Date: August 17th 2027 Time: 9:13 AM.
Location: Wright Anything Agency.
Over the past eight years, Phoenix Wright had continued to stay in touch with his two favorite spirit mediums. Badge or no badge, adopted daughter or no adopted daughter, grape juice or no grape juice, he could never forget just how much the Feys meant to him. Pearl had come to visit from time to time, Maya had come to visit only about once a year. The life of the new Master of Kurain was a busy one and Maya had been determined to perfect her skills. To use them to help people, just as Phoenix had helped people in court.
Less than a month ago, Phoenix Wright had come across Pearl Fey at the Shipshape Aquarium. She’d once again proven to be an indispensable assistant of sorts and now that he had his badge back, cracking a case with her had been filled with bittersweet nostalgia.
Now it was August and he was greeted by the sight of not one, but two Feys waiting for him in his office. Maya’s brown eyes honed in on him the moment he walked through the door. She was wearing the same sort of robes as she always wore, her long hair still adorned with a small bun. The only difference between then and now was that she looked just a bit more graceful. A bit more defined. Pearl was standing by her side, hands clasped together, looking positively delighted at the reunion. It was a picture that he could barely process.
As soon as he entered the room, there was a synchronized cry of “NIIIICK” and within seconds, he had two young women pulling him into a hug. Somehow, their reunions always turned increasingly more dramatic whenever Maya was involved. Eight years had passed, but she was still the same girl at heart. He doubted she would ever change. He wouldn’t want her to.
He’d known they would be coming today, though he hadn’t expected them to be here this early. They always enjoyed walking to the Wright Anything Agency from the nearest train station and somehow they were always a good hour off from their expected time of arrival, either for better or for worse.
“Look at you!” Maya exclaimed when she finally backed out of the hug. Her gaze sweeped up and down his appearance with a wide smirk, then she punched him on the arm. “Finally back in the fancy blues, huh? When Pearls told me about how you cleaned yourself up, I didn’t want to believe it, but here you are. I’ve gotta say, that old hoodie won’t be missed. Or the hat. Or the five o’ clock shadow. …Wow, lining it all up like that, you really let yourself go for a while, didn’t you?”
Oh, that was right. Maya hadn’t changed over the past eight years, yet Phoenix had. After losing his badge, he’d changed for the worse, only to revert back to his former self once Apollo Justice had cleared a path to the truth. The Dark Age of the Law wasn’t over yet, but this was a start.
He chuckled, running a hand past the back of his head. “It’s nice to see you too, Maya. Pearls.”
“Mr. Nick. Thank you for allowing us to stay here for a few days.” Pearl dove into a polite bow that Phoenix literally waved away.
“Hey, don’t mention it! I’m just glad you two are finally taking a proper vacation.”
“It’s not a vacation, Nick! Not yet, anyway,” Maya huffed, her cheeks puffing up with indignation. “I told you, we’re going to Gatewater Land on official Kurain business! Once that’s done, we’re going for the Badger Burgers and once that’s done, we’re on vacation.”
Phoenix chuckled again. It was true that when Maya had sent him a letter last week, she’d mentioned some sort of business to attend in Gatewater Land. However, he’d assumed that it was simply an excuse to leave Kurain Village and visit the theme park with Pearl again. When was the last time they’d even gone there together? Eight years ago, he supposed, just before he’d lost his badge. They’d taken one of the rowboats onto the lake outside the park and Phoenix had fallen into the freezing cold water.
“So what is this official Kurain business, anyway?” he asked, because the more he thought about it, the less sense it made. What did spirit channeling have to do with a theme park sponsored by the police department? Was she hoping to exorcise ghosts in the haunted house? If so, she’d be sorely disappointed.
Maya’s expression turned quite a bit more solemn and she began digging through her pockets. “It’s… Uhm. Here, read this.”
A newspaper clipping was pressed into Phoenix’s hand. The headline was far more grim than anything he could’ve imagined. Then again, he vaguely remembered hearing about this a few months ago. It’d been all over the news for a while. Kids Vanish At Local Theme Park. Bodies Not Found. He didn’t need to read the rest of the article. It was full of speculation.
