In the Mansions of the Just

by Tenshi

Author's Note: Takes place one year after the end of AJ:AA, the following October. Spoilers for the first three games.

The courthouse records room was gloomy at the best of times. Phoenix had always thought so, even before a feckless art student had first encountered the murderess of his dreams there. There was something unsettling about the way the small windows were almost always blocked by tall, imposing shelves, or about the muffled hush produced by hundreds of books, all filled with the doom of others. It was impossible to see where anyone else might have come from or gone, and sound traveled strangely. It always made Phoenix feel like there was someone creeping up on him, even when there wasn't; the urge to keep looking over his shoulder was irresistible even in the daytime.

At night it was much the same, only a million times worse.

But Phoenix was going there anyway, on a mission of mercy for Apollo. He'd left the junior attorney in the office, staring down a stack of evidence that was damning in the wrong direction, wearing a bleak expression that Phoenix knew all too well. It was well past regular hours, even in the early dark of the waning year. Cold wind and dry leaves followed Phoenix in at the back door, his footsteps reverberated in the empty hall, and the elevator walls pressed in uncomfortably as it descended to the basement. Phoenix wasn't sure if his claustrophobia was due to the fact that he knew too much about that elevator, or because the night outside had been so crisp and wide open by comparison, red maple leaves rimed with frost. He practically fled the elevator once the doors opened, and as a result almost mowed over Mrs. Riffle: the wizened, diminutive keeper of the court records archive.

"Oh, I shouldn't be surprised it's you," she said with withering fondness, as she adjusted the tiny hat that Phoenix had knocked askew. "Whose backside you trying to save now, eh? Thought you didn't have a case yet?"

"It's a favor for someone else at the firm," Phoenix explained, not sure if that would grant him access, and padding out the tale. "Terrible case, really. We think it's a definite framing, the defendant's a widower, got three kids to feed--"

"It's that pimp that thinks he's a woman, isn't it," Mrs. Riffle said, with no room for argument. "Goes around in a little skirt, wears a green wig or somethingorother."

Phoenix slumped. "Well, I don't think he thinks he's a woman, so much as he thinks he is in fact Sailor Uranus. And he prefers the term 'Brothel Madam.'"

"I prefer the term 'weirdo' but nobody asked me. Out with it, what do you want? You're keeping me from my Mr. Scribbles who wants his kibble."

Phoenix saw no other option but to come clean. Mrs. Riffle might be a crazy old bat, but she would never stand by and let an innocent weirdo go to jail if she could help it. "There was a previous case Apollo's client testified in that would prove a motive for someone else to frame him for murder. I don't suppose you'd let me in for a peek?"

Mrs. Riffle's gaze was penetrating from behind her spectacles. "Got that badge back, ain'tcha? Because I've gotten in enough trouble letting you in here at all hours for that pet jurist project of yours." Phoenix said nothing, but pulled back the front of his coat to reveal a glint of gold on his lapel, shining in the dim light like an evening star. Mrs. Riffle waved her hand, as though Phoenix and his needs were a pack of gnats. He could tell, however, that she was smiling. "Fine fine, but only because Mr. Edgeworth's already down there. I told him to lock up when he's done."

"Edgeworth's here?" Phoenix said, trying not to sound interested.

The librarian, like many of her ilk, was not easily fooled. "You'll go down there and do your research, young man, and then you'll both go home. No sex on the reading tables."

"I uh, I guess you hadn't forgotten about that, huh?" Phoenix said, wincing as he was poked in the chest with Mrs. Riffle's hard, bony finger.

"Hardly. I think it will be burned in my brain until my dying day."

Phoenix sighed. "What can I say, Mrs. R? It was a long time ago. We were young, foolish lawyers, drunk on possibility and optimism, with no more thought of tomorrow than--"

"It was last week, Mr. Wright."

"Oh." Phoenix felt a wave of heat creeping over his face. "...erumyeah. That time."

"Though I think you were right about the drunk part. Go on now and save your sailor anus or whatever it is. Just remember to behave yourself, Mister. This is holy ground."

Phoenix's grin was uneasy, as one would smile at a crazy person on the street while mentally praying that one's bus would arrive and provide escape. "Uh, I think you mean state property. Churches are holy ground."

"Courthouses are, if you're a follower of Justice." Mrs. Riffle whacked Phoenix in the shins with her umbrella, elbowing past him to get to the elevator. "Don't forget it, boy. And no leaving the room a mess, either! If so much as one book is out of place--"

"I got it, I got it," Phoenix said, backing out of umbrella range. "Thumbscrews for me, right?"

"Hmph. If you're lucky." Mrs. Riffle gave him one last baleful look, and then the elevator doors closed. Phoenix was left alone in the dark passageway, the only light coming from the exit sign above the stairwell, spitting and flickering like it was having some sort of electrical seizure.

