Phoenix pulled his cloak around himself a little tighter. The freezing autumn air was not going to be good for the lute strapped to his back. Not that it mattered anyway... he couldn't play a lick of lute. He was probably the worst bard in the world, but it's not like he was better suited to any other role. His only talent was illustrating and printing books. The latter had been his career under Mia, recently deceased. Her print shop was now being cared for by her former mentor Mr Grossberg while Phoenix went off on his new calling: adventuring and solving crimes.
At his side was her sister Maya, a necromancer in training. Most assumed she was some run-of-the-mill mage with her unique robes and talismans, but Phoenix knew better. She couldn't use her powers very often. Firstly, because she was untrained, but also because necromancy was taboo and a crime in their province. Even if she couldn't help, it was nice to have company on his quests. He did not have a lot of allies to rely on.
Plus, she and Mia were from a noble family and were well-versed in proper etiquette. Mia had trained some of that into Phoenix, but it was nice to have a reference. Maya was capable of being polite, but she simply chose not to.
"Nick!" Maya cried suddenly, and she grabbed Phoenix by the back of his cloak. He gagged as it constricted his airway. She was never respectful of anyone’s personal space nor their ability to breathe. "D-Don't you see that on the side of the road? It's like... a huge metal automaton!"
She pointed over his shoulder at what looked like a silvery pile of junk barely obscured in the bushes on the side of the dirt road. As he approached it, he recognized the junk as the shape of steel armor... and the wide eyed, empty gaze of a man staring up at the clouds. He did not move.
"N-Nick, wait!" she yelled, yanking on his hood even harder. "Look at that! There's... a spear. He's... he's hurt." He could hear her crying before he saw it.
He touched the man's neck as if to check for a pulse, but there was no need. The autumn chill had turned him ice cold already. "He's not just hurt, Maya, he's dead."
She suppressed a sob. He and Mia had involved themselves in a few investigations before, so he was used to the sight of the dead. Namely, they saved his friend Larry from accusations of killing his lover. Or... former lover. He couldn't get a clear answer from him. Despite being a printer, Mia took an active role in protecting accused criminals in their town.
He wouldn't say it to Maya's face, but it was funny to him that a self-proclaimed necromancer wasn't used to seeing dead bodies.
"It's okay, Maya, let's try to figure out what happened. How about you head down the road to get some guards over here?"
Maya nodded solemnly, crossed her arms to pull her furs closer to her robe, and stalked down the road with her shoulders slumped.
Phoenix peered at the tracks on the road. Two sets of footprints and a horse carriage came by since it last rained. Sometime between last night and now, someone had seen the body... or killed him here... or maybe even moved him here. Under these conditions, he couldn't tell.
Phoenix's heart fluttered as he heard the sound of hoofbeats down the road.
"Nick! Hide!" cried Maya's disembodied voice. She had retreated into the thick of the woods.
A pair of horses, one brown and one white, passed by him at a run. "Stop!" The familiar voice of a certain man rang clearly in Phoenix's ears. Both horses turned around and settled right in front of him.
Phoenix realized suddenly how bad this looked. It was never good to hang around a dead body for too long. It didn't help that the merciless man known for his bouts of vigilante justice was standing right in front of him... Miles Edgeworth, a wayward knight. Him.
"Wright, I understand you lost your printing apprenticeship, but it is a shame you have resorted to robbery and murder," he sneered, jumping off his white horse and putting a hand on the sheathe of his sword.
"You know what I'm going to say," said Phoenix. "I didn't do it, okay?"
On the brown horse, a young girl with tall, elaborate black hair clamored off and scaled through the trees until she was out of sight while the blue haired girl around Maya's age whipped him with what felt like ice shards. Hard. "I swear in the name of the von Karma family, we will put your head in a noose for this!"
"I always knew you were trouble, ever since we met again during the Fey case," sneered Edgeworth. "Your 'victory' was nothing. Nothing! I know damn well Redd White had nothing to do with it, you murdering bastard!"
"Take it easy!" Phoenix cried, but Edgeworth drew his sword anyway.
