"Alright, but now please calm down, okay?" Raymond said. He concentrated on the sobbing young man in front of himself in order to avoid the looks of the other customers of the cafe, which ranged from curious to openly judgmental. Not that it would have made any difference, since even if the two of them had been on their own he still wouldn't have had any idea what to do next.
The boy was still shocked, that much was obvious, and aside from muttering some very basic reassurances he had no idea how to deal with a person in those conditions. He had thought that bringing him in some crowded place to eat something sweet would have helped cheering him up, and man had he been wrong. The three candies and two chocolates he had offered him were still sitting on the table, completely ignored or probably not even noticed, and the coffee he had ordered for him when they had entered that place must have gone cold by now. On the other hand, the small mountain of crumpled used paper handkerchiefs and napkins piled up on the table kept on growing by the minute.
On his part, the boy was too busy silently staring in front of himself - or possibly just staring at nothing, difficult to tell where he was even looking, with those vacant eyes - only to stop every once in a while to burst into tears, or call out--
And all of a sudden he blew his nose loudly with a wet, gross noise that recalled the attention of many of the customers around.
Raymond jumped up. Thankfully the boy had stopped crying and bawling a while ago, and he wasn't anywhere as loud or shrill as he had been before, but the way that had been almost perfectly on cue had sincerely upset him. And as if that wasn't enough already, he had then started sobbing once again, likely not having even noticed that the eyes of all the other people in the local were on him.
His face crimson, Raymond turned around and gave everyone in the local an awkward smile in the vain hope to somehow convince them that he had everything under control, but judging by the glares he received in return he wasn't fooling anyone.
The only thing he could do was to call a waitress and ask her to please bring them another slice of chocolate cake and some more paper napkins, which made it the second piece of cake, third coffee and fifth round of paper napkins he had ordered in half an hour. He obviously only needed the napkins, for the boy, but that way he hoped they wouldn't have been thrown out of the local because of the noise and disturbance they were making - well, that the kid was making, to be brutally precise. He was sincerely surprised that they had managed to last that long in there, and hadn't been asked to please pay their bill and get out of the local at least once or twice already, given how loudly he had been wailing a couple of times.
The waitress came back with cake and napkins, and as soon as they were on the table the younger man used one to wipe his eyes and blow his nose again. Raymond checked out how many napkins he still had, and calculated that they would have lasted about ten minutes. Not much, but at least those would have bought him some more time to try and think about something to say, and most important how to say it.
Being too direct was definitely going to make things even worse, and he didn't want to risk that. But on the other hand the temptation to just slam his hands on the table and yell him to stop that already, that his 'Dollie' didn't deserve a single tear after what she had tried to do to him, was getting stronger and stronger by the minute. At the very least he had stopped calling out for her, so that was a step forward.
But thankfully, before he could either give in to his worst instinct and actually shout at him, or embarrass himself once more by trying to offer the other man another hug and cause him to start crying again, a familiar voice brought Raymond back to reality. "Sorry I'm late."
Hearing those words, Raymond turned his head to his side and let out a loud sigh of relief. "Oh, Mr. Edgeworth, sir!" He loudly proclaimed, his eyes almost shining as he looked at the man. "You're finally here!"
"I apologize to you, too." The man replied before giving a careful look at the two sitting at the table. Most of his attention was on the younger man, not just because of the eye-catching (and eye-searing) outfit he was wearing, but mostly due to the sudden change of attitude the boy had just had: when he had walked into the cafe he was looking down to the floor, his expression so bland it looked like a badly molded mask, while right now he had turned his head towards him and was intently looking straight into his face. The young man didn't take his eyes off him for a single moment, even as he sat down in front of him and took off his hat.
"The train back home was half an hour late." Gregory nonchalantly told Raymond while producing a piece of cloth from the pocket of his coat and taking off his glasses. "I tried to call and warn you, but at the village my phone had no signal, and I didn't have enough change on me to use the payphone again. But I hurried back here as quickly as I could." He explained as he carefully cleaned the glasses, then put them back on.
"Don't even mention that, boss." Raymond replied, quickly grabbing the candies and chocolate and pocketing them, then slouching back against the chair while sporting a wide grin. "What's important is that I got the info in time, and that now you're here."
"I guess so. However, it seems that things between you and Mr. Wright here haven't exactly gone smoothly." He replied, looking at the pile of napkins.
"It's just because I have a cold!" The young man finally spoke, his voice so firm and secure it sincerely surprised Raymond.
The older man slowly nodded. "Yes, I can tell from your voice, very nasal. But your eyes are a bit too red--"
"I just rubbed them. A lot." The other hastily replied. "It was stupid, I know, best way to get sick, rubbing your eyes with dirty hands-- a-anyway, you said you're... your name is Edgeworth, right?"
"I was the one that said that, actually." Raymond intervened. "But yep, that's him, the one and only."
Edgeworth gave Raymond a sideways glance, then let out a small sigh and turned his attention towards the younger man. "Gregory Edgeworth. It's been a very long while, Mr. Wright." He said with a smile while extending his hand to the other.
