I'm sorry I didn't live to that 'month-long' expectation. I will do better, swear on my life. I can do this. I can. And I sincerely love the concept of this story now.
Also, I apologize about all of the character's OOCness. Franziska-well, to be fair, she's become nicer and we haven't seen her in seven years. Pearl, she's grown on her own. Maya, well, she's also grown. Sorry for the kinda poor explanations.
Third: in response to a review from Meloday Canta-haha, well, when I said 'three years' and 'seventeen to twenty,' I mean for those to be separate sequences-add up to six years.
Review, please! I'd lovelovelove it. With all. My. Heart. And. Soul
Tapping her foot impatiently as she munched on her Snackoos, Ema was forced to admit to herself that she was slightly nervous.
Almost as nervous as the feeling she got before the forensics test. But who was keeping track?
It wasn't as if she had any reason to be—she loosely remembered the 'Kay Faraday' mentioned in the signature on the card from Gatewater Land as a happy-go-lucky girl who would under any other normal circumstance not be the object of such extreme nerves.
"Like I'm not about to dedicate myself to a life of crime…"
Quite suddenly, Ema's grip on the Snackoos faltered as a barrage of whip cracks stung every inch of her skin, bare or not. A voice she was vaguely familiar with hissed from the shadows clinging to a nearby tree—"fool!"
Prosecutor Franziska von Karma emerged from the darkness, black to bright blue in a way Ema simply could not understand. Against all laws of physics and nature, science and Snackoos. "If I'm to consider participating in illegal dealings, I'd prefer to not get caught, Ms. Ema Skye. Therefore, I would appreciate it if you would not talk that loudly, in a public forum, about the dealings we are about to take part of."
"P—Prosecutor von Karma?!" Ema dropped her Snackoos for real upon hearing the words from the high-and-mighty prodigy's mouth. "You're taking part in this too?"
"Fool," she said contemptuously. Ema had to wonder again how Mr. Edgeworth dealt with her. "A von Karma does not rush into decisions. I am checking to see whether or not this suits my fancy. And the more I stay here and think it over, the more I believe it does not."
"Hey!" Dropping straight down from the tree Franziska had just walked out from under, Kay shot up and grinned. "I'm glad you could both make it!"
"Kay Faraday." Franziska grimaced, whip trailing onto the ground. "You told me to give you one chance, and here it is. So talk."
You mean she didn't come with her decision made?
"W—well…" She faltered slightly, trailing off. "Okay. So, as the Yatagarasu, we're obviously going to have to break in to corporations and gather information on the possible illicit dealings of any companies. You'll both have to undergo a minimal type of training—well, I guess the detective might not, with field work and all…" She winked at Ema. "Anyway, the point is that the Yatagarasu is a full-time commitment. So if you can't commit your time, energy, and career to this and pretty much this as a priority, then…it won't be easy."
Kay turned expectantly to the two of them, and Ema spoke quickly, desperate to get it out—"I've already considered it. I'll put this in front of everything, I've made that decision."
"Who said anything about easy?" The prosecutor seemed more wary, eyes narrowing and darting over Kay's face. Nevertheless, Franziska seemed to ponder it over, gripping her whip tightly and closing her eyes as she turned her face down, thinking hard.
Finally, her eyes opened again, cold blue, piercing ice. She opened her mouth and spoke harshly, like a sting from her whip.
"To be a Prosecutor…that is my first priority. It always has been, and it always will be."
"But…Ms. Von Karma." Kay turned to her, almost completely serious. Her face was grim, no sign of her trademark lopsided smile. "Listen to me. The truth is on the line. You have to take it seriously. Besides, the prosecutor's path…your father placed you onto it, and you no longer owe him anything."
Franziska clenched her whip, pulling it taut, snapping it between her gloved hands over and over. Finally, she turned, eyes flashing. Ema gritted her teeth, expecting a snarky retort.
"…Do not bring my father into this."
Ema was scared at the intense gazes swapped between the two of them. Kay was genuinely getting angry…or desperate. It was hard to figure out which. "I'm sorry, Ms. Von Karma…but my father plays a big part in my legacy as well. Again I say, you owe nothing to your father. Why continue like this?"
"Because I am content with my job as a prosecutor," she replied rapidly, the answer already present in her mind. "I like my job as a prosecutor. Why would I abandon it for a job that puts me with the people I condemn? I despise the criminals. I do not join them..." She paused, as if thinking something over, before tacking on one last jibe. "…Especially the ones who are too juvenile to take their job seriously."
"Ms. Von Karma!" Kay's fists balled in as she held them up in front of her, seething. "I'll have you know that you are not the only one who wants to follow a father's legacy! Especially since yours ended up in prison!"
Ema immediately felt the need to intervene as both went almost nose to nose, Franziska's whip almost blurring as it cracked again and again against the ground, Kay's fists trembling almost of their own accord. Pushing between them, she glanced fearfully—usually she started the fights, instead of stopping them.
"Alright, guys, listen to me! You have to stop! Kay, get a hold of yourself! Not everything is passed down by blood, and Manfred von Karma's criminalistics behaviors are one of them!"
"I don't care!" Kay hissed at her angrily. "No one has the right to insult my father! He worked for a noble cause! " She turned back to the blue-haired prosecutor. "C'mon! There's hardly anything honorable about working as a prosecutor for you at this point! Your dad started you on it! And I hardly need to make a pro-con list for your dad!"