"Give me one reason I shouldn't put an end to your antics right here?" Edgeworth was absolutely furious. His hatred for criminals, whether proven guilty or not, was stuff of legend in their province.
Phoenix cleared his throat. "It doesn't look good to kill an unarmed and unmagicked man in the middle of nowhere. Is it not less suspicious to take me to town to be jailed? That is the proper procedure. The Judge would not be pleased to hear about the death of an innocent man."
"To hell, you're unarmed and innocent!" cried the woman. Her white mage robes fluttered as she leapt from her horse and held her hands up in a defensive gesture. "Stand back, Miles. I will not have my brother lose his life to this pathetic robber!"
"My lady, to whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?" Phoenix said, trying his best to mimic what Mia had taught him to say long ago and giving her a long, deep bow.
"I am Lady Franziska von Karma, but to you, I am your executioner and I will be addressed as such." Phoenix could see just before he was whipped again that her weapon was generated entirely from ice. The whip included intricate decorative details, despite being destroyed immediately upon each use. Mages were amazing. And irritating.
"I didn't do anything!" Phoenix insisted. "What happened to you, Edgeworth? You saved me once when I was accused of stealing our master's art supplies without evidence. How is this any different? You're just going around saying I killed a man with absolutely no grounds!"
Edgeworth considered this and regretfully returned his sword to his sheathe. "You are the first suspect on my list. Don't try anything, Wright, I have an archer up in the trees that can put an arrow between your eyes before you can say 'guilty'."
"I... I can prove my innocence," Phoenix continued. "Notice how cold the body is? Why would I stick around someone I killed for so long?"
Edgeworth glared down at the dead body. "Or, perhaps, you brought it out in the wilderness to be stashed." He stepped closer to Phoenix, only a few inches between them, and glared into his eyes. They were hard and unrelenting and never blinking. Phoenix averted his gaze, which seemed to satisfy him. "Can you prove me wrong?"
"I... I..." Could he? He thought about the carriage tracks, but the duo of Edgeworth and von Karma's horses had probably destroyed that evidence now. At that moment, he heard the voice of Maya, not like a yell, but like a supernaturally loud mumble.
"Nick! Do the thing!" she said.
"Who said that?" said Edgeworth, clutching a hand over his heart. "It came from the trees. Kay?"
"The thing?" Phoenix muttered. "What thing?"
"You know, the thing! That you always try to get out of sticky situations!" Maya continued from her hiding spot in the woods.
"B-But that's never worked before!" sputtered Phoenix. Edgeworth raised an eyebrow at him.
"Wright, am I to understand you have an accomplice nearby? I think I have some idea of who it i-"
"Edgeworth," said Phoenix, officially initiating the thing . If it didn't work on Gumshoe, Miss May, or Mr Grossberg, he doubted it would work on Edgeworth. It was something Mia Fey had taught him a long time ago but he could never do it half as good. It was an old Fey family technique. He slid one of his hands over Edgeworth's steel armor breastplate in a comforting gesture and his surprisingly clean nails tapped loudly across the metal. "You're going about this all wrong. See, me and Maya? We were out in the woods gathering herbs. She's a mage, after all. We craft potions and travel from town to town to sell them."
In the background, he could see Franziska tense up, as if waiting for Phoenix to attack.
"A likely story," said Edgeworth tersely. Phoenix stepped even closer to him.
"As it happens, Dee Vasquez's travelling acting troupe is at the next town after sundown. Don't you think we can unwind with a show? It has something to do with samurai made of metal... carting around from place to place to defeat criminals. Isn't that to your liking?" Phoenix gazed into Edgeworth's eyes with the most simpering look he could manage, but Edgeworth was unreadable. "A-Afterwards we could head to the inn, get something to drink, and..." Phoenix used his other hand to stroke the frills of Edgeworth's neck covering and stole a lurid glance at Edgeworth's lips. "We can discuss the case all night until our voices are raw."
Phoenix continued to play with the cravat aimlessly and sucked in his belly as much as possible. Edgeworth's continued glare signaled to him that it didn't work. Gah... I came off way too strong! But then Edgeworth spoke.
