiple Azakurain suspects have confessed... one even confessed to 'murdering you', despite the facts you are indeed, still alive.. As to your actions, their stories do not corroborate! But the police feel any actions you or Wright may have taken would indeed constitute 'justified self defense'..."

"What about their channelling Kristoph Gavin? And when I was saved by the bird!"

"Spirit mediums are frauds! *Ahem* That is what the official line of the court believes. So, Ms Fey, to avoid confusion, I believe we will agree, your recollections after the suspect assaulted you by hitting your head involved hallucinations!"

"But they were better by the..."

"I would advise you to hold your tongue, Maya Fey!" A nearby whipcrack announces Ms von Karma's shrill return. "Trust us, the case against your assaulters is already watertight. Why bring doubt to your case by introducing elements the police will disbelieve! Yes, I am aware of the fact that your family can perform this 'change of appearance'. As you recall!"

I kinda don't want to.

"And one of our arrested has indeed confessed to 'Channelling the High Kristoph' during the assault, so I believe your 'looking like Kristoph Gavin' tale! But as for this 'bird'.." Franziska tuts condescendingly, wagging a finger. "Who's to say what really happened? It is no shame to be in physiological distress after such an attack, let alone in the midst of being set on fire! This suspect mentioned no 'bird' and no 'fire' either! They claimed that you brutally attacked them and tried to stab them, but no such weapon could be produced, and their story varied each time they told it, so police interrogators discerned they are lying. And so do I! If they were really imparting a 'channelling', cannot the medium not perceive what's going on properly any more?"

"The detectives have reconstructed a third scenario," continues Mr Edgeworth. "There was indeed evidence of a recent fire being set at the attack site. So perhaps after your attacker captured and handcuffed you when concussed, they planned to set you aflame for a painful death that would also obscure the evidence and negate the need for suspecting an attacker when the body was found, but the fire grew out of control and they had to flee the scene to save themselves. This is what the prosecution will present!"

"After we questioned the suspect about the fire, they claimed you lit it," adds Franziska, "but this was believed as an improvised lie. There is little evidence of a means for you to have done so."

"Well, I believe we are overdue to depart to the line-up," sighs Mr Edgeworth. "Verify which you recall as your attackers."

"B-but what about the ones which were channelling?"

"We will take that into account. Just see if you seem to recognise any of them at all!"

###

Even though they're under strict security, it's still pretty nerve-wracking. One woman starts screaming "The Pretender Master will fall!" despite the prison guards trying to shut her up. Worse, I don't remember seeing her there! Or most of the other people! And a lot of them have injuries, which I'm pretty sure neither I nor Nick gave them.

Still, the big jerks which had the knife and gun are among the prisoners. I explain who they are to the police.

"That is the suspect who claims to have 'channelled' Kristoph Gavin," hisses Ms von Karma, gesturing to a young-ish woman in Azakurain medium clothes. "Is she familiar at all?"

"I... dunno. I can't remember her right now..." Something seems off. "Shouldn't she have more burns?"

"What are you thinking, Maya Fey!" I flinch backward as she tensions her whip. "She already has numerous injuries! As for burns - well, that is why she ran away! You said every time the attacker was wearing gloves and protective clothing. The criminal must have fled when the flames stood to burn through them as well! Perhaps they were not as protective as they had imagined?"

"You've done well for today. We've confirmed some leads," a more relaxed police officer tells me. With relief I exit the detention centre. "How did they get so many injuries?" I can't help asking Ms von Karma.

"Some of them were shot during arrest. It was unavoidable as they fired on raiding police AND jumped in line of fire. They are all insane, Maya Fey! Without the defense of being hit in the skull by a rock!"

"Y-yeah. Whatever." I can't help stifling a yawn. Usually when we visit the city I want to stick around doing stuff, but today I find myself wishing I could just go home and catch up some sleep. Ms von Karma seems to take it as a personal insult and storms off, her whip lashing toward some scuttling subordinate. Oops.

"*Ahem!* How rude," observes Edgeworth. "But I regret, I do have pressing work also that I should get back to. Give Wright my best regards..."

"Okay. Thanks for your help," I farewell him gratefully. Where IS Nick? I guess he's still in questioning or something. But since he went in before me, shouldn't he be finished by now? I hope nothing's gone wrong...

