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Turnabout Persona

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Goro Akechi. 27 years old. The perfect ace detective.

It could easily be argued that the majority of the prosecution's wins were all thanks to Goro's exceptional detective work. There was truly no crime he couldn't handle - no suspect too smart, no detail too small. If Goro Akechi was assigned to a case, you knew you were in good hands. He had never been wrong in his life.

Or at least, that's what Goro thought.


DAY 1 - INVESTIGATION


11:11am, April 3rd, 20XX

Okumura Mansion

As far as Goro was concerned, the case was open-and-shut. Business tycoon and billionaire Kunikazu Okumura had been found dead in his own living room, with several stab wounds to his lower abdomen and a deep wound on his head from a blunt object. The shape of the stab wounds indicated a thin rectangular object, such as a fire poker. The penetration depth indicated that while they weren't the primary cause of death, Kunikazu would have most likely bled out if the killer had not opted for a quicker death and just hit him over the head.

Goro had yet to discern just what exactly Kunikazu had been stabbed with, but had made significantly more progress with the head trauma. The murder weapon had been located almost immediately - a heavy, ornate framed photo of Kunikazu and his daughter together. The lower left part of the frame had been soaked through with blood.

The main suspect was Kunikazu's own daughter, Haru Okumura. As both an only child and the heiress to the Okumura fortune, Miss Okumura stood to gain everything from her father's death. There were also whispers that she had intentionally orchestrated her father's death in an attempt to avoid marriage to a man who, in Goro's professional opinion, sounded like a complete dick.

The time of death had been late in the evening. The servants had seen nothing out of the usual. They had a suspect and motive. Easy. The case would probably last an entire 10 minutes in court and that was only if the prosecution spent half of that time waxing lyrical with their opening speech.

Smoothing out a non-existent crease on his own collar, Goro smugly spun on his heel and turned to exit the room.

Instead of doing the obvious and leaving, he walked straight into another man.

"Ngh!" he stepped back. "What are you doing?"

He was met with a blank stare from behind black-rimmed glasses.

"Investigating?" the man offered.

Goro narrowed his eyes. He had never seen this man before and, if the stranger had been assigned to the police department, he would have been informed of such a development well before his morning coffee. "Investigating?"

"Yep!" the man gestured to nothing in particular. "Investigating!"

"Investigating," Goro echoed once more, looking him up and down. The man looked as though he had just rolled out of bed, with an unruly mop of black curls on his head and at least two of his shirt buttons done up incorrectly. His glasses were fake - Goro could easily discern that much from a glance - and kept sliding down his nose.

Now fully in Detective Mode™️, Goro took a second, longer look and a very subtle sniff. The man smelt strongly of coffee. A rich brew. He must frequent a café regularly. He looked tired. One of his socks was navy while the other was grey and his shoelaces were about five steps away from coming undone. He had a golden wedding ring on his left hand. There was a bag slung over one of his shoulders. The strain on the straps indicated that something heavy was inside.

In short, this man would have been eaten alive before he had even had a chance to slide his job application to be a detective under the department's doors.

In super short, Goro Akechi had no idea who the fuck this guy was.

Goro voiced this thought, but in a manner far more befitting of an ace detective. "And just who are you?"

"Oh!" the guy reached inside his bag and felt around for something. "Akira Kurusu. Attorney. Lawyer man. Defence. I'd show you my badge, but my cat's got it."

"Your... cat has it?"

"Yeah. He loves shiny things," Akira apparently gave up on his quest to retrieve something from his bag, instead giving a half-shrug. "You know how cats are."

Goro did not. "I do not."

"I suppose that means that Mona's the attorney now," Akira threw his head back and laughed at his own terrible joke. "Which would suck for Haru."

Haru Okumura had chosen this train wreck of a person to represent her in court? Goro refused to believe it. The woman was sitting on a fortune and could hire any renowned lawyer from anywhere around the globe and she chose a guy who couldn't even match his socks together?

"Haru as in, Miss Haru Okumura?" Goro probed.

"Yep! Oh, here," Akira fumbled round in his jacket pocket and produced a letter. "My letter of representation. Her letter? Listen, it's a letter and it's got both of our names on it." Akira frowned. "That is, Haru and I's names. Not your name." A pause. "Who are you?"

"I am Goro Akechi, ace detective," Goro snatched the letter out of Akira's hand and scanned it. Legally, it was all legitimate. He offered it back to the attorney. "Miss Okumura really chose you to represent her?"

Akira was too busy looking around the room to notice Goro giving him the letter back. "Yep!"

The ace detective took the initiative and shoved the letter back in Akira's jacket pocket.

"Oh! Thank you," Akira patted his pocket appreciatively. "Got any clues to share?"

"No." Goro snapped. It was only a half-lie - while he had plenty of clues, he didn't want to share a single one with this man. "Now go away. This place is off limits."

Akira's face fell. "Oh. That's a shame."

He perked back up again, taking a few steps backward and poking his head out of the room's door. "FUTABA!"

"YEAH?" came a distant yell.

Goro made a strangled noise at the thought of this man not only showing up at a crime scene, but allowing someone else to roam wild in a house that was currently the centre of a high-profile murder investigation.

"THIS PLACE IS OFF LIMITS, WE'RE HEADING HOME."

"AWWWWW!"

Akira turned back to face Goro.

"It was nice meeting you, Mr. Ace Detective," he offered his hand for a handshake. "Hopefully we'll meet again sometime."

Goro couldn't say that he felt the same way, but shook the lawyer's hand nonetheless. "Good luck with your case, Kurusu-kun." You'll need it, he added mentally.

He could have sworn that, as Akira was leaving, his bag looked a little lighter than it had before.


