Chapter 6: Nine of Diamonds

"Please, I swear I'm not crazy. You have to believe me!"

"You ain't fooling me, Nick! I'm telling you, you're exaggerating. Don't try to make a mountain out of a molehill!"

"Maya, there really is something up with that boy! He gives me the creeps!" Phoenix sighed when he saw that his words weren't able to penetrate Maya's thick skull. Knowing when to cut his losses, he proceeded to turn to the two younger girls to ask for their opinion, "Pearls, Trucy, you guys see it too, right?"

"Daddy," Trucy slouched, her eyes meeting his with a deadpan look. "He's like, seven. What on earth can he possibly do?"

"I completely agree with Trucy, Mr. Nick." Pearl gave her friend a pat on the back to show her support. "Besides, Mr. Conan is really nice and polite. A child who has been taught manners like that cannot possibly be all that bad."

"Arghhhhh!" Phoenix let out a shout of pure frustration. "Pearls, don't ever call him Mr. Conan again. I beg you, please!"

He should have known. He should have guessed that trouble would come knocking on his door the second he had even a smidge of good fortune. He just hadn't expected that the fist that came knocking would be that of a seven-year-old boy.

It wasn't enough that Conan had to dress exactly like he did, huh? The kid just had to have wonderful acting skills to gain sympathy from other people too, which was very similar to how Phoenix would try to squirm his way out of a sticky situation when a prosecutor cornered him in court. It somewhat irked the lawyer that as a cute child, Conan was significantly more successful in that regard.

He was now starting to think that there was some legitimate merit to Maya's argument that the two of them were similar. It went right down to their job scope, it would seem…

"It wasn't even a murder case this time!"

It made sense in retrospect. Of course he was involved with the police. The boy had mentioned that he'd wanted to be a detective when he grew up. As if to seal the date, Inspector Megure had recognized Conan earlier, which proved to Phoenix that the two had met before.

But so much of the puzzle still didn't make any sense.

"It was the gloves. If Trucy-san truly was the thief and she had wanted to get rid of the stolen money by handing it to me, then she should have disposed of the gloves she was wearing."

After Conan had managed to masterfully set Trucy up as the culprit so he could weasel his way out of police suspicion, he then subsequently went out of his way to prove that she also wasn't likely to be the criminal.

But what for? Why bother going through the trouble? To Phoenix, the equivalent of what Conan had done would be if a prosecutor like Edgeworth had completely crushed his argument in court but chose not to make use of the opportunity, instead giving an immediate reprieve so that he wouldn't have to make something up on the spot.

So why did he do it? What was his motive? What was his whole deal? And above all, who was he?

"My name's Conan! Edogawa Conan!"

The five Psyche-Locks that materialized via the Magatama before completely surrounding the child certainly disagreed.

So many questions buzzing about in his mind, and till now not a single one of them had been answered. In fact, more questions ended up being compounded onto the previous ones until Phoenix was forced to admit that Conan was a walking enigma.

And one he was afraid he wouldn't be able to decipher.

Phoenix knew that his usual tactics to draw information out wouldn't work on him. The boy was smart, scarily smart. Smart to the point that Conan had succeeded in beating him in a battle of words. Despite all the jokes that Maya made at his expense, he had seriously not expected that to happen. When he'd challenged Conan, Phoenix had thought that he would break him down, that his experience and age would prevail over whatever flimsy lie the boy tried to craft up.

Nope!

He'd put up a better show than Winston Payne, for crying out loud. Not that it was much of an accomplishment to be compared to that guy, but two factors made the comparison somewhat worthwhile. For one, Payne was actually somewhat of a decent lawyer when he was up against greenhorns. For two, Phoenix was comparing a prosecutor who passed the bar exam to… a freaking elementary school kid.

A small boy should not be able to beat a lawyer in a war of words, not even if it was a friendly debate. And it definitely wasn't friendly, he had gone all out and yet Conan still utterly trumped him.

To put things bluntly, he was way too smart for his own good. Back at the lobby, Conan had completely suckered in every last one of them — the police, the witnesses, and Phoenix had to admit… even himself. Conan had crafted a perfect testimony, used his age to gain sympathy from others and secure his alibi, baited him into accusing Trucy, and immediately disproved his objection about the fingerprints by pointing out Trucy's gloves.

And thus, he was forced to eat humble pie and admit that a seven-year-old had somehow managed to completely and thoroughly beat him.

Phoenix shook his head rapidly to get the image of that smirking child out of his mind.

There was definitely something big he was missing.

He wanted-no, needed to get to the bottom of this. At first, it was sheer curiosity that pushed him on to discover the boy's hidden secrets, but now it was personal. He'd tried to manipulate him, and Phoenix absolutely despised people who did that.

And boy, was he about to vocalize that hate.

"Come on, Truce! For Pete's sake, he tried to put you away so he could save himself! Can't you of all people see his true colors? You should have a personal grudge against him!"

