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Finding Acceptance

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Nick takes a shaky breath as he looks at himself in the mirror. This is the first time he’s been back at Themis since his powers first kicked in, and he’s concerned about making a good impression. His uniform is situated properly, though the hook and eye are undone at the top, and he has his noise-canceling headphones around his neck in case he needs them.

“Well… Look out Themis; here comes Justice,” he mumbles, taking a deep breath and slinging his bag over his shoulder before heading out to school. He’s walking today, as his parents both have cases to prepare for, and while Emely is choosing to take the bus, Nik decides against it, as it is far more difficult to block out the music when there are a lot of people closeby. He can handle large amounts of people; just not in such a jam-packed space

As he arrives at the gates, Cecil smiles and walks up beside him. “Ready to try this again?”

Nik simply nods. “I’ve got my headphones in case I need them,” he reassures, wincing as the other students begin going by. “And I’m pretty sure I will.”

“You might wanna put em on now,” the raven warns. “I overheard Mr. Shields as I was heading in, and it sounds like we’re supposed to have more students than ever this year. For you, that means-”

“A lot of noise and headaches if I don’t wear them,” Nik finishes, quickly slipping them on out of worry. “And yes, I have my doctor’s note from my great aunt Amara in case a teacher objects.”

“And they will. This is a legal academy,” Cecil teases. “Anyways, I gotta go deal with some student council stuff, so I’ll see you at lunch?”

The blonde simply nods at that, smiling tiredly and heading to his first class for the day; Mr. Shields class on Evidence Law.

He finds a seat towards the back of the class, and sits down, taking out his notebook and getting ready to take notes. He only raises his head when a tall girl with soft, pinkish brown hair pulls off his headphones. However her smile seems to be rather good-natured, and he can hear no malice from the songs of her heart. Actually, the song playing is ‘Everything You Know is Wrong’ by Weird Al.

“Hey, I know that evidence law can be kinda boring, but as the head of the school’s disciplinary committee, I’d appreciate it if you left these off and listened to the lecture. After all, headphones aren’t really allowed in class,” she says gently, before pausing when she realizes there’s nothing coming from the headphones. “Wait, no music? Then what’s the point?”

“They’re noise-canceling,” Nik explains, gently taking the green headgear back. “I’ve got an extreme sensitivity to noise, so I’m supposed to wear them during school hours. I met with the head of the school to let him know ahead of time. I can still hear the lecture just fine, and even if I couldn’t, I like to think that I’m pretty good at reading people’s lips.”

“Oh, wow, I’m so sorry about that,” she apologizes, rubbing the back of her neck. On top of her black, judge course uniform, she wears a pretty lavender sweater that remains unbuttoned, with black poppies carefully embroidered around the bottom and the cuffs of the sleeves. “Must’ve been something in the paperwork, because the principal usually tells me these things so I don’t take people into the office for no reason.”

“It’s fine, really. You had no way of knowing, after all,” he promises, offering a warm smile as he slips them back on. In truth, the headphones were something that Athena had created, with help from the robots in her mother’s lab, and a little bit of assistance from video chatting with Aura Blackquill. His headphones blocked out the songs in people’s hearts, while still allowing him to hear everything else. He tried to only use them when he knew he couldn’t block it out, but the sound was so intense just coming into the school that he knew he wouldn’t be able to handle a full day of it.

“Still, I feel pretty bad. If it’s okay, I’d like to make it up to you. Since our lunch period goes so long, a couple of friends and I are going over to Taste the World for lunch; it’s this cute little cafe with all kinds of different foods from all over the globe that’s not very far from here,” the pink-brown haired girl explains. “You should join us!”

“Sorry, but I already promised my boyfriend that I’d have lunch with him,” Nik says honestly, rubbing the back of his neck. “But, if you really want to make it up to me then… I don’t have any friends in the school aside from my boyfriend, so, maybe we could just hang out sometime?”

“Sounds great!” she agrees, grinning softly and taking a seat at the desk on his right, holding her hand out to him suddenly. “And wow, I just realized that I totally never introduced myself! My name is Marigold Andrews, but everyone just calls me Mari.”

“I’m Nikolas Justice, but everyone calls me Nik,” he smiles in response, shaking her hand.

A look of recognition crosses Mari’s face before she gives him a smug look and leans back in her seat. “Ah, so you’re Cecil’s boyfriend. Well damn, with how much talks about you, I feel like I already know you! He said you’re really into fantasy games, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” he confirms, still waiting for class to start. “If it’s a game that has swords and magic, it’s exactly my cup of tea, though I’ve been trying to branch out into other genres as of late. In fact, a mutual friend of ours just recently got me into MMORPGs.”