I check my phone, but he hasn't sent me anything. I call his phone. No answer. I send a text message. Where would he go? Maybe he just finished ages ago and went to see Trucy and forgot to tell me. So I call her.

"Hi Maya! No, Daddy isn't here. He didn't call me either. Apollo keeps muttering about him though... Apollo! Did you see Daddy?"

"He's not my Daddy," I hear a muffled reply in the background, and a short exchange whose words I can't quite make out.

"No, Apollo hasn't seen him," Trucy's returning voice finally confirms. "Is he missing?"

"N-no, he must just not be finished yet..." I don't know exactly what Nick's told Trucy or, for that matter, Apollo about our latest brush with crime, so it's best not to worry her with confusing info..."We'll see you soon. I better go."

###

(earlier that day...)

PHOENIX:

Stupid thugs. I admit it was satisfying to see some of Maya's attackers behind bars. I hope she's doing okay in questioning, it's pretty brutal and traumatic even when you're not the prime suspect. Especially when you're deprived of sleep.

Guess she's still in there. I take out my phone. I'll send her a message and tell her to meet me. Maybe I'll go see Trucy and we can all go out to lunch or dinner or something..

But before I can start typing, the phone starts to ring its vintage Steel Samurai ringtone.

"Hi, Mr Wright!"

"Oh. Hi, Apollo,"

"Guess what," Justice butts in. "I have a case!"

"Good for you."

"I saw you were nearby, so I thought I'd tell you!"

"Oh." He's stalking me? "How did you... know?"

"Huh? This app on my phone tells me when your contact list is nearby! You mean... you don't have it?"

"Why, no. My phone is a genuine working 2001 model antique!"

"Oh. Um. Well. I have a case. Or at least, a client contacted me. Their story is so weird. They've been falsely accused of attempted murder, but the real criminal - get this - turned into a 'firebird' and set fire to the victim! Can you imagine?"

"N-No. No I can't, Justice. " P-poker face, Wright! "Does that sound - well - plausible? Can your client really be, well... believed?"

"Yeah, but they can't be guilty. I think the poor thing must be insane."

"Exactly. Insane enough to commit the crime!"

"But don't you feel sorry f..."

"No. No I don't. Take my advice," I pronounce, "you do not want that case."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course! In my career, I had cases I would regret taking for the rest of my life. This," I ascertain, "this is one of those cases for you."

"Well if you put it that way..." Justice sounds deflated. My heart restarts. "W-well, thanks for your 'support'." The connection abruptly cuts.

T-that was a close one. I'm more than a little dazed. Damn, I'm still in sleep debt too. I suddenly wish I could go home.

I hope I didn't really kill or fatally injure someone!

So as I stumble unseeing through the thick crowd, I don't notice that a bunch of old ladies have mobbed upon me.

"H-HELP!"

The crowd mills around with a bored expression, watching but not assisting as the old ladies punch and immobilise me with some sinister martial art. It's about as unremarkable to them as a pigeon.

With my physical advantage I wrench the attackers off me, but I then feel a stabbing puncture from behind, and then everything fogs then blanks out.

###

My HEAD!

And there's a headache-inducing sound. Yeah, it's becoming more discernible. Starting to meld into nonsense babble, kinda like words.

I can't seem to sit up!

Wait. The words... they're starting... starting to make detectable sense!

"Are you sure about this? We are not acting with the mandate of The High Kristoph!"

"Irrelevant. The High Kristoph is not MY Guardian. Surely the spirits welcome us using our initiative to hasten their plans along!"

I strain, but something is holding me immobile, and it really feels like more than just my own weakness.

"Are you sure you gave him enough to sedate him!"

I startle and hastily try to freeze.

"Of course! The issue is whether I gave him too much! His tongue has turned blue!"

"Does it matter? It's not HIS prolonged health or wellbeing we require!"

What the hell? One of the voices is somehow familiar... It's hard to use my brain. Think, Wright, think!

"He needs to be alive enough for... what we require... oxygen deprivation can't be good... could it be he's allergic to the drug?"

"Are you going to try the old fashioned way first?"

Yet another - a third? voice.

"No time. Those awful authorities and the Pretender will come look for him. And you really think Mystic Iris has the will to control him? Best not to take him to Azakurain, also."

"But the power of the spirits could perform a miracle!"

"Then the power of the spirits can just as easily perform the miracle in the lab!"

