Tales of Misfortune and Fame - EnPassant4264 (2024)

Chapter 1: Mathemagician


Marinette and Adrien have heart-to-hearts about their hearts with their kwami. The next day, Ladybug and Chat Noir must use their brains to take down an akumatized math teacher.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Only the steady thrumming of a sewing machine accompanied the sounds of crickets at the Dupain-Cheng bakery in the dead of night. Marinette was hard at work, fabrics strewn about her room along with a half-completed outfit on a mannequin while she focused intensely on the item she was currently threading. Floating at her shoulder was her red-and-black magical companion, who looked very concerned.

“Marinette, it’s officially 1 o’clock. You should really get to bed so you can be rested for tomorrow! You’re starting a new unit in mathematics, which I know you struggle in. And the last thing you’d want is for Ladybug to be exhausted when an akuma strikes!”

“Sorry Tikki, but the design bug has bit tonight! I’ve got a real good feeling about this one, and only my best work will be acceptable when I submit these to Mr. Agreste to critique for Fashion Week next year!”

“Mr. Agreste’s deadline isn’t for another five months, though! Your dedication is admirable, but you need to have balance. If you run yourself ragged trying to juggle so many hats, you’re eventually going to drop one, and the rest will come tumbling afterward.”

Marinette sat back from the machine and sighed. “I know that, Tikki, but this is the path I chose for myself. I turned down Audrey Bourgeois’ offer because I didn’t want to take the easy route to recognition. I want to earn it, and earning it means putting in the hard work and long nights.”

“Yes, but you’re also only fourteen. I’m sure Mr. Agreste would understand that you have other responsibilities and priorities than working on pieces for him, unpaid I might add, even if he doesn’t know that you’re Ladybug.”

“I don’t know about that Tikki, he sure doesn’t seem to treat Adrien that way…”

That comment garnered a frown from the kwami. “You know you can’t compare his personal and professional lives like that, Marinette.”

“I know, but it just… makes me mad. How little his dad lets him get away from all the responsibilities he set up for him. How he has to sneak out just to spend time with his friends sometimes. How miserable he is about it and how his dad doesn’t seem to care.”

“I think there’s a lot we don’t understand about their situation, since we haven’t experienced it ourselves. No one is perfect, and you have to remember that Gabriel Agreste is dealing with the loss of his wife and partner in raising Adrien. I doubt he knows all the right answers, even for himself.”

Marinette sighed, for the second time in too short of a time period. “You’re right, Tikki. I wish I could understand it better, but I doubt Adrien would want to talk about it. Assuming I could even get the question out to him to begin with…” She pouted and rested her head in her hands on her desk.

“You’ll get there eventually. The fact that you’re concerned about the difficulties in his life shows that you genuinely care about him, as much as you like to fawn over his posters.”

“Tikki!” the girl blurted, blushing and placing her hands on the table a little too forcefully. “Did you forget that I’m dating Luka to try and get over my crush on him – I mean, and trying to get over it? I’m not dating Luka just for my own selfish means, that would be wrong. Nuh-uh, Tikki. Gaaaah, I’m such a messsss.”

“You’re not a mess, Marinette! Everyone goes through rough patches in life, and sometimes the answer isn’t clean or easy. If your experience with the Lucky Charm has taught you anything, it’s that you always find a way! It may take some time, but that’s okay. I know you’ll figure it out.”

“I appreciate the words of confidence, Tikki…”


“Wh-what makes you think there’s a but?”

Tikki gave her a look, one that reminded her that the several-thousand-year-old had a lot of experience with humans and with her in particular.

“Fine, okay. I appreciate it, but that doesn’t make this any less taxing for me. It feels like this whole thing with Luka is one big lie. Like, I need his support right now, and he’s happy to give it, but I don’t really want him, because you’re right, I’m totally not over Adrien, and I don’t know that I’ll be able to be there for Luka because relationships are a commitment and the reason I need him is because I’m already so overwhelmed…”

“And you think that wouldn’t be a problem if you were dating Adrien?”

“What?” the teenager said, hesitating.

“A relationship with Adrien would also require commitment. We were just talking about how he has a lot of baggage, and from what I understand from the time you’ve spent together, Luka doesn’t have much of that. Maybe what you need right now is something that’s not so pressuring, where you’re not constantly stressing about everything being perfect and doubting if you’re good enough for it when mistakes inevitably happen. Luka likes you just the way you are and doesn’t ask anything more of you. You don’t necessarily have to get over Adrien, but maybe now just isn’t a good time to try anything with him when you have so much else to worry about.”

“But Tikki… what if he never becomes available again? What if he decides that Kagami is really his soulmate, or some other girl he hasn’t met yet?”

“Then he’ll be happy, won’t he? Isn’t that what you want for him?”

“Yes, but… will I be happy? And what about our hamster!”

“Only time will tell, Marinette. You could just as easily find yourself happy with Luka, or some other boy you haven’t met yet. Or even… Chat Noir,” she said with a giggle.

“Let’s not talk about Chat Noir…” The girl let out a third, much larger sigh. “I guess you’re right. I should take things one step at a time. I have much bigger concerns than boy troubles right now.”

“Like how it’s almost 1:30?”

“Huh?! Well… all this relationship talk made the design bug fly away anyway,” she said, proceeding to yawn as she began to clean up her textiles.

Meanwhile, Adrien himself lay awake in bed, unable to sleep as many thoughts swam through his head.

“Hey, Plagg, you awake?”


“Okay, sorry to distu-” he started automatically, “hey, wait a second!”

The blond-haired boy sat up, scooching to place his back against the headrest. He picked up his kwami by his head from the tiny pillow on the bed next to him, who proceeded to squirm comically against his grip as if he couldn’t just phase through it.

“Do you mind?” the black being whined. “I need my beauty sleep!”

“Plagg, it’s kinda serious.”


Ever since he had sneaked out and inadvertently left Adrien to face his worst nightmare alone during the Sandboy attack, Plagg had been trying to make some sort of effort to be a more attentive partner to his wielder. He would never tell Adrien that this was the case, but the boy wasn’t stupid and it didn’t take long for him to catch on.

“Well, go on, then,” the kwami said after an awkward moment of silence.

Adrien let go and clasped his hands together nervously. “Have you ever… felt used, by someone who wielded you?”

“I mean, whenever my wielder says, ‘Claws out’, I get sucked into the ring, sometimes against my will, to be used for whatever purposes they desire. Do you mean like that?”

“Are you saying that you feel used by me?”

“No, it’s… okay, not like that, then. You mean really used.”

“Like a tool, Plagg.”

“Well, first you must understand that someone willing to abuse a miraculous like that would never be considered worthy of holding it by a Guardian. Poor Nooroo and Duusu are the first time in at least several hundred years that a kwami has suffered such a fate. What’s more, my miraculous, above all others, requires the strongest awareness of the consequences of using its power. Destruction on-command is never something you can take lightly.”

“Really? You almost never keep tabs on whether I’m being responsible as Chat Noir. You don’t even like to transform that much.”

“Hey, there can’t be any destruction if you’re not transformed. It would certainly make my life easier! But really, it’s because you don’t need me catsitting you. You’re very conscious of when and how to make proper use of your Cataclysm, which makes you one of the best wielders of my ring. Not every Black Cat wielder is like that: they may all fight for noble causes, but some are willing to sacrifice much more than others to get there. Some are the type that hunt alone in the darkness, keeping themselves safe by distancing from all connections… including to me, their own kwami. Some are the type who use the miraculous to forcefully remove any obstacles in their way, regardless of reason. With those people, yes, I would say that I felt used.”

