But before I get to that, I wanted to bring something up for some debate (feel free to use the comments here even if you don't read the fic); as you may or may not know, Dreamwidth.org now has community importing. I am not trying to move the community to Dreamwidth! However, I don't see any drawback to having a backup community on Dreamwidth, or a "mirror" that people who use/prefer Dreamwidth would be able to use, aside from individual artists/authors not wanting their material hosted there.
Of course, regardless of the outcome of any such discussion, any artist or author who doesn't want their work on Dreamwidth would not have it there; the entries would be removed, at worst (I'm not sure if I can stop them from being imported, as I haven't looked at it yet, but if that is an option, I would use it). That said, this isn't my community, this is a community, so I would like community input before it is done. Again, I am not trying to move the community to Dreamwidth. It would be a backup in the event of something happening to the community/to LJ, and at most, it would be a mirror for people on Dreamwidth who would prefer to use Dreamwidth.
Now that I've done that, here's the fic.
For a number of minutes, Nicky thought that the Judge would have to throw the gallery out, which was something he absolutely did not want to happen. For one, his adopted sister was up in the stands; he didn’t want her to leave. Her presence gave him strength, gave him confidence.
Secondly, his mother was up there. If this jerk tried to pull a fast one about spiritual abilities- as it seemed he was doing- she’d know and she’d object. If the Judge kicked out the gallery, then Nicky would have to guess for himself when his mother’s expertise became relevant. He didn’t know nearly enough about spiritual power to do that. For the first time ever, Nicholas wished he’d paid more attention to those particular lessons. It’d come in handy if his mother did get tossed with the dregs.
But slowly, the Judge managed to call order to his courtroom. “Mr. Justice, control your client,” he said sharply, once he could be heard over the din. “If there is another outburst, he will be held in contempt of court and removed. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Your Honor,” Apollo replied smoothly. He had long ago lost the jitteriness of being a rookie attorney. Besides, in this situation, Apollo wasn’t sure he wanted Phoenix in the courtroom. No one but he had heard what the man had accused Alexander Sanguine of, before the gallery exploded into noise.
“Shall I tell them who killed Phoenix Wright!?”
Apollo shivered involuntarily. He abruptly believed Nicky. This wasn’t Phoenix. There was nothing about his tone of voice or the way he spoke that said it was Phoenix. It could have still been an alter who had taken permanent control, letting Phoenix retreat deep enough in his psyche to avoid this mess. But more and more, that seemed just as ridiculous a thought as the idea that he wasn’t Phoenix. Because why in the world would Alex insist that he was Ashe? That was about all of the confirmation they needed.
And based on what little Apollo knew about spirit channeling, that meant his father-figure and mentor was dead. He could see, over on the other side of the courtroom, that Nicholas had come to the same conclusion; he was exhausted already, near breaking down, but clinging to hope. The body that was standing before them, scientifically, was Phoenix Wright’s. They clung to that fact with all their being, all of them.
“Now then,” the Judge said, eyebrows knitting together severely. “You will explain yourself, Mr. Sanguine. The court has little knowledge of spirit channeling.”
“Yes, Your Honor,” Alex replied, bowing his head slightly. “As many of you are probably already aware, men descended from Ami Fey cannot use their spiritual energy as can the women descended from Ami Fey can. What you may not be aware of is the fact that they can indeed use spiritual energy. Caduta Scura may be seen as Kurain’s cousins- we are a village that split off from the main family when the men began to lose their power. Those that stayed with Kurain lost their abilities. Those of us who left sought our own methods and techniques, and developed our spiritual powers into our own channeling techniques. Unfortunately, we cannot house the dead’s spirit within our own bodies, as the Fey can. But we can take on their appearance, straight down to their DNA.”
Nicholas was unable to respond to this. Apollo, seeing that the younger man was in trouble, cleared his throat. “And you’re saying that this is what Ashe is doing. He’s taking on a dead man’s appearance to get away with rape and murder. But he’s claiming to be Ashe.”
“And right now, about all of the court thinks he’s insane! He might weasel his way out of these charges by doing that, but he’ll be involuntarily institutionalized if he does- possibly only to stand trial again once he’s deemed mentally fit!”
Alex flinched. “You’re asking me to explain what’s going on in someone else’s head, Mr. Justice. That isn’t fair.”