“Oh… The missing children? That happened back in June, didn’t it?” Phoenix tried to give the clipping back to her, but she waved a hand at him, indicating he could keep it. He wasn’t about to say no to that. If there was anything he’d learned since the start of his attorney career, it was to hold onto everything for at least a week, just in case.
“That’s right. There were four of them in all. The police never found out what happened. That’s why the parents turned to spirit channeling instead. …They just want closure.”
“If anyone can reach those kids, it’s Mystic Maya!” Pearl chimed in, her eyes betraying a bit of sadness despite her proud smile.
“Don’t you usually channel spirits in Kurain Village? I mean, you guys have a special channeling chamber and everything.”
“Well… That’s the problem. I tried to channel them in Kurain, but I couldn’t reach them.” Maya pressed a hand against the side of her face, looking thoughtful. “Sometimes, when a person has a strong attachment to the place where they died, their spirit won’t want to leave it. That’s why even the strongest spirit mediums will sometimes have to travel to that location for the summoning. Besides, which kid would ever want to leave Gatewater Land? Staying there forever and ever seems like a dream come true, doesn’t it?”
Phoenix felt a chill run up his spine at the prospect. Suddenly, exorcising the haunted house didn’t seem quite so farfetched anymore. “So you’re meeting with the parents in the park to attempt another channeling? Right in the middle of all those people?”
“Don’t be silly, Nick. The park’s letting us use one of the back rooms. The Gatewater Group wants this mystery solved just as badly as we do, you know. Once that’s over with, we can celebrate by going on all the rides!”
Just then, Trucy entered the office as well, carrying a plate of teacups. She smiled brightly and stepped over to the coffee table. “There you are, Daddy! Finally! It’s not nice to keep your guests waiting.”
“Haha, my bad. It’s a good thing I’ve got such a thoughtful daughter to play hostess while I’m away.”
“Someone has to keep this place running!” Trucy said, sticking out her tongue in a teasing manner. “What time are we meeting Polly and Athena at the park again?”
“Not until eleven. We still have plenty of time to catch up.”
The group gathered around the coffee table as Trucy distributed the cups. Maya looked like she was just about to remark on the absence of actual tea when Trucy whipped a pot of it out of her magic panties, eliciting some loud applause from the two Feys. That trick would never get old. Once everyone was provided with a steaming cup, Trucy took a seat next to Pearl and Phoenix realized that these two would no doubt attempt to combine their powers over the next few days. Trucy was always in search of a new mommy and Pearl was still convinced that he was Maya’s 'special someone’.
This was going to be an interesting vacation.
Date: August 17th 2027 Time: 11:42 AM.
Location: Gatewater Land – Proto Badger’s Proto Workshop.
While Phoenix hadn’t taken Maya and Pearl to the local theme park for quite a few years, he had taken Trucy there almost every summer. He’d seen the park gradually develop and grow. He’d seen new rides appear while the old ones grew more worn by the year. Innovation would stop at nothing, not even the merchandising. Gift shops with Blue Badger toys were located at every corner. He’d never accuse the police department of being sell-outs, of course. Not out loud.
Maya had marveled at all the changes and buried her face in pamphlets the moment they walked through the gates, pointing out all the things that they should definitely experience once her channeling was over, from the indoor animatronic show to the new roller coaster, to the Bad Badger’s Bountiful Burger Stand. She’d even wanted to participate in the new and improved picture contest, up until Phoenix pointed out that they didn’t have a camera. Sure, most phones were equipped with that sort of thing nowadays, but he’d never trade in Ol’ Trusty. With how much it’d endured over the years, that phone was a legacy all on its own.
Luckily, the appearance of Apollo and Athena had drawn Maya’s attention away from forcing Phoenix to buy a camera for her. His two assistant lawyers had never heard too many stories about the great Master of Kurain, even if they’d no doubt come across her name in past case files. Perhaps that was why the both of them had looked a bit flustered to finally meet her in person. It’d only taken five minutes and a few anecdotes for them to realize that there was no need to be nervous at all. …Well, Phoenix supposed he didn’t mind being the butt of their jokes if it meant they could bond over it.