That's Mystic Miranda! I can sense eyes boring into me. I valiantly pretend to be comatose and floppy. Lab? Miracle? What the hell is going on?

It really doesn't sound good.

It's too dangerous to open my eyes, but I can feel that I've indeed been immobolised somehow, strapped down. I'm lying on my back and there's some kind of definite restraint on my wrists, ankles, arms, legs... The first voice's hands are on me.

"I don't know... I've never tried this procedure before."

"But you're a doctor!" Mystic Miranda snaps.

"Medic. This wasn't in my training! I just read up on it.." The female voice is growing slightly irritable. "I didn't think it was going to be this way..."

She pauses her clammy 'examining' and I try not to twitch. "What if this doesn't result in the Prophesised Heir? The spirits may instead be angry at our impatience and lack of faith!"

"Of course they won't be!" Mystic Miranda confidently roars her response. "Mystic Maya and Mystic Phoenix's partnership was against the spirits! They will be pleased we are putting things back in order as their DESTINY decreed. We will just have a paternity test on the offspring and make the result public! Mystic Maya will surely file for divorce from her farcical 'law marriage' and then all will be easier for us..."

The third voice screeches in. "No rivals for Mystic Phoenix over his Destined Union! No other rivals as heir! In every way, things will be better, even if the Prophesised Heir doesn't result from this attempt..."

"And why so negative?" continues Mystic Miranda. "I question YOUR lack of faith, Dr Lacebo. Of course the offspring will have powers! Mystic Phoenix's powers are immens... *ahem!* respectable (for a man!)"

Oh. My. Ami.

"It's not just that! The failure rate can be quite high, if we can't get Mystic Phoenix back for further attempts then... I still think we should consult The High Kristoph!"

"Of course he'd approve! It's only fitting that Mystic Maya feel the pain of his rejection the same way Mystic Morgan had to suffer! I have consulted MY guardian. Who IS Mystic Morgan!"

"An eye for an eye, leaves everyone blind."

"Good. A blind Pretender will be easier to depose!"

"You missed the point, Mystic... Now please depart, for the sake of the patient's privacy! I hope this doesn't wake him!"

How dare they! I can't even...! My head fills with expletives and my indignation strains at the restraints... Damn it! Some voice of sanity cuts through their echoing words. If only they were literally blind! Yeah. I have to stay still, else they'll just sedate me again and I'll never escape! So no use trying to break free and overpower them... I might already have given myself away!

I hope not. "Hmphhh. I will... keep watch," Mystic Miranda is saying. I can hear the doctor taking three footsteps back to proximity and feel her poking at me again. I hope she was focusing on the others!

What will I do? I can't let this happen! And this is so violating... disgusting... I think I'm going to be sick!

I have p-powers! I'll shatter my restraints with the force of my will!

But the brute force of my fury... leads to nothing. Except the stupid doctor pausing in her privacy invasion and giving an audible 'Hmmm'. I then hear her turn to reach for something, open it...

I bet she's filling her sedation syringe!

Maya... Noooo...

Suddenly one of Maya's instructions in training flies into my mind.

The part where she told me to subsume all of the force of outside assaults and channel the energy of my emotion into focusing into and stoking an inner power. Something they can't see.

I turn every atom of my will and rage inward, every particle of focus I can muster. Eventually I'm not in that doctor place anymore, not in my perceptions. Maya's words are instead repeating in my head, like I'm in a dreamlike state.

I swear I'm in that waterfall!

"Focus on the Magatama! You know there's power radiating off the Magatama, right? Well, I want you to feelit..."

Maintaining the effort is horrible, but somehow I push on. Maya is here through the daggers of ice, speaking again."Concentrate on the powers coming from the Magatama. It's like a sixth can do it! I believe in you."

I focus on the magatama, until I'm nauseated, until I'm in agony, until I CAN feel it, with all my being. Suddenly my disoriented self knows where I am. Y-yeah. That's it, that's what's happening. We're charging her Magatama as my t-test. Build the power source in my psyche! She believes I can do it today!

"Come on, Nick! You can do it! Focus!"

Oh god, the pain! But I feel her hands on my shoulders! "That's it! I know you can do it! Train it into the Magatama!"

The pain is almost unbearable but I clench my jaw, I have to keep going. I can't fail Maya - she believes in me! I will not betray her belief. Somehow I force the focus to continue even though my teeth chatter, my whole body feels like it's vibrating and my temperature's going haywire. I can feel my heartbeat palpitating in sync with the frequency of the magatama's energy pulsing.

