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Trial by Fire

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Iwaizumi always knew that the life of a lawyer wasn’t all glamorous, but he never expected it to be like this.

“The court finds the defendant, Terushima Yuji, guilty on two counts of vandalism of private property,” the judge declared firmly. “Please return next Monday morning for your sentence hearing, Terushima-san. Court is dismissed.”

The defendant, a fierce looking thing with bleached blond hair and several piercings, balked. “But—” he started, clearly protesting, before his counsel placed a hand on his shoulder and murmured something incomprehensible to him. His attorney, a man that Iwaizumi knew as Higashiyama, stood from his seat with finality.

“Yes, your Honor,” the defense counsel said formally, cutting in before his client dug himself an even deeper hole.

Iwaizumi mirrored him and stood from his seat at the prosecution table. “Thank you, your Honor,” he echoed, glad to have gotten this ridiculous trial over with.

With something as inconsequential as graffiti, Iwaizumi expected Terushima and his counsel to settle for a fine and leave it at that, saving everybody involved the headache of going through the trial process. But the defendant insisted on a trial — for what reason, Iwaizumi didn’t know, they had security camera footage of the his graffiti tagging — and instead of a small ¥10,000 fine, Terushima likely was facing probation and a month in prison. For graffiti. A misdemeanor they could’ve settled outside of court.

Iwaizumi sighed, packing his files and notebook into his briefcase. In any case, it was a win for him and the office. He just wished he didn’t have to waste his time trying cases that didn’t need to.

Of course, a crime was a crime, and it was his job as a public prosecutor to bring criminals through the legal process and minimize damage to society. And Iwaizumi understood that misdemeanor trials were important to prosecute as well, as things like vandalism, drunk driving, and drug possession were disruptive and potentially harmful to the public.

But he wanted a real case, dammit. Putting dangerous people behind bars was why he decided to become a criminal prosecutor.

Grunting, Iwaizumi walked out of the courtroom and to the elevator of the courthouse, checking his watch. It was late afternoon, which meant that he could report back to Ushijima and maybe get started on his new case before going home for the weekend. After a day of objections and a rowdy defendant, Iwaizumi was ready to pass out the minute he got the chance.

The elevator stopped at the fifth floor with a cheery ding and Iwaizumi stepped out into the lobby to find his friend and fellow prosecutor, Sugawara, speaking animatedly to his husband, a private investigator who frequently worked with the office named Sawamura Daichi. Iwaizumi gave both of them an acknowledging nod.

“Iwaizumi,” Sawamura said, answering him with a nod of his own. Sugawara smiled warmly.

“Hey, Iwaizumi,” the silver-haired lawyer greeted. He gave Iwaizumi an appraising look. “Did you just get back from trial?”

Iwaizumi grunted. “Yeah,” he confirmed, scowling. “Vandalism misdemeanor. Graffiti.”

That got him a sympathetic wince from both Sugawara and Sawamura. "You had to go to court for graffiti?” Sugawara grimaced.

“Don’t remind me,” Iwaizumi muttered crossly. “It was fucking ridiculous. He put up such a fight, too, and he had the gall to look surprised when Judge Irihata found him guilty. I felt bad for his attorney.”

“At least it wasn’t a jury trial,” Sawamura offered.

“Yeah, that was the only good part about the whole thing,” Iwaizumi sighed, reaching for the doorknob that led to the office space where some of Tokyo prefecture’s district attorneys worked. “I got to report back to Ushijima. I’ll catch up with you guys later.”

Sugawara brightened, eyebrows lifting and a grin stretching across his lips. “We should get drinks later! First round’s on me. You look like you need it.”

Iwaizumi laughed. Sugawara was an awesome drinking partner; though he was on the smaller side, the man could drink everyone he knew under the table.

“Yeah, maybe,” he allowed, swinging the door open and walking in past the administrators and receptions, making a beeline to Ushijima’s office. Stopping right in front of his door, Iwaizumi took a moment to take a deep breath and straighten his back before knocking twice.

“Come in,” Ushijima’s voice called.