Adrien didn’t respond to that immediately. He mulled over Plagg’s unusually thoughtful words in relation to what he wanted to say next.

“I’ve been thinking a lot recently, and I might have finally found the words to say how I feel about… a lot of my life. What you described only confirms this even more. That I’m being used by most of the people close to me.”

“Hold up, you’re only fourteen, I don’t think that’s comparable to a kwami who has been on this planet for almost four thousand.”

“It’s not a competition, I just wanted some perspective on… healthy relationships. I don’t think this is out of malice on anyone else’s part, even if it feels pretty rotten for me. My father cares for me, I’ve no doubt about that, but he just doesn’t see things the way I do. The things he expects from me – learning the piano, Chinese, fencing, modeling for his company – are all things that adults find valuable, and that make him look good to big wigs like Audrey Bourgeois to be teaching his kid. And don’t get me wrong, I want him to be happy, but I don’t get much of a choice in the matter. He doesn’t understand the importance of letting me be a kid and decide for myself what makes me happy and what I want to do with my life.

“Speaking of Bourgeois, there’s Chloé…” he sighed. “Yeah, no surprise there. I really wish I could understand what goes through that girl’s head. Gosh, I’m still reeling over how she became Miracle Queen. But I don’t want to get sidetracked. I know I mean a lot to her, but it’s only ever about what I can do for her. How I make her feel, rather than her caring about my own feelings. I know it’s how she’s been raised, but that still doesn’t do anything for my happiness, you know? On that line of thinking, don’t even get me started on Lila.”

He sat there for a little bit with a look that he had something more to say.

“Well, this seems like a good time for a quick cheese break!” Plagg exclaimed. He phased into one of the several cupboards and grabbed two slices of his favorite camembert before returning. “Here, I got one for you too!”

“You know I don’t eat that stuff.”

“Yeah, I do!” he agreed, inhaling the first slice and starting on the second immediately.

“Anyway, I think this is what confuses me so much about Marinette, too.”

“Wow, you must be crazier than I thought if you think Marinette is using you.”

“What? No! I didn’t mean it like that. Marinette is great. She’s always there for her friends when they need her, myself included, and she always finds a way to make things work and do what’s right. I meant every word when I said all those things about her being our everyday Ladybug. You know I would never say something like that as a joke; it would be an insult to M’Lady.”

“So what’s the big deal, then?”

“Her crush on me. I’d appreciate if you stopped laughing at me for not figuring it out sooner, by the way. She didn’t make it easy with how she tends to avoid me, can never form complete sentences around me, and how often she contradicts herself or denies it whenever the subject comes up. That’s the problem, really: I don’t know what she wants. Does she have a crush on Adrien, the sheltered rich boy who doesn’t know how to make friends, or Adrien, teen model extraordinaire? Because one is me and the other is a trophy.”

“You could always ask her yourself.”

“That’s not a good idea. She’s dating Luka and I’m dating Kagami and I don’t want anyone getting the wrong impression. And honestly, it… scares me. I don’t want to risk finding out that she just idolizes me like every other teenage girl in the city. Her friendship means too much to me to let it be ruined like that.”

“Maybe it’s for the better that you’re both spoken for, then. Although it’s going to be a heck of a show watching you and Kagami figure out romance!”

“Plagg!” Adrien rose his voice, blushing, and started trying to whack the kwami with his pillow to no success. Plagg started cackling as he dodged the swings.

“Just saying, if you’re as easily tricked with her as you were with me tonight, your next product line’s not going to be fragrance, it’ll be doormats!”

“You think you’re so funny, huh?”

“I’m laughing, aren’t I? Chat Noir’s sense of humor isn’t a solo effort, you know!”

Suddenly, there was a noise downstairs, and both of them shut up really quickly. Neither of them knew whether someone was actually wake, or if it was because of them, but it wasn’t worth finding out. “Guess your playtime’s over. When did it get to be 1:30? We should probably be trying to get back to sleep anyway.”

“Eh, gives me time to digest my cheese.”

Both of them settled back into laying positions and tried to relax.

“And Plagg? Thanks for listening tonight.”

“Yeah, yeah, I just couldn’t stand the thought of you moping around all day tomorrow.”

“Sure thing, Plagg,” Adrien echoed, knowing it wasn’t actually true. Although he was facing away from his smaller partner, he smiled, and then closed his eyes.

The next day saw two tired teenagers as the last to enter their first-period mathematics class, to the surprise of none of their classmates. Adrien had a busy life, after all, and Marinette couldn’t keep track of the time of day even if a clock was taped to the back of Adrien’s head, given how much she liked to stare at it.

“Question for the class,” began Mr. Plusseau from his place at the smartboard at the front of the room. This caught everyone’s attention, most of which was quickly diverted to his physical features, namely his lack of height and his grizzled brown sideburns that attached to a bushy beard on his neck, leaving a prominent exposed chin. He was a new instructor this year, and the novelty of his face had yet to get old for most of the class.

He shortly turned and began writing on the board with a stylus. “If we have the equation 15 – 4x = 3, what is the value of X?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Alya responded instantly, taking out her phone and typing very quickly into it. “3.”

“Ah, if it’s so easy, then you can come up to the board and show us how you solved it,” Plusseau said grumpily, picking up a stylus from the board and offering it forward.

Alya shook her head and held her phone out for everyone to see. “I used a free online equation solver. Pretty simple, really.”

“And do you know how your equation solver did that?”

“Do we really need to?” Chloé commented. “It’s not like we’re ever going to be without our phones to do it ourselves.”

Plusseau grew tense. Although the class looked somewhat uneasy, he could tell that they didn’t really disagree with that spoiled brat.

“Alright, Ms. Césaire, if I have 15 paint cans and 4 painters at my house, and we can each carry a different number of cans, how many should I give each of the painters and to myself?”

“Erm… well…”

“I figured. All the technology in the world can’t help you if you don’t know what you need to tell it. Now, let’s dissect what a variable is and how we go about solving one.”

Light began pooling into a dark observatory as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. It was a display that always pleased the one inhabitant of the room, as it heralded the time to reap what misery the chaotic elements of life had thrown in some poor fool’s path.

It didn’t matter to Hawk Moth that his Miracle Queen plan failed. It didn’t matter that Ladybug was the Guardian and had all the miraculouses at her fingertips. It didn’t even matter that a cheap desire like this one likely wouldn’t amount to anything. There was to be no letting up on her. He would send akuma after akuma until he found the winning formula or the cracks in her armor.

“Technology advances so quickly, for better or for worse,” he announced only to his audience of white butterflies. He found it helped his focus to monologue the idea he was presenting to his target. “We become capable of so much more than our own means, and yet, some only choose to indulge in convenience and squander their potential. It all adds up to a perfect equation for my akumas!”

One butterfly flew into the palm of his hand, which he clasped with his other and imbued with a dark power that blackened the butterfly to a deep purple. His empowered minion knew its task, and with a wave of Hawk Moth’s cane, instinctively flew out of the gap in the center of the view to the streets of Paris.