"My father may have set me on my path, but Miles Edgeworth and Phoenix Wright have shown me the right way to walk it! I have found enough of the truth to work on enforcing it, and if I can do it the right way, make no mistake, I will avoid darkening myself with the wrong side of the law I follow so closely!" She took a deep breath and held her whip high before bringing it down with devastating intensity in Kay's direction. Ema flew in front of it, scared of Franziska once again inciting the wrath Kay and forcing Ema into having to play peacemaker. The leather stung against her cheek, pain present but quite bearable. Ema supposed that Franziska was used to whipping people, because she showed no remorse but instead continued to speak. Then again, the detective had heard stories about 'Lady Karma and her whip'—although equally common stories had been told of how the whip was less of a weapon and more of a channel for all of the von Karma's boundless feelings. Indeed, the one lash seemed to be enough, because the prosecutor almost immediately calmed, gripping her handle loosely. She opened her mouth and spoke again, more softly, though the words came fast and terse.
"But you, Kay Faraday, still seem convinced that there is another benefit I can reap—one I cannot otherwise find."
"That is correct." The raven-haired girl calming as her foe did, she spoke once again in her half-playful, light tone.
"So tell me quickly." Another crack against the ground with her whip. "I tire of this charade. Indecision is not the way of a von Karma."
"Is anything sane the way of a von Karma?" Tapping her finger to her arm—Ema could half-swear she had learned that technique from Edgeworth—Kay muttered under her breath before smiling innocently. "You carry the legacy of the great prosecutor Manfred von Karma, your father, correct?"
"That's right," Franziska continued suspiciously, hand beginning to tense on that whip.
"Well, he is, with all due respect," she added hastily as she tipped her head toward the prosecutor, "behind bars. His is not the most honorable of stories to follow."
"I know that, Kay Faraday. Your point?"
The whole calling-people-by-their-full-names habit was starting to irk Ema; although, seeing Kay's look of resigned acceptance, she'd have to guess it happened rather often. "Well, by joining the Yatagarasu, you have yet another story backing your own—the one of my father, the legendary Prosecutor Byrne Faraday. As long as the legacy carries, the name is famed, as you well know." She inclined her head. "And I understand that von Karma's put a lot of worth in legacy."
There was a heavy pause. Even in Ema's somewhat accepting mind, the excuse sounded halfway poor; Ema shuddered to think of what Franziska von Karma thought of Kay's rather daring claim. However, the detective had also heard tales of the older, more 'aristocratic' European families and their value of bloodlines and legacies. Perhaps this was such a case…?
Ema was by no means good at perceiving—that was Apollo's forte, and to be fair, the 'hypothesis' part of a scientific experiment had never been her favorite. However, challenging herself to hazard a vague guess, Ema took in the way the girl's eyes closed as she squeezed the edges of her sleeves. As seconds slipped by, it dawned on her that Franziska was actually seriously considering the offer—and what was more, it was some sort of close race.
However, the next words out of the girl's mouth made Ema wonder if she had been mistaken—the only conclusions to draw were that she was indeed wrong, or that Franziska was very good at hiding her feelings. Ema guessed the latter, and Kay seemed to as well, because she looked almost completely unperturbed by the harsh words spouting from her 'friend's' mouth.
"…That is all?"
"Well, yes." Kay shrugged. "You're here, which means you're considering it."
"Hmph." Franziska crossed her arms firmly, frowning defensively. "A foolish spout of sentimentality, I assure you."
"But you're here nevertheless." She spread her arms, waving for Franziska to continue her abandoned train of thought. "So? What do you think?"
The girl replied slowly, pausing often to give Kay time to interject—and unknowingly increasing Ema's nerves and annoyance with each second passed in silence. "You wish me here to carry on the legacy of your father, a great prosecutor—is that correct?"
"Then your logic is flawed." Stating it simply, Ema was once again reminded of Mr. Edgeworth. "While it is true that I admire him as a prosecutor—well, that is just it. I admire him as a prosecutor. I know nothing of him as a person and cannot particularly say I care for him as a thief. If I wished to carry on his legacy, being a perfect prosecutor would be legacy enough. Besides, there are other people I admire. And status nowadays does not mean so much to me as the truth."
"But, Ms. Von Karma," Kay interrupted, pouncing onto her statement as she rubbed a finger under her nose. "The law has limitations. You say the truth matters to you now? The truth is so much easier to get if you team up with me."
"Whoever said anything about easy?" The reply came offhand, like a backlash with the whip—involuntary, easy, like it required no thought. Ema wondered briefly what it felt like to have an argument destroyed like that. "It does not matter how accessible the truth is—to get it the right way is a thousand times better than any cut corners. The truth I have at my fingertips is enough for me at the moment." As if to emphasize her point, she stretched out her hand toward Kay.
"But someday, that will not be enough," Kay retorted. Ema sighed; everything always went back to the truth she at this point did not recognize. "The truth you have accessible with the law will not be enough. And during that time, you will wish you had joined me."
"I shall cross that barrier when I get there," she replied smoothly, quirking an eyebrow at Kay. "I live for the moments and change when I need to."
"Aren't you afraid that you will end up following the path of Manfred von Karma?" Kay switched rapidly, one topic to another. Ema caught her fiddling with the edges of her gloves and automatically knew—was Apollo rubbing off on her?—that Kay was grasping at straws.
Franziska was nowhere near as fazed. She lifted her head to look Kay straight in the eye as she spoke. "I am no longer a von Karma in anything but name and perfection."
"Again with the perfection?" Kay gave a small, wry, smile—the type one would wear when hearing once again a mildly amusing but overused joke. "Haven't you learned anything from Mr. Edgeworth? Perfection is unattainable."
"I have learned everything from my little brother," she retorted, raising an eyebrow. "I know perfection is unattainable. I strive for it because you can never reach anything of worth until you try."
Her eyes, cold and stern, flashed against Kay's, icy steel against gray iron. The pressure seemed to increase between them, Ema almost afraid to break it, definitely afraid that one would abruptly notice her. Finally, Franziska made a single move—she turned away abruptly. Her back told a story, rejection.