“In that case, I’d say that you’re on the right track for getting into other genres; there’s a crap-ton of MMOs out there, so I don’t think you’ll ever get bored with them,” the girl grins, crossing her arms over her desk and leaning on them. “Actually, if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, have a VR headset, and aren’t afraid of things turning into the first or last episode of the original Sword Art Online, then I might have a recommendation for you. I actually play this one MMO with my older brother and some friends; it’s called Trials of Orpheus. It kind of reminds me of FFXV in a way, since you can get any kind of weapon you want from swords, to guns, to spears in it.”

“Well, I do have a VR headset, but I’m not really sure,” he says honestly.

Mari giggles softly. “Hey, just give it a shot sometime. If you don’t like it, they refund you,” she reassures, a hand over her heart. “If you’re ever looking for me, my gamer handle is Sinon; I’m a rogue class sniper, and my species is a Cait Sith Fairy. It’s an easy race to recognize; we’ve got a bunch of catlike features on us.”

Nik simply nods at that, listening intently to the lecture as Uncle Ray- as the man insists the students call him- goes into a lecture on evidence law while the blonde takes notes.

He has a feeling that this is going to be a long day.

~*~

At the end of the day, Nik sighs as he plops down onto the couch, pinching the bridge of his nose and finally removing the headphones.

“Rough day?” Apollo guesses as he looks up from a case file, having gotten home early for a change.

“Yeah, extremely,” the teen says honestly. “I had to show the doctor’s note and explain my headphones to no less than nineteen people, not counting teachers, and… let’s just say that not all of my classmates believed me when I told them that my headphones were for ‘medical’ reasons.”

“Sorry to hear that, Nikky. Anything good happen?”

“Yeah, actually. I met one of Cecil’s friends; a girl on the disciplinary committee named Marigold who’s just as much a nerd as me. She gave me some game recommendations. Is it okay if I check some of them out?”

“Finish your homework first. Then, you can look at them after dinner; deal?” Apollo offers, holding a hand out.

Nik smiles and shakes his Papa’s hand. “Works for me. I’d better go get started on the various questionnaires I have to fill out.”

“Did all your teachers just assign questionnaires to start with?” the brunette questions in concern.

“Sort of. Two of them are the kind of questionnaire you’d expect-your name, where you grew up, your family, why you wanted to attend Themis, etc- but the others are all reading assignments. I do this week’s reading, answer the questions on the sheet based on the information in the book, and then I turn it in,” the blonde explains. “Anyways, I’m gonna head up to my room to get started on that, so I’ll see you at dinner.”

Nik manages to get through the reading assignments rather quickly, but when he arrives at the questionnaires about himself, he pauses, having difficulty.

It’s not hard to put down his interests, or why he’d chosen Themis for law school instead of some other career choice, but he has issues regarding the family section. Of course, he wants to put the family that’s taken care of him under ‘parents’, but he doesn’t want to exclude his mother either. The grandparents option isn’t difficult to take care of, for he’d never met his grandparents on either side of the family; his maternal grandparents had actually taken his mother off the will when she’d turned up pregnant out of wedlock, so of course, he pencils in his grandparents from the family he has now. He jots down the names ‘Jove Justice, Thalassa Justice, Miles Edgeworth, and Phoenix Wright’, and moves on to the ‘aunts and uncles’ portion of the paper. After much consideration, he puts down Nahyuta, Ema, Trucy, Pearl, Clay, Daryan, and Miss Franziska, along with Lang and Kay.

He sighs softly upon finishing everything, rubbing the back of his neck. “If they grade me differently because of my adopted family, I’ll try to fight it myself before I get anyone else involved,” he decides, stretching a little and then putting everything into his binder. Once everything is taken care of, he heads down to the kitchen to see if he can help his Papa with dinner.

He makes it into the kitchen and finds Apollo staring at a sheet of paper, as if attempting to find lies in the paper.

“Papa? You know you can only detect lies when you hear them, right?” the blonde teases, hurrying over to stir the unattended pasta.

Apollo chuckles tiredly at that. “Yeah, I know. I just have to get this squared away is all.”

“What’s going on?” the younger of the pair questions, taste-testing the pasta sauce and adding just a little bit of garlic powder and pepper.

“Well… Remember Elizabeth and Edgar?” the brunette says slowly, regretting saying something the moment he sees Nik’s shoulder’s tense.

“Mom’s parents that took her off the will and cut ties with her just because I was born out of wedlock?” the blonde says bitterly. “The more I try to forget, the more their names and what they did sticks.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the thing, Nikky… They’re taking me to court to fight for custody of you, for some pretty messed up reasons,” Apollo admits. “Apparently, your mother’s brother-Jason- died a little under a year ago… and they want an Equity family heir.”

“And I’m the last chance they’ve got,” he says, gritting his teeth but turning around with a panicked look on his face. “Papa, please… I-I’m sixteen now; doesn’t my choice matter in all of this?”