Trucy huffed. "Um, I really don't think that he did that intentionally."

"Oh yes he did! He was perfectly aware of what he was doing when he ratted you out to the inspector! Do you have any idea how worried I was when I had to fight to prove your innocence?"

"Hush, Daddy! You do that verbal argument thing all the time in court! I knew you'd get me off the hook!" Trucy had a mischievous smile as she countered. "You can't fool me!"

"Can we at least agree that Conan is a devious, sneaky, evil little spawn that needs to be punished?" he ranted to the three females in the vicinity in an effort to convince himself that he wasn't delusional.

"Are you sure we're talking about the same person?" Trucy rolled her eyes as Phoenix continued rambling on, muttering obscenities under his breath. Seeing that her daddy was lost in his own world, she shook her head and sighed. There was only one way to get his attention back. Giving a sneaky wink to Pearl, she placed her hand on her hip, activating the switch of the hidden mechanism underneath her cape.

And thus Phoenix suddenly found himself looking at the impasse face of Mr. Hat.

The life-sized wooden puppet's mouth then moved. "Little Conan's good with magic! He can't be all that bad, wouldn't you say?"

It was at this point that Phoenix gave up. He sulked and grouchily continued to walk ahead, completely ignoring the ventriloquist act to Trucy's dismay.

Why couldn't people tell when someone was obviously up to no good? Oh wait… there was the Hazakura Temple case, and the whole seven-year spiel about losing his badge, and the Jammin' Ninja case, and…

Okay, maybe it wasn't as easy as he thought to make a cunning mastermind reveal themselves.

"So, Maya," he finally decided to drop the topic about Edogawa Conan, sensing that everyone but him was getting sick of it. "Should we head up to the ballroom now?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" Maya cheered. "Of course, Nick! I was wondering when you'd ask!"

Phoenix grumpily turned towards the ecstatic spirit medium. "Then why didn't you just go there first?"

"Because I wanted to wait for you to ask!" Her eyes gleamed with mischief. "Since you were the first to bring it up, it means that you're admitting that you're interested about the Steel Samurai."

Phoenix's eyebrows twitched. "You know what? I think we should go back to talking about creepy little Conan, Maya."

"Noooooo," she whined. "Talking about him is so boring! You keep saying the same things over and over again like a broken recorder!"

"Then did I mention the part about how he had Psyche-Locks around him?!" The moment those words left his mouth, he froze. Ah crud! He hadn't intended to tell them that! He had wanted to keep it to himself, but after all the thoughts about Conan swarming through his mind, he'd accidentally blurted it out.

"Psyche-Locks?" Pearl spoke up, a troubled look on her face. "He had them?"

"Yes, Pearls. And no, before any of you ask—" he glanced at Maya, "—it wasn't for something stupid." He brought up his open palm, all of his fingers outstretched. "He had five of them."

"Five Psyche-Locks?" Maya gave a huff in disbelief. "You're pulling my leg, Nick!"

"No, I'm not!" he vigorously shook his head.

"But that's really unusual," Pearl frowned, biting her lip. "Can I see the Magatama, Mr. Nick?" she asked, holding out her hand.

"Sure thing." He took out the jewel from his pocket and handed it to Pearl, who proceeded to look at it closely.

"You two are making this into a big deal, you know?" Maya shook her head.

"I'm telling you, don't trust him! He's a compulsive liar! This boy's hiding something big, and I'm going to find out exactly what it is!"

"What kind of secret could he possibly have that's worth five Psyche-Locks, Nick? Oh, I know! Maybe it's him being scared of the dark or something. Hahaha!" she chuckled at her own joke.

Phoenix simply glared at Maya. He had been prepared to say "his identity" but decided to keep it from Maya out of spite. He'd only get laughed at more if he revealed the real truth.

"Whatever. Let's just go." He strutted ahead of Maya and the others, making his way towards a mess of people crowding around the ballroom entrance. "I'm not going to talk about Conan anymore, so—"

"Sorry, mister! Did you just say Conan?"

Phoenix looked down to see that a young girl wearing a hairband had just spoken. Seeing that she had grabbed their attention, she looked up at him with glittering eyes. "You're talking about Conan-kun, right?"

Oh, come on. He mentally slapped his forehead. How did you even recognize what we were talking about when it was in English… oh wait, the name Conan pretty much sounds the same in English and Japanese. Go figure.

"See, Ayumi! I told you Conan snuck away from us to do all sorts of fun stuff again!"

"Don't be like that, Genta-kun."

Phoenix was jolted from his thoughts when two new arrivals ran towards them. "Excuse me?" He meekly raised his arm, overwhelmed by the sudden influx of children around him. "Who exactly… are all of you?"

The three children stopped their talking at his question. Their faces turned bright as they each stepped forward in turn.

"I'm Ayumi!" the girl happily chirped.

The lanky freckled kid bowed slightly. "My name is Mitsuhiko."