“Fly away my little akuma, and evilize this old-fashioned professor!”

The ringing bell indicated that class was over, and Plusseau leered as almost every student immediately withdrew their mobile phones and engrossed themselves in them. Spoiled kids… all so reliant on technology. They’ll never amount to anything if they can’t think for themselves…

As the last of them left the room, a black butterfly flew in through the window and embedded itself in the same stylus that he was still gripping tightly. The purple outline of a butterfly appeared over the blushed region around his angry eyes.

“Mathemagician, I am Hawk Moth. I can grant you the power to show these despicable children how to use their brains rather than relying on those of technology. Of course, Ladybug and Chat Noir are going to try and stop you. What I ask is that when you eliminate them from your equation, you deliver their miraculouses to me. Is this agreeable to you?”

“Yes, Hawk Moth. Together, we shall be greater than the sum of our parts!”

With that, the math teacher’s body became coated in the same dark substance of the akuma.

Marinette’s walking continued to be dreary on her way towards Ms. Mendeleiev’s class. Along with the lack of sleep, she was having a hard time swallowing Tikki’s advice from last night. Not that she didn’t believe her kwami, but her emotions were more stubborn than that. Nothing could stop the burning passion that arose in her every time she looked at that beautiful golden hair, or heard those sweet and caring words, or–

“Girl, what’s got you so down today?” Beside and slightly to the front of her was Alya, who was trying to urge her to move along.

“I was just up late last night working on some fashion stuff, nothing to worry about.”

“You say that a lot, Marinette, and you should know that I know you well enough to know when you’re hiding something. There’s no fooling this reporter’s eyes, Dupain-Cheng.”

“Darn, you sure have me down pat,” minus the massive secret identity that I’ve steered you far far away from, “but it’s nothing you don’t already know.”

“Still feeling guilty about Luka and regretting over Adrien, huh? Maybe you should look into therapy, if it’s affecting your ability to function so much.”

If only it were that simple and the complications didn’t take away all the time I might have for that, she thought. “Maybe, but that would require accepting that I’m so out-of-control of myself that I actually need to see a professional before I’m even in lycée where they’re usually available. How sad is that?”

“Not sad at all, that’s what they’re there for. If no one else was the same as you, they’d be out of a job, yeah?”

At this point, they had reached the door to the classroom. Since Alya was in front, she opened the door to usher Marinette through; however, the smaller girl declined.

“I’m going to use the bathroom. I didn’t really have time before school today.”

She could see a look of concern appear on the brunette’s face, and she guessed that Alya knew that she didn’t actually need to use the bathroom. Nonetheless, the other girl nodded and proceeded inside.

Fate had other plans in store, though, as Marinette had only gotten halfway across the courtyard before the sounds of screaming and blasting could be heard upstairs. She hurried to her destination, hiding in a stall and opening her purse for her favorite companion to join her at eye-level.

“Others like me? Do you really think there can be anyone else as clumsy and awkward all the time as me?”

“Of course! Humans come in all shapes and sizes, and not everyone will turn out so coordinated or smooth-tongued as they might like. All it means is that they may need more support than others to be the best they can be, and that’s fine! Besides, there are very few who are as crafty or determined as you can be, and none of them can do what you do, Marinette!”

“Right! And it sounds like it’s time for me to do what I do best! Tikki, spots on! Yeah!”

As her signature black-spotted red costume spread over her arms, body, and legs, Marinette immediately felt refreshed. She may be clumsy as Marinette, but everything changed now that Ladybug was on the scene.

She ran out and used her yo-yo to pull herself onto the second floor where the commotion occurred. There was no sign of the villain, but many of the doors looked like they had been opened forcefully. Her first thought was to go back downstairs to the classroom she was supposed to be in as Marinette to check on her friends.

Inside, she saw that almost everyone was on the floor, unmoving. Only Ms. Mendeleiev, Sabrina, and Max were still standing, albeit all leaned over. The science teacher was making a phone call, presumably to the authorities, while the students were huddled over their closest friends: Chloé and Kim, respectively.

“Max, what’s going on here? Is everyone alright?” she asked, since he was closest to the door.

“Ladybug! A wizard-looking man is shooting magic at people that makes us solve a math problem! It was simple for me, but it appears that those who cannot solve them are placed into eternal slumber until they do.”

“That must be Mr.– Math Teacher Guy,” she said ineloquently, remembering that Ladybug isn’t supposed to know what a student would about the college.

“Minot Plusseau,” Mendeleiev corrected unenthusiastically.

“There is no Minot Plusseau in this scenario. There is only the Mathemagician,” an unusual voice boomed from outside. A man adorned in indigo robes appeared in the doorway shortly afterward. The man’s mutton chops-beard combo had grown extensively, almost all the way to the floor, but retained their brown color, and his chin remained exposed although it was unusually pale. The upper half of his face was shaded by his large wizard hat, though it appeared to be supernaturally dark so that nothing except his glowing brown eyes were visible. In his hand, he held a long, white stick that resembled a pen… or a stylus.

That must be where the akuma is! Ladybug noticed while she brought out her yo-yo, swinging it in its shield-forming circle to protect the students behind her while they went to hide behind the teacher’s desk.

“Doesn’t magic defy science and math? A contradiction like that ought to poof out of existence!” she quipped. Not her best work, but maybe on some errant hope it would actually come true and they could all go back to their normal days.

“I hope your skills are greater than your logic, Ladybug.”

“Nah, that was just her attempt at a joke!” a voice that Ladybug instantly recognized said from behind the villain. Mathemagician moved to the side of the door and turned to see that Chat Noir was leaning casually against the railing, swinging the loose end of his belt with a co*cky grin on his face. “She should really leave the humor to me. Trust me, you’ll know when she’s using that logical head of hers when you’re on the floor without your akuma.”

That angered the wizard, who shot a purple blast of magic wreathed in brown numbers and math symbols at the black-clad superhero. He dodged to the side, and Ladybug seized the opportunity to go on the offensive, swinging her yo-yo at Mathemagician’s staff. The counterattack was also dodged, and in the same motion he took aim at his attacker and fired another blast.

The superheroine rolled out of the way and weaved between or blocked the further blasts that came her way, while the attacker backstepped to a place where he could see Chat Noir through the window next to the door. Only, he wasn’t there, and Mathemagician nearly fell backwards leaning to avoid the staff that popped up from beneath the sill and telescoped through the window right at him. Without losing a beat, and contrary to what Ladybug was expecting from an old wizard, he placed his free hand on the ground and flipped backwards, kicking Chat’s staff out of his way and landing on his feet ready to fire back.

Chat was the one that had to duck then, before pulling himself onto the sill with both hands into a catlike crouch. This was unwise, at it left him open to a follow-up blast that knocked him down and out onto the floor.

“Chat!” Ladybug exclaimed. She cleared the distance to the windowsill in a single jump, deploying her yo-yo shield again to block a shot Mathemagician took while she was airborne. However, the cat hero was already waking up when she glanced out at him. “Oh, looks like someone’s a smart kitty.”

“Well of course! My claws aren’t the only thing sharp about me.”

Mathemagician didn’t care for their banter, and with a pound of his staff, his magic lifted him into the air, where he fired more blasts at Ladybug while trying to get a good angle.

“Your wit, sure, but I never would’ve guessed your brain. It should be telling you to get in here and help with the supervillain right about now.”

