June 10th, 3:10 PM
Despite nearly getting lost on the way—he swore the bushes and grasses had somehow filled in since his last visit, doing their best to hide the path—Phoenix finally reached the clearing where the crime took place, skirting a patch of strange blue ivy-like vines and flowers by the entrance that made him uneasy for some reason. Surveying the scene, he noted that nothing had been disturbed since his last visit; the tape outline of where the body was found was still there, as was the scuffed-up area of ground to the left.
“Hello? I’m here!” he called out from the entrance, but no one answered. Walking to the center of the clearing, he looked over the strange and nearly dark forest that surrounded him… the eerie and foreboding atmosphere of the place hardly lessened by it being daytime.
So where is this mysterious ‘friend’ of mine? He said he’d be waiting for me… Phoenix remembered, his mind starting to wander and wonder… who was his enigmatic informant? “It’s me, Phoenix Wright! You said you wanted to help me!” he called out once more, but only silence answered his call.
Is this someone’s idea of a prank? Phoenix was starting to get frustrated; half-thinking he was being played for a fool. Hey, I know! I’ll just hit the redial button on my phone… he had the sudden inspiration, pulling it back out of his left pants pocket to do so. But when he clicked it on he heard no dial tone, only an annoying beep with an accompanying “No Connection Point” message on his phone display.
What? Th-then how was he able to call me earlier? he protested mentally, unable to come up with a reasonable explanation for such an anomaly. “Maybe all these trees are just interfering with the signal…” he suggested to himself without really believing it, falling silent as the wind suddenly picked up in a chilling breeze that sent a shiver down his spine.
He bit his lip at that. Even in the daytime, the forest was undeniably spooky, playing on his fears and phobias anew, but he sucked it up as best he could, determined to do it for Rainbow Dash’s sake. Still… he couldn’t stay there forever, and after twenty minutes of waiting, he was getting antsy. I’ll wait five more minutes, then I’m leaving… this is getting creepy… he finally decided as the hair on his neck stood on end, finding himself jumping at every little sound he heard, missing Twilight’s protective presence, horn and magic more than ever.
Unknown to the human lawyer standing on the middle of the clearing, a dark shadow was carefully circling around him, slowly creeping up behind him. At first it was sneaking, moving cautiously hoof by hoof. Then it was walking… then trotting… then it ran towards Phoenix in a full gallop as it broke into the clearing, its hoofed feet touching with the ground with impossible lightness, leaving no track or noise until…
“Ugh!” was all Phoenix managed as he was knocked out cold by a blow to the head, the human lawyer barely aware of himself falling, hitting the ground by the tape outline of Ace Swift’s body.
“Uhhh…” Phoenix groaned as he slowly came to, finding himself lying on a damp patch of ground by a large tree.
“My head…” he moaned, raising his hand up to feel a fresh lump on the back of his skull where he was hit, his vision blurred and head throbbing. “Did anyone get the license plate number of that truck?” he wondered out loud, sitting up shakily, struggling to regain his senses.
A surge of adrenaline sped up the process when he didn’t recognize his surroundings, finding himself in much smaller and darker clearing bordered by bushes, vines and trees with no obvious way out. “Where am I?! I’m still in the forest, but I’m not in the clearing anymore!” he realized in alarm. “Damn it! It was a trap and I fell for it! Now I’m lost!” he swore, cursing his lack of sense in falling for an obvious ambush… Pinkie was right for once, there was something fishy about the call earlier but he didn’t listen… why didn’t I LISTEN???
Fear rose within him; his heart was pounding hard in his chest. This must be how Apple Bloom felt the other day; even though the sun is still out I can hardly see! he abruptly understood, trying not to panic, struggling to his feet. Looking down, he saw his suit was a mess, covered with dirt and loose brambles; his slacks were also torn in at least two places as he’d clearly been dragged at least part of the way. Rarity is going to kill me for this! the odd thought crossed his mind, a fresh sense of unease gripping him.