After rubbing his hand on a clean paper napkin, the young man took Gregory's and shook it. "Y-Yes, really a long time... b-but please call me Phoenix." He said, and his face lit up, so much that the two other men were sincerely surprised by how quick that had been.
"If you insist. Happy to see you again after so many years, Phoenix." Gregory replied. He then let go of Phoenix's hand and pointed towards Raymond, with the palm facing up. "And this man here is my pupil, Mr. Raymond Shields. I'm sure that by now you've already gotten to know him."
"Yes, Mr. Shields." Phoenix said, then turned towards Raymond. "Thanks for what you've done for me today, and sorry for not thanking you earlier."
"It's alright. Didn't I tell you to take your time?" Raymond said, shrugging. "Given the crap you had to go through, I can't blame you."
Hearing those words, Phoenix's expression darkened again. "...I still can't believe it."
"Quite amazing in a horrible way, indeed." Gregory commented, his expression and tone suddenly very intense.
Seeing the change of mood in the other two men, Raymond decided to intervene. "Anyway... you already know each other, and Mr. Edgeworth told me a few other things about you, but not everything. When did you meet, if I'm not being too nosy?"
"Back when I was in elementary school." Phoenix answered.
Raymond jumped back on his seat, almost falling backwards with the chair. "What?" He asked while sitting back down properly.
"A long time, as I said." Gregory commented. "We didn't even meet with each other that many times, but I remember him well. And now I look at him and... man, do I feel old." He said with a chuckle.
"You still look like back then, Mr. Edgeworth, just with a few more grey hair and fine lines." Phoenix said. "When I saw you a minute ago, I just couldn't believe it."
Gregory let out a laugh. "I wish that was actually true, time hasn't been that kind to me. But thank you." He said, then pointed towards the cup of cold coffee. "Anyway, mind if I...?" He asked looking first towards Phoenix, then at Raymond. Once both of them nodded to signal that there was no problem, he reached out for it and took a sip.
"You, on the other hand, have changed a lot. Which is natural, of course. When they grow up, kids change dramatically..." Gregory then said, his tone and expression getting stern for a moment.
Noticing it, Raymond was about to jump up and intervene to change argument, but before he could even open his mouth the older man had done so on his own. "I was very surprised to find out about you, Phoenix... you've started studying art and law at the same time."
Phoenix widened his eyes, confused. "A-And how do you know..."
"The trial documents." Gregory calmly answered, helping himself to the slice of cake.
"Oh! R-Right..." Phoenix stuttered, feeling like a moron for having even asked that. "Mr. Shields asked for your help?"
"Actually, the boss was supposed to personally defend you, but there was a problem." Raymond explained while, with a quick gesture, he took the plate with the cake away from Gregory.
"Yes." Gregory finally replied after swallowing the mouthful with some coffee. "A sudden appointment, regarding your case."
Phoenix stared at the two men, without blinking. "W-What? Really?"
Gregory nodded. "Exactly at the same time as your trial was taking place. Sounds like a bad excuse, I know." He then tried to reach out for the cake again, only to have Raymond slap his hand away.
"But that's true, I can assure you." Raymond then casually said to Phoenix. "And enough of this for you, boss. You know you shouldn't even look at sweets. Or do you want to start taking shots every day?"
After a moment of clear embarrassment, and after a last glance at the slice of cake, Gregory put his best serious face back on and turned towards Phoenix. "I tried to anticipate the meeting, but sadly it was impossible. And due to circumstances I had to go myself. Hadn't it been for that, I would have been defending you myself, I promise." The man's voice hasted up in the last few words, and betrayed a sad and sorry note.
"N-No, you don't have to apologize, really." Phoenix calmly replied.
"But Mr. Edgeworth left you in very good hands!" Raymond hastily said in a clearly fake boastful voice, pointing to himself with his thumb. "But even a great lawyer like me couldn't have done it without the help of an even better one." He then added, turning his hand to point towards Gregory. "Boss here spent four boring hours on a train just to go get the info we needed to exonerate you. I'd dare to say, he put about as much into this as I did, if not more."
"Yeah, exactly..." Phoenix hesitantly answered after glaring at Raymond, perplexed by that obviously affected burst of enthusiasm. He took a moment to compose himself, then went on. "So, thanks. Both of you, thank you very much. I owe you my life."
"Don't even mention it, kid!" Raymond said with a smile. "Seeing justice done and helping the innocent is a lawyer's job."
"Indeed." Gregory added, nodding slowly.
"O-Okay." Phoenix answered, overwhelmed. "But still, if there's anything I can do for you, to return the favor in any way... a-as long as it doesn't involve money outside of your fee, at least." He then added, scratching his nape while he said the last few words but sounding very serious.
Both Raymond and Gregory did their best to suppress a laugh, but neither of them could manage.
"Don't worry about that. Knowing that you're safe is more than enough for me." Gregory replied after composing himself.
"Yes, but..." Phoenix started, a bit hesitant.
"I'm happy to see you safe as well, so don't worry about a thing." Raymond answered, smiling widely.