DAY 2 - TRIAL


9:30am, April 4th, 20XX

Courthouse Lobby

The prosecutor assigned to the Okumura case was none other than Makoto Niijima. She had made a name for herself out of her terrifying and ruthless methods in court, convincing suspects to confess to their crimes for fear of experiencing the iconic Niijima wrath firsthand. She had a perfect win record. She was flawless.

Well, almost flawless. Goro actually thought that while her talents as a prosecutor were unrivalled, Makoto herself was considerably flawed. She was a stickler for rules. She insisted on doing things by the book, even when taking a secondary and potentially less-legal route would make everything significantly easier. She was also constantly tormented by the fact that she believed she was walking in her sister's shadow.

Sae Niijima, Makoto's older sister, worked alongside Goro as a detective. Much like her younger sister, she was determined and headstrong. Sae was one of the best additions to the police department. Goro even joked that she outshined him, most days.

She didn't, of course. Nobody could beat Goro. He was a diamond.

"Good morning, Makoto," Goro greeted her politely.

As she flipped through the case files, Makoto's expression was one of cool and composed professionalism. "Good morning, Akechi."

"Looking forward to today?"

"Mm," Makoto made a non-committal noise. "It's an open-and-shut case. We have all the evidence we need."

"And the opposing attorney?"

"A rookie," Makoto didn't even look up from her folder. "Akira Kurusu. 26. Lactose intolerant."

Goro didn't believe that the defence's tolerance or lack thereof for dairy products was relevant to the case at hand, but he wasn't going to tell Makoto that in a hurry. "Ten minutes?"

"Ten minutes."

The doors to the courthouse swung open and none other than Haru Okumura herself walked in, flanked by two muscular security guards and with a small orange-haired girl on her arm.

"It's gonna be okay, Haru!" the girl nodded furiously. "Akira's gonna win it for us!"

"I'm sure he will, Futaba," Haru smiled sadly. "I've placed all my faith in him."

Futaba. Goro had heard the name yesterday. Akira's accomplice, presumably. It was always nice to put a name to a face.

Futaba looked to be around 18 years old, clad in an oversized parka, knee-length shorts, fishnet tights, and worn combat boots. She wore a pair of glasses similar to Akira's and a chunky pair of headphones rested on her shoulders.

Compared to Haru, Futaba looked more at place at a roller disco than in a courthouse. The suspect was wearing a white summer dress with a matching pair of gloves, her outfit completed by a light pink shawl draped over her shoulders. Goro briefly entertained the notion that Akira had told Haru to dress in such a cute fashion in an attempt to come across as innocent to the court, before ultimately deciding that Akira didn't have the required amount of brain cells to even generate such a thought.

Speaking of Akira, just where was the defence attorney?

"No!" A stern voice came from near the vending machines in the lobby. "You cannot come to court!"

Ah. There he was.

Goro found his feet moving before his brain had a chance to catch up and found himself face to face with the most peculiar scene of the lawyer shouting at a black and white cat.

"Meow!" the cat replied.

"No!" Akira continued, waggling his pointer finger at the cat accusingly. "Animals are not allowed in the courtroom!"

"Meow!"

If Goro had been 4% more unhinged, he would have sworn that the cat was actively talking back to Akira.

"I don't care if you were a 'big part of this case'! You've got to stay outside!"

"MEOW!"

"And give me back my attorney's badge before everyone thinks I'm a fraud- oh, hey, it's Mr. Ace Detective!"

Akira's demeanour changed almost instantly upon spotting Goro, the harsh scolding he was giving to his cat all but forgotten. He beamed. "How it's going?"

"You have literally 15 minutes until court starts," Goro replied flatly.

"Really?" Akira checked his wristwatch. Goro noted that it was on upside-down. "Oh, that's not a lot of time."

"No, no it is not."

Instead of doing something lawyer-like, such as returning to his tearful client who was currently being clumsily comforted by his teenage assistant or even going through the case files, Akira stretched. The action caused his shirt (which was buttoned-up incorrectly, Goro noted) to rise above his hips. Goro looked away.

"You really shouldn't be baring your midriff in a courtroom," Goro pointedly stared at a potted plant across the room. "It's unprofessional."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Ace Detective," Akira lowered his arms and tucked his shirt back into his trousers. "I forgot it's illegal to show off your washboard abs."

Goro snorted. "Washboard abs?"

"Yeah!" Akira playfully slapped his hands against his stomach. "You could grate cheese on these babies."

If Akira had been hooked up to a lie detector, the poor machine would have exploded.

"Meow!"

"Alright, alright," Akira shot his cat a dirty look. "What would you know about body positivity anyway?"

"Meow."

"At least I've got a human body!"

Goro changed his predictions. This case wouldn't last 5 minutes in court.


10:00am, April 4th, 20XX

Courtroom 6

"I hereby bring this court to order!"

The judge slammed his gavel, effectively silencing the audience's excited pre-trial conversations. Goro set a five minute timer on his watch and started daydreaming about how he would spend the rest of the day. A nice walk in the park, perhaps, followed by coffee at his favourite haunt and a relaxing bath later? The weather was certainly temperate enough for it. Perhaps he'd consider a jog. Keep his calves in check.

"Is the prosecution ready?" the judge inquired, looking at Makoto over the edge of the bench.

"The prosecution has been ready for a while," she replied curtly, sights trained firmly on the judge's bench. Goro could tell that she wasn't even registering Akira in her peripheral vision. He couldn't say the same for him.

"And the defence?"

"Uh," Akira ran a hand through his hair. Futaba stood silently beside him, fists raised in anticipation of something. "Yeah?"

"This is a court of law, Mr. Kurusu. You would do well to remember that."