Shivering in her chilly wake, Phoenix walked down the hall. The door of the records room was outlined in a rectangle of welcoming lamplight, and Phoenix tried not to rush down to it. The darkness in the corridor chewed at the heels of his shoes, and once he got to the door he wrenched it open. It gave too fast in his hand, pulled inwards at the same time by someone else on the other side, and in the resultant collision it was a small consolation that Miles Edgeworth looked at least as startled as Phoenix felt.

"Christ," Edgeworth said, exasperated, and shuffled the papers in his arms in an attempt to compose himself.

"No, just me," Phoenix demurred, bending to pick up a folder Edgeworth had dropped. "He only took three days to come back--I took seven years."

"In that case, you have no business being back in this tomb." Edgeworth tilted up his glasses: a charming addition to his appearance that never failed to delight Phoenix Wright of the perfect 20/20 vision. Edgeworth had said the first time that maybe if Phoenix had bothered to actually read some legal books once in a while that he'd be in need of glasses, too. "What are you doing here?"

Phoenix shrugged. "Apollo's in up to his ears, I thought I'd lend a hand and pick up the records for State v. Bartleby from three years ago."

"The murder trial?" Edgeworth looked thoughtful, connections clicking together behind his glasses. "You think the brothel bookkeeper framed Mr. Transitanni for Justice's current case?"

"Very likely, since his testimony got the bookkeeper's brother put away for murder in that one." Phoenix glanced over Edgeworth's shoulder, at the darkened records room. Edgeworth had turned out all the lights except the one over the door. "I don't want to keep you though, since it is a defense matter--"

"This is prosecutor Gavin's case, not mine." Edgeworth too, might have been smiling, at the hint of a gold lapel pin shining inside Phoenix's jacket. "I was just in that section. I'll help you look."

The shadows retreated from the stacks as Edgeworth flipped the bank of light switches upwards again, flooding the room with light. They spent longer than they planned in the shelves, as it seemed every other file they turned up was full of memories. Several cases were ones of Edgeworth's that Phoenix had missed in his time out of practice; others had played an oblique role in Phoenix's exoneration, but had taken place when Edgeworth was out of the country. It was twenty minutes after midnight when theState v. Bartleby folder was unearthed, and Phoenix and Edgeworth huddled around the photocopier as it duplicated the data.

"It's always so cold down here," Phoenix said, putting his back to the machine as though it were an open fire.

Edgeworth was examining an old crime scene photo with interest: a black-and-white phantom slumped over a winning hand of cards. "It's to preserve the papers. There are records down here that are over a hundred years old, and quite delicate."

"Brr." Phoenix pressed his hands to the sides of the machine. "Feels like a crypt." The copier dinged, and Phoenix looked down at the display. It wanted more dimes. "God forbid we rip off the state by wasteful photocopying practices," Phoenix grumbled, digging in his pockets. "Ah, dammit. I'm out of change."

"Here." Edgeworth put down a handful of coins on the lid of the copier, and scooped an assortment of murders back into their folders. "I'll go put these back."

"I don't suppose you'd be going by my place on your way home?" Phoenix said hopefully, feeding more coins to the copier.

Edgeworth rolled his eyes. "No, but I suspect I'm giving you a ride anyway. Hurry up, will you? Some of us have to be in the office in the morning."

"Yeah, yeah." Phoenix said. "Just rub it in that nobody wants to give me a case yet, why don't you?" The copier chugged on, belly full of dimes, and Edgeworth's rustling in the shelves seemed much farther away than it should have been. Phoenix shuddered again. It must be really cold down here, he thought, to make him shake so hard.

Except he wasn't the only thing shaking. The coins on the top of the photocopier danced and rattled, raining down onto the carpet around his feet, and the hanging planters in Mrs. Riffle's office rocked on their hooks as though they were caught in a high wind. An electric jolt of understanding flashed along Phoenix's nerves, and he whirled around to see the rows of bookshelves swaying like ponderous dominoes poised to fall.


Phoenix had barely shouted when something collided hard with the back of his head and darkness descended, as indomitable and impenetrable as a final verdict.

He came to again an uncertain amount of time later, choking on dust and blind as a mole. Groping around in the dark he found a landslide of books and the shattered remains of one of the overhead light fixtures-- most likely the culprit responsible for the knot at the back of his head. He shook a shower of glass out of his hair and waited for his eyes to adjust, but the room was as black as ever. The windows must be blocked, he thought, not that they were not generous in the first place, since the records room was mostly underground.