There was a pause while Kay seemed to register that she had given up—she opened her mouth, looking incredulous. There was no opportunity, however, for the thief to speak to the prosecutor—Franziska took one step, then another, striding away from the two. Suddenly finding her voice, Ema stepped forward, holding out a hand: "WAIT!"
Franziska flew around on her heel, lashing the whip into Ema's face. She groaned, reaching up, patting her head lightly to make sure her rose-tinted Luminol glasses were still intact. Still slightly shocked by the crack across her face, her mouth opened and closed wordlessly—however, Kay finished her thought with a harsh cry that split the night in half.
"Where are you going?!"
"Home," the prosecutor replied, flicking her whip impatiently across the ground.
"You can't!" Horror and shock blended on her face, Kay looked genuinely surprised. It occurred to Ema then that Kay, who had grown up without parents to teach her right and wrong, with only the journal of a father who found his job as a thief very self-righteous to guide her, would not understand why anyone wouldn't want to be the Yatagarasu.
Franziska's eyes softened, whip lying dormant. Her tone, however, stayed commanding and authoritative. "I will help you, Kay Faraday, in any way I can. However, I know my own limitations and I know I cannot do this."
"You're the strongest person I know, Ms. Von Karma," Kay replied eagerly. "If you can't do it, no one can."
Great, what does that make me?!
"Strongest…perhaps." Franziska bit her lip. "But it takes a different type of person—a lighter, freer person to become the Yatagarasu. People like you, Kay Faraday. Or Ema Skye."
"But that's only two!" Kay cast a nod to Ema, and she almost sighed with relief—for a second, she had worried she had been forgotten. "The whole reason the name of the Yatagarasu exists is because we are three—"
"What's in a name?" Interjecting idly, she frowned. "A name has no meaning on its own—the people and personalities behind the name are the things that make it matter."
"Please," Kay insisted. "I know we need three. Ema and I can't do this on our own."
"Ema Skye and Kay Faraday." Franziska murmured, as if to herself, looking past them to a premonition only she could see. "You will go far."
"Like I said, that's not enough—"
"I'm not finished," she answered once again, eyes slipping back to the forefront, holding her hand out in a 'stop' motion. "Ema Skye, Kay Faraday…and Maya Fey."
"Huh?" Kay's mouth didn't drop open—however, it clenched instinctively. "How did you know…?"
"She volunteered?!" Ema pouted, both finishing Kay's statement and expressing her own indignation—Maya Fey had been one of her friends. "How come I'm the only person who doesn't know?!"
"My little brother is not one to keep secrets," Franziska answered. Nodding respectfully to both girls, she coiled her whip in her hands, lifted her head…and smiled. It was such an rare expression, Ema didn't quite know what to make of it.
"Yes…the three of you." She turned, began to walk away. She was a shade in the night, the faintest silhouette in the shadows when she turned halfway. The side of her face was barely apparent, a side of who Franziska von Karma could have been in a different world. Her voice was faint with distance, fluctuating with the wind.
"Ema Skye, Kay Faraday, and Maya Fey…the second Yatagarasu."
Watching Franziska von Karma walk away from her was like losing a fundamental part of herself.
She was dimly aware of Ema Skye behind her, watching the prosecutor intently. The park seemed to fade from her, smaller and smaller, until it seemed as if Kay watching the scene from the viewpoint of a bird—too far to see clearly, too ignorant of the English language to understand, too free to care.
Her conscience returned, and she heard Ema cry out in shock as she buckled into kneeling position. The numbness spread through her, contaminating her veins.
She's gone. She's really gone.
How had this happened? She had come fully expecting two new friends and a completed Yatagarasu. Now here she was, down in defeat on the ground. Barely there. Even the presence of Ema Skye, reassuring amidst the shock in ways Kay could not describe, was not enough to dampen the blow.
Edgeworth had been right. Kay would never have been able to exercise authority over Franziska von Karma—and Kay was quite sure that Franziska realized the fact too and perhaps used it as at least partial incentive to avoid joining the Yatagarasu.
"It'll be okay," the forensic-obsessed detective murmured as she crouched next to her.
But Kay was, at the moment, not interested in that fact that it would be okay. She was caught up in the fact that it had not been okay.
Franziska had always known. She had come to the meeting knowing full well she would refuse.
Franziska had been a disaster.
"Franziska was a fluke."
"Franziska was a fluke," Kay muttered once again, pacing back and forth around her father's office. Ema crossed her legs carefully as she sat tentatively on the spinning chair behind the prosecutor's desk—she had not quite outgrown them. "I shouldn't have been so stupid. We don't need a prosecutor."
Nodding as Kay wrapped up with a flourish of the hand, Ema opened her mouth to agree and recommend Maya—however, Kay's words, rapid with frantic feelings, beat her to it.
"No, not a prosecutor; we need a defense attorney."
Kay turned to Ema questioningly. The detective felt her jaw slacken enough to take in an entire bag of Snackoos. She tried to think of a defense attorney that Kay would accept—however, all that came to mind was female Apollo, and seconds of that on her mind made her want to use the flowerpot on the window sill was a barf bag. Ema somehow thought Kay would not be happy with that, so she instead settled on an incredulous expression.
"What's wrong with that?" Turning back to the shelf of old case files, Kay crossed her arms, tapping a finger on her elbow and looking down her nose. "The idea makes sense."
"You've been spending too much time with Mr. Edgeworth," Ema muttered, causing Kay to immediately uncross her arms, adapt her normal expression, and burst into a fit of laughter.
"Okay, okay," Kay chortled, coming down from her high and sitting in the hardback client seat across from Ema. "But seriously, the whole reason my dad was part of the Yatagarasu was…well, mostly because of Little Thief. Since I already have him," and here Kay flicked at the front pocket on her pack that held said contraption. "I'm guessing I'm taking on my father's role."