Wait a minute… as his vision cleared, he noticed that his jacket was open and all his pockets had been emptied, turned inside out. “WHAT!? WHERE IS IT?! ALL MY EVIDENCE IS GONE!” he slammed the tree trunk with a fist in frustration, realizing at that moment he’d been lured in for that purpose, regretting ever more his choice to enter the forest alone.
The sudden sound of rustling underbrush and crackling twigs told him he had much more immediate concerns than stolen evidence. Phoenix froze, eyes darting back and forth; he was unable to see what was making the noise through the thick underbrush, but he could tell it was getting closer.
“H-hello?” he called out tentatively, but instead of ponies… the silhouettes of four menacing figures emerged into the small clearing in front of him… eyes glowing green against the dark backdrop of the woods, growling hungrily.
His guts clenched in fear as he beheld the monstrous wolf-like creatures; their bodies appeared to be made entirely of leaves, twigs and branches but that just made them all the more horrifying. “Ah!” Phoenix stumbled backwards, backing himself up against the tree, quickly realizing there was nowhere he could run. “N-nice puppies!” he tried to soothe the beasts down, but he didn’t know what he was going to do if he was couldn’t persuade them not to make him their next meal. One option still remained, and that was to climb the tree behind him, but… there was no time left.
I’m frozen in place… I’m too scared to move… THEY’RE GOING TO ATTACK ME! he realized as the pack closed in, the lead wolf ready to pounce.
In that moment, the human lawyer was certain he was dead. “NO!” he shouted, raising his arms in what he knew would be a futile effort to protect himself. Just as he was about to accept his fate, his vision flashed white as a shaft of light speared into the clearing; he beheld his salvation in a blur of pink and yellow as a pegasus pony came darting down as if borne by the beam, planting herself between him and the monsters menacing him.
“H-huh?” As his vision came back, he was stunned to see… “Fl… Fluttershy?!”
“You should be ashamed of yourselves! Picking on poor innocent defenseless Mister Phoenix like that!” the pink-haired pegasus pony fearlessly faced down the four beasts with flared wings and lowered head, speaking with a fierceness and fire Phoenix would never have dreamed she was capable of. He couldn’t see her face, but as she turned her gaze on each of his assailants in turn, the wolves recoiled, shrinking back from her, whining softly.
“You are all acting like a bunch of big, mean bullies! What would your mothers think if they saw you behaving this way?” she demanded, picking out and pinning the apparent alpha wolf with her… stare?
Phoenix watched openmouthed as the wolves cowered before her, beginning to back away in respect and fear. He briefly caught the corner of her eye as she turned her attention to a flanking wolf, and the human lawyer flinched hard from the sheer power of her gaze, suddenly understanding why the beasts couldn’t attack—her stare was terrifying in its intensity, feeling like a force of nature bending the forest creatures to her will.
I… I don’t believe this… this CAN’T be the same timid little pony! Phoenix watched in disbelief as she cowed the entire pack, the four large wolves now cringing in fear, prostrating themselves before her.
“Now, I want the four of you to go back home and think about what… you’ve… done!” Fluttershy scolded them, a stomp of her hoof with her final word sending them scurrying. The beasts whimpered and ran off into the darkness with their wooden tails between their legs… never to be seen again.
When they were out of sight and sound, Fluttershy turned to him, her gaze back to normal while Phoenix was still gaping at her, unable to believe what he had just witnessed. “That was close, Mister Phoenix… those species of lupines are called Timberwolves, and they’re known to rip their prey apart within a few seconds,” Fluttershy informed him.
The badly shaking lawyer slowly regained his composure, leaning on the tree behind him for support. “Fluttershy, th-thank you… you… you saved my life!” he said in gratitude, amazed a pony so shy could be so fierce.
She gave him a knowing grin. “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that… even if you had been killed, you would have come back to life from your ashes more magnificent than ever, right?” Fluttershy said in perfect innocence, and it finally clicked somewhere in the back of his mind that she actually thought his name meant he was he was the mythical bird of fire that died and was reborn from its own ashes… a creature which apparently existed in this world.