Then everything goes blue.

Where am I?

I wince as prickles of weeds or grass itch at my skin and somehow force open my blurry eyes. My head feels like someone's using it for a punching bag and there's that disgusting taste like smoke in my mouth.

Am I in jail?

Nah, despite the fact it looks like it's swaying from side to side, that barbed wire fence just looks like the edge of some abandoned lot. For some reason a small area of grass surrounding me has been lightly roasted; the rest is still abnormally tall, like a cornfield consisting of weeds.

My eyes seize on something in the dirt glaring into them. A clue. Some characters have been scratched into the soil, like the unreadable archaic writing on some of the old Kurain artifacts. I can't for the life of me make out what it says.

It's all coming back and I panic. Did I get away in time? What happened? For all I know when I blanked out was when they shot me with more sedative and just went on with their... a-aims.

Or maybe the whole thing was some weird hallucinating dream. One where at the end of it I end up lying naked in a vacant lot without my phone or wallet. Yeah.

I still have my magatama.

On the third attempt I manage to stand. G-great. I have to... find help. Maya. I have to find Maya! Who knows how much time has passed!

I stumble rapidly into the street. Some kid tuns to stare at me, bug eyed. Their parent bodily drags them away by the arm, the kid's head still twisted in my direction as they fade into the distance. I retreat hastily back into the lot of weeds.

I pace the lot, eventually coming across a soggy cardboard box, which I step into. I crawl under the chain of the back exit this time, making for a parking lot. Thankfully, there's a waste clothing charity bin, with bags of rags dumped messily around it. I pull on the first I can actually get to cover my body.

Maya?

Where am I, anyway? The surroundings are vaguely familiar. But that has no bearing on where Maya might be. Still, I pace on, blindly, with no money or way to contact anyone I don't have much choice...

MAYA!

"NICK!"

Maya rushes to me.

"WHAT are you wearing? Where WERE you? Why didn't you answer my messages?"Her cheeks puff out in insult.

"I was... attacked... kidnapped... abducted..." I blurt, my voice seeming oddly croaky. "Lost... phone..."

Suddenly my body comes over all shakey. Stating the events aloud has made them all seem more real and a kind of shock must be setting in. I collapse into the damp gutter.

"No!" Maya's arms are around me, supporting me into a sitting position. "What happened? Who did this? What did they do? Why?"

"N-not here," I gasp. "Not in p-public..."

"Are they still here?"

"I think I.. escaped."

"You think?"

"Blanked out... woke in this vacant lot... Wait! There was a clue!"

"A clue! What was it!"

"I can't read it. Maybe youcan! In weeds a few streets over..."

Maya springs up, excited, and pulls me to my feet. I lean on her and direct us toward the mystery scene.

"It's all burnt," Maya observes. "Nick, did you channel again?"

I love her logic. "I don't know."

"Well, you said you 'think' you escaped."

I sure hope I did.

"And this writing! A message from the killer?"

"It was next to me when I ...woke."

"It kinda says something like 'With Compliments'. Why would the criminals write that?"

"I have no idea." This case is making my head hurt again.

"Tell me what happened!" Maya demands. "Do you know who they were?"

"Some... one was... Mystic Miranda.. the others.. don't know them, from the Azakurain place maybe."

"Mystic Miranda!" Maya's fists clench. "I'll.. I'll..! What did they do?"

"Do? They.. it.. it was horrible..." This is hard to talk about. "They..." I try to arrange my thoughts in logical order. I feel faint.

"Nick, stay with me!" Maya's eyes are huge, her encouraging hands upon me like when I used to pass out in training. She starts massaging my shoulders and neck, which are taut from pain I didn't notice I had.

I let myself sink into her ministrations with relief. It's quite calming. "I'll... I'll try to start at the beginning..." I eventually manage.

###

Somehow I draw out recollections of the whole tale. As the orange dusk melds to a mushy grey night, we huddle together, bracing at the chill.

"So yeah. After I blanked out... blue-d out?... I just woke up here, right where that grass is all burned, and all my stuff and clothes were gone, except the Magatama, so then I found some clothes and then I found you!"

"Agh!" Maya clenches her fists in distress. "I'm so glad you're okay!"