"Edgeworth?" Phoenix called, and tried to reason with himself that the silence he got in answer was not proof of a terrible outcome. Even if unharmed, Edgeworth would probably have passed out from the earthquake. That fact did not keep Phoenix from saying Edgeworth's name three our four more times, still with no result. Phoenix pushed himself to his feet and shuffled along in the dark towards where he estimated Edgeworth had been last, calling out at fruitless intervals. Eventually his outstretched fingers encountered bookshelf, and he breathed a silent prayer that it was still upright, and not toppled. A few falling books might have knocked Edgeworth unconscious, but an overturned bookshelf could kill him easily.

"Edgeworth, are you there? C'mon, I don't want to step on you."

A small scraping sound, like fingernails on a coffin lid, and then light flared in the darkness. Phoenix flinched, momentarily blinded by light as much as by the darkness. Blinking away afterimages, he realized it was only a single match.

"Oh, man you had me scare--" Phoenix's voice died in his throat. The tiny flame did not illuminate Edgeworth's features, but instead it licked over a porcelain heart-shaped face, gleaming dyed-crimson hair, and a perfect, poisonous smile.

"Hello, Feenie." Dahlia Hawthorne said, sweetly. "Fancy meeting you here. Again."

Phoenix went cold all over; a plummet of temperature that had nothing to do with the courthouse thermostat, and everything to do with pure, unmitigated terror. Dahlia tossed her match in the air (was it even a match, really, or had that fire simply sprouted from her fingertips?), and it caught on something above her, something frail and butterfly-like that burned and burned without extinguishing. Phoenix thought he could hear it screaming, dimly, and wondered if he was only hearing himself, inside his mind.

"It's been a long time," Dahlia said, drawing her wrap around her shoulders. It was pale pink, and delicately sheer, but in the ghoulish light of her hellfire it looked like she was wearing a thin mantle of glistening blood. "Look at you, all grown up now. Is that gray hair I see?" She tittered behind her hand. "What will people think, seeing you with a little girl like me? What a scandal."

"You're dead," Phoenix croaked, forcing out the truth he had repeated to himself after every 2 AM nightmare, or after every glimpse of a pink umbrella in the rain. It was the only thought in his mind, skipping like an old-fashioned record, the thing he clung to in the worst of his dreams. Which is what this was. What it had to be. He was still out cold on the records room floor, and all those old case files had conjured up this subconscious specter from his past. Dahlia was dead, unsummoned and incapable of reaching through to the mortal world again. She was certainly not reaching out to him now, touching the faint hint of silver at his temples and ruffling it with her cold, cold fingers.

"So grown up," Dahlia said, breathing the scent of her cherry-blossom lipgloss on Phoenix's face, her half-closed eyes burning with a perverse, chilly light. "And yet still so stupid." Her icy fingers dragged down over his clenched jaw, across his taut lips. Underneath her artificial sweetness there was the sickening stench of something dead left too long in the sun. Phoenix's stomach twisted with nausea as he realized she was moving in to kiss him.

"Let me go," he hissed, through his teeth.

Dahlia opened her eyes wide: disarming, charming, innocent. "Let you go?" she exclaimed, with a tiny laugh. "Why would I do that?" Her hands curled hard into the sides of his suit jacket, and Phoenix could hear the fabric ripping under her nails. "Now, that I've finally got you?" Her smile distended her face, stretching further than it should have been able to go. "Got you," she hissed, "and will keep you, and tear you into tiny bloody shreds, my darling Feenie. I can't wait to roll around in your crunchy little flesh-stripped bones."

She lunged upwards for his mouth and no amount of lipgloss could disguise the carrion-reek of her. Phoenix struggled to pull away, knowing that he must not let her kiss him, must not let her suck the breath and life out of his body. But his limbs were like molded lead, and would not respond. Her lips were a centimeter from his, and Phoenix a centimeter from his doom, when her movement was suddenly arrested, her cry of triumph interrupted with a little yelp of pain. Edgeworth's hand was fisted in the crimson glory of her hair, pulling her back and twisting up her braids until they looked like horns. Dahlia's eyes were not the only ones that could burn cold.

"Get away from him," Edgeworth said, "you bitch."

He yanked her head back and Dahlia screamed in pain and rage. For the first time Phoenix saw the mangled purple line around her slender throat: the mark of a hangman's noose. Edgeworth flung her away as though she was nothing more than a rag doll. She was no nightmare of his, and she had no power to stop him. Dahlia crashed backwards into a shelf, bringing down a rain of law books around her.

"Edgeworth," Phoenix gasped, his hands to his own throat, as though he had been unable to breathe before. "I'm glad you're--"

"Look out!" Edgeworth shouted, as Dahlia rose up again and streaked towards Phoenix, screaming like a banshee. She had given up any pretense of life, and her form was translucent and ragged at the edges, her features as hollow as a skull. Phoenix flung up his arms in front of his face, but had a glimpse of something else hurtling through the air towards Dahlia, something far more corporeal. They crashed in midair and Dahlia vanished with a gasp of imploding air, sucked back into whatever hell she inhabited. Her baleful light winked out, and there was a deafening silence. Phoenix blinked. On the floor was volume 6 of Boreson and Obfuscatia's case history of the twentieth century, all four thousand pages of it, lying in the puddle of light cast by a flashlight Edgeworth had propped up on the shelf.