“Right,” he agreed, but said supervillain flew out of the door as he was headed towards it, hovering up the center of the courtyard on the second floor. That’s smart, using his flight to gain area control.

Chat Noir dodged more blasts while performing acrobatics to jump up the stairs and then onto and over the railing to the balcony, giving Ladybug the opportunity to leave the classroom and launch herself with her yo-yo up to him. She ran left while Chat ran right, forcing Mathemagician to divide his attention and move backwards towards the far side to see them. They also took out their magic earbud communicators.

“So, logic bug, what’s our plan?”

“Well, humor monkey, the akuma’s in his staff. You’re going to have to Cataclysm it, but it’ll be hard to get away from him when that’s also his weapon. I think it’s time for my…

“Lucky Charm!” she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts then formed together into a long stick, curved near the end, that was red with black spots, which then fell into Ladybug’s hands.

“A hockey stick? What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Can you cast spells with it like he can with that stylus?” Chat suggested.

“No, but…” she pondered, looking around. Aha! The dirt courtyard… Chat Noir… Mathemagician’s staff… her hockey stick…

“Alright, kitty, time to play in the sand. I need you to…” she lowered her voice so that their enemy wouldn’t hear. “I’ll distract Mathemagician. Got it?”

“Great plan as always, M’Lady.”

Ladybug stowed the hockey stick onto her back, where it stuck magically, and swung out over the courtyard while Chat dropped below. She sailed back and forth through the air, jumped off of the pillars, and ran along the upper hallway to avoid magic blasts, all the while goading the akumatized villain with her yo-yo and by spewing certain “profanities”.

“Two to the third power is six! One plus one is eleven! Zero divided by zero is just the percentage sign!”

“Grah, your technology has truly dulled your mind to all mathematical meaning!”

While the black-spotted heroine danced around her enraged foe, the supercat had his staff out and was running it through the dirt in planned lines and curves.

The glowing outline of a butterfly appeared over the darkness surrounding Mathemagician, but somehow didn’t light up any of his face. “Don’t allow Ladybug to taunt you into irrational thought!” Hawk Moth spoke through the connection. “Stay focused on your victory and bring me those miraculouses!”

Having snapped back to reality, Mathemagician dropped down onto the second floor with Ladybug and changed his fighting style. While he was still firing blasts at her, he was mixing it with martial arts using his staff as a physical weapon and as a fulcrum for him to swing on to accelerate attacks from his limbs. She was forced onto the defensive, having to keep her yo-yo as a shield with no opening to attack.

Fortunately, Chat Noir had finished his job and vaulted up to join them with his staff. He landed on the railing next to Mathemagician on all fours, causing a jerk reaction from him to swing his staff towards the hero and power up a magic blast. However, Chat was swift and dropped to hang off the rail by one hand, feet on the walkway, and used his free hand to point down at the courtyard.

Drawn in massive lines in the dirt was the equation “Solve: x – x = x / x”. The math teacher only needed to pay attention to it for a moment, because in that instant, Ladybug grabbed her hockey stick, hooked it in the crevice in-between his hand and the staff away from his body, and yanked back. Mathemagician’s arm was folded back and his wrist rotated, the staff hitting him solidly on the shoulder with its magic still active. He fell to the floor, asleep from his own power, with an equation that been designed to be unsolvable.

“What?!” Hawk Moth cursed from his chamber. “Wake up! Why aren’t you immune to your own power?!”

Chat Noir hurdled the railing like a pro athlete, called out “Cataclysm!” to form and catch the black ball of destruction, and then touched the stylus staff to crumble it and cause the akuma to fly free.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma,” Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within and swinging it to charge up.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. “Bye-bye, little butterfly!”

Next, she grabbed the hockey stick and threw it in the air as well.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which spread out in groups to restore all the damage. One cleaned up the courtyard, and the rest flew around to the classrooms. The one that flew through Mendeleiev’s window fixed it, and then it washed over all the students, who all slowly woke up.

A dark substance covered Mathemagician and dissolved into the ground, leaving an awoken Mr. Plusseau on the ground. “Wha… why am I out here?”

“Pound it!” both miraculous holders cheered as they bumped fists.

Hawk Moth stood tensely in his chamber. “You may have solved this problem today, Ladybug and Chat Noir, but eventually, I’ll find an akuma that you won’t have an answer to!” He clenched his hand, and the lens lighting up his observatory closed, leaving him in the darkness of defeat.

At the start of the following school day, Marinette looked solemnly at her homework as she entered Plusseau’s classroom. The whole page was filled with her scribbling as she attempted to solve the problems completely by hand, but quantity was not quality and much of it was her failing to figure out the right answers.

Naturally, she was the last one to arrive, again, so hers was the last one on the pile. Chloé, sitting in the front, tried to sneak a peak at it, but Plusseau was at his desk and swiftly grabbed the pile to look at himself. His eyes widened in surprise at the amount of work on the bluenette’s paper, as well as on many of the others beneath it.

“Excuse me, Ms. Dupain-Cheng, but you did all of your calculations by hand?”

“Ah, yeah, you said to solve it without a calculator, and I’m not good at mental math so I had to write down everything. I hope it’s not a problem…”

The short man with sideburns let out a chuckle before facing straight forward to address the whole class. “Well, it seems I didn’t make my intentions clear. When I say not to use a calculator, I’m referring to having a computer solve the equation for you. There is no problem with performing simple operations on a device in order to speed up your work. In fact, it is quite beneficial to be able to focus on the harder aspects of the problem and not worry about making simple arithmetical errors that could de-rail your entire solution.”

As Marinette took her seat, Adrien waved from his spot in front of hers to get her attention. “Hey, Marinette. Math is actually my worst subject as well, so if you want, maybe we could study together sometime?”

Pink immediately made its way to her face, and she froze for a full second before her brain booted up to try and speak to him.

“Uhhh, I’d love you– I mean, I love too! Um, not the number two, my favorite number is actually seven, but I’m not saying that two is bad, if you like two. Two is a good number too, ha ha– Aah!”

Once again, Alya had elbowed her to get her head on straight. “What she means is, she’d love to come over and study with you. But would your dad allow it?”

Adrien leaned a little closer, proportionally increasing the amount of blushing in the girl he had addressed. “He was okay with Lila entering my room when she lied about me needing her help with mathematics. I might be able to convince him, but make sure Lila doesn’t find out about it.”

Just the mention of that two-faced snake caused Marinette to sober up. Of course she would… “That sounds great, then,” if for no other reason than to make sure Lila doesn’t get another opportunity to do it.

“Awesome! I’ll let you know what he says.”

It took a moment for Marinette to realize what she had just agreed too. Studying, in Adrien’s room, just the two of us! She felt the heat rising into her face again, which accelerated when Alya nudged her again and winked. Why did I say yes, there’s no way I’m learning any mathematics if I’m alone with him! And what’s Luka going to think…?

She moaned and rested her forehead on the desk in front of her, already tuning out the math lesson that just started as her feelings swam in turmoil.


For those who want to do the math, yes, this equation actually has no solution. x-x = 0 for any x; this means x/x has to be 0 as well, and the only time that's true is if the numerator is 0. That also makes the denominator 0, and division by 0 is undefined, so no x can solve the equation. While "no solution" is a valid final answer on your homework, it's probably outside the expectations of Mr. Plusseau on his students, and that's who he's trying to blast. Also, this is a kid's show, akuma logic doesn't have to make perfect sense.