"Genta!" The chubby, big-sized boy bellowed.

"And we're the Detective Boys!" all three of them finished in unison.

"The Detective Boys?" Phoenix struggled to form a coherent response over the voices of three enthusiastic kids. "Wait, that doesn't make any sense! There's a girl in there!" he said, pointing at Ayumi.

"That's simple! I'm the leader, so I made the name of this group. There were more boys than girls when it was formed, so we became the Detective Boys!" Genta pumped his fist into the air. "After all, we couldn't possibly call ourselves the Detective Girls after all, that's so girly! Heheheh!"

Mitsuhiko sighed, clasping his forehead. "You're lucky Haibara-san isn't around to hear that one, Genta-kun." He involuntarily shuddered before adding, "You better hope Ayumi-chan doesn't tell her about it."

"Heheheh," Phoenix chuckled, slowly trying to sneak away from the trio. "You know, if we have no business, then I gotta get going…"

"But we do have business with you, mister!" Ayumi grabbed onto his arm, pleading for him to stay.

"We're looking for Conan-kun…" Mitsuhiko started.

"…and we think you know where he is!" Genta finished.

"Woah, woah, woah!" Phoenix frantically waved his arms at them. "I have no clue where that boy is!" He desperately turned to Maya, signaling for help. "Hey, Maya! Get these pests off of me!"

"Nope!" Maya laughed at the onslaught Phoenix was taking.

"Also, that's not a very nice thing to say, Mr. Nick." Pearl wagged her finger disapprovingly. "You shouldn't be mean to kids."

"You're better at kids then me anyway," Maya teased, causing Phoenix to seethe silently.

"Must I really handle this?" Trucy stepped forward. Hearing no response, she simply smirked. "I'll take that as a yes! Looks like this is a job for Trucy! A performance oughta do the trick!" she announced. "I didn't bring any props besides Mr. Hat, so a card trick would have to suffice," she begrudgingly admitted, reaching her hand behind to take a deck of cards out from her back pocket—

"Nick!" Maya cried out at the sight, puffing her face out in anger. "I thought you said that you quit gambling!"

"Yeah, I did!" Phoenix winced at Maya's disapproving stare, but stayed firm. "But Trucy kept all the poker decks after that."

"That's such a lame excuse!"

"Hey! I was trying to save a buck!" Phoenix nonchalantly shrugged, "Those decks were brand new, and she needs them for tricks!"

"How could you just give poker cards to her? That's a bad influence, Nick!"

"Oh, please! You were a terrible influence to Pearls! If she listened to what you said all the time, she would be a rebel teen right now."

"Niiicccckkkkk!"

"Do they always do that?" Mitsuhiko eventually asked, staring at the lawyer and the spirit medium as both of their vocal volumes gradually rose with every retort until their shouting match caught the unwanted attention of practically everyone in the vicinity.

"Yeah, you probably should ignore Daddy and Ms. Maya for now," Trucy said while tossing aside the empty box, leaving the playing cards in her hands. With a flick of her hand, she cut the deck into two and proceeded to riffle shuffle them.

PPHHHFFFTTTTT!

The rhymetic sound of the clattering cards succeeded in getting the children's attention. Smiling widely at being the centre of attention, Trucy ceased the shuffling and spread the deck into a fan with both hands, leaning towards them.

"Pick a card, any card! I bet you I can guess the card you're holding!" she eagerly challenged.

"Oh! I know this trick!" Pearl enthusiastically cried. "You showed it to me years ago!"

"Then don't spoil the surprise, Pearls!" She nodded to Ayumi, who was the closest of the three children. "Come on, they don't bite," she said, referring to the cards. "Pick one, but don't show it to me."

Ayumi hesitantly reached out towards a card around the middle, pulling it from the pile and keeping it held in her hand.

"Good girl!" Trucy reassured. "Remember that card now!" She then shuffled the remainder of the cards in her hands, before reaching out her hand to the young girl. "Kindly place the card you've chosen on the top of the deck."

Ayumi compiled, slowly putting her chosen card at the top. As she did so, Mitsuhiko and Genta both stared attentively at the deck, as though they were waiting for something. Pearl was giving a small, excited squeal. Even Maya and Phoenix stopped their bantering to watch Trucy's performance.

"Now I'm going to be mixing your card up with all of the others," Trucy said, cutting the deck over and over. "Wow, I betcha it's really in there now." she muttered as she continued to cut the deck. Everyone's eyes were on the magician now. They looked intently at the deck of cards, wondering what was going to happen. The anticipation was starting to get to them.

Finally, Trucy stopped cutting the cards. "Now then… Ayumi, was it? What was the card that you picked?"

Ayumi shyly stepped forward. "It was the um… it had nine squares on it."

"The Nine of Diamonds, hm?" She turned her attention to the cards held in the palm of her right hand. "Well then, believe it or not, I'm going to make that card rise to the top of the deck!"