Phoenix couldn't help wondering: before the trial he had asked for a public defender, and he was sure Mr. Edgeworth wasn't one back in the day. Had he become one recently? Given how he had mentioned the fee and dismissed it like that, that didn't seem the case. And if he wasn't a public defendant, he also would have wanted to ask him more in detail about how he had learned that he was on trial. He decided to keep the question for another time, when he would have been more clear minded. He didn't know why, but he had the feeling he would have needed to choose his words properly. "Alright then, if you say so... anyway, I'm studying law, I want to become a lawyer too, and if you need any help--"
"Thanks for your offer, but I'm afraid I can't do much for you. But I will help you find a place at a good law firm when you will have--"
"So you want to become a lawyer, huh? You mentioned that, during the recess." Raymond said, speaking over Gregory while looking straight at Phoenix, who was understandably staring back at him with a confused expression. "And why, if I can ask?"
"You know why, Raymond--" Gregory tried to say, only to be interrupted by his pupil once again.
"I mean, attending two faculties as different as art and law at the same time? Must be very hard, how do you even manage to do that?"
"W-Well, I'm not really attending two faculties at once--" Phoenix started speaking while scratching the back of his head, and was interrupted by Gregory.
"You're embarrassing him, Raymond." The older man said, his voice altered.
"N-No Mr. Edgeworth... it's alright. I started talking about it before, during a recess, so I kinda owe Mr. Shields a full explanation about it, actually." Phoenix replied, glancing at Raymond as he spoke. "But... why did you just tell him that he knows why I want to become a lawyer? I mean, I met him only today, and he can't have already told you I had started talking about it..."
Gregory looked at Phoenix in silence then, realizing that he had indeed just said those words out loud, gave a start. He swallowed dry, his eyes darting around the place.
"And I haven't told anyone the full, real reason why since it's... well, a bit stupid--"
"Trying to help an old friend is not stupid. It's something very noble, and you shouldn't be ashamed of it." Gregory calmly replied, interrupting him.
Phoenix looked at the other man in disbelief. He moved his jaw a couple of times, as if he was trying to talk but his voice wasn't coming out.
Gregory took sip of coffee, calmly, and after putting the cup down he clasped his hands on the table and looked at the younger man, a decisive expression on his face. "I know you're doing this for Miles, and--"
With a sudden movement Phoenix rose on his feet and slammed his hands on the table. "How do you know it's about him?" He shouted, his face suddenly drained of all color.
Gregory jumped back on his seat, his head instinctively jerking up to look at Phoenix's face. He had purposely started his explanation mentioning Miles to get his attention, and he was expecting that overreaction, but his vehemence had still taken him by surprise.
After recovering from the shock, Raymond stood up as well and put his hands on the other's shoulders, trying to gently push him back down on the chair. "Phoenix, calm down and stop yelling!" He said in a firm voice.
Phoenix glanced around, and noticed the stares of the other customers of the cafe on him. A moment to fully realize what he had done, then he apologized to everyone and sat back down, his face crimson.
"You're really very passionate about this, Phoenix." Gregory calmly said after recovering his composure. "I think we should take this somewhere else, possibly less crowded."
"Yes..." Phoenix said with some hesitation, pulling his mask up over his nose to shield himself from the sights of the people around.
"Alright then, I'll go pay." Raymond said. "You two go wait for me next to the car."
Phoenix mumbled something, then stood up from his seat and followed Gregory, who had silently put his hat back on and, without looking at the younger man, was heading for the local's door.
They then reached the car, and Phoenix couldn't help giving a look at the older man. It felt a bit awkward, but thankfully Gregory didn't seem too interested in him - nor in anyone else, actually, instead looking like he was completely lost in his own thoughts. No more than a minute later Raymond arrived as well, and without saying a word to each other they got into the car.
The trip didn't last too long, no more than fifteen minutes or so, but to Phoenix it felt way longer due to how heavy the atmosphere was. Mr. Edgeworth was sitting right next to him in the backseat, and during that time he took the opportunity to glance at him a few times - a lot of times for such a short trip, he realized - and noticed how the other man's serious expression was slowly giving way to sadness.
And Mr. Shields must have noticed that, since at one point he started to crack a few jokes, and kept on telling them, undeterred, even as they fell on deaf ears. Phoenix felt a bad for not laughing, or even say something about them out of politeness, but he just didn't feel like it - he had tried, but he was too afraid that his tone would have sounded way too forced and unnatural.
He did eventually manage say something, but only because a doubt had suddenly dawned to him: "Erm, so... where are we going?" He asked, taking advantage of a moment during which Raymond had stopped talking.
"Huh?" Raymond mumbled, giving him a quick over the shoulder glance before concentrating back on the street. "What did you just say, kid? I couldn't hear you."
Phoenix looked at him and then at Gregory, then pulled down his mask. "I said, where are we going?" He repeated, louder.
"Oh, yeah. Forgot to tell you before, sorry about that." Raymond answered, fixing the rear-view mirror to get a better look at the two other men before concentrating back on driving. "We're going back to our office, since Mr. Edgeworth said he wanted to go to a quiet place."