Chapter 2: Meet the Miraculouses: Intro


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Pollen's realization of subjection.

Chapter Text

It was another late night for Marinette. As much as she wanted to heed Tikki's advice and get more sleep, some matters simply could not be handled where anyone might see her. Right now, she was on the floor of her bedroom, carefully inspecting a full-rounded red capsule with exactly nineteen black spots spread across its surface. The Miracle Box.

As much as she was pained by the mere fact that the box was sitting in front of her, for many reasons, she knew that she couldn't simply hide it away and hope that everything would work itself out. Hawk Moth would only continue to grow stronger, so she had no choice but to use everything at her disposal to stop him. With the Box under her care, obtaining miraculouses for distribution was no longer a risk to anyone but herself, so long as she could continue to keep everything about her civilian and superhero lives far away from each other.

Nothing out of the ordinary for Marinette, really. She hated it, she absolutely hated it, but she knew no other way to do it. It was all her fault anyway for making the mistakes that allowed Hawk Moth to find Master Fu, empower Miracle Queen, and get all of her friends' identities exposed.

A nuzzle from Tikki reminded her that she was here to complete a task and not fall into another pit of despair like had happened so frequently since she obtained the Miracle Box. Sometimes, she thought the real miracle was that Hawk Moth hadn't akumatized her for it yet. It would be everything he ever wanted placed in the palm in his hand.

Focus on the positives,she told herself. Both she and Chat Noir had grown strong enough to Unite the powers of multiple miraculouses and stay sane to tell the tale afterward, so the abilities of the exposed miraculous holders were still available to them. There were still six miraculouses that had yet to be distributed, plus the Rabbit Miraculous which remained dormant in the hands of Alix Kubdel.

That was another indecision floating around in Marinette's brain right now. As the new Guardian, she would be technically within her rights to demand the miraculous back for safekeeping until the time was right. The best-kept secret is one never told, and she needed to have as much control over the knowledge/use of miraculouses as possible to keep them out of Hawk Moth's sights, right? That's what Master Fu and Tikki have been emphasizing this whole time. That was why she had been only loaning the others their miraculouses to begin with, so that they would be safe in case of a brainwashing situation. Miracle Queen's summons would have been worthless if Hawk Moth hadn't already obtained the Miracle Box at the time.

There was also the matter of exactlywhohad been revealed, because that made it much riskier to hand out new miraculouses. Assuming Chloé hadn't outright told him, Marinette was certain that it wouldn't take Hawk Moth much time to piece together that everyone she had chosen was part of a singular friend group, most of whom attended Collége Françoise Dupont where he had successfully activated over twenty akumas. She needed people she could trust, but if anyone else got exposed, it would only further whittle down the possibilities on which individual was the mastermind with the Miracle Box and Ladybug Miraculous. She know that whatever magic covered up many of the connections people could/did make between their civilian and super identities wasn't perfect: Alya had almost immediately figured out that Nino was Carapace, plus there was that crazy alternate future where Adrien figured out she was Ladybug due to her signing a gift.

On the other hand… this was keeping all of her eggs in one basket. Another mistake could cost her the box the same way it had cost Master Fu, and there wasn't anyone else she could entrust with it. She didn't really trustherselfwith it, which in a roundabout way was actually a reason to share the miraculouses – it shared the responsibility. There would be less pressure on her, tactically and emotionally, if the miraculouses were spread out rather than all being within the Box.

Plus, there was already concrete evidence in favor of this approach. Chat Noir obviously kept his miraculous safe with no oversight on her part, and having seen Bunnyx's Burrow, it was clear that she held onto her miraculous full-time too… a decision that Ladybug herself would make at some point in the future. Who's to say the other miraculouses aren't the same way?

Although, the reason for that was probably that the Burrow was a pocket dimension completely safe from anyone and anything unless she was actively using a portal in that area. Bunnyx also didn't have to worry about de-transforming after using her power. Was the wise choice to wait until everyone was an adult? That would be… a long time, and she expected there was more to it than "turn 18" because miraculouses didn't have to follow the simple societal definition of an adult.

In any case, one task was clear to her: She was going to need to familiarize herself with each and every miraculous in the box. Master Fu had explained them to her on a surface-level, and only gone into more detail on each one when she had chosen it for use. Unfortunately, it appeared that Hawk Moth had stolen the translated grimoire, so until she was able to get it back, her only sources of information would be the limited knowledge of the kwami themselves, or taking the risk of letting someone use a miraculous in the field.

She figured it would be a good start to talk with all of the kwami and let them see more of the modern world, since it had been so long since most of them had been deployed. Conversely, she wanted to separate her duties as Ladybug and as the Guardian, so Tikki was currently inside of the box socializing with the others.

The design the Miracle Box decided to take under her ownership was intriguing, to say the least. Instead of the "main" miraculouses being together and the twelve Chinese zodiac ones in an outer ring, every miraculous was stored in one of the black dots which served as compartments, labelled by their symbol only when the box was in use. Her own miraculous had its place on the very top, and the other eighteen were in two alternating rings of spots around the middle, with seemingly no particular order.

Marinette ran her fingers over each compartment as she identified each one by its symbol:

The Miraculouses of the Fox and Turtle needed no recollection, for Rena Rouge, Carapace, and Master Fu himself had put them to great use.

Miraculous of the Bee, a hair pin inhabited by the kwami Pollen, embodying the concept of domination. Its power, Command, grants a single-use sting that enthralls whatever gets stabbed to obey the wielder's orders.

Miraculous of the Snake, a bangle inhabited by the kwami Sass, embodying the concept of perfection. Its power, Second Chance, allows the wielder to set a point in time and travel back to that point as many times as they wish, so that they can achieve the perfect result. It was probably the most dangerous of the miraculouses and definitely one of the hardest to use, so she was inclined to hide it away. Chat Noir used it well as Snake Noir, so would it be worth considering letting him keep it as a failsafe if something were to happen to her? For all of the responsibilities she felt she had to put on herself, one that wasn't debatable was her being needed to purify the akumas. A backup could be essential.

Miraculous of the Dragon, a choker inhabited by the kwami Longg, embodying the concept of religion. It grants the powers of Wind Dragon, Water Dragon, and Lightning Dragon, which transform the wielder in a sentient storm of the chosen element, each able to be used before transforming back. She didn't understand the relationship between religion and the miraculouses at first; she wasn't particularly religious herself, but this miraculous business would have befuddled any belief systems she had due to their extraordinary powers. Master Fu told her that was exactly the premise. "The unifying factor between religion, mythology, and folklore is belief in the supernatural," he had said. "They all give form, whether it be as a human, god, monster, or something else, to forces beyond human understanding. Is that not how the miraculouses function, calling upon fundamental elements of the universe into the form of cute, floating animals that grant people powers and silly costumes?" He added that because of this, the Dragon Miraculous was the strongest of all, besides the Ladybug and Black Cat of course, in terms of raw power. The elements it granted reign over were those associated with the beings of greatest strength and human influence, such as Zeus, Enki, and Fūjin.

Miraculous of the Rabbit, a pocket watch inhabited by the kwami Fluff, embodying the concept of time. Its power, Burrow… well, she had just thought about that, hadn't she? The miraculous wasn't even in the box, Alix had it as her family heirloom, and it had been established that it was only to be activated as a trump card, when all else had failed.