"No way!" Ayumi squeaked, trembling with excitement.

"Oi, are you sure that you can really do something like that?" Genta asked skeptically.

"Watch me!" Trucy closed her eyes, appearing to be deep in thought. "And now with the power of magic…" she swiped the top card using her fingers, glancing at it before turning it around with a flourish. "Ta-da! It's the Nine of Diamonds!"

"Eh! That's right!" Ayumi stepped back, shock visible on her face.

"Wow!" Genta's eyes widened, "The card Ayumi chose really did rise to the top of the deck! How did you do that?"

Trucy gave the boy a wink, "A magician can't tell her audience her secrets!" Hearing that, Genta gave a huff, mumbling something about 'not another person who likes keeping secrets' under his breath.

"Genta-kun," Mitsuhiko prodded his sulking friend with his elbow. "Have you ever considered that Ayumi-chan's card just happened to be at the top after all of the shuffling was done?"

"Hahaha!" Trucy grinned, wagging her finger. "That's unlikely! There's only a one in fifty-two chance of that happening. Anyone can claim that the top card is Ayumi's, but as a magician, I wouldn't stake my reputation on chance, little boy!"

"Oh… um, I guess you're right…" Mitsuhiko looked dejected as his argument was shot down. "Hey, wait a second!" he jolted, his tone turning accustory as he scrutinized the blue-backed playing cards. "What if every single card in the deck is the same? That would make the shuffling useless because the card Ayumi-chan picked out would always be the Nine of Diamonds!"

"Little heckler, eh? You're no fun, boy." Trucy frowned ever so slightly. "Lighten up! There's no need to be like Polly, all serious all the time!"

"But what Mitsuhiko said makes sense. We want to see the cards, magic lady!" Genta asserted.

"Oh well, if you two insist." Trucy proceeded to fan the cards face-up using her hands, revealing that it was indeed a regular deck of cards.

Seeing her disappointed friends, Ayumi marched towards them to cheer them up. "Don't be so down, Mitsuhiko-kun, Genta-kun! Not everything has to be a mystery that must be solved!"

"Oi, Ayumi! You say that like magic's supposed to be an exception compared to everything else." Genta folded his arms. "But it's all the same, a magic trick is simply smoke and mirrors in the end."

Mitsuhiko piped up, "And as a member of the Detective Boys, we have to reveal the truth no matter what, don't we?"

"I don't want to admit it in front of Conan-kun…" Ayumi looked down in embarrassment, idly shifting her weight from one foot to the other. "But with magic, it's different. I feel that magic should be kept secret."

Sensing that the general mood had shifted since the children were beginning to tread into an admittedly pretty heavy topic, Phoenix's protective instincts kicked in. "Um, what happened here?"

Maya chirped in, trying to lighten the mood. "Nick! They're just going through a midlife crisis stage! Everyone goes through it! It's temporary!"

It didn't work.

Ayumi pressed on, "A magic trick only works when you believe it! Break it and it all shatters!" She fidgeted with her hair band. "But I don't want it the illusion to be shattered! I want to believe that magic can break reality!"

Phoenix glanced at Maya, who awkwardly shrugged back. All of them were now officially lost, unsure of where Ayumi was taking the conversation.

"Isn't that the opposite of what a detective is supposed to do? Don't we have to reveal their secrets and show that they're just normal?" Mitsuhiko asked.

"That's true." Ayumi looked down, shame coloring her face. "I know it's not right to like magic, b-but I can't help it…"

"Woah, woah, woah! Stop right there, Ayumi!" Genta put his hands together to form a halt sign. "What does liking magic have anything to do with this?"

"Because if I like magic, then I can't be a detective anymore!"

There was silence after Ayumi's outburst.

"Uh… no, kid." Phoenix eventually muttered. He had been completely sucked into their conversation for quite some time, but the finality of Ayumi's last statement brought him back to reality. It was a cold reminder to him that she was just a child after all, and that children didn't understand everything about the world. "The two have no correlation. You can totally be a magic fan and a detective at the same time," he explained.

"Really? Is that really true?" Ayumi's eyes glistened. "You're not joking?"

"Yep! Look at me, for instance!" Maya piped up, pointing at herself. "My job requires me to be totally slim and fit, but I don't care! I gorge on burgers every single day!"

Phoenix slowly shook his head in disbelief. "That's not a good example! That makes absolutely no sense at all!"

"Oh be quiet, Nick! Do you want a little girl to cry?"

"But Ayumi-chan," Mitsuhiko tilted his head, a question on his the tip of his tongue, "When did you start liking magic?"

She smiled widely. "It was a couple of months back, when I first saw him! You remember, don't you?"

Mitsuhiko looked down, trying to recall. "A couple of months ago… you don't mean?!"

"Yep!" Ayumi gleefully nodded, "I'm talking about the Kaitou Kid!"