Iwaizumi opened the door to find his superior working over what appeared to be autopsy report and several other information files. As ever, Ushijima looked impeccable — navy pinstriped suit, polished leather shoes, and not a single hair out of place. Professional and collected, Iwaizumi was constantly reminded of how excellent and put-together this man was. If he wasn’t such a great mentor, Iwaizumi would probably have been outrageously jealous at his work ethic and efficiency.

“Iwaizumi,” Ushijima acknowledged, setting his pen down and swiveling his chair to face him. “Good. I wanted to see you.”

Iwaizumi blinked, startled. “Sir?”

Ushijima gestured to the empty seat across from his desk, which Iwaizumi sat down in apprehensively. “How was your trial?” his superior asked calmly.

“It went smoothly,” Iwaizumi answered. “No complications. I’m a little confused as to why we couldn’t have settled outside of court, but it didn’t matter in the end, I guess.”

“It’s all a part of the process. Of course, though it would be easier to settle such matters without a trial, it is nonetheless a good learning experience for you to deal with difficult and unnecessary defendants.”

Iwaizumi nodded silently.

Ushijima continued. “Which is precisely what I wanted to speak to you about.” He reached into a drawer at his desk and pulled out a file. “I believe that at this point, you’ve gotten the chance to learn more about how we operate as an office and how to prosecute cases. I do not wish for you to waste any more time on infractions and misdemeanors.”

It took a lot of willpower to force himself from gaping at Ushijima. “Sir,” he said hesitantly, not wanting to get his hopes up.

His superior and mentor allowed him a small smile, pushing the file across the desk and in front of a shocked Iwaizumi. “Your first felony, counsel.”

Holy shit, Iwaizumi thought. It’s finally happening.

“Thank you, sir,” Iwaizumi breathed, taking the file into his hands and opening it gingerly. But before he could skim through the case brief, Ushijima spoke.

“The charge is second-degree murder,” his boss explained. “The defendant is a thirty year old man by the name of Daishou Suguru, who killed his father in a violent confrontation in April.”

“Jesus,” Iwaizumi muttered.

“Quite,” Ushijima deadpanned, face as neutral as ever. “The deceased, Daishou Katashi, was the CEO of Nohebi Inc. Daishou Suguru was supposed to inherit the company before the deceased unexpectedly passed it onto Numai Kazuma. The defendant killed his father not a week later.”

Ushijima paused, as if giving Iwaizumi time to let the case sink in. “I trust you can handle this, Iwaizumi. You have potential. But for your assistance, we’ve assigned Matsukawa as a paralegal on the case, and you can always come to me if you have any questions.”

“Thank you,” Iwaizumi said, bowing his head in appreciation. “I will do my best.”

“See you it that you do,” Ushijima answered, not unkindly. “You’ve worked hard today. Rest this weekend, so you are prepared to start on this case come Monday.”

“Of course.” Iwaizumi understood that as his cue to leave, standing up from his seat across from Ushijima. He was about to exit his office and excuse himself, but he stopped when he saw the look on Ushijima’s face.

Iwaizumi gulped. Not once in the past six months he spent working at the Tokyo Prefecture District Attorney’s Office did he see Ushijima look uncertain.

“Sir?” he asked hesitantly.

“A warning, Iwaizumi,” Ushijima advised. “Your opposing counsel in this case is Oikawa Tooru. He’s at Seijou LLP.”

Iwaizumi blanched. “The top law firm in Tokyo?”

“Yes. I went to law school with him. He’s brilliant,” Ushijima admitted, “unfortunately. It’s a shame he uses his skills to protect criminals rather than serve justice. I defeated him in an organized crime case once. He is ruthless and charming. I don’t doubt your abilities, and I believe I’ve taught you well, but I want you to be wary of him. And,” Ushijima paused to give Iwaizumi a meaningful look, “let me know if you need any assistance.”

“Yes sir,” Iwaizumi croaked.

His first felony case, and he was going against an attorney from one of the top law firms in the country. Who Ushijima himself called brilliant.

Fuck, he thought. This job was going to eat him alive.