"Ah. Okay, thank you." The other replied. He then turned his head around and looked at Gregory, whose face was still blank and deadpan.
"Why are you so quiet, boss?" Raymond then asked, a smile on his face, looking at the older man through the mirror. "Do you want to go somewhere else?"
Gregory visibly gave a start, Raymond's words had snapped him out whatever was up with him. He quickly recomposed himself and started talking: "No, the office is perfect. In fact, I would have told you to drive there if I had seen you head for somewhere else. But what do you mean with that remark about me being too quiet?" He asked, his tone calm and level, as if nothing had just happened.
"Well, I thought you'd decided to sit back with Mr. Wright because you wanted to talk to him."
"Wrong assumption." Gregory answered dryly.
From the mirror, Phoenix could catch a quick glance at Raymond's face: he had opened his mouth wide, looking like he was about to say something, but then a strange expression, possibly annoyance, had appeared on his face and he had focused back on driving and cracking jokes. He was tempted to ask if there was something wrong, but decided not to. He pulled his mask back on, almost as if that little gesture would have helped him resist temptation better, and didn't say a word until the car stopped, just giving a look at Gregory every once in a while to see if his expression was still the same.
They finally reached the place and got out of the car, and Phoenix kept on looking down until they got to the main door: next to it, above the column of doorbells, there was an old looking, dusty plaque saying "Edgeworth & Shields law firm - 6th floor". It was a simple, plain rectangular metal thing, with black letters engraved over a blank background. Not even a stylized scale or a motif to decorate it, or even an indication of the year in which the place had been founded, only those two lines of text.
Phoenix then followed them inside the elevator until they reached the right floor. When they were outside the office another plaque attached to the door greeted him, and despite being inside the building it looked so much more opaque than the other. The two looked the same in size, material and writing, but this one was visibly darker. It took him a moment and a closer glance to guess that, very likely, it was just dust that had piled on it and hadn't been cleaned in a long time, and unlike the other hadn't had the luck of being exposed to wind and rain.
"Hope you're not too formal, kid." Raymond said with an embarrassed half smile on his face, turning the key and opening the door of the office.
"Er... n-no, don't worry." He answered. "At campus I stay at an all men dormitory, pretty sure nothing can beat that!" He said in a joking tone, even attempting a half-hearted chuckle while he was at it.
When the door opened and he could see the place with his own eyes, he was sincerely baffled: it was a nicely kept, well organized, clean office, all the opposite of what he would have expected to see behind a door with that dirty plaque on it. Sure, there were a few more details that signaled that the owners of the place weren't exactly cleaning maniacs, like a slightly fogged window or a couple of crumpled sheets of paper sitting on the floor, next to an almost empty garbage can. But aside from that, this was nowhere near the hellhole he had imagined until a few seconds before.
"Make yourself at home, kid." Raymond said, hanging his coat to the rack next to the door.
"It's a nice place!" Phoenix replied, taking off his scarf. "Really, nothing like what you made it up to be!" He looked at the wall in front of himself, on which hang dozens of properly framed sentences of their courtroom victories. At his sides there were two desks sitting in front of each other, and behind them there were two high bookcases whose shelves were curved under the weight of tomes and thick files. He quickly averted his attention from them, painfully reminded of the huge civil procedure book he had bought about a year ago, but that he had never even cracked open since.
Raymond let out a sigh. "Yeah... still, I wish we had the money to get someone to clean up the place more often--"
"I can do that for you!" Phoenix answered. "To thank you for what you've done!"
Raymond thought about it for a moment, then looked at Phoenix. "If it were for me, kid, I'd be very, very tempted to pick you up on your offer. But I'm not the boss around here."
"I'm merely your mentor, Raymond. You're part of this firm as well."
Oh, yeah, Phoenix told himself as he heard that voice. Mr. Edgeworth. For a moment he had completely forgotten about him, and was fully reminded of his presence only when he turned towards the rack and noticed that his coat and hat had already been placed there. He then turned back saw the older man sitting at the desk on the right, intently searching for something inside one of its drawers.
Phoenix stared at him in silence, in complete disbelief over the fact he hadn't even noticed the man moving around the room. When he came to, he slowly and hesitantly reached the desk and sat down on the chair in front of it, putting his scarf on his lap and lowering his mask without taking his eyes off Gregory for a moment.
In that moment, almost as if on cue, Gregory looked in front of himself and his sight met with Phoenix's, who couldn't help giving a start when he saw that melancholic expression again.
"As I was saying before, I definitely owe you some explanations, Phoenix." Gregory started speaking immediately, almost unceremoniously.
"Uh... yes." Phoenix said, meekly.
Gregory lowered his sight for a moment, then looked back up. "Your main question must be, how do I know about your aspirations to become a lawyer for Miles' sake. The answer is, it's Miles himself who told me about it. Actually, to be precise, he let me know about it."
Phoenix widened his eyes. "He... he told you?"