"What did you do?" Phoenix gulped, clenching his shaking hands into fists, staring at the carpet.

Edgeworth shrugged. "I... threw the book at her." He shot a fleeting smile at Phoenix, and then frowned, pulling off his glasses to study them. The right lens was shattered. "I should have done it years ago, honestly."

"I'm glad you saved it for now," Phoenix said, testing his unsteady knees. "Are you all right?"

Edgeworth tucked his glasses away, sighing. "As well as can be expected. You can imagine, I'm sure, that I have always known the location of every flashlight and emergency exit in this courthouse."

"Yes," Phoenix said fervently, "I'm sure you do."

"I didn't see any point in groping around in the dark for you, so I went to get a light." Edgeworth's mouth twisted. "...I always suspected this place was haunted."

"I thought you didn't believe in ghosts?"

Edgeworth was staring at the flopped-open copy of Boreson and Obfuscatia. "I slept a lot easier when I didn't," he said, "before that last case with Ms. Hawthorne." He shook himself. "At any rate," he said, "I don't think she'll be troubling us again this evening. Let's get out of here, shall we?"

"Please god yes," Phoenix said, raking his hands back through his hair. "I need a drink of something stronger than grape juice."

Edgeworth had brought a spare flashlight for Phoenix, and the first-aid kit. While both of them had an assortment of cuts and bruises, neither felt inclined to linger long enough for band-aids and tiny packets of antibiotic ointment. The door to the records room was blocked with an avalanche of toppled shelves and books, but the side door by Mrs. Riffle's office was hanging half-open on its hinges, jostled loose in the quake.

"If we can get up the stairs, it's only one flight," Phoenix said, flickering his flashlight beam over the concrete walls. With less to fall over, the damage in the hall was not as impressive. The exit lights no longer glowed, but the door to the stairwell reflected like a guiding star in the light of Edgeworth's flashlight.

"Come on," he said, picking up the pace. "I want out of here."

Without a word of agreement or a pause to retain bravado, they both ran the remaining yards to the stairwell door. Edgeworth got there first, and flung himself bodily against the door, but it only moved forward a few inches before it grated to a halt on the pileup of iron girders and tumbled cement blocks on the other side.

Edgeworth was annoyed enough to swear in German, and Phoenix knew he wasn't doing well. He only resorted to bilingual profanity when things were especially bleak.

"It's blocked," he said needlessly, when Phoenix caught up, massaging the stitch in his side. "And the other stairs are on the far side of the archives, past the cave-in at the end of the hall."

"So we're trapped," Phoenix said, trying to stay calm, for Edgeworth's sake if nothing else. "Is there no way to get out from here?"

Edgeworth's glare was scathing, but Phoenix knew the man well enough to recognize the fear behind it. "Not unless you have a backhoe in your pocket." Even as he said it, he shouldered the door three more times, rattling the debris on the other side and prompting a symphony of ominous creaks from the roof of the corridor.

"Hey, Edgewor--" Phoenix began, but knew before he finished that he had no kind of reasoning to offer in the face of Edgeworth's pure, animal panic. Later (and surely there would be a later), Edgeworth would be humiliated with the memory of losing control. Once free, he would never speak of the way the walls closed around him, the terror that ate at him every single day. He would be Miles Edgeworth the Unshakable once more, and it would be unthinkable that earthquakes and oxygen-deprived places were more of a bother to him than the buzzing of a fly. That was the Miles Edgeworth the world knew, the only one it ever saw.

For Phoenix, it was a different matter. "Miles," he said gently, putting his hand on Edgeworth's, which was shivering with strain as he pressed against the blocked door with all his strength. "Miles, come on. It's all right. Let's try the other way."

"There is no other way," Edgeworth gulped, his breathing ragged. "No way out. No way out. We're stuck in here, oh god, I can't breathe. I can't--" He flung himself against the door again, and Phoenix had to interpose his body between Edgeworth and the door to make him stop before he hurt himself. His hands were already cut from being repeatedly pinched in the latch bar of the door; the metal was slippery with his blood.

"Miles--" Phoenix tried again, but Edgeworth was past hearing.

"Help," he gasped, under his breath, slamming blindly against Phoenix as though he was part of the blocked door. "God, somebody, anybody--"

The elevator dinged.

