Chapter 1: A different mentor
"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."
Chapter 2: A different Master
Phoenix barely had the time to put his foot past the doorstep of the defendant lobby, and he was welcomed by a voice so loud it made him instinctively jump back.
"I knew you would have done it, Nick! I'm so, so happy!"
After an instant to recover from the surprise, Phoenix steadied himself and replied: "Er... glad to know that you're happy..."
"Give him some time to walk in before you start celebrating, Maya." A female voice, coming from behind Phoenix, said in a joking tone.
"Oh, yeah. You're right, sis. It's just, I'm too happy..." Maya answered, taking a few step backwards to let the two walk inside. "Anyway, how are you doing now?"
"Definitely much better than this morning, that's for sure." The other woman replied, a big but clearly tired smile on her face, as she walked towards the small sofa in the room and sat down on it.
Phoenix stood still, only turning his head to look as Maya sat on the sofa next to her sister and hugging her, until another voice snapped him out of his thoughts. "Thank you for what you have done for my daughter from me as well, Mr. Wright."
Phoenix turned in the direction from which the voice came. "No need to thank me for that, Ms. Fey, it's the duty of a lawyer."
"C'mon kid, just take the compliment." Raymond said, appearing from behind Misty's back and giving Phoenix a pat on his shoulder. "You've done an amazing job, you have all rights to brag about it if you want."
"I... don't really think it's the case..."
"You really should!" Maya replied loudly from the other side of the room. "I mean, did you see the face of that asshole when he realized--"
"Maya!" Misty scolded her.
"Er... sorry about that, mom... but he really was an ass--"
"Yes, but there's no need to be this rude." Mia replied, giving Phoenix a sideways glance as she spoke. When Maya noticed it, she widened her eyes, then lowered her head in embarrassment.
Noticing this, Phoenix scratched the back of his head, then started speaking: "Well, she's right, a kid shouldn't use this kind of--"
"Hey! I'm seventeen!" Maya protested, only to be once again admonished by her mother glaring at her.
Before things could get out of control and devolve in an argument, Raymond took the word. "Anyway, you still have the last formalities to carry out before we can leave and go celebrate, so--"
"If you want to go celebrate, go without me." Phoenix replied, interrupting him. "I have a few things to take care of, too, so don't worry about me." He added with a thin smile.
"What, Nick? You're not joining us?" Maya asked, looking and sounding disappointed.
"I'd love to, but... no, not tonight, at least. I mean, there are all those formalities, and... yeah." Phoenix sounded hesitant as he explained himself. "And I'm just not in the mood, that's all."
"Uhm... okay then, I understand." Maya replied in a low voice, looking away from Phoenix. She stood silent for a bit, then turned her head towards him. "But next time, when you'll be free, you will come with us, I'll accept no excuses. I want to offer you at least a burger for your great job!"
"I'm more of a chicken sandwich kind of person myself, actually--" He tried to answer before getting punched in the arm by Raymond. A moment of confusion, and he got the hint. "B-But I accept the invitation! Gladly! Heh!" He replied with almost excessive enthusiasm.
"Great!" Maya replied, clasping her hands and nodding, a wide smile on her face.
Phoenix smiled back to her. Then they both turned around and gave a look at Mia, sitting on the couch next to Misty as the older woman hugged her daughter tight and caressed her back. Neither them or Raymond felt like saying a word and ruining that moment, so they stood there in an almost respectful silence.
Then, all of a sudden, Phoenix overheard a strange commotion coming from outside the room. Some people were saying something, but he couldn't fully understand what. He turned around towards the door, and the noise of heavy footsteps got more and more noticeable as well.
Before he could ask Raymond or Maya if they were hearing that sound as well the door slammed open, making everyone, himself included, startled by how sudden that had been. A moment to calm down, and the figure that appeared in front of their eyes left them even more baffled than they already were.
Raymond was the first to speak. "Miles."
Ignoring the man and his deadpan remark, Edgeworth walked straight towards Phoenix until he was a couple of steps away from him. "Wright." He then said when he was face to face with him. Seeing the two men in front of each other, Misty stood up from the couch and walked towards Maya, put a hand on her shoulder and pulled her back to the sofa with Mia.
"Oh, hi there Edgeworth. How are you--"
"Spare me at least these empty platitudes, Wright." Miles replied in a spiteful tone. Then, in a more composed and slightly calmer voice, he went on: "I'm here only to give you a message to bring to Mr. Edgeworth. Tell him that today's result in courtroom means nothing to me, and I won't change my mind. If anything, you defending this bunch of charlatans is even more damning evidence--"
"Hey!" Maya spat out, shaking off her mother's hand and standing up from the sofa. Before she could do anything else, however, Mia took a hold of her again and pulled her back down on the couch, to sit next to her.
Miles had turned an eye to the three women for a moment after being interrupted, a scornful expression on his face, then looked back at Phoenix: "I hope you're happy with what you've done today, giving these three and their ridiculous superstitions legitimacy in front of everyone thanks to your charade."
"Today's trial was about whether or not my daughter was guilty, only and exclusively that." Misty intervened in a dry tone, made even more authoritative by the natural huskiness of her voice. For a moment, Phoenix himself couldn't help feeling a shiver running down his spine as she spoke. "Unless you had some sort of second end in this case, mister prosecutor."
"Please don't put me in the same league as certain shady figures who use the courtroom as a place to regulate old matters." Miles flatly replied. "My duty is to apply the law and see that the guilty have their well deserved punishment in a regular, correct trial."
"Is it, really?" Misty said, only to have her voice covered by Maya's: "My sister wasn't guilty! That guy confessed! He did it!" She shouted, while Mia struggled to physically hold her back.
"Precisely." Misty pointed out. "And yet finding out that a person you were prosecuting wasn't guilty seems to bother you."
Miles looked at her severely. "What bothers me is that... Mystic Mia Fey was able to use the courtroom as an outlet to spout out all that ridiculous supernatural drivel, unopposed and unchallenged." He explained, his voice dripping contempt and sarcasm as he spoke out Mia's title.
"She was just explaining what kind of services White had called her for." Raymond intervened. "I hope you're not having memory issues already, at your age."
"The courtroom is a serious place, a garden of judgement, and allowing these women to soil it by spouting such foolishness so casually is unforgivable." Edgeworth said. "Letting her and her whole lot get away with such behavior is an insult. It's because of acts and people like these that our justice system is such a laughing stock."
"I'm pretty sure that White lying his way through the trial did a much bigger damage than me talking about my family's traditions, prosecutor Edgeworth." Mia then replied.
Miles turned his head towards her. "An adult, smart woman like you should know better than going along with this kind of ridiculous superstitions, Ms. Fey. You were one of the best of your course back in college, weren't you? You could have found--"
"And how do you know that?" Mia interrupted him.
"Ms. Skye." Miles replied, calmly. "To this day, she still seems to have a deep admiration for you, enough to start rambling for minutes on hand about you. It makes meetings quite a chore to sit through at times."
"Oh..." Mia mumbled, the expression on her face turning from stern to surprised and somewhat sad.
In response, Edgeworth smiled a thin smile and shrugged. "That only goes to show the detrimental effect that certain parents can have on their children, holding their talent back through attachment to a stupid old fashioned mentality." He said, glancing at Misty as he spoke.
"If there's someone in this room acting by following an outdated mentality rather than rational thought, it's definitely not my daughter." Misty pointedly replied, noticing Edgeworth's attention.
Miles ignored her, and turned his attention to Phoenix: "Talking about which, Wright, I hope you won't forget to tell Mr. Edgeworth what I just said."
"How about you tell him yourself, Miles?" Raymond intervened. "Write him, or something."
"That man didn't even have the courage to be here today--"
"It's because seeing you like this makes him feel bad, you..." Raymond spat out, interrupting himself before he could say something he knew he would have regretted.
Miles shrugged. "Anyway, I have better things to do than waste time with that delusional old man. And besides, I'm sure that his little adept will be able to put it in words even he'll be able to understand. He did his best to mold him in his image and resemblance, after all."
"They look nothing alike!" Maya loudly protested.
Raymond was about to reply something, both to Miles and Maya, but was preceded by Phoenix himself: "Actually Miles, it's the other way around, I decided to stick around Mr. Gregory. And it's not really him the example I decided to follow." He said with a placid smile on his face. "Sure, he's my mentor, most of what I know I've learned from him, but to be completely fair he's not really the guy I want to be like." Phoenix went on.
Miles smiled a very thin, almost evil smile. "Really? Not even you have any respect for him?"
Phoenix shook his head. "No, I respect him, a lot. I owe him a lot as well, it's just that he's not the person I want to be like. And he knows it."
"Yep. I know that, too." Raymond commented, the thin smile on his face looking more and more like the grin on Miles' face. "And the boss knows too, and he's fine with it. 'cause he really likes Nick's actual inspiration, too."
Miles' grin slowly turned into an almost concerned expression. He didn't say a word, and waited for Phoenix's explanation in an almost solemn silence.
"The example I'm following is you, Miles. From back when we were in elementary school."
"Huh?" Maya mumbled out loud after hearing that.
"I mean, I like Mr. Gregory a lot, I liked him even back when I was a child, but I always found him a bit too serious and uptight... he would have never really struck a chord with me. It was you and your enthusiasm that really inspired me, and that's the kind of style and example I want to follow." Phoenix explained.
Edgeworth's face quickly turned from disbelief to clear embarrassment, then into anger in the span of just a few seconds. For a few instants he looked like he was about to burst and start shouting to Phoenix, but instead he forced himself to put on a serious expression, or at least the closest to one that he could muster in that moment.
"What nonsense!" Miles eventually said, his voice betraying how he was actually feeling. "I had been wondering why Mr. Edgeworth would have any interest in someone like you and vice versa, and now I understand. Two fools so deeply blindfolded by nostalgic delusions like you and him can only get along. Fools call other fools, after all." While he spoke the last sentence he quickly leered at Misty, then focused back at the two men in front of himself.
"Enjoy your victory until you can, Wright. I promise you that next time we'll meet I'll have figured out you and whatever tricks you used to get this woman--"
"What tricks? My sister is innocent! Nick proved it beyond any doubt!" Maya burst out once again. She tried to stand up from the couch, but Mia and Misty were holding her back and covering her mouth.
Ignoring her, Miles then turned around and, without saying another word, walked out of the room. Aside from Maya's muffled attempts to insult him, nobody said a thing until the noise of Edgeworth's footsteps disappeared, as a small group of people gathered outside the lobby and started commenting about what had just happened.
Phoenix let out a long sigh, and Mia and Misty let go of Maya. The first thing she did as soon as she was free was running towards the room's door, only to be stopped by Raymond holding her by her arms.
"Let go of me! I want to show that asshole--"
"Physical assault is a crime, you know." Raymond interrupted her, trying to keep her still. "And doing it to a state prosecutor... and in a crowded place... not even Nick is going to be enough to help you if you do that."
"Then why didn't you reply to what he said?" She yelled. "Now let go of me, I don't care! He can't just spout that crap about my sister and mother and get away with it!"
"Now calm down, okay? You really think a tiny thing like you can do anything--" Raymond suddenly interrupted himself and let out a loud scream, as Maya stumped the heel of her sandal on his foot. Thanks to that, she managed to wriggle out of his grasp and run out of the room.
"Maya!" Misty screamed. She lifted her gowns and run after her daughter as fast as she could. Meanwhile Phoenix and Mia had reached Raymond and helped him to get to the sofa, as the man winced in pain, lamented and cursed under his breath.
When he started to calm down, Mia looked at him in the face and started to talk: "I'm sorry about my sister. I'm really, really sorry."
Raymond hissed again as he slowly took off his shoe. He straightened his face as best as he could, turned towards her and answered: "Nah, you don't have to apologize for her." He said, attempting a smile. "I kinda understand her, for a moment I really wanted to punch him in the face, too."
"Still, it doesn't excuse what she did to you."
"You don't have to worry, I said. Anyway, excuse me a moment, miss..." He replied, taking his sock off and checking the mark that Maya had left on his foot.
"Ouch..." Phoenix mumbled loud enough for the other two to hear, wincing visibly.
"If you think it looks bad, imagine how it must feel." Raymond replied in a sarcastic voice.
"S-Sorry, I didn't mean to--"
"I was just joking, Nick." The other man replied, putting the sock back on with careful gestures. "Just going for some levity, you know..."
"S-Shouldn't you put something on it?" Phoenix asked.
"Nah. Despite my joke before, it doesn't really hurt that much." He explained, leaning over to take his shoe.
"Are you sure?" Mia asked, passing him the shoe.
"Thank you, and yes." Raymond replied, taking it and leaning back against the sofa. "It's nothing unbearable. Your sister isn't that strong or heavy, I'm sure she hasn't broken any bones or anything."
"Okay..." Phoenix said under his breath. "But you shouldn't be walking on it for a while... you should sit down for a while and let it recover."
"First we need to find Maya, before she does something stupid." The other man said, putting the shoe back on.
"I'll go myself, don't worry." Mia took a few steps towards the door. "Please sit down and don't--" She interrupted herself as, in her hurry, she tripped in her long skirt and almost fell to the floor.
Phoenix immediately run in her direction. "Ms. Fey! Are you alright?"
"Y-Yes, thank you." Mia answered, steadying herself back on her feet and pulling her robe up to her calves. "I'll find Maya, just stay here and relax." She finished talking in a somewhat calm-sounding voice before running outside.
"Ms. Fey! Wait!" Phoenix shouted after a moment of confusion. He then run out of the room as well, following the tapping of Mia's sandals and the trail of people with a baffled look on their faces for a couple of corridors. He then looked around and found her just a few steps away from him, right next to a corner towards the end of the hallway.
"Here you are--" He said as he reached her, only to suddenly interrupt himself when he saw her face: she looked startled, almost in shock, her eyes wide open. Instinctively he turned his head in the direction she was looking at, and as soon as he saw what had made her react like that he put a hand on her mouth, grabbed her by her shoulder and pulled her back behind the corner.
"Sorry about that, but please don't make a sound." He then whispered to her before pulling his hand away. "I'll explain you later, but now, please..."
Still surprised and confused, Mia swallowed hard and nodded.
"Now let's go, you have wasted enough of my time already." A deep masculine voice said from behind the corner. When it finished talking there was complete silence, then the noise of two pairs of footsteps walking away. Only when they had completely disappeared Phoenix allowed himself to let out a long sigh.
"Was that man--" Mia began to ask, only to interrupt herself when she noticed the vacuous expression on Phoenix's face, and deciding to hold back for another while and let him recover.
"Prosecutor von Karma." Phoenix said when he came back to himself. It took a few moments for Mia to remember he was answering the question she had asked before, and when she did her own expression turned as shocked as the one the man had had until a few moments before.
"Yeah..." Phoenix answered with an almost strangled voice. He cleared his throat, then went on. "Him, exactly."
Mia turned her head away from him and looked at the floor, her face completely pale. "I had heard about him, but seeing him--" She started to talk, but before she could finish her sentence an unknown male voice calmly called out for her.
"Ms. Fey and Mr. Wright?"
Taken by surprise, Mia couldn't help jump up and let out a gasp. She jerked her head up, and saw a uniformed man in front of herself. "Y-Yes?" She mumbled, recognizing one of the agents in charge of escorting her during the trial.
"Yes, it's us." Phoenix replied in a more firm voice.
The man straightened his back. "I'm here to tell you that we managed to find Ms. Maya Fey." He explained.
"What? Really?" Mia asked.
"Yes. Currently she's outside the courthouse with Ms. Misty Fey. They had to be escorted out to avoid other potential commotion, you see..."
"Yeah, you're absolutely right." Phoenix replied. "Sorry about it."
The man then turned his head towards Mia. "Talking about which, please don't run in the corridors like that. Aside from being dangerous, we have order of treating anyone who acts like that as a potential threat. And especially someone like you, who's still under arrest." The man explained, calmly but firmly.
"Oh, sorry." She replied, lowering her head. "It was an emergency, I promise it won't happen again."
The guard nodded. "We understand. Just please try to avoid causing other mess, there are trials still going on. Between a thing and the other, today has been a real handful."
"Now that I know Maya is safe, I'm perfectly alright." Mia said, her face coloring up again and her voice more steady. "Thanks again for the information, and please forgive us for the hassle."
The man cleared his voice. "Also, forgive us for not stopping your sister earlier, and for not stopping prosecutor Edgeworth from entering the room. He walked to the lobby and told us not to interfere, we couldn't disobey." He explained, then lowered his head. "So when the commotion with your sister and your mother happened, it took us too long to understand what was going on, and how to react to it."
"Oh..." She mumbled.
Then, suddenly, the man dropped all formality and looked straight into her face. "Really, sorry. What we did was a fucking shame, to say the least, but believe me when I said we had no other choice but do what prosecutor Edgeworth ordered us." He added, his voice almost cracking for a moment. He then straightened his face and, with a more professional demeanor, went on: "Well then, let's go back to the defendant lobby. After you."
Phoenix looked at Mia. "Y-yeah, let's go."
"Oh, yes." She nodded. She then started walking, followed by Phoenix and the agent.
When they arrived back at the lobby Raymond was thankfully still there, sitting on the couch while checking his phone. He heard the noises of the two walking in, followed by that of the door clicking closed. He looked up at them with a half smile, which quickly gave way to a more worried expression as soon as he saw their faces.
"W-What happened? Something bad? Don't tell me--"
"N-No, Maya is fine." Phoenix interrupted him. "She's outside with Ms. Misty, they managed to find her in time."
"Really? That's great." Raymond answered, relaxing a bit. "But then what's with that gloomy--"
"We walked into von Karma." Phoenix explained, and Raymond face turned dark like before. Noticing this, he went on talking: "Don't worry, he didn't notice us-- well, at least I think he didn't. Then again, if he had I don't think he would have let us go without saying a word."
"What was he doing? Was he with Miles?"
Phoenix nodded. "Yes, they were talking. I arrived when they had almost finished so I have no idea what they actually said, even if I can guess. But Ms. Fey was there a bit earlier than me, so I think she might have caught something." He explained, turning towards her.
"Well, just a bit..." She said when she saw Raymond and Phoenix's sights on her. "But mostly it was von Karma berating Edgeworth, calling him a disappointment, a failure, and other similar things."
"Uhm..." Raymond mumbled, looking away for a moment. "And what did Miles say?"
"Nothing." Mia replied. "Well, at times he did comment, saying things like 'you're right', or 'I'm deeply sorry', but aside from that he didn't say much, or answer to what von Karma was telling him."
Hearing those words, Raymond instinctively tightened his grip on his phone until the noise of its plastic case creaking could be heard clearly. He took a deep breath to calm down, then went on speaking. "What did Miles look like? Did you see him?"
Mia swallowed dry. She thought about the best words to use, then answered: "Awful. At one point he looked like he was about to burst in tears, his face was so tense."
When she was done speaking, Raymond looked away from her, while Phoenix looked like he wanted to say something but couldn't bring himself to.
"I understand." Raymond eventually said, putting the phone back in his pocket. "Please don't say a word about this with the boss."
"I won't, don't worry..." She commented.
"Same goes for you, Nick." He then added, turning his attention to Phoenix.
"Of course, of course." He nodded. "I don't even want to think about that again, let alone bring it up with him..."
"Yeah..." Raymond replied with a half smile. "Anyway, let's all calm down a moment. I wouldn't want Ms. Misty or Maya to see us like this."
"Yes." Phoenix answered.
"I agree." Mia added.
For a while there was silence in the room, but before it could become awkward Raymond started talking again: "By the way, the boss called me while you were away, that's why I didn't run after you two. I didn't tell him about the scene Maya did, to avoid worrying him, only about the victory. He said he's waiting for us at the restaurant to celebrate Ms. Mia's acquittal."
"A restaurant?" Phoenix asked. "That's... nice and all, but isn't it too expensive for us?"
"We're not paying." Raymond explained. "We've been invited by Grossberg. He said he needs to have a talk with us all."
"Really? He has found out something else about the poisoning case?" Mia asked.
Raymond nodded. "So it seems. And he asked that you'd be present too, Phoenix."
"Well..." The younger man mumbled, scratching his nape. "If that's the case, then I guess I'll be coming as well."
"Alright then. So, if you're feeling ready to go just say it, and we're going."
"I'm fine, but... what about your foot?" Phoenix asked.
"It doesn't hurt that much now, I can walk on it on my own without problem." He replied, standing up from the sofa.
"If you say so... still, you should sit down and let that foot rest."
"I will, when I'll be sitting at the table at the restaurant." Raymond answered, attempting to walk towards the door. He staggered while taking the first steps, but managed to find his footing quickly.
"Are you really sure you don't need help walking?"
"Thank you for the offer Nick, but it's nothing worth worrying about. And besides, you should really leave the place more discreetly."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that outside must be flocking with journalists trying to get an interview with the guy that defeated the Demon Prosecutor."
"Oh..." Phoenix let out a loud gasp. He hadn't even taken that scenario into consideration until Raymond had spelled it out for him. He would have never imagined that something like that could ever conceivably happen to him, being the center of people's attention, let alone media attention, like that, but now there was no way he wouldn't have been.
"Just ask the agents, they're here to give you a hand in cases like these, but given the situation I'm afraid it's not going to be that easy..."
Phoenix let out a sigh and scratched his nape harder, nervously. "Yeah..."
"What if he waits for me to get out accompanied by the police, so he can sneak out while the journalists' attention is on me?" Mia then said.
Both men turned their heads towards her, then glanced at each other. "Yes, that could work..." Raymond commented.
"I had forgotten you still have your last formalities down at the police station..." Phoenix said. "It's an amazing idea. Thank you for that!"
"No need to thank me for that, it's the very least I owe you." She answered in a cheerful tone.
"Erm... of course... heh." He said, awkwardly.
"Okay then, all settled." Raymond said while taking a notepad and a pencil from his pocket. "So, whenever you manage to give the journalists the slip, here's where the restaurant is." He scribbled something on one of the sheets, tore it from the pad and gave it to Phoenix. "If there's something big holding you back give the boss a call, but please try to be there."
"I'll do my best, I promise." Phoenix answered as he folded the sheet and put it in his pocket.
Raymond then wrote down the address a second time, and gave the other paper to Mia. "And here's yours, Ms. Fey. I hope you can make it as well."
"It shouldn't be taking too long, I'll definitely be there. I want to know what Grossberg has found out this time." She replied.
"Alright then." Raymond said while pocketing the notepad and the pencil. "Anyway, I'll start going now, I have to go check how Ms. Misty and Maya are doing, and let's hope they didn't get spotted by the journalists. You two take all the time you need, see you later." He said, waving his hand to them while walking towards the door.
"Later, Mr. Shields."
"See you in a bit, Raymond."
After waving the man goodbye and seeing him disappear behind the door, Phoenix calmly started to gather all his things. Mia tried to say something a couple of times, but eventually decided not to, at least for the moment. Instead she looked at him in complete silence as he finished checking his things.
"Okay, so... whenever you're ready to go..." He then said as he closed his bag.
"Sure." Mia replied, smiling. She then turned around, opened the door and walked out, followed by Phoenix. As soon as she was out of the lobby, the two agents escorting her arrived and held her by her arms. When she turned her head to look at what he was doing, she saw him talk to another agent who was passing by.
"Alright then Mr. Wright, take care, and thank you for everything." Mia said before the two policemen started to walk away, gently pulling her along with them.
"Er... uhm, I will. T-Take care, too! Bye!"
After some brisk walking through the corridors and halls, Mia and the agents reached the parking lot behind the building, where a small group of photographers and journalists were waiting for her. Despite the policemen telling them to go away and that they weren't allowed to get any closer, the group seemed to get bigger and bigger by the second, as if the people were multiplying right in front of them.
"Look here! Please! Ms. Fey!" Some voices yelled, together with others asking her for a statement. Mia gave a glance at the crowd and gave them a wide, sincere smile. She then clasped her hands in front of her chest, like she was doing a mudra pose, and lowered her head in salutation in an almost theatrical manner. A few lights flashed in front of her eyes as some photographers snapped pictures of her: now she was sure she had their complete attention, good. That however didn't last more than few seconds, since the agents made her lower her head and step into the car.
* * *
Simply walking into the restaurant and giving a look around was more than enough to leave Mia speechless; she had never been in such a luxurious place. When the waiter told her to follow him so he would have taken her to the private room where her friends were waiting for her, it took her a moment to fully process all that: the idea of a restaurant with private rooms made her think more of those spy movies she and Maya liked back when they were kids, and stood up past eleven in the night to watch despite their mother and aunt's recommendations.
But then again, this looked like the kind of place where famous and important people would go, so it made sense they'd have a more reserved place for clients that demanded some more privacy. And considering that they were about to have a very important, sensitive private talk, choosing to do so it in a place like that was fitting.
She gave another look around the lobby and studied the elegantly dressed men and women walking around carrying trays and dishes, still unable to fully wrap her head around what was going on, before following the waiter. As she traversed the corridor she wondered just how expensive the little luxury of that private room would have been, at a place like that. Then again, someone like Grossberg could afford something like that without problem, many times over.
When they finally reached the room itself, Mia couldn't help being surprised at how nice it looked: the carpet she was walking on looked so beautiful, she felt bad about stepping on it. The waiter announced her, and everyone stopped eating and turned around to greet her.
"Sis!" Maya was the first to talk. She put down her cutlery, quickly wiped her mouth and stood up from the chair, reaching Mia with long strides to hug her.
"Hey, Maya..." Mia answered, ruffling her sister's hair.
"Mia, how are you?" Misty asked, putting the napkin she had on her lap onto the table, ready to stand up from her seat as well.
"A bit tired and hungry, but alright." She replied with a smile.
Hearing that, Maya let go of her sister and moved away, letting her walk to one of the two empty seats at the table. After thinking about it for a moment, Mia picked the one next to her mother and in front of Phoenix.
"Great to see you here back among us already." Raymond told her when she sat down.
"I just had to sign a couple of papers, that's all." Mia calmly answered while pouring herself a glass of water. "It took them more time to find them and bring them to me than to do anything else."
"That's the one good side of the three days trial system: as soon as someone is found innocent, they're free to leave jail within the day." Gregory commented with a smile.
"Can I bring you something as a starter, Miss?" The waiter then asked Mia.
"Yes, please. Anything vegetarian will do, thank you." She answered.
"Oh, and while you're at it, could you bring me another beer?" Phoenix asked, pointing at the empty glass in front of him. The waiter gave a polite bow and left.
"You haven't even finished your first dish, Nick. Shouldn't you slow down a bit?" Raymond asked.
"I usually never drink during a meal, I don't think it's a problem." He replied.
"It can become a problem because of that..." The other man remarked.
"We're here to celebrate, so let me celebrate my way, okay?" Phoenix said, then went back to digging into his dish of pasta. Raymond just looked at him and shrugged, letting out a sigh, before going back to his dinner as well.
When that little discussion was over, Mia looked around the table: her mother was to her side, sitting between herself and Mr. Edgeworth. Right in front of her there was Phoenix, who was sitting at the left of Mr. Shields and Maya.
"Looks like you two already made up about the incident from before." Mia said to her sister and Raymond, to break the ice.
Raymond nodded. "As I said before, it was nothing serious. And besides, I'm feeling better already."
"I apologized as soon as I saw him outside the courthouse." Maya explained. "I swear, I didn't mean to act like that, but..."
"It's alright, kid-- Maya." Raymond said, patting her on the shoulder. "Just promise you won't be doing it again, and everything's forgotten."
"As long as you don't call me 'kid' anymore, or else..." She said, jokingly, while hitting the floor with the heel of her sandal a couple of times.
"Alright, alright! Don't hurt me anymore!" Raymond answered, clearly feigning fear, before letting out a laugh. Maya then chuckled, and went back to her dish.
Mia smiled at her sister and Raymond, then gave another look around: there was still a conspicuously empty chair at the head of the table. "Mr. Grossberg hasn't arrived yet..."
"He was here, but he had to leave." Gregory said.
"A sudden call." Raymond explained. "He didn't even explain us what the issue was, he just said he'll be back later, and that we could start eating if we wanted to."
"Oh... did he start talking about the reason why he invited us here?"
"No." Phoenix shook his head. "He said he needed you to be present, too."
"I understand." She commented. "I hope he'll be back soon."
Misty turned towards Mia: "Did you have any problem arriving here? I imagine you must have had a lot of attention on yourself..."
"Yes, but thankfully it all went smoothly. One of the policemen gave me a ride here." She replied before sipping some water.
"The same guy that was escorting you in the courtroom?" Phoenix asked.
"No, not him. You remember that weird big guy that was always following Edgeworth?"
"Detective Gumshoe, you mean?" Gregory intervened.
"Yes, him." She answered. "He was with me the whole time, since he had to go report to Edgeworth at the end. We ended chatting a bit while I waited for the papers, and in the end he offered me a passage here, so I accepted."
"And how was the trip here?" Maya asked.
"Uhm... memorable." Mia said after carefully picking the word. "We had some journalists following our car for a while, so he told me to leave it to him, that he would have taken care of it and left them behind, so... well, let's just say I'm sure nobody among them had the courage to try and follow us for too long."
She finished explaining and everyone except Misty, who was looking at her daughter with an expression halfway between scared and appalled, started laughing, some in a more reserved manner than the others.
"But there's no need to worry. After all I'm here, all in one piece!" Mia then said to her mother. "I have nothing bad to say about him, I was really surprised to find out he's actually a very nice guy."
"He really is. I have been in contact with him in the last few years. He often tells me about Miles, and about how he's doing." Gregory said.
"What? Really?" Mia asked.
"Yeah. It's kind of surprising to think that someone as nice as Gumshoe works under someone like Miles." Raymond replied, causing Phoenix to turn his head towards him, an angry expression on his face.
"Raymond worded it poorly, but he's not wrong, Phoenix." Gregory said. "In fact, knowing that someone like Miles doesn't mind working with someone like Gumshoe and, most important, still has asked to be assigned to work with someone else, is something that makes me feel more at ease and more hopeful."
"Huh..." Phoenix mumbled in a low voice, hanging his head in shame. Before he could say anything in response, the noise of a snort resounded in the room, and he snapped his head up.
"Maya!" Misty scolded her.
"I know, mom, I know! But after all that stuff he said about you and sis, and..." She interrupted herself, then turned towards Phoenix. "You should have answered to all the insinuations he made!"
"Did Edgeworth look like he was going to listen to anything I would have said, Maya?" Phoenix then asked in a plain voice.