Before they knew it, it was nearing twelve o’ clock and Maya needed to start preparing for her channeling. Phoenix and the others decided to accompany her and Pearl to the back room that’d been reserved, where the parents would be waiting as well. A plan that’d seemed sound up until the point where they reached a small building known as the Proto Badger’s Proto Workshop and found their way barred by a security guard. A thoroughly unpleasant one. Phoenix couldn’t quite tell if this guy was tired or just plain lacking in manners. Either way, he was reminded of a tall, surly troll guarding a bridge. Definitely not the sort of guy to cross.
“Authorized personnel only,” the guard grumbled.
“My name is Maya Fey,” Maya replied with a bright smile, not at all deterred by the man’s attitude. She waved a hand at the rest of the group. “And these are my assistants. I was told to report here for the channeling?”
The guard’s gaze sweeped over them all and Phoenix felt another chill run up his spine at the sight of his dull eyes. A moment of silence, then he breathed a bit of a sniff and stood up even straighter, folding his arms behind his back. Apparently, this guy had some superiority issues. “…I was told you would only have one assistant present.”
“That’s Pearly! Don’t worry, I’m releasing the rest of them out into the wild.”
The lighthearted remark wasn’t enough to break through the guard’s bad temper. He simply grunted and stepped away from the door, which Phoenix interpreted as permission to enter. Honestly, this whole thing came off as unsettling. Then again, maybe that was because of several other incidents related to spirit channeling that Phoenix had experienced in the past. Maya’s parting words weren’t exactly helpful.
“We’ll meet up again later, okay? …Well, unless you hear hysterical screams coming from here. Then we’ll probably meet up in the detention center again like the good old days.” Maya snickered into her hand, but Phoenix was sure that his face reflected something else entirely and the moment she caught sight of that, her amusement died down again. “Nick, I’m kidding! Lighten up!”
“Sorry, it’s just… You know. Old memories die hard,” he muttered, and the next second he felt an explosion of pain on his arm where Pearl had punched him, causing him to stumble sideways. It never ceased to amaze him just how much force she could pack.
“You should have more faith in Mystic Maya! She’s the Master now!” the young girl insisted.
She had a point. Phoenix had spent most of his years since his disbarment pretending to play the piano without a real profession, but Maya? Maya had trained to be the very best, like no one ever was. She hoped to surpass her mother, the great Misty Fey. Phoenix was sure that some day, she would. There was no way anything would go wrong during the channeling.
“Right. You’re right, Pearls. Sorry.” He cleared his throat, then tried again. “Good luck, Maya.”
There was a buzz of murmuring from his fellow lawyers and Trucy, who all provided Maya with their own well-wishes. The last thing he heard from the Master of Kurain before she passed through the door with her cousin was the demand: “Don’t ride the Big Whoop rollercoaster without me!
Date: August 17th 2027 Time: 12:34 PM.
Location: Gatewater Land – Ferris Wheel.
The ferris wheel. Trucy just had to insist on wanting to ride the ferris wheel. Every year, it was the same story. Every year, Phoenix had agreed out of fatherly love and spent roughly ten minutes fearing for his life almost a hundred feet up in the air. Every year, there was the cold sweat worse than any he could suffer in court. The Wheel of Torture, he’d jokingly dubbed it.
No more. Now that he had junior lawyers under his wing, he had patsies. Now Apollo was the one a hundred feet up in the air with Trucy, while Phoenix sat on a picnic bench staring up at them. These were the kind of fatherhood skills that made just a bit of pride swell in his chest. It was good for those two to do some bonding as siblings, even if they were still unaware of that fact. Meanwhile, Athena had been nice enough to wait on the ground with him, idly sipping lemonade through a straw. The Blue Badger’s theme song, which was playing non-stop through the speaker system, had basically become white noise by now.