“Withdrawn,” Apollo said through clenched teeth.
“I have a question I think is perfectly fair,” Nicholas said firmly. “How do you know Phoenix Wright is dead, Mr. Sanguine?”
It took only that moment of hesitation to get the gallery murmuring again. “I just told you!” Alex snapped, his face reddening from his trip-up. “Ashe-“
“Is, according to DNA tests, Phoenix Wright. He looks like Wright, sounds like Wright, has Wright’s teeth and fingerprints and DNA. According to every indication, he is Phoenix Wright! So explain to the court why his self-identification as Ashe Sanguine means anything! How do you know that is Ashe Sanguine and not a mentally ill Phoenix Wright?”
“Well… because… As you said,” Alex said, after his moment of trying to catch up. “There’s no way Phoenix Wright would know Ashe Sanguine.”
“Why would you say that?” Apollo asked abruptly. The defense attorney caught Nicholas’ eye, and the prosecutor nodded, very slightly. They had him.
This line of questioning took Alex by surprise. By his estimation, the obvious question was how Ashe would know Phoenix, but not the other way around. He could have blamed Ashe for Phoenix’s murder, and they’d be back at square one. Confuse the hell out of the court and Alex had nothing to worry about.
He wasn’t expecting them to challenge him on that. And, he realized in horror, there was no way for him to get out of it.
But there was a way for him to keep himself out of danger. For now, though, he needed to play along. “Because they only met once,” Alex replied with a shrug. “That once was three years ago, when Ashe murdered him.”
“Objection!” Nicholas cried; something in his voice made Apollo peer closely at the prosecutor again. Nicky held a hand at his arm, as his step-father often did, his fingers tensing and relaxing rapidly. What Alex had just said had upset the young man, and upset him badly. “You claim that Ashe murdered Wright three years ago. You’re lying!”
“Yes!” Nicky produced a tiny device. “Your honor, I present this spy camera as evidence to the court. It contains a recording of the meeting I believe that the witness is referring to, but it depicts something much different than what he has described!”
“A… recording…” Alex felt the world drop away from him. He was going to faint, he knew it. He couldn’t! “Yes, Mr. Wright,” Alex sneered, holding himself up by the witness stand. “Show the court your little video. You’re bluffing!”
“I’m absolutely not, Mr. Sanguine!” Nicholas hissed. “Confess to your crime now or face the consequences!”
“I’ve committed no crime to confess to!” Alex snarled back. “Show your recording to the court, Mr. Wright, and then leave me alone! You’ve forgotten who it is on trial!”
“There’s no way I could forget who’s on trial,” Nicky replied stonily, handing the device to the bailiff. In minutes, the camera was attached to a projector, and the recording started. “Remember that this film is three years old,” Nicholas told the court quickly, “and it wasn’t stored properly. Some of the quality has degraded. However, you can still clearly hear and see everything.”
As if on cue, the sound of Phoenix crying could be heard in the courtroom. Ashe winced and looked away; the rest of the courtroom was held in thrall by the events being played out on the projector. By the end of it, the room was in an uproar, again; the judge was too furious with what they’d just witnessed to care. He pounded his gavel with all his might. “Alex Sanguine!” his voice boomed, surprisingly strong and loud for a man his age. “Explain this video! Now!”
Alex’s mouth opened and shut. He thought Wright was bluffing. He was positive Wright was bluffing! Phoenix had been searched before he released the charm that kept him comatose! How the hell had that recording come into being?! “I cannot,” Alex said finally. “I have no idea where Wright got that but I assure you that it is not real!”
“Objection!” Nicholas hollered. “I found this recording in the room you claimed to be Phoenix Wright’s- Wright’s, not Ashe’s!- room in the village of Caduta Scura! The same room you attempted to hold me prisoner in!”
“That’s a lie!” Alex yelled back, his mind racing, trying to think of something, anything to say that would get him out of this. “I- I- you were only in the village a few minutes! Only long enough to serve me with the subpoena to appear today!”
“The one lying is you, and I can prove it!”
“Prove it, then!” Alex hissed.