"Well..." Maya mumbled. "No, of course not, but still--"
"He's deeply convinced of what he said, trying to reason with him before he changes his mind about things and he's able to see things from a different point of view would be a waste of time." He replied. "And believe it or not, if there's someone who wants Miles to feel ashamed about what he's doing right now, it's definitely me and Mr. Gregory." He then added with a lopsided smile that, given the words he was saying, felt incredibly awkward and somewhat out of place.
Maya sustained his sight for a few seconds, then lowered her head. She took a deep breath, then looked up again, to meet her mother's severe sight. Misty shifted her eyes on Gregory for a moment, as if to point at him, then back at her daughter.
Without saying a word, Maya nodded, then looked at Gregory: "I'm sorry, Mr. Edgeworth. I didn't mean to insult you, or make fun of how you feel..."
"I understand, don't worry." Gregory answered. "It's not an easy situation for anybody sitting at this table, for a reason or the other."
Maya nodded, a bit hesitantly. "T-Thank you. But still, sorry for before... it's not only about us after all..." She then sighed.
Before the atmosphere could turn sour for good, however, the waiter thankfully came back with Phoenix's beer and Mia's dish, distracting everyone for a moment. Raymond took that excuse to start cracking a couple of jokes, and everybody started laughing.
From that moment on the dinner went on in a similar vein, among lighthearted jokes and conversations, as everyone seemed to have taken the hint, and silently agreed not to mention anything that could have brought the mood down again.
They finished their second course between one joke and the other, when the waiter arrived to take away their dirty dishes and ask them if they wanted something else.
"Could I have 'nother beer?" Phoenix asked, slurring his words a bit.
"You want to drink a beer with your dessert, Nick?" Raymond asked in a sarcastic voice.
"I just want a beer!"
"You already had three of them, I think it's enough for tonight." Gregory remarked.
"It's not like I'm d-driving home, I can take it--" Phoenix grumbled, only to interrupt himself all of a sudden with a gurgle. He put a hand in front of his mouth, his cheeks puffed out.
"Woah, Phoenix! Are you alright?" Raymond asked while rubbing his back.
He nodded. "Yeah..." He said after he had recovered. "It was... just a burp, nothing to worry about, heh."
"You really shouldn't exaggerate, Mr. Wright." Misty joined in. "Before you said you don't usually drink, so it might have an even worse effect on someone like you, who's not used to it."
The waiter nodded. "I'll have to agree, if I'm allowed to be so blunt. You probably should stop here, Mister, especially if you're not a habitual drinker."
"I'm not on an empty sh-stomach, I can--"
"Precisely because of that, Nick." Maya interrupted him. "Nobody wants to finish the evening holding your forehead if you start throwing up."
"Hey!" He protested.
"Like the Miss just put it." The waiter nonchalantly replied. "Furthermore, it would be a serious hassle for us to clean up the carpet afterwards."
Phoenix gave the guy a glare, then looked down to his knees, mumbling something under his breath.
"Please don't act like this, Nick." Mia replied, adding her voice to the chorus. "And besides, Grossberg is about to arrive--"
"Is he?" Phoenix replied, crossing his arms on his chest with a clumsy gesture.
"He is." Gregory answered. "And please don't act so arrogant, as if the reason why he's late is that he's gone to have fun somewhere. He also offered us dinner here, so you should at least be nice about him. And possibly don't make things for people working here any more difficult." He added, his voice slightly and surprisingly altered as he said the last sentence.
After hearing it, Phoenix lowered his eyes again, but this time he looked sincerely sorry. He turned his head towards the waiter and, after looking at him for a bit, said: "I apologize, I didn't mean to act like this..."
The waiter looked back at him, impassively. "We have a small inner garden, you should probably go there and take a breath of fresh air for a few minutes."
"Wow, really?" Maya jumped up. "A garden?"
"It's just a small corner for our more exclusive clients, in case they want to smoke a cigarette, or make a phone call without being heard or bothered by other people. It's pretty small. Not exactly a playground, you see." The waiter replied.
Maya gave him a glare. "Okay, but I'm not a kid." She said under her breath.
"'kay then..." Phoenix replied, staggering a bit as he stood up from his chair. "Take me there. P-Please."
Mia gave Phoenix a look from head to feet, then stood up as well. "I'll accompany him."
"Thank you, but I don't need help or--"
"You should accept her help, Nick." Maya interrupted him once more.
"I agree." Raymond added, while Gregory nodded.
For a moment Phoenix looked like he was about to protest, only to then shrug and let out a sigh. "'right then. Let's go." He said, watching the waiter walk past them as Mia took him by his arm.
"Do you need any help, or want me to accompany you?" Misty asked.
"Thank you mom, but it won't be necessary." Mia answered.
"Oh, I understand." She replied with a smile and a nod, before turning her head back towards the table.
After everyone had bid them to be careful, Mia and Phoenix followed the other man outside the room, then through the private corridor. Neither of them said a word until they were in the small garden: as the waiter had described it, the place was really just a small walled corner with grass, a few plants, and four wicker chairs in one corner. A couple of lights were more than enough to lit everything.
"I shall leave you two on your own." The waiter said, taking a small bow. "Please remember we have other clients as well, don't stay here for too long."
"I understand. Thank you." Mia answered with a wide smile while she conducted Phoenix towards one of the chairs.
The waiter turned around and closed the door behind himself, leaving the two alone.
"Boy, compared to the rest of the restaurant, this is a dump!" Phoenix said after giving a glance around.
"You think so? It's very tidy, and bigger than the garden we have at our manor." Mia replied, taking a seat next to him.
"Well, I suppose that with the walls it must remind you of your house, doesn't it?" He commented while dropping himself on one of the chairs. The then fell silent and waited for Mia's reaction, but the only response he received from her was a confused look. "Sorry, dumb joke." He eventually said, looking down to the ground.
"I wasn't angry, don't worry. It's just that I hadn't even understood it was supposed to be a joke." She calmly answered.
Phoenix shrugged. "Well, whatever. I wasn't the funny guy back in school, that title was already taken." He said, then leaned against the back of the chair.
Mia didn't reply at that either, just gave him a clearly forced half smile, and leaned against her seat as well. She gave Phoenix a look, then turned her eyes back away.
"What's the problem?" He asked, having noticed her. "Somethin' on your mind?"
"A couple of things, actually."
"Is it about me?"
Mia nodded. After thinking about it for a moment she decided to start the conversation with a more lighthearted argument, and only then move on to more serious things.
"You see, I was wondering... did you have any problem to get here, with all the journalists chasing you?"
"Well, a bit." He replied. "The guards at the courthouse called me a private taxi, one with dark windows, so it wasn't too big a problem. I wanted to go back home to take a shower before coming here, but I saw a bunch of cars and vans from the press down the street where I live, so I told him to drive here instead."
"Sounds annoying..." Mia said.
"Yeah. And had I known, I would have saved ten dollars on the first part of the trip." He replied, smiling a lopsided grin, and in response she let out a small laugh.
"Alright then. Could I ask you another thing?" She then asked, feeling more confident.
"Of course, what do you wanna know?"
"Do you really never drink... I mean, you don't drink like this usually, do you?" Her voice was now more openly concerned.
"Huh? Oh, no, don't worry." Phoenix answered, shaking his head. "I'm not the drinking type. I usually go for a glass, just one glass, and only when there's some sort of celebration, and I kinda have to join in. Just ask Mr. Edgeworth and Mr. Shields, if you're curious or don't believe me."
"I trust you, don't worry." Mia replied, smiling.
"Good." He mumbled. "But anyway, tonight was a... a particular situation. There's something I need to get out of my head, so I thought that drinking would have helped. Or at least, that it gives me enough of a headache, so I can stop thinking about it."
"Is it about what happened between Edgeworth and von Karma?"
It took a few seconds for Phoenix to answer. "Yes." He eventually said, sounding like he had been forced to speak at gunpoint. "Seeing him like that, his head bowed in front of that piece of crap... he almost didn't look like himself." He swallowed dry and hung his head, clenching his hands into fists. "I don't wanna think about it, but it just keeps on popping in my head, over and over... I'm afraid I'll dream of that scene tonight..."
Silently, Mia put her hand on his. Phoenix turned his head towards her and smiled. She returned the smile, and gently squeezed his hand.
"I can imagine how it must be feeling for you. I just happened to walk into them, and simply witnessing von Karma's attitude scared me." She then said. "You must be really worried about your friend, aren't you?"
He nodded. "I hope von Karma isn't going to humiliate him more than he already did."
After he finished talking Mia waited a bit, to avoid making their discussion feel more like an interrogation. She gave a look at the lawyer badge pinned to his lapel, and let out a soft sigh. She waited some more, then asked: "Talking about Miles, I remember Mr. Gregory saying that the two of you attended elementary school together, then lost sight of each other for years."
"Yes, exactly. Today was the first time I met him in person after all these years." Phoenix said.
She widened her eyes. "Really? That long? That class trial must have really meant a lot to you."
"You have no idea how much." He replied. "Feeling with your back against the wall, with everyone around assuming the worst about you..."
Mia simply nodded, holding back from commenting 'I know' and risking making this about herself. Now Phoenix sounded more confident and eager to talk, and she decided to let him speak out without interrupting him.
"And the worst part is, I thought they were right. If I had been at their place and someone else had been at mine, I would have done the same. But then, all of a sudden, Miles stood up and told everyone to stop it and listen to what I had to say, that everyone has the right to a defense, and to not be treated like a criminal just because they're the suspect... and it was even more surprising to me since it was his money that had been stolen."
"Did he really say those words?" She asked, baffled.
"Hard to believe, after dealing with him in person today, huh?" Phoenix chuckled. "But yeah, that was the kind of kid he was. He always had a positive attitude, believing in people no matter what, and I was fascinated by it. I remember that sometimes, when I was stuck doing my homework, I thought of him and got the motivation to finish it."
"Really?" Mia said, letting out a small laugh. "So, when you told him he was your inspiration, you weren't just saying it to get a reaction from him..."
Phoenix nodded. "I really meant it. I really looked up to him back then, but I know I'll never be like him, ever. I mean, he was a genius, from what I've heard he still is, and I'll never hope to compare to him. But when I was in a pinch I always asked myself 'What would Miles do?', and found the courage to pull through. I did that a lot as a kid, but then life intervened, we finished elementary school and went our separate ways. But even after that I still kept on thinking of him whenever I was down." He added, his voice more and more excited as he went on speaking. "But then..."
"Then what happened?" She asked after some silence.
"It was a few years ago, when I was still studying art. Two years and something into my course, I think, right now I can't remember precisely." He started to explain. "Anyway, things were going pretty decently, I was passing my exams with good enough votes, I had found a part time job that didn't interfere too much with my classes... I didn't really get along with other people in my course, but I've never been too much of a people person anyway."
Mia nodded in silence.
"So, overall everything was alright, I was having a quiet life, and that was all I ever wanted. Then one day I was at a minimarket to buy some stuff, and while I was walking next to the newspaper stands I saw a title on one of them that got my attention. It was something about a certain prosecutor Edgeworth, and something he had said during a trial."
"And that's how you found out..."
"Yes. I bought the newspaper just to show it to a friend who was in elementary school with me and Miles, to play a prank on him and see how he would have reacted, but then I actually read the article, and..." He sighed, putting his elbows on his knees and leaning forward. "For a moment I legitimately thought someone had played a prank on me instead, someone who knew me well. When the surprise wore off I was confused and sad, it was like everything I had believed in until then had turned out to be a lie. Some of my classmates and one of my professors even took me aside to tell me that I looked strange, absent, and that they were starting to be concerned about my health. Then one day I realized I couldn't go on like that, looked up his work address and sent him a letter, and you've probably already heard from Mr. Gregory how things went after that point."
"Yes, he explained me. But I could have never imagined that Edgeworth meant that much to you, and to the point of making you feel lost and get into such a crisis..."
"Huh... actually, I would have never imagined I could go through a crisis like that myself... and for a guy I had known for a few years in elementary school." He nodded, then let out a chuckle. "So I never really told anyone about... this, about how I felt back then... not even to Mr. Edgeworth... heh..." He explained, looking and sounding very awkward, as if he was still putting all pieces together in his head, and had suddenly realized he had just said that out loud.
"Must have been the alcohol." Mia said in a joking tone.
Phoenix slowly turned his head towards her, mechanically, and stared at her for a bit. Then, all of a sudden, the expression on his face changed into a half smile. "Yeah, that must be it. That'll teach me trying to deal with my problems with booze, I guess." He then said, calmly, almost resigned.
Mia looked at him for a bit, confused by the quick and sudden change of mood. She then decided to reply by nodding and smiling to him. "I won't tell anyone, I promise."
"Thank you." He replied before looking away.
Some time passed in complete silence, and Phoenix looked up at Mia and asked: "By the way, can I ask you something?"
"You see, when Edgeworth came to the lobby before, he mentioned a certain Ms. Skye that you know... is it Chief Prosecutor Lana Skye?"
Phoenix widened his eyes. "You know her? Really? That's... weird."
Mia nodded. "We attended some courses together back in college--"
"Yeah, about that, too..." He interrupted her. "I heard Edgeworth mention it, and... you went to college? I never heard of that."
"Yes. I had to drop out during the third year, sadly, but I did attend college for a while."
"Oh, really? And what did you study?"
"Law." She replied.
"Yes, law. If I was attending the same classes with a future Chief Prosecutor, what else could have I been studying?" She teasingly asked.
"Er... well, of course... heh. Anyway, why did you choose law?"
"A few reasons, actually. It started when I was a child, and I thought that having a lawyer in the family would have helped us in case someone tried to accuse us of something. We had to deal with people throwing horrible accusations at my mother and my family in general even back then."
"Like the stuff they say these days?"
"Actually, compared to some of the things I've read on the newspapers these days, what they said back then was almost tame. Then again, back then I wasn't on trial for murder, so comparatively what they said wasn't really much nicer. They called us frauds, claimed we routinely took part in all kinds of scams, insinuated that the only reason why our mother could maintain the school was because she had affairs with a lot of powerful, rich married men she then blackmailed... once a newspaper even started a campaign to have me and Maya taken away from mom, that kind of nice stuff."
"Wow..." Phoenix mumbled, appalled.
"Anyway, back then I thought that, if I had become a lawyer representing my family, the bad people saying bad things about us would have thought about it twice before insulting us." Mia said, bursting into a small laughter at the end of the sentence. "But then again, I was nine back then, I didn't really know any better. But I was convinced of that, and I developed an interest in law and started to study it on my own- well, as much as a child that hasn't even finished elementary school can study something as complex as law."
"Well, Miles--" Phoenix commented, only to interrupt himself.
"N-Nothing, sorry. Anyway, you got interested in law, and?"
"After that, since my mother saw that I was so passionate about law and becoming a lawyer, she decided to make me continue my studies past high school. To put together the money to send me to college she started to take on second jobs since I was in junior high, I'll never forget that. And things were going fine, I had great grades and even won a scholarship, but around my third year there I had to drop out and come back to Kurain, and start training all over again."
Mia fell silent. "Sadly, I can't tell you that. It's a personal reason."
"Oh, okay." He replied. "In that case, I'm gonna stop here. But can I ask you something more about Ms. Skye, if it's not related to that?"
"Of course. What do you want to know?"
"Well... more about her. I honestly can't even begin to imagine how two people so completely different like you two could get along..."
"The same way you and Edgeworth did when you were friends: back then she was a completely different person."
She nodded. "Admittedly, there were a few differences between us all along. Especially her point of view on law and justice, it was quite different from mine: she wanted to be a prosecutor, for starters. She wanted to see justice done, and by that she didn't just mean throwing the suspect behind bars, but finding out the truth and punishing the true culprit, she said it came from her being born in a family of policemen and policewomen. But she also firmly believed that lawyers and prosecutors should collaborate in the courtroom, rather than be pitted one against the other. I remember she even took part in a couple of protests rallies against the reform of the trial system, she thought it would have been another step in that direction."
Phoenix looked at her with his mouth ajar, incredulous.
"If that sounds strange to you, wait until I tell you that, back in the day, she used to smile a lot."
"Huh?" He mumbled, widening his eyes.
Looking at his expression, Mia chuckled. "I know. She had so much energy, I think even Maya would have had problems keeping up with her. I always found the fact that she could attend college while at the same time work as a police agent incredible, I wished I could have been able to do the same. So you can imagine how it felt for me when one day, turning on the tv to watch the news, I found out that Lana had turned into the exact opposite of what she was just a few years ago. Not just her opinion on the justice system, that I could understand- I mean, things changed so drastically in the last few years, but her personality as well..." She said, her voice turning sour as she went on speaking.
"I don't need to imagine, I know well..." Phoenix replied, looking away.
"Indeed." Mia answered, flatly. "So much that, when Mr. Edgeworth introduced you and talked about you and his son, I almost didn't believe him. It sounded too much on the nose, and way too similar to what I had to deal with myself. But then I remembered that I never actually told about Lana in detail to anyone before."
"Not even to your mother and your sister?"
She shook her head. "Not even to mom and Maya. They've been feeling guilty about the whole college mess, so I didn't want to--"
"Why would they feel guilty about that?" Phoenix interrupted her.
"Er..." Mia mumbled while covering her mouth with her hand, realizing what she had just said. "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to say it! P-Please forget what I just said, please!" He said, sounding like she was about to panic.
Instinctively, Phoenix reached out and put his hands on her shoulders. "D-Don't worry, now calm down! It's all forgotten, I promise!" He tried to calm her down by flashing the best smile he could.
She still stared at him for a few seconds, her eyes wide open, before taking a deep breath and calming down. "Thank you... and sorry..."
"It's okay, don't worry." He repeated, gently squeezing her shoulder before letting go of her.
The two then awkwardly looked at each other for a bit, in complete silence, until Phoenix started to talk: "Anyway... so you lost contact with Ms. Skye after you dropped out of college?"
"...yes..." Mia answered, her voice still a bit shaky. "I had... had to go through a lot of intensive training after I got back to Kurain, since during college I had stopped training completely. For a few months it was the only thing I could think of, and barely had any time for myself. When my training became more manageable for me I tried to get in touch with Lana again, so I tried to call her, but her old phone number wasn't active anymore. The fact she had changed phone number without telling me made me feel sad and dejected, but I still tried to meet with her: one day I took a break from training, got on a train and came here and visited the police station where she worked, but it turned out she wasn't in the police anymore. She had left the force months before, saying she needed to fully concentrate on preparing for the bar exam. So I decided to wait some more time before trying again, I didn't want to bother her and her studies." She interrupted herself for a moment, hesitant, before continuing to talk: "But then one day I turned on the tv, and saw what had happened to her."
"I'm sorry." Phoenix instinctively replied, immediately regretting having done so.
"She was giving some interview, and she talked about how she thought that the three-days trial reform was an important change for the better, about how it was a prosecutor's duty to make sure that every defendant that stands in front of a court shouldn't just be judged for their crimes, but be made an example for everyone... and she was speaking in this cold, monotone voice..." Mia went on, not even noticing Phoenix's comment. "I don't know exactly what scared me most, her words or her tone, and from that day on I gave up trying to get in contact with her."
"I can't blame you." He answered.
"Please don't say that. You had the courage to go on, and tried getting in contact with Edgeworth anyway. I was too much of a coward to--"
"That's not being a coward. She had changed phone number without telling you, anyone would have taken that as a sign that she didn't want to have anything to do with you anymore. But, hey, you heard what Edgeworth said before: she still thinks about you and respects you a lot... go ahead and try to talk to her, I'm sure she'd love to meet you again!"
"You think so, huh?" She answered while looking down to the ground.
"Yes!" He nodded with an emphatic movement. He waited for a few moments in complete silence, thinking she just needed some time to let those words sink in, but instead she just kept on looking disheartened.
He took a deep breath and started talking again: "Believe me, if I had known just how much Miles had changed during the years, and how he had treated his father, I would have given up completely on the idea of trying to get in touch with him. I was almost about to give up entirely after I found out, and hadn't it been for the fact I decided I wanted to help Mr. Edgeworth - t-that is Mr. Gregory - I mean, hadn't it been for him I would have completely left Miles to himself, and stopped caring about him. But then I wanted to know the possible reasons why he could have changed so much, so I changed my mind again, and decided to help him too. But it took time for me to come around it again, and--" Realizing he was starting to ramble, he stopped talking. "What I meant to say is that it was shocking for me as well, it's not just you. Take your time if you need, but if you want to talk to her again, try getting in touch with her. I'm sure she'll be more happy to talk to you than Miles is to talk with me."
While he had been talking, Mia had raised her head and started to look at him intently. Phoenix had noticed it only when he had fallen silent for good, and couldn't help feeling a bit intimidated by her.
"You had second thoughts about Edgeworth? Mr. Gregory never told me about it..."
"I-It's because I never actually told him." He replied. "I didn't want to make it look like I had took pity on him, even thought I had to admit I kinda had, initially... but then I learned to know him better, and learned more about Miles too, and changed mind completely- but that's a long story, and--"
"I'd love to hear it." Mia interrupted him, smiling.
She nodded. "I'm seriously curious. Skip all the things you want to keep for yourself, of course, but I really want to hear how it went down for you."
"Oh..." Phoenix mumbled again, this time way less confused. "In that case, I'd be more than happy!" He then said, chipperly.
"Thank you, really." She then answered, looking and sounding deeply relieved.
The two then stood in silence, looking at each other and smiling, until the atmosphere started became slightly awkward.
"Er... I think we should get b-back with everyone else... before they g-get worried..." Mia said, stuttering on some words.
"Huh... oh, yes, of course... you're absolutely right!" Phoenix replied while jumping up from his seat with a surprising degree of agility for someone still slightly intoxicated as he was.
Seeing him, Mia couldn't help being slightly worried. "Need any help?"
"N-No, I'm alright..." He answered, steadying himself on his feet. "Still a bit tipsy, yeah, but I'm feeling much better than before, heh..."
After giving him a glance from head to toes and deciding that, yes, he was able to stand upright and to walk around, Mia rose from her chair and walked towards the door. Phoenix then reached her, walking a bit slowly but steadily.
She then opened the door and lead the way through the corridor, with Phoenix following suit, until at one point she stopped in her steps and turned around towards him. "By the way, thank you for the talk, too." She said.
In response, he gave her a smile and a shrug. "It's nothing, really."
"No, it's important--"
"It's nothing, I'm telling you. If it wasn't for you and your family I wouldn't even be alive, and--"
"No, what I meant to say is I never really talked about Lana with anyone before."
"Oh..." Phoenix mumbled. "Well, there's a lot about Miles I haven't told anyone, either, so I guess we're even in that regard, heh. Still, you don't have to thank me, Ms. Fey--"
"Call me Mia." She interrupted him. "I think that, by this point, we can let go of all these formalities."
After a moment of hesitation, he nodded. "Er, okay, Mystic Mia--"
"Mia is enough. Pearl isn't around now, so don't worry." She said with a smile.
"Er... okay... and of course you can call me Phoenix, or Nick if think that's a mouthful, heh..." Phoenix said while moving his hand to the back of his head, as being reminded of Pearl made him instinctively protect his nape. "B-But I really think we should go now..."
"Yes, you're right. Let's go, Phoenix." Mia replied, then they turned around and silently reached the dining room.
As they walked in they were welcome by a small commotion, as everyone had gathered around Gregory's chair, each one of them with a shocked expression on the face.
"Great timing, guys!" Raymond exclaimed before they had even had time to close the door behind themselves. "Get ready, we have to go!"
"W-What's going on?" Phoenix asked.
"Sis! It's horrible!" Maya shouted as she run towards Mia, startling her still bewildered sister for a moment.
"What happened?" Mia eventually asked as she recovered, then reached Maya and put her hands on her shoulders to calm her down.
After reaching her daughter with a few long steps, Misty explained: "Morgan was arrested."
Maya nodded. "Yes!"
"Mr. Grossberg just called and told me." Gregory started to talk while standing up from his chair.
"We have to go see Pearl, now!" Maya loudly said, and Mia paled.
"I hope they didn't arrest Morgan right in front of her..." She said as the realization hit her. "Let's go, quick!"
"Then follow me in the car." Raymond told the three women. "At this hour there are no more trains for Kurain, if I floor it we can be there in an hour and a half."
"Yes!" Maya said, nodding vigorously as she walked past him. Mia and Misty followed suit in complete silence.
"We two will take care of things here. Give us a call as soon as you get there." Gregory said.
"Of course." He quickly replied before opening the door and rushing out of the room, followed by the three women. After waiting for a few seconds to be sure they were gone, Gregory patted on Phoenix's shoulder, snapping him out of his stupor.
"Holy shit." Phoenix said.
"Indeed." Gregory answered, flatly.
"But... what happened?"
"Apparently, she was involved with White in the murder Mia had been framed for."
"As soon as they took White into custody after today's trial, the police went to his office and seized all his things. Among it they found some recordings of them talking on the phone, discussing about how to frame her for the murder." Gregory explained. "But according to Grossberg's sources, things went slightly differently: apparently White started to confess as soon as they got him out of the courthouse; he talked about Ms. Morgan's involvement and told them where they could have found the recordings of their phone conversations on the matter. And while I shouldn't be assuming, especially not until I have seen all evidence and heard all parts, I don't doubt that the latter is the most likely case, given what an awful person he turned out to be: if he's going to fall, he's bringing her down with him." He let out a sigh. "And a lot more people will follow as well, I'm sure of it."
Phoenix nodded. "It's going to be an interesting period, that's for sure." He then scratched his nape and looked back at Gregory: "Did you tell Ms. Misty and Maya about all the details?"
"No." Gregory shook his head. "I didn't even have the time. They were both in shock as soon as I told them Ms. Morgan had been put under arrest."
"I can imagine..." Phoenix said. "By the way, talking about Grossberg..."
"He wanted to talk about some important new discovery he had made about the case of Mr. Armando's poisoning. And I think you can guess--"
"Wait, did you talk to him?"
Gregory nodded. "He quickly explained me while we were reaching this place, while asking me details about the Feys to confirm if his version--"
"The Feys?" Phoenix interrupted him. "Does that mean that they're really involved with Dahlia?"
"Probably. Grossberg managed to find a witness that seems to know a lot about what happened back then, and what they say does check out not only with what we've heard from Ms. Misty about her sister and the rest of the Fey family, but also with what I've found out myself."
"And who's this witness?"
"No clue. Grossberg has no idea either. He said he has only spoken with this person through the phone, and they used something to modify their voice. He's not sure if it's a man or a woman. But the witness has been fully cooperative so far, so he thinks we can trust them."
"I see..." Phoenix commented. "And that's all you know?"
Gregory nodded. "As I said, it was just a quick talk to clarify a few things. He said he would have explained everything when everyone would have been here, but then he received this sudden call and had to go. And by now we can easily guess what that call was about."
"Yeah..." Phoenix replied, scratching the back of his neck. "And what do you think of this?" He then asked.
"About this new development, or about the case in general?"
"Both of them."
Gregory fixed his glasses on his nose. "I'm skeptical, about both. Such a well informed mysterious witness appearing right now... I can't blame Grossberg for hanging onto this hope to solve the case, but I'm not fully convinced."
"You think it might be a red-herring?"
"No... but let's just say that I'm starting to feel like my theory about this whole case being part of some sort of succession war in the Fey family is fully correct."
"Yeah..." Phoenix mumbled, a few things starting to fall into place in his head. "I mean, Ms. Morgan being arrested right now--"
Before he could go on, however, a waiter arrived and walked into the room. "Mr. Edgeworth, Mr. Wright, your taxi has arrived."
Gregory looked at Phoenix and said: "We'll finish this discussion later." He then turned towards the waiter, while searching in the inner pocket of his jacket until he produced his wallet. "Thank you for your kindness tonight. The food was delicious, send my congratulations to the cooks." He then bid him good evening while giving the man a banknote while Phoenix gathered all his stuff.
Once outside the restaurant the two called for a taxi and climbed on it, and Gregory told the driver to take them to an address that Phoenix recognized as that of Grossberg's office.
As he leaned back against the seat of the car and let the shaking of the vehicle lull him, Phoenix thought back at Dahlia. It was kind of fun, now that he thought about it better: that morning, waking up, he had the feeling he would have had to talk about her again soon, and now here she was. He didn't look forward to it, at all, but he had to.
On the bright side, this new worry would have helped erasing from his mind the thought of Edgeworth humiliating himself in front of von Karma, replacing it with way more pressing and concerning matters, Phoenix told himself before realizing just how ridiculous that sounded. He chalked it up to the beer, took a deep breath and looked outside the window. Grossberg's office was only a block away now, thankfully.
Chapter 3: A different motivation (I)
When the door opened, Gumshoe was almost on the verge of venting out by loudly proclaiming 'finally!' in an exasperated voice, but he managed to hold back and keep silent. He was used to waiting outside of Edgeworth's office for a long while, but today he had been standing in that hallway for almost an hour and a quarter. It was ridiculous. He was very close to openly express his annoyance, but all his boldness evaporated in a matter of a second when he saw the figure of Manfred von Karma walking in front of his eyes.
As the man passed past him with long strides, Dick stood still and in complete silence, pressing his back against the wall almost as if he was trying to hide by blending in with his surroundings. He kept that uncomfortable position until he heard Edgeworth's voice calling for him, some time later. Before answering, Gumshoe instinctively looked at the corridor, afraid that von Karma might have still been there. After calling himself an idiot for thinking that, he started to walk to reach his boss' office, his muscles so tense he realized just how stupid that overreaction had been. But he couldn't help himself, that man always made him feel uneasy.
"Detective." Miles greeted him when he walked inside the office.
"...sir." Dick replied in a low voice, his breath sounding slightly ragged.
"Why are you breathing heavily, Gumshoe? Have you been running in the hallway?"
Gumshoe would have wanted to reply that no, that wasn't the case, he had just forgotten how to breathe for a moment because he was close to von Karma, and that guy always creeped the hell out of him. But he knew that saying that out loud would have, at the very least, cost him a reprimand about acting so rude towards his mentor, and that was the best case scenario. So he decided to nod without saying a word.
"You shouldn't do that, how many times have I told you? People are working in this building, and that kind of noise can disturb them." Edgeworth said while closing the door of the office behind himself, but his voice didn't sound as sharp as it usually did when he scolded the detective.
It was so off, Dick noticed it very clearly. "You have something in your throat, sir? You sound a bit strained--"
"I just finished having a long talk with my mentor, that's all."