Half an hour. It’d been over half an hour now since the channeling started. Had Maya been able to reach those kids yet? The Proto Badger’s Proto Workshop was halfway across the park. He wouldn’t be able to see her exit that place even if he wanted to. Maybe he should-
“Hey Nick! Fancy meeting you here!”
The familiar voice had Phoenix whirl around in his seat so fast that he nearly twisted some vital muscles in his neck. It seemed completely unbelievable, but there he was. Larry Butz, in the flesh. Much like Maya and Pearl, Phoenix hadn’t seen all too much of his old friend over the past years. Most of it wasn’t even his own fault. Laurice Deauxnim had been surprisingly popular for a while. Franzy’s Whippity Whip Trip, his first picture book, had captivated audiences worldwide after being misinterpreted as 'progressive, ironical satire’. Laurice had smelled fame and traveled the globe for a few years, drawing and promoting his new books until he’d been officially dubbed a 'has been’ by the art community.
Now he was right back where he started. Good old Larry, with his usual slouching demeanor and air of 'loser’. Phoenix liked him better this way.
“Larry! What’re you doing here?” he asked, even if he could already guess the answer. Larry was wearing a security guard uniform, after all.
“Is that any way to greet your old friend?” Larry crossed his arms over his chest, tilting his head with a frown. “How about you introduce me to your young lady friend instead? You didn’t adopt another teenage daughter, did you?”
Athena jumped to her feet before Phoenix could even open his mouth. She flashed the attorney’s badge on her lapel at Larry, not realizing she was teetering close to spilling her lemonade. “The name’s Athena Cykes! I’m a new junior attorney at the Wright Anything Agency! Enchanté!”
“…Buongiorno! The name’s Butz. Larry Butz.” The reply came with a wide grin and rosy cheeks. Larry was as easily charmed as ever, it seemed. Once that was done, he turned his attention back to Phoenix. “So this is one o’ those padawans you were talking about, huh? I hear the Wright Agency’s making a real comeback in the defense attorney world. About time, too. This Dark Side of the Law thing has gone on for way too long.”
“That’s not the only good news. I got my badge back last month,” Phoenix announced, realizing he’d forgotten to include Larry in the list of people he’d informed back then.
“You’re back in court? Seriously?! Nick, that’s great! Seems like we’re all going back to our roots, huh?”
It was surprising how something as simple as a thumbs up from Larry Butz could make Phoenix feel right at home again. Today was just full of nostalgia, wasn’t it? “No kidding. When’d you get back into the security scene?”
“A couple months ago. They wanted some extra people after the thing with the missing kids, so I figured this was my big chance at a comeback! Watching security screens is like riding a tricycle, you know. I’ve been working overtime like crazy, too. I have to save up enough money to go see my darling Jezebel in Italy. …I met her on my book tour. After hours, if you know what I mean.” Larry shot him a wink that was utterly unnecessary. Phoenix knew what he meant. “She’s totally crazy about me, Nick!”
…Yup. Some things never changed.
“Crazy is the right word for it, alright,” he muttered to himself.
Larry kept rambling as if he hadn’t just heard that, crossing his arms over his chest with a deep frown and an unfocused gaze. “The only trouble is, some of my colleagues aren’t exactly the bright rays of sunshine you’d hope for. Talk about a tense work atmosphere. I’ve got another night shift coming up with the Nasty Badger himself- that’s what some of us started calling him. He’s always got something to complain about. He’s a total workaholic too, so whenever I’m working overtime, I run into him again. What a pain… You know what I’m saying, Nick?”
“I think I can picture something,” Phoenix replied truthfully.
“Speak of the devil… Here he comes now.”
Phoenix turned his head to see a security guard pushing his way through the crowd. Not just any security guard, either. It was that guy who was standing by outside the Proto Badger’s Proto Workshop. Did that mean the channeling was over? It was no wonder Larry wasn’t looking forward to his next night shift. Phoenix likely couldn’t spend five minutes with an unpleasant guy like that, let alone six hours.
“I’ve gotta run before he starts another ten minute rant about how I’m wearing my tie backwards,” Larry made quite the impressive face before turning on the spot and preparing a sprint. “See you, Nick! Athena!”