"B-but..." I gulp. "But I don't know if I got away. What if when I blanked out they just shot me with more d-drugs and then later dumped me here?"

"I think you did channel." Maya's voice is believing. It's nice you have so much faith, b-but...

"What makes you say that?"

"The burned stuff, and..." Her tone drops thoughtfully. "And... I thought I sensed something. It was just a hunch but... But after I followed it, soon after I DID find you!"

Coincidence, right?

Then again, I did channel before. I think...

Maya can channel.

But the revelations are still troubling me. "I... I don't get it. What is this 'Prophesised Heir'? Is there some kind of Kurain tradition you're not telling me about?"

"I don't know," pains Maya. "I've never even heard of it! And I haven't heard any of the old Mystics in Kurain say it, either! Maybe it's some legend in Azakurain?"

"But why do they want ME?"

"Because you have powers, I guess? For some Azakurain Master? I don't know how they do things there, now it's no longer part of the Kurain order..." Maya clutches me to her. "I'm sorry."

"Why are YOU sorry?"

"I didn't think this'd cause you all these problems! I thought it'd make things better! Everyone would respect you like they should... B-but it's like it was for Pearly, and my other cousins, and m-me.. I should have known better"

"Maya, we've been through this! It's not your fault. B-besides, it's something to do with Gavin again. That's nothing to do with you or my 'powers'."

"Fine, okay. You're just a magnet for trouble." Her smile is teasing.

"Look who's talking." I then sigh. "But what are we going to do? I could go for police, but what do I tell them?" I sigh more. "I guess I just leave it at 'blank out' and they can assume I was drugged, not using weird spirit powers, so don't remember 'how' I got out..."

"You can tell them you lost your wallet and phone when you were abducted, and maybe they'll find it!"

"But abducted by old ladies? Who'd believe it! It's bad for my ego!"

"Just say their motive is the Azakurain case going on now!"

Wow, who's the lawyer here?
"Good point!"

"Are you going to see them now?"

I cringe. "N-not like this."

"Huh? Lime green suits you... But isn't that a womens' top? Oh yeah," she continues, "I forgot to tell you, but we've missed the last train home."

Damn it! I c-can't face anyone else right now!

"And I'm hungry! Maybe we can visit Apollo! He'll have to buy us dinner."

"N-no! I like to appear - respectable..."

Maya laughs uproariously.

"Maya, you have money with you, right?" I plead.

"No!"

My heart stops.

"But I have a magic credit card!"

I steel my misgivings. "C-can you please go buy me something to wear? Oh, you won't know. I'll have to explain... draw a picture... describe..."

"Oh. You mean something like that weird grey tracksuit you bought from that cheap shop and wore every day for 5 years?"

That's the one! But how did she know? "Y-yeah. My size is... ummm.."

###

Don't ask me how much time has passed since she left, but it feels like forever. I just can't relax or settle or even concentrate. I kick at the stupid dust in duress. I pace the vicinity in a small, mindless circuit.

"I'm BA-ACK!"

What a relief! I could seize her in rapture. Being left alone without Maya to focus on left me feeling really weird. Maybe it's the drugs?

"D-don't crush me!"

Oops, almost lost it! I somehow tear my body away. "D-did you find it?"

"Yeah! E-except this year's has a different number of stripes. It doesn't matter - right?"

"Not really." I gratefully rip open the bag she offers. "N-no one's watching, right?"

"Only me!"

"Yeah, you would." P-performance anxiety. I stuff the new clothes on hastily. "S-so what now? We can't stay here! B-but I kinda want to be alone. With you."

Maya beams like I gave her a present. Though maybe not a burger. "That old Gatewater has great burgers!" Wait, maybe I did? She starts punching at her phone before I can protest. "Wait, but.." Maya wraps her arms and leans her head against me and somehow my objections die. So I shut up while she makes the call.

"Done!" she announces. "Okay, let's go."

"Can we really afford this?"

"Oh yeah. I got the discount room."

"Not that thing with the bedbugs that was really a closet!"

"No. The OTHER discount room."

###

GATEWATER HOTEL

PHOENIX:

"Oh yes. Ahem!" The old bellboy blushes and adjusts his teaset. "Here on a tryst?"

"Tryst? Oh no, we're married."

"A married tryst? How romantic! Wait, I recall you! Can't recall why though... This way!"