Now that was weird, Gumshoe thought. Von Karma having a talk with Mr. Edgeworth for that long? No way, at least not at work; the reputation von Karma had was that of a very precise and to-the-point kind of man, who hated to waste time and wanted - no, pretended that things be wrapped up in a few minutes or so. Either this was an exceptional situation of some kind or he was lying, and in both cases there was no way Mr. Edgeworth would have ever admitted it out loud.
Resigned, Dick let out a sigh. He would have wanted to know what had happened between the two, but he knew he wasn't smart enough to get the truth from him by tricking him through calculated, subtle questions - and even if he had been clever enough to give it a try, his boss was still the undisputed champion in that field, no way he was going to win against him in a battle of wits.
"Why are you sighing now?" Miles asked, snapping him out of his thoughts.
"N-Nothing, sir!" Gumshoe answered while straightening his back, almost as if he had just been given an order. He relaxed and went on: "I mean, hearing you mention von Karma made me think that, when I'll be done here, I'll have to deal with my own chief back at the station, and--"
"I suggest you concentrate on one thing at the time, detective." Miles interrupted him.
Dick lowered his head. "Yes, sir." He answered in a low voice.
"Well then." He said while turning his back to the man and walking towards his desk. "I hope you have brought all the reports I have asked you about."
"Of course, sir. I checked three times, I'm sure I didn't make any mistakes." Dick replied as he reached the other with slow steps.
Miles sat behind the desk and, without making a gesture or saying a word, waited for Dick to give him the documents. The detective handed him some folders with some slightly clumsy movements, then took a step away and waited, as if he was afraid that simply by being close to him he could have broken his boss' concentration in some manner.
"Yes, that's everything I had asked." Miles finally commented. Hearing that, Dick couldn't help letting out a self-satisfied chuckle.
"Don't gloat just because you've done your work properly, detective." He replied, causing Dick to drop his shoulders and lower his head in embarrassment.
Miles gave him a glance and let out a resigned sigh. He then picked up a bundle of folders from his desk and handed them to the man. "These are the files regarding last week's case, together with my report about them."
"Y-Yes sir." Dick said as the took a hold of the folders with both hands.
"Good. And now--" Miles interrupted himself to take a document of a few pages that had been sitting on his desk, and nonchalantly put it on top of the small pile of folders that the detective was holding. "I had almost forgotten about this one, too."
"Alright..." Dick commented. He casually looked down at the papers he had just been given, until something written on it got his attention: "Wait, this is--"
"One of the documents regarding the trial of two weeks ago, yes." Miles said.
"And why do you still have it around?"
"I asked to have the report back for a few more days, there were a couple things I had to check out."
"Why? You're not the one who's going to prosecute that White--" Dick then fell silent, realizing something. "Did von Karma bring this here?"
"No." Miles calmly answered. "And even if he did, it's not any of your business." He went on, his voice suddenly annoyed.
"I know..." He answered, his voice sounding like a whine. "But he can't keep going on and on about that case."
"I lost an important case against a group of charlatans, Gumshoe. I will never live that down, so I can't pretend it didn't happen."
Dick raised an eyebrow, confused. "A group? Wasn't it just one woman on trial? And she wasn't guilty!"
"It's not just about the trial itself, detective."
"It's a complicated story, you wouldn't understand." Miles said hastily, almost dismissively.
Dick gave him a glare and sucked in a deep breath. He felt insulted by that insinuation and would have wanted to reply something, but a part of himself was honestly afraid that maybe his boss was right, and it was a complex matter he would have never understood properly, no matter how many times he explained it. "Alright then, whatever." He replied, shrugging with an exaggerated movement of his shoulders. "But still, you shouldn't keep on beating yourself up about this--"
"What did I just say, detective?" Miles interrupted him.
Dick raised his hands. "Okay, okay. You do you." He answered in an exasperated tone while tucking the documents under his arm. He turned his back to Miles and, in an annoyed tone, added: "I'll leave you alone now sir, take care."
"One moment, detective." He said, and obediently Gumshoe stopped in his tracks and turned around. When he did, he saw that his boss was holding an envelope in his hand. "While you're on your way to the station, please mail this."
"Okay." Dick replied, nodding. He reached the desk again and took the letter. When he read the name of the person it was directed to, he froze in surprise. "For your father?"
He nodded. "For Mr. Edgeworth, yes."
Dick was about to reply something, but eventually decided not to. He stuffed the letter in the inner pocket of his trenchcoat and turned his back to Miles. "See you next time, take care." He said, fighting back the temptation of adding 'And stop thinking about that trial and relax', then headed towards the door with long and quick steps.
He reached the elevator and walked inside. When the doors closed in front of his eyes he took his phone out of his pocket and quickly wrote a message: Hi there sir. Can i come visit you tonight after work?
The answer arrived quickly, barely the time to reach his car get inside it: Yes, of course, you're always welcome. If it's not a problem for you, please come to the office rather than at my apartment.
He read that reply and smiled: he was in a much better mood now, he really needed that. He headed back feeling much better, almost happy to get back to his desk.
The rest of his working day was as boring as any other day where he had to deal only with paperwork. As soon as his shift was over he got out of the building and into his car almost in record time, more happy than he usually was to leave his workplace behind.
He drove quickly, taking all the shortcuts he knew, and in less than twenty minutes he had arrived. He got out of the car and reached the building as quickly as his legs allowed him, and the couple minutes or so that it took him to climb the stairs to reach the right floor and then the door of the office felt like an instant. Realizing this, he decided to calm down a minute before knocking.
"Hey there, Gumshoe. Great to see you!" The man opening the door greeted him as soon as he had a good look of him. From inside the office, two other male voices welcomed him.
"Same here, pal. And to you too, Mr. Edgeworth." He enthusiastically replied, walking into the office. When he was inside he noticed another man in the room, standing next to Gregory's desk. "Er... I hope I'm not intruding."
"Why would you? In fact, the boss wanted to talk to you for a while, since the end of the trial." Raymond said as he closed the door.
"Yes, I got his messages. Sorry for not coming to visit earlier, but it's been a busy period..."
"Don't worry about it, I can imagine." Gregory replied. "By the way, I hope you don't mind the presence of Phoenix tonight, he really wanted to meet you in person."
"Oh, so that's why he's here!" Gumshoe said with a smile. He then walked towards Phoenix and tended him his hand. "I'm Dick Gumshoe, I've heard a few things about you from Mr. Edgeworth. This Mr. Edgeworth, I mean."
Phoenix chuckled and shook his hand. "Phoenix Wright, pleased to meet you. Mr. Gregory told me a lot about you too, and I really wanted to thank you for what you've been doing."
Dick widened his eyes and opened his mouth, surprised. "W-Well... it's nothing amazing, I've just done what I could, really..." He replied, letting his embarrassment show in his tone as well.
"It was still a huge help for me, believe me." Gregory intervened.
"Really. Don't sell yourself short like this." Raymond commented as well. Gumshoe decided to nod and don't reply, afraid he might have just started blushing in front of everyone if he heard another kind word towards him, and just took a seat on the chair in front of Gregory's desk.
"Anyway, before I forget..." Dick then said while taking the letter out of his pocket and handing it out to Gregory. "Mr. Edgeworth told me to mail this today, for you, so I thought to pass by and give it in person instead."
Gregory reached out and took the envelope. He turned it in his hands a few times, the expression on his face unmistakably worried.
"A letter, huh? Did he tell you what it's about?" Raymond asked.
Gumshoe shook his head. "He wasn't in the mood for talking this morning. He had a really annoying briefing with a superior before he met with me, so..."
"Not that it would be too difficult to guess what he might have written." Gregory commented as he picked up a paper knife from one of the drawers of the desk and opened the envelope with slow and careful gestures.
As he read though the letter everyone else in the room stood in almost respectful silence. When he finished and lowered the sheet he looked baffled, something that took the other men by surprise.
"Did you read--"
"What does that letter say, boss?" Raymond asked, talking over Phoenix. As he spoke he walked around towards the desk until he was standing next to his boss' chair.
"Well..." Gregory said, sounding like he was clearing his voice. "It starts off as I would have expected, but then it goes on to talk about other things."
Before answering, Gregory skimmed through the letter once more. He then looked up at the three men in front of him and started reading out loud: "'Mr. Gregory Edgeworth, I had been meaning to write you this letter for a while since the day of the trial, but could manage to find time to do so only today.'"
"Sounds like he took you up on the suggestion you gave him, Ray." Phoenix commented when Gregory made a pause.
"And of course he's not even going to give me credit for that suggestion, huh?" Raymond answered in a sarcastic tone.
"Hey, don't interrupt! Let him read!" Gumshoe protested.
"Don't worry, I was just catching my breath." Gregory explained. "Anyway, let's continue. 'The reason for it being that I had left a message to your puppet to give you, but I don't trust him to actually being able to remember what I said--'"
"Hey!" Phoenix shouted, offended.
"Now you did it on purpose!" Dick lamented.
Raymond let out a laugh. "Oh, Nick. By this point you should have gotten used to him behaving like an ass."
In response, he angrily crossed his arms on his chest. "I know... it's still annoying." He let out a sigh and looked towards Gregory. "Sorry for interrupting, please go on."
"Can't really blame you." He replied, unable to hold back a half laugh. "So, where was I... 'I don't trust him to actually being able to remember what I said, so I decided to write you and repeat myself, just to be safe and make sure you get the message: despite my recent defeat in courtroom and all your other efforts, I won't change my mind regarding you, myself or the whole situation.' Exactly what you told me." Gregory commented, looking at Phoenix.
Phoenix nodded. "Yeah."
Gregory went back to the letter: "Then he goes on like this: 'However, I have to admit that this situation did make me change my opinion in certain regards: I wouldn't have expected you to actually put into practice such a ridiculous and ambitious plan, but somehow you actually went through with it. I have to admit, that is quite surprising, I wouldn't have thought you'd actually have it in you. I can't understand yet whether this is because you're that stubborn, or simply because you're that foolish, but it's an interesting development. I look forward to seeing your next move, and I warn you that I'm preparing myself for our next confrontation.'"
Raymond let out a chuckle. "Does he think he's in a movie, or something?"
"Well, he has always had a flair for the melodramatic, even as a child." Gregory answered with a smile.
"I remember, yeah." He replied. Then, extending his neck, tried to look at the letter. "Anyway, what does it say after that?"
Gregory pulled the sheet closer, to avoid Raymond glancing at it, and started speaking in a slightly embarrassed voice. "Right after this part, for the next few paragraphs he mentions some things that are... well, personal."
The other three men looked at each other, then back at Gregory. "Well, if that's the case, no problem. Just skip that and go on." Phoenix commented.
Dick nodded. "Yeah. If it's something between you two, you don't have to feel bad about it."
"Yes boss. Actually, you could have not mentioned it at all and just went on." Raymond added after taking a couple steps backwards.
Gregory silently looked at the other three men for a few seconds before starting to talk again. "I understand. Anyway, after that he finishes the letter like this: 'But please don't take what I just said the wrong way.' He's referring to the paragraphs I skipped, of course. 'I mentioned those facts only to show you that I still remember well: I'm not unprepared, and I'll be able to counter your next moves. I know well there will be, and I'm ready to face your puppet again as many times as needed. Sincerely, Miles Edgeworth.'"
As soon as Gregory had finished talking, Raymond started laughing. "Well, this answers my question. He's convinced he's in a movie, definitely." He commented when he stopped.
"Or maybe he's just acting defiant to show off." Gregory commented.
"You think he's afraid of something?" Phoenix asked.
"The tone in his letter seems to suggest so." The other man answered. "Then again, he seems to be genuinely convinced I'm some sort of mastermind with an evil scheme."
"Heh. I'd love to know what he thinks your plan must be." Raymond said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he actually thought our office is some lair built on a volcano, or inside a dark cave." The four men let out a laugh at that joke.
Gregory was the first to stop laughing. He calmly folded the letter and put it away in his pocket, and waited for the other men to calm down as well. When they were all quiet he turned his attention towards Gumshoe and started talking: "So, anyway, thank you for bringing me this, Dick. I hope it wasn't a hassle for you."
"Nah, it was nothing pal." He replied in a happy voice.
"How did things go for you since we last met?"
At that question his enthusiasm disappeared, and he put on a bothered, somewhat sad expression. "Well, same as usual." He said, scratching the back of his neck. "Too much work, not enough free time, Maggey isn't even noticing me..."
"Sorry to hear that."
"Yeah." Dick sighed. "Hope things are doing better for you. All of you, I mean."
"We're living a bit on the run these days." Raymond intervened. "We have to dodge journalists wanting an interview once or twice a day, especially Phoenix."
"Yes, it's really annoying." Phoenix commented. "And I've already given a couple interviews telling my version of the facts and talking about myself, but then there are journalists who want to ask me about the Feys, what my relationship with them is, what I think of them, and I don't want to be dragged into that."
"I can imagine." Dick answered.
"I can't wait until all this fuss calms down. But I can guess you must have passed an even worse period, having to deal with Miles."
"These days he's constantly angry and nervous, which makes things kind of annoying. Well, actually he's like that most of the time, it's just that these days he's like that more than usual. Then again, he also wants to stay on his own more than usual too, so at least I don't have to deal with him that much. But when I have to deal with him, he's just unbearable, and--" He interrupted himself and let out a grunt. "I can't wait for this mess to be over, too."
"So you can go back to doing your work without Miles being a pain the whole time, right?"
"Yeah, exactly." Dick nodded. "Seeing him so annoyed the whole time is sad. Sure, being grumpy is kind of his thing normally, but now he's... too grumpy, if you understand what I mean."
"It's sad, huh?" Phoenix repeated, clearly surprised by those words in particular. "Talking about that, there's a thing I'd like to know, if you don't mind: how did you get assigned to work under Miles?"
Dick chuckled. "Not a problem at all pal, ask whatever you want. And to answer your question, well... I have no idea, heh."
Phoenix stood in baffled silence for a bit. "What?"
"Yeah, I'm not joking. Me and Mr. Edgeworth just happened to meet during his first trial-- well, what was supposed to be his first trial, the whole thing was postponed since there was an attempted murder against a prosecutor at the courthouse."
Again, Phoenix looked confused and didn't say a word, until Gregory started explaining: "Prosecutor Faraday's attempted murder. I don't blame you for not knowing about it, it's an obscure case."
Phoenix nodded. "Never even heard of it. What happened?"
"Nobody really knows exactly, someone along the line did their best to cover up the story just a few days after it happened, so the clamor around it completely deflated in no more than a week. The documents about the trial and the investigations that followed it are very hard to obtain, so most of it are vague reconstructions and conspiracy theories." Gregory explained. "What is certain is that prosecutor Byrne Faraday was stabbed by a lawyer, a certain Calisto Yew, but thankfully survived the attempt. Then it turned out that the two of them were part of a ring of thieves who stole evidence from the police, then made it public by sending it to the press. It's likely that the whole thing was tied to that somehow, but we can't say for sure."
The expression on Phoenix's face changed, showing he had had a realization: "I've heard of that, yes! The Yatasu, right?"
"Yatagarasu, actually." Raymond pointed out. "But yes, it was them."
"I was there, and saw Mr. Edgeworth uncovering the truth. It was amazing!" Dick then commented, enthusiastically. "And dangerous, that chick tried to shoot him!"
"What? Miles almost got shot?" Phoenix asked, shouting.
"Yes, but thankfully he managed to dodge it. He was incredibly cool, you should have all seen that scene with your own eyes!"
Gregory didn't say a word, simply stared at Gumshoe with a terrified expression on his face. "That... wasn't in the newspapers..."
Realizing what he had just said, Gumshoe reddened. "Er... sorry, I didn't mean..." He stammered, jumping on his feet and walking around the desk towards the older man, while Raymond did the same.
"It's nothing, don't worry." Gregory then replied, putting a more relaxed expression on his face while leaning against the chair. "After all, he's safe and sound now." He took a deep breath. "Still, he was almost shot..."
"Yeah, heh... sorry again 'bout that, didn't mean to give you a heart attack or anything, I swear. Besides, I thought they would have put that detail in the newspapers." Dick said, lowering his head.
Meanwhile, Raymond had gone to the bathroom and brought back to Gregory a glass of water. The older man sipped it slowly, and started to look visibly more calm.
"Are you feeling better now, boss?" Raymond eventually asked.
"Yes, much better." Gregory answered, smiling.
"Sorry again." Dick replied.
"No big deal, I told you. Anyway, you were explaining Phoenix about how you and Miles met. And after that?"
"Er... oh, yes." Dick mumbled. "Anyway, I don't know why, but after that one day I found out I had been assigned to work with him."
"You don't know why?" Phoenix repeated.
"No clue. And don't get me wrong, I really respect him and couldn't be happier or more proud to work with him, and want to do anything I can to help him getting criminals behind bars... it's just that the idea of someone so talented like him sticking around a constant screw up like me..." He said, then let out a chuckle. "Yeah, I can't help finding it kind of fun, heh."
"Indeed." Gregory said. "Not to be disrespectful towards Gumshoe, but given the reputation Miles has built for himself around 'perfection' it's surprising he wouldn't ask to be put to work with someone more... well, professional."
"Yeah, exactly." Dick replied, nodding.
"I understand..." Phoenix commented. "So, that's about you and Miles. After that, how did you and Mr. Gregory meet?"
The two men looked at each other for a moment, then back at Phoenix. "Well, we could say it was your fault, in a way." Gregory replied, smiling.
"Yep. You wrote a bunch of letters to Mr. Edgeworth-- my boss, I mean. Remember?" Dick asked.
A moment of confusion, then Phoenix started to realize a few things, and slowly put all pieces together. "Oh, yes." He then said, nodding.
"Mr. Edgeworth wasn't too happy about those letters, he always ranted about it, and thought it was his father who was behind them, not you." Gumshoe explained.
"Yes, I've read that message, and Mr. Gregory told me about everything else." Phoenix commented.
"Anyway, one day Mr. Edgeworth got tired of it, packed all the letters and told me to send them back to him. But instead of mailing the packet I went to this office, and brought them back to him in person. I had been thinking for a while about having a talk with him, to tell him to leave him alone and stop bothering my boss, but I wasn't sure how. And so when he gave me the packet I finally had his address, and decided to go make a few things clear for good. I was really angry and wanted to tell him what was on my mind, but when I saw him face to face I couldn't believe it: Mr. Gregory was totally different compared to how I had imagined him, and how Mr. Edgeworth described him."
"Yeah... from what he wrote in those letters and what he said when we met, I can only imagine what he must have told you." Phoenix commented.
"You can say that out loud, pal."
Gregory nodded. "Although it probably wasn't as strange as it was for me, seeing an angry man storming in the office, then suddenly calming down."
Dick shrugged, smiling thinly. "Well, at least I calmed down before I could say something stupid."
Phoenix turned towards Raymond. "And you didn't do anything?"
"I wasn't in the office that day, busy with a case." He explained. "But good thing I wasn't here, or me and Gumshoe here would have ended in a fistfight, if I had seen him coming here, acting threatening towards Mr. Edgeworth."
"Hey! I wasn't going to hurt him or anything! Who do you take me for?" Gumshoe protested.
"I see someone doing something bad to my boss, I want to do something about it." Raymond said casually.
Dick widened his eyes and opened his mouth in realization. "Yeah, of course."
Raymond smiled and patted on his shoulder. "Don't worry about that, it's all in the past. And besides, I was just explaining Phoenix, so don't feel bad about it." He said while rummaging in his pocket with his other hand. He then produced some candies from it and handed them to Dick: "Here, let me offer you a sweet to apologize! I didn't mean to be rude, I swear."
After looking at them for a bit, a wanting expression on his face, Gumshoe turned his head away. "Thanks, but I'd rather not right now, candies on an empty stomach make me more hungry."
"You came here without eating dinner first?" Gregory asked.
Dick shook his head. "No, I wanted to come here and give you the letter as soon as I could."
"If that's the case, we can go eat something all together." Raymond proposed.
"Indeed. My treat." Gregory said.
Gumshoe looked at him in silence with a tempted look, again, before answering: "T-Thank you, really, but you don't have to..."
"I'd be more than happy to offer you something, if only to thank you for your time."
Raymond nodded. "Yeah. And besides, we still have to eat too, so don't worry. The more, the merrier."
Dick took a moment to consider the offer, and eventually decided that he would have been an idiot for letting it go after being offered so kindly so many times. "Alright then, if you insist." He said, trying to not let his enthusiasm show too much.
"Great!" Raymond slapped Gumshoe's shoulder. "And while we eat we can talk some more: Phoenix here wants to know more about you, and I'm sure you'll have a lot to tell us about what happened these two weeks."
"Oh, that's for sure, pal." He nodded. "Things have been pretty wild lately."
"So it's decided." Gregory said. "But before we go, there are a couple of calls I have to do right now."
"Huh? Okay then boss, not a problem. We can wait--"
"Actually, it's a confidential call." Gregory explained, interrupting Raymond.
"H-Hey! You're not going to call Mr. Edgeworth right now, are you?" Dick loudly protested, concerned.
Gregory shook his head: "No, don't worry. It's just a work related call." He reassured him. "I'll wait a few days before contacting Miles about the letter. I don't want to get you in trouble for helping me."
"Really?" Dick replied, letting out an emphatic sigh of relief. "Sorry for doubting you, it's just... I'm always very nervous about this."
"You don't have to apologize about this. I understand where you come from, don't worry." Gregory answered, smiling. He then turned his head towards Raymond and went on speaking: "I just need to call Grossberg, it's urgent."
Raymond listened to him in silence, and keeping the same attentive expression on his face he nodded: "Alright then, just give me and Phoenix the time to take our stuff and we'll be out. We'll wait for you outside, at the car. Take all the time you need and don't worry."
Phoenix looked confused, but eventually he nodded and picked up his bag and coat. He then reached the door walking with quick, brisk steps, he and waited. When Raymond seemed to be ready as well, Dick stood up from his chair and reached the door as well.
"Okay boss, we're going."
"Thank you, I'll be with you as quickly as I can."
"Don't worry, I told you." Raymond said. He then opened the door and stepped out. "Alright guys, let's go."
"R-Right. Later, sir." Dick mumbled as he followed in the other man's steps.
"Later." Phoenix added as he walked behind Dick, closing the door behind himself afterwards.
The three men walked down the first flight of stairs in complete silence. When they were far enough from the office, Phoenix started talking in a low voice: "Why do you think he's going to call Grossberg? I mean, it was pretty sudden..."
"You really think he's going to call Grossberg, huh?" Raymond asked back.
"Hey, if he said he's not going to call Mr. Edgeworth, he's going to keep his word!" Dick protested.
Raymond stopped walking and turned around towards him: "I know, and I wasn't talking about Miles. I'm pretty sure it's Ms. Fey he's going to call."
"Are you still going on about that?" Phoenix asked.
"Just taking into accounts all possibilities, and honestly that seems the most likely. I don't completely rule out that he's calling him, but why act so secretive if he was going to call Grossberg?"
"He's always that secretive when he's talking with Grossberg! Did you forget?" Phoenix pointed out.
He shook his head "No. But the reason why he changed his mood like that and decided to make a call was clearly that letter, and I highly doubt that whatever was in there has anything to do with Grossberg. He said it was something personal, and it's clearly related to Miles, so I don't think it's about the poisoning." He explained.
"Okay, but why are you so sure it's her, of all people?"
"As I said, I'm just thinking of all possibilities. Do you have any other ideas?"
Phoenix hesitated. "Well... no. I mean, I don't know him personally like you do... but why do you have to bring Ms. Fey into this all the time?"
"I don't drag her into this all the time, it's just difficult for me not to think of her when things like this happen. But yeah, you're right, I shouldn't be making wild guesses like this when I don't know all the details." Raymond explained.
"Well, if you don't mind me giving my opinion..." Dick intervened, taking the other two men by surprise. "I don't know who he's calling, but I think that what was in that letter was about him and Mr. Gregory, and has nothing to do with a case."
Phoenix and Raymond glanced at each other without saying a word, then turned towards Dick. "Did Miles tell you something about that letter?" Raymond asked.
"No, nothing at all." Dick answered. "But he gave me that letter after von Karma visited him today, so I think that maybe it's something about the two of them, and nobody else."
Raymond listened carefully. "Alright, makes sense-- wait, did you just say that he met with von Karma?"
"Yes, this very morning."
After keeping in thoughtful silence for a few seconds, Raymond instinctively looked up in the general direction where their office was.
"I'm not going to tell Mr. Edgeworth about it, don't worry." Dick then reassured them.
"I know you wouldn't, don't worry." Raymond replied with a smile. "It's another thing, actually... but let's talk about it outside, just to be safe." He said before starting to walk down the stairs.
After giving each other a glance, Phoenix and Dick followed him until they were out of the building. Once there Raymond slowed his pace until he was next to Gumshoe, and as they kept on walking towards the parking lot, he asked: "Talking about von Karma, I've heard that apparently he has decided to call his daughter here to the States to have her follow and tutor Miles. Is it true? Did you hear anything about it?"
Dick looked surprised hearing those words, as did Phoenix. "Von Karma has a daughter? I had no idea." The younger man said.
"He does, she's a prosecutor too. I've met her years ago." Dick explained.
"Really? And what is she like?"
Dick thought about it. "...she's a character, I'll give her that. Let's just say that the apple didn't fall too far from the tree." He eventually said. Then he turned towards Raymond: "But to answer your question, I haven't heard a thing about that. But knowing von Karma it wouldn't surprise me if it was true, and of course why Mr. Edgeworth wouldn't want to talk about it."
Raymond nodded. "Yes. I've heard that he did say that to threaten Miles, but then decided to actually call her just to twist the knife."
Dick heaved out a sigh, looking miserable. "I really hope not. I don't really look forward having to deal with her again, and definitely not having to work while she's around, if that's true."
"And how did you meet with her?" Phoenix asked.
"During that case I talked about before, in the office. The one where Mr. Edgeworth almost got shot. Long story short, the von Karmas were there to assist to his first trial, so when the mess with the attempted murder happened the boss and her investigated the scene together."
"She was there to assist to his trial, and they investigated the scene together?" Phoenix repeated. "It... doesn't sound too bad."
"Well, she seemed professional. I remember her being good at her job for her age, but she was also so cranky and violent."
"Violent?" Phoenix said, looking appalled.
"So those rumors about her hitting people around herself when they don't act like she'd like are true?" Raymond asked.
"Yeah." Dick replied. "Still, I hope that with age she calmed down a bit."
"Well, she's still a teenager, I don't think--"
"A teenager?" Phoenix interrupted the two, almost shouting.
"Oh yeah, I didn't tell you before. She's seventeen." Raymond explained.
Phoenix looked incredulous. "Seventeen? And she's a prosecutor?"
"She passed the bar exam in Germany when she was thirteen. And yes, they can do that there."
Phoenix's jaw hang open for a while, so much that Dick had to shake him by his shoulder to see if he gave any response. The young man didn't even notice that, and started to talk after some more time: "Thirteen? O-Okay... I guess. I mean, good for her. But if she's seventeen, I don't think they'll let her work here, or even help Miles. She would be an obstacle to the investigations, so... heh... it would be impossible, am I wrong?"
"Yeah, but what if she comes here through an exchange program, or something like that? I mean, she's a prosecutor with years of experience, so..." Dick said, sounding more and more worried and resigned as he went on.
"Exactly. And besides, it's not like von Karma couldn't just pull some strings to get her to work here anyway." Raymond added.
Phoenix didn't say a word, dumbfounded, and simply starred at the other two until Dick broke the silence: "I really hope that's not the case." He said again.
"Same here." Raymond said in a low voice, almost a whisper.
The three men then stood in silence, each of them wanting to say something to improve the mood, but all unable to find a good argument until, all of a sudden, they were snapped out of their stupor by a familiar voice: "Sorry for making you wait, it took a bit longer than I had thought."
Hearing that voice, they all turned around towards him.
"Oh, hey boss. No problem, don't worry." Raymond replied while taking the keys of the car out of his pocket.
"Yeah, we... we just had a chat with detective Gumshoe." Phoenix answered.
"You started talking without me, huh? I'm disappointed, you know I want to know everything." Gregory said, jokingly scolding them.
"Well... he was just explaining me about that Maggey he mentioned before." Phoenix said.
"Er... exactly." Dick confirmed in a slightly awkward tone. "Nothing you don't know already, heh."
"Yep, just catching him up on all the details." Raymond calmly said as he unlocked the doors of the car. "Anyway, now jump in and let's go."
* * *
The morning after, as he walked into his office and towards his desk, Dick found a message from Edgeworth asking him to go at his office as soon as possible. He read the message again, and couldn't help feeling more and more confused and worried about the thing: if he had said 'as soon as possible' instead of 'immediately', it meant it wasn't that urgent. And if that was the case, he would have called him. But then again, it had to be something important if his boss had gone through the effort of coming to the police department before he did, very early in the morning, and leaving him a message.
Dick quickly grabbed his coat and run out to his car; if he hadn't gone there and clarified things with his boss as soon as he could, that doubt would have just followed him for the whole day.
On the way to the High Prosecutor offices he couldn't help wondering exactly why his boss wanted to see him that early, and most of the reasons he could think of were related to him having made some mess with the documents he had brought him the day before - which, considering how seriously his superior took his work, made for a good explanation. So in the few minutes it took him to reach the office, he mentally prepared himself to be scolded and chastised.
When he finally was in front of the door of the office he took in a deep breath to calm down, braced himself and knocked.
"Who's there?" Miles asked.
"It's me, sir."
A few seconds of silence. "It's open. Come in, detective." He then replied, and Dick noticed that in his voice there was a strange note. Edgeworth sounded somewhat altered, and when Gumshoe opened the door he couldn't help feeling anxious. However, when he stepped in and had a good look at Edgeworth's face, he saw that the other man didn't seem angry, or at least he didn't look like it. He calmly closed the door behind himself and walked in.
"Good morning, sir. I got here as soon as--"
"Please take a sit, detective." Miles interrupted him. Again, his voice betrayed some anger, but his face looked deadpan. Dick started to feel nervous, it definitely didn't bode well. With small, slow steps he walked towards the couch on the side of the room and sat down, without taking his sight off his boss. Edgeworth, on the other hand, was looking at something on his desk, and didn't raise his head until after Gumshoe had sat down.
"So, sir, why did you call me here so suddenly?" He then asked, shakily, when he could see the other man in his face. "It's about work, right?"
Miles shook his head. "No, detective. The reason is completely different." He replied as he stood up from the desk, with such a slow movement, almost deliberately theatrical, it made Dick feel even more uneasy.