Much to his surprise, Nicholas reached behind him and undid a buckle; the courtroom went into a frenzy again as he laid his gun and holster on the prosecution’s table. “Your honor, I fired my weapon yesterday,” he said, glaring at Alex. “I did so because Sanguine had locked me in the room that he’d been holding Phoenix Wright prisoner in for the last three years, and I needed to get out, so I shot the lock off the door. An examination of my gun will prove that it has been recently discharged.”
“That proves nothing about you being in the village,” Alex retorted. “All that proves is that you fired your gun! Frankly, if I were your boss, I’d be investigating why a prosecutor would fire their weapon without reporting it!”
“And you know I didn’t report it… how?” Nicky replied smugly, crossing his arms over his chest. “As creepy as any possible answer to that question is, that isn’t really the point. The point is that I am asking them to investigate, so your objection is moot! And mark my words- they will investigate. You’re quite right that my superiors take a prosecutor being forced to use their firearm very seriously.”
If that was it, Alex was in the clear. He smirked at Nicholas. “Investigate all you like,” he snarled. By the time they got there, that door would be replaced and being used for fire kindling. He’d given that order as soon as Nicky left the village. “You won’t find anything.”
“Maybe so,” Nicholas conceded. “Yet that isn’t all of the proof that I made it past your village gates.” This time, Alex remained absolutely silent. He already knew that the prosecutor wasn’t bluffing at all. He had no idea what proof Nicholas had, but his game was up. He was going to prove that Phoenix had been in the village, somehow.
After waiting for the head of Caduta Scura to respond to his assertion, Nicholas pulled the dagger out of his waistband and presented it to the court. “Your Honor, this is a weapon I found in the room I was locked in yesterday. I found it, and my father’s camera, in that room before I escaped. Mr. Sanguine, is this emblem not the crest of your village?” he demanded, indicating the design on the sheath of the dagger.
“Yes, it is,” Alex replied in a low voice, glowering at him.
“It has Mr. Wright’s fingerprints all over it,” Nicholas said, looking around the courtroom. “Mr. Sanguine’s ostensible motivation for locking me in that room was to prove to me that Mr. Wright was absolutely not held there against his will, that it would have been easy for him to leave had he wanted to, and that they were of no threat to him.” Nicholas paused; most of the courtroom probably thought it was for dramatic effect, but Apollo could see that it was to try to maintain control of his emotions. Even with that pause for self-control’s sake, Nicholas’ voice shook slightly when he spoke again. “Mr. Sanguine, I found this under my father’s pillow! Explain this!”
“I cannot,” he said through gritted teeth.
“You can absolutely explain it!” Nicholas snapped. “You can explain this, why you locked me in that room, and the contents of that video my father shot three years ago! Explain yourself! Now!”
Something inside Alex broke. He smirked at the young prosecutor as he said, “Very well, Mr. Wright, if you insist. I admit that I lied, but I did so in part to protect you, you see. You so clearly believe that Mr. Wright is alive, but as I’ve continually stated, he is not. Do you really want undeniable proof that I’m right, and your precious papa is dead?”
Both Apollo and Nicholas objected at the same time, loudly, and the judge banged his gavel angrily. “I’m getting tired of this!” the judge hissed, managing to silence both attorneys. “You’re in my courtroom, admitting to telling vicious lies for no good, discernable reason. You are under oath, Mr. Sanguine! I don’t know what oaths mean in your culture, but in this room, it means that you tell the truth or you go to jail. You’re already in deep trouble because we have video proof that you were involved in a murder that you’ve covered up for three years. I suggest you start being as honest as you can possibly be, because my patience with this circus is growing thin!”
“Very well,” Alex said, smarmily. “I’ll tell you all the truth. I’ll tell you all about your precious Phoenix Wright. You see, that video is the truth. I had no idea Wright had taken it, but now that you’ve got it, you’re right. I can’t cover it up anymore. You see, Ashe Sanguine became… irate with me, that day, and with a change in village policy.”
“Hold it!” Apollo called out. “What was that change in village policy?”
“Objection! Relevancy!” Nicky replied quickly.
“Objection sustained,” the judge said. “The issue at hand is the murder three years ago, not their village policies. Continue, Mr. Sanguine. Now.”