Miraculous of the Horse, a pair of glasses inhabited by the kwami Kaalki, embodying the concept of space. Its power, Voyage, forms portals between any two points in space. It would very useful if it wasn't limited to a single use on anyone she would give it to (herself included), but as it is, it might be better to let it rest for a bit.

Miraculous of the Monkey, a circlet inhabited by the kwami Xuppu, embodying the concept of contradiction. Its power, Uproar, summoned a toy that would neutralize miraculous-based powers of whomever it first made contact with. This made it one of the most interesting of the miraculouses; Master Fu was the one who made the decision to grant it the one time it had been used, and in all of three minutes it had curbstomped the akuma that had outplayed and trapped the entire rest of the heroes' side. Marinette wasn't sure why Fu kept it as a last resort, because she loved the idea of being able to mop up the floor with akumas like that. She supposed that was a wiser choice now, since Hawk Moth knew what it could do and would prioritize its retrieval almost as much as the Ladybug and Black Cat he wanted so badly.

Miraculous of the Mouse, a necklace inhabited by the kwami Mullo, embodying the concept of replication. Its power, Multitude, divides the wielder up into twenty-some-odd copies of him/herself. She had used it once to great effect in pulling off a plan – after all, if you want something done right, do it yourself, and twenty herselves made a great team. It would be a useful Unite, but she could potentially find another wielder for it if she wanted to Unite with something else. Going triple wasn't in the cards right now.

The ones after this were the ones she hadn't learned about in-depth:

Miraculous of the Ox, a nose ring inhabited by the kwami Stompp, embodying the concept of action. It obviously specialized in strength of some kind, but the specific term action suggested to her that there was something more to it.

Miraculous of the Tiger, a panjas inhabited by the kwami Roaar, embodying the concept of ego. Not egotism, but the Latin termego, meaning self. Definitely a concept debated in philosophy a lot, but she had no clue what sort of power it would manifest.

Miraculous of the Goat, a pair of hair clips inhabited by the kwami Ziggy, embodying the concept of exchange. It… seemed a little underwhelming for a miraculous concept, but maybe its genericness was its strength, being adaptable or having wide utility.

Miraculous of the Dog, a collar necklace inhabited by the kwami Barkk, embodying the concept of loyalty. Definitely one to give out; obviously, a worthy wielder of this one wouldn't betray her, and its power probably relied on being used in a group.

Miraculous of the Pig, a pearl anklet inhabited by the kwami Daizzi, embodying the concept of prohibition. It sounded quite interesting, and she figured she would know when the right time to use it was, like many of the miraculouses she handed out in the past.

Lastly, the Miraculous of the Rooster, a thumb ring inhabited by the kwami Orikko, embodying the concept of causation. It was hard to wrap her head around the idea, because actions having consequences was just common sense, right? Master Fu explained that this was exactly why the miraculous was especially critical. Causation wasn't just important to human decision-making: decisions wouldn't exist without it. Logic wouldn't exist, so neither would math or engineering, and even the physical interactions those things exploit rely on cause and effect.

Before she got adventurous, she needed to have a discussion with a specific kwami about recent events. Tonight, she was going to wear the Bee Miraculous. As she adorned the hair comb, a sparkling yellow light appeared and transformed into the bee-like kwami Pollen.

"At your service, Guardian," she said with a bow.

"Pollen. I have an important question for you."

"I tried to warn Chloé about misusing the miraculous, My Lady."


"Did I know? It's the exact question I would ask after a situation like this. She violated the principles of the miraculous, her worth to the cause must be judged."

"It sounds so… harsh, when you say it like that." Saying the words caused Marinette to realize why. "Do you feel hurt, Pollen?"

"I'm fine, My Lady," she responded, with little heart behind her words. "Do not worry about me."

"First, please don't call me that. A certain superpowered kitty cat loves to use it and… it's a sensitive topic. Second, ofcourseI'm going to worry about you. It was my mistake that allowed her to use you to begin with, and then it was my decision to give her the miraculous to use after that. Or should I say, it was another mistake to do that."

Pollen flew closer to Marinette's face. "You shouldn't be so hard on yourself, My La– great Guardian. It was not a mistake to attempt the betterment of someone you know when the opportunity arose. If I may be so forward, speaking as the one whom she wielded, I would not say it was a mistake to have faith in Chloé Bourgeois specifically."

"You don't? You heard the things she said after transforming back! She sold out to Hawk Moth to get her hands on the miraculous!" she responded with expressive arm motions.

The kwami reacted little to the gesture. "Speaking also as a several-thousand-year-old being whose domain includes any and all uses of power to manipulate others, Chloé's intentions are not as malicious as her actions may paint her to be, and far from the worst that history has seen. Miss Bourgeois is a girl who has always gotten what she wants. Thanks to her money and her parents' influence, her wishes are the commands of many others, and that makes her feel entitled to the fulfillment of her desires. She simply has no concept of earning, or of deserving. Only having.

"I know of only two times in her life where she lost something that she already had: When Audrey Bourgeois left her behind to live in New York City, and when Ladybug began refusing her the Bee Miraculous. My understanding is that her mother has returned to a place in her life now."

"…of course," Marinette realized, slumping her shoulders. "Everything she did since her mother left was to try and impress her and be acknowledged, and eventually it paid off. Because of me, ironically, and not even as Ladybug. Because of that, she likely still believed that when the time was right, I would give the Bee Miraculous back. That time would have been when her parents were akumatized."

"An astute observation, great Guardian. She is experiencing now the same feeling of loss that traumatized her as a child, and she believes you are in control of that loss, thanks to Hawk Moth's machinations. He appeared in-person in her time of greatest weakness to manipulate her into accepting his akuma; it is no surprise that he would succeed, since the Butterfly Miraculous rules over communication of ideas."

Marinette didn't respond immediately, as she processed Pollen's words with a frown on her face. "I understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure I'm seeing the bigger picture here. None of this changes the fact that Chloé is not responsible enough to hold the power of a miraculous, and that her actions have caused irreparable harm to myself and all of my allies in the fight against Hawk Moth."

"I never claimed otherwise, great Guardian. My point was that even now, I do not see Miss Bourgeois as irredeemable. In fact, her story really is quite tragic, in the classical sense. She is the cause of her own demise, for her very attributes that turn people away will not themselves disappear without people nearby to help her. She may well be an exceptional user of my power, if only she could overcome this demon. That is why I am sad."

Again, the teenager was silent. As much as her parents and Tikki and Alya andAdrientold her that she had such a big heart and always knew the best way to help people, how could she believe that when she was clueless on the biggest problems of all? When she had inadvertentlycausedmost of them?

"My Lady?"

Now it was Marinette's turn to have the look of hurt. Her head rose to face the kwami, but she still didn't say anything.

"I believe it is time for you to retire for the night. I shall fetch Tikki at once."

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box. Soon, the black spot on top opened up, and her own kwami flew out of the container.

"Marinette, what's wrong?"

"I don't think I can do this, Tikki. How is a teenage girl supposed to match the wisdom of a 186-year-old sage?"

"By being the greatest teenage girl I've ever known?"

This brought pink to the face of the blue-haired one. "No… don't say that. That can't possibly be true."