"I... I suppose it couldn't hurt to go over the details," said Edgeworth, trying to loosen his cravat slightly as if the freezing chill of autumn wasn’t enough to cool off his blush. "We will call some investigators from the town and I will meet you when we have completed a sweep of the scene. Which inn did you have in mind-?"
"Miles Edgeworth, you randy bastard!" cried Franziska, grabbing him by the ear to yank him down to her height. Phoenix was too thrilled by his seduction attempt actually working this time to stop Franziska from spoiling his efforts. "If you continue to 'fraternize' with the enemy, I will report your behavior to Papa! He can strip your authority over the land faster than this clown can strip your virginity!"
Edgeworth coughed loudly and pushed her away. "I do not appreciate being led in circles by murderers, Wright."
Dammit. So much for my evening plans. Phoenix put a hand to his chin and considered other ways of getting out of this. Persuasion was out. He didn't have the stomach for deception. He doubted he could get away with just running off either.
But he didn't need to worry about that long, because Maya emerged from hiding in the woods to give him something else to worry about.
"Well hello... " said Maya in her huskiest possible voice. "Your executionership..."
Both Edgeworth and Franziska stared at her with unwavering expressions. Phoenix slowly turned around to see that Maya had removed her fur coat and slipped her robe down so that she was showing one of her bare shoulders. If she had tried to channel Mia, it clearly didn't work. Is she... is she also trying to seduce... oh dear god. At least if only Phoenix died, she could raise his corpse and still have him around as a zombie. But a necromancer couldn't raise themselves from the dead. What the hell was she doing?
"Sorry, my lady," said Maya, putting a hand to her forehead as if she were about to faint. "I got lost in the woods and the tie that fastened my robes frayed to nothing! It’s so cold... if only a brave knight were to bring me back home and spare me the embarrassment of some peasant seeing my nakedness, they would surely gain the favor of my family!" Phoenix cringed when her robe slipped even further down and he turned away to bury his hands in his palms. We are so dead.
Franziska breathed in deeply and let out a forceful sigh. "Miles," she said. "I do not think these two committed murder."
Phoenix heard Maya jump for joy. Hopefully not too vigorously in her precariously dressed state.
"Why do you say that?" asked Edgeworth.
"They are too stupid to have hurt anyone," said Franziska. "Get that girl a rope to tie her clothes down with and see if she can't help us figure out what happened."
Maya sniffed pathetically and fixed her clothing before standing at Phoenix's side. "It... it didn't work."
"Actually, your failure was so egregious that it was a success," he muttered with some optimism returning. "Let's hope they don't change their minds."
"Franziska, look here," said Edgeworth. "Is this not the samurai spear we saw in the last showing of Vasquez's troupe?"
"I will never understand your fascination with that troupe," she said, rolling her eyes.
Edgeworth chided her with a click of his tongue. "Don't you see? Wouldn't the suspect be someone who was involved with the troupe? Someone who had access to the props?"
"Anyone could have figured that out by looking at the body for more than two seconds," snapped Franziska. "To think you nearly lopped that poor man's head off because you couldn't just think!"
Phoenix choked. "What was all that about being my executioner then?"
"Oh please," she said. "Don't be such a baby. I only said it for dramatic effect."
Maya seemed enchanted by this reasoning. She touched her own lips thoughtfully. Phoenix huffed. You wouldn't like her this much if she was accusing YOU of murder.
"I wasn't going to chop his head off, Franziska," Edgeworth scolded. "That would break my sword. I was going to stab him."
"Not better!" cried Phoenix.
"You can forgive me for that misunderstanding, right, Wright? But I'm afraid the first half of our evening plans must be cancelled. I suspect that the murderer is among the cast and crew of Vasquez's troupe."
Franziska grabbed a tuft of hair from the back of Edgeworth's head and pulled. "What do you mean 'first half', you lech? I won't have you cavorting with that idiot! Don't you realize the moment you accuse someone, he's going to defend them? He's done it before! He's the enemy!"
"Hmph. No matter my personal feelings, I will crush my opponent with everything I have. Until that point, I have no problem with Wright and Fey assisting our investigation." He turned to them. "You would do well to remember that I have no tolerance for criminals, especially murderers. I've got a close eye on you."