"Who?" Phoenix looked around when he realized that all four of his group had simultaneously asked the same question. It looked like he wasn't the only one whose interest was piqued.

"Eh?" Ayumi gazed up to the four of them, her eyes focusing on Trucy in particular, "You don't know who the Kaitou Kid is?"

"I've never heard of anyone by that name before…" Trucy absentmindedly muttered, shaking her head.

"But how?" Ayumi cried. "You're a magician. Shouldn't you know about him?"

"Alright," Phoenix gazed down at the children. "Just what's so special about this guy? Why should Truce know about him just because she does magic?"

"You don't know?" Genta almost shouted. "He's famous for his magic stunts on live TV!"

"Kid really is the modern-day Arsene Lupin!" Mitsuhiko chirped in.

"Kid is the modern-day who?" Phoenix was stumped. He'd never heard of either of them.

"Kaitou Kid never actually directly performed a magic trick in front of me…" Aymui mumbled, shifting the flow of the conversation. Phoenix silently thanked his lucky stars for that. He'd have no idea how to reply Mitsuhiko if he ended up talking about some Lupin guy that he'd never even heard of.

Ayumi pursed her lip. "All he did was talk to me. After that, he jumped off the balcony of my apartment—"

"EXCUSE ME!" Phoenix yelled, eliciting mumbles of disapprovals from other people in the crowd. "You saw some guy jump off your balcony? What the heck! How are you not traumatized for life?!"

"Um… I was getting to that," she pouted. "Kid then flew using a glider."

"What." Phoenix rolled his eyes. "That sounded like it came straight out of some superhero movie."

"Peh," Genta grunted. "If you know nothing about Kaitou Kid, then just say it!"

"What?" Phoenix yelped indignantly. "Of course I know about this Kid fellow!"

"Really?" Ayumi tilted her head.

"You sure about that?" Mitsuhiko snorted, giving Phoenix an "are you serious" expression.

"If you know so much about the Kid, then you should know the answer to this question!" Genta challenged, puffing his chest out. "This inside info was only recently leaked out by the chief investigator of the case…"

"Chief investigator?" Phoenix quizzically asked. What chief investigator? What did I get myself into?

"…so if you really are a fan, you should have read about the latest exclusive scoop already!"

"Uhhhhhh…" Phoenix trailed off. I should have known better than to fib to a bunch of kids. Damn, children are getting smarter!

Genta didn't even notice that Phoenix had opened his mouth in protest. "You know, the article said this very hotel is actually the place where Kid first ran into his infamous arch-nemesis…" he said those last words with a tiny bit of a sneer.

For some reason, Ayumi and Mitsuhiko burst into laughter at that point, making Genta turn on his two friends. "Hey, pipe down! I'm trying to ask him a question here!"

"Excuse me?" Phoenix interrupted. "Is this Kaitou Kid some kind of superhero?" It would make the 'jumping from a building' and 'arch-nemesis' part make sense at least.

All three of the Detective Boys deadpanned. "Are you for real?" Genta finally muttered. "You're a hopeless case, mister!"

"I'm sorry to intrude on this conversation." A new voice chimed in from behind, causing Phoenix to flinch. "I couldn't help but observe that you were talking about the recent Kaitou Kid news interview article that was released by the taskforce."

Eh? What the… who now? Phoenix spun around to see who the mysterious speaker who spoke up from behind them was, only to find—

Okay… that wasn't exactly what he had expected. Phoenix had expected another young child to be the one that interrupted him—after all, it had already happened twice in the same hotel—but to his surprise the new arrival was very different from Conan and Ayumi.

He was very much older than the two children, a relatively tanned man in his twenties. His attire was plain but stylish, consisting of a slick black jacket with a white shirt underneath, along with grey trousers and polished brown shoes. Phoenix also noted that the man had sharp blue eyes to match his sharp blonde hair, the two things that stood out the most about his appearance.

"So that means you're talking about Edogawa Conan-kun, am I correct?" the man smirked, lifting his head up as he finished his deduction.

Phoenix's eyebrows twitched even more vigorously than when Ayumi had brought Conan up earlier. Come on, was the boy a magnet that was attracted towards him or something? How and why did everyone and their mother know about him?

"You're right!" Ayumi affirmed.

"Eh?" Mitsuhiko clapped his hands together, as if something struck him. "But if you know about Conan-kun, that means you read the article too, Amuro-san!"

"Amuro?" Phoenix repeated, staring at the man, who simply chortled in response. Seeing Phoenix face him, he straightened up and adjusted his attire slightly. "We haven't met before, have we? It would be terribly impolite for me not to introduce myself."

He reached his arm out for a handshake. "Amuro Tooru," he greeted with a warm smile on his face. "A very good morning to you. You are?"

"I'm Wright," Phoenix replied, firmly shaking the man's hand. "Phoenix Wright."

"Wright? Now that's a rather peculiar name. In English that would sound almost like the word 'right'. What an incredibly lucky name for you to have! I sense that your life is headed on the right path."