"But this is the nice part! Are you sure this is the discou...Oh."

I peer then stumble through the doorway with disconcert.

This room is weird. You can't use half the stuff, because it's covered in glass tanks.

"The Murder Museum Suite! Look but don't touch!"

An un-glassed bed and table are stuffed in the midst, but the 'museum' pieces are in the way. There's no room.

Maya gazes at a glassed-over half open drawer (labelled 'Drawer of Terror') and lets out a sniff. "Sis..."

Oh no.

"Enjoy yourselves!" The bellboy feigns oblivion. "I will return with room service... There is the menu!" He exits, closing the door.

"Maya?" I touch her shoulder, with increasing concern.

Maya wipes her eyes. "No. I'm... okay, Nick. Give me the menu."

"We can go if there's too many..." I grasp for tact, "bad memories?"

"No." She gulps. "It was a long time ago. And also," she ventures, "makes me remember how I met you."

We pull our bodies closer.

Maya's eyes then return to studying the menu. "Which burger is best, Nick? There's 3 types and I can't decide! I'll have to have one of each!"

"You do that, then. I'll have the 'Chicken Sandwich'."

"Whatever. Send through the order..." She rests her head against me and her eyes wander. "Look! There's a telescope! D'you think Trucy's in the office? You can watch her, like a good, watchful father..."

Like a creepy psycho father? Wait... people have been spying on *us* all those years?

"Nick, gimme a coin so the telescope works!"

"I lost my wallet, remember?"

"Oh yeah. Damn! You'll have to ask Mr Bellboy if they take credit..."

*Sigh*. I send the order through the internal phone. "And um, 'we' want to use the telescope, but we don't have any coins..."

"Oh, press the override button sequence, and we'll charge it to your bill.."

"Okayyy..." Damn!

Maya rushes joyously to the telescope. *Sigh*. This wasn't really what I had in mind. But I guess we have all night. I stoically try to turn my thoughts elsewhere. It's not like there aren't enough things to muse over. Like what really did happen when I blanked out?

###

*FLASHBACK*

SUSPICIOUS LOCATION

MYSTIC PHOENIX [the spirit]:

The phoenix was slightly disoriented. Whatever Mystic Phoenix had summoned him for had been very garbled. The summoning had also been less well-directed than last time, but since the initial channelling the phoenix was more attuned to the calls of the acolyte, so more able to use his own powers to cooperate with the channelling attempt.

His wing blades seemed to have shredded parts of whatever the acolyte had been upon. Sheepishly, the phoenix hoped he hadn't damaged something important. Maybe that was why the three women were screaming.

"AGHHH! AGHHH!"

"IT'S A DEMON!"

"IT'S AN EVIL SPIRIT!"

"Do not be alarmed,"

"Aghhh! It speaks! The demon speaks!" one Mystic was screeching.

"What does it say?" whimpered another.

"I am NOT a demon,"

"T-total nonsense babble! It's EVIL!"

"There's a misunderstanding..."

But the Mystic just screamed.

The phoenix gave up. Perhaps that Mystic could sense E.S.P. but wasn't gifted enough to to actually interpret it.

Somehow he suspected the acolyte had not summoned him for the benefit of thesepeople.

His first loyalty was to the Master, anyway.

"Master Fey?"

The Master apparently wasn't within range to hear - or notice - his E.S.P. Likely she was far away.

It was probably best to go and search for her.

He seared a neat hole through the glass of the nearest window and aerially departed.

The phoenix cast out his perceptions... he could distantly sense the oscillation of that Magatama the Master wore and the powers imbrued in it, and that it was probably with her, and flew toward it.

###

The phoenix glided along for some time, but he could sense the acolyte was tiring and reluctantly came to land on the nearest vacant ground. It would not do for the Mystic to fall from the sky if connection was cut.

A channelling was easiest when both the medium and the ghost desired its continuation and both their wills facilitated the connection. Of course, a more powerful medium could use their power to channel and retain a ghost that didn't want to stay; and similarly, a weak medium might be unable to expel a ghost when an evil spirit refused to leave. If the medium's body was unable to continue the channelling, such evil spirits might just take over in a standard uncontrolled possession.

However, the average, neutral ghost would not bother investing power to continue the connection if the medium's power weakened, and even choose to leave if they sensed the medium coming into physical damage from exhaustion. This acolyte was by now in the type of condition where a more trained medium's psyche might throw him out.