Ema nodded cautiously, not quite agreeing with Kay's idea but showing her understanding of the situation. Kay had told her about the device the night before, after Franziska had left, and Ema had expressed both amazement at its skill and indignation that tools like that were not part of the police force.
"Anyway…well, because of that, the role of prosecutor's gone, and all that's left is the detective and the defense attorney. And since you're a detective, that leaves…"
"The defense attorney," Ema breathed, finishing of the sentence before raising her voice. "I get where you're coming from, Kay, but—I mean, do you know any defense attorneys?"
"Well…no." Kay frowned, fiddling with her pockets. Ema could practically see her sitting in the interrogation room. Or, for that matter, on the witness stand with a finger in her face courtesy of either Mr. Wright or Apollo. "I was kinda hoping you did, actually. In the cases you acted as a witness in, I mean." Now looking skeptical, she raised an eyebrow. "You do know some, don't you?"
"Yes, one," sighed Ema. Come to think of it, her job really was pretty sad if the only defense attorney she knew from all her times on the stand was Apollo. Then again, the clients chose the defense attorney.
"Huh. Is this person our age?" Leaning forward, Kay propped her arms onto the desk.
"…Against my better judgment, yes." Ema briefly considered lying before remembering that she was sitting across from the thief who 'stole the truth.' Ripping open yet another bag of Snackoos, she flipped a single chocolate into the air before catching it onto her tongue—a neat trick she had spent a while perfecting. "However, he doesn't have the guts to join the Yatagarasu."
"Oh, it's a he." Kay sounded rather let down; she had once before expressed to Ema her feelings on gender among the new Yatagarasu. "I guess he can't join…although I kind of thought it would work. Besides, guts can come with time."
"You'd be surprised," Ema muttered, mimicking in her head all the times she'd heard the neverending mantra—'I'm fine!'
"What?" Kay glanced at her, then shrugged dismissively. "Whatever. So, do you have any other ideas?"
"How's this?" Eyebrow by now twitching slightly, Ema pressed her fingers to her temple. "For one thing, stop trying to plagiarize your dad. The shoot people in Texas for that, pal!"
"Ema…I hate to break this to you…" Kay's face flickered between amusement and bemusement. "But…you sound like Gummy."
Ema blinked twice, then moaned in fake exaggeration. "Gosh. See, this is why I'm joining the Yatagarasu. I'm quoting two psychotic detectives…my sister's new husband and a bankrupt lackey." Shaking her head slightly and grinning, unable to conceal her amusement, Ema placed her head in her hands.
Kay grinned, shaking off the insult to her friend as a joke. That was one thing Ema liked about Kay; she understood when and when not to take things too seriously. "If you buy a potted cactus named Billy, I'll make sure to take you to a mental hospital."
The two shared a laugh before Ema came down to Earth, followed closely by Kay. "Okay, I get that you don't think it's possible we can copy the original Yatagarasu exactly." She frowned. "But, if that's the case…what do you think?"
"We've got Little Thief, and me." Ema nodded. "I can probably get myself onto the Yatagarasu's case if I tried. The prosecutor that I work under, well…" She spoke slowly, as if betraying her own beliefs—which was probably true, because Ema really did not enjoy complimenting the glimmerous fop. "…he's understanding. To some point."
"Understanding, huh?" Giggling, Kay wiggled an eyebrow—Ema groaned, swiping another fistful of snacks. Practically inhaling it, she crunched on the chocolate as she took one final Snackoo, raised an eyebrow, and took aim.
"Point taken," the girl across from her muttered, rubbing her forehead. "Continue, please, without the Snackoos."
"Well…I just think that that's close enough to the original for us to be pretty safe on the defensive. All we need now is an offensive—because 'knowing the location of the object' is more to the stealing than to the not-getting-caught, which I think we already have covered."
"Hm." Stealing a Snackoo from Ema's bag, Kay munched thoughtfully. "I see where you're coming from, but I still don't get why you think it's such an actively bad idea. I mean, a defense attorney would help a lot. As for the plagiarizing thing—well, come on, we're the Great Thief. I don't think anyone's going to be suing us any time soon."
Kay laughed, still looking a little shifty. Was she feeling nervous? Not for the first time, Ema wished she had the perceive ability of Apollo and Trucy.
"Oh, I don't know." Ema laughed off the feeling. "I mean, I'm pretty sure some of your 'victims' would if they could figure out who you were."
"I told you yesterday, this office is secure," piped up Kay, mistaking Ema's sarcasm for real fear.
"Yeah. But why do you want to follow the first Yatagarasu so closely anyway?"
Leaning forward, Kay looked her in the eye. For once, Ema felt like the younger person in the room.
"Because I'm failing, Ema. My own methods are failing—they're the whole reason why I've sought you guys out in the first place. At this point, I've sunk so low that I need to succeed again immediately or the Yatagarasu will fail. And I have only one example to follow."
"The father," the two said simultaneously. Kay flung her elbows off the table, letting them rest as crossed arms across her chest as she smirked triumphantly.
Ema did not, however, feel any of the defeat she should have been feeling at her admittance. Instead, an odd feeling of crossroads, facing a hard decision fell over her. The right word?
Torn. Ema was torn. On one hand, she didn't think she'd be able to stand it if she became part of the group that rejected the combined will of Mr. Edgeworth, Mr. Wright, and Maya. On the other hand, how could she ask her newest friend to risk everything—everything she thought she'd been left by her father—just for her sake?
Kay tilted her head, uncrossing her arms, eyes darkening into an odd combination of navy and gray slate. Smile sliding off her lips, she looked at Ema as if she were a mildly interesting object, a partially valuable piece of truth she might like to steal.