They both froze, staring at each other, and neither one needed to say aloud that there was no electricity in the building, and no emergency generator to power the elevator or anything else. The wild panic was wiped clean from Edgeworth's face, like a wet cloth over chalkboard. The elevator doors opened behind him, and yellow, electric light poured out into the hallway. Edgeworth still did not turn around, and Phoenix, glancing once over the prosecutor's burgundy-suited shoulder, probably thought that was for the best. Had he been in a poker game he knew he would have lost then, as what he saw in the elevator showed on his face as plain as any tell.

"It's my father," Edgeworth said calmly, as though he was asking a witness a question, and he already knew the answer. "Isn't it."

Phoenix swallowed. A man was standing in the elevator, waiting. He was backlit, but Phoenix could see the twin reflection of his glasses, and the dark, sinister bloodstain shadow down the front of his shirt. Phoenix recognized him, but only from a crime scene photo. Gregory Edgeworth, slumped dead in the courthouse elevator, shot through the heart with a bullet that his son, for many years, believed he himself had fired in a child's accident.

"Yes," Phoenix said.

For a moment Edgeworth didn't move. Then something desperate flickered in his face, full of longing without any fear in it, and he spun around with a choked cry. The figure of Gregory Edgeworth was already fading; there was now nothing more of him than a faint negative-image between the elevator doors. Phoenix thought, or at least imagined, that the thin line of a familiar smile might have lingered a split second longer. But then he was gone, and there was nothing in front of them but the elevator, glowing in silent invitation.

Edgeworth drug a hand across his eyes. "Well," he said, thickly, "I suppose for once I won't be taking the stairs."

"Are you sure--" Phoenix began, but Edgeworth silenced him with a grim smile.

"I'll take any way to get out of here, Wright," he said. "Even this one."

The elevator hummed with benign electric power, supernatural only in its impossibility. Edgeworth pressed the button for the ground floor, and Phoenix saw him suck in a breath that he did not release. His hand, injured as it was, still clung with white-knuckled tension to the rail. The elevator moved upwards with what felt like horrible slowness to Phoenix, even though it was only one floor.

The light above the door slowly crept from B to 1, and Phoenix forced himself to breathe. "Almost there," he said, for a moment forgetting everything he had ever learned in horror movies. He remembered it all half a second later when the elevator shuddered to a halt, and all the lights went out.

"Good going, Wright," Edgeworth growled.

"Hey, I didn't do anything!" Phoenix clicked his flashlight. Nothing happened. "...My light's dead."

A moment of furious clicking from Edgeworth's direction, and some more of the very finest German oaths, but no flashlight beam.

"Okay, this is just too much--" Phoenix began, but he was proven wrong almost instantly, when he could see again.

They were standing in one of the courtrooms. Phoenix couldn't tell which one it was, but both of them were on the defense side. A single light poured down on them from overhead, like a spotlight, and beyond its circle there were only dim, rustling shapes in the gallery, on the bench, and at the prosecution's table.

"Please," Edgeworth said, very strained, "Don't say anything foolish, Wright. Like 'It can't get much worse than this.'"

"Well I'm not sure that it can--"

"This court has come to order," someone said, and Phoenix was trying to place where he knew that voice and why it gave him such a terrifically bad feeling when the judge brought down his gavel, and pinpoints of blue fire burst to life around the courtroom.

The Judge was not the one Phoenix hoped to see, bearded and bald and benevolently daft. The man sitting there had a grin like a smug wolverine, a shock of white hair, and cruel eyes glinting behind the square rims of his glasses. "Well well well, Worthy my boy," Gant said, leaning over his podium. "I always said you'd wind up like me, and how right I was. One might even say that you've outdone me."

"What in the hell is going on here?" Phoenix said, bringing his hands down hard on the surface of his desk. It felt so good and reassuring that he did it again.

Gant sat back in his chair, and put his boots up on the railing. "Now now now, the counsel for defense is already speaking out of turn, and the trial's barely started! Hell, I haven't even said what it's for, yet!"

"If that's the case," Edgeworth said tersely, "then I think you had better get on with the charges."

Phoenix whipped his head around to stare at Edgeworth. "What? You can't intend to play along with this farce of a trial--"

Edgeworth was not looking at him, or at Gant. He had eyes only for the Prosecution's bench, and the man standing there. Manfred Von Karma had looked cadaverous even when he was alive. Being seven years dead did not improve on that observation in the least. Phoenix's first impression was of something that had not been properly buried in the first place, had been dug up by a dog, and needed to have some merciful dirt kicked over it again. It took everything in him not to recoil back against the wall. Only Edgeworth's icy, unwavering calm held him in check.

"Well then!" Gant said cheerfully. "I suppose I should do that! Ha ha! I always meant to retire onto the bench you know, it's such a posh gig, really, but that was before my dear boy Worthy ended my career prematurely. But you've got to admire the man, don't you, folks?" There was a murmur of assent from the shadowy inhabitants of the gallery. "After all, I only was responsible for the deaths of two men." Gant plunked his elbows down, leaning forward like a vulture and fixing Edgeworth with his glittering stare. "While you my boy, you're responsible for the deaths of dozens."