"Oh, really? Me, lucky? Ha. Ha." Phoenix laughed sarcastically. What a lucky life I've had so far, huh?

Amuro grinned as he glanced from the Detective Boys to Phoenix. "New friend of Conan-kun, I suppose?" he guessed.

Phoenix shoved his hands into his pocket, internally cringing at the thought of being friends with that smug boy. "I guess you could say that…" The whole Conan thing was starting to get irritating. He'd only met the boy for barely two hours, and yet Edogawa Conan had been brought up in conversation more times than he could count. The number of mentions alone would require more than both of his hands to list.

His apprehensive behavior did not go unnoticed by Amuro. He raised an eyebrow, "Hm, would I happen to be mistaken?"

"Very," Phoenix bit his lip, trying not to bark off a retort at the man. At least Amuro was being polite about it.

"I see," Amuro's lips twitched upwards in curiosity, "And who would the ladies hovering behind you be?"

"I'm Trucy Wright!" Trucy said, flipping her blue cape to one side for effect. "Magician extraordinaire!"

Maya bowed slightly, which made Phoenix double-take. She was almost never this polite in front of others! "My name's Maya Fey, and this is my cousin Pearl Fey!"

"Fey? Now that's a unique family name." Phoenix couldn't help but notice that Amuro bristled slightly as he spoke. He appeared to be nervous, his hands clammy and jittery.

"Um… are you okay?" Phoenix gazed at him with concern.

"I-It's nothing!" he suddenly shouted. Taking a deep breath, he put his hand to his chin as though he was contemplating something. "Fey just happens to sound similar to the kanji for 'flight', that's all."

Without warning, Amuro turned around with a wave, "Well, it was nice meeting all of you, but I really should be taking my leave. I got front row seats to this concert, and I need to beat the crowd." He then hastily quickened his pace, clumsily banging into people while trying to move away.

"Okay, that was awkward," Maya murmured as soon as Amuro was out of sight. "Do you know this guy? He suddenly seemed so quick to run."

"I've never seen him before in my life," Phoenix replied.

"But I saw him before!" Ayumi raised her hand. "He works at Café Poirot!"

"Café… Poirot?" Phoenix sighed upon hearing the name.

"That guy works at a café? No wonder he's so polite, Nick!"

"Maybe you should go back to Trés Bien to learn those manners?" Phoenix muttered at Maya with an irritated tone, which shut her up. "And to be frank, I was more focused on the fact that they named the café after a fictional detective of all things."

"Anyway, you're Trucy-san, right?" Ayumi went over to the magician in question, tugging her cape. "Can you teach me magic?"

"Huh?" Trucy cried out, surprised by the sudden request.

"It was like I said, I really do like magic! When Kid flew off my apartment, what I saw was something that I'll never forget! He was gliding into the skyline of Beika City while under the stars! It was such a beautiful sight!" Ayumi reminisced the memory so enthusiastically that her smile stretched across her entire face. "I really want to be a great magician so that I can fly like that one day!"

"Flying?" Phoenix tried his best not to double back in laughter. When he couldn't take it and was about to laugh, a sharp glare from Pearl made him hurriedly seal his lips.

"Yep! Flying can help so much with hunting clues for detective work! But to get that good means that I need to start young, so I want to learn magic at once now that I know that I can do it without it interfering with me being a junior detective! Please, Trucy-san!"

"Say no, Trucy," Phoenix hissed in a hushed whisper. Trucy with Apollo and Athena as her assistants was already chaotic enough. Trucy with a young girl? He didn't want to imagine the collateral damage. "Please say n—"

"Of course you can!" Trucy squealed, causing Phoenix to groan in dismay.

"Yayyyy!" Ayumi cheered, hugging Trucy's leg. "Thank you, thank you! I promise you that I'll learn well!"

"That's great, Ayumi-chan!" Mitsuhiko clapped with a smile.

"Show us all your tricks in the future, Ayumi!" Genta whistled.

"Yes! I managed to get a magic assistant after all!" Trucy appeared completely ecstatic by the turn of events. "Don't worry, I promise that I'll make you into an excellent apprentice!" she reassured the young girl.

Phoenix tapped Trucy on the back to get her attention. "Uh, I hate to be that killjoy, but how on earth can you keep this up when you live on opposite ends of the Earth from her?"

"Oh, Mr. Nick!" Pearl sighed. "You know that video calling is a thing now, right? How do you think Trucy and I manage to talk so often when I live all the way in Kurain?"

Phoenix was already visualizing Ayumi on a call with Trucy, accidentally giving his adopted daughter evil ideas. He immediately decided that he had to put a stop to this at once. "Hey! Ayumi, was it?" he knelt down to whisper to the girl. "You ever heard of 'stranger danger'? Don't let her get your phone number-oomph!"

"Daddy!" Trucy cried while muffling Phoenix's mouth. "Let me have this moment!"