Akira looked befuddled. "Sure?"

Goro repressed the urge to laugh.

"Miss Niijima, please tell us the events involved in today's case," the judge sat back in his chair.

Makoto didn't miss a beat. "The suspect, Miss Haru Okumura, stands accused of murdering her own father, Kunikazu Okumura."

A few shocked gasps broke out amongst the audience. Makoto ignored them and powered on. "The victim was found dead in his own living room. He had received no less than seven stab wounds to the abdomen and a single blow to the head, caused by a heavy picture frame. While the stab wounds contributed to great blood loss, the blunt force trauma was ultimately what led to the victim's death. The time of death was around 11pm. While there were no witnesses to the crime, servants interviewed in the household confirmed no suspicious goings-on the night of the murder, and Miss Okumura was ultimately unable to provide a verifiable alibi for herself."

"I see," the judge played with his gavel thoughtfully. "Can you provide a motive?"

"OBJECTION!"

Akira slammed both hands onto the desk as he shouted. Goro perked up. A sudden outburst? How delightfully un-lawyer-like.

"The defence objects?" the judge raised an eyebrow.

"Well, yeah," Akira scratched the back of his head. "It's a bit rude to let Makoto go all-out with her case when I've said like, three whole words."

A ripple of quiet laughter rolled through the audience.

"Mr. Kurusu, the defence will have its turn to speak," the judge shook his head. "We are currently trying to establish the events leading up to this case."

"Well, the events seem a bit biased against my client," Akira retaliated.

Goro's watch vibrated on his wrist. The five minute timer was up.

"The defence will have its turn to speak," the judge repeated himself slowly and clearly. "Please refrain from any further outbursts."

Akira nodded. Futaba lightly punched him in the side and whispered something.

"If I may continue?" Makoto asked. It was hypothetical, of course - she'd continue even if the courtroom suddenly caught fire. "The suspect's motive is simple. Miss Okumura is the heiress to the impressive Okumura fortune and we have found evidence that her father was planning to marry her off to a man with a, let's say, negative reputation. Servants say that they heard Miss Okumura and her father arguing shortly before the crime was committed. As such, the timeline of events is clear - the two fought and Miss Okumura, in the heat of the moment, took the opportunity to end her father's life," Makoto did a mock bow, twirling her hand as she went. "The prosecution has no further comments."

"And the defence?" the judge looked over at Akira.

"The defence has plenty of further comments!" Akira slammed both hands on his desk again. "Firstly, how dare you?"

"H-how dare I?" Makoto balked, momentarily thrown off guard by the lawyer's accusations. Goro involuntarily leaned forward in his seat.

"This is quite clearly character assassination! You're putting both words and actions in my client's mouth! This is-" Akira clicked his fingers as he thought. "I've forgotten the word!"

"Defamation?" the judge offered.

"No, no, it's like, you know when you intentionally spin a story to make it seem biased?"

"Slander?" Futaba piped up.

"Close, but not quite," Akira tapped his chin with his finger.

"A smear campaign?" Haru suggested.

"It's not- you know what, you get the idea!" Just one hand slammed onto the desk this time, the other pointing accusingly at Makoto. "Either way, Prosecutor Niijima is making my client out to be a bad person!"

Makoto cleared her throat. "She is the suspect on trial."

"That doesn't automatically make her guilty!"

"I would wager that we have more than enough evidence to prove her guilt," Makoto folded her arms confidently. "Or do you intend to make the court offer up synonyms all day?"

Akira opened his mouth for what would most likely have been a semi-witty retort, but the judge got there first. "Enough! I will not have the two of you bickering like children in my courtroom!"

"Yes, judge," Akira and Makoto replied in unison.

"Now, let's move on. Please, Miss Niijima, call your first witness to the stand."

Makoto's first witness was a maid who had been in the employ of the Okumuras for over 10 years. Tall. Late 40s. Highly respected by her fellow staff. Aside from Haru, she had been the last person to see Kunikazu alive. Goro had read the character profiles, of course. He was secretly a fan of how Makoto added her own personal notes to everyone's files. Impartiality who?

As he watched the maid head to the witness stand, heels clacking loudly on the floor, he couldn't help but be drawn to Akira instead.

Just what was his deal? He was several crows short of a murder, in Goro's professional opinion. He idly wondered how this messy-haired man had managed to even show up to the bar exam, let alone pass it. He was a man who spoke to his cat. He brought a teenage assistant to court, which probably broke several courtroom rules alone. He couldn't stop slamming his fists on the table when he raised an objection.

Goro sighed inwardly. He should stop wasting valuable time and brain cells dwelling on this fool and instead enjoy watching Makoto put him in his place and strip him of whatever little dignity he had.

But she didn't.

In fact, the trial went extremely differently to how Goro was expecting. The witness gave her testimony and Akira grilled her on mostly unimportant details - the time she last saw Kunikazu alive, what she was wearing, those earrings are lovely, can you tell me where you got them from? It sounded more like Akira was trying to hunt down a suitable anniversary gift for a lover than actually cross-examine a witness.

Akira's line of questioning apparently got him nowhere and earned him another scolding from the judge. Makoto called her next witness, the groundskeeper. The lawyer proceeded with his unusual cross-examination style - when they last saw Kunikazu alive, what time they went home that night, what flowers they grew in the grounds, oh lilies, did you know lilies are poisonous to cats, because Akira almost learnt that one the hard way, do you know how difficult it is to find an open vet at 2am, seriously if anyone has any decent vet recommendations please give them to me after court because Morgana needs his booster shots and our current vet isn't a fan of him after he tried to forcibly tried to remove the vet's face.