There were certain eyes Ema had seen in her lifetime, ones that made her wonder if their gaze could slice her into pieces until they reached the secrets inside. Phoenix Wright's piercing eyes had conquered both her and her sister. Miles Edgeworth's eyes were sharper, harsher, and just as—if not more—effective. In one of her friend's rare moods, Ema had seen Maya's irises pulse and wondered if she looked that way as she channeled the spirits of her ancestors. Franziska von Karma's ice chips—masquerading as eyes— were a perfect ten out of ten, as effective as her whip.
As Kay propped her elbows back onto the table, resting her hand onto the heels of her palm, Ema was reminded faintly of that far away feeling—the feeling of observation. Of being a perfectly executed analysis. She briefly wondered if she ever looked like that to other people.
Whatever Kay found behind Ema's white-cloaked figure, it seemed to answer an unspoken question that Kay alone could put her finger on. Again, she leaned back, contemplative expression still evident. Ema was not surprised. Questions always lead to more of the same.
"Yes?" Tilting her head, she tossed another Snackoo into her mouth, handing one off to Kay. She accepted it gingerly.
"Ema…I'll think about it."
The detective looked at the uncertain girl in front of her for a second, thinking of nothing and everything, before again switching her line of vision to a silver picture frame on the desk she was sitting at. It was the late prosecutor Byrne Faraday, hands open, arms wide, standing alone. Her mind cast from the picture to other people and landed, for some odd reason, on Lana.
"Hey," she said finally, voice cracking as she held out her hand. Thumb in front, fingers curved, half of a clasp. "We'll make it through, right? Together."
"…Right." Kay placed her hand into Ema's, completing the circle. Her glove felt smooth on Ema's skin as her fingers wrapped instinctively tighter. They were a team now, one united entity. Her eyes, still piercing, stared straight into hers. Ema tried to meet the gaze with the same ferocity, and quite suddenly, she realized she could.
"And we'll find the truth, if we die trying!"
If Maya had been happy to see Phoenix, Pearl was absolutely ecstatic—in front of half of Kurain Village, her new 'subjects' under the medium village hierarchy, she flung her arms around the waist of the gray-clad piano player and began to cry. The waiting mediums stood awkwardly before proceeding without Pearl to the group meditations session, leaving the three behind.
"Ouch—Pearls, good to see you too—"
Pearl pulled back, almost immediately, and automatically punched him as hard as she could. Nick pulled back with a fresh nose bleed. The last time that had happened had been seven years ago, in the Detention Center, in front of her half-cousin.
"Mr. Nick! How could you avoid us for so long?! You can't do that to your special someone!"
"You're still on that subject, Pearls?" Nick gave a half-smile that faded as soon as he caught a completely serious expression on her face. Maya, reading the shocked look on Nick's face with experience only time brought, sighed as he indeed leaned back toward her and whispered the words on the tip of her tongue—"When did Pearl grow up so quickly?"
Before Maya could reply, Pearl caught the words and spoke up, arms folded angrily and frown on her face. Her angry expression had long ago stopped portraying juvenile annoyance and began to morph into something much more serious, a cross between Mia's stoic glare, Dahlia's uncontrollable rage, and Iris's quiet but effective gaze. It was so severe at times that Maya would not wish it on anyone, let alone Nick.
"I grew up," she said simply, "when you left."
"So, Mr. Nick." Clasping her cup tightly between her hands, Pearl raised it slowly to her lips. From across the Kurain table, long and worn oak, Nick couldn't see—Maya, however, could spy Pearl's clenched lips and saw quite apparently that she was not in the mood for drinking herbal tea.
Pearl had often claimed that the specialized brew reminded her of the mother she used to know. If she was too agitated to even try the calming potion, Maya knew she was faring badly.
A spasm of guilt shot through her—but this is Nick's fault, not mine.
She glanced over at Phoenix, who could not see the scene, nor would understand it if he could. For all Maya knew, he still didn't know that Pearl had finally realized Morgan deserved her actions. He was still carrying that mysterious smile, face turned away so Maya couldn't see his eyes.
"I'm sorry," Maya murmured anyway, leaning toward Pearl as Nick occupied himself by drinking more tea and reaching toward a bowl of Snackoos. Pearl scowled at her, though she followed it with a small smile.
"Why are you apologizing for Mr. Nick?"
Maya glanced once again toward him. He was looking at their conversation skeptically, half curious and more than a little bit hurt that he had been left out. Maya had to stop herself from thinking—I'm sorry if you're feeling left out, Nick. But you don't have that right any more.
Phoenix had been out of their life for seven years. He'd had no idea how much they'd suffered while he was gone. How much they'd suffered for him.
"Isn't that all we've done lately?" Maya smiled, sad and slow, no longer bothering to hide her tone. Nick's expression showed quite clearly he had heard them since the beginning—blank. His face was a slate wiped clean.
"For the last seven years," Pearl answered affirmatively, nodding sharply. Her face twisted, contorting sharply. "And he never even talked to me once."
"What's wrong with Pearls?"
Meandering down Winding Way, Maya wrapped her hands into the ribbon on her waist, twining it across her fingers and touching the talismans folded inside. Jade for my ancestors, a pearl for a loved one, three strings of gold for three people dear to me that I have lost. Two scraps of red silk for luck, and my magatama for my legacy of Kurain. A piece of amber for good fortune, a pouch of dust from Ami's urn, and—Pearl's Master Talisman?
Right. Maya remembered, suddenly, Mystic Myrtle placing the red-and-gold charm into her hand. Small enough to lose in Nick's briefcase, big enough to hold a person's entire world. The master always bequeaths it to the next master, she had said. Morgan herself presented it to her sister. She passed the talisman accordingly, First Blood to the Second. Now the favor is to be returned—Second Blood to First—and the burden falls to you.