 

-

 

“Iwaizumi!” Sugawara shrieked when Iwaizumi told him the news. “I’m so proud of you!”

The two of them sat across from each other in the small izakaya a few blocks away from the courthouse where they worked. Sawamura, who was currently in the process of stuffing a piece of takoyaki into his mouth, sat next to Sugawara. The silver-haired attorney took the liberty of inviting some other people from the office, like Akaashi Keiji, a cool headed and sharp attorney who worked on the sixth floor, and Azumane Asahi, who mostly dealt with the juvenile cases.

“Look at you,” Sugawara cooed, flushed and grinning from the sake. Sawamura snaked a hand around his waist as if to reel him in; Sugawara tended to get flirty when he drank. “Baby's got his first murder.”

Azumane shuddered, visually disturbed. Distantly, Iwaizumi wondered how this guy got through law school.

Meanwhile, Akaashi nodded his congratulations, picking up a piece of chicken karaage with his chopsticks. “Do you know what the case is?”

“Yeah,” Iwaizumi answered uncertainly, rubbing a hand behind his neck. “Guy killed his dad after he finds out that he’s not going to inherit his company. It’s pretty straightforward, I think.” He paused, thinking about Ushijima’s ominous warning to him before he left his office. “I’m more worried about the defense counsel.”

Akaashi cocked his head to the side questioningly. “This isn’t your first case,” he pointed out. “I mean, it’s your first felony, but you’ve dealt with and gone against other lawyers before.”

“No, no, that’s not it,” Iwaizumi hesitated. “Ushijima told me to watch out for him.”

The group fell silent. Everyone knew how unwaveringly confident Ushijima was; after all, he wasn’t one of the office’s best attorneys for nothing. To this day, he had never lost a case, so if Ushijima felt wary about this attorney, then everyone else should feel downright terrified.

“Wow,” Sugawara whistled lowly. “Who is it?”

“Oikawa Tooru,” Iwaizumi recalled, apprehension swimming in his stomach as he remembered Ushijima’s worried face when he spoke about him.

Everyone gaped at him.

“Dude, shit. You’re going against the Oikawa Tooru?” Sugawara said finally, placing his cup down on the table. Even Sawamura, the steady private investigator, furrowed his eyebrows.

“Am I supposed to know who this guy is?” Iwaizumi frowned. He didn't have a good feeling about this, and apparently, neither did any of his co-workers.

“No, it makes sense that you don’t,” Akaashi mused, before taking a sip from his beer. “You haven’t been here for that long. And you moved here from Miyagi, right?”

Iwaizumi nodded, still deeply concerned at everyone’s reactions. “Yeah.”

“Okay, Iwaizumi,” Sugawara cut in. “Oikawa passed the bar at the age of twenty-three. He’s been heralded as a genius. He’s pulled off some of Tokyo’s most impossible cases — everything from protecting entire yakuza syndicates to acquitting defendants with all odds stacked against them. The only case he’s ever lost—”

“—was to Ushijima,” Iwaizumi finished, placing two and two together.

Sugawara nodded. “And even then it was through the skin of his teeth. Jury deliberations lasted two days.”

“Jesus fuck,” Iwaizumi muttered, looking down at his sake before deciding that the drink belonged in his body rather than in his cup. He threw it back in one gulp, relishing the bitter burn as it slid down his throat.

“It’s odd, though,” Akaashi wondered out loud. “Oikawa usually only takes really complicated, near-impossible cases. He’s the kind of lawyer who practices for the thrill of, ah, getting away with murder.”

“Getting away with murder,” Iwaizumi repeated uneasily, thinking about his case.

This time, Sawamura spoke up, shaking his head. “Well, he certainly isn't infallible. He lost to Ushijima. And you’re basically Ushijima 2.0,” he added thoughtfully. “Smart, effective, no-bullshit.”

Iwaizumi laughed incredulously at the compliment. He was confident in his abilities, but he was no anywhere experienced enough to be compared to Ushijima, though the fact that Sawamura thought so was nice. “Not really.”