Maya and Pearl both simultaneously sighed at the sight. Seeing that they had reached the front of the queue, they quietly took out their tickets to hand to the attendant.

"Quietly", at least until Maya caught sight of said attendant.

"Oh my gosh, it's the Steel Samurai!" Maya gushed. "Nick, we have to take a picture!" she ran over to the struggling lawyer, pulling him away from Trucy.

"Wait, wait, wait! Before we do that…" Phoenix glared at the costumed superhero, asking only one question. "Are you Larry Butz?"

"Who?" the masked hero questioned with a raspy voice.

"Okay, we're good. It's not him." Phoenix gave the all-clear.

"Pearly! Get the camera!"

On command, Pearl took out a digital camera, snapping a picture of the duo with the costumed superhero.

"Hey, if that's the other hero, where's Kamen Yaiba?" Ayumi asked aloud.

The stolen briefcase… the actor still isn't back from settling it, Phoenix thought, immediately realizing the answer.

"Well, this just proves that the Steel Samurai's better!" Maya haughtily proclaimed.

"Uh-uh!" Genta shook his head. "Kamen Yaiba's better, right guys?"

"Right!" Ayumi and Mitsuhiko both gave a thumbs-up at that declaration.

Maya's face fell. "I'm afraid that we can't be friends," she said with a serious tone to the Detective Boys, meaning every word.

"Unfortunately, even if they're not your friends, I'm afraid they're stuck with me."

Ayumi perked up, looking in the direction of the new, but familiar, voice. "Conan-kun!"

Oh, speak of the devil!

Waiting at the front of the queue, just out of sight, was one Edogawa Conan. Beside him were two teenage girls, but to Phoenix, all that mattered was that damn boy.

"I knew you all would be here," Conan closed his eyes as he spoke. "Big, bright red costumed superhero. Kids are attracted to them, so you'd show up here if I waited long enough."

"Don't let your ego flow to your head, brat!" Sonoko snorted. "This is the entrance to the concert, of course your friends would be here eventually!"

The bespectacled boy gave a disgruntled scoff in response. "Honestly, I leave you guys alone for a mere hour and all of you ran off unsupervised from Kogoro-ojisan."

"That includes you!" Sonoko smirked down at the boy. "Pot calling the kettle black, brat," she whispered, causing Conan to scowl.

"Calm down, Sonoko!" Ran tried to hush her friend.

"Looks like you found Conan-kun, Ran-neechan!" Ayumi said with glee.

"Yep!" Ran smiled as she looked down at the enthusiastic group of kids. "All of you stay close this time!" She took out a pile of tickets, handing them over to the costumed Steel Samurai by the doorway. "Here, these are the tickets for all of us!"

"Except for your father, Ran!" Sonoko noted. "Where is he?"

Ran's face turned dark. "Who knows where on earth otou-san ran off to? He's probably smoking, drinking, or gambling. And when I find him—" she punched her fist at the doorway to prove her point, denting the frame slightly.

Conan's face paled at the display of force. Huh, so that's why he was so scared of her, Phoenix realized.

Wait a moment! Phoenix jolted forwards, staring at the boy. Conan's right here!

He'd thought that he had lost him after the lobby incident, but now they had surprisingly crossed paths yet again. Phoenix's face hardened. He finally had the chance to grill the boy, and he would be lying if he said that he didn't relish the opportunity.

"Hey, Pearls," Phoenix whispered. "Can I have the Magatama back, please," he discreetly tapped her, holding out his hand. He needed it at the moment for the Psyche-Locks. Pearl could do whatever check she wanted on it after he'd dealt with Conan.

"Oh yeah!" Pearl passed it back to Phoenix. "Here it is, Mr. Nick! I've checked it and it doesn't appear to be discharged of its spiritual energy. So I dunno if there's anything unusual about it…"

Phoenix nodded his head in acknowledgement, palming the Magatama in his hand.

"Mr. Nick? Are you okay?" Pearl asked with a concerned expression. "You look worried…"

"It's fine!" Phoenix reassured. "You all just go on ahead without me!" he called out to Maya, Trucy and Pearl. "There's something I want to settle."

"You sure, Daddy?" Trucy asked, shoving a scrap of paper with Ayumi's phone number into her pocket.

"Yes! I'll be back in ten minutes, tops!"

"Well, if you insist, Nick! Come on, Pearly!"

As his three companions went into the ballroom, he patiently waited until Conan and the others had their tickets checked. It only took a minute before the Detective Boys ran into the ballroom with Ran and Sonoko in tow.

"Wait a moment!" he called out to Conan as the boy was about to walk into as well. "Before you go…" he started, reaching into his suit pocket.

I don't care if people think badly of me for confronting a seven-year-old. To hell with dignity! I've had an absolutely terrible morning, and I'm going to make sure at least one good thing comes out of this…

Phoenix had a feral grin on his face as he held out the jade-green Magatama, holding it in his hand. "There're a few questions that I want to ask you, Edogawa Conan."