“Uh… yeah…” Phoenix just went along with it, afraid of losing her protection if he didn’t—hopelessly naïve she may have been, but helpless she clearly was not. Even more than that, she had saved his life when she had every reason to hate him, and he knew it now fell to him to make amends… to ask forgiveness for something that in his own mind was utterly unforgivable.
Closing his eyes, he knelt on the ground before the pegasus pony, getting on her level, bowing his head to her. “Fluttershy, p-please listen…” he all but begged her, his voice quavering badly.
She nodded and stood silent, waiting.
“The reason I accused you in court earlier… I know you didn’t do any of that garbage I was spouting; I just needed another day to clear Rainbow Dash’s name, and casting suspicion on you was the only way I could think of to keep the trial going,” he told her, tears in his eyes as he remembered again the frightened, bewildered look on her face as she was led away for questioning, begging him for help he could not give.
“Though I had good intentions—I was trying to save Rainbow—I did it at your expense without your say in the matter. I’m very, very sorry I did that, and I wouldn’t blame you if you h-hated me for it…” Phoenix said, tears streaming down his cheeks as he finally gave voice to his long-suffering conscience, trying to clear the gutter of guilt from his mind.
Fluttershy stared at him for several seconds before replying; Phoenix was afraid to open his eyes for fear of what he’d see on her lovely face. Suddenly, he felt a gentle touch on his chin, her hoof raising his head up to meet hers. His wet eyes opened to find himself staring into her beautiful greenish-blue ones, deep pools that shone with nothing but concern and compassion. “It’s alright, Mister Phoenix. I forgive you,” she said softly, giving him a gentle smile.
He stared at her in stunned disbelief, barely daring to believe it. “Y-you forgive me, j-just like that?” he choked out.
She moved closer in response and swept a broad yellow wing over him, brushing his head and cheek with her soft feathers; Phoenix felt like he was being touched by an angel. “Yes. Because I believe in you, Mister Phoenix. That’s why I came here to look for you. To make sure you were safe,” Fluttershy said with her sweet little voice that was to Phoenix a beam of light breaking through his greatest hour of darkness.
“You’re far too kind,” he barely managed through his tears, reaching up to grasp her hoof in both his hands, feeling unworthy of her rescue and the forgiveness she was blessing him with… thinking that simply calling her ‘kind’ didn’t even begin to describe the incredible, wonderful pony before him.
Fluttershy stayed close to him while he slowly regained his composure; it took another minute before he was able to speak again. “But Fluttershy… wh-what are you doing here? I thought you were arrested,” he asked her, failing to remember what she said earlier about coming in to find him… his traumatized mind still reeling from his close call.
“The police let me go…” Fluttershy answered simply, stepping back from him and letting him gather himself.
He had recovered enough of his faculties to know that didn’t make sense. “They let you go? But I thought you were a suspect…” Phoenix said, his mind coming up with some slightly nonsensical theories why they would have… a catch? A trap? Did Trixie arrange this attack? he suddenly wondered, not sure if he’d put anything past the grudge-driven show mare.
“I don’t know why, they just said I didn’t have to stay anymore and let me out,” Fluttershy explained patiently.
His conscience soothed and his mind settling back down, his attorney instincts were starting to kick in again. That can only mean one thing… the feather didn’t match any of her animals… he realized as Fluttershy continued with her story.
“When I got home, I saw Pinkie Pie standing by the entrance to the forest and I asked her what she was doing. She said you went here all alone. So I got worried and I came in here to find you!” she explained further.
Phoenix closed his eyes at that, realizing he owed the pink earth pony yet again. Thank you, Pinkie Pie! “Did you by any chance see anyone else in here while you were looking for me?” he asked, finally able to stand up again—with the help of the tree to lean on.
To his surprise, Fluttershy shrank back from him. “No… I didn’t… um… sh-should I have seen someone? You know, like how I should have seen Apple Bloom that night? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to do something wrong again…” Fluttershy said, cringing like she was in court again, shaking like a leaf in fear.