Weeks later, and Maya was still clinging onto the last relic of her mother that was still in her possession—the staff was in Pearl's hands, as was the position of master; everything else had went to the vault in Kurain's treasure trove. The only thing that had changed about the old charm was the picture inside—the one of her and Mia now sat in a picture frame atop her desk, an ever-present reminder of what could have happened. Pearl had now placed her own memories into the container—a picture of her own—but had continued to let Maya cart it around.
"You're more responsible, you'd keep it safer," she had said—but they both knew why Maya was the one still holding onto it. Because the Mastership should have been hers, and the talisman too.
Pearl had not told her what the picture inside held, and Maya had not asked or bothered peeking. She was tired of secrets, of holding someone else's life in her hands. It was easier to simply think of it as a piece of paper and not a picture.
"I think she's just overwhelmed," she murmured to Nick, looking away. Bonsai trees dotted the garden, the remnants of a dwarfish forest. "A lot has happened to her these past few days."
"I'll say," Nick muttered, pulling his beanie further over his eyes with a lucrative smile. "Becoming a master…no small feat. Pearl really has grown up…"
He paused abruptly, remembering her cruel words. Maya looked down. Nick was too much of a good guy not to take the blame.
"…Did Pearls really grow up just because of me?"
Phoenix's face wasn't exactly apologetic; however, it was dark, without its usual secretive smile. Maya found it hard to lie to that face. She couldn't lie to that face. She couldn't lie to Nick, point blank. And not just because he owned a magatama.
"…I'm not gonna lie to you, Nick. I won't say it was you completely, but you were a big part of it." As Nick bowed his head, a sly grin spread onto her face, and she patted the beanie like a cat. He pulled away, laughing. "But hey, I never handed off the phone to her all the times you called. I guess it's also considered my fault too, right?"
"I think it was easier just blaming your Aunt Morgan," he muttered, turning around and stopping abruptly. For a second, his expression flickered like a candle. Finally, his face stabilized as he straightened, shrugging with curiously angled eyebrows and a small smirk. "…Huh."
"What, is that your new catchphrase?" Nudging him playfully, but still not turning around, Maya stifled a half-sigh—he really was becoming more and more like Godot. Pushing him again, she giggled. "Are you okay?"
Nick, however, did not react, instead smiling down the thin, tracing cobblestone knife-edge that was Winding Way.
"Pearls, so glad you could join us."
Maya turned abruptly, the loose ribbons of her garb flying and accidentally striking Nick across his midsection. She ignored the almost completely silent wince from her friend, however, instead choosing to focus her eyes onto the end of the road. Purple acolyte training attire abandoned for the richer, full crimson and slate of the Master, the hooded cloak that Maya had often seen on her mother trailed behind the short figure of her cousin as Pearl smiled, staff in hand.
"Of course, Mr. Nick. I'm the Master now, right?" The pretzel-headed girl flicked up the edge of her robe, fingering the shimmering opal magatama brooch. "I've got to show you around. Who knows the village better than me and Mystic Maya?"
Pearl strode forward quickly and, before Phoenix could protest, slipped her hand into his. Acting on impulse and deciding she might as well do things correctly, Maya grasped his other palm, completing the chain of three. Together, they walked down Winding Way, Pearl pointing with a free hand and Nick sandwiched neatly between the two mediums. Maya clenched the warm fist tighter into hers. With Nick as her anchor, she felt like she could fly.
"You could come back, you know."
Maya turned away from the midnight outside the small circular window, whirling around to face the pacing Pearl. The newly-instigated Master's left hand rested on the curved part of the staff, stroking the amethyst sphere agitatedly and occasionally lifting to gesture wildly, while her right hand lifted to her mouth. She had never outgrown the habit of biting her nail—she did so now, chewing obsessively on her thumb with a kind of viciousness, as if picturing her finger to be someone who had wronged her. Maya, despite being slow to cross her cousin when she was in one of her moods, held out her hand wryly and gave a wary smile.
"I can't come back now, Pearl. I've already left the village."
"No," her cousin insisted. It was that drive—that determination to see Maya return, prove her friends innocent, or fight for her favorite 'couple'—that made Maya think of Pearl as a stronger force than her. She began to spoke more and more quickly, rambling wildly. "I know it's too late to return you to the position of Master, but you could be my First Counsel, help me rule Kurain. If Mr. Nick refuses to hire you, there shouldn't be reason for you to stay in the city."
"Pearl," Maya intoned softly. Something in her voice must have touched the angry, ranting Pearl, because she stopped, the upper part of her thumb still in her mouth. She looked like a child, someone who Maya could protect.
At the same time, her expression was fierce. Like someone Maya was ready to let go.
She gripped her cousin's shoulders, trying to memorize her face before pulling her into a tight hug. Her eyes tried to squeeze out tears she couldn't seem to draw out from the well inside the pit of her stomach.
"It's not a question of whether or not I have a reason to stay in the city anymore," Maya whispered straight into Pearl's ear, blowing stray strands of hair out of the way of any unclarity. "It's a question of whether or not I have a reason to come back to the village."
"Don't I count for anything, Mystic Maya?" She didn't push Maya away—the two were too close, after seven years of relying constantly on each other—but her tone was as effective as one of her infamous slaps. "Can't you stay here for me?"
"…Pearl, you know as well as I do that I'm going for both of us…and Nick."
There was a pause, the sound of two hearts trading information behind the language of family.
"Take me with you, then," Pearl said sadly, already aware of the answer.
"No. Kurain needs a Master."
Pulling away finally, Pearl turned around, taking Maya's place of silent vigil at the solitary window. Outside and diagonal left, if you craned your neck and squinted just right, was Nick's room.
"Have you opened the talisman yet?"