It was amazing just how fast one man could run, especially in a crowded area like this one. Larry weaved his way through the masses with impressive ease and was out of sight within seconds. Athena let out a low whistle. As someone who was an avid pursuer of that elusive exercise known as 'jogging’, she would no doubt hope to reach Larry’s level some day.
Not long after, the 'Nasty Badger’ arrived on the scene, accompanied by none other than Maya and Pearl. What a sight for sore eyes those two were, especially in comparison to the guard towering over them.
“Hi guys!” the two Feys virtually sang in chorus, stepping so close to Phoenix and Athena that he was sure it was more of an attempt to get away from their chaperon.
“I see Butz is too busy loafing around to do his job again…” the guard grumbled, raising a hand to pull his cap further down over his eyes. “What a joke.”
Phoenix would hope that he hadn’t gotten Larry in trouble, but then… Larry always got himself in trouble either way. If something smells, one could surmise with good confidence that it was the Butz. Or, at the very least, that the Butz was somehow involved in the scenario.
Pearl turned to face the guard, lowering her head in a respectful bow. “Thank you for helping us find them, Mr. Genta.”
The guard gave one last half-hearted grunt, then lumbered off in the same direction Larry had chosen. Phoenix couldn’t say he was sorry to see him go. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one. Maya breathed a loud sigh by his side and Pearl started to shake her head.
“Feh… He’s finally gone. What a creep.” Maya made sure to wait until the guard was obscured by a crowd of people before sticking out her tongue at his retreating back. “I swear, the whole time I was trying to channel, I could feel his dead eyes watching me.”
“Well, he was just doing his job…” Pearl mumbled, even if she didn’t sound entirely convinced herself.
So that guard was present in the room during the channeling… Phoenix couldn’t help but wonder why. Was it to protect Maya from danger, or to protect the parents from any danger Maya might’ve posed if the channeling had gone wrong? Had Gatewater Land caught wind of the bad reputation channeling used to have and prepared accordingly? …Well, that wasn’t important now.
“So how did it go?” Athena asked, basically taking the words out of Phoenix’s mouth by doing so. “Did you manage to channel the kids?”
Maya’s huffy demeanor deflated again and she turned her gaze to the floor. “Well… No. I tried and I tried, but I couldn’t channel a single one of them. At one point, I could’ve sworn that I sensed them, but then the feeling slipped away again. …Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.”
It was painfully obvious that Maya was torn up about this second failure, and Phoenix couldn’t blame her. She wasn’t just doing this for the Kurain name. She was doing this for the parents, who needed closure. She was doing it for the kids, so their bodies could be found. Unless… There weren’t bodies to be found? Spirit mediums could never channel the living. Or maybe they were taken somewhere else to be murdered and their spirits were tied to that place instead. Or maybe… Maybe something was messing with Maya’s powers. Maybe the spirits were being channeled by someone else. There were so many rules and limitations to this technique, Phoenix could never make an educated guess.
Either way, Maya needed some cheering up.
“Hey… Did you want to hit up the burger place next?”
Right on cue, both Pearl and Athena whirled around to shoot two nasty glares his way. Glares that clearly said 'how could you be so inconsiderate?!’ Maya lifted her head just in time to spot them, her lips quirking into a meek smile. Those two may not have realized what Phoenix was doing, but Maya had realized it and was content to play along. That was the whole point.
“Of course! If we eat burgers now, we can have more burgers before we leave tonight!” Maya clapped her hands together in delight, then froze as if hit by a sudden realization. “…Oh, but the Badger Parade starts at one! We have to go find a good spot, or we won’t be able to see!”
“The Badger Parade?” Phoenix frowned. What was that again…? It sounded like something new. Maybe he should’ve had a look at the pamphlet when they entered the park.
“Geez Nick, don’t you know anything? It’s when the badgers walk through the main street! There’s a float and everything! The Badger Parade is the only chance you get to see the fully mobile animatronics in action. If we miss this, we’ll have to watch the indoor show with the lame old ones that can’t even bend their legs.”