"I don't think Master Fu told you this, but what you did against Kwamibuster wasunprecedented. No miraculous wielder haseveractively transformed with three miraculousesandwielded every other miraculous in the box at the same time! Most Guardians wouldn't trust their chosen even toattemptsuch a thing, but you pulled it off with panache! Marinette, when you set your mind to a task, you become unstoppable."

"But isn't that part of the problem? I put my mind to a task that I shouldn't have. Master Fu warned me about giving the Bee Miraculous to Chloé, but I didn't think anything of it. Pollen said that she could be a great wielder if she had any support to help her mature… but she doesn't, so she isn't. I should have been able to see that."

Tikki refrained from letting any frustration appear on her face. If only Marinette's stubbornness didn't extend to her habit of blaming herself for everything. Especially when she was hurting.

"You had no way of knowing she would do what she did. She was a great Queen Bee against Malediktator and on Heroes' Day. She returned the miraculous afterward. And… I think, maybe, you were biased. Hopeful that the girl who's caused you so much trouble was finally turning over a new leaf."

Marinette shifted uncomfortably. Evidently that idea hit really close to home in a way that she wasn't expecting. "I… maybe. All the more reason why I'm not ready, I guess. A worthy Guardian can't be biased."

"If that is true, then there isnoworthy Guardian. Every human has bias, because every human has their own perspective. Even us kwami, for all of our power, are still limited in what we see and what we think. I mean, you've met Plagg, right? Does he seem like a responsible, level-headed individual to you?"

That finally brought a smile to the girl's face. "You've got me there."

"One beauty of being both Ladybug and the Guardian is that you'll have the direct support of everyone you choose to give a miraculous to. You don't have to keep them in the dark like you did when you were protecting Master Fu. And you always have Chat Noir. I know your civilian identities must remain a secret, but he's there for you in any way he can be."

"Sure, I'll ask him for emotional support, and then he'll get all fussy about why we're not dating again."

"He's going to have to put his personal feelings aside, then. You don't have the choice to let your emotions get the better of you, and that makes it his responsibility as your partner to help you manage." Tikki actually giggled. "So I guess you'll just have to tell that boy to be a man about it!"

"We'll see," she said with exasperation. "Heisfinally slowing down with the over-affectionate nicknames. To be honest, it's actually kind of weird. I guess I can only hope for the best."

"Never lose hope, Marinette! Now, you should probably get to bed. This went later than we expected, I think."

Chapter 3: Tiger Prawn


After a humiliating loss and belittlement by her peers, a footballer becomes a powerful akuma; the heroes will have to improvise if they want to win this competition. Ladybug decides she can't wait any longer to talk with Chat about a serious topic.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“C’mon, Alix, show them what you got! You’re losing!”

Marinette rolled her eyes at the audaciousness of one Lê Chiến Kim. Alix had gone out on a limb and tried out for Francoise Dupont’s football team last week. Despite her athletic prowess thanks to rollerblading, she didn’t make the cut, so she was scrimmaging in some local recreational games for practice. Both Kim and Marinette had decided to be there to cheer her on. When Kim volunteered to watch, the bluenette figured he was doing it just to troll her, and she half-expected him to make a bet that Alix’s team would lose. Instead, he was supporting her in his usual, poorly-thought out use of the French language, which may just well have been more effective in distracting the hot-headed girl than a bet, and it was certainly more of that than actually encouraging. The saddest part was, she didn’t know if he knew that and was doing it intentionally or not. Were all boys this clueless?

He wasn’t wrong, at the very least: Alix’s team was down 0-4. They were having trouble keeping the ball in their possession, forcing them to play defensively most of the time, and their communication was falling apart as everyone got exasperated, which only served to cause their loss to snowball.

Wait, how do I know all this? Marinette thought. I don’t watch sports. Has my Ladybug experience really given me such a sharp eye for competitions like this?

An uproar of cheers and jeers interrupted her errant thought and indicated that they were now losing 0-5. At least the game was almost over, so this misery could end and she could get back to the million other things she probably should be working on rather than sitting here. She had her sketchpad with her in case any fashion ideas struck, but there was nothing inspirational about this butt-whooping that was supposed to be called a football game. Balance, she reminded herself. All work and no play makes Johnny an akumatized boy.

With her face in the dirt, Lucille Pédie had never been so relieved to hear an end-of-game whistle. Not happy, just relieved that she didn’t have to play this game anymore. Midfield was the most exhausting position of them all, and she really struggled to keep up with the ball sometimes. Right now, she had failed to take the ball from the other team’s shooter yet again, tripped and fell, and allowed for another goal. Final score: 0-7.

The tall blonde would like to say that her teammates were supportive of her and her faults, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“Good job, shrimp, you lost us the game. Again.”

“Maybe we should call her flounder, since that’s all she does.”

“In science, we learned that fish never stop moving because that’s how they breath. That’s the opposite of her, so we can’t do that.”

“Yeah, look at how pink her face is! Definitely a shrimp.”

They turned their noses up to her and walked away. Only the new girl, the pink-haired one, remained, though she looked quite upset too. Lucille was surprised to see her walk over and offer a hand to help her up.

“Wow, talk about rude. Lousy teammates they are,” the girl said.

“They’re right, though,” she replied quietly, accepting the hand and pulling herself to her feet.


“I am a shrimp. I always wimp out when the ball comes to me. I’m slow, I trip, and I can’t kick 30 meters to save my life. And I’m so lanky. It’s no wonder no one likes me.”

The new girl looked ready to retort, but evidently didn’t have words. And why would she? They had only just met. And if they had known each other longer, she wouldn’t even think about it, because she would just know that it was true.

Lucille turned and left, ignoring the other girl’s cry of “Wait!”.

Light began pooling into a dark observatory as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. It was a display that always pleased the one inhabitant of the room, as it heralded the time to reap what misery the chaotic elements of life had thrown in some poor fool’s path.

“They say that competition brings out the worst in us, and how true it can be. So many hopes and dreams get crushed under the cleats of poor sports, even the ones who are supposed to be on the same side.”

One butterfly flew into the palm of his hand, which he clasped with his other and imbued with a dark power that blackened the butterfly to a deep purple. His empowered minion knew its task, and with a wave of Hawk Moth’s cane, instinctively flew out of the gap in the center of the view to the streets of Paris.

“It’s time to change the rules, my akuma. Darken her heart, and let the games begin!”

Once people had dispersed, Marinette and Kim approached Alix, who was looked frustrated at the lone girl who was walking in the other direction from everyone.

“What was that all about?” the boy asked bluntly.

“Kim, don’t be so inconsiderate!” Marinette berated. “Something’s not right here.”

Alix turned to them. “That’s Lucille. The other girls, they bullied her after the match. I tried to help her out, but I didn’t know what to say. I’m not so good with words like you are, Marinette.”

“Stay here, I’ll go talk to her.”

“You don’t want us coming with?” Kim said, looking a bit offended.

“Well, Alix already tried, and I highly doubt you could do a better job.”

“Hey! Uh… yeah.”

“Don’t worry, Mari’s got this!” Alix assured with a smile towards her. It quickly changed to a frown towards him, though. “Besides, ‘Show ‘em what you’ve got, you’re losing’? What the heck kinda cheering is that???”

Marinette couldn’t help but shrug as they started bickering behind her while she left.