Goro rubbed the bridge of his nose in sheer exasperation. The judge was apparently thinking along the same lines, as he asked Akira if his latest barrage of questions were really that relevant to the case.

"Ah, no," Akira pushed his glasses back into place on his face. "But, you know, there are a lot of people in court, I figured that now was my best chance to get some good vet recommendations."

Dropping his head to hide the look on his face, Goro issued a silent prayer for the stenographer.


11:45am, April 4th, 20XX

Courthouse Lobby

In the wake of the recent development that Akira Kurusu magically incited a headache in every person within a ten metre radius, the judge had declared a 15 minute recess. Goro had retired to the lobby in search of that bitter vending machine coffee taste he associated with court cases.

Makoto was sat on the bench next to the vending machine, thumbing through the case files. Her casual perusal was beset by the frustration in her voice, the slight shaking of her hands, the fact that she wasn't even using highlighters or sticky notes.

"I don't understand," she managed through gritted teeth. "You said ten minutes!"

"In my defence," Goro sipped at his coffee. It was, unsurprisingly, hot. "I was under the impression that the defence was an idiot."

"He is. And he's ruining my case!"

"There, there. You'll pull through, Niijima-san."

"Of course I will. I'm Makoto Niijima, Master Prosecutor," she started repeating the last bit under her breath like a mantra, or perhaps a desperate prayer to whichever god was listening.

For absolutely no particular reason, Goro stuck his tongue into his coffee.

"Huh," came a voice from in front of him. "Mona drinks just like that."

Goro's tongue retreated into his mouth faster than the speed of light, giving him minor cheek-based whiplash in the process.

"Mona?" he replied cordially, pretending that his mouth was currently not trying its best to recreate the innermost layer of hell. He'd heard that name yesterday. Mona.

"My cat. Morgana," Akira beamed. "Black and white. Tiny bastard. Emotional burden. I believe you met him earlier?"

How had Goro not made the Mona/Morgana connection? "Ah, yes. You were arguing with him." A thin smile. Another sip of coffee. A mental image of him throwing his coffee cup at the lawyer.

Akira was, naturally, completely immune to Goro's thoughts of potential chaos and instead turned his attention to Makoto.

"Nice to see you again, Mako-chan." A stupidly wide smile. "You haven't changed a bit."

Only looking up from the case files for a short moment, Makoto gave Akira a gentle smile in return. "You're taller."

Akira struck a pose, pulling his boots up off the floor and tapping his hands on his heels. "It's all in the shoes."

"Mm," Makoto gave him a second look over. "Two inch heels?"

"Puts me just over the six foot three mark." Another breezy smile. Did this man even know that he was in a courthouse? That he was in the middle of a legal case? That he was talking to the prosecution? "People take me more seriously when I'm tall."

Goro hastened his coffee sipping, if just to hide the glower on his face.

Makoto, meanwhile, just laughed politely and returned to poring over the case files. "I might have to take a page out of your book, Kurusu-kun."

"Do you two know each other?" Goro inquired, interest piqued.

Akira's smile somehow got wider. "Mako-chan and I went to school together."

That explained why she knew about his lactose intolerance, at least.

"He was the troublesome transfer student and I was the student council president. Truly a match made in heaven."

"Hey, I helped you bust that ring of students who kept sharing exam answers!"

"Only because I threatened Sakamoto-kun with detention if you didn't."

Even though she was still focusing intensely on the case files, Goro could hear the smile in her voice.

"Extortion, Niijima-san?" Goro raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were better than that."

"She gave Ryuji detention anyway," Akira shrugged. "I just helped her out because I'm that kind of guy."

There was no coffee left to sip. "That kind of guy?"

"You know, hilarious, handsome, something else beginning with H," Akira winked, stretching at the same time. "Alright, I'm done over here, so I'm going to go back over there now. See ya, Mako-chan, Akechi-kun."

"I'll see you on the other side of the courtroom, Kurusu-kun," came Makoto's farewell.

"Good luck with the case, Kurusu-kun," Goro added automatically. You'll need it.


12:00pm, April 4th, 20XX

Courtroom 6

Goro was so distracted by the enigma that was Akira Kurusu that he completely managed to miss the first ten minutes of the continued trial. Something about the inheritance? He couldn't recall. At least Akira had stopped asking for vet recommendations. There he went again, thinking about Akira. Bastard.

Little did Goro know, this train of thought was going to become a regular thing for him.

Haru was the next witness called to the stand. Goro ensured his focus was back to its usual razor-sharp point - no more being distracted by the lawyer whose glasses were, once again, on the tip of his nose. Were they just too big for his face? Did he even need glasses? His glasses' attempts to escape didn't seem to bother him. It was bothering Goro. Maybe he'd suggest contacts. But his glasses were fake. Why did he wear fake glasses if they were too large for him?

Right, yes, the witness testimony. Cross-examination. Just stop looking at him for five minutes. What are you, a lovesick teenager?

It didn't matter if Goro was a lovesick teenager. Mostly because he was a dispassionate fully-grown adult. Besides, Akira was married, if the ring on his finger was anything to go by. Goro wondered what sort of person his spouse was.

"Can the witness please provide her name and occupation?" Makoto asked.

If the old saying 'opposites attract' was anything to go by, Akira's spouse would have to be an intelligent, well-spoken, and put together person. Someone who didn't talk to cats. A dog person, perhaps?

"I am Haru Okumura, daughter of K-Kunikazu Okumura," Haru's voice wavered momentarily. "I suppose my current occupation would be heiress?"

Goro wasn't really a dog person. He was a fan of birds. He liked to feed the birds in the park.

"Very well," Makoto clicked her tongue. "Witness. Testify."