The use of his full name stopped the boy in his tracks. "Ran-neechan, can you give me a moment?" Conan said in a cheery tone, his back turned away from Phoenix. "Wright-san wants to talk to me!"

"Um… okay!" Ran hesitantly nodded her head in agreement. "Hurry back soon, Conan-kun!"

As Ran walked into the ballroom, Conan turned around to face the attorney. His eyes had a twinkle of amusement in them as he calmly strolled towards Phoenix.

It was only left with the two of them now.

Conan finally stopped about ten paces away from Phoenix. He pushed his glasses up towards the bridge of his nose using his finger before he spoke. "So what kind of questions do you want to ask, Wright-san?" His tone went down an octave, almost like he was challenging him.

Phoenix stretched the arm holding the Magatama out, letting the figure-nine shaped charm glow green in his palm. Almost at once, invisible metal chains rattled into place, encompassing the bespectacled boy. Five red metallic locks locked into place around his heart.

"What's that shining thing you're holding?" Conan glared at the glowing charm. "Hey, what's going on here?" he folded his arms, demanding an answer.

Phoenix had a savage grin on his face as he met Conan's furious eyes. The expression on his own face basically told Conan that he was deliberately refusing to entertain the boy. Too bad for you! You can't see the Psyche-Locks because you don't have a Magatama, and I certainly ain't telling you. It's payback time for sticking the blame for the theft onto Truce!

"Let's just get to the point," he started with a tired voice. "You haven't been honest with me one bit since we've met. I don't like that very much, so I'll appreciate it if you tell me the truth this time."

Conan gave him a dirty look. "Is this about your daughter and the briefcase? I keep telling you, I didn't lie to the police! Everything I said was the truth! Besides, isn't she already free to go?" he pointed at the ballroom, referring to Trucy. "Can't you let go of this stupid grudge?"

"Woah, I never said I had a grudge against you," Phoenix held his hands up to defend himself, though he was forced to admit that even he wasn't sure if what he'd just said was true. "Sure you might have a point there given that Trucy is out of custody, but it's more than just about the briefcase now. You thought I couldn't tell that you were lying to my face from the very first thing you told me."

"From the first thing I told you?" he retorted. "What do you mean by that?"

"When we first met, you had introduced yourself to me as Edogawa Conan." Phoenix couldn't help but step forward, towering over the boy. He smirked when he saw that Conan had frozen stiff, letting out a startled gasp.

The attorney couldn't help but to grin even wider when the invisible metal chains all around the boy began to rattle. "You already know what I'm going to say, don't you? That's not your real name, is it? Why don't you just admit it!"

After that verbal beating, Conan started to breathe in heavily. It was only a couple seconds later before he tried to compose himself. "Well…" he nervously chuckled, twiddling his fingers. "W-Whatever made you think that?" he rasped.

Phoenix narrowed his eyes. Hah, like his behavior right now doesn't scream suspicious? "The story you gave me about your name was totally bogus!"

Conan snorted at his response. As though he had suddenly realized something, his usual confidence suddenly came back to him. "Hahaha!" he chuckled innocently. "That's a good one, but I'm afraid that just like with the gloves last time, you're talking nonsense once again."

"Y-You!" Phoenix spluttered, surprised by the boy's sudden vigor. "You've got some nerve saying that, kid!"

"Still not backing down? Well then, I'm just going to have to spell it out for you, Wright-san." Conan held his hands wide open in a provocative manner. All traces of the innocent seven-year-old had completely vanished now. "If you've got proof, then come at me. But if you have nothing at all, then as a detective…" He tilted his head up, locking his phlegmatic blue eyes with Phoenix's once more. "I'm afraid that it's my job to shoot down your argument."

Phoenix Wright clenched his fists, only one thought dominating his mind as he looked at Edogawa Conan directly in the eye.

I know you're lying, dammit! And I'm going to prove it by breaking your Psyche-Locks and finding out everything that you're hiding from me!

Just you watch, you cocky little boy! I'm going to get you!


Author's Note:

[EDIT: Quite a few observant people brought up a plot hole with the original version of this chapter. I've made a few edits to give a legitimate reason as to why Amuro didn't get Psyche-Locked while poor Conan did. Thanks for the catch, I appreciate it!]

Yes, that was indeed a reference to the balcony scene in The Last Wizard of The Century. Quite frankly, that is probably one of the most agreed-on headcanons regarding Ayumi.

That card trick that Trucy showed off is totally legitimate. It's also a pretty simple one, so chances are you can probably guess how it was done.

By the way, I hope I did well with the subversion of expectations. This chapter is pretty much written in the style of "hi nothing special at the start, just the Detective Boys-hahaha jk surprise lol, ka-wham". Sorta like what Gosho did with the latest chapter, I suppose.

Next time — finally plot? I hope so too, readers. ;)