Phoenix stared at her cowering form, the ghost of a smile touching his face. It’s funny how she just took on a pack of savage wolves, and then goes right back into submissive wimp mode! “No, it’s okay…” he reassured her, hands raised and palms out. “It’s just that… someone knocked me out and put me in the middle of the forest,” he explained, sitting on a tree stump. It was dirty, but considering the shape his suit was now in, it didn’t matter.
Her eyes widened at that. “Oh, my… that’s not very nice…” Fluttershy remarked in a prize understatement.
“On top of that, they stole all the evidence I was going to use to defend Rainbow Dash in the trial tomorrow,” Phoenix continued, slumping over and burying his head in his hands, thinking his life was saved but his case was now lost—all the progress he had made undone by a single foolish decision. What the HELL was I thinking, coming in here alone…?
Fluttershy suddenly looked confused. “Um… but Twilight said she was going to defend Rainbow Dash tomorrow,” she remembered.
The human lawyer looked up sharply at that. “Huh? What?”
“She talked with me at the detention center earlier and told me to forget about you.” Fluttershy timidly responded.
Phoenix had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Oh, no… I hope she’s not doing what I think she is,” he began, but knew there was only one possible explanation. “She’s going to fire me for what I did to you and take over the defense! Trixie will eat her alive if she tries to defend Rainbow Dash!” Phoenix clutched his head, having one more major issue to deal with on top of the ton of problems he already had.
She gave him an odd look. “Trixie? Are you talking about that blue unicorn in the wizard outfit?” Fluttershy asked, remembering the not-so-nice pony that had interviewed her after the murder and been in the court the next day, constantly shouting at her to state her name and occupation.
He nodded, his eyes narrowing. “Yeah, I was barely holding my own against her and I have experience. Twilight won’t stand a chance! I have to get her to reconsider,” Phoenix knew.
“I’m sure if you tell her what you told me she’ll change her mind,” Fluttershy suggested.
He shook his head. “I don’t know… she was pretty bummed out…” Phoenix told her, thinking he’d almost rather face the Timberwolves again than a betrayed and angry Twilight.
“She’s my friend. I’ll help you explain it to her,” the pegasus pony offered, flaring her wings protectively and putting a hoof on his knee.
“Thanks, Fluttershy,” Phoenix said in heartfelt gratitude, reaching out to squeeze her hoof again. “Hey, wait a second! I just thought of something…” he had a sudden brainstorm.
“What is it, Mister Phoenix?” Fluttershy asked curiously, sitting down on her haunches in front of him.
“You said Pinkie Pie was standing by the entrance, right?”
“Um… yes…?” she confirmed.
“Well, whoever knocked me out would have to leave through the entrance, since that’s the only way out!” he realized.
Her greenish-blue eyes widened in understanding. “Oh, I see now! Since Pinkie Pie is waiting by the entrance…”
“Pinkie Pie will probably see whoever attacked me exit the forest!” Phoenix finished, standing back up, finally feeling able to walk again.
Fluttershy got up as well. “I’ll show you the way out. You were right about that this morning, you know…”
“Huh?” he looked at her in confusion.
“Even if I may not like visiting it much—this forest really is like a backyard to me,” she told him with a wan grin.
Phoenix cringed again, remembering that observation had come in the middle of his attempt to accuse her, meant more as a rationalization than something he really believed. “Alright, lead the way!” he told her, letting her guide him out of the foreboding forest.
As Fluttershy navigated him out of the dark and misty woods, Phoenix just wanted to see the light of day, and Pinkie Pie in that order… hoping against hope the party pony had seen his unknown assailant leave the woods and he would be able to recover his lost evidence. As he walked, questions were running through his mind—who had attacked him? How had they called him? Why had they gone after his evidence and left him for dead? Was he getting close to a truth somepony didn’t want him to find out?
Just as before… more questions were piling up instead of answers, but for now, the human lawyer was just grateful to be alive… vowing he’d never think ill of Fluttershy again.