What was the opposite of a bird person? A reptile person? Then again, birds and reptiles shared a similar evolutionary line.

"W-well," Haru paused to clear her throat. "On the night of the murder, my father and I had an argument just before 8pm. He had informed me of his plan to marry me off to that- that rotten man!" Another pause. A deep breath. "I told him that I-I wouldn't go through with the marriage, so we fought about it. When it was clear that m-my father had no intention of budging on the issue, I informed him that we would discuss it more tomorrow, and I went- I went to bed."

A mammal person would probably be the opposite of a bird person. That would make a platypus person a happy medium.

"So your alibi is that you were asleep?" the judge inquired.

Goro didn't really have any strong feelings regarding platypuses.

"Y-yes!" Haru squeaked. "I can't prove it, because I was asleep!"

Dolphins, though. Goro had some strong feelings regarding those grey fuckers.

"I see," the judge looked at Akira. "Is the defence ready to perform their cross-examination?"

Focus on the case, Goro's brain chided him. We can dwell on how much we hate dolphins later.

"Ready as ever," Akira replied firmly. He seemed prepared, for once. "Haru, how do you know what time the argument took place?"

"O-oh! Because the clock chimed!"

"Please elaborate."

"There's a beautiful grandfather clock in the living room a-and it chimes at each hour!" Haru nodded enthusiastically. "I remember that there were eight of them. It's been a habit of mine to count them ever since I-I was a child."

"And you went to bed before hearing the ninth set of bongs?"

"Yes."

"So you're saying that you went to bed prior to 9pm."

"Y-yes?"

"And it states quite clearly in the autopsy report that your father died at around 11pm at night."

Goro knew where Akira was trying to head but without solid evidence, his line of questioning was worthless. A rookie mistake. If the court offered up a 'not guilty' verdict for everyone who simply said they went to bed before the murder was committed, there'd be nobody in prison.

"Objection!" Makoto's voice cut clear through the room. "Miss Okumura could have easily gotten back out of bed and committed the killing later that night!"

The atmosphere in the courtroom suddenly changed, murmurs buzzing amongst the audience, and Goro couldn't place his finger on whether it was for better or worse. He glanced over at Akira. The lawyer was stood tall in his stupid two-inch heels with an unreadable glint in his eye.

Akira ignored Makoto's outburst and switched his avenue of questioning. "May I ask the prosecution - just for clarification - just what the murder weapon was?"

"It was a heavy picture frame," Makoto replied. Goro sensed a hint of hesitation in her voice, which was smoothly replaced with her usual coolness. "Did the defence perhaps forget to look through the court record prior to coming to work today?"

"So - and just to confirm this," Akira ignored Makoto's jab. "The prosecution believes that my client, with her own two hands, murdered her father with the use of a heavy object at around 11pm at night?"

"Yes."

"Well, the prosecution is wrong, seeing as my client could not have physically murdered her father."

Akira looked so smug that Goro was momentarily filled with a powerful urge to throw something at him. Perhaps a chair? The chairs in the courtroom were bolted to the ground but the rush of adrenaline provided by undertaking such a task would most likely fill him with the strength required to uproot one. He was also a fairly fit person. He also carried a screwdriver on him. Were the chairs bolted or screwed?

"I assume you have evidence to back up your claims, Mr. Kurusu?" the judge asked. Focus, Goro.

"Do you really think I would come into court without evidence?" Akira jokingly put his hands on his hips. Futaba punched him in the arm. "Ow!"

"Yes," Makoto replied drily.

"Yes," the judge agreed.

"Alright, I walked right into that one," Akira huffed, rubbing at the spot on his arm where Futaba had punched him. "Haru, would it be okay if Futaba helped you remove your gloves and shawl?"

"Is this relevant to the case?" the judge interrupted before Haru had the chance to even open her mouth. Goro couldn't help but agree. Unless Haru literally had an ace up her sleeve - or under her gloves or shawl - this seemed a little bit pointless.

Maybe that was Akira's modus operandi. He just led people in circles until they gave in.

Goro's brain felt like it was going in circles.

"Yes? It's- it's literally the evidence you asked for?"

A brief pause. "I'll allow it, then."

Akira nodded at Futaba, who headed over to the witness stand and proceeded to gently remove Haru's gloves and shawl, revealing symmetrical stitches adorning both of Haru's hands and scaling up and over her left shoulder.

A stunned silence settled over the courtroom. Goro could almost taste the tension in the air, which was a little weird.

"As you can see," Akira motioned to the witness stand, "Miss Haru Okumura has recently undergone extensive surgery on her hands and shoulder due to an unfortunate accident. My client is currently physically incapable of holding a fork, let alone lifting an entire photo frame and beating someone over the head with it."

Judging by the look on her face, Makoto had absolutely not planned for this turn of events.

The bubble of tension burst and the audience erupted into chaos. Accusations began to fly across the room - some members of the audience were insisting they knew Haru was innocent from the start, while others were accusing the defence of somehow forging the evidence. Goro had seen surgical scars plenty of times before. These were legitimate.

"Order! Order!" the judge slammed his gavel. "I will have order in my court!"

While the audience quietened down, the whispers didn't subside entirely.

"Mr. Kurusu," the judge stared Akira down. "What do Miss Okumura's surgical scars have to do with this case?"

"Yes!" Makoto composed herself once more, dusting down her shirt casually. "This evidence isn't proof enough that Miss Okumura did not commit the crime. How do we know that she can't hold anything?"

"Because I have a medical report directly from the hospital where my client underwent surgery," Akira started scrabbling around in his incredibly disorganised case file. "Said report is signed by not one, not two, but three doctors." Akira triumphantly produced a folder and held it aloft. "The doctors have confirmed that Haru cannot currently use her hands at full strength, cannot lift her left arm at all, and will require months of physical therapy."