Without saying a word Gregory picked a folded sheet of paper from his desk's drawer and handed it out to Phoenix. The young man stared at it for a few seconds, then took the paper and unfolded it. It was a handwritten letter, written in beautifully tidy calligraphy. He gave another glance to Mr. Edgeworth, and started reading:
Mr. Gregory Edgeworth,
I've been receiving letters like these for about one year now, and I'm starting to get quite annoyed by them. Not just because of the frequency with which they arrive, or because of the melodramatic, sappy content of them - although I will say both are extremely irritating.
What really bothers me most is that you went through the effort of tracking down this old classmate of mine, which I haven't seen or heard from in more than a decade, and asked him to send me these ridiculous letters. The alternative explanation is that you impersonated this guy and sent me these missives under his name, but I think that not even you would do something like impersonating someone else, if only because it's a serious crime that would require more courage than you actually have.
However, I can definitely see you manipulating and pushing some wide eyed young boy into writing ridiculously mawkish letters like these. It's one of those tricks you lawyers aren't beneath using, after all. That, and the ludicrously sentimental tone used in these letters to describe lawyers couldn't be more evident examples of the fact that it is indeed you the person behind this.
So, consider this a warning: as I have had enough of this, from today on I'll destroy every other letter that bears that guy's name as its sender. So do him and yourself a favor, and stop pointlessly wasting your money and time in this stupid plan. And if you really want to go along with it the way you described it in the letters, and really want to turn him into a lawyer to personally face me, I'll let you know that I'll be more than happy to crush your puppet in courtroom any time.
Phoenix read through that letter three times, incredulous. When he reached the bottom of the page for the last time and saw that signature once more, he couldn't help mumbling something about how he couldn't believe it.
"That's the truth, sadly." Raymond said.
Gregory let out a sigh. "Kids grow up and change dramatically, indeed."
Phoenix stared at the sheet one last time, then folded and put it back on the desk. "What happened to him?"
"I'm not fully sure myself." Gregory said. "But ever since he was around thirteen he started to put some distance between me and himself. At that time I didn't give it too much weight, all boys go through a phase like that, but then he began to try start up fights with me about what a stupid person I was and what a horrible disgrace lawyers were for society, letting all those clearly guilty people free with their devious ways of twisting facts around..."
"Once he even stormed here in the office, in the middle of the afternoon." Raymond started to explain. "He started to insult the boss, and I swear I would have punched him right in his face hadn't Mr. Edgeworth stopped me."
"He insulted Mr. Edgeworth?" Phoenix repeated, and even after hearing those words for a third time he still couldn't believe it: Miles, the same kid who, back in elementary school, could gush for hours and hours about what an amazing person his father was, defending innocent people and never resting until justice was made, and about how much he wished he could become even just half the man he was, had really turned into that shady lawyer-hating prosecutor he had read of in the newspapers. Even now that he had heard about it from first hand sources and had received confirmation of it beyond any possible doubt, it still felt surreal.
"By the way Phoenix, I need to apologize to you for reading your letters." Gregory then said, snapping the younger man out of his thoughts.
"When I received those letters, together with the message Miles wrote, I was completely upset, almost out of myself. So I went through them, to see what this was all about." He explained. "I shouldn't have done that, I know, but I couldn't think straight back then. Forgive me."
"Oh, I understand..." Phoenix said. "No, you don't have to worry about it, it's alright--"
"But I promise, I didn't open any envelope that Miles hadn't opened already."
"I said it's not a problem, don't worry." Phoenix replied. He looked down at the folded paper sitting on the desk, then back up at Gregory.
"And let me guess, Miles never answered to any of those letters you sent him, did he?" Raymond intervened.
Phoenix shook his head. "No."
Raymond shrugged. "...figures."
"And yet you kept on sending him these letters..." Gregory commented.
"One every month or so. I kept on sending those letters even after I got back the twelve I had sent initially."
Raymond whistled. "Wow. I would have given up long ago..."
"I probably would have given up earlier, if I had known how he felt about them." He said before letting out a long sigh. Actually, to be completely honest with himself, he would have probably Miles' suggestion and saved the time and money he had spent on those letters all along, had he known he had turned into such an ass. "Er, anyway... could I ask you one thing? Feel free not to answer if you're uncomfortable."
Gregory looked slightly worried for a moment. "Oh, my. What do you want to know?" He asked.
That prologue he had just made did sound slightly concerning, Phoenix realized, so he decided to choose his words carefully. "Well... how long has it been since you last spoke with Miles? In person, I mean."
Gregory's expression turned blank. "It was back when he was eighteen, on the day of his birthday. He said that, as a legal adult, he was happy he no longer needed my patronage, and left my house."
"Wha--" Phoenix shouted, interrupting himself when he realized how loud he had almost been. "S-Sorry for screaming, both of you... it's just... really?"
Phoenix's mouth hang open in shock. When he recovered he reached out and put his hand on Gregory's. "I'm sorry to hear that. It must have been hard."
"I'm getting used to it, don't worry." He replied with a sad smile.