“Yes sir,” he said, chuckling darkly. “My brother became irate with me and informed me of his intention of divulging those policy changes to Ms. Maya Fey, the Master of the Kurain School of Spirit Channeling. As those policies were village secrets, well… we couldn’t very well let Mr. Wright, Maya Fey’s consort, get away with relaying Ashe’s message, now could we?”
“So you killed Mr. Wright to shut him up,” the judge said flatly, angry. “Mr. Sanguine, that video clearly shows that Ashe never had a chance to-“
“Objection!” Nicholas cried, his voice emotional and desperate. “We’ve already established that the defendant is Phoenix Wright, not Ashe Sanguine! My father is alive and he’s sitting right there!”
“Aren’t you paying attention, Mr. Prosecutor? Megan and I killed him because we thought he knew critical village secrets!”
“Objection! His dental records and DNA-“
“Is only present because Ashe is channeling him!”
“But he’s claiming to be Ashe, not Phoenix!”
Alex snarled. “I don’t know why he’s doing that. Ask him!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Phoenix cried. “I’m not channeling anyone! You know I’m not, Alex!”
“You’re lying, Ashe! You know Megan killed Phoenix that night! You know! That’s why you kept that knife under your pillow! You did it because you were afraid of us after that!”
Every attention in the courtroom turned to the defendant. Phoenix’s jaw tensed, and his blue eyes cast down to the floor as his hands clenched at his sides. A hush came down across the courtroom as everyone listened intently for Phoenix’s response to that accusation; finally, after several moments, Phoenix said, “He’s telling the truth. Either he or Megan killed Phoenix that night.” His voice was subdued, defeated, as he continued, “After Alex told me that Phoenix had died because of my actions, that he saw no choice but to kill him because he didn’t know what I’d told him, I was afraid. I didn’t know my siblings were capable of murder, of all things. And, to keep me under control, he kept me locked in my room.” Phoenix glared at the man at the witness stand. “A friend of mine in the village was sympathetic to my plight and passed me that dagger to try to protect myself from him. If he killed a complete stranger over this, there was no telling if he decided I would try to run again and therefore he would kill me.”
A hush descended on the courtroom. Nicholas pressed a hand to his mouth, stifling a cry of grief; there was no reason to doubt Phoenix’s identity now. His father was dead. Alex was staring at Nicholas, a broad smirk on his lips. “Do you see why, now, Mr. Wright? Why I refused to testify about this?”
“But my mother tried to channel him!” Nicholas grated, choking on held-back tears. “She couldn’t!”
“Because he’s already being channeled. His ‘self’ might not be present as it would be with Kurain channeling, but as with Kurain channeling, the medium takes on the physical attributes of the spirit being channeled. It still ties up the soul, and thus, prevents them from being channeled.”
Apollo cried out an objection, and then froze, realizing he actually had nothing to say about that. The Judge said nothing about Apollo’s out-of-place objection as he set his gavel down and covered his eyes with his hand, looking old, weary and grieved. A few members of the gallery began crying, those who were there because they were Phoenix’s friends.
They were drowned out by the twins, Prosecutor Wright and Detective Edgeworth, and their cries of despair at the confirmation of the loss of a beloved father figure. Alex, still smirking, turned to the defense bench and said, “Ashe, enough with this charade. Let them see who you really are. They’re in pain, don’t you care?”
Phoenix, wide-eyed, shook his head. “I’m not channeling him!” he protested. “That’s- that’s not-“
“Not how it works, Sanguine!” rang out a strong, angry voice from the gallery. Everyone turned to look at the source of the voice as the woman stood, supported by her husband, and leaned over the railing. “That’s not how it works and you know it!” Maya yelled, furious. Beside her, helping her to stand, was Miles, his expression a mix of grief, anger, and desperation.
Alex paled as his gaze fell on her, and Nicholas turned to the judge. “Your Honor! The Prosecution calls Maya Fey as an emergency expert witness!”
“Objection!” Alex cried, panicking. “No! No, you can’t! She’s not an expert on Caduta Scura-“
“She is in spirit channeling!” Nicholas cut him off. “Your Honor-!”
“Objection overruled,” the judge said. “Miss Maya Fey will take the stand!”
Alexander looked back up at the gallery, snarling and catching his rival’s eyes as she stood straight, staring down at him. This was it. If he couldn’t prove that she had no business testifying about Caduta Scura, the whole plot would come to light.