Goro folded his arms. Perhaps Akira wasn't as terrible a lawyer as he had been led to believe.

That still meant that Makoto had somehow overlooked Haru's medical records, though.

"Along with this, Haru has also been prescribed strong painkillers and sleeping pills, which are guaranteed to knock her out- uh, allow her to sleep for at least 8 hours uninterrupted," Akira finally put the folder back down on his desk. "I guarantee that if the court were to run a blood test on my client, they would find traces of the pills in her system."

"Any traces of any pills could have easily been there for a while!" Makoto argued.

"I also have a witness who can confirm that they helped give Haru her sleeping pills at around 9pm on the night of the crime." The smug look was back. Goro didn't know if he loved or hated it. "She would have been fast asleep before 10pm, thus making it impossible that she was the one responsible for the death of her father."

"I believe it's my job to call the witnesses, Mr. Kurusu," Makoto was trying to derail Akira's argument. Unfortunately, it was a bit like attempting to derail a train using nothing but thoughts and prayers. Even if Akira had a witness and Makoto refused to call them, the medical report would most likely provide all the evidence the court required for a 'not guilty' verdict.

"Yeah, well," Akira gestured wildly, all traces of smugness completely gone. "I have one, if you need them! You're welcome!"

"Enough!" the sound of the judge's gavel hitting the sound block was starting to become a regular occurrence. "I believe I've heard enough!"

"From who?" Akira asked innocently.

"Both of you!" the judge shook his head. "It has become quite obvious to me that given her physical state, there is no way that Miss Okumura could have committed murder."

The look on Makoto's face was nothing short of murderous. Could it be that her perfect win record was about to finally be broken?

Akira's chest puffed proudly as Futaba excitedly whispered something into his ear.

"This leaves us with another question, though," the judge tented his fingers thoughtfully. "If Haru Okumura is not guilty of her father's murder, then who is?"

Goro had been so caught up in the unusual direction that this case had taken that he hadn't had time to process something, and that something was the fact that he had been wrong. He, Goro Akechi, ace detective, had been wrong about a case. Despite all the evidence that he had found that pointed to Haru Okumura being the killer, he was wrong.

To make things worse, he felt it in his gut. He could feel the doubt creeping in under his skin. He had overlooked something that was key to the case and he had no idea what it was. Was he getting lazy? Sloppy? Was Makoto potentially not the only person to be knocked from their pedestal today?

He, Goro Akechi, had been wrong.


1:00pm, April 4th, 20XX

Courthouse Lobby

Another recess, this time to discuss the validity of Haru's medical report. 30 minutes. Enough time for Makoto to try and find another lead, another line of questioning, anything. Enough time for Goro to enjoy another cup of vending machine coffee and intentionally ignore the fact that he had been wrong.

"How did he know that Haru had undergone surgery?" Makoto asked out loud, the question not aimed at anybody in particular. She was wildly leafing through the case file, searching for a new witness or clue or anything that would help them get ahead in the case and away from that deeply confusing excuse for a lawyer.

"How did you not know?" Goro countered.

"I-" Makoto paused to think. "Because I didn't ask?"

"Mmm," a flash of movement caught Goro's eye. A black and white cat, sneaking into an 'EMPLOYEES ONLY' room. "Perhaps you should have."

"Ah, yes, I forgot that my standard lines of questioning include 'what's your alibi?' and 'have you undergone surgery recently?' and that this is entirely my fault for not asking that. Silly me!"

"Frustration is unbecoming of you, Niijima-san."

Goro's comment earned him a highlighter pen to the head. He ignored it. It wasn't the first pen to the head and it wouldn't be the last.

"If anything, it's your fault for not discerning her recent injury from the way she walked or whatever it is you do," Makoto returned to the case file. "You were wrong, Akechi-kun."

"Yes, yes, but I'll work out where I went wrong and I'll correct it."

Makoto checked her watch. "You have 10 minutes to fix this."

"I'll do it in 5."

Goro flexed his back muscles and headed over to where the defence and their client were seated. Futaba and Akira were muttering eagerly to each other, heads bowed together over a notebook, while Haru turned her head, acknowledging the detective as he approached.

"Hello, Detective Akechi," she addressed him kindly.

"Surely if we've gotten Haru a not guilty verdict, the case should be over?" Futaba asked Akira, completely blanking Goro.

"If we don't work out who did it, suspicion will automatically fall back on Haru," Akira explained. "And while we have solid evidence that Haru didn't do it, the court might overlook that in favour of voting her guilty just to close the case.

"The justice system is broken," Futaba shook her head.

Agreed.

"Greetings, Miss Okumura," he raised his Styrofoam coffee cup in a form of greeting. "I apologise for whatever incident required you to undergo such extensive surgery."

"Ah, it's okay! It wasn't your fault, detective." A soft giggle. "It was a gardening accident."

"A gardening accident?" Goro expertly lifted one eyebrow. Appear welcoming, he reminded himself. Open. Friendly. Approachable.

"Well, it was more of a tree accident, involving a chainsaw. I was distracted by a peacock, you see..."

"Haru's hench," Futaba spoke brusquely. She still didn't bother to look up at Goro. "She was dual wielding chainsaws."

"And a flamethrower," Akira added.

Goro sneaked a peek at the notebook between Akira and Futaba. He expected case notes or something in legalese. He got a game of tic-tac-toe.

Futaba joined three Xs, winning the game. "Two chainsaws, each with a flamethrower attached."