"Mystic Maya." Pearl's smile was small, a finger over her lips as she turned toward her. "You might want to try breaking tradition once in a while."
"I don't have to," Maya replied weakly. "I think I already know what's inside."
Nevertheless, at the unspoken command of the master, she cracked the charm open. It blossomed like a glossy, vintage rose, the sheaf of papers inside bursting out of the container that had been stuffed past capacity. The photographs were red-backed, giving the illusion that they were part of the talisman as opposed to separate memories.
Maya raised an eyebrow. "This many?"
"There are a lot of things I never want to forget."
Maya picked the papers out, glancing at each, the memories coming thick and fast, each piercing her like gunshots. The photograph Lotta Hart and taken at the end of Nick's fourth case. A birds-eye courtroom lobby surveillance camera shot of Phoenix, Maya, and Pearl after Maya's kidnapping. A grainy photocopy of Larry's sketch after Iris's trial. A souvenir snapshot of the three of them in front of a metallic tower weeks before Nick had been disbarred.
Maya sank slowly onto Pearl's folded bamboo mat, scattering the pictures with a sweep of her hand. She contemplated briefly filling the red container with her own saltine tears—however, as the charm dropped to the ground, a rattling filled the air as one last object fell into Maya's lap.
Picking it up gingerly, Maya bit her lip and stifled a cry. It was a cardboard cut-out badge, superglued clumsily on a blue suit twice over, the navy threads from the first time it had been ripped off trapped between the glue of the second.
Furio Tigre's fake badge, which Phoenix had lent Pearl for her Halloween costume as an 'Ace Attorney'—permanently, the last Halloween before his disbarment.
She managed a wobbly grin, looking up to her cousin as she bounced on her heels, waiting expectantly for an answer. She flipped it over again, crudely drawn mockery of liberty's scale.
"Why is this in here?"
Swooping in neatly, Pearl clenched the container in her fist, her fingers sliding over the slippery surfaces and shuffling them back into the gold-rimmed lock with a sweep of the hand. She tucked the talisman back into Maya's pocket, leaving the badge in her palm. They both stared at it before Pearl slowly reached out a hand and stroked it.
"I figured," she said slowly. "I figured it'd be the closest thing I'd ever see again—to the real thing."
Pearl gently pried Maya's fingers off, one by one, before loosening another section of the ribbon across her chest in preparation of placing the badge into yet another crevice in Maya's kimono. While her cousin continued to work with quick fingers, Maya swallowed the selfish wall blocking her words and spoke.
"You should keep the talisman. It's yours now."
"No," Pearl said yet again. Maya felt like she had heard a lifetime of negative. "You keep it."
Maya looked up to protest again, but quieted when her eyes met Pearl's. The Master went back to folding the badge into the acolyte's robe, two creases and a gentle tuck. Laying over the final stretch of silk that hid the badge from view, her cousin patted the faint round outline.
"A lot of us are counting on you, Mystic Maya." Her eyes drilled into Maya's, searing out her lingering traces of hesitation.
"We've been waiting for seven years. Save Mr. Nick, for our sakes—because if you save him, you save us all."
The sound seemed to shatter her bones—although the opposite was in fact the truth. The pattern—click, click, click, whiiiiiiiir—was sounding because of the impact her fingers made as they channeled the force of her excitement into the keyboard. While the database on her father's computer had been updated after his death, the system of data storage itself had not. As such, Kay could not directly search the name of Maya Fey—or anyone for that matter; instead, she entered her information by case and trial. Profiles were only accessible through the cases the people were involved in. There was no room for personal data—just case data. It was difficult to sort through, made no sense to her, and the face-oriented Kay was having too much trouble. Nevertheless, Edgeworth had the information. Case data. Kay could handle it.
At least, the limited data Kay even knew about her candidate.
"Defense Attorney: Phoenix Wright…" She breathed into the dust of the room, stealing glances at her fingers as she typed. The old keyboard made the worst of sounds, threatening malfunction at every turn—click, click, click, whiiiiiiiir—however, the words duly appeared on the screen. She laid down her fingers, rapping them impatiently.
"Related Case—which to choose? Any case with Mr. Wright is almost guaranteed to carry the name of Maya…"
She tapped a finger to her lip, deciding finally on the one that stood out most in her mind.
"Prosecutor: Miles Edgeworth…Case by Organization Number: PW-7, that's ironic. Accused Crime, Murder—Victim Party, Mia Fey. Verdict, Not Guilty"
Jabbing enter furiously, she did a little twirl in the chair, catching a glimpse outside the window behind her before sticking out her feet abruptly. They hit the desk with hard force, stopping her quickly and sending a screen of links straight into her line of vision. The uppermost option contained just she wanted, a test of character—the full transcript of the PW-7 trial. With bit of fidgeting and a muttered curse at the dying mouse, Kay clicked on the link.
The page turned momentarily blank before text scrolled in line by line, as if the words were being recorded as she looked on, trial by fire right in front of her eyes. She blinked, holding down the southward arrow as the page continued to load, so when it finally finished she'd be at the bottom. When the transcript finally ended, she did a control-find on Maya Fey's name, hoping to find a link to the profile…
And then something caught her attention—Maya Fey had a speaking role.
The first time her mother had taken her to a trial—a trial and not just an empty courtroom—the bundle of nerves in her throat and the overwhelming urge to please her father had risen up into an objection in her throat. She had forgotten exactly what she'd said, but never what had happened afterwards—her father had grabbed her shoulders in front of all the people of the court and pulled, knocking her against the partition between assistant's bench and prosecutors seat.
"Kay," he had whispered harshly, covering her mouth with one hand and lightly rattling her shoulders with the other. "You are not actually my assistant. Unless you are a legal aide when you actually get a job—you—never—ever—say—anything the audience will catch, you hear?"