"Master Fey?"

He could sense her, still distant, but in the vicinity. The acolyte's body was rebelling, making it ever harder for the phoenix to retain form connection. The phoenix ghost hastily scratched at the ground, his claws ever stiffer as they risked quantum disintegration, then aided in effecting his own departure.

###

Meanwhile, Back in the Present...

GATEWATER HOTEL

MAYA:

"This is amazing!" I exclaim as I keep peering through the telescope. "It zooms riiight in! You can see everything in the building over."

"Y-yeah." Nick sounds nonplussed. He keeps shuffling awkwardly in his seat, as if uncomfortable.

My thoughts on this are intercepted by a knock at the door.

"Room service! I have *ahem* left it at the doorway for your convenience."

"FOOD!"

I fall on the burgers whilst Nick nibbles slowly away at his sandwich. Through the sounds of my own chewing, I begin to make out another, distracting, sound.

"What is that AWFUL noise? Can you hear it?"

"Yeah. I can. Wait..." Nick screws up his face in concentration. "I think that's Apollo! It's this voice training thing he does called 'Chords of Steel'."

A laugh chokes my burger lettuce. I shove the fallen pieces back in my mouth hastily.

"My 'Objection!' is better," Nick adds defensively.

"Y-yeah!" What, lawyer envy?

Nick's made his way to the telescope, and is peering through with sudden interest. "Oh my." He keeps watching and exclaiming to himself for a long time. When I've downed all three of my burgers, he's still there!

"Nick?"

"Hmmm." He's not really listening, still commentating about Apollo to himself in a somewhat condescending manner. I perch on the edge of the bed with growing irritation. What's his problem? And I'm saddened as I know it. He's still so torn up about the lawyer thing, and I know he's been avoiding the city, far more than is necessary for us.

I know he wants to be a lawyer again, but I don't know if he wants to be a lawyer now, with all that's happened, or just wants back what he lost. Or maybe he thinks he doesn't have the confidence anymore? Sometime, were going to have to talk about this.

But now probably isn't the time, with all the mess that's just happened.

"Give it a rest, Nick," I eventually demand. "I thought you said you wanted to be alone with me. And I've finished my burgers, so now you have my full attention!"

"Oh! I-I love screwing with Apollo's head..." He seems flustered. "I'm such a jerk. Are... are you mad at me?"

"No. Not yet, anyway..."

He comes and sinks to my side, and we catch gaze at close quarters. "S-so we aren't just here for the burgers?" Suddenly his eyes are intense.

"N-not now." Of course not, you big oaf! I try to drag his body toward me by way of further explanation. Nick seizes me to him with uncharacteristic urgency and I feel a thrill lurch in the pit of my stomach.

But suddenly his grasp wilts. "How could I have been so... so totally stupid?"

"Huh? Well, how were you to know some weirdos wanted to abduct you?"

"No. Not that. The-that other thing. Diary... forged..."

Still that. What can I ever say, to make it better? "Someday, you're just going to have to forgive yourself." I forcibly resume our embrace and bury my head against him. He's silent a minute.

"Y-you've forgiven me, haven't you?"

"What do YOU think?"

"Yes?"

"No!"

I feel him recoil.

"No, 'cause there's nothing for ME to still have to forgive!" *I'm* sorry I wasn't there that day to stop you making such a dumb mistake! "I thought you knew that!" I tug him back impatiently and he stops resisting. I don't properly anticipate his greater weight and eagerness and we topple, but I really don't mind. I feel Nick's voice breathe in my ear.

"Maybe I did."


NOTES:

-Room 303 of Gatewater, as you can see in the Investigation phase of 1-2. The bellboy wants to leave everything as-is for some kind of crime museum.

* -Bellboy
* Ah, yes. We plan to install
* a telescope in that window,
* of course.

* -Bellboy
* Just $5.00 will earn you
* three minutes of a "view to
* a kill"!

-Bellboy
* That's the "Drawer of Terror,
* Hiding Place of the
* Murderer's Wiretap."
*
* -Bellboy
* It's set to become one
* of the most popular
* attractions here.

-The doctor's first name is Paula.

In case you haven't noticed, people at Azakurain take names ending in A.

-"Of course! The issue is whether I gave him too much! His tongue has turned blue!"

Remember last chapter... How fortuitous!