"Er... then why--"
"I received a message last evening, right before going to sleep, warning me about how you were having dinner in some dingy local with a certain trio."
Dick widened his eyes, a shiver running through his spine. Seeing his reaction Miles smiled thinly, in such a manner it almost made him look like some movie villain. "So that message didn't lie, it seems." He said in a sly, mellifluous voice.
"Er..." Dick stuttered, unable to find a word to reply to that.
"You met with Mr. Edgeworth and his two cohorts, and talked about me and shared personal details regarding myself, didn't you?"
Dick lowered his head. "...yes."
"I see." Miles replied as he walked towards the sofa. "And that wasn't the only time you met with them, I've heard."
"And how do you--"
"The same source that sent me that message." Miles calmly answered.
"And who's that?"
"Not someone you know, don't worry." He replied. "And besides that, I'm not going to give away my sources."
Dick looked away, taking a deep breath to calm down.
"And from what I've been told, your contacts with him go back a few years, don't they?"
"Yes." Dick angrily replied, without turning his head to look him in the face.
"If there's someone who should be upset about this, Gumshoe, it's me." Miles dryly said. "I put my trust in you, and in return you've been selling personal information to someone--"
Dick turned his head around and stared at Miles: "I didn't sell anything!" He protested. "I met with him and had a talk, and more than once, yes, but I never did that for money!"
"At least don't lie. What other reason could there be for someone to give away information to someone else?"
"It's because I'm worried, that's why!" Dick replied, almost defiantly.
"Worried?" Miles replied, almost sneeringly, as if what the other man had just said was some vulgar, immature insult.
Dick nodded. "Yes! And your father's worried about you. Mr. Shields worries about you, and your old friend, too!"
"You haven't explained yourself yet, Gumshoe. What is that you are 'worried' about?" Miles asked, his voice starting to sound annoyed.
"We're worried about you, okay?" Dick said while raising from his seat.
"Worried about me?" Miles repeated, less and less able to hide his irritation.
"The fact you're around von Karma that much... it's worrying. That man's no good--"
All of a sudden all of the other man's composure disappeared. "You will take back what you just said about my mentor, now!"
Dick crossed his arms on his chest, defiant. "No. He's not a good influence on you."
"Detective, I already have a father. And you should know how I feel about parental figures and their judgement." He replied. His suddenly sarcastic tone took Gumshoe by surprise, considering how up until a few instants before the man had been livid.
"Okay, I get it." Dick replied, doing his best not to show his confusion. He then dropped his arms to his sides and went on talking: "But I stand by what I've said, you really shouldn't be around that guy. He's too shady to--"
"I'm an adult, Gumshoe, I can evaluate and decide which people I'd rather be around or keep away from. Furthermore, this is coming from someone who's been around someone like Mr. Edgeworth for years. By your own admission, let me remind you."
After a moment of hesitation, Dick stared at Miles and, gathered his courage, started to talk: "What's your beef with your father? Now I'm curious, tell me."
"I'm sure Mr. Edgeworth already told you his version."
"Yeah, and now I want to hear yours."
Dick nodded emphatically. "Yes."
"He knows, Gumshoe. And since you know him so well, I'm sure you know too."
"I don't know him that well, actually. We mostly talk about you." Dick calmly explained. "And he says he doesn't know why, either."
"Yes. He still can't wrap his head around why you up and left him, or why you changed your mind so drastically back in the day."
"I simply started to consider things with a fresh mind, from a different point of view. And that led me to see him and lawyers in general for what they really are, frauds with no moral ground, who are ready to sell themselves and completely forget about the standards they claim to have to defend criminals, even when they're well aware of the reality of the situation."
Dick stood speechless for a few seconds: "Defending people in court is what they're supposed to do, innocent or not. Everyone has that right!" He eventually said with the tone one would have used to spell out the obvious to a not-so-bright child.
"I know, and that's not the main issue I have with them." Miles calmly replied. "Despite what you might have heard, I don't share my mentor's more extreme point of view on the matter. In fact, I happen to have a deep respect for public defendants: they're just upholding a sacred principle of our justice system, and often can't afford to decline the clients they're asked to defend. Lawyers, on the other hand, can refuse to pick certain people, but more often than not go through with it if they're paid well enough, and will go to any extreme to get their client acquitted, or to lessen the burden of the punishment that has been put on them, even when it's well deserved."
After some surprised silence, Dick replied: "Well, okay, I get your point. But that's really what you think of your father?"
"Mr. Edgeworth has been using underhanded methods to get his way as well. I've lived with him for years after all, and followed him around during his trials back in the day." He said, only to then add in a lower tone: "Back when I was a young, naive, stupid child."
For a third time, Dick stood in silence for a while, baffled, before answering: "So you saw your father manipulating evidence? If that's the case, why don't you denounce him? It's pretty big."
He shook his head. "No, he didn't need to personally and directly soiling his hands like that. He had much more devious manners to achieve his goals. And the thing is, nothing in our laws or justice system forbids him from resorting to the means he's using, sadly. But it's still a ridiculous, underhanded method, and what's more something that makes a fool of our whole justice system."
"And what's this method?"
Miles let out a chuckle. "Please. You have been working under him for years, you should know well by now."
"I already told you, I saw him only a few times! I don't know him that closely, I have no idea what you're talking about, really!"
"Don't lie to me. You even acted as the personal driver of one of his tools after the trial of two weeks ago was over."
After taking a moment to recall what exactly he was talking about, Dick remembered: "That woman? What does she have to do with anything?"
"Ask her mother. Or her as well, I'm pretty sure that by this point she's been thoroughly instructed in what her role is supposed to be."
"I still have no clue, I swear."
"Don't make me repeat myself, Gumshoe: don't lie to me." Miles said, angrily. "Or, at the very least, don't treat me like a fool. I know you realize what I'm talking about, so please--"
"I don't know, sir! Really!"
"Sure." Miles's voice dripped sarcasm.
"I promise, I don't--"
"Enough!" Miles shouted. "If you're really going to waste my time like this and treat me like an idiot, then you can take your leave and go!" He said, pointing towards the door.
Dick couldn't help a shiver through his spine: he had seen his boss altered and annoyed, but never openly angry and shouting like that. And he had managed to do that more than once in the few minutes he had passed in his office. He looked away in embarrassment and scratched the back of his neck, then looked back up at Miles, who was still angrily glaring at him, his face reddened in anger.
"First of all, sir, sorry if I offended you somehow, it really wasn't my intention." He said. "I really don't know, your father didn't tell me much. I didn't sell him information about you, I just talked to him about how you're doing because we're all worried. I know you enough to be sure you wouldn't stoop to the level von Karma has--"
"Get out! Now!"
"Sorry again, but that's true. You said your father used or still uses shady methods to win, okay... but if that's the case, then why did you decide to stick around von Karma when you decided to become a prosecutor? You know that guy's reputation, they caught him manipulating evidence--"
"Mr. von Karma is far from perfect, despite what he constantly claims. I'm well aware of that." Miles said, firmly. "But in the current situation, he's the only person I can look up to. He knows where he stands, and so do I."
Dick sighed. There was no way of making him reason, was there? "Look, since I'm pretty sure this is the last time I'll ever see you in person and work with you, let me tell you everything: the reason why I started to talk with your father about you is because I really want to see you get away from von Karma, and I hoped that bringing him into this would have helped. But your father just wants to know how you're doing, since you almost never call or write him. He's happy like that. I'm pretty sure that he thinks that, if you're happy like this as well, there isn't much he can do, and that's why he doesn't do much. Kind of a waste, I know, but I'm glad to be able to do something for him."
Miles took a long breath through his nose. "I don't believe you when you talk about Mr. Edgeworth, but I appreciate your honesty about yourself, I guess."
"I just don't like von Karma, if you want me to be brutally honest about everything. I think you're a completely different person, a way better person, and wish you'd get away from him. And yeah, you're an adult and you decide for yourself and I can't force you, I know, and I don't have any authority to make you. But I wanted to try." He explained.
Some silence, and realizing that Gumshoe wasn't going to say anything else, Miles started speaking: "If that's all, you can go. I'll let you know what kind of disciplinary punishment awaits you in due time."
"Okay then, Mr. Edgeworth. Take care, I hope you're going to do well in the future." Dick said. He then looked down to the floor, and walked out of the room without turning his head towards Miles for even a moment.
When the door clicked closed, Miles finally turned around and went back to his desk. Before sitting down he prepared himself some tea, poured himself a cup and then sat down at the table. He took some time to calm down, and when he was sure he had recollected his composure he picked up his phone and composed a number.
"Yes?" A voice eventually answered from the other side of the line.
"Mr. von Karma?"
"Oh, it's you." The man replied, sounding bothered.
"I just finished my meeting with detective Gumshoe."
"I suppose he didn't have much more to do this early in the morning. Anyway, we discussed about his alleged dinner with Mr. Edgeworth last night, and it turns out it wasn't him."
"Are you sure?"
"He was on the opposite side of city, and there are three people who can confirm that. He even managed to produce a photo of the event to prove it. I suppose that the man your friend saw was someone who looked similar to him."
"...strange." Von Karma said, sounding disappointed.
"Indeed. Him collaborating with Mr. Edgeworth would have made a whole lot of sense, after all."
"Nevertheless, don't lower your guard. There's still the possibility he gave Wright information about the trial."
"There's no need to worry about that, I know that man enough to be sure he wouldn't do that."
"Because he's that loyal to you and honest? I didn't think you'd be so naive, Miles Edgeworth."
"No, not because of that. He's just not that resourceful, and definitely not brave enough to do so."
"That's a good point. I just hope your blind trust in that man doesn't backfire on you. You seem to be protective of that man, to a ridiculous extent."
"It's rare to find someone who obeys to your orders without so much of a question these days. That's all."
"In that case, if any complication or issue should arise because of that man, you'll only have yourself and your foolishness to blame." Von Karma said in a stern voice. "I have my hands full already as it is, I won't be there to help you deal with problems you've created yourself."
"I'm well aware of it. And I'm also more than sure that it's not going to be the case."
There was a strange noise from the other side of the line, like von Karma had cleared his voice. "Well then, if that's your decision. I have a few things to take care of right now."
"I understand, sir. Have a good morning." Miles barely had the time to finish saying those words, and he heard the sound of the call being ended coming from the other side, so he hung up as well.
He stood up, poured himself another cup and sat back down to his desk. As he drank slowly and in small sips, he realized his hands were slightly shaking: this was the first time he had lied to his mentor ever since he had met him, and it wasn't about something minor.
Or maybe it was just the sleep deprivation, he had been thinking about how to deal with this the whole night and early morning, unable to close an eye because of how his heart was racing, and of how his brain didn't want to shut down, all too aware of what he risked if he had been found out. The closest to a decent rest was the short nap, barely an hour, he had had in his car after coming back from Gumshoe's office.
Well, at the very least now the most difficult part was done, so he could relax. There was still the whole issue of Gumshoe's punishment to take care of, but that would have had to wait.
After that Miles checked his schedule and, finding out he thankfully had nothing planned for the rest of the morning, locked the doors of his office, left a message on his answering machine saying he was busy with some urgent work and turned off his personal phone. He then reached his couch to lay down and sleep for a couple of hours, he needed and deserved it. Everything else could have waited.
Chapter 4: A different motivation (II)
The doorbell rang four times following a deliberate rhythm, taking Misty by surprise while she was changing herself. She checked the clock on the wall: it was almost time, she was the one who was late. After letting out a sigh and mentally scolding herself for being so absent-minded, she threw a training robe over her gown, tied it closed and walked out of her bedroom.
As she walked through the corridor to reach the door the bell rang again, following the same rhythm. "A moment, here I am!" She proclaimed in a loud voice - more out of instinct than for practical reasons, since she realized all too well that they obviously wouldn't have been able to hear her from there.
A few more steps and she was outside the house and in the garden, in front of the back door. "Here I am!" She repeated.
Misty opened the door and gave a look at the three men in front of her, an apologetic expression on her face. "Please come in, Mr. Edgeworth. Mr. Shields and Mr. Grossberg. Sorry for making you wait." She added, slightly bowing her head.
"There's no need to apologize for something like this." Gregory said as he took off his hat and stepped in, followed by the other two.
"Yes, Madame. Please don't take this too seriously." Grossberg commented, while Raymond nodded in agreement.
"Thank you, but I haven't even prepared tea to welcome you properly." She replied. "Anyway, please follow me." She added before anyone could reply, then turned around and, walking at a brisk pace, conduced them back inside the house and to the living room.
In the middle of the room there were an armchair with some cushions on it, and two small, cheap looking couches of different colors and shapes, and an empty tea table. "Please make yourselves comfortable, I'll be back immediately." She said with a smile, showing them the room with a gesture before walking away to the kitchen.
Once there Misty put some water to boil, then walked back to her bedroom again.
She finished putting her clothes on properly and tied her still slightly wet hair up, then returned to the kitchen, switched the fire off and brewed the tea. After putting a few wheat cookies on a dish and the teapot and some cups on a tray, she walked back to the living room.
"Here I am. Sorry for making you wait, again." Misty said as she walked in. The three men had taken off coats and hats, and made themselves comfortable on the couches and armchair.
"Nah, no problem. Besides, this time you had a good reason." Raymond joked, looking at the tray. "We were just having a talk about how you reorganized your living room since last time we were here."
"Just a small rearrangement to make the place more comfortable for you all." She replied while putting the tray on the table.
"It was really thoughtful of you, but I hope it wasn't too big a hassle for you and your daughters." Grossberg replied from the armchair.
"No, at all. It might not look like it, but thanks to the training we do we Feys are made of sterner stuff." She reassured them while sitting down on the couch in front of the one where Gregory and Raymond were sitting.
"Talking about your daughters, are they at home?" Gregory asked.
"Yes." Misty replied while pouring a cup. "Maya is doing her homework with a friend and Pearl, that's why the place is so strangely peaceful." She said in a joking tone. "Mia is getting ready, she will join us soon."
"By the way, how have they been doing since the trial? Pearly, in particular..." Raymond asked while taking a cookie from the dish.
"They've been enjoying themselves, and are trying not to think about what happened. And I'm doing my best to encourage them to do so, even if it means slowing down or ignoring their training for a while." Misty explained while passing Gregory a cup. "Especially Pearl, we've been trying to take her out and away from here whenever we can. Thankfully these days the journalists seem to have calmed down and decided to stop bothering us, so we can do that almost every day now."
"Really? That's great!" Raymond replied.
"Mia has been busy with other things, and seems to be much happier and relaxed as well. I haven't seen her like this in years, literally." Misty said, giving Grossberg his cup. "On her part, Maya has been doing her best in helping me cheer up Pearl whenever she needs it. She's acting like she already forgot what happened, both the trial and Morgan's arrest, and even refuses to talk about it with me when we're on our own, changing argument immediately. And honestly, that worries me a bit."
"But from the way you just describe it, at least this time she's not trying to keep away from you and Mia." Gregory commented.
"I know. But still, I can't help being worried." She answered.
"This time?" Grossberg then asked.
"It's a long story. Let's just say we've been through something like this in the past." Misty explained as she gave Raymond his tea. When she was done she poured herself a cup and started drinking, without adding a word to what she had just said.
"Uh-huh..." Grossberg mumbled, bringing the cup to his mouth and sipping some tea.
"Anyway, what about you, Mr. Grossberg?" Misty then asked. "How have things been for you since the trial? Very busy, I can imagine."
The men let out a sigh. "Indeed. So much that the words you used feel like some sarcastic understatement." He said before taking another sip. "This afternoon is the closest to a holiday I've had in a couple months. And I'm not joking, or trying to be dramatic, I'm being quite literal."
"Oh..." She said with a gasp.
"And I thought that just following all that stuff through the newspapers was a headache..." Raymond commented before biting into another cookie.
Grossberg nodded. "I couldn't have put it better myself. And if I think about the time I wasted following all the false leads..." He said before letting out another sigh, only this time it sounded decidedly annoyed.
"I understand your personal concern, Mr. Grossberg--"
"Thank you for worrying about me, Gregory." Grossberg interrupted him, speaking in a firm voice.
Gregory gave a quick look at Raymond and Misty, who silently returned the glance, and said: "What I was trying to say is, don't push yourself too much, Marvin." He said before going back to drinking his tea.
As Raymond quickly searched for a good argument to start a conversation, the doorbell rang four times, calling their attention and snapping them out of their thoughts.
"It must be Phoenix." Raymond said, quickly.
"Definitely." Misty replied as she put her cup on the table and stood up. "Excuse me a moment." She said before turning them her back and walking out of the room with quick steps.
When she had reached the door and opened it, Misty was surprised and confused by the sight in front of her eyes, and it took her a few moments to realize who the weird guy standing in front of her holding a bike was.
"...it's me, Phoenix." The man said, almost at the same moment she had her realization.
"Yes, now I know." She answered. "It just took me a minute to recognize you, with that thing on."
"It's just a hoodie." He replied.
"It's not that what confused me..." Misty said, pointing at his head.
Instinctively, Phoenix put his hand on his head and took off the beanie cap he was wearing. "Oh... this, you mean." He said, showing it to her. Then he shrugged and let out a small laugh. "Well, that was my intention, not being recognized, so I guess it worked."
She let out a small laugh too. "It was very effective, I have to admit." She then replied. "Now please come in."
He nodded, then walked past the door and inside the garden while carrying the bike along.
"Still having to deal with journalists, I suppose." Misty said as she closed the door.
"Yeah. That's why I didn't leave with Mr. Edgeworth and the others." He answered. "Anyway, where can I leave this?"
"The house doesn't have a garage, but you can leave it chained here in the garden." She said. "You came all the way here by bike?"
"Heh. No, actually." Phoenix said, chuckling. "I took the train, then rode the bike from the station to here." He explained before breaking into an almost guilty-looking grin.
Misty decided to keep for herself a joke about the station being literally just at the end of the street, and instead let out a laugh. She waited for Phoenix to chain the bike, then followed her inside the house.
"Everyone is already waiting in the living room. If you need to use the bathroom or anything else--" She started to say as they walked through the corridor, only to interrupt herself when she saw Mia standing in front of them, next to the door of one of the rooms to the other side of the hallway. "Oh, Mia..."
"Hope I didn't scare you, mom." She said, flashing a smile. "And hello to you, Phoenix, and welcome. After you've made yourself comfortable, could you please follow me for a moment?"
"Hey, Mia..." He replied, quickly pocketing his beanie as if it was something embarrassing. "It's that surprise you mentioned before, on the phone? I hope I don't look too shabby like this..."
"Oh, no, you look fine, don't worry about it." Mia answered.
"Okay then, let's go."
Mia turned around, opened the door of her room and walked in, followed by Phoenix. Misty stood still and waited to see what they were doing, turning around only when she heard the footsteps of the three men walking out of the living room and into the corridor.
"Like is said when I called you, there's someone I want you to meet." Mia said as she looked in the direction of a small desk sitting on the other side of the room, to show him a somewhat familiar figure sitting at it. Seeing that person he couldn't help being surprised, a feeling that, given the expression on the other's face, was definitely reciprocated.
"Lana, this is Phoenix Wright." Mia explained, gesturing in his direction. "And Phoenix, this is my old friend, Lana Skye."
The two stared at each other in complete silence for a few moments. Eventually Lana stood up from the chair and reached Phoenix. "I read about you in the newspapers, the man who defeated the Demon Prosecutor." She said, coldly, almost without emotion.
"Er... y-yes, it's m-me." Phoenix stammered.
"And from what I've been told, you passed the bar exam just this year. Really, really impressive." Lana went on in the same uncanny tone. "You must be a very talented man."
"Heh, I wish." He said, smiling awkwardly.
Seeing his reaction, Lana gave him a surprised look for an instant, which left Phoenix even more confused. She then straightened her face and tended out her hand to him. "Well, glad to make your acquaintance."
"Me too." He replied while shaking her hand. "You were in college with Mia, I've heard."
"Yes. We used to attend some courses together, but due to circumstances beyond our control we ended falling apart."
"Yeah, I've been told... but hey, now you're together again!"
"In a way..." She said before pulling her hand away. Then, in a louder tone, went on: "I have to thank you for defending Mia during the trial."
Hearing that, Mia widened her eyes in surprise. Phoenix, on his part, looked slightly embarrassed: "Heh, it was just my duty... I mean, I was happy to help a friend, but as a lawyer--"
"Your friend?" Lana interrupted him.
"We've known each other for about a couple of years." Mia explained.
Lana looked like she had just had a realization: "Work related issues, I suppose." She then said to Phoenix.
"No. We met through Mr. Edgeworth, that's all." He answered. "But yeah, I guess you can call last month's trial 'work'..."
"Don't worry about that, please. I was just wondering out loud." Lana replied while looking at Mia, as Phoenix seemed more and more confused. "Anyway, thank you for your hospitality and everything else, but I really need to go now."
"What?" Mia asked. "Are you sure you can't stop here for half an hour more, or--"
Lana shook her head. "In three hours I have an important appointment I can't postpone. It's barely the time I have to reach my office from here."
Mia checked the clock hanging on the wall, and looked almost shocked. "Oh, it's already this late! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hold you back--"
"Don't even mention it." Lana replied, her deadpan tone making that sound more like an order. "It's been a pleasure." She added. Phoenix would have wanted to say something about it, but before he could Mia preceded him.
"In that case, thank you for stopping by despite your duties." She said.
"Don't worry about it. I was actually kind of curious to meet this Mr. Wright in person." Lana answered while looking at him. "I hope we will be able to have a talk together, in the future."
"I'd be my pleasure." Phoenix agreed. Mia looked at the two of them in silence, and smiled widely.
The three then walked out of the room and into the corridor, where Misty was still waiting.
"Lana needs to go now." Mia told her when she was in front of her.
"Oh, already? What a pity." She replied, looking at Lana. "I'll go call Ema, please wait here a moment." She then walked to a door towards the end of the corridor and opened it. Before she could say a word, Maya, Pearl and another girl with long brown hair run out of the room and towards Lana.
"I've heard everything, sis." The girl asked when she was face to face with Lana. "Are you sure you can't stay here for another hour or so? Me, Maya and Pearly almost finished the project for the school fair, and wanted to show it to you!"
"I'll give it a check when I'll be back to take you on Sunday." Lana answered while lightly patting on the girl's hair. As she did so, her tone and her face were the same cold and deadpan as usual.
"Really? Then don't be late!"
"I'll try to do my best, but I might be half an hour or so late." Lana said, matter-of-factly, while she knelt down and fixed the ribbon on the girl's outfit.
"Okay then." The other replied. She then gave her a quick hug and moved back. "Take care, and see you on Sunday."
"The same goes for you." Lana said, standing up. She then turned towards Misty and replied: "Thank you for your hospitality, especially for Ema."
"Oh, it's nothing. It's a pleasure to have her around." The older woman answered.
"It really is." Pearl said.
"You can say that out loud!" Maya intervened. She then turned towards Lana and went on: "Don't worry about her, she's always welcome here, and in good hands!"
"I don't doubt that." Lana replied.
"Well then!" Maya loudly proclaimed, walking next to Ema and placing an arm around her shoulders. "Now let's go! When we're done with the project, there's something I have to show you!"
"Is it going to be that show about samurai, again?" She asked, looking a bit confused.
"Yes, but there's an episode where they neutralize a trap filled with acid by pouring a basic solution into it. And the whole episode has moments like that, I'm sure you'll love it!" Maya enthusiastically said while turning around with Ema, pulling her along while Pearl followed the two of them.
"Why didn't you say so before? Let's go!" Ema replied, excitedly.
Seeing that scene, Lana turned around towards Mia and, cracking a half smile, told her: "Reminds me of something, doesn't it?"
"Heh..." Mia chuckled.
Lana then turned back in Misty's direction: "Again, thanks for everything. If there's a problem or issue, of any kind, call me."
"Of course." She answered.
"Please say hello to your guests for me. And tell them that if they want to talk to me they can come here next time, and don't need to hide behind the corner." Lana added, glancing in the general direction of the living room. She then turned at Phoenix. "Take care as well. I hope to see you again soon."
"Me too." He answered.
Finally, Lana looked at Mia. "Thanks to you, too, and see you on Sunday. In the meanwhile, think about my proposal."
Mia looked surprised. "You know my answer and it won't change, no matter how much I think about it. Anyway, have a nice trip back, and a nice weekend." She said, breaking in a smile as she spoke out the last sentence.
"I'll try." Lana answered. She then walked towards the entry door, followed by Misty and Mia. As the two women bid the other farewell, Phoenix turned his head towards Raymond, Gregory and Grossberg, hiding behind the door of the living room. The four looked at each other, with looks that ranged from confused to surprised.
When the entry door closed, Phoenix finally felt safe to step forward towards the other three. "Hello there..." He awkwardly greeted them.
"Hey Nick." Raymond said in a similar tone.
"Phoenix." Gregory replied in a level, but slightly shaky voice.
Grossberg cleared his throat. "Good afternoon, Mr. Wright." He then said.
"So... did you see Ms. Skye with that girl? How she acted? Didn't it look weird?" Phoenix started talking.
"Yeah, a bit." Raymond replied.
"A strange discrepancy between her gesture and her exterior, yes." Gregory said.
"She's Ema, Ms. Skye's young sister." Misty explained. "One day she came to visit us without warning - for us at least, I imagine she must have told Mia that she was coming." She said, turning her head towards her daughter.
"Not really. She had said she would have come to see us one day, during a weekend, but I wouldn't have expected her to come here on the same week I received her letter. I would have imagined she would have written again or called first, to decide a date. I'm as surprised as you are, believe me."
"I had no idea she had a younger sister..." Raymond commented, scratching his head.
"Is that girl another acolyte here?" Phoenix asked.
"No, she's not." Misty replied. "What gave you that idea?"
"Well, the white gown. Looks like the ones you're always wearing, and--"
"You should have paid more attention, Phoenix." Gregory interrupted him. "That was a laboratory coat, not one of their training or ritual outfits."
"Oh..." Phoenix mumbled, looking like he had just realized something. "Yeah, you're right, heh..." He said, chuckling in embarrassment.
"Talking about Ms. Skye, I need to apologize for not telling you about her before." Misty then said.
"Actually, it should be me, I was the one who asked my mother not to tell anyone." Mia explained. "I wanted to make Phoenix a surprise, and I knew that if you had known she was there you would have wanted to talk to her, and she probably would have left before he was here."
The three older men exchanged a look. "Well, admittedly, I would have really liked to have a talk with her about a couple of things..." Grossberg replied, looking disappointed.
"Personally, there are a few questions I'd like to ask to Ms. Mia." Gregory said, glancing at her.
"The short version is that she used to be in college with me." She replied. "I haven't heard from her for years, ever since I dropped out, but a few days ago I sent her a letter after Phoenix suggested me to do that, and a few days later she answered."
"Anyway, it was about a month ago, Ms. Skye came here with her sister and said she wanted to have a talk with Mia." Misty explained. "As we mentioned before, we were all surprised and a bit suspicious, but it didn't turn out badly: her and Mia had a nice discussion, and Ema, Maya and Pearl have gotten along from the first moment they saw each other."
"One month ago, huh..." Gregory repeated, stroking his chin pensively. "If you're keeping her sister here for a sleepover after having known each other for not that long, they really must get along that well."
"Well, since then we saw each other about five times, and each time she brought Ema along. Which we don't mind at all, her presence always makes Pearl and Maya happy." Mia said. "She's always welcome here."
"Five times in a month?" Grossberg said, surprised.
"That's quite often." Gregory commented, looking at Mia. "You could have at least warned us in advance about it, and asked us to keep quiet about it to avoid ruining the surprise for Phoenix." He added, looking irritated.
"You're right. I'm sorry about it, really." She replied, lowering her head.
"I'm afraid that not telling her that there were going to be guests at your place might have created a bigger issue with her." He said.
"She knew you were here, actually." Mia answered, looking back into his face. "Again, sorry."
Gregory took in a deep breath and looked away, clearly irritated. "You'll have to explain us a few things."
"Don't worry, I will." Mia replied, smiling widely. "It's quite a long story however, we should go sit down first."
"I have to agree with Gregory. As much as I understand why you acted so protective of your friend, having known about it would have been nice." Grossberg said.
"Hey! Don't gang up on her!" Phoenix protested.
"No Nick, they have a point." Mia answered. "But if it can help, if there are any questions you want to ask her just ask them to me, and I'll rely them to her."
"Really?" Grossberg asked.
"In that case, if you don't mind--"
"There's no need to be so deferential with her, Marvin." Gregory interrupted him. His words caused everyone to turn around and stare in his direction.
"And there's no need for you to be this condescending with her." Misty intervened, speaking firmly while glaring at him. "She explained you why she acted like that, Mr. Edgeworth, and also said that she's sorry about it."
Gregory stood silent, holding her sight for a few moments before being forced to look away. "I'm sorry." He said. Then he turned towards Mia and, looking into her face, added: "I apologize for my words and tone, I didn't mean to act like that."
Mia looked back at him. "While I understand why you were annoyed, you were pretty rude, so I accept your apologies." She answered after taking some time, likely to carefully pick her words.
"I promise it won't happen again." Gregory added, lowering his head.
"I sure hope so." Misty said, pointedly.
"There's no need to insist, mom. He already apologized." Mia replied.
Misty looked surprised at that remark. "You're right." She then said, giving Mia and Gregory a quick look.
"Er... would it be a problem if we all sat down? My legs are starting to kill me..." Grossberg said meekly, interrupting the moment of awkward silence that had followed that exchange.
"Oh-- o-of course not! Please come inside, sorry!" Misty apologized while gently leading the man into the living room.
Phoenix couldn't help letting out a sigh of relief: he was sure Grossberg had done that on purpose, but if he hadn't it had been perfectly timely. He gave a look at Raymond, who from the look of it seemed to share thoughts similar to his own, and then to Mia and Gregory, who were both walking in while looking in completely different directions, clearly trying to avoid the other. He waited for everyone else to be in and followed suit, and once inside he took a seat on one of the couches, next to Misty.
"Are you feeling a bit better, Mr. Grossberg?" She then asked, filling his cup again.
"Yes, quite." He answered while helping himself to one of the cookies.
"If there's anything else we can do to help..." Mia offered while passing him his cup. She then walked towards the couch where Phoenix and her mother were sitting, and took a seat next to her.
"Oh, there's no need." He replied, taking a hold of the cup.
"If that's the case and you're feeling better, I suppose you can start telling us about the last few weeks. It was the reason why you took the disturb of coming all the way here, after all." Misty said calmly, while pouring some more tea in another cup and passing it to Phoenix.