"Objection!" Phoenix shouted, on instinct, as though he had only been in court the day before. "Miles Edgeworth has never been found guilty of any crime in a court of--"

"Overruled!" Gant thundered. "The defense will keep his mouth shut to spare the court the trouble of removing his foot from it afterwards. Miles Edgeworth is a murderer, as every soul in this court has cause to know."

Only then did Phoenix recognize the members of the gallery, and his heart contracted. Some of them he knew only from police dossiers, some from the front pages of newspapers. But others he had faced in the courtroom, all the thugs and murderers that Miles Edgeworth had removed from the streets during his long and glorious career as a prosecutor. Sitting in the front was Joe Darke, arm in arm with a smiling Dahlia Hawthorne, like a king and queen at a joust.

Edgeworth had gotten guilty verdicts for all of them.

And death sentences.

Joe Darke was even still wearing his noose, rakishly, and Dahlia tittered something in his ear as she toyed with the frayed end of the rope.

"Now then!" Gant boomed, thumping his gavel against the arm of his chair. "Is the prosecution ready?"

"Ready and waiting," Von Karma purred, his black eyes glittering in their sunken sockets.

Gant yawned. "Now boy, down. We'll get to the tasty bits of sentencing after the trial, am I right? Defense?"

Phoenix's hands, on the tabletop, curled into fists. It was to be expected, really, that his first trial since getting his badge back would not be an easy one. They never were. "The defense is ready, Your Honor."

"Oh, that's a first," Dahlia giggled. "Are you sure you don't need to look at some naughty pictures first, Feenie?"

Phoenix didn't even look at her.

"Very well then, Manny," Gant said, "Let's have that opening statement, shall we?"

"It hardly needs to be said, Your Honor." Von Karma fussed with the braid on his sleeve, his restless hand like a large white spider. "Why, everyone in this courtroom knows the crimes for which Miles Edgeworth stands accused. You could say," Von Karma's lips pulled back in a dreadful grimace, "He brought all of us here."

"Or it could be said," Phoenix shot back, biting off the ends of the words, "that you brought yourselves here, by being guilty of murder."

"Shut it, boy," Gant said, still in the best of spirits. "You'll have your turn, when we feel like giving it to you. Once we feel like we need the laugh, right, folks?"

Laughter ricocheted down from the gallery, as though somehow an entire insane asylum had been stuffed into the crank of a demented music box.

"Wrong!" Phoenix shot back, bringing up his arm and silencing the crowd. "This is a court of law, no matter how you want to pervert it. You are still bound by its rules!"

"Oh fine." Gant swung his gavel behind him, whacking it idly on the crest of scales behind the Judge's chair. "Go on, Wrighto. Let's see you pull this one out of your little blue ass."

"I don't have to pull anything from anywhere," Phoenix said. Something inside of him was surfacing, some inner core of himself that was unchanged after years of neglect and shame, living in the shadows at the edge of law. Even in hell's courtroom, he was still a lawyer. He always had been. "I'm afraid that is the prosecution's burden."

Von Karma snorted. "If possible, Wright, you know even less about law than you did when I first--"

"Where," Phoenix continued, as though Von Karma had not spoken, " your proof?" Beside him, he felt Edgeworth stiffen in surprise, and it gave him the push to continue. "Proof, decisive proof that Miles Edgeworth ever meant any of you personal harm, proof that he was doing anything more than his job to see justice done, proof that he maliciously sought your deaths for his own gain, as you all sought the deaths of others for yours. If you don't have anything...then this trial is over! You have nothing on which to base your charges!"

From the gallery Joe Darke snarled in wordless fury, flicking out a knife from somewhere. Dahlia sighed prettily through her nose, annoyed, and latched her hand around the end of his noose to restrain him.

In the terse silence that followed, Von Karma began to laugh. "You want proof? Then take it." He put his hand inside his coat, as though to draw out papers, but it was no mere police report or incriminating memo that he pulled out. Instead his body jerked and spasmed as he plunged his sharp nails into his corrupt flesh, rooting among his own remains for his prize. "Take this, then, little Miles! Your first gift to me, and I've carried it around too long!" Von Karma yanked his hand free, and something clinked across the Defense's desk, rolling to a lopsided halt against Edgeworth's cuff.

A bullet.

Edgeworth picked it up, smiling faintly as he weighed it in his hand, as though trying to ascertain if it was worth a human heart or a feather. "You do realize," he said softly, "that a person cannot be tried again for a crime once he has been found innocent of it? This ...evidence." Edgeworth rolled the bullet around in his palm, "is nothing more than a curiosity now. If you want your guilty verdict--" He closed his fist around the bullet, and then brought his hand down on the desk hard enough to scatter splinters, "then you will have to do better than this, mein Herr!"