“No, really,” Sugawara nodded furiously, agreeing with his husband. “You’ve improved a lot over the past few months, and you’ve gotten used to the flow and bustle of the office quickly. Ushijima certainly thinks so too, if he’s giving you this case. And besides,” the silver haired attorney grinned, raising his glass, “you’ve never lost a case either.”

Iwaizumi snorted. “I’ve literally only had misdemeanors and infractions.”

“So modest!” Sugawara guffawed, reaching over to grab the bottle of sake. He tilts the bottle to pour, filling Iwaizumi’s cup back up. “You’ll do great, Iwaizumi. Don’t sweat it too much. Besides, even if you lose, it’s not the end of the world,” Sugawara shrugged nonchalantly. “Take this as a learning experience if anything.”

Iwaizumi nodded, smiling, but he knew what the implications of Sugawara’s words were: take the case as a lesson, because there was no way that he was going to win this.

He grimaced. The lack of faith the normally encouraging and positive Sugawara had in him had him worried. When Iwaizumi wished for a felony case, he wanted to have one that he at least had a fighting chance of winning — not one that he was apparently doomed to lose at the start.

After all, he became a lawyer to help put the bad guys in jail. To know that his opposing counsel on his first big case was the kind of excellent, infuriating lawyer that deliberately prevented that justice pissed him off.

“So,” Iwaizumi started casually. “Any tips?”

“I’ve talked to him before,” Akaashi offered. “He’s incredibly charismatic.”

“Like, sway-juries-into-acquitting-someone-of-murder charismatic?”

Akaashi nodded solemnly. “He’s also, no exaggeration, likely one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen.”

Iwaizumi stared. “Like, sway-juries-into-acquitting-someone-of-murder beautiful?”

“Unfortunately,” Akaashi confirmed, much to Iwaizumi’s dismay.

“Make sure to select jury members who aren’t women, then,” Azumane finally added, in between bites of fried chicken.

“Gay men are very much at risk, Asahi,” Sugawara sighed in a way that could either be interpreted as frustration or dreamy. Iwaizumi looked over at Sawamura, who seemed unbothered despite Sugawara's apparent attraction to Oikawa.

“I hate him already,” Iwaizumi decided.

Sugawara snorted, reaching over to nab the last piece of fried chicken off the platter. “Godspeed, Iwaizumi,” he said, in between bites. “Bless you and your single soul. Keep us updated, yeah?”

“Sure,” Iwaizumi shrugged, the nonchalant gesture belying the mix of apprehension and determination swirling in his chest.

He was going to try his hardest to win this case. Beautiful charismatic genius be damned.

 

-

 

Iwaizumi took the weekend to rest up for the most part. Being a lawyer meant that he worked ten hour workdays, spending the majority of his time scrutinizing legal documents, watching security camera footage, and analyzing every single minute detail in his files to use as evidence. And he wasn't eager to start gathering information for his new case during his weekend off.

Rather, he spent his time researching his opposing counsel, Oikawa Tooru.

Iwaizumi breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that Oikawa Tooru wasn’t so famous as to have his own Wikipedia page or anything (lawyers, even the best and the brightest, didn’t usually have that sort of thing unless they were absurdly important) but a Google search landed him right on homepage of Seijou LLP website.

Representation that protects you, the page declared in teal baby blue.

Iwaizumi clicked on the “Attorneys” tab on the navigation, and gaped.

He should’ve known if Akaashi Keiji   gorgeous, graceful, elegant Akaashi Keiji — said someone was beautiful, then that someone was fucking beautiful.

“What the fuck,” Iwaizumi said.

Not wanting to dwell on his opposing counsel’s looks (tousled chocolate hair, piercing eyes, bone structure that seemed carved like Greek sculpture), Iwaizumi focused on reading the paragraph the described Oikawa Tooru’s background.

“Oikawa Tooru joined Seijou LLP in 2013 as an associate. He graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A in Astrophysics and Political Science, and graduated with a J.D from University of Tokyo as the salutatorian of his class. He is committed to protecting the criminally accused and has worked on some of the largest cases in Tokyo, including the 2015 case of Tendou Satori v. The Prefecture of Tokyo. Oikawa has worked on everything from simple assaults to homicides to the sale of narcotics.”