"That would make a really great barbecue tool," Akira mused, chewing on his lower lip. "We should consider marketing that. Haru, can we borrow, like, ten million dollars?"

Politely clearing his throat before Haru had a chance to get ensnared in any disastrous business schemes, Goro pressed onward. "I was unaware that you moonlighted as an entrepreneur, Kurusu-kun."

"I moonlight as a barista," Akira finally made eye contact with Goro. His glasses were on the end of his nose again.

Goro was genuinely unsure if he was serious. "That's..." Words failed him. Certainly a fact. "Interesting."

The lawyer was gazing at him with that unreadable gaze of his. The ace detective started to feel hot under the collar.

He cleared his throat and took another sip of his coffee. Lukewarm. "So, does the defence have any idea who the actual murderer is?"

"Yep!" came the reply, a unionised exclamation from Futaba and Akira.

Well, he might as well try his luck. "Can I know?"

They didn't miss a beat. "Nope!"

"I believe I've already told you, Akechi-kun." Was Akira fluttering his eyelashes at him? No. Surely not. It was just the stress of the court case messing with his mind. Probably.

Hang on, what did he mean, he'd already told Goro?

Ah. Akira and Haru were both looking at him. Say something smart. "Ah!" He faked being in-the-know. "Of course, I already knew who did it. I was just seeing which angle you were favouring next."

He wasn't sure if he was putting on a convincing act. Time to switch to plan B, which revolved entirely around Goro disengaging from the conversation and finishing his coffee somewhere peaceful and not populated with lawyers. Even though Makoto would probably fling more stationery at him if he returned empty-handed, it seemed a preferable alternative to allowing his present company know that Akira Kurusu, attorney-at-law, had somehow managed to outsmart Goro Akechi, ace detective.

"You should probably head back over to Mako-chan, Akechi-kun," Akira seemed to read at least the first part of Goro's mind. "She looks a little stressed."

A glance in Makoto's direction proved this to very much be an understatement. She was biting down on a pen with such force that the lid had come off and if her eyebrows furrowed any further, they'd become a monobrow.

"Ah!" Goro nodded. "Yes. I'll be on my way."

He turned and walked stiffly over to the other side of the lobby before any further things could be said, thought, or felt.


1:30pm, April 4th, 20XX

Courtroom 6

Goro sat back in his chair, rubbing his fingers together in thought. Makoto had given him a chance to explain himself and upon his explanation that Akira was being cryptic and deeply unhelpful, she had simply dropped her head and let out a defeated groan.

"He hasn't changed at all," came the complaint.

Now, back in the courtroom once more, all Goro could think about was Akira being purposely obtuse. What did he mean, he'd already told him? Their conversations so far had consisted largely of Akira's lack of time management, his abs, his cat, his shoes, his awful business ideas, and his night job.

He scowled, replaying the conversations in his head. Damn the case. Makoto would be fine on her own. Maybe. Trying to work out this man and buff out the small dent in his ego took priority at this time.

Time management. Washboard abs. His cat being a bastard. His shoes giving him a height advantage. Flamethrowers and chainsaws. Schrödinger's barista.

He could probably erase the comments about Akira's cat and his job as a barista. Perhaps it had something to do with Haru's injury? Were the flamethrowers and chainsaws a clue? Was he reading too far into it? Probably. Think, Goro.

Washboard abs. Probably irrelevant. The shoes? A height advantage? Perhaps the actual murderer was tall? If only he had the case file to see who was blessed in the height department. The flamethrowers and chainsaws were probably unrelated, too, given how Futaba was the one who brought up that initial conversation topic. Seeing as he was the one who brought up Akira's lack of time management, he could cross that off too.

He lifted his head as Makoto called a witness to the stand. It was the maid from earlier. Akira had politely requested if he could cross-examine her further, although Goro didn't see what she could have possibly added to her testimony.

His hands stilled.

It's all in the shoes.

Of course. How had he not noticed it earlier?

The weapon that caused the stab wounds wasn't a fire poker, it was a pair of stiletto heels.


4:25pm, April 4th, 20XX

Courthouse Lobby

It had been quite the court case. Akira had managed to find every single contradiction in the witness' testimony, doubling down on his incessant questioning until the maid finally snapped and confessed that she was the one who had killed Kunikazu Okumura. They had been romantically involved, but Kunikazu had refused to change his will to give any of his inheritance to his lover instead of his daughter. She had killed him in a fit of rage, figuring that if she could place the blame on Haru, Kunikazu's will would be rendered invalid and the inheritance would pass to her instead.

It wasn't sound logic but hey, Goro had seen people do weirder things in the name of love.

When the judge had slammed his gavel and delivered the official 'not guilty' verdict, Makoto had physically deflated, slumping onto her desk. That was it. April 4th, 20XX. The day that Prosecutor Niijima had lost her perfect win record.

"It was just beginner's luck," Goro had reassured her once they'd returned to the courthouse lobby.

"How did I not notice the shoes?" she had lamented.

The reporters had swarmed into the lobby, demanding interviews with both Akira and Makoto, asking how the rookie had managed to crack the case and how the professional had managed to fumble it. Goro felt bad for her. The fact that Makoto had lost such a high-profile case would most likely haunt her forever.

Akira had also been swarmed with people offering vet recommendations, which surprised Goro.

Now, the reporters had been warded off by security and while Makoto was drowning her sorrows in grape soda from the vending machine, Goro was watching Akira and company across the lobby. The lawyer was holding his cat in his arms - Goro made a mental note to scour the courthouse rule book and see if pets were allowed on the grounds - and he, Futaba, and Haru had been joined by a blonde-haired man that Goro didn't recognise. They were all laughing and joking together.

He felt a weird twist in his stomach. Perhaps the vending machine coffee had been off?