"Of course, you're right." Grossberg calmly answered before drinking some tea. "Unless someone has something to say... nobody, it seems. So let's start talking about it, before I end forgetting about it."
It didn't go unnoticed to Phoenix that Grossberg had barely let any time pass between the sentences he had said. But since nobody else seemed to have any issue with it, he decided to let it slide as well. The very last thing he - and, presumably, everyone else in that room - wanted was to start another argument.
Before starting his speech, Grossberg sipped some tea. "So, I suppose we should start from Ms. Morgan, even though you're definitely more informed than me on this particular matter."
"Yes..." Misty said, a dark shadow appearing on her face for a moment. "T-The whole part about starting from her, I mean."
Grossberg hesitated a moment and looked around the room until he turned his sight on Mia. She gave him a silent nod, so he took a deep breath and started talking again: "By now Mr. Edgeworth and Mr. Wright must have already told you that the news I wanted to give you that time we were supposed to meet at that restaurant, after Ms. Mia's acquittal. In particular, how they're about Ms. Morgan."
"Personally, I find that story hard to believe." Misty commented. "Especially because of their timing."
"You're not the only one to have doubts about how timely those revelations were, I can assure you." Gregory said.
"Exactly. We get information that, while not related to the case, casts a very damning shadow on Morgan as a human being right around the same time when she is arrested for complicity in homicide. Too convenient, if you ask me. Am I right, Mr. Edgeworth?" She calmly explained.
"Actually, my doubts regard a different side of the issue..." He explained.
"And what, exactly?"
"Before I explain, I'd like to know about what your own doubts are." Gregory said. "It seems to me that you don't agree with how that source describes you sister."
"Exactly." She answered. "I don't think there's anyone in this world who knows my sister more than I do, and I can assure you that the person I know is completely different from the image that Grossberg's source is trying to paint."
"I was deeply surprised by what I had been told as well." Grossberg intervened. "But all the details that I've been told about your sister's personal life correspond. It can't just be a lucky coincidence."
"That source of yours, again." Misty replied, irritated. "Please don't forget that it's Mr. White we're talking about. That man built his fortune on smearing people, we knew that even before the trial. What if that is a red herring planted by him?"
"I have taken that into account as well, don't worry. However, my source has managed to gain my trust, while your sister's attitude during her trial--"
Misty slammed her hand on the table. "You'd rather trust someone who refuses to even tell you their name instead of a person you've known for years?" She yelled. "And what was Morgan supposed to do? She has been charged with serious crimes, and all evidence was against her! Was she supposed to break down and cry in front of everyone?"
"That's not what I meant." Grossberg answered. "She didn't reject any of the accusations, pleaded guilty, and when asked why she had helped killing that guy and planted evidence to frame your daughter, she chose not to answer."
"All evidence was against her!" Misty repeated, louder. "If she had tried to deny any of the charges, she would have been accused of perjury!"
"That's not exactly how that works." Gregory pointed out. "But let's assume she did that for that reason, why not even bothering to reply to any of the accusations, or hire a good lawyer instead of choosing self-defense? All four of us offered to defend her, and all four times she refused. She even refused to have a talk with you or Mia, of all people."
"That's the main reason why I'm suspicious." She said. "Morgan wouldn't act like that, there must be a reason why she doesn't want us to be involved."
"She tried to have your daughter framed, I'd definitely call that trying to 'involve' you." Gregory commented.
Hearing that, Misty looked away. "I know, I know. And I want to know why." As she spoke, her hands were visibly shaking.
Gregory took a deep breath. "I don't think she's completely innocent of all charges, that's all. And there are a few things that are suspicious about her behavior. She didn't challenge White's narrative in any manner, is what I'm saying."
"It's because she can't do anything about it." Misty protested, this time in a more calm voice. "White must have found something to blackmail her, or us, with, and all she can do is go along with it."
"Did she tell you that in person? Or do you have any evidence of that?"
"No. But I know her well, and I'm sure of that!"
"Then, from that point of view, we could call your theory baseless." Grossberg commented. Hearing those words, Misty turned her head towards him, an angry expression on her face.
"He's right, mom."
"Oh, Mia... no, not you too!"
"Please calm down a moment." Mia said while putting her hands on her mother's shoulders. "Mr. Edgeworth isn't implying that aunt Morgan was behind the whole plan, like the judge ruled... but what if she was actually involved in it? Willingly involved, I mean."
"Exactly." Grossberg commented.
Misty took her daughter's hands between hers: "Mia, I understand how you're feeling about her, after what she did to you - I... I understand it very well believe me, I share your feelings... but why would she act like that?" Misty asked back, her eyes wide open. "Why would she ask for the help of someone like White? Why?"
"That, I'm still trying to figure out." Gregory replied, causing Phoenix to swallow dry nervously.
The last time they had talked about it, back in the office, Mr. Gregory was pretty sure that the reason was this succession war between the two branches of the Fey family, and had openly said he was intentioned to bring this up the next time they would have met with them. But now he was holding back, seeing how Ms. Misty was reacting. Which was comprehensible, he didn't want to shock the woman even further. Just what any decent human being would have done. He couldn't blame him at all, and he would have done the same.
But it was just so frustrating, he couldn't help thinking. He wanted to ask them about Dahlia - he needed to ask them about Dahlia. But Mr. Edgeworth had forbid him from even mentioning her until he would have given him his approval, which was not before he would have been able to even mention the succession war. And the more Mr. Edgeworth postponed this explanation, the more he would have had to wait before asking them. And now he had to hold back, as hard as it was.
While he was lost in his thoughts, Mia's voice called him back to reality: "I agree with you that he might have been blackmailing her - after all, the man White killed was trying to sell information behind his back, and we haven't found out what it was. What if she knew what that was about, so she decided to get in touch with him to avoid that stuff could get public, and--"
"But if that's the case, how could she know what that information was?" Misty asked back
"Maybe the guy tried to sell the information to her first, White found out and killed him, and all your sister could do was play along with him. Whether she liked it or not." Gregory suggested, adding the last sentence as if it was an afterthought. "Think about it, it makes sense: White has information about you or your family, someone tries to sell it behind his back to your sister, for some reason we still don't know about, so she collaborates with him to avoid something bigger from happening. But she wasn't blackmailed into it, she decided to go along with it of her own free will."
When he was done talking Misty fell silent for a while. She then looked away and sighed. "But why?"
"You're worried about your sister, and scared. I understand that." Gregory commented. "But there definitely is something off about the whole situation, even you have to admit that." He added while looking away.
For a moment Phoenix felt like slamming his hands on the table, and telling Mr. Edgeworth to just explain her what his theory was. One thing was standing his ground by keeping on repeating that version, but doing it with vague words like these he was just upsetting her more, and the only thing they were going to do was running circles about that question, why, while Ms. Misty turned more and more nervous and less and less coherent. Just tell her that you think her sister wants to get rid of her and her daughters, dammit. Just tell her.
Before he could give in to the temptation, however, Mia started talking, taking advantage of a moment of silence: "A-Anyway, Mr. Grossberg... how about Mr. Armando?" She asked. "Are there any news about him?"
"Well..." Grossberg mumbled before bringing his cup of tea to his lips and finishing it. "No. Nothing, sadly." He then said in a firm tone, so much different from the one he had used before.
"Oh... I understand..." She said in a low voice as she took the teapot in front of her and tried to pour Grossberg another cup, only to see nothing but a tiny rivulet of dark water and tea dregs coming out of it.
"Oh..." She mumbled, seeing it. "I'll go make some more." She then said, standing up from her seat.
"There's no need, really..." Grossberg said.
"Don't worry about it." She replied with a smile. "I wanted another cup myself, so it's not a hassle or anything."
"I can go do it myself..." Misty offered in a low voice.
"No need to worry, mom." Mia answered. "And besides, you have done all the preparations on your own this morning, just seat down and relax now."
Misty raised an eyebrow. "I'm not a decrepit old hag, you know." She then said in a sarcastic tone. Then the expression on her face relaxed, and she smiled: "Anyway, thank you."
Mia smiled widely. "While I'm at it, is there anything else I can do?"
"Could you bring a couple more cookies?" Raymond asked as he took the last one from the plate.
"Of course." She replied while picking the dish up. "Would you like some with chocolate chip this time, or--"
"Wheat cookies will do." Misty said, turning her head towards Gregory for a moment.
"Okay, I'll be right back." Mia said as she turned around and walked out of the room.
Phoenix looked at her walking away, then back at the other people sitting around him. After quickly wondering about a couple of things, he asked: "Er, while we wait for Mia to be back... can I use the bathroom for a moment?"
"Of course." Misty replied. "It's the room next to the kitchen."
Great, Phoenix thought. "Thank you, and sorry." He said as he stood up from the couch.
Once out of the room and out of the sights of the people inside the room, Phoenix reached the door of the bathroom and closed it from the outside, then silently walked back towards the kitchen. Hearing his footsteps Mia turned her head towards him, and saw he was asking her to be quiet by keeping his finger in front of his mouth. She nodded, then reached the door of the room and closed it trying to make as little noise as possible.
"Is there a problem?" She asked in a low voice.
"N-No, nothing at all." He replied, almost whispering. "I was just... I just wanted to ask you something."
"Er..." Phoenix mumbled, realizing all of a sudden how hasty he had been. But he needed some answers quick, or the doubt will have kept on following him for the rest of the day. "We're nine in this house right now, I don't think we'll have much time or room to have a talk in peace..."
Mia looked at him from head to toes, her arms crossed on her chest. "What do you want to ask?" She then said in a calm voice, completely at odds with her posture.
"W-Well, not really asking, actually... it's just..." He said, stumbling over his words. "I wanted to say, sorry for how Mr. Edgeworth behaved before. He was way too rude."
"Oh, that..." She mumbled. "It's nothing, don't worry. And besides, he had a good reason."
"I don't think so. I mean, it's not like not knowing that Ms. Skye was here created some huge problem for him. I mean, Grossberg wanted to meet with her to talk about the cases he's dealing with, and he wasn't that harsh with you."
"Harsh, huh?" Mia said, looking away. "Do you think I angered him?"
"Er... n-no, of course not. You saw how quickly he calmed down after that, while talking to your mother, didn't you?"
"You're right. Talking about which, I should probably go apologize for how she treated him, too."
"N-No, it's not you who should say sorry for her--" Phoenix interrupted himself as soon as he realized that, coming from him, right then and after he had just apologized on Mr. Edgeworth's behalf, what he was about to say would have sounded incredibly ridiculous, if not hypocritical.
Mia had noticed that as well, and seemed to have taken pity on him since she didn't answer to that or point that out, and thankfully moved on. "But still, I've known him for years, and that's the first time I have seen him that altered..."
"I've known him for less time than you did, and I've seen him really angry a couple of times. He tries to be as calm and collected as he can in public, but he's human too, so he gets angry too. And rude, like before."
"I guess..." Mia answered, before heaving out a sigh.
"Look... you don't have to feel bad about it, okay? He was wrong, he admitted that."
"Yes, I know. But still... I had never seen him angry before. It's weird." She said before giving him her back and going to turn the stove off.
"Well... yeah, you're right. I felt the same way when I saw him angry the first time, heh." He said before letting out a chuckle. "He's always so calm and collected, seeing him lose it, even just a bit, is even more scary than it should be."
Mia let out a small laugh too, while pouring the hot water into the teapot. "Well, thank you for apologizing, but you worried for nothing." She then said.
"Better safe than sorry, heh." Phoenix answered. "And while I'm here, can I ask you another thing?"
"Sure, go ahead." Mia replied while putting some teabags in the hot water. "It's about Lana, isn't it?"
"Y-Yes." He was a bit surprised at first, but quickly realized that it wasn't too big a guess to make. "I wanted to know, well... you said that you hadn't told a thing about her to your mother and your sister, so... was it difficult for you to explain who she was?"
She looked at him with her eyes wide open, surprised by that question.
"What's the problem?"
"Nothing, it's just... I'm a bit surprised you remembered that." She explained. "But yes, it was a bit difficult at the beginning. It's always difficult to bring up anything that has to do with college with Maya and mom, and Lana had just literally arrived at our house out of nowhere. But after I explained them that she was an old friend they didn't have any problem with it - in fact, they seemed to be more surprised about the fact I was friend with a Chief Prosecutor. They welcomed her and Ema, then me and Lana had a talk together..."
"You had a lot of catching up to do, I imagine."
"Actually, we mostly chatted about silly things. Like we used to do back in college." Mia said before turning around and taking a packet of cookies from the cupboard. "We started talking about ourselves only a couple of times later."
Phoenix nodded silently.
"It's been so refreshing and fun, seeing her again after so long and finding out that, in her private life, she's still the same." She explained while putting some cookies on the plate.
"You haven't been talking about all the stuff you heard her say on television?" Phoenix couldn't help asking, only to realize he probably should have put it in a nicer manner.
"A bit." Mia answered, without missing a beat or looking like that question had hit her somehow. "The thing is, there's a lot I would like to talk about with her... but when we're having fun together, I just don't want it to end, so I can't bring myself to bring up anything that can ruin the situation." She added, meekly.
Phoenix hesitated, but eventually managed to say: "Don't feel bad about it, you're just happy to have found a friend again after so long. And besides, you had just finished to deal with a lot of crap, and--"
"Please don't use the trial as an excuse." She interrupted him. "And the fact that I should just enjoy myself when I'm with her... if I don't settle this with her as soon as I can, this time our friendship might end for good. What if it turns out that now we've changed so much we're incompatible, and at this point there's nothing we can do about it."
"Yes, but..." He tried to say something to comfort her, but nothing came to his mind.
"Now excuse me, but I have to bring the tea to the living room." She said while taking a hold of the teapot and the dish.
"Yes, sorry." Phoenix replied while stepping aside to let Mia walk out. She left the room without saying a word, and as soon as she was on the doorstep of the living room she started talking in a chipper tone: "Sorry for making you wait."
When he was finally on his own, Phoenix let out a sigh. He had messed things up, hadn't he? And with just a sentence. There were many more things he needed to ask her, so next time he should have prepared his questions better - if there's going to be another time, he told himself, disheartened.
After straightening his face, Phoenix took advantage of the small commotion still going on in the living room, sneaked out of the kitchen and reached the bathroom. Once there he flushed the toilet and let the water run in the sink for a few seconds, then opened the door while making as much noise as he could and reached the living room.
"Took you a while!" Raymond protested.
"Sorry, sorry!" Phoenix replied, sitting on the couch next to him. "It's just that I had to--"
"Spare us the details, please!" The other man replied, a disgusted expression on his face.
"Hey! What do you think I was going to talk about?" Phoenix protested.
"Another cup, Mr. Wright?" Misty asked.
"Anyway, where were we?" Grossberg then said in an almost solemn voice, commanding the attention of everyone else.
* * *
Lana checked her watch while, with her other hand, she searched for the keys in her pocket: a bit less ten minutes to the hour of the meeting. Good, she told herself as she opened the door to her office. She hated being late, and having that happen while meeting with--
She opened the door, and couldn't help being surprised at seeing the figure sitting behind the desk to her right.
"Oh, hello there, Lana."
"Gant." She coldly returned the greeting while closing the door behind herself.
"What brings you here at this hour in the evening?" The man asked, a wide smile on his face.
"I could ask you the same question." She replied after letting out a sigh.
"Just finishing some work, so that I can enjoy the weekend without the shadow of it looming over my relax." He explained while putting his elbows on the desk and leaning, almost slouching over it. "How about you?"
"I have to meet with a prosecutor to talk about the details of a very important trial that will take place next week." She explained while walking towards her desk.
"Oh oh oh... that's a lot of information!" He replied in a joking tone.
"That's all the information you need." She answered.
"You could have just said you need to urgently meet with someone, and I would have filled in the blanks and understood the implications on my own." Gant said while playing with a lock of his hair. "I mean, if you're meeting this person here in the office, it's obviously for work. If it's for work, it's clear you're meeting with a prosecutor, and if you're meeting this person on a Friday evening, at around dinner time, it's because it's something so urgent it can't wait until Monday. From which I can deduce that you're going to need the office all for yourself."
"Sharp as usual." Lana commented while sitting on her chair.
"Of course." He then calmly said, fixing his glasses on his nose. "Just give me a few minutes to finish this report, and I'll be out of your hair."
"You're welcome." Gant replied in a very polite tone - almost excessively so, Lana thought. He lowered his eyes and looked through the papers on his desk, and started talking again: "It's been very nice lately, having the office all for myself so often."
"I've heard the complaints about you playing the organ during office hours, yes."
In response, Gant looked up at her in silent surprise for a moment, then started laughing loudly. "Yes, admittedly, I did take advantage of the situation a bit too much, heh." He then said as soon as he had stopped laughing, almost without needing to catch his breath.
After waiting some time to make sure that the man didn't have anything else to say, Lana leaned against her chair and looked at her watch: only five minutes left to the meeting, thankfully. Since it didn't look like Gant had anything else to say, she decided to relax.
"Don't you have any documents to prepare for your meeting?" The man then asked, taking her by surprise.
"No." Lana hastily answered. "He has everything, I don't need to." She then added, her voice betraying some nervousness.
"...I see." He commented.
She was about to say something, but before she could they heard the noise of someone knocking at the door.
"It's time already?" Gant said, surprised. He let out a sigh and gathered the papers on his desk. "Well, I guess my plans for the weekend are ruined." He commented with a chuckle.
"Please come in, it's open." Lana said, ignoring Gant.
The door opened, and a man walked in. "Good evening, Chief Pros--" He started to greet the other, only to interrupt himself when he noticed there was someone else in.
"Oh, Edgey!" Gant loudly saluted the guest. "What a surprise!"
"Good evening, sir." Miles flatly replied while walking towards Lana's desk.
"I'll be going now, you two need some privacy." Gant said while putting his papers in one of the drawers of his desk, then locking it. "Have a nice talk and a nice weekend, you two." He announced while walking towards the door.
"You too, Gant. See you on Monday." Lana replied.
After the door had closed they waited for a few seconds in complete silence, both of them staring at it with apprehension. When she felt sure that everything was finally quiet, Lana started talking: "I apologize for his presence, I had no idea he was here."
"Not a problem." Miles said, shrugging. "However, and I hate repeating myself, I still think it would be much easier if you moved at the High Prosecutor's Offices building."
"You know well what the situation is here, prosecutor Edgeworth. You could have asked to meet me somewhere else, if that was going to be a problem. Or you could have just called me, and we could have discussed the situation on the phone."
"Well, considering how you haven't been easy to find at your office lately, I thought that asking a meeting with you regarding work issues would have been a safe way of having your presence, and that of course demanded that I respected all formalities, including meeting with you at your office. As for why I didn't phone, I simply wanted to have a talk with you in person, face to face."
"I see." Lana said, leaning against the back of her chair. "So, you lied about wanting to see for work..."
"I'm ready to deal with the disciplinary consequences of my transgression." He calmly answered.
She waited for a few seconds, looking deep in thought. "And you will, don't worry. You're dismissed." She eventually said.
Miles let out a chuckle. "You're not even going to listen to what I have to say?"
"First you will learn to respect the proper procedures." She said, looking straight into his face.
For a moment he was tempted to tell her that this was fun, considering how that wasn't the first time he had used some 'shortcuts' to get to talk to her, or to ask her a favor or two, but he could guess what that was actually about.
"In that case, see you next time." Miles said in the best annoyed voice he could affect, as he stood up from his chair. "And good evening." He turned her his back and walked out of the room, without hearing a single word.
As he walked through the corridor and down the stairs, he wondered just how long it would have taken for that conversation to resume - until tomorrow, maybe? Or, more likely, after the weekend, that made more sense. And so, when he reached the parking lot under the building and saw the woman standing next to his car, he wasn't entirely surprised.
"Good evening, Ms. Skye." He casually greeted her, as if he had only just met her, while taking the keys of his car out of his pocket.
"It was very kind of you to offer me a passage like this, with no warning on my part." She replied calmly, without dropping her deadpan face.
At first Miles just glared at her, but then decided to play along. "Only this time, however. Don't get used to it, I don't like having guests on this car." He said as he pushed a button on the keyring that unlocked the doors.
"Really? I always imagined you had bought a car like this for the sake of leaving an impression on the people around you." Lana said as she opened the door on her side and climbed in.
"I picked this model exclusively because of its speed and comfortable seats." Miles explained as he got at his place as well. He then closed the door behind himself and dropped his formal exterior, not even bothering to hide his annoyance. "How did you manage to reach the parking lot before I did?" He asked while fastening his seat belt.
"I took the elevator." She answered.
For a moment, Miles was about to let out a small laugh, just a chuckle, in appreciation for that answer. He eventually decided not to let his poker face slip. "Where should I take you?"
"Wherever you want." She answered, fastening her belt as well. "I'm sure you understand the real reason why I'm here."
"You were afraid there was something in the office that would have made our conversation decidedly less private, right?"
"I was surprised by you openly admitting that you had lied just to see me." Lana said, ignoring his remark. "I would have expected more subtlety, from someone like you."
"The question I want to ask you is a very direct and personal one, so keeping up the act about it being for work would have just been ridiculous." Also, the whole affair of the office, but he decided to keep that detail for himself.
"Let me guess, what that question might be..." Lana said with a sigh.
"Exactly." He said, smirking.
"And why should I tell you about what I do in my free time?"
"Because you know I have a personal interest in a certain aspect of your acquaintances."
"I know, you told me so. And again, knowing that, why should I tell you?"
"Because I could help you."
Lana chuckled. "You know what I think of your plan, I haven't exactly been subtle about it. Asking me my collaboration is just a waste of time and breath. But to answer your question, yes, I have been meeting with the Feys during the last month."
"Did you resume your contacts with the so-called 'Mystic' Mia Fey?"
She glared at him. "I don't mind your asking to me to talk about a personal argument like this, but I definitely don't appreciate that tone."
Miles looked at her with the corner of his eye. "Then I apologize for that, I didn't mean to be rude. However, I was under the impression you didn't care for that title of hers, either."
"That doesn't mean you're allowed to speak about her in that tone." Lana harshly replied.
"In that case, I apologize again." He said. "I'm sincerely happy for you that you managed to get back in touch with an old friend, even if I'm not too fond of her and her family."
She gave him another glance before straightening her face. "I just came back from the village of Kurain. I brought my sister Ema there, she has managed to made good friends with Mia's younger sister and enjoys spending time with her. It's rare for Ema to get along with kids her age, so I'm more than happy to let her frequent them, even if it means having to deal with long, boring trips up to accompany her there. I still don't trust her yet to take a train on her own to a place that far away."
"And you might probably be interested to hear that I met with your father there."
"There were also Mr. Shields and Mr. Wright with him. According to Mia, it's because of Mr. Wright that she decided to get in contact with me again, and she wanted me to meet with him in person."
She finished speaking that sentence, and he gave her a sideways glance: "Mr. Edgeworth brought the whole group with him?" He commented, sounding disinterested.
"I couldn't tell you why, however." She said, lying. Better to keep those details to herself, for now.
"Interesting." Miles replied. "And not just the fact they were there, but also that you decided to tell me."
"But before you start assuming wrong, let me repeat once more that my answer to your proposal to expose the Feys, as you called it, remains the same. And as I said last time, if you ever try to put it into action I promise I'll do anything in my power and pull all strings I can to derail it." She explained in a calm, level voice. "And if I have to, I'm more than willing and ready to have your reputation, both professional and personal, ruined."
Miles turned his head towards her for a moment, then let out a small chuckle. "I see..."
"However, as I mentioned last time, I still think that what you wanted to accomplish in and of itself isn't bad."
"Which is why I asked you again. But let me guess, you have been working on a slightly different plan by yourself. Maybe one that involves Ms. Mia Fey herself."
"Exactly." She answered. "And I could use your help to make it work."
Miles chortled. "Do I have a choice?" He asked, sarcastically.
"Of course you do." Lana replied. "You can refuse. But in that case, you'll still have to follow some conditions."
He let out a sigh, smirking widely: a part of him would have wanted to congratulate her for how skillfully and ruthlessly she had managed to play her hand, turning the whole situation around so that now not only she had the upper hand, but he had been cornered in such a manner that, no matter what, he would have had to be the one following orders. Now he could see how and why she had managed to become Chief Prosecutor at such a young age. "Tell me, then. In detail."
* * *
"Are you really sure you need to go, Nick?"
He nodded. "Sorry about that Ray, really."
"You can stay here for the night, and take the very first train tomorrow morning, at six." Misty said.
"Thank you, but I don't think I'd make it in time." He explained. "The appointment is at eight, and I'd barely have any time to get ready."
She briefly looked disappointed, but then put a more distended expression on her face and looked at him: "I guess it can't be helped then."
"I'm sorry, again."
"Rather than feeling sorry, you should learn to keep a written schedule of all your appointments." Raymond remarked, sarcastically.
Phoenix felt embarrassed. Not just because of the dig at his expenses - that he deserved in full - but because of the hassle he was causing them with the lie he had just told them. He had no appointment the morning after, he was just looking for an excuse to leave that place earlier: staying at the Feys' any longer would have meant being around Mia for the next morning as well. Knowing himself, he was sure that if he had stayed there a part of himself would have felt compelled to try and talk to her again to try and fix things. And in that situation there was no way he wouldn't have ended making an even bigger mess without even realizing it, and possibly ruin everything for good. Better to put as much distance between himself and her as possible.
Also, there was how he had spent the rest of the conversation with Grossberg and of the dinner just staring at her with a dumb expression on his face, feeling awkward about how the discussion in the kitchen had ended. He didn't want to embarrass himself any further, if possible - he was sure he had managed to give the wrong impression to at least Mr. Edgeworth and Ms. Misty. And possibly Pearl, too - no, definitely her as well. This was going to make for some supremely embarrassing moments next time he would have come here, wasn't it? Good thing she was sleeping right now, given the late hour.
"I know, I know..." He eventually replied, scratching his nape.
"Well, at least I know what present give you for your birthday..." Raymond said with a shrug. "All jokes aside, don't worry, go if you have to. I'll explain Mr. Edgeworth and Mr. Grossberg tomorrow, when they'll wake up."
"Thank you." He answered, and he couldn't help feeling a pang of envy: Mr. Edgeworth, Grossberg and Raymond would have spent the night happily sleeping in a peaceful home in the mountainside while he would have had to go back to his apartment, where his sleep would have been accompanied by the insistent, screeching, whirring noise of his neighbor's broken air conditioning system. And the next morning they would have found a freshly prepared breakfast already made for them and ready to be eaten.
But as tempting as that perspective was, he simply couldn't stay. He was so tense and nervous about this whole thing, and he didn't know if he could trust himself with not messing things up for the dozen or so hours that he and the others still had to pass there.
"Anyway, please wait a minute, I'll be right back." Misty said before turning around and walking out of the living room.
"Have you taken all your stuff? If you left something outside we can bring it back tomorrow, but don't forget anything important." Raymond said.
"I only have my bicycle, and I left that outside."
Raymond widened his eyes: "You got all the way here on your bike?"
"Not really... long story." Phoenix replied, embarrassed, while scratching the back of his neck.
"...let me guess, the bike was just for show, wasn't it?" He said after letting out a sigh.
"Well, I was trying to make it look like I was a random biker that just passed by, so I brought my bike along..."
"Pretty sure nobody was going to think that you managed to cycle all the way up here in the mountains with a city bike..." Raymond said, raising an eyebrow. Phoenix stared at him, the expression on his face quickly turning embarrassed as soon as the words the other man had just said sank in, and the realization hit him.
"Ah, whatever..." Raymond then added, shrugging exaggeratedly.
Before Phoenix could say anything in response, Misty walked into the room, followed by Mia; while she kept on the doorstep, her mother had walked towards the two men.
"Here I am, sorry for making you wait." Misty said, and gave Phoenix a plastic bag she was holding in her hand. "Please take this."
"Oh..." Phoenix mumbled. "Thank you, but I can't--"
"There are just some snacks and coffee for the trip."
Phoenix opened the bag and gave a look inside: like she had said, there were a packet of chocolate cookies and a couple cans of coffee. He looked back up at her. "Thank you. Especially for the coffee, I'm definitely going to need that."
"So you're really going..." Mia commented, sadly.
Phoenix couldn't help giving a start: she hadn't spoken a word to him the whole evening, since they had had that discussion in the kitchen. He had assumed she was annoyed at him, or angry, so it was a surprise to hear that tone coming from her.
"Er... yes." He replied after recovering from that small shock. "I can't postpone that, sorry."
Mia looked away. "I see."
"Don't feel to bad about this, please." Raymond intervened. "He's the one who forgot that he had an appointment up until ten minutes ago."
"Y-Yeah, my fault! All mine!"
"Sure, but still... I can't help thinking that this is the second time today that a friend has to leave all of a sudden because of an appointment..." She let out a sigh and put a thin smile on. "I'm just a bit annoyed, that's all."
Despite her words and her attempt to smile, or maybe because of them, seeing Mia like that couldn't help reminding Phoenix of the other time he had seen her like that - at the detention center, right after she had been arrested. For a moment he was tempted to give up his little act and confess that no, that wasn't the case, he had lied and didn't really need to go, but thankfully his good sense reminded him that doing that would have just made things worse. She - and everyone else, for that matter - would have taken that as a stupid out of place joke, at best, and there would have been no way to fix that damage.
"Yeah, a pretty ridiculous coincidence..." He then replied.
"Anyway, it's almost time to go. The train arrives to the station in twenty minutes, even if the station is behind the corner you should start hurrying." Raymond said.
Phoenix checked his watch. "Oh, yes, you're right!"
"In that case, we're not going to hold you back any longer." Misty said.
"T-Thank you." He replied. "One last thing, do you have a flashlight? I need to get my bike from outside."
"Of course, of course." Misty replied. "Let me get it and come to help--"
"Don't worry mom, I'll do it." Mia interrupted her.
"Oh, thank you." Misty answered. "It's in the drawer in the hallway."
"T-Thank you..." Phoenix added, his voice turning out less firm than he would have wanted. "Have a good night and a good sleep, and thanks again for the hospitality, the dinner and everything else."
"You're welcome." She replied. "Have a nice trip, and take care. I hope to see you again soon."
"Me too." He answered, lightly bowing his head. He then turned himself towards Raymond, and added: "'night, and see you on Monday."
"Same to you." The other man answered while rummaging in his pockets. "For the trip, from me." He said while slipping a packet of candies into the plastic bag Phoenix was holding.