"You really n-never met him once?" Phoenix stuttered. "Not even in during a trial, or--"
"No Chief Prosecutor would ever appoint Miles to prosecute a case where the boss is defending a client. Two relatives facing each other in courtroom would be a conflict of interest." Raymond explained, interrupting him.
"Oh!" Phoenix said with a gasp, suddenly remembering that. "Yes, that's right... heh..."
"When you said you weren't really studying law, you meant it literally, huh kid?" Raymond replied in a sarcastic tone.
"H-Hey!" Phoenix protested, jumping up from his chair and slamming his hands on the desk in front of himself. At the same time, Gregory gave his pupil a sharp glare.
"Heh, sorry kid. I was just joking, I promise." He apologized, alternatively looking at both men. "Anyway, if you're really interested about it, while Mr. Edgeworth never met Miles in court, I did."
Raymond nodded. He was about to start talking, but Gregory preceded him: "Do you really want to tell him about that time?" He asked in a calm tone.
"If it's not a problem for you..."
Gregory calmly shook his head no. "At all, please go on."
"Alright then." Raymond answered, nodding with a smile on his face, then turning his head towards Phoenix. "So, yes, I did face him in courtroom, and he humiliated me in front of everyone."
Without taking his eyes off Raymond, Phoenix sat back down on the chair.
"I was defending a client accused of murder. I believed him when he said not only that he was innocent, but also that he had never been at the scene of the crime. I even said so out loud at the very beginning of the trial, to show Miles that I wasn't going to back down." He explained, then made a pause and let out a sigh. "Then guess what, turns out he was lying: during the trial Miles suddenly produced a handkerchief belonging to my client, which demonstrated he had been there on that night."
"What?" Phoenix shouted. "And you had no idea there was evidence like that around?"
Raymond shook his head. "He had kept it hidden from the police, too. I still remember the ruckus that detective that's always with him was making about it, that poor sap had really no idea. Miles explained he had kept that hidden because he didn't think it would have been relevant, since it was a very common handkerchief that could have belonged to anyone, as far as we knew. Anyway, the defendant mentioned that he had to blow his nose but had lost his handkerchief, and Miles asked him to describe it in detail for the court. My client did like he was asked, and he magically pulled out that exact thing my client had been describing, explaining that he had found it in the corridor leading to the room where the murder had taken place."
"So your client had lied to you."
"Yes. Then Miles told him that, if he had confessed there and then, he would have done his best to grant him a discount on his term, and my client started singing like a bird at dawn about how he had gone there to steal some stuff. In the end it turned out that the guy hadn't killed the victim, he had just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and thankfully there was enough evidence for me to prove that, but I still wanted to dig a hole in the ground and hide myself in there. I felt like an idiot." Raymond explained, letting out a long sigh and hanging his head after saying those words. He then looked back towards Phoenix and went on talking: "Then, after the verdict, Miles came to see me in the defendant lobby, and gave me a long speech about how trusting defendants was a stupid thing to do, telling me to think about how quickly that guy had folded up and thrown away any semblance of dignity in the face of the possibility of having his sentence slightly shortened, then he left."
"... wow... that was cold..."
"You can say that out loud. Also, the way he talked to me, so cold and detached, almost as if he had been giving a speech to a crowd, rather than talk face to face with someone he knew personally. I was expecting him to be be smug about his victory, after all he still had the defendant convicted, but instead he was just..." He interrupted himself for a moment. "...cold, as you put it. I was completely disoriented, and couldn't even bring myself to get angry even if I would have wanted to, believe me. I had no idea what to reply either, so I guess it was a good thing for me he took and left like that. At least it spared me the humiliation of just looking at him in complete silence, or babbling like a moron."
"I see..." Phoenix mumbled in a low voice. Hearing this, he couldn't help thinking about the Miles he knew, and the speeches he always made about wanting to be like his father, defending the innocent until justice was done. For a moment he wondered if maybe he had just remembered things wrong during the past years, for some reason.
"When Raymond told me about it, it was surprising for me as well. And discouraging, too."
"You're afraid there might be nothing to do by this point?" Phoenix then instinctively asked, almost without even realizing and immediately regretting what he had said.
"Honestly? Yes." Gregory replied in a flat tone of voice. "And yet there's a part of me that can't help hoping that maybe, one day, I'll be able to see him face to face again, in person, and talk things out. I've tried to get an appointment with him, but he refuses my requests. I don't even have the courage to go visit him at the place he lives at..." He interrupted himself as his voice cracked.
Phoenix looked at Gregory in complete silence, then turned his sight on Raymond. The man looked sorry as well, but had walked back from the desk where his boss was sitting, his hands behind his back. He then focused his attention back on the older man. He swallowed hard, put together all the courage he could muster in that moment, and started speaking: "You really hope that, Mr. Edgeworth?"
"Yes. What an idiot I am, right?"
"Absolutely not. Actually, don't say something like that ever again, okay?" He said, then turned towards Raymond. "If he does, please give him a slap on the back of his head, okay? J-Just not too hard, heh..."
In response Raymond stared at Phoenix, his brow furrowed and his jaw hanging. "Huh?" He eventually muttered.