Von Karma's eyes burned with rage, the gallery erupted in spitting undead fury, and Gant hammered his gavel at random all over the place.

"Order! Order! Come the hell to order, you bastards!" He shoved up his slipping glasses. "Bah! Evidence, smevidence! We can invent all the pretty papers and photographs that you like and prove him guilty six ways to Sunday! None of it changes the fact that Miles Edgeworth, Esquire, stands at the top of his profession only because he is standing on our trampled dead bodies--"

"As you all sought to stand on your victims, and failed?" Phoenix shouted back, and in the resultant blur of whipcrack retorts it was Edgeworth's calm voice that brought them all to a halt.

"Are we dead?"

Phoenix went still. Sometime after Dahlia vanished in the library he had convinced himself he was in a dream, as a means to stay sane in the dissolving reality of the courthouse. When the elevator turned into a courtroom, he was certain it was nightmare, and that was all. But. If the records room had collapsed, with them in it...

Edgeworth spared him a glance, and Phoenix knew that Edgeworth had been thinking them dead all along. He was not so optimistic as to pretend he was dreaming. This was, simply, hell. Really, what else could it be?

"Are we?" Phoenix echoed, weakly. Everything he had left undone unfurled in front of him, and in the chaos of regret he found himself clutching the locket he wore under his shirt. Trucy. Apollo. How many parents would they have to lose?

"If we are, then this is fine with me." Edgeworth's smile was grim as he surveyed the galley and Gant and Von Karma, meeting their hate-filled glares without flinching. "Because I would rather be in Hell with the lot of you, than in heaven with all of you still walking free!"

Phoenix struggled to find his focus, envying Edgeworth's calm in the face of the hereafter. "So, we really are dead."

"Not," Mia Fey said suddenly, at his elbow, "yet."

Phoenix had the presence of mind not to yelp, but only just. One would think that after a time, a man would get used to having long-since murdered mentors popping back into being all the damn time, like dead Jedi who had passed the Bar Exam. But Mia, especially on her own and unchanneled, was always startling.

"Come on, Phoenix," Mia said, winking. "You should have called me! This is my kind of court, you know." Her face went serious. "But honestly, even you should be able to deal with a simple framing, which is what this is. There's a contradiction in this courtroom and it's a mile wide."

"I fail to see," Phoenix began, "any contradicti--"

"Phoenix," Mia said, "think about where you are."



Phoenix looked around. The specters in the courtroom had gone silent, glaring at Mia with loathing and envy. Only then did Phoenix realize that out of all of them, Mia Fey looked alive, bright and solid. "We're... in a courtroom?"

"And that is?" Mia prompted.

All at once Phoenix saw the face of the wizened archives-keeper, Mrs. Riffle, as she had whacked him in the knees on her way home.

"Holy ground," Phoenix breathed. "Justice's holy ground." His fingertips went from his locket to his badge and then outwards, pointer finger raised, his objection exploding in the court.

"Enough!" Phoenix wasn't sure, but it seemed to him that the ghouls in the gallery had faded somehow, melting together. Gant, for certain, was unsettled. The precise angles of his hair had begun to wilt. "There is one thing none of you can deny here," Phoenix continued, "and that's the reason for your deaths, and for Edgeworth's sacrifice. He's willing to have blood on his hands because of the innocent blood on yours, and why?" Phoenix kicked over the desk, and it broke like glass against the rising floor. The roof of the courthouse was thinning, gleaming with light like a candle flame shining through a thin wall of wax, like oncoming dawn. "I'll tell you why," Phoenix said. The judge's seat was melting down like the rest of the courtroom, and Phoenix put his foot on the rail, towering over Gant. "Justice!" he shouted.

"Heh, Worthy's--" Gant began, but Phoenix was relentless.


The inhabitants of the gallery had oozed away, seeping into the dark cracks left in the room, fleeing the oncoming light.


Mia smiled to herself and began to fade, but in entirely the other direction.


Edgeworth glared at Von Karma, and the true demon prosecutor desiccated and crumbled, scattering away into nothing like dry leaves on the wind.


Gant brought down his gavel towards Phoenix, but he was the one that shattered. The courtroom went white, and in the distance, Phoenix Wright heard the sound of doors opening.


"He keeps on saying your name, Herr Forehead."

"Yeah, I know. It's kinda creepy, I wish he'd quit it."


Phoenix opened his eyes.

He was lying on a blanket on the courthouse sidewalk, and the cold night was torn through with the whirling lights of emergency vehicles. He sat up, too fast, and tried to make his head stop spinning along with the sirens.

"Come on, Gavin, give the man some air," Apollo said, shoving Klavier out of the way. "He needs oxygen, and your aftershave would roll over a dead horse."