"Thank you." Phoenix replied, chocking back the temptation to reply that he wasn't a child. "Don't forget to tell what happened to everyone else. Bye now." He added, waving his hand, before turning around and walking into the hallway, then to the main door.
When he got into the garden Mia was already waiting for him next to his bike, the flashlight switched on to it light up.
"Hey there, sorry for making you wait!" Phoenix said as he searched his pockets for the key of the bike's lock.
"Don't worry, it's nothing." She replied with a chipper voice. The flashlight only let out a small cone of dim light, but he could still guess a smile on her face.
"Heh..." He awkwardly chuckled as he found the key and knelt in front of the bike.
"Anyway, I hope your appointment tomorrow goes well." Mia said.
"Yeah... same here." He replied while unlocking the bike. "Again, sorry for leaving like this, after all the trouble you and your mother went through to let Mr. Edgeworth and everyone else stay for the night..."
"No, you don't have to apologize for it." She answered. "In a way, you leaving makes things a bit easier for us: it's a set of sheets, a pajama and some dishes less to wash tomorrow." She then added in a joking tone.
Phoenix let out a small laugh, then stood up. "When you put it like that, I'm more than happy to go, heh." He then said.
In response, Mia laughed as well. "All jokes aside, be careful on the way back, and don't fall asleep. I hope to see you again soon."
"Well, if things keep on like this, we'll have to meet all together again very soon." He said before letting out a sigh.
"You're right. There's a lot we still need to talk about." She replied.
Her voice had been very casual, but those words did strike a chord with Phoenix. We still need to talk. He mentally thanked the surrounding darkness for hiding whatever facial expression he must have put on in that moment.
"Yes." He then replied.
Mia then pointed the flashlight towards the gates, and accompanied Phoenix.
"So, see you." Mia said.
Mia then opened the gates and let Phoenix out.
Once he was in the street he attached the plastic bag to the handle, then got on his bike and, whistling, started riding it in the direction of the station.
We still need to talk, those words resounded in his mind. As bad as he couldn't help for having told them that lie, even if it was just a little one, it had helped him finding out that he wasn't angry with him - or at least, that she wasn't angry anymore. So yes, there was still room to fix things, thankfully.
Chapter 5: A different motivation (III)
Opening the door of the office and finding out it had been locked with two turns of the key made Phoenix realize it that the place was still empty, and that he had arrived first. Sure, there was also their mail still in the mailbox, but it wasn't that big a clue since it could have meant Raymond had arrived but, as his usual, forgot to take it.
The first thing he did after walking in was going to open the window, to change the air in the room after the weekend. After that he started to sort the mail, and was surprised to find out there was a letter for him, from his old college. He sat down at Raymond's desk to read it, only to tear it in two, ball it up and throw it in the trash when he realized it was only a fund raising request.
As he stood up to go close the window, the door of the office opened. "Oh, morning Mr. Edgeworth!" He said, turning around to greet the man.
On his part, Gregory looked very surprised. "Good morning, Phoenix. What are you doing here, this early?" He asked as he took off his hat and coat and put them on the rack.
In response, he let out an awkward chuckle. "Heh... it this really so weird for you?"
"Well, not really weird, just unusual. Especially on a Monday morning."
Phoenix chuckled again. "I went to bed early last night, and this morning I got up earlier."
"I see..." Gregory commented as he put his bag and a folded newspaper on his desk.
"Something new about the White case?" Phoenix asked, noticing what the other man had just left on his desk.
"A couple of new arrests yesterday." Gregory replied as he walked towards the desk Phoenix was sitting at. "A politician and some tv personality, according to rumors. The article doesn't say anything I haven't already seen on the news, but it's a good summary, so I'll just cut it out and keep the clipping for future reference. If you want to read it, help yourself."
"Later, thank you."
"Anyway, talking about yesterday, did you manage to get any sleep between your trip back and your meeting with your friend?"
After a moment of confusion Phoenix remembered what he was talking about: "Er, y-yes, don't worry." He replied.
"Good." He said, nodding. "And how was your meeting, if I'm not being too nosy?"
"Not bad. Could have been better. But not bad." Phoenix hastily spat out, trying to make up something at the top of his head. In reality he had just spent the whole weekend in his apartment, watching tv and trying to keep his mind away from things - which had worked all too well, since he had even forgotten to come up with a good story for what he had done during those two days. The real reason why the night before he had gone to bed earlier than he usually did was simply that he was bored, and couldn't think of anything else to do. "An old college friend, we went out for a drink and stuff. Turns out he was just trying to hit me up for some fund raising event they're going to have in a few weeks, heh."
"Really?" Gregory replied, sounding and looking slightly annoyed. It would must have had to deal with something similar as well, Phoenix guessed. That made him feel much better, his made up story was plausible.
"Yeah, really... and since it's not like I have any money to give away I had to refuse. But hey, at least we had fun and got a free sandwich and beer out of the deal, heh heh." Phoenix replied, trying to end that conversation on a slightly more upbeat note.
The other man nodded silently before answering: "Well, glad to know that you managed to enjoy yourself."
"If I had known I would have skipped that altogether, and instead stayed in Kurain with you." Phoenix added, instinctively, only to then feel bad about having said that lie - of course he wouldn't have stayed there, too dangerous for him. But he could take that back now. "A-Anyway, how was your Saturday there? Did you enjoy yourself?"
"I relaxed as much as I could, with two teenagers and a child running around the house." Gregory replied while letting out a sigh. At first Phoenix thought it was an annoyed sigh, but then noticed the smile on the man's face. "Because of that we couldn't really manage to have another thorough talk with Ms. Misty, although on the way back Grossberg told me she did try to have a talk with him on about his sister. And was very insistent about it."
"Really? And how?"
"According to what he said, she cornered him while while he was walking around the garden, while me and Raymond were busy helping Maya and Ema with their homework."
"Did he tell you what she wanted to talk about?"
"Basically the same things she had said the day before, while you were there. She tried to convince him that his theory about her sister was ridiculous, and that she couldn't have done anything like what we had said." Gregory explained. "Although she didn't try to start the same argument with me, surprisingly. She could have called me on Sunday, and start that conversation with me on the phone, but she didn't."
"Huh..." Phoenix mumbled, nodding. "And why do you think she didn't talk with you about it?"
"Grossberg didn't go into detail about how she was acting, and considering how tired he was after the trip back I decided not to bother him yesterday. But I can imagine it was a sudden outburst. She was very tense and angry after what we said on Friday, but for the rest of the day she seemed surprisingly calm, like she had completely forgot about it. Maybe she was just nervous."
"Or maybe she's afraid of you."
Gregory widened his eyes, his mouth ajar. "Huh? What does that mean?" He mumbled.
"Heh heh, joking, I was just joking!" Phoenix said, letting out a small laugh at the reaction the man had just had.
After the other had explained himself, Gregory quickly regained his composure. "I see." He replied while fixing the glasses on his nose, and that affected gesture caused Phoenix to start chuckling again. In response Gregory gave the other a sharp glare, which made Phoenix freeze for a moment, then lower his head.
"Sorry." He eventually said. "But my stupid jokes aside yeah, it makes sense. I mean, after that discussion she was all smiles for the rest of the time, I remember that."
Gregory nodded. "From what I could personally see, she seemed as level headed the day after, as well. Then again, there's also the fact Maya, Ema and Pearl were being quite a handful, so she probably just couldn't find the energy or time to start a similar discussion with me. Or maybe it was the stress that made her lash out at Grossberg..."
"Uh-huh..." Phoenix mumbled in agreement. "By the way, how did you find that girl, Ema?"
"Really fun, just way more lively than I could ever manage. Then again, she's quite the fit for someone like Maya, no wonder they get along that well." He answered, smiling again. "Still, it's difficult to imagine her being related to Ms. Skye."
"Mia told me that Ms. Skye used to be the lively type, too." Phoenix said.
Gregory nodded pensively. "By the way, Phoenix, you never told us she spoke with you about Ms. Skye and her years in college." He then said, an inquiring expression on his face. "That's interesting, usually she loathes even mentioning that period."
"Well... we were just doing some small talk after the trial, and that argument popped up..." Phoenix explained. After some moment of hesitation, he also asked: "By the way, she said she had to drop out of college but didn't tell me the reason. Do you know why?"
Gregory shook his head. "No, sadly. Her whole family seems to be very reserved about it as well, including Ms. Morgan and Pearl. Which was a pity, she was really talented and passionate regarding law."
"Really? So she did talk about it with you, too."
"Yes. Back when she was a child, she used to ask me to lend her some of my law books to study."
"What?" Phoenix asked, surprised. He had assumed that what she had told him about having been interested in law ever since she was very young to be some sort of embellishment, but after getting confirmation from Mr. Gregory he could believe that in full.
"And not only that, she asked me and Raymond to tell her about our cases, and wanted to know every single detail, including what chain of reasoning we had followed during certain trials, what had made us consider things from that point of view, what we would have done had things been slightly different... it felt like we were under scrutiny by some disciplinary commission." Gregory explained before letting out a small laugh. "She even asked us to help her pick the best college to go to, and Grossberg had made plans to have her get into his firm when she would have graduated. When we learned she had to stop her studies for personal reasons, it was a shock for all of us as well."
"I can imagine." Phoenix commented. "But I never heard that she was going to work with Grossberg..."
"If she doesn't want to mention it, we figured we wouldn't be bringing that up either." Gregory said, his expression turning serious. Phoenix just nodded in silence. "But since she did talk about it to you, and even went to the point of getting in contact with Ms. Skye to introduce her to you, I guess there's no reason why we should still keep secrets. I have an album of photos from that period, one day I'll bring you here for you to see."
"Thank you! If it's not a hassle for you, I mean..."
"None at all, don't worry." Gregory reassured him with a smile. "Then you can explain us what she told you, or at least what you can tell us."
"Huh... yes, yes, of course!" Phoenix awkwardly replied. Now that he thought about it, what exactly could he tell Mr. Edgeworth? He had assumed that what Mia had told him was a secret between the two of them, but if her and Mr. Edgeworth were on those terms there wasn't the need to hold back, if not for the more personal stuff that regarded Ms. Skye, and that wasn't much.
The two men then looked at each other for a few seconds in complete silence, until Gregory said: "Anyway, was there any mail for me?"
"Huh, er... there were a couple of letters for you. Exactly two. They're on the desk." Phoenix replied after some hesitation, glad that Mr. Edgeworth had managed to get him out of that moment of embarrassment.
Gregory turned his head around towards his own desk. "Oh, thank you." He replied before reaching his corner of the office.
As he looked at his boss calmly opening the first envelope he had received, Phoenix started wondering about whether or not this would have been a good moment for asking him if, during his time with the Feys and Grossberg that weekend, he had learned something more about Dahlia, since he seemed in the mood for talking. He wondered if he should have asked right away, or waited some more time until he was sure Mr. Edgeworth was calm, until his thoughts were interrupted by the door opening.
"Sorry for being late." Raymond announced himself.
"Hi, Ray." Phoenix greeted him. "How are you?"
"Great, thank you." He answered, smiling widely.
"Raymond!" Gregory greeted him, looking surprised for the second time that day. "You could have taken the day off, if you needed."
"And why?" Raymond replied, confused, while taking off his jacket.
"Really? After bringing me and Grossberg home you must be tired and--"
"C'mon boss, that was two days ago!" He replied. "And besides, don't make it sound like I had to carry you both on my back, I just drove the two of you back home. It was more of a pain to keep up with that Ema kid, and trying not to get in the way of her fingerprints powder and luminol."
"Luminol?" Phoenix repeated, confused.
"It's a chemical used to find residual traces of blood after it's been wiped away." Gregory explained.
"She had something like that, too?" Phoenix said, surprised. "She's really into that kind of stuff..."
"She wants to become an investigator, she said." Raymond replied. "She's passionate about it, I'll give her that." Phoenix let out a small laugh.
"Anyway Nick, how did your weekend go?" Raymond then asked. Phoenix quickly told him the same story he had told Mr. Gregory, adding a few more details he had once again made up on the spot and feeling more comfortable and sure about it this time, sure as he was that it was an overall believable lie.
As the two men were doing small talk Gregory's personal cell phone started to ring, and they both fell silent to let the man take his call in peace.
Gregory picked the phone from his pocket and looked at the number, a surprised expression on his face. He looked at Phoenix and Raymond for an instant, then back down at the phone.
He pushed the reply button, put the phone to his ear and answered: "Hello, how are you? Strange to hear you so soon--" He said before interrupting himself, catching the attention of Phoenix and Raymond. "Yes, tell me." He then said. The other two could hear the small noise of a voice speaking quickly from the other side of the line, but couldn't understand a word, nor who the person talking was. The call went on, and Gregory just kept on nodding and mumbling something under his breath, his expression growing more and more serious by the second.
"Really?" Gregory abruptly said, his voice worried. "I'll be there as soon as I can!" He added before lowering the phone and putting it in his pocket.
"What's happening, boss?" Raymond asked as soon as he was sure he could talk.
"I need to go, immediately." Gregory replied as he moved away from his desk. "It's urgent and important."
"Yeah, but what's going on?" Phoenix intervened, only to be completely ignored as Gregory took his coat and hat and rushed out of the office.
The door slammed closed, the two men found themselves staring at each other in confusion and complete silence for a few seconds. A few seconds to snap out of his confusion, and Raymond quickly reached for the door and got out as well.
After a moment of confusion Phoenix picked up the keys to the office and followed suit. When he finally arrived down in the street, his first sight was that of Raymond scratching his head and mumbling some curses to himself.
"What happened?" He asked.
"The boss already left for somewhere. Dammit, I should have run out immediately." Raymond replied.
"And how do you know he's gone?"
"His car was here." He answered, pointing at an empty parking lot in front of them.
"Oh..." Phoenix mumbled before letting out a sigh. He then took his phone from his pocket and tried to call his boss a couple of times, but neither time he picked up.
"Pretty sure he turned off the ringtone." Raymond commented when he saw Phoenix pull his phone away from his ear for the second time.
"Or he's ignoring us." Phoenix replied. "Then again, it looked like something important, so maybe he's just concentrated on driving--"
"That's not a reason not to explain us before leaving!" Raymond protested. "Whatever. Let's get back to the office and hope--"
Before he could finish speaking Phoenix's phone started ringing, taking the both of them by surprise.
"Heh. I was just about to say 'hope he'll call us back', great timing." Raymond joked.
"It's not him." Phoenix replied, checking the name of the caller.
"Huh? Really? Then who is it?"
"The Feys." He calmly answered.
"What?" Raymond widened his eyes in surprise for a moment, before starting to look like he was deep in thought. On his part, Phoenix answered the call before the phone stopped ringing. "Yes, Phoenix here."
"Hello Nick, where are you?" Mia's voice replied, hastily.
"Oh, hey there Mia. How are--"
"You were with Mr. Gregory, weren't you?" She asked, interrupting him.
"And where is he now?"
"No idea. He got a phone call, then run out of the office and took his car, and now he's disappeared. He isn't even answering the phone!"
"You too, huh?" She commented. "I've been trying to call him, but nothing."
"And why?" He asked back, before all of a sudden having a realization.
"I called him before." Mia said, answering Phoenix's question before he could ask it. "Miles has arrived here a few minutes ago--"
"What? At your place?"
"Yes. He said he wanted to talk with my mother, and was very insistent about it. He acted very uptight, but he wasn't rude." She explained. "So mom decided to go along with his request, right now they're in the living room and having a talk. It seems to be a relaxed thing, I'm not hearing them shout or anything."
"That's good." He replied, relieved. "And Maya and Pearl?"
"I had to held them back when they saw him, especially Maya. You know what she thinks of him."
"Yeah... I imagined, that's why I asked." Phoenix said. "So, that's why Mr. Edgeworth rushed there."
"Yes." She answered, then let out a sigh. "I tried to be as cautious and indirect as I could, but he just left before I could even finish explaining him the situation."
"Yeah... anyway, thanks for telling me. Now me and Raymond will try to reach him, and see if we can calm him down a bit."
"Please, try to stop him. Sorry for creating this mess, I didn't mean to upset him--"
"Don't even mention that, it's not your fault. In the meanwhile, try to call him again. If he answers, call me back and tell me."
"Of course. Please be careful, too."
"I will. Take care." Phoenix said before closing the call and looking around, searching for Raymond. However, the man seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
Phoenix was about to call Raymond on his phone to ask him where he was, when he saw the man coming out of the building, wearing his hat and coat, and holding the keys of his car on his hands. "So he's gone to Kurain, huh?" He said as soon as he was close enough to Phoenix.
Phoenix nodded. "Yeah."
"I parked my car behind the corner, follow me." He ordered, walking with quick, long steps. "But what's going on? Is Ms. Misty feeling sick, or--"
"She's okay, don't worry." Phoenix replied, walking next to the other man. "It's not a question of health, nobody fell ill or anything like that."
"Then what happened?"
"You'll never guess..."
* * *
As soon as they had finally reached the Fey mansion, Phoenix and Raymond quickly got out of the car and reached the main gate as quickly as they could. Mia had been waiting for them right in front of it, nervously biting the nail of her thumb. Only when she noticed the car getting closer she straightened up, and without saying a word waved at them a couple of times.
"Mia!" Phoenix called out when he was in front of her. "How are you--"
"Shush!" She said, her finger in front of her mouth. Then, in a low voice, she explained: "Prosecutor Edgeworth, he's still here."
"What?" Raymond asked, in a low voice.
"He's talking with Mr. Gregory now... just come in and don't make too much noise, please!" She spoke hastily, clearly anxious.
"Sounds like things got real serious since you called me..." Phoenix said under his breath, following her past the main gate.
"Not really... things were calm until Mr. Gregory arrived, about ten minutes ago, then they started having an argument." She explained.
"Ouch..." Raymond mumbled. "But... does that mean that Miles and your mother have kept on talking until a few minutes ago?"
"No, not really." Mia replied, quickly. Then, speaking more calmly, she added: "Anyway, I'll explain you later. Now please be quiet, from here they can hear us, so try not--"
"Hah! What nonsense!" Miles' loud voice interrupted her, almost as if on cue. Then, about as suddenly, the screen panel door of the living room opened with a slam, followed by the sound of heavy footsteps.
"Wait, Miles!" Gregory's voice called out. Phoenix almost run in the direction the voice came from, but before he could both Raymond and Mia took a hold of his arms, almost at the same time, and held him back.
Before they could agree on which direction they should have pulled Phoenix towards, Miles had walked around the corner, and the four found themselves right in front of each other.
After a moment of surprise on all parts, the first to start talking was Miles - not with them, however, as he turned around and waited for Gregory and Misty to be right in front of him: "Please tell me again how this has nothing to do with your work, Mr. Edgeworth." He said, contemptuously.
Gregory almost missed that sentence, surprised as he was to see Phoenix and Raymond. "What are you two doing here?" He asked.
"At least spare me--" Miles started to talk before being interrupted by Mia.
"He doesn't know anything about them, I called them here." She said.
"What?" Gregory asked.
"She wanted us to follow you and stop you before you could get here, boss." Raymond calmly explained. "Since you ran away without saying a thing and had no idea what you could have done, you know." He then added in a slightly reproachful tone.
Miles let out a chuckle. "Allow me to reassure you, he hasn't done anything worth mentioning, let alone worrying about, since he arrived here."
"He did manage to tick you off at least twice. I think that would be worth spending a word or two about." Misty commented in an ostensibly sarcastic tone.
In response Miles glared at her, then turned his head away. "Needing the help of your right hand to be able to find a proper reply, you really are a helpless man--"
"If you have something to say, at least say it while looking at that person's face." Misty interrupted him.
Miles finally turned his head to look at her, and gave her a glare. "For once, it would be quite an interesting change if it was Mr. Edgeworth the one who took the word and spoke to defend himself."
"Don't make it sound like I've only been cowering in a corner, Miles." Gregory finally replied, in a severe, matter-of-fact voice. "I did answer to your insinuations, all of them. You, on the other hand, just up and left when I started asking questions."
"I merely reacted the way such a ludicrous question deserved." Miles replied, without looking bothered by Gregory's words.
Seeing those two talking like that, as detached and informal as if they were just acquaintances, made Phoenix feel uncomfortable. But while Mr. Gregory was clearly putting on a front and acting like that, Miles' words come out of his mouth way too naturally.
He shouldn't have been this surprised, he had already seen Miles act like that several times, during the news and twice in person - in courtroom, while defending Mia, and after that trial, while talking with him. And knowing what he thought of his father, he had imagined that his reaction to meeting with Mr. Gregory would have been something like this. And yet, even if he had been expecting and preparing himself for it, seeing it happen in person made him feel uneasy.
Phoenix turned his head around, to look at Raymond and Mia's face and study their reaction, and saw that the two of them glaring at him angrily and clearly trying to hold back. Such a contrast with Misty, who didn't seem too shy in giving Miles another piece of her mind: "Oh, really? I had figured you would be more eloquent than that, and could have answered--"
"Please, Ms. Fey." Gregory interrupted her. "Let me be the one to reply. He is very eager to hear from me, after all."
Miles let out a small laugh. "Do you need her permission every other time you want to say something, Mr. Edgeworth? I had imagined that your accomplice here would have just been that, and instead I find out she's the one pulling the strings after all."
"It's just that it's very difficult to hold back and be quiet when you're acting like an ass." Raymond said.
"Oh, really?" He replied, sneeringly.
Raymond leaped forward and reached out with his left hand and, with a quick gesture, grabbed Miles by his collar, then raised his right fist over his head. Immediately after Gregory had lunged forward, taking a hold of Raymond's wrist and trying to pull him away. "Stop this now, Raymond!" He then yelled.
Realizing he was being restrained, Raymond slowly lowered his right arm, but didn't let go of the younger man. Phoenix couldn't help noticing how, during that whole scene, Miles hadn't flinched or tried to move away. He couldn't tell whether he was impressed, or even more weirded out by just how almost inhuman his lack of reactions had gotten.
"Let go of him, Raymond." Gregory said, firmly. The other man obeyed, without saying a word and with an angry expression on his face.
"But I'm not going to apologize." Raymond commented. "A good punch in the face is the least he deserves. He's had one coming since years."
Before Gregory could say anything, however, Miles had started talking: "I was wrong, it seems. Your inability to act on your own isn't exclusive to Mr. Edgeworth alone, it seems to be a requisite to be part of his circle. Then again, I just can't see people who are able to think with their own head enjoying sticking around him--"
"That's enough, prosecutor Edgeworth." Misty replied, stepping forward until she was right in front of him, only a few inches away. "It's clear you don't have anything else to say, and if offending us is the only thing you're going to do, you can take your leave and go."
"I was about to do that, before walking into these three." He answered. "But then again, you and your cohort were the ones that run after me."
"My cohort, huh?" Misty replied, amused. "It almost feels like a compliment, compared to what you used to call us..."
"I'm holding back because there are children in this house--" Miles tried to say, but before he could finish that sentence his voice was covered by another, much louder.
"He did what?" Maya shouted, and her voice was immediately followed by the slam of a sliding door and some heavy footsteps.
"Mystic Maya, please wait!" Pearl shouted while Mia turned around and headed in the direction of her sister's voice.
Before she could go any further, however, Maya had reached them, stepping forward with quick, long steps and an angry look on her face. Behind her there was Pearl, who was trying to hold her back by grabbing onto her outfit, but instead was being dragged along by the older girl. Hadn't the situation been different, Phoenix would have let out a laugh at that scene.
"You said what to my mother?" Maya repeated again before Mia reached her and took a hold of her arms.
"Maya, please..." Misty said, stepping past Miles and walking in front of her daughter.
"No, I want to know! What did this ass call you?"
"Maya, calm down." Mia added in a calm tone, tightening her grip at the same time.
"Not what you might think, don't worry." Miles answered. "I'm not the kind of person who would resort to making that kind of insinuations--"
"Oh, really?" Maya interrupted him. "Isn't that your job, making insinuations about people?"
"Maya, that's enough now." Gregory said, stepping towards her.
After silently glaring at Miles for another while, Maya then turned her head around, sneering. "You're being too nice with him, Mr. Gregory. Someone like him doesn't deserve it." She then said, without looking at them in the face.
"Is this something you decided for yourself, or was your mother who told you to say that?" Miles replied.
"That's enough from you too, Miles." Gregory added, heading towards him and putting his hands on his chest to push him away.
"Anyone with half a brain and some human decency would say that, you arrogant shit!" Maya shouted, her voice covering the last few words Gregory was saying.
"Maya!" Misty yelled.
"That's true, mom!" Maya replied in a firm voice. "I seriously can't understand why Mr. Gregory still sticks up for him, after the way he's treated him all these years--"
"Maya, enough!" Gregory yelled, turning his head towards her with a quick movement.
After giving Miles another glare, Maya lowered her head. "Sorry. But only for you, Mr. Gregory, not for him."
"Fair enough." Miles answered, shrugging. "Well, with this I suppose there's nothing else we can talk about."
"I still want to talk with you, Miles." Gregory replied.
Miles glanced at him, blandly, as he took his father's wrist and pulled his hand away. "If you really wanted to, you'd be giving me some actual answers, instead of twisting the facts around."
"He's been giving you his version, prosecutor Edgeworth." Misty intervened. "You could at the very least do him the favor of listening to what he has to say."
"I've already heard those stories more times than I care to count. I'd rather not waste any more of my time." He replied.
"If that's really all you have to say, then please leave. For good." Misty said, severely.
"I would have done that already, hadn't I been stopped by the people you called here." Miles answered.
"She didn't call anyone, it was only my fault for--" Mia said.
"Whatever." He cut her short as he walked past her. "So long."
"Yes, leave! And never--" Maya started to protest, before being silenced by Mia putting a hand on her mouth. As soon as he had turned the corner, Raymond walked towards Gregory and put his hands on the older man's shoulders, while Phoenix reached Misty. Her face was drained of all color, looking like the fatigue had gotten to her all of a sudden.
"Are you alright, Ms. Fey?" He asked.
She nodded. "Just a bit nervous, it will pass."
As she spoke, Mia let go of Maya and reached her mother as well, and held her in a hug. The younger girl followed suit.
"Sorry about him, again." Gregory then said.
"You don't have to apologize, Mr. Gregory." Misty answered, smiling tiredly.
"I hope he didn't act this rudely before I arrived."
"No, don't worry about--" Misty tried to reply before being interrupted by a scream coming from outside.
Hearing it, Phoenix couldn't help jump up in surprise. That voice was Miles', no room for mistake. But how could it be...
"That serves you right!" Pearl's voice then followed, without giving him time to finish his reasoning on his own. Before he could finish putting all the pieces back together, Gregory and Raymond had already started to run in the direction the voices were coming from.
When he finally snapped out of his stupor Phoenix followed them as well, and reached them into the garden. The scene that presented itself in front of his eyes left him confused, since while he had expected something like that, he also couldn't believe what he was actually seeing: Miles was sitting up on the ground, his hand on his left cheek and Gregory kneeling at his side, while Pearl stood in front of him clenching her fists, held back by Raymond.
"Let go of me, Mr. Ray! I need to--"
Gregory moved Miles' hand away from his face, and gave a strange look. He then turned towards Pearl, a baffled expression on his face.
"What's going on?" Mia asked as soon as she arrived, followed by her mother and her sister.
"I punched him!" Pearl replied, boastful.
"What?" Maya yelled in disbelief.
"He deserved it! He can't treat Mystic Misty and Mystic Maya like that and get away with it!"
"Y-You're joking, Pearly..."
"She isn't." Miles replied before letting out a lament.
At that reply, everyone but Miles and Pearl seemed to have frozen in their places. It took Phoenix what felt like a small eternity to finally move and walk next to Gregory.
The man had put Miles' arm around his shoulders and was trying to pull him up on his feet, but due to the fact that the other still seemed confused and in shock he wasn't helping back, which made things much more difficult. It was only when Phoenix moved closer with the clear intention to help that he finally snapped out of his stupor.
"I can stand up on my own." He said before shrugging the other two off and getting up on his feet. Despite that, the expression on his face still looked confused, almost lost.
"Let me see that, Miles." Gregory then said while taking the his face between his hands, only to have Miles step backwards, wincing visibly.
"Maya, go get the ice bag." Misty calmly instructed.
"Y-Yes..." The girl replied, hesitantly, before turning around and going back into the house.
"I don't need that." Miles answered sounding absent, almost distracted.
"You really need to put something on that, Miles." Raymond replied.
Phoenix nodded. "Seriously..."
"Don't make me laugh. It's a slap from a small child, it can't be that bad." Miles answered, and his voice had turned back into his usual dull monotone.
"Are you sure you're really alright, Miles?" Gregory asked, gently putting his right hand on the other's nape. "Did you hit your head falling down?"
He shook his head. "I just... lost my balance, in surprise." He explained while slowly moving his hand on his left cheek, and hissing in pain when he touched it.
"I really hope it leaves a mark, you--"
"Pearl!" Misty shouted.
"After what he said to you and Mystic Maya--"
"It's still not a good reason to act like you did, and hit someone." The older woman said while walking towards Pearl. When the two were in front of each other, Misty took a hold of her by her wrist, and Raymond let go of her. "If you need to make your son sit down a moment, Mr. Edgeworth, feel free to take him inside." Misty then added, while glaring down at Pearl.
"I'm alright, I'm telling you." Miles insisted.
"Ten minutes, just to put something on your face." Gregory replied, firmly, while taking a hold of his arm.
From the way the other didn't say a word or make any resistance as his father pulled him along, it was clear that Miles did agree that he needed to calm down a few minutes, but of course he would have never admitted it out loud. Only after seeing the two had walked back in that and Raymond was following them, Phoenix finally decided to go inside as well.
He walked inside the house and followed the noise of voices to the living room, where he found Gregory helping Miles to sit down on the couch, while Raymond was standing in front of them. He walked inside the room followed by Maya, who was holding an ice bag.
"Here I am, sorry for making you wait." She announced herself herself as she reached the couch. Once there she passed the ice bag to Miles, who took it without saying a word and put it against his face, wincing as he did so.
"Are you really sure she only slapped you?" Raymond inquired.
"What? No! Of course she only did that!" Maya protested. "Pearly isn't that violent!"
Miles chuckled. "And do you really think a child like her would be able to throw me to the ground, or anything like that?"
Raymond turned his head towards Maya, then at Miles. "Well, she messed you up pretty bad..."
Miles gave him a glare. "I was simply taken by surprise seeing her trying to jump towards me, so I slipped on the pebbles in the courtyard and fell to the ground. It was my own fault, nothing else." He then explained, trying to sound as detached and nonchalant as possible, but letting a hint of annoyance slip in his voice.