“Oooh, fully mobile animatronics!” Now Athena was starting to look excited as well. “That’s so rare! I have to see this!”
Pearl sighed and hung her head, apparently giving up on the serious atmosphere. That was for the best. Focusing too much on the channeling wouldn’t help Maya any. They could always figure out a different strategy later. For now, they needed to enjoy Gatewater Land for what it was. There was a full day of family fun ahead of them. … Well, the second Apollo and Trucy rejoined them, anyway.
Date: August 18th 2027 Time: 6:04 AM.
Location: Phoenix’s Bedroom.
Phoenix was having the oddest dream. …No, it was a nightmare, really. He was stuck in the ferris wheel with Maya, dangling far higher off the ground than the damn thing would ever allow in reality. He could feel the world spin and his legs struggled to keep him standing upright, even as Maya told him not to worry about it. In fact, she was nonchalantly eating a hamburger despite the way the ferris wheel’s cart creaked and swayed. Phoenix glanced downward and even though they were so very far from the ground, he could see Larry standing below, shouting at him that they should have it fixed in a jiffy. Larry, who was just a security guard and had no authority to make such wild claims. The 'Nasty Badger’ guard was standing right next to him to remind him of that fact.
Out of nowhere, Phoenix was struck by the sudden realization that Pearl must’ve been the one to sabotage the ferris wheel. That this was just another one of her matchmaker ploys. He decided to alert Larry and his fellow guard about this, but the men were gone. Maya was gone as well. Now it was just him and the ferris wheel. The height was dazzling and never-ending. He was going to die, wasn’t he? The Blue Badger’s theme music began to play over the cart’s speakers, but that wasn’t the only sound to reach his ears. Somewhere in the distance, some kids were laughing.
That’s when his ringtone broke through the dream to throw him a lifeline, allowing him to a way back into reality. It was a sluggish, disoriented kind of awakening. For a few seconds, he was utterly convinced that if he were to move too close to the side of his bed, he could still fall to his death. Then proper coherency reminded him how stupid that notion was and he slapped a hand onto his nightstand to grab his phone. …What time was it, even?
“'Ullo?” he asked in a hoarse grunt once he’d finally found the proper button to answer the call.
“NIIICK!” the person on the other end of the line hollered with such ferocity that Phoenix had to move the phone away from his ear with a cringe. “You just couldn’t resist, could you?! I spent EIGHT YEARS free from stuff like this and the second you get your badge back, BAM! Did you curse me or what?! I’ll GET you for this!!!”
“… Who is this?”
“Don’t play stupid with me! Who do you think it is?! This is all part of your master plan, isn’t it?! Ruin poor old Larry’s life again! Just because I don’t have a kid and like… five sidekicks to feed doesn’t mean your career’s more important than mine!”
“Larry, it’s… It’s six in the morning. Can this wait?”
“No! He’s dead, Nick! He ain’t gettin’ any deader!”
Those words were enough to wipe the remaining dredges of sleep from Phoenix’s mind. He sat up straight, something nasty and heavy making its way towards his stomach to settle there. “Calm down for a second, Larry. Who’s dead?”
“Mark, man! Mark! Who else?!”
“I don’t…- Who?”
“Mark Genta! You know, the other guy on the night shift.”
The other guy on the night shift… The thoroughly unpleasant guard who’d supervised Maya’s channeling. Larry’s colleague. The 'Nasty Badger’. He was dead? But how? He was just fine yesterd- … Oh no. It was Larry who was calling him in a panic, so that could only mean one thing. Phoenix wasn’t sure how to broach that particular subject. He didn’t want to know the answer, even if it was painfully obvious.
“Larry… Where are you right now?”
“I’ll give a hint, it starts with D and ends with “-ention center”,” Larry said in a flat tone of voice, and Phoenix had to strain every muscle in his jaws to stop himself from saying 'dention center’ out loud. “You’d better get down here. This is your fault and if you don’t find a way to prove that I didn’t do it, I’ll come back to haunt you after they execute me!”
To Be Continued