"Ach, on the contrary. I have been told that Tuscan blood orange and pomegranate is in fact most invigorating! ...And arousing."

"Ugh, god shut up. It makes me feel like I can't breathe, at least, so Phoenix'll--"

"I don't think that is my aftershave that is making you unable to breathe," Klavier purred.

"Daddy?" Trucy said again, with a watery smile. "You okay? You totally got clobbered with like a ton of books."

Phoenix glanced past her to where Edgeworth was standing, his arm in a sling for a sprain but the rest of him completely in command of the situation. He was talking to some of the emergency personnel, and pointing out various angles of the courthouse. Knows where every fire extinguisher and emergency exit is, Phoenix thought, smiling, but what he said was, "I'm fine, Trucy, really. Maybe I needed to get clobbered with books-- it's one way to get me to look at them, right?"

"Oh, I'm so glad!" Trucy exclaimed. Her cheerful expression went all the wrong way for a moment. "I thought--thought I'd lost another daddy," she concluded, and promptly burst into tears. Apollo and Klavier were at her side in an instant, argument forgotten.

"Hey, Truce, don't cry, okay? He's fine! He'll be dodging toilet cleaning duty in the office before you know it--" Apollo turned aside to Phoenix, in confidence. "She's been such a trooper this whole time. I was ready to burst into tears myself, when the quake hit and we found out you were still in there, but she's been such a trooper... C'mon, buck up, Trucy."

"You know nothing about women," Klavier said to Apollo, and produced a violet silk handkerchief from his jacket pocket. "Ach, nein, nein, fraulein! Tears do not suit you! Here, wipe them all away and show us the sunshine again, ja?"

Trucy was suitably cheered at once, not by Klavier's flirtation, but by his hankie. "Oh, wow! This is really nice! Where'd you get it?" She examined it with a professional eye, stuffing it down in her fist and then pulling it out of Apollo's back pocket, nodding with satisfaction at such a fine product. "I could fit seven or eight doves in here! The ones from the magic shop are so cheap, you can only cram in one or two if you're lucky, and then they get so cranky about it they poop all over it..."

"I have them made and dyed specially for me in Munich," Klavier said, gallantly. "I shall send you a case of them, for your magical little doves to fly free."

"Please," Apollo said, in a strained tone that intended to be polite but couldn't manage it, "stop flirting with my sister."

Klavier arched an eyebrow at him. "Hn? Would you rather it was you I was flirting with, then?"

"What? No! I-- Trucy, thanks, but I don't have any doves in my pockets, you don't have to--AUGH! Where did that come from?!"

"From your pocket, didn't you just see me take him out?" Trucy cuddled her pet bird. "What else have you got in there?" Trucy's hands flicked over Apollo's vest, and a pair of white mice made a break for it down Apollo's sleeve.

Phoenix left them in a flutter of falling leaves and dove feathers, to sort things out on their own. Edgeworth must have sensed him approaching, looking up and waving away the policewoman he was interviewing.

"You all right?" he asked, and got a depreciating smile in return.

"Better than the south wing of the court house. It's completely fallen in. Maybe now they'll actually build it to code."

"Phew. Close one." Phoenix rubbed his hand over the back of his head, gingerly. There was a knot there like a goose-egg. No wonder he had been having nightmares of long-dead murderers. "What a night, huh? I've had nightmares that look like birthday parties compared to this. Not the way I want to start off my new legal career, you know?" Edgeworth's gaze was blank, and Phoenix remembered that it had only been a dream. "Oh. Nevermind. Just a dumb dream I had when I was out. There was this court of--" Edgeworth opened his hand, and Phoenix's voice died in his throat.

In Edgeworth's outstretched palm, glinting in the light of the sirens, lay a single bullet.

For a long time there was no noise save the rustling of the leaves, the distant shouts of the emergency workers, and Apollo's squawk as Trucy produced a white rabbit from somewhere on him that was extremely personal.

"Well, Edgeworth," Phoenix said, swallowing.

"Well, Wright," Edgeworth said back, tucking Von Karma's bullet in his vest pocket. "How about that drink you were asking about, earlier?"

"I think that's a good idea," Phoenix said at once, and they walked shoulder to shoulder back towards the others, where Trucy was pulling playing cards and guitar picks out of Klavier's hair, to the prosecutor's delight.

"There's one thing you've gotta admit, though," Phoenix said, with a grin that he knew was too wild, but must have been infectious, the way Edgeworth's mouth went tight at the corners.

Edgeworth slid his eyes sideways. "And what's that?"

"...That was one hell of a trial."

Trucy's impromptu magic show stopped at once as the participants paused to look at something far more extraordinary, as Phoenix and Edgeworth's laughter broke over the courthouse walls, chasing all the phantoms away.


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