"Okay, okay! Whatever you say." Raymond replied in a joking tone, raising his hands before shoving them in his pockets.
"Regardless, it's a pretty ugly hit you took. It's going to leave a bruise." Gregory pointed out, trying to take a hold of Miles' wrist only to have his hand swatted away.
"I'm well aware of that." Miles then answered, coldly.
"You could at least try to pretend to be nice to your father for five minutes, after everything he's doing to help you!" Maya replied. Phoenix was about to say something similar as well, but she had managed not only to beat him to the punch, but also to say it in more direct, clearer words than the ones he would have used.
Before Miles could reply something, however, Misty, Mia and Pearl had walked inside the living room as well, calling their attention. When she was sure everyone was looking at them, Misty started to talk: "So, Pearl--"
"I'm not going to apologize." Pearl interrupted her, speaking calmly.
"Pearl!" Misty scolded the child.
"I'm not, it's final!" Pearl said angrily. "Not before he apologizes to you and Mystic Maya for what he said and did! Yes, I might have exaggerated, but he started it!"
"That doesn't mean you can hit people just because they are rude." Misty replied, severely.
"That doesn't mean he can be rude and act like he did!" Pearl shouted.
"I'm sorry." Miles cut into the conversation, causing everyone to turn their heads towards him.
After a brief pause, to let what he had just said fully sink in, he went on. "I'm sorry for about anything I've done that might have offended you in any capacity, both intentionally and unintentionally. I should have at least given you some warning, rather than just storming in this morning. Some of my replies were deeply immature, I recognize it, and I shouldn't have replied to Ms. Maya's outburst before." He spoke in a calm, polite tone. "That said, however, you have to recognize that me and Ms. Misty were having a peaceful discussion up until the moment Mr. Edgeworth arrived."
Pearl looked utterly baffled, as did anyone else in the room. It took her a few moments to be able to reply something: "Still, you have been incredibly rude to them. I'm sorry for hitting you, but don't you dare talk like that to them again." She said in a firm voice.
"I won't, definitely not with any of your relatives." Miles answered in a similar tone.
Seeing the two of them, an eight years old child and a grown adult, talking in such a serious, formal tone, all while looking at each other and behaving as if they were peers, was simply surreal, Phoenix thought. And judging from the looks on the other's faces, he definitely wasn't the only one feeling that way.
"I see." Pearl then said, nodding. "Now please excuse me." She added before turning around and walking out of the room, quickly followed by Misty.
After she was gone and some more stunned silence, Raymond was the first to talk: "Are you really sure you didn't hit your head too, Miles?" At that question Gregory launched a glare at Raymond, which the other man didn't even seem to notice.
"I only did that because I wanted her to apologize." Miles eventually replied, seemingly not noticing his father's reaction.
"Oh, really?" Mia asked in a sarcastic tone, raising an eyebrow.
"I simply don't want that child to grow up thinking that going around hitting people is the right thing to do." He calmly added, keeping composed.
"How noble of you." She replied, crossing her arms on her chest and defiantly staring at him.
Phoenix took a few steps in her direction and reached out with his hand; he would have wanted to put a hand on her shoulder and tell her not to get angry, since from his tone it sounded like Miles was being sincere, he was just as brash and inappropriate in his tone as his usual. But before he could actually make physical contact he realized that she probably wasn't going to listen to him, not after a morning as tense as the one they had just had to deal with because of Miles. He decided to hold back, and just stand a few steps away from there, ready to intervene only in case things got out of hand.
It looked like Miles was about to reply something, but before he could say anything the noise of a small explosion could be heard from outside the walls of the mansion. They barely had any time to recover from the surprise, and a foul smell like that of burned plastic had started to spread through the open sliding door that gave onto the garden.
Without saying a word, Mia quickly run out of the living room.
"What's going on?" Misty asked out loud, the noise of her and Pearl's footsteps sounding clearer and louder as she was walking towards the living room. "Maya, stay inside! Pearl, you too!" She commanded from the doorstep.
"I'll look after them." Gregory said as he moved to close the wooden panels outside that gave on the garden and the windows of that room. After making sure that two girls had walked to a room on the other side of the house, Misty quickly reached the door.
Once made sure that everyone else was safe, Phoenix hurried out of the room and into the corridor, then out in the garden. After a moment of shock because of the smell he heard footsteps behind himself, so turned his head back to see that it was Raymond and Miles. He then turned his head right in front of himself and kept on walking briskly.
Once they were outside the gate, the smell turned even stronger and more pungent, and he could clearly see a column of black smoke raising up in the sky from behind the wall that surrounded the mansion. Misty quickly reached the gate that let outside and opened it.
"Dammit, not again!" A familiar voice came from behind the gate, causing everyone to stop in their steps. Phoenix looked at the other people around, and saw they all seemed either confused or surprised. All of them except for Miles, who instead looked like he was about to blow a gasket.
Taking long, heavy steps, Miles reached for the gate and, walking past Misty, he got out in the street. "Gumshoe..." He then said in a voice that sounded more like a low growl. Hearing him, everyone quickly hurried outside the gate as well.
When they were outside, the scene they saw was that of the detective standing next to a car from which were coming all the smoke and awful smell. In front of him there was Miles, angrily glaring at him. "Oh, hey sir-- woah, what happened to you?"
"What are you doing here?" Miles asked.
"Why are you holding that ice bag on your face?" Dick insisted.
"What are you--"
"My question first! What happened to you? Did someone hurt you, or--"
"If the two of you are going to have a discussion, could you please do so away from this terrible stench?" Misty intervened, speaking loudly to compensate for the fact that her mouth was muffled by her sleeve, as she was trying to cover it and her nose.
"Yes." Mia nodded. "That way, we can also call help and have this... this car taken away."
"Er... yeah, sorry." Dick replied, scratching the back of his neck.
"Good." Misty said, nodding slightly, before turning around and walking back in, quietly followed by everyone else.
Once inside the house and closed the door behind themselves, Maya and Pearl got out of the room they were hiding in, followed by Gregory. "What happened? And why is that guy here?" The older girl asked.
"Yes. Why are you here?" Miles asked, severely.
"Erm... good morning, miss." Dick awkwardly greeted her, waving his hand. "I'm here for Mr. Edgeworth-- er, prosecutor Edgeworth, I meant. I'm here to take him back home--"
"You what?" Miles interrupted him, annoyed.
"I was sent here by someone to get you, and if I don't come back with you we're both going to be in serious trouble. I can't tell you anything else." Dick explained. "But now you have to explain me why you have that ice bag on your face. Do you have a toothache?"
Rolling his eyes, Miles replied: "No."
"It's because I hit him. I'm sorry about that." Pearl intervened, looking down to the floor.
Gumshoe turned her eyes towards her, baffled. Then, without saying a word, looked back up at Edgeworth.
"Yes, she did. However, I hurt myself falling down on the ground, she has nothing to do with it."
"You don't have to defend me, I'm--"
"Let's stop talking about this." Miles interrupted her. Then, looking at Gumshoe, he added: "That obviously applies to you too."
"Obviously..." Dick repeated. Despite the atmosphere still being very tense, Phoenix couldn't help a chuckle at that scene.
"Anyway, detective, can we offer you something?" Misty asked.
"We have no time to waste. We need to go, immediately." Miles intervened, sounding nervous. In response Misty threw him a glare. He didn't even flinch, but Gumshoe and Phoenix, who where close enough to see her, looked visibly scared by her.
"And what kind of power do you have to give him orders now--" Raymond started to say, before being silenced by a Gregory lightly hitting him in his side with an elbow.
"You need to wait for a mechanic to come and fix Mr. Gumshoe's car, or at least to take it away from here." Mia added.
"Yeah!" Dick answered, nodding.
Miles stood silent for a few seconds, then let out an annoyed 'tsk'. "I suppose that can't be helped. But not a minute more." He then said, looking away.
Misty gave him a look and shrugged, then turned back at Gumshoe. "As I was saying, could I offer you something?"
"Yeah, thank you!" He replied, enthusiastically. Then, in calmer tone of voice, he added: "Er... after a trip this long, I really need something to drink."
"Some coffee, maybe?" She inquired.
"Well then. Maya, please go prepare some coffee for Mr. Gumshoe. I'll go call someone for the car."
"Immediately, mom!" Maya replied, enthusiastically.
"And I'll go help!" Pearl added while following the older girl, headed towards the kitchen.
"Mia, please show Mr. Gumshoe the living room, if the smell has finally let up. We'll join you immediately." Misty then added with a smile.
"Of course." She answered, nodding, before turning around and leading Gumshoe towards the room. She waited for the men to walk in, then followed them.
When Dick had made himself comfortable on the couch, Mia started talking: "It's been a while since we last saw each other."
It took a few moments for Dick to realize that she was talking to him. "Y-Yeah. And both times it involved my car, heh." He eventually replied, awkwardly scratching the back of his neck.
"It's a pity it broke down like that." Mia commented.
Dick nodded. "Then again, I'm lucky it kept it together until I got here. It would have been a pain if the car broke halfway through and I had to walk all that mountain road..." He said, grimacing as he spoke the last few words.
"I can imagine..." She replied.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Phoenix couldn't help giving them a look and smile despite being deeply worried. It was really nice to see at least them enjoying themselves. He turned his eyes next to himself, to see that the other three men were still looking at each other silently and angrily.
Had it been for him, Phoenix would have just walked to the couch and joined in the conversation between Mia and Gumshoe, but a part of him was afraid that if he left the others alone, things could have spiralled out of control, and quickly.
"Anyway, how did things go for you since last time?" Mia then asked.
Dick hesitated a moment, nervously looking around the room. "Let's say they could have gone better..." He eventually replied.
"Oh? And what happened, if I can ask?"
"There were some changes at work, heh. It's a long, long story..."
"I see." She replied, nodding.
"I'm sure she's been told about it, Gumshoe. There's no need to be so vague." Miles intervened.
"What?" Dick blurted out, confused.
"Why would we have told her about what happened with detective Gumshoe, Miles?" Gregory asked.
"Do you even need to ask?" Miles said.
"Yes, because I have no idea where you're coming from."
In response, Miles shrugged. "Really, now."
"Yes, really." Mia answered. "Even this morning, you were polite, sure, but still spoke in half sentences and insinuations... you were really irritating, even more than usual."
Miles glared at her, but didn't say a word.
"I think that it's about time you and your father sat down and had a talk about this." She added. "You know, the same way you did with my mother, this morning."
"The talk I had with your mother was about something completely unrelated to our personal issues." Miles replied, dryly.
"I never said it did. I was just giving you a suggestion." Mia answered.
"Well, in that case--" Miles started to talk, only to interrupt himself when Misty walked into the room.
"A tow truck is on the way. It should be here in five minutes." She announced, almost formally.
"Woah, already?" Dick replied.
Misty nodded. "People working at the train station had already noticed the smoke, come here to see what the problem was, and had already called someone."
"There's a mechanic in the village right before this, that's where they come from." Mia explained. "If you decide to have it brought there for repairs I'll put a good word for you with the owner. He's a family friend, he'll make you a discount."
"Oh... thank you..." He mumbled, blushing slightly. "Sorry for the mess, then..."
"There's no need to apologize." Misty said with a smile. "You were just doing your job after all."
"Yeah... sort of..." Dick replied, awkwardly. Before he could add anything, Maya and Pearl walked into the room as well, carrying a jug of coffee, a mug and a dish with some cookies.
"Here we are!" Maya said as she gave Gumshoe the mug, then poured him some coffee.
"Oh, t-thank you." He answered before bringing the cup to his lips and taking a sip.
"Sugar?" She then asked, while Pearl passed the man the dish with the cookies.
"Er... no, it's okay." Dick said while taking a cookie from Pearl and giving her a smile. "Thanks again." He added, looking first at the two girls and then at Misty.
"Don't even mention it." The older woman replied.
Seeing that scene, Miles rolled his eyes. "Talking about which..." He then said while walking closer to the couch, to give the ice bag to Maya. "Thank you."
In response the girl took the ice bag, an annoyed expression on her face, and, without saying a word, turned around and walked out of the living room.
When she was gone, Dick looked up at Miles and noticed the bruise on his face. "Woah, sir!" He said, standing up to look at it directly. "It was really that kid that did this?"
"Yes, but--" Pearl tried to speak.
"I fell to the ground, I already told you." Miles interrupted her.
"You sure?" Gumshoe said, looking at the bruise and grimacing.
"I'm positive." The other man replied quickly, almost harshly.
"We have some pomade, if you need..." Misty offered.
"There's no need, the ice was more than enough." Miles said. "And besides, the tow truck should be here in a few minutes, and I'd like to leave as soon as possible."
"Putting something on your face would take only a minute, you know." Phoenix pointed out.
"Exactly." Mia added.
Miles didn't reply, just turned them his back and headed towards the door. "I'll be waiting in my car, detective. As soon as you'll be done with everything join me, and I'll drive back home." Then, without waiting for an answer, he walked outside.
Mia stood up from her seat and took a couple steps towards the door, but was stopped by Gregory's voice: "If you want to finish that conversation you were having a couple of minutes ago, you can save your breath. He's not going to listen to you."
She turned around, to look at the man, and let out a sigh. "I know." She then said, resigned, while crossing her arms on her chest.
"I'll try to talk to him on the way back home." Dick said, meekly. "I don't think I will make a difference, especially not now, but maybe starting to pester him will be a start, heh..." He then added, jokingly.
Gregory smiled faintly. "Thanks for the thought, but I feel you're just going to waste time, too."
"I got a lot of that, don't worry!" Dick replied, smiling.
"You have free time while working with von Karma? Really?" Raymond intervened.
"What?" Mia loudly said, jumping up and turning her head towards Gumshoe. "You're working with that guy now?" Her face looked shocked.
Gumshoe shook his head. "N-No, not with him, with his daughter."
Hearing that, Misty turned her head towards Gumshoe, surprised. Mia's expression too turned even more baffled than it already was. "He has a daughter?" She asked.
"Yep." Raymond answered, nodding.
Mia lowered her sight for a moment, then looked back up. "Does she look like him?"
"If by that you mean that she's scary, yeah. One hundred percent. She acts like him, too." Dick replied.
She took a deep breath. "Condolences." She said in a serious tone.
"Thank you." He answered, raising his mug with a gesture like he was making a toast before drinking some more. Both Phoenix and Misty let out a chuckle at that scene.
"But still, how do you even manage to have free time?" Raymond then asked.
"Well, the thing is, she's so obsessed with doing things perfectly and her own way, she basically does everything herself, except for the handiwork." Dick explained. "Then when she's done I have to double check everything, just in case she didn't think of hiding some evidence, or decided to discard it because she thought it wouldn't be relevant."
Phoenix listened carefully and raised an eyebrow. "Sounds to me like you have to do the same, if not more work than you'd usually do..."
Raymond too nodded silently, and the look on Gregory and Mia's face seemed to say the same. Seeing their reaction, Dick seemed to have realized something himself. "Oh..." He mumbled before drinking some more coffee.
"Do you want some more coffee, Mr. Detective?" Pearl then asked.
"No, thank you." He replied with a wide smile. "I'm going to be nervous enough for the rest of the day, I'm afraid." He then added in a small voice.
"Some more cookies or other snacks?" The kid offered.
Gumshoe shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine." He replied, passing her the empty mug and dish.
"Are you really sure?" Misty asked.
He nodded. "Yeah, don't worry. You've already been incredibly nice, really, especially after all the mess I made with my car... and all the mess Mr. Edgeworth must have done."
"Don't worry. He wasn't too rude, just very brash." She answered.
"So he was being his professional self, basically." He replied before letting out a small laugh.
"That's... a very accurate description, actually." Misty said.
She had finished talking that Maya peeked into the room and started talking: "Mom, Mr. Gumshoe, the tow truck has arrived."
"Oh, really? Time flies, really." Misty replied, walking out of the living room.
"Well, if that's the case, I guess it's time for me to go." Gumshoe then said, standing up from the couch. "Thanks again for everything, and once again sorry."
"Don't even mention it." Mia replied.
"Yes, Mr. Detective. I hope you enjoyed your time here." Pearl added.
"Absolutely!" He replied, enthusiastically. Then, turning towards the other three men, he added: "Anyway, same goes for the three of you. Take care, and I'll call as soon as I have some time."
"Sure. That way we can go have dinner together somewhere." Raymond replied.
"Thank you." Gregory said. "Take care during the trip back home, and see you."
"Y-Yes, same from me. See you." Phoenix added.
"Alright. Bye!" Dick said, waving his hand and walking out of the living room, following Misty, Mia and Pearl.
Once the other four were out of the room, Maya walked into the living room. "You're not going out to say something to your son before he leaves, Mr. Gregory?"
The man shrugged. "We already talked enough, and we didn't go anywhere. And I don't feel like starting another argument right away."
"Same here." Raymond replied. "Sorry for what I'm about to say, boss, but I'm tempted to give Pearl a candy or some chocolate for what she did. I'm not doing it only because I don't want her to grow up thinking it's okay to hit people."
"Don't worry, Raymond." Gregory replied.
Maya crossed her arms behind her head and added: "Yeah, I know that feeling. That's why I tried to stay in the kitchen as much as I could."
"Yes..." Phoenix mumbled, scratching the back of his head. He gave a look around the room, lost in his thoughts.
"Do you want something to drink, Mr. Edgeworth? We still have some coffee left." He then heard Maya saying.
"Just some water, thank you." He replied.
"I'll have the coffee, if you don't mind." Raymond said.
"And you, Nick?"
"The same thing he took, please." He answered, absentmindedly.
"Okay. Wait a moment, I'll be right back." She said before walking out of the living room.
When she was gone, Phoenix gathered his courage and walked towards the couch, taking small steps. "How are you feeling, Mr. Edgeworth?" He asked.
"I've been better." Gregory replied before heaving a sigh. He then took off his glasses and, resting his elbows on his knees, massaged the bridge of his nose.
"Are you really sure you don't want to go and say something to Miles before he leaves?" Raymond asked.
"Positive." He answered while leaning against the back of the couch, looking tired.
As he was thinking about something to reply, Phoenix noticed the noise of some faint footsteps. He looked in their direction, and saw Maya walking in while carrying a tray and trying to make as little noise as she could.
"Is everything alright?" She then asked, realizing she had eyes on her.
"Yes, don't worry." Gregory answered, putting his glasses back on and smiling to her. "It's just that I'm a bit tired, and they were worried about me."
"...I imagine, after what happened today." Maya replied, reaching the couch and passing him a glass of water. Then, after calmly giving the coffee mugs to Phoenix and Raymond, she straightened her back and went on: "I'm sorry for what I'm about to say too, Mr. Edgeworth, but you're really too good for someone like him. That ingrate doesn't deserve having a father like you."
After drinking some water and raising his head to look at her face, Gregory answered in a calm but firm voice: "Don't say that ever again, please."
Maya lowered her head. "I know, but... he doesn't deserve someone like you." She replied, her voice suddenly thick. "I... I wish I felt more sorry... for what I just said, really. It's just... I know how it must feel, hearing people talk shit about your son, but..."
Without saying a word, Gregory passed his glass to Phoenix and stood up. He then walked next to her and put his hands on her shoulders. "I understand, don't worry. I'm not angry." He finished talking and gave her a hug, patting her back and letting her go immediately after.
"Sorry again." She said, her voice shaky, without raising her head. Then, silently, she passed the tray she was still holding to Gregory and, taking quick steps, walked out of the living room. A few seconds later, the noise of the bathroom door opening and of the water running into the sink could be clearly heard.
Raymond and Phoenix gave each other a look, put the glasses and mugs they were holding on the small table in front of the couch and stood up. Then, walking slowly to avoid making noise, headed for the door, only to be stopped in their steps by Gregory standing in front of them.
"Leave her alone for now." He said, under his breath.
"Did you see her?" Raymond replied in the same tone.
"Precisely. Give her a minute." Gregory answered.
"But--" He was about to finish his sentence, when he heard the noise the door of the bathroom opening. Instinctively he and the other two men turned his head in that direction, to see Maya walk out of there, a decidedly more relaxed expression on her face. "Is there any problem?" She asked in a calm tone.
"Is everything alright?" Raymond asked.
"Yes. I just got angry a moment, sorry again for that." Maya answered, smiling.
"Angry? Are you sure--" Phoenix tried to say, only to be stopped by a elbow in his side, courtesy of Gregory.
"Yes Nick, angry." She replied, speaking in the same tone one would have used to repeat something to someone who hadn't listened carefully the first time around. "I just needed to cool down a moment, so that's what I did. Just washed my face, it helped." She went on in a more chipper tone.
After a moment to put all the pieces back together, Phoenix realized what the issue could have been, and why she had gotten angry and upset - and most important, why she wouldn't have admitted it. "Er... yeah, of course!" He then replied, embarrassed, feeling like an idiot for not having understood that earlier. "S-so you're feeling less nervous, now?"
She nodded. "Yes. Sorry for making you worry, all three of you. It was just a moment, nothing to be concerned about, I promise. No need to make a fuss about it, especially with mom and sis." She smiled again.
"It's alright, no problem." Raymond answered, returning the smile.
"Good." She said. After that, she walked towards Gregory and took the tray from his hands. "Thanks for holding this for me." She added before turning around and going back to the kitchen.
She had just left that the door of the house openened, and Misty, Mia and Pearl walked in.
"Oh, here you are." Maya greeted them, walking back into the hallway. "Are they gone?"
"Yes. The mechanic took away the car, and said he will give it a careful check as soon as they're at the workshop." Misty explained.
"I have the feeling it's going to take a while..." Raymond commented.
Pearl nodded. "I heard the mechanic saying he has no idea where to even start, but he will try." She said.
"Oh..." Gregory mumbled. "Poor Gumshoe, that's going to be expensive..."
"I'm afraid so." Mia commented.
After a moment of almost respectful silence, Misty started speaking again. "Anyway, the fact prosecutor Edgeworth is gone now means we can finally relax." She said, a note of relief in her voice.
"Indeed." Maya added. "Can I bring you something, mom?"
After checking the time on the watch hanging on the wall in front of herself, Misty replied: "No, thank you. It's almost lunchtime, I don't want to spoil my appetite."
Hearing her, Phoenix turned his head towards the watch and looked at it too: "Damn, it's late!" He couldn't help commenting out loud.
"Yes, you're right." Raymond said. "Then again, a lot happened this morning..."
"Indeed." Gregory replied, massaging the back of his neck. "I suppose we'll have to go now, we've intruded long enough."
"You can stay here and relax some more, don't worry." Mia answered. "Like you said, a lot happened this morning, we all deserve to sit down and rest. Especially you."
"And don't worry about intruding." Misty intervened. "In fact, if you'd like to stop by for lunch..."
"Yes!" Pearl commented, jumping up. "The more, the merrier!"
Maya turned her head to look at her and smiled: "You really enjoyed this weekend, didn't you?" In response, the child nodded with an emphatic movement of her head.
"Yes, but we can't force them to stay here if they have to go." Mia said.
"We don't really have to, it's just that I don't want to abuse your kindness." Gregory explained. "Still, what do you think, you two?" He then asked, looking at Raymond and Phoenix.
After thinking about it for a bit, Phoenix replied: "Well, if they have no problem with it... I'm kind of starting to get hungry, heh..."
"Same here." Raymond added.
Gregory looked at them for a moment, silently. His expression turned serious all of a sudden, which gave Phoenix the impression they had accidentally said the wrong thing, and Mr. Edgeworth wasn't pleased.
To try and defuse the situation he was about to say that in reality he wasn't really that hungry, and would have been fine with a sandwich on the way home, but before he could speak out Gregory replied: "If that's the case, we'll stay. But just for lunch." He said, calmly, his expression suddenly more relaxed.
"Wonderful!" Pearl said, cheerfully.
"Alright then!" Maya replied. "I'll go lay the table for all of us."
"I'll help!" The child offered, walking to the kitchen.
"And I'll go check what we have left. We have a lot of vegetables and eggs, I hope you don't mind." Mia added. "Mom, you can go sit down for the moment."
"Thank you very much. I really need it, today." She replied, rubbing a hand on her face.
"And how about us? Can we help in any way?" Raymond asked.
"Just take a seat in the living room and don't worry." Mia said with a wide smile, before turning them her back and walking into the kitchen.
"Okay then." Raymond said, stretching his arms and heading for the living room. As the other walked inside, Phoenix decided to follow him. He turned around towards Misty and Gregory, to ask them what they were going to do, and for a moment he saw the same strange expression, a scarily dead serious look on their faces, as they glared at each other.
At that scene, Phoenix froze for a moment, and reacted only when he finally noticed Gregory looking at him.
"Phoenix? Is there a problem?" The man asked.
"Huh? N-No, I'm okay." He replied.
"Are you sure? You have a strange expression on your face..." Misty said.
"Oh, really? I didn't even realize that, heh..." Phoenix answered. "I must really be tired, too."
"You should go sit down and rest, then." Gregory replied.
He nodded and heaved out a sigh. "Yes, you're right."
"Would you prefer to follow me to the garden on the other other side of the house, so you can take a breath of fresh air? There's no bad smell lingering there, I can assure you." Misty asked as she walked next to him and, with a gesture, invited him to follow her. Phoenix looked at her smiling face, nodded and followed her.
As the two walked towards the main door, side to side, he give another look at her and saw the familiar calm and dignified expression the woman normally had on her face. He thought again about the stern expression he had seen on her and Mr. Edgeworth's faces just a few seconds before, and couldn't help thinking just how weirder it felt, seeing it on her.
Or maybe he was really as tired as he had said, and had actually just imagined it.
* * *
Since the moment they had gotten back into the car after leaving the workshop, Gumshoe hadn't said a word. He just looked out of the window with the melancholic, almost gloomy expression that he had first put on when the mechanic had told him about how much work he would have had to do on his car.
Seeing him like that Miles had decided to keep quiet and don't say a thing, in part because he sincerely didn't feel like twisting the knife any further, and in part because it was already going to be a long enough trip as it was, and wanted it to be as calm and without annoyances as possible.
It was only after about twenty minutes of travelling that Dick had finally done something and, after turning his head away from the window, picked his phone out of his pocket to start writing a message. Noticing that, Miles kept on giving him a look every few seconds, at the same time amused and annoyed by how long it was taking him.
"Do you want to make sure there are no errors in that message, or are you writing a report on your phone?" Miles asked, breaking the silence.
Gumshoe was so surprised by how sudden that was, he almost dropped the phone. "Erm... the first one you said, sir!" He replied.
"Did you warn Franziska about the reason why we're going to be late, too?"
"N-no." He answered while he kept on typing.
"No? Has your relationship with her already somehow improved to the point you don't have to explain yourself anymore?" He said, using again the sarcastic tone he had started the conversation with.
"No. I mean, no it didn't get better, and no, I didn't warn Ms. von Karma. B-Because I wasn't writing to her, it's what I wanted to say."
Miles turned his head towards him, surprised. "Then who were you writing to?"
Miles widened his eyes. "Chief Prosecutor Skye?"
"Who else? And please don't get distracted and look at the street, sir."
After a moment of surprise, he turned his sight back ahead, and tried to concentrate back on driving. "It's a straight road for another ten minutes at least, I hope you remember." He said, ostentating firmness. "Why would you have the Chief Prosecutor's number?"
"She gave it to me." He calmly replied.
"She's the one who told me to come here and pick you up."
"What?" Miles loudly said, turning his head towards Gumshoe once more.
"Look at the street, I told you!" Dick scolded him again. "Anyway, what have you done to her?"
"Me?" Miles asked back.
"Yeah... I mean, she called me and told me to come here and get you... you must have done something to her, if she's--"
"She told you expressly to come to Kurain?"
"Yes." Gumshoe replied. "How did she know that you were--"
"That's what I want to know!" Miles loudly spat out, almost shouting. He then switched on the turn signals and swerved.
"W-Wait sir, what are you--"
"What does it look I'm doing, Gumshoe?" The other replied while he stopped the car to the side of the road.
With a quick, rough gesture, Miles took the phone from Gumshoe's hand and looked at the number to which he had sent the last message. When he saw it was indeed Ms. Skye's own personal phone, he was surprised and shocked. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked it again, to be safe, and compared them: yes, it was the same number.
"Stay here and be quiet." Miles then said, harshly, as he threw Gumshoe his phone back. He then took off his seatbelt, opened the door and got out of the car.
With nervous and quick gestures he looked around and walked away from the car and, when he felt he was far enough, pushed the 'call' button. He had to wait a few seconds, but eventually she answered.
"You sure have nerve to call me right now, prosecutor Edgeworth." Were the first words she said.
"Oh, good afternoon Ms. Skye." He replied in a defiantly joking tone.
"Spare me these fake pleasantries." She spat back. "Instead, explain me what you have been doing at the Fey's residence. And don't try to mock me again."
"Do you really need me to explain you? I'm sure Ms. Fey must have already told you."
"Mia didn't call me, or warn me." Lana answered. "Nor did anyone else in her family, just for your information. I learned of your little trip through other methods."
"I see..." He replied, calmly. She was bluffing, he was sure of that. "For your information, I was simply having a conversation with Ms. Misty." He explained, deciding to go along with her.
"Yes. And it had nothing to do with your plan, don't worry, I just had to clarify a few things with her. Feel free to call them and ask her directly, I have nothing to hide."
"And what did you talk about, exactly?"
"Personal matters." He calmly said. "And if you don't mind, I'd rather not go into detail about them."
"And why? Didn't you just say you have nothing to hide?" She asked back. "And aren't you afraid that Ms. Fey might tell me about what you had been talking about?"
"She won't, I'm sure of it. She will confirm to you that we have been talking about personal matters, but I'm positive that she will not say a word about the argument itself."
"And why wouldn't she?"
"It's not the kind of things one would talk about with a stranger." He replied, pointedly.
"I see." Lana then answered, without hesitation but in a calm voice. "But if that's the case, now how am I supposed to trust that you haven't been trying to stab me in the back?" She then went on in an openly teasing tone.
"I gave you my word and my full collaboration in exchange for not having to be actively involved with your plan, remember? And in return you told me I was completely free to act as I wanted, as long as it didn't interfere with your plan."
"I also demanded you to come clear with me regarding any action of yours that could have interferred with it." She replied, her voice cracking and betraying irritation.