She had nodded fearfully, slumping into her chair as the audience also seemed to relax from the sudden loss of tension. Her father had taken a breath, shook the scarf at his neck, and continued.
Blinking herself back into reality, Kay thumped her head lightly with her fist and glanced at the court record, still frowning and feeling quizzical. Years after that trial, Kay had read court regulations and found the passage stating the rules—'anything said by people who are not lawyers, judges, witnesses, legal aides, or the audience as a whole are to be stricken from the court record'—with clauses for important interjections such as last-minute evidence, of course. Nevertheless, Maya Fey's words were still recorded in the archives.
It was still decidedly odd…
Frowning, Kay clicked through the instances Maya had spoken without really reading what she had said.
Why does she only appear to speak on the last day of the trial…?
There was only one explanation—Maya Fey was legal aide on the third day of her own trial.
"It's not possible," she muttered on instinct. "Clause three of the courtroom pamphlet states that a defendant on trial cannot play any other role in the same trial."
Scrolling up wildly, she yelped at the Judge's words. Blinking, she focused on the sentence, reading quickly, unsure whether to drop her jaw or frown.
"The trial of…Phoenix Wright?"
Kay knew that most people with a career in law who had been accused would carry the weight on their reputation for the rest of their career. Manfred von Karma had murdered over one accusation of false evidence. Edgeworth himself had had his own scar reopened during his little escapade in IFly Airlines. For a lawyer to be charged with murder and escape unscathed, without blame whatsoever…
"He'd have to be a virtual god of the courtroom," she said to herself, deciding to finally loosen her mouth.
"…So how the hell did they let Phoenix Wright get away?"
Kay was not particularly known for her patience.
In fact, according to certain magenta-clad prosecutors and their sisters, she was known for the exact opposite—her hyper attitude, bubbly spirit, and her inability to sit still.
"How did they not fire this guy earlier?!" Gesturing toward the screen, she pounded the desk with her fist. "I don't even—"
Slumping forward dejectedly, Kay sighed.
"I cannot—stand—this much—pointless—conjecture—in one—sitting—"
While the trial was certainly interesting, the fact that Kay knew the eventual ending was beginning to make the transcript boring with each line spoken. Kay had only gotten to the halfway point of the trial, day two, in an hour—and, more importantly, the notebook paper with information on Maya Fey was disappointing empty.
"That is—I just—"
To save herself before she died of cardiac arrest, Kay clicked forward harshly to about three-quarters of the way into Phoenix's trial, dancing her wit's end and in need of a quote directly from Maya Fey within ten seconds. And that was when she got her next big shock of the day.
"SHE CHANELLED MIA FEY?!"
Quickly clicking the hyperlink on the dead attorney's name, she scrolled through her information rapidly, getting to the charts of statistics and timeline of achievements at the end.
Her win record crushed the realm of logic, and her timeline stretched far beyond her death…
…through Maya and Pearl Fey.
Her breathing slowed as Kay tapped her bottom lip, clicking to Maya's profile on an open tab.
A legal assistant…well, I guess Maya's vast experience gets her to be almost the rank of a defense attorney…they surely wouldn't find it weird if…
She read through the profile, focusing on the fact that she had attempted to get a job at the Wright Anything Agency. Kay, of course, knew it was for a position as a spirit medium—however, the record had been kept completely private from the public eye. If no one else knew…
Kay clicked between Mia's and Maya's tabs, noting their mug shots and the similarities between them.
And there was her miracle.
Kay was fully prepared to spend the day reveling in the idea forming in her mind when the phone rang.
Maya wasn't quite sure what to say—in fact, she wasn't quite sure whether she should have been calling in the first place. Glancing quizzically into her free palm and the card glued to it with an adhesive layer of sweat, she mouthed the phone number to herself just to stabilize her own nerves. Clenching her cell phone in her fingers and twining the strap across her pinky, she took a breath.
"Is this the…um…what is this, exactly?" Blinking at the words on the card, her eyebrows shuffled over her face. "Yatagarasu…Headquarters? What kind of a name is that?"
"Hey!" An affronted voice laughed with Maya from the other end. "I'll have you know that we need to sound very professional if we want people to take us seriously! I just changed the name last week!"
"Really?" Still amused, Maya felt herself relax in the presence of the girl on the other end, who she assumed was Kay Faraday. "Well, I hardly think we need to act all formal. We're thieves, after all! The only people who will see this are us, our friends…and our victims."
"Point taken," the girl—Maya was pretty sure at this point it was this 'Kay' on the card—chuckled. "So, you're Maya, right?"
"Guilty as charged," she replied lightly.
"You know, I'm surprised," Kay returned. "I'm scrolling through your court profile here…you seem to have been 'charged'…quite a lot."
"Comes with the profession—both of them, actually." She shrugged, knowing full well Kay couldn't see her. "Legal Aide to Phoenix Wright? Sure. But surprisingly, it's the Master-of-Kurain thing that seems to have gotten me in the most trouble." She chuckled. "Ironic, isn't it? Might be why I quit."
"…And gave the burden to your cousin?"
There was a pause, Maya haughtily keeping her mouth shut. Finally, Kay spoke, as if trying to redeem herself.
"Look, Maya, I think this could work—really well, if you agree to my plan. All I need to make sure is that the person on the other end of this line, who I've never met and know next to nothing about apart from legal records, is a human being. Can you promise that?"
"Good." Something in Maya's voice must have satisfied Kay. "If that's the case, I'll see you in…oh? Two days, in People Park. Plenty of time to move all your stuff over to the city."
Maya made a noise in the back of her throat, something like assent, and was about to take the phone from her ear when Kay called out to her—"oh, one more thing."
"If you could do me a favor and channel your sister before you hung up…I'd appreciate it."