Iwaizumi frowned. The case wasn’t ringing any bells, so he opened a new tab and searched it up.

“Shiratorizawa Freed: Yakuza head acquitted despite string of homicides in Shibuya”

He reeled back, mouth dropped open as he quickly scrolled and skimmed through the article by Tokyo Legal News.

June 5, 2015 — Spotted leaving the Tokyo Prefecture courthouse was Shiratorizawa’s leader, Tendou Satori, as an acquitted man. The trial had taken three grueling days of gruesome autopsy photos, tearful testimonies, and powerful gut-wrenching statements from both prosecution and defense alike. A high profile case, many expected the trial to end with Tendou in handcuffs and the families avenged. As it turns out, even the jurors on the case were surprised at their final verdict.

‘I don’t know,’ Yachi Hitoka, a jury member, said when asked to comment. ‘He just seemed like such a broken guy. Someone like him doesn’t deserve the death penalty.’

We reached out to Oikawa Tooru, the defense attorney in this case.

‘My client was wrongly accused, and I’m relieved to see that the jury understood that fact,’ Oikawa said. ‘To answer your question, it certainly wasn’t a surprise when we won the case. After all, the prosecution couldn’t prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt, simply because there wasn’t anything to prove.’”

Iwaizumi swallowed hard, closing the tab and squeezing his eyes shut as he felt something like unease collect in the pit of his stomach. Clearly, this Oikawa guy was good. From what he surmised from the article, everybody knew that the defendant committed the killings, but Oikawa Tooru convinced the jury that said killings weren’t justifiable as murder. As if the copious amounts of evidence were somehow tossed aside at Oikawa Tooru’s moving statements and the masterful answers he extracted from the witnesses.

That was terrifying.

At the same time, Iwaizumi couldn’t help but feel slightly awed at Oikawa Tooru’s skill. As it seemed, Oikawa had a lot of talent, and from lawyer to lawyer, Iwaizumi allowed himself to feel some respect for Oikawa’s legal prowess. As a criminal prosecutor, though, he was definitely miffed that such skill wasn’t used for the sake of putting criminals in jail.

"Take this as a learning experience," Sugawara had said.

And he might just. If he was going to lose this case — and Iwaizumi still wanted to do everything he could to win — he was at least going to take away some of Oikawa’s skills from it.

Out of habit, Iwaizumi opened his email to check his inbox before going to bed. His blood ran cold when he saw an unread email, sitting untouched on his computer screen.

 

Subject: Precursory Meetings
From: oikawa@seijou.com
Date: June 8th, 2018, 6:12PM

Dear Iwaizumi-san,

My name is Oikawa Tooru, and I am your opposing counsel in the case for my client, Daishou Suguru.

I would like to meet with you to know each other a little bit before going into the case as well as to discuss pretrial, as per ‘meet-and-confer’ rules.

Let me know if you’re available for coffee this week. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,
Oikawa Tooru

 

Iwaizumi hissed. Meet-and-confer was a mandatory process where lawyers in a case had to meet and discuss points of contention. He had a sneaking feeling, however, that Oikawa was using this as a chance to size him up and try to poke holes into his character before the trial.

What a fucking asshole.

 

Subject: Re: Precursory Meetings
To: oikawa@seijou.com
Date: June 8th, 2018, 9:45PM

Oikawa-san,

Thanks for your email. Would love to discuss the case.

I am available after 5PM on most days. Does Tuesday at 5PM work for you?

Sincerely,
Iwaizumi Hajime

 

Subject: Re: Re: Precursory Meetings
From: oikawa@seijou.com
Date: June 8th, 2018, 9:49PM

Iwaizumi-san,

Tuesday at 5PM works for me. I’ll wait for you outside the courthouse.

Looking forward,
Oikawa Tooru

 

Iwaizumi groaned. This job was going to eat him alive.

But not if Oikawa Tooru ate him alive first.