"Alright," Makoto crushed an empty can of grape soda in her fist. "I feel terrible. I'm going home."

"We have paperwork," Goro replied, tearing his attention away from the opposing party.

"It can wait," she groaned, pressing her head against the soothingly cold plastic front of the vending machine. "I need to lie down."

"You can lie down while you file your paperwork."

If Makoto had had the energy, Goro was sure she would have shot him a look so menacing it would have taken five years off his life.

"Niijima-san?" came a polite voice from behind them.

The two spun around to see Haru Okumura stood patiently, accompanied by the defence and the blonde stranger.

"Okumura-san," Makoto started, but Haru interrupted her.

"It's been a long time!" her eyes crinkled with the intensity of her smile. "I always followed your cases in the paper."

"I-it has!" Makoto cleared her throat. Goro knew her well enough to know that she was about five seconds away from crying. "It's good to see you again too, Sakamoto-kun."

"Aw, ya don't have to lie," the blonde man, who Goro correctly deduced to be Ryuji Sakamoto, grinned.

"Niijima-san, Akechi-kun," Haru continued. "We were wondering if you would like to join us for a celebratory dinner? My treat, of course!"

"Uh," Makoto hesitated. "I appreciate the offer, but we didn't win?"

"You may not have won the case, but it's nice to see you again! And I'm sure that Akira will be seeing more of both you and Akechi-kun in the future, so it's best you get to know each other!"

Goro wasn't one to turn down free food. "I'm in."

Makoto wasn't, either. "That's very kind of you, Okumura-san."

"Please, call me Haru!" Haru's smile was immovable. Goro suddenly had a deeper understanding of the saying about Helen of Troy's face launching a thousand ships.

"O-okay!" Makoto nodded. "Haru."

Haru's laugh was light and lilting.

"Meow!" Morgana wriggled out of Akira's arms and leapt onto the floor, purring and rubbing against Haru's ankles.

"Yes, we're going for sushi," Akira spoke directly to Morgana. "Yes, we'll get you fatty tuna."

Morgana's purrs rumbled through the floor.

"Not that ya deserve it," Ryuji grumbled.

The purring stopped. "Meow!"

Ryuji assumed an offensive stance. "You know what I mean!"

The detective's attention was drawn to a flash of gold on Ryuji's left hand. A wedding ring.

Oh.

Maybe Goro had been wrong twice in one day. Maybe Akira's spouse was someone who talked to cats.

"Akechi-kun," Akira flung his arm around Ryuji's shoulders, giving him a squeeze, most likely in an attempt to stop him brawling with his cat. "This is Ryuji Sakamoto, my ex-husband. Ryuji, this is Goro Akechi, ace detective."

"Nice to meet ya!" Ryuji gave an informal salute to Goro, who automatically returned the gesture.

Well, introductions had gone smoothly enough. All these people apparently knew each other and Goro was the odd one out.

Wait. Ex-husband?

"Ex-husband?" Goro voiced his thoughts.

"We got married for the benef-" Ryuji started, before Akira slapped his free hand over his mouth.

"BECAUSE WE LOVE EACH OTHER," he shouted.

Goro had heard more convincing lies from people who had been caught red-handed at crime scenes.

"Definitely not because married couples got twenty five percent off their university tuition fees and I wanted to study law," Akira babbled. "I mean, I originally posted the marriage offer on Craigslist, but that did not go to plan-"

"And I got a half price gym membership and cheaper insurance!"

Makoto snorted. "This is very in-character for both of you."

"And then we moved, and you changed gyms, and I graduated, and we were like well, time to get divorced!" Akira pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Remember, Ryuji? Over there is where we filed for our marriage certificate."

Ryuji pointed to one of the benches. "And over there is where we signed the divorce papers!"

"And over there is where the judge ordered us to separate our Phoenix Ranger Featherman R action figures," Akira looked almost mournful. Before he and Ryuji could continue reminiscing over their questionable marriage, Haru politely cleared her throat.

"Should we head out for sushi, then?" she asked.

"I'll help you eat, Haru!" Futaba scooped Morgana off the floor. "And I'll help kitty eat!"

"I'm not sure if a cat would be allowed in a sushi restaurant," Makoto frowned.

"Then kitty can stay in the car and I'll eat his half!"

"MEOW!"

Infectious enthusiasm was apparently a common personality trait amongst the defence.


10:45pm, April 4th, 20XX

Goro's Apartment

The sushi dinner had gone remarkably well, considering that Makoto had just lost her reputation as a Master Prosecutor and they had smuggled Morgana in under the table. Goro had learnt that Ryuji was actually a practising physiotherapist and that when Futaba wasn't helping Akira, she worked as a computer technician.

He'd also been filled in on the backstory behind the group - Akira, Makoto, Haru, and Ryuji had all attended Shujin Academy together. Haru and Makoto had been in the year above Akira and Ryuji but they had somehow become friends nonetheless. They'd all lost contact once they'd graduated, but Haru had heard rumours that Akira had recently passed his bar exam and become a defence attorney and decided to opt for someone she trusted in court over for someone looking for a payday.

("I am getting a payday, though, right?!" Akira had stopped mid-bite, extreme panic on his face.)

Now, lying in bed, Goro wondered how long Akira would last in the world of law. He seemed too kind for it, to be blunt. It was a harsh environment. Nepotism and a mostly positive reputation got you significantly further than actual talent. While Makoto might see some repercussions from losing the case, it was unlikely that Akechi would be penalised in any way, shape, or form. He was virtually untouchable.

If Akira had managed to win Haru's case based on actual skill rather than beginner's luck, he still had a long way to go.

At least he had a pretty face.