"Y-You heard me right! If he ever calls himself an idiot, slap him for me." Phoenix repeated, as the realization of just how much overboard he had gone with that attempt at sounding upbeat sank in. He calmed down, then went on: "Because he's not. Hoping that things will turn for the better isn't stupid, and he shouldn't feel bad about it."
"...okay..." Raymond mumbled, looking and sounding as dumbfounded as before.
"Well..." Gregory said in a firm voice, getting Phoenix's attention and making him turn his head around. "As much as I appreciate your attempt at cheering me up, and I really do--"
"Not 'buts' or 'ifs', Mr. Edgeworth." Phoenix interrupted him. "Don't call yourself an idiot for that, ever. You want to talk to your son again, understand what happened... there's nothing idiotic in it. Yes, you must have gone through a lot, dealing with one rejection after the other. It must have been discouraging, and made you feel like you've been just wasting time, but you shouldn't give up."
"And I won't, believe me." The other man said with a slightly more convinced, but still sad voice. "I want to talk to him again in person, I really do... it's just that it's getting more and more difficult for me to believe it will ever happen."
Phoenix swallowed dry and took a deep breath. He shared the same doubt, and hearing Mr. Edgeworth say it out loud had made him hesitate for a moment. But he couldn't let it stop him, not now. "Then let me help you, Mr. Edgeworth." He said, as firmly as he could in that moment. "I want to help you. I want to know what happened to Miles, too. Yes, I know, children change when they grow up, that's normal, but to this point... now I really want to talk to him, and learn what happened to make him change his mind and attitude to this point."
"Forgive me for being so blunt, but you're just going to waste more time, like with those letters." Raymond commented.
"Precisely." Gregory commented. "It's a big enough problem as it is, and I don't want to drag you into this mess."
"I know there's this risk, too. I'm well aware of it. But I have to talk to him, and if this gives me the possibility of doing that, I'll try this method, too." Phoenix answered.
Raymond raised an eyebrow. "You have to talk to him?" He repeated.
"It's a long story, but there's something I must to talk about with him. That's why I sent him those letters in the first place, and I won't be able to be calm until I learn why--"
"I knew it would have ended like this." Gregory commented, interrupting Phoenix and speaking in a slightly annoyed voice.
"And that's why you sent me back my letters anonymously, isn't it?" The young man asked in a flat voice. "You didn't want to involve me into this, because as much as you want to see Miles again, you were afraid that if I had known about how he had reacted I would have tried to be more direct, and the whole situation would have escalated and reached a point of no return."
Gregory nodded, silently. "Exactly. That was coward of me, and I'm sorry about it. I should have talked to you back then, but I couldn't find the courage..." He interrupted himself.
Phoenix reached out and put his hands on Gregory's. "I understand, please don't feel bad about it. But I promise I'll do anything I can to help you talk to him--"
"As much as I admire your determination, and believe me, I do, you really think you're going to actually make it?" Raymond intervened, interrupting Phoenix.
"I can't know unless I try, can I?" He turned his head and replied in a bold tone, a cocky smile on his face.
"You're really going with this attitude, aren't you?" Raymond asked back, sarcastically. "Watch out, it's going to come back and bite you in the ass."
"And you think being resigned is going to take me far?" Phoenix replied, his voice cracking a bit and letting his actual feelings slip. "I read the newspapers too, I know he's undefeated, and that he has beaten lawyers with more experience and skill that I'll ever hope to have. But if let that intimidate me, I'll never manage to do anything about it."
After saying this, Phoenix felt something on his hand. He turned his head, and saw that it was Mr. Edgeworth's. "You're really convinced about this."
"Yes." Phoenix answered, calmly. "Starting from tomorrow I'll drop out of the art faculty and focus only on law."
Hearing those words Raymond widened his eyes and, taking a few step backwards, raised his hands to the height of his chest in a defensive gesture. "C-Calm down now kid, you don't have to go to these extremes! Your enthusiasm is a good thing, but don't rush things like this!"
"Precisely." Gregory commented. "This is an important choice that will impact your future, you shouldn't take decisions like this so hastily."
"Well, if that's the main problem, then I should stick to law. I mean, compared to an arts degree law is a safer choice if I want to find work in the future. And besides that, I can't approach Miles by asking him if I can draw a portrait of him, can I? He doesn't seem the type." Phoenix said, chuckling. "And after reading what he wrote in that letter, I really want to face him in courtroom and beat him, to show him how wrong he is now."
"You're not going to avenge the boss like this, you know--" Raymond started speaking, only be interrupted by Phoenix.
"It's not revenge, or anything like that." The younger man calmly said. "It's a much longer story, actually..."
"It's about that class trial, isn't it?" Gregory asked, taking advantage of a moment of hesitation.
Hearing that, Phoenix turned his head towards Gregory in surprise. "...yes." He eventually said.
Raymond raised an eyebrow and looked at the other two, but stood in complete silence.