“If they can put together enough information suggesting that your Dad and I aren’t proper guardians, then they can make the argument that we’re forcing you to make certain choices, so no. Honestly, I don’t know what to do… The only thing that I think we can do is either try to convince them to let you stay, or take it to court and hope it all works out.”

“I-I… I don’t wanna go back to Germany; Los Angeles is my home now. And, legally, I’m not an Equity anymore; my name is Justice.”

“I know Nikky, but something tells me that they don’t care. Even if the name is different, it’s still in your blood.”

The teen scoffs. “I guess I’ve got a lot of jackasses in my blood then,” he mutters bitterly. “I-I’m not hungry; is it okay if I go straight to my room?”

“If that’s what you want, but… at least take a dinner roll or something; I don’t want you to starve yourself,” the brunette pleads.

Nik simply nods and grabs a dinner roll before heading up to his room and immediately plugging himself into the game that Mari had mentioned earlier today.

He gets all the calibration set and then quickly sets to work creating his character, staring at the different choices. There are all kinds of different fairy characters, which combines sword skills with magic, races like human and dwarf that don’t use magic, and mages and elves, which only use magic. He decides to go for a character that matched his usual playstyle in RPGs where you can create your own avatar, becoming a rogue class swordsman of the Sylph fairy race.

And with that, he comes to the point of picking his gamer handle. It’s difficult, but he eventually manages to settle on ‘DefiantDragonOfJustice’ before launching into the game and going looking for Mari’s avatar, eventually finding someone with the right handle and walking up to her.

“Hey, Mari,” he says quietly, rubbing the back of his neck.

She simply smiles, offering a sarcastic smile to him. “Seriously? You went with ‘DefiantDragonOfJustice’? You’re practically begging to be PK-ed, dude.”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m not exactly creative; that was the best I could think of,” he says honestly, hiding his sadness with an awkward smile. “You still willing to show me the ropes?”

“Of course; I’m always happy to help! And if things work out, maybe you can meet my friends and join Shadow Gear!” the-currently- purplette grins excitedly.

“Shadow Gear?” he questions.

“Oh, right, duh. Shadow Gear is my guild. Guilds are groups within the game that allow you to heal each other and share items, including ammunition if you’re an archer or a gunner like I am at the moment,” she explains. “Parties are pretty similar, but they can’t share ammunition, and the only items they can share are potions for restoring health; no manna restorations or status relievers.”

“Got it. Anyways, since I’m new to this game, any pointers?” he asks, crossing his arms.

“That depends on your playstyle, but I’m guessing that since you chose a Sylph race, rogue class, swordsman avatar, you usually use a speed based playstyle,” Mari guesses, smiling when he nods for confirmation. “Knew it. You like being able to get in lots of hits at once and having the speed to dodge enemies. That’s a tough style to balance in this game, but you can make it work. Every bit of equipment you gather will add weight to your avatar, so we’ve gotta be careful with that. Sylphs are a really light body type and out of every avatar choice, they’re the quickest. You chose swords, so I’d recommend finding the lightest rapier you can, and always exchanging when you find something lighter. Weapons made from speed type metals will be really good for that.

“Next up, we’re going to want to get you a distance weapon as well. Sylphs specialize in wind magic, and since that type of magic is actually a little OP in this game, I think you should go with a wand for that. Plus, you can use healing magic with a wand, and that’s always a nice bonus.

“Lastly, you’ll want something lightweight but strong enough to take a hit for your armor. Come on; I know a place nearby that sells equipment for so cheap, we’ll be able to get you all set to play easy.”

~*~

Eventually, Mari-Sinon is her name here, he has to remind himself- takes him out to slay some monsters. They do some fighting for a bit until they decide to take a detour and restore the hunger of their in-game avatars.

After they’ve ordered, he notices Sinon frowning. “Hey Ma-Uh, Sinon, what’s wrong?”

“I should be asking you. You looked like you were having a great time, so why are you crying, DDOJ?” she asks, concerned. “And before you ask, that’s normal; you can’t hide emotions in a VR MMO.”

Nik gasps, placing a hand on his avatar’s cheek and realizing that she’s right; he’s crying.

“Um… If it’s okay, I-I’d rather not talk about it here… is there anywhere in-game that’d be more private, or can we just wait and meet up IRL?” he says simply.

She thinks for a moment. “Hm… you can purchase houses in this game, but I share my place with my guild, so there’s no telling when someone might show up there, and the rooms at the inns have thin walls, so… meet me at the art room after school tomorrow; we can head over to that ‘Taste of the World’ place I was telling you about when we met.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Nik agrees, nodding slowly.

Sinon guides him through the process of logging out, and he then sighs as he awakens in the real world, removing the headset before grabbing his phone off his nightstand and calling Cecil.

He’s already agreed to tell Mari, but… Cecil is his boyfriend; he should know first, or at least at the same time(Emely likely found out at dinner that night, given that it was her favorite).

Well… into the great unknown.