"A close eye. Sure," groaned Franziska before climbing back onto her horse. "We must go to town and flag down some investigators. Wright... Fey... do not even think about tampering with the scene."
And with that, Edgeworth joined her on his horse and rode down the path into town. Phoenix and Maya blinked at each other and then down at the dead body which was beginning to attract ants at the eyes. Maya shuddered and turned away.
"That was a close one," sighed Phoenix. "I thought I was going to wet myself. I need to go..."
"Ew, hold it for a second, would you? Cut it out with the grape juice too. You say you have to pee every five minutes!" Maya pinched the bridge of her nose and let out a shuddering breath. "Do you think I could try to use my powers on him?"
"Lady von Karma just said-"
"I don't have to touch him. It's not tampering... it's spirit channeling.”
"N-Not in the open like this! If Gumshoe were to come riding by on his horse, he'd know you were doing necromancy right away!"
"We can find out who really did it! Maybe it'll work this time. There's no one here."
"What if he deserved to die or something? What if you channel him and he attacks me or something? For all we know, he was killed in self defense!"
"Oh, I doubt that," she laughed. "Why would someone hide the body like this, then? No, I bet if I channel him, he'll tell us all about-"
Phoenix flinched at the sight of an arrow piercing the soft earth at his feet. "Get back, Maya, th-there's a scout tracking us!"
He looked around wildly until he spotted up in the trees a young girl with tall black hair with a longbow that was nearly as big as her.
"Don't hurt us!" yelled Phoenix. "What are you doing? Who are you?" He had nearly forgotten that there was a girl who shared a horse with Franziska. Edgeworth had mentioned having a hidden archer earlier.
"I'm a thief, obviously," she said, and she jumped out of the tree from a nearly dangerous height and broke her fall into a roll. "I'm guessing Edgeworth wanted me to stay and watch the body and keep you honest. Or he forgot about me. He does that to Gummy a lot."
"Y-You know Gumshoe?" said Phoenix. "So you work with the police, then? Or... if you're a thief, then..."
"Don't worry, I won't tell him that you were about to perform necromancy!" she said with great cheer.
"Yipes!" Maya cried. "How'd you know about that?"
Phoenix slammed his hand into his face. You were practically yelling about channeling him, Maya.
"I swipe all sorts of secrets from these trees," she said, and she extended her hand. "Kay Faraday, thief."
"Maya Fey, necromancer! In training!"
"Please don't introduce yourself like that. Please! ...I'm Phoenix Wright, bard. In training."
"Aren't you a little old to be in training?"
"Yes, yes I am," said Phoenix, not in the least bit cheered by this friendly chatter. "You aren't... you aren't going to tell Edgeworth about... this. Right?"
"What? Are you kidding? I don't tell that old geezer everything," Kay said, crossing her arms in much a similar way as Edgeworth would. Who was she? His daughter? She seemed a little too old for that.
"Hey! Now that's something I can relate to!" said Maya, elbowing Phoenix. "Eh, Gramps?"
"Who are you calling Gramps? I can't even grow a beard yet." Both of the girls giggled. Phoenix fumed to himself and wondered why he seemed to be the butt of every joke lately. "You know what this means, Maya? We have to get to town and make sure whoever Edgeworth accuses is safe. Just like von Karma said we would."
"That sounds like a good idea," said Maya. "I wonder if Lady von Karma is into scrying. She was totally right about us!"
"I think she was using what us adults call 'common sense', Maya," he said. "Come on, we need to get to town before they cause too much damage."
"Race you there!" Maya shouted and burst forward at a commendable speed for someone in sandals. The Feys were ridiculously fast runners... or Phoenix was ridiculously slow.
"See you later," Phoenix waved to Kay, but when he turned around, she was gone. "Erm... bye-bye." Clearly she did not want to be caught alone with a dead body. She likely returned to her place in the trees, though he couldn’t confirm that.
The next time he saw Miles Edgeworth, it was going to be in the presence of the Judge. He was going to save him from what he had become. He had to.
He turned slowly and followed Maya’s decreasingly visible form at a brisk walk.