"I see." The older man commented while leaning back against his chair. "I should have talked with you back when I received the letters, I've really been an idiot keeping this to myself - and don't even try to reply to what I just said, this time it's the simple truth and I will not accept any objections in that regard, understood?" He then added, a warm smile on his face as he finished speaking that sentence.
Phoenix tried to say something for a couple of times before stopping himself. That smile and the very clear boost in confidence in Mr. Edgeworth made him unable to actually say what he wanted to. "Alright, but only this time." He eventually said, nodding with decision.
Gregory then stood silent, deep in thought, while Phoenix and Raymond didn't dare saying a word.
"If that's the case, then I'm sure you won't be easily discouraged, no matter how much me or Raymond try to talk you out of it. So I won't be wasting my time and breath, just be warned that it's going to be a very difficult and harsh path." He said, eventually.
Phoenix swallowed dry. "I know. I've already had a taste of it."
Gregory nodded. "Good. Then see you next week, when we'll talk about what you're going to do."
"Huh?" Phoenix blurted out. "What?"
"I still want you to take your time to think about it carefully." The older man said, standing up from his chair.
"I already did--"
"No you didn't. As I said I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you still have to think a few things through. Only then we'll finish this discussion, understood?"
Phoenix glared at Gregory in complete silence. "Okay." He eventually said. "But I'm serious about this."
"So am I." Gregory replied, deadpan. "That's why I don't want you to give up halfway through your studies because you start having second thoughts, or because you can't keep up with all the responsibilities and the stress of studying and practicing law."
Phoenix took a deep breath, then nodded. He had to admit, he couldn't argue with that. "Fine." He conceded.
After hearing Phoenix's answer, Gregory put a smile on his face again. "Glad you understand. In that case, please take care and--" He started to talk, only to be interrupted by the sound of his cellphone ringing. He grumbled something under his breath, then took the phone from his pocket. "Forgive me, the both of you. I'll be right back." He said while checking who the caller was and heading towards the door.
"Okay, boss, just a moment and I'll--" Raymond tried to say while Gregory quickly walked out of the office, closing the door behind himself.
Phoenix turned his head towards Raymond, and saw the other man standing completely still in disbelief.
"...get out of the office..." The man said before heaving out a sigh. He then shrugged and turned his attention towards Phoenix. "Ah, whatever. By the way, get used to scenes like this, you're going to see this a lot when you'll be here full time."
"Huh?" Phoenix mumbled, confused, realizing immediately after what he meant. "Wait, y-you think he's going to take me as his apprentice?"
He smirked. "If he doesn't, I'll take you under my wing personally."
Phoenix's face lit up. "Really?"
Raymond nodded. "I haven't seen the boss so positive about Miles in months, believe me - actually, I haven't seen him so positive in general in months. Just the fact he took you in consideration and didn't try to discourage you is a huge step forward. His problem is that he's scared, he said it himself, but I'm sure having you around will give him more and more confidence. And personally, I'll be more than happy to give you all the support and help I can."
"In that case, I'll be more than happy to be your apprentice." Phoenix replied, smiling. "I really want to know what's up with him, and--"
"Well, you see..." Raymond interrupted him. The he lowered his voice and, while pointing towards the door with his thumb, he went on: "I think I know what the main problem with Miles is. Actually, to be precise, who that problem is. But it's something I don't want to talk about when Mr. Edgeworth's around, so let's keep it for another time."
"Oh... alright then." Phoenix answered in an equally low voice.
Raymond then smiled, patted Phoenix's shoulder and, in a normal voice, said: "Anyway, even if it's not going to be official until next week, welcome on board, kid."
"Thank you for taking me in, then." Phoenix replied, trying his best to keep his excitement about the whole thing under control, but failing.
"Don't even mention it." Raymond answered, patting his shoulder again.
When the other man let go of him, Phoenix turned around to look at the desk where Mr. Edgeworth had been sitting until then, and saw something that caught his eye: "By the way, Mr. Shields--"
"Call me Ray. You're part of this office now, you don't have to be so formal."
"Er, okay, Raymond... anyway, that picture..." Phoenix said, pointing a photo that was lying on the desk, over a pile of papers. It showed two similar women dressed in weird clothes. The younger one looked about as old as he was, and was standing with her arms crossed on her generous chest; the other woman was somewhat older, at least in her forties, possibly her fifties. They were both looking at the camera and smiling, all while keeping a very dignified look to themselves.
Raymond glanced at the picture as well and smiled a thin grin. "Of all the things on that desk, that's the one that got your attention, huh?"
"Is that Mr. Edgeworth's wife?" Phoenix asked, pointing at the older woman.
"Huh... oh, no. She's not." Raymond answered, acting serious again. "They're both acquaintances of Mr. Edgeworth's, it's a long story. That's who he went to meet today for your trial, but that's an even longer story."
Phoenix widened his eyes. "...what?"
"As I said, long story. I'll definitely tell you one day, or maybe Mr. Edgeworth will do it himself next time, since you're going to stick around here." Raymond said. "Then you can explain me about that whole 'class trial' thing, okay? I've heard a few things about it but never the whole story, and it sounds like something very interesting."