"I didn't do that because my personal dispute with Ms. Fey doesn't have anything to do with your plan." He calmly answered. "You know what my stakes are into this. Do you really think that, if I wanted to backstab you, I would do it so brazenly? And barely a couple of days after you convinced me to go along with your plan?"
"First of all, don't play dumb with me. Ms. Fey is a very important element in the plan, of course you meeting with her in secret has at the very least something to do with what's going on. And second, yes, you would do things so flagrantly. I know you're not new to pulling off reckless gambits, especially when you're with your back against the wall."
Miles chortled. "In that case, you shouldn't have cornered me like you did. If you really thought I would have acted like this, and risked jeopardizing your plan, why even propose me to help you?"
"I already explained you, prosecutor Edgeworth."
"That was just a rhethorical question." He replied.
"I see..." Lana answered. "Anyway, don't change argument. Tell me what you and Ms. Fey have talked about."
"I can't, I already told you."
There was some silence from Lana's before she finally replied. "Allow me to remind you that I just need a couple of phone calls to--"
"I'm well aware of that." Miles interrupted her instinctively, and immediately regretted having done so. Of course that threat had gotten to him, but he had to keep calm. "But as I said, our conversation had nothing to do with you."
"If that's the case, why not come clear and tell me?"
"As I said, I can't. And before you say anything, please take into account this: I could be lying to you. I could make up something and tell you that we had a conversation about anything, be it the weather or some common acquaintance." He explained, trying to speak calmly and detached. "But I'm not. Instead, I'm being as honest as the situation allows me to be. Just know it's something personal that has nothing to do with your proposal, and the only reason why I went to talk to her right now is because, if you're going to go further with your plan, I wouldn't have had another occasion in the future."
Miles waited a few seconds, nervously, for her reply. "Interesting. I wonder what von Karma would say, if he heard about where you've been, and why--"
"What? You're joking!" He interrupted her, shouting.
"Unlike you, I've been serious from the very start." She answered. "This is your last chance, prosecutor Edgeworth. What did you and Ms. Fey talk about?"
For some seconds Miles fought with the temptation of just saying the first thing that came to his mind, just to get himself out of that predicament. He had to invent something, anything, that was credible enough, and fast - but nothing was coming to his mind, he was too nervous to think straight.
"I can't tell you. I seriously can't." He eventually decided to reply, resigned. He then waited a few seconds for her reply, growing more and more nervous with every moment that passed.
"So, not even the perspective of having your little trip revealed to him is making you budge. Interesting." Lana said, dryly. "During the afternoon and evening I'll be at the High Prosecutor's offices for some work. I hope to see you there as well as soon as you're back, so we can discuss things face to face."
It took a bit longer than before for Miles to let those words sink in. "Really, Ms. Skye? You want to discuss this? After everything you said--"
"Be grateful I'm giving you the possibility of explaining yourself." She interrupted him. "And then again, if your personal involment with the Feys arrives to this point, I can't afford to let go of you right now."
Miles wanted to reply that he wasn't involved with them, but decided to hold back. On one hand claiming that would have sounded ridiculous, after what he had just done, and on the other he was afraid he could have made things even worse for himself by accidentally saying something too revealing, or simply something he would have regretted. "I see." He replied.
"Well then. Try not to be late and not to play other tricks, I'll have detective Gumshoe keep an eye on you and tell me everything."
"I had imagined that. See you later." Miles answered. He waited a few moments and, getting no reply from her, ended the call and put the phone back into his pocket. He then turned around and, walking with long and quick steps, got back to the car. After climbing in he sat down, looking at the road in front of himself without doing anything else for a couple of minutes, until Gumshoe's voice brought him back to reality.
"Er... what's up, sir?"
Hearing him, Miles jumped up and turned his head towards the other man. He looked at him in complete silence for a few seconds before speaking: "Could you please drive home, detective? I need to sit back and relax."
Dick looked at him, a confused expression on his face, before finally answering: "O-Okay..."
Without saying a word, Miles got out of the car and waited for Gumshoe to reach his side of the car. Only then he walked around the car as well and took his place at the passenger seat. He sat down, fastened the seatbelt and waited in silence for the other man to start the engine.
"So, are we going to go?" Miles asked, seeing that the other seemed distracted.
Gumshoe jumped up in surprise. "Er, o-of course, don't worry sir!" He hastily replied while reaching out for the keys and turning them. "It's just... you letting me use your car... heh... I can't believe it. It's almost like I'm having an hallucination, or something."
"This is indeed real life, detective, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't daydream, and instead paid attention to what you're doing."
"Heh, of course, don't worry." Dick answered, starting the car. "We'll be back home in one piece, I can assure you."
"And my car as well, if possible." Miles replied, sarcastically.
After the car started moving he stood alert for a bit, ready to intervene if Gumshoe made some mistake. Much to his surprise, however, the man seemed to be not only very knowledgeable and confident while driving a car as modern as sophisticated as that one, but also surprisingly good at it. Feeling like he could finally relax, Miles leaned back against his seat.
Some more minutes passed in complete silence, then Gumshoe started talking: "So, uhm, sir..."
"What?" Miles replied, without turning his head to look at him.
"Does you cheek still hurt?"
"No. It stings, but it's much better than before." He explained.
"Good to hear. You want to stop somewhere on the way to get some pomade, or--"
"No, there's no need. I can bear it."
"Uhm..." Gumshoe mumbled. "Okay... but what are you going to tell people who see that bruise?"
"I'll simply tell them what happened, that I hurt myself falling to the floor after I slipped."
Dick nodded. "Yeah... still, if you put something on it, it will go away quicker. Just saying."
Miles touched his left cheek with his fingertips, and hissed at the jolt of pain he felt. "If we stop by to buy something, will you stop worrying about it?"
"Obviously!" The other replied, loudly.
"Well then, in that case stop by at the next small city or service station we meet, I'll get something there." Miles said.
"Okay!" Dick answered enthusiastically, before turning his head back towards the road.
"Good. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to relax." He replied before letting out a sigh.
"Alright then... c-can I just ask one last thing, then?"
"Just, er, you see... are you feeling well?"
"I already told you--"
"That's not what I meant, sir." Dick interrupted him. "It's just, you're upset and--"
"I'm perfectly alright, detective." He cut the other short in a dry tone.
"What part of my sentence was too hard for you to understand, Gumshoe?" Miles replied, altered.
"Alright, alright sir! Sorry for asking that!"
"Concentrate on driving instead of blathering." Miles replied, giving him a glare, before turning his head towards the window and looked at the landscape outside.
* * *
"And this is the last one." Mia said while passing Phoenix a wet dish.
"Finally." He replied, taking the dish with a towel and starting to dry it. "N-Not that I didn't want to help you, what I meant is that there were really a lot of dishes, that's all!" He then added, hastily.
"Yes, I know that all too well." She answered calmly, unplugging the sink and opening the faucet to rinse the rubber gloves she was wearing.
"Yes, of course, heh..." Phoenix answered as he went on with his work.
"Anyway, thanks for the help." Mia then said while taking the gloves off.
"Nah, don't worry about it. I'm happy to give you a hand." He replied, handing her back the dish. "To be completely honest, I'm happy to just be doing something, heh. I was afraid would have fallen asleep on the couch."
"I noticed. That's why I asked you for your help." She said, smiling, while putting away the dish and closing the cupboard.
"Oh, really?" Phoenix mumbled as he hanged the towel on a hook on the wall.
"You sound a bit disappointed by that..." Mia replied, pointedly.
"N-No, at all!" He answered, shaking his head.
"Don't lie to me, you're very easy to read." She then went on, a cocky grin on her face. "But you're right, I do have a second motive."
"Huh?" He mumbled, surprised.
"The real reason why I asked you to help is to let you ask all the questions you want. I'm sure you have some."
"Really?" Phoenix then asked under his breath, surprised.
Mia nodded. "But if it's about today, sadly I can't tell you much. I didn't hear a lot."
"No? And why?"
"Mom told me to look after Maya and Pearl, and that we shouldn't have moved from my bedroom while they were in the living room." She explained.
Phoenix nodded. "When me and Raymond arrived you said that things were calm, at least until Mr. Edgeworth got here."
"Yes, they've been speaking very calmly, and we didn't hear prosecutor Edgeworth raise his voice until the moment his father arrived."
"I remember that, too. And you didn't try to overhear their conversation, just out of curiosity?"
"Me and Maya would have wanted to, but had promised mom not to, she had told us to stay in our room and don't worry. I trust my mother's judgement, so I did as she asked."
Phoenix nodded, silently. Then, looking deep in thought, he turned her his back and walked towards the other side of the room, to lean with his back against the wall.
"Is there a problem?" Mia then asked.
He shook his head. "No, not really. I'm just wondering why they were so secretive with the three of you."
After thinking about it for a moment, she replied: "Well, I don't think mom was being secretive. I think it's more likely she didn't want Maya and Pearl to suddenly burst into the living room and start a scene."
"You think so? What if she just didn't want you to listen to what she and Miles were saying?"
Mia raised an eyebrow. "And why would she? Mom will tell us soon what it's all about, I'm sure of it."
"Later, huh? Of course it's going to be later, of course." He then said, annoyance in his voice.
"Nick? Is everything alright?" Mia asked, noticing his tone.
"No, of course it's not! There are way too many secrets in your family! Everything about you is a secret!" Phoenix exploded. The words had come out of his mouth on a whim, almost without realizing, and unlike most other occasions when this had happened this time he didn't feel bad about it. In fact, he was feeling much better now, and would have wanted to go on, but before he could say another word Mia had started speaking.
"There would be none if we could help it, trust us." She said.
"Oh, really? Should I believe you?"
"You really think we enjoy having to live with all the voices about us because of what we're forced to hold back from other people due of our family's reputation? Especially now, with aunt Morgan's case?" Mia asked back. Her tone was so calm and nice it almost sounded kind, and made Phoenix feel bad about the way he was just spoken to her. "There's a lot about herself that mom hasn't told me and Maya yet... heck, I didn't tell them about Lana for years, you were the first I spoke to about her, remember?" She let out a sigh. "And that wasn't even an actual secret, just something I didn't want to tell them so they wouldn't have felt bad about it, since they were already beat up enough about me having to leave college because of our family issues... I hated having to do that, but if I wanted to keep the harmony in our family, I had to. And I can imagine it's the same for mom and her own personal problems she hasn't told us about. It's not easy."
"Yeah, I can imagine..." He eventually said after averting her sight. "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap, it's just... it's unnerving."
"I'm not angry at you, don't worry. I had that reaction a lot of times from many people, I'm used to it." Mia said, and her still calm tone made him turn his eyes towards her. She was smiling, a sincere, natural, not forced smile. She then took a few steps closer to him and started speaking in a low voice: "In fact, I'm going to tell you a little secret now, but you haven't heard a thing, okay?"
Phoenix was a bit surprised and confused by how nice she was being, but eventually reacted: "Okay..." He said in a whisper.
"Good. You see, there's a reason why I asked you to come and help me with the dishes and why Maya and Pearl all of a sudden asked Mr. Shields to help them with their homework: mom wanted to discuss with Mr. Gregory, in private." She explained. When she was done talking Phoenix looked at her, a surprised expression on his face, and she nodded. "She didn't tell us why or what they're talking about, just to keep you and Mr. Shields busy."
"I see." He replied. So Mr. Edgeworth didn't have a phone call to make. "But in that case, it's easy to guess what they're talking about right now."
Mia nodded. "Obviously. And what do you think of it? What do you think mom and prosecutor Edgeworth have been talking about, this morning?"
"Something personal, possibly about Mr. Gregory." He replied.
"You think so?" She asked back while stroking her chin. "He's not too keen on showing any concern towards his father, so why coming all the way here and be so theatrical about it? And besides, I'm sure he knows enough people around to be able to get information about him that way."
Phoenix scratched the back of his head. Her reasoning made sense, but he didn't believe it. It definitely had something to do with either his or her family, even if he didn't yet know exactly what. But he didn't feel like starting another rant like he had just done, so instead he nodded. "I guess. Then what do you make of it?"
"Well, if I had to guess, it had probably something to do with my trial."
"Yeah, makes sense, I suppose... but then why not ask to talk with you, too?"
"I don't know. But remember how he and mom had an argument afterwards, in the lobby? I imagine prosecutor Edgeworth wanted to continue that discussion."
After thinking about it for a while, he replied: "You really have no idea what else they could have been talking about?"
She shook her head. "Not that I can think of. I don't know prosecutor Edgeworth personally, I have no idea what kind of argument he could have had with mom."
"You don't know Miles personally?" Phoenix repeated.
"Of course not." She calmly replied, despite clearly looking surprised by what he had just said.
"You used to meet with Mr. Gregory in person when you were a kid, to ask to borrow his law books, you never met--" Before he could finish his sentence, Phoenix interrupted himself at the sight of Mia's surprised and embarrassed expression.
"And h-how do you k-know?" She finally asked, her stuttering betraying how she was actually feeling.
"Er... he mentioned that this morning... in passing, while we were talking about how much you loved to study law, but don't want to talk about your college years." Phoenix started to explain, the palms of his hands tended out towards her, to tell her to calm down.
After he had finished his explanation, Mia stood still for another while, staring at him, before finally calming down. "I see... what did he say?" She then inquisitively asked.
"He just talked about the fact you liked to ask him to borrow his books, and to talk about the cases he had worked on... nothing else, really."
"Oh..." She mumbled, the expression on her face much more relaxed. Seeing her like that made Phoenix feel calmer as well.
"Yeah..." He nodded. "He was surprised that you had talked about that period and about Lana with me... I didn't tell him anything you told me, I promise, and he said I can tell him anything you allowed me to..."
Once again, she mumbled something under her breath, only this time she looked deep in thought. Phoenix didn't say anything, afraid to break her concentration. "I understand. Makes sense, after everyone has learned about Lana." She eventually said. "Still, there really isn't much to talk about, and the little there is is something personal, so I'd rather talk about it myself. If he's so curious about it we can meet at his office one of these days, and have a discussion."
"I see, okay." Phoenix replied.
"When you're back home and things have calmed down, explain the situation to Mr. Edgeworth and tell him to call me so we can decide a date." She explained, looking and sounding extremely serious.
He nodded. After some more silence, he then added: "Anyway, it's the first time I heard about you being so close to him as a kid."
"I used to do that behind mom's and aunt Morgan's back, they were very strict about me training and not wasting time with pointless distractions. It was a secret between Mr. Edgeworth, Mr. Shields and me: we were afraid of their reaction, all three of us."
Another secret, huh?, Phoenix told himself. "But then your mother was supportive of you, when she learned you enjoyed studying it."
"Years later, yes. And even if he denies it, I think Mr. Gregory had something to do with convincing her."
Phoenix nodded, silently. Then, some time later, he said: "But you never met Miles in person? And Mr. Gregory didn't talk about him?"
"Only a couple of times, possibly three, I can't remember well right now. But we didn't really talk much, he didn't like us even back then. Most of the talk Mr. Gregory did about him was to apologize about how rude he had been to us." She explained.
Phoenix couldn't help being surprised, he had never heard of this before. Not that he could blame Mr. Edgeworth for not talking about it. "Could you tell me more about that? If you want, of course." He asked in a low voice.
Mia thought about it for a moment, holding her chin, then replied: "Let's see... the first time we met him was one evening when me and mom passed by L.A., and stopped by Mr. Edgeworth's office to say hello. His son was there with him, so he introduced him to us, and in return he asked if we were those charlatans the newspapers were talking about."
Phoenix widened his eyes in surprise. "Wow..."
"We've had worse, even by children younger than he was back then, believe me." Mia replied. "Anyway, Mr. Edgeworth scolded his son for what he had said, in front of us, and told him to apologize, but he didn't say a word. Instead he walked out of the room, and Mr. Edgeworth followed him. They had a bit of an argument, we could hear their voices--" She explained, only to stop all of a sudden when she held up her hand towards Phoenix, to tell him to wait.
He was about to ask her what was the problem, but he started to hear clearly the noise of footsteps getting closer. From the heavy clicking noise those were sandals, and tha meant it could have been either of the other three women in that house.
Before he could start to wonder even further about who it was, Misty peeked past the door. "Can I?"
"Of course, mom." Mia replied.
"I was just wondering, since I see that Mr. Wright is here as well..." Misty answered as she walked towards the cupboard.
"He just helped me washing the dishes, that's all. We had just finished, and were just doing some small talk."
"I see..." She replied. "Forgive me if I'm interrupting, but I need to drink something."
"N-Nothing you have to worry about, really." Phoenix replied.
She gave him a smile, then took out a glass, filled it with water and slowly drank it.
"Everything alright, mom?" Mia asked.
"Yes, don't worry." She answered. "I've been sitting in the garden until now and almost dozed off, and need some water to wake up."
When she was done talking, Gregory casually walked into the kitchen as well. "Is everyone in here?"
"Just the three of us." Misty replied.
"And where's everyone else?"
"Maya and Pearl asked Mr. Shields to help them with their homework. I'll go call them, wait a moment." Mia said before walking out of the room.
"Sorry for making you wait so much, Phoenix." Gregory said when she was gone. "The call took longer than I imagined."
"No problem, don't worry." He answered.
"A glass of water, Mr. Edgeworth?" Misty offered as she opened the cupboard once again.
"Yes, thank you." Gregory replied, smiling.
As Misty filled a glass of water and passed it to Gregory, Phoenix stood in his spot, still and silent, and looked at the two of them, wondering just how much the two of them had talked, in the time they has spent together. It was kind of a silly thing to think about, he realized. Before he could try to move on to more serious thoughts, however, the voices of Maya and Pearl brought him back to reality.
The two girls entered the kitchen walking briskly, almost as if they were in a hurry, followed by Raymond and Mia.
"So boss, how was that phone call?" Raymond asked as he entered the room.
"Way too long." The older man replied before finishing his glass of water. "Sorry for leaving you two like that." He then added, turning his sight on Phoenix.
"Nah, don't mention it." Phoenix said. "I managed to find something to keep myself busy anyway."
"Yeah, so don't worry about a thing." Raymond added, smiling.
"Alright then." Gregory answered, passing his empty glass to Misty. "But anyway, we should start leaving for good now. I thank all of you for your kindness so far, you've really been nice considering what happened--"
"Don't you ever mention it again, I told you." Misty interrupted him in an almost reproachful tone. She then broke into a smile and added: "Please don't waste too much time thinking about that, it's all past us now."
"I'll try." He answered. "But please don't forget to warn me in case anything else--"
"I will." She replied, hastily. It was almost as if she was trying to cut him short, or maybe she was annoyed at him, possibly both. Noticing that, Phoenix started to wonder if maybe their discussion had gone wrong, and they had had a argument. A part of himself hoped that this didn't mean it would have taken longer for them to come clear with everyone else, and he immediately felt bad about having thought something so selfish.
"Good. In that case, thanks again for everything." Gregory said.
"You're welcome." Misty answered.
As the two were saying goodbye, Raymond and Phoenix decided to do the same, and turned towards Mia, Maya and Pearl. They thanked them for the hospitality and the good lunch, then calmly headed towards the door, guided by Mia.
The four then walked into the garden, and once there Mia turned towards Gregory and said: "I hope that the next time we'll meet things will be less chaotic."
"Indeed." He replied.
"If anything else happens, I'll let you know."
"Thank you." Gregory replied. "There are a couple of things I need to clarify with you, so expect a call from me in a few days. Either soon in the morning or late in the night, or when nobody else is around."
"Late in the night would be better, mom tends to wake up earlier than me." Mia answered, opening the main gate.
"I see. Well then, take care, and sorry for having created this mess. I acted on a whim, and--"
"Don't worry. I understand why you did that, there's nothing you need to be ashamed or sorry for." Mia interrupted him, speaking calmly. "Anyway, it's better I get back in before mom starts wondering what's taking me so long to open the gate, and comes out to check what I'm doing. Take care, and see you soon."
"Of course. Take care." Gregory said, slightly nodding his head in salutation before walking out of the gate.
"Take care too, and see you soon." Raymond replied, smiling.
"Same from me." Phoenix added. "And thanks again for everything."
"You're welcome. Bye." She answered, giving them a smile and waiting for the two to walk outside as well. When they were gone, she finally closed the gate, and the noise of the lock turning gave Phoenix a strange feeling, almost as if he had been snapped out of something. Then, without saying a word, he walked towards Raymond's car.
"So, everyone's ready?" Raymond asked when Phoenix was close enough.
"Yes." Gregory replied as he walked towards his car. His voice sounded very dry, almost annoyed.
"Is there a problem, boss?" Phoenix inquired.
"No, nothing." The other answered, shaking his head. "Take care and drive safely, and see you at the office." Then, without waiting for an answer, he quickly opened the door of the car, climbed in and started the engine.
"Wait, boss! If you're tired, you can take the day off and--" Raymond yelled, running towards Gregory's car, but he didn't get a response. Instead, Gregory manoeuvred towards the main road and started to drive away.
The other two stood still for a few moments, surprised and confused, before reacting: they looked at each other in silence, Phoenix heaving out a sigh and Raymond giving a shrug, then they got into the car.
So, Phoenix told himself, either him and Ms. Fey must have had an argument of some sort, or what she had told him about what her and Miles had talked about was something very serious.
"You think he was of that mood because of today, or it's the phone call?" Raymond eventually asked, fastening his seatbelt.
"Both, probably." Phoenix answered while doing the same.
"Who do you think he called? Grossberg?" Raymond went on, turning the engine on.
"Probably." He replied, deciding to go along with the official version of what had happened for the moment.
"Yeah... I hope it's not some bad development with Mr. Armando's situation... or with Ms. Morgan's..."
"Nah. If that was the case, he wouldn't have told us to meet each other at the office. He'd told us not to wait for him, and then rushed wherever the problem is." Phoenix answered.
After driving the car onto the road while thinking about it, Raymond said: "You're right, yes. But then, who did he call before?"
"Beats me." He replied, leaning back against the seat.
Raymond stood silently deep in thought for a while, then said: "You don't think that maybe he had a talk with Ms. Fey?"
"That could be, too." Phoenix answered, surprised at how nonchalant his reply had managed to be.
"Well, that would definitely explain a lot..."
"If he did, he'll tell us when we'll be back at the office." He replied. "Anyway, mind if I take a nap?"
"Of course not." Raymond answered. "I'm going to stop at the next gas station to refill, want me to wake you up when we're there?"
"No, thank you, I need some rest." Phoenix said before closing his eyes and hunching his head forward. He wasn't really feeling tired, he just needed an excuse to stop that discussion. He stood in silence, until the car running lulled him to sleep for good.
* * *
The two walked through the corridors, Miles with quick, fast strides while Gumshoe was more hesitant, following him but instead taking short and slow steps, hurrying up only when he realized he had fallen behind.
When they were finally in front of the door of Miles' office, waiting for them there were two familiar faces: on one side was Lana, her arms crossed on her chest, and next to her Franziska von Karma, playing with a whip by rhythmically tapping it on the palm of her hand. She was the very first to talk: "It was about time."
Dick took a step forward and started to talk: "Er, it was far away, so--"
"Silence!" Franziska loudly proclaimed, cracking the whip in almost perfect synch with her word. That show caused everyone to recoil in surprise, while Gumshoe instinctively dashed right behind Miles, as if he was trying to hide. Once he realized what he had done, he straightened up and walked away from the other, a clearly embarrassed expression on his face.
When she had recovered from the surprise as well, Lana said: "I had allowed you to keep that object while inside this building only because you had promised to not actually use it, Ms. von Karma."
"I said I wouldn't have hit anyone with it, and as you clearly saw, I kept my word." She answered while rolling up the whip around her other hand.
"Please don't try to play semantics with me." Lana replied. "You used it to intimidate detective Gumshoe, which is about as bad. And allow me to remind you that your request to keep that whip in courtroom is still on my desk for evaluation."
At that reply, Franziska glared at her a let out a 'tsk'. "I understand." She eventually said.
"Also, he was simply trying to explain, Franziska. Allow him to at least finish his sentence." Miles then said.
"I didn't ask any question. And besides, I know full well what the situation is. Chief prosecutor Skye already explained me." Franziska calmly went on. "Anyway, Miles Edgeworth, what's that thing on your face?"
"Nothing of your concern." He explained.
She shrugged. "As you prefer."
When the two were done talking, Lana walked in front of Gumshoe and, in a formal tone, said: "Thank you for your help, detective, it was fundamental. I'll remember to put a good word with your superiors regarding this month's bonus."
"R-Really?" Dick replied, so enthusiastic his eyes almost shone.
"Obviously. Keep up the good work, and have a good evening." She added.
"Er..." He mumbled, giving a glance to Franziska. "Okay, I'll try..."
"Let's go then. We've wasted enough time already." Franziska commanded.
"Roger that! G-Good afternoon Ms. Chief Prosecutor. And you too, sir!"
"Take care, detective." Miles replied, almost dispassionately, as the other man walked away, following into Franziska's steps at a much more brisk pace than the one he had used before.
As soon as the sound of the two's footsteps had disappeared, Edgeworth picked the keys of his office from his pocket and opened it. "Hope I didn't make you wait too long."
"Not really. Although, given the company, it felt much longer." She replied.
"Then I'll refrain from bringing up painful memories, and won't ask questions." Miles answered.
"What happened to your cheek?"
"I just slipped on some pebbles and fell, that's all." He said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. Then, with a gesture of his hand, he invited Lana inside, then followed her and closed the door behind himself.
"Hope you did calm down since this morning." Lana started as she walked towards one of the chairs in front of Miles' desk.
Without saying a word, Edgeworth walked towards the desk as well, then sat down at his place. "I have to say, sending Gumshoe to find me was a good idea, even if a highly risky one. His reputation for carrying out his duty sloppily is well known." He eventually said.
"I was well aware of that." Lana replied. "But I also know that, for all his faults, the man is very determinate, and that he would have found you no matter what."
"And so he did. But then again, his slip of the tongue regarding your involvement--"
"It wasn't a slip of the tongue." She interrupted him. "I had told him to explain you that it was me. It was with the message I sent him just a few minutes before you called me."
"Oh, really? Should I believe that you had it programmed from the start?"
"Yes." Lana answered while she searched in her pocket and produced her phone. "Want to check by yourself?"
Miles glared at the phone and then at Lana. Finally, he shook his head. "No, I believe you."
"Well then." She replied, putting the phone away again. "In that case, let's start--"
"Before we begin our discussion, just to know... what did you tell Franziska about the reason why you sent Gumshoe to look for me?"
"Simply that you two were doing some supplementary investigation regarding a case you had worked on some months ago, back when you worked together. I told her that a lot of the details were still secret, due to the sensitivity of the affair, and despite how vague I was, that seemed enough to convince her and calm her down."
"I see." Miles replied. "That shouldn't surprise you, Franziska tends to trust almost blindly people of authority, especially higher in the hierarchy."
"Oh, really..." Lana answered, looking and sounding interested. "Anyway, enough dancing around the real question, prosecutor Edgeworth."
"Don't worry, I wasn't going to run away from it." Miles replied, calmly. "In fact, I'm quite curious as to why you even gave me a second possibility--"
"It's not a 'second possibility', prosecutor." She interrupted him. "If your explanation now will not be convincing, as soon as I'm out of this office I will be making that couple of calls I've been talking about."
"Call it whatever you want, then." He said, giving a shrug. "Still, the fact that after what I've done you're allowing me to explain myself feels more like a small miracle."
"It's just because you didn't tell me that your knowledge of Ms. Fey was so personal--"
"It's not." He interrupted her.
"Then why going through the hassle to go to her home, to her village, to talk to her? And why would she allow you to talk to her, considering how you arrived to their house unannounced?"
Hearing her, Miles widened his eyes in surprise. "And how..."
"Again, my sources." She calmly explained. "So, please, stop trying to convince me that you don't have any kind of personal relationship with her."
Miles looked away, annoyed.
"You said you would have collaborated with me a couple of days ago, are you taking it back already? Your closeness to Ms. Fey will come in very useful in the future, so please tell me more about you and her. About that, and about what you told her this morning."
After taking in a deep breath, he replied: "I will tell you about the first, but not about the latter. I absolutely can't, so please stop asking."
When he was done talking, Miles braced himself for her answer: he had the feeling this was going to be a battle of wits, and with her it meant it was going to be exhausting. So, when she started talking in a calm voice, he was sincerely surprised - a feeling that only increased with every word she said.
"I understand. From what I managed to learn by going through old newspapers and rumors, the relationship between you and the Feys must have been very complex. Dredging up old things from the past like this mustn't be easy." Lana said, her tone almost comforting. Miles had a couple of things to tell her about what she had just told him, but was too surprised, almost in shock, to manage to say anything.
"However, believe me when I tell you that it's not only you." She then went on. Her voice had gotten gentle and incredibly nice, a tone he would have never imagined coming from her. "I have very high stakes in this as well, as I had already mentioned last time, but I didn't come clear about them. After all, you didn't want to get involved into this, so I didn't explain myself in full. Now, please allow me to explain you the exact extent of how much I'm risking in this, and what I will lose if my plan fails."
Does this imply that I have no other choice now?, he almost asked, but his voice didn't leave his mouth.
* * *
A thin, beeping noise resounded in his ears, waking Phoenix up. He jumped up on his feet, confused by the cacophony of noises and voices that had started to assault him all of a sudden, and looked around himself a few times.
It took him longer than it should have to put all pieces back together, but eventually realized what was going on: he was in his apartment, the television was on and he had just suddenly woken up after nodding off. Everything made sense now.
Groggily, he turned the television off and walked out of the living room and into the bathroom, to rinse his face and brush his teeth before going to bed. Good thing he was already in his pajama, he told himself, he would have hated to fall asleep on the couch in his clothes, having to wake up early to iron them before going to sleep would have been a pain. As he slowly came back to his senses, he started to wonder what was the noise that had suddenly woken him up.
When he got back in his living room to check he hadn't forgotten to switch off anything. He picked his phone up from the couch, where he had left it, and checked the time - five minutes to midnight. Then he noticed that he had just received a new message just a few minutes before. Now he realized what was the noise that had woken him up; his phone's ringtone.
The message came from an unknown number, so it wasn't from Raymond or Mr. Edgeworth. As he opened the message to check it out, he couldn't help wondering how his boss was doing - he had seemed calm enough once he had gotten back to the office, but there was clearly something eating at him. Him and Raymond had eventually decided to give him some time, and wait a couple of days before bringing up that argument.
He then read the message through, and it took him a bit to fully process it.
Hello Nick, I'm Mia. This is my personal cell phone, I hope I'm not disturbing. Are you still awake now? I need to talk to you.