It wasn’t hard to spot the tall girl across the field, but the amount of distance she had covered in the short time the blue-eyed girl had been talking to her friends was astounding. She was already close to the buildings nearest the field and would be out of sight soon. Oh, how nice it must be to have long legs! She picked up her pace to a brisk walk, which was as fast as she trusted herself to go without tripping over her two left feet and becoming the second person to faceplant in the last ten minutes.

By the time she reached the same buildings, the footballer was no longer visible. Quietly, she crept into the alleyway she thought she saw her go into, and it didn’t take long to hear a shaky female voice talking. But what she said told Marinette that it was too late.

A black butterfly flew down into the alleys near a football field. It found was it was looking for: A crying, uniformed girl that was covered in dirt, particularly on her face. It landed on her headband and was absorbed, turning it into a deep purple that matched its own skin.

The girl looked forward, the outline of a purple butterfly forming over the blushed region around her puffy eyes.

“Tiger Prawn, I am Hawk Moth. So they all think you’re a shrimp, do they? Well, how about you show them just how dangerous a shrimp can be? All I need you to do for me in turn is score me Ladybug’s and Chat Noir’s miraculouses.”

“Bring it on.”

The akuma’s dark substance spread down from the headband to cover her whole body.

“Tikki, this is going to sound awkward, but we should wait a little bit to transform.”

“What? You want to give the akuma a head start?”

“Of course not, but Alix and Kim know that I went to see her. If I follow the girl out of sight, and Ladybug follows her akuma back immediately afterward, they’re sure to put together that Ladybug and Marinette are the same person too!”

“I can see your reasoning, but the magic protecting your identity should stop them from figuring it out. Please, go stop the akuma!”

“Alright, I trust your judgment. Tikki, spots on! Hah!”

On that command, her black-spotted red super uniform appeared, starting with her mask and followed by her bodysuit that spread across her arms and down her body. Ladybug had stepped up to play.

To an outsider, it may have sounded like Adrien Agreste was just playing simple piano notes, but a more experience musical ear would detect that he was playing specific chords, one note at a time.

“So a Neapolitan sixth in G major is A-flat, C, and E,” he said aloud, playing the notes in order.

“Neapolitan is a flavor of ice cream,” his floating black companion moaned. “Why do you gotta learn this music theory stuff anyway? Isn’t it enough to play pretty music?”

“Not for my father,” he answered. Lowering his voice to a mutter, he added, “Nothing is ever good enough for him…”

His phone began to vibrate, creating an ugly sound on the piano that he had it resting on to use for notes. An emergency notification had appeared from Paris’s new official akuma alert app:


The alert was accompanied by a couple of photos of a field from across the Seine. There was a pink-ish person in center, but it was too small to make out specifics. In the corner of one, he could see a red dot on top of a nearby roof.

“Looks like Ladybug reserved a seat for this game. She’s going to need her team if she wants to win, though. Plagg, claws out!”

“Can’t we just go for ice creeeeeeeeeeeee–!”

Plagg was sucked into his ring, powering it up so Adrien could make his mask, ears, and costume appear, his tail-like belt extending out dramatically as it always did. Chat Noir wasn’t going to miss this match.

In the real happenings in front of the lens, the pink-ish akuma had caught up to the leaving football team. Up close, it was apparent why her transformation had made her pink: she now resembled an actual shrimp. Her body was covered in layers of pale pink exoskeleton that all widened as they protruded downward, like a series of long frills. On her torso, segments ended just below her chest, at her waistline like a shirt, and below her hips, resembling a skirt. There was also one acting as a regal collar that spread from her neck outward to her shoulders. Layers also subdivided the upper and lower parts of her arms and legs, along with ones at her elbows and knees that were narrower and longer like a spade. All of the rims had a darker, coral-ish color, which matched the headband that covered her skintight head covering just below her two antennae. The areas around her eyes were covered by reflective, jewel-like lenses, but the rest of her face was exposed.

Additionally, her lanky proportions had been thickened out, gaining some meat on her limbs and a body that one might describe as plump. For finishing touches, a shrimp-like tail came down from her waist, with the uropods fanning out at its end resembling a butterfly’s wings. Both of her hands were now pincers, but they were different from each other: The right hand pointed forward and had a barrel hidden between the two halves, and the left had a much larger upper half that curved down and resembled a boxing glove.

She aimed the blaster-like pincer at the others, but before she could fire, the pincer was jerked upwards and back by the string of a yo-yo that had wrapped itself around the appendage. The motion turned her upper body enough to see that Ladybug was responsible.

“Don’t do it. Retaliating against the bullies isn’t going to fix anything. It just makes you no better than they are, because two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“I’m not retaliating, I’m humiliating them so completely that they’ll never call anyone a shrimp again. They’ll fear the term shrimp when Tiger Prawn is through with them.”

Tiger Prawn turned to face Ladybug directly, using the momentum to aid in jerking her ensnared pincer back to pull the heroine to her. Ladybug allowed the distance to close, while also recalling her yo-yo to be ready for what was coming next.

However, that composure quickly fell apart, as she barely dodged Tiger Prawn’s other pincer when it punched it forward at a blinding speed. An audible crack was produced in the air, and Ladybug felt a shockwave roll over her from the sheer power of the attack. It’s lights out if I let that hit me.

She performed a backwards handspring to get out of range of that possibility and swung her yo-yo into its shield position when the akuma switched to the other pincer and began firing blasts at her. They were made of water, but they quickly showed themselves that the real threat was the heat. Her shield blocked the blasts just fine, but each one exploded into a cloud of steam like smoke from a bomb, and she could feel a lot of heat radiating through her defense. After only a few shots, she had to start moving because the steam was blocking her view of her opponent.

The villain moved with her, leaping backwards to keep a position that would prevent the heroine from getting an advantage and, notably, stopping her from getting between the akuma and the people she wanted to punish. Ladybug figured that this must be a technique Lucille used a lot in her football matches.

It was a great time for Chat Noir to make his introduction, stealthily leaping in from behind and very nearly grappling Tiger Prawn before she realized he was there and rolled out of the way towards the Seine.

“Thanks for the save, kitty,” Ladybug said quietly as they grouped together. “Her claws are a blaster and a fist, and they’re powerful. Don’t try to block them.”

“Got it,” he replied, immediately leaping into action again. His staff extended slightly and he engaged the villain with it, dodging water shots while using his superior reach to keep on the offensive. His partner moved to the villain’s left flank, readying her yo-yo to restrain their foe when the time was right.

That time wasn’t coming as fast as they would have liked, as Tiger Prawn proved remarkably effective at dividing her attention. Although she was slowly being backed towards the Seine, not once was she even grazed by the staff or yo-yo; she kept light on her feet and applied enough pressure with the threat of her own weapons that the heroes had to stay on theirs as well. Ladybug ventured a guess that this was also due to her experience, as most akumas couldn’t handle the full force of their tag-team. Yet the others call her weak?

Eventually, they ran out of room, and Tiger Prawn had her back to the embankment of the river. She looked over a shoulder for a moment, then did a flip backwards off the side. With the enhanced physical abilities of the akuma, she cleared the walkway and splashed down into the Seine. This retreat prompted a purple butterfly mask to appear around her eyes.

“You’re not running away, are you?” Hawk Moth berated.

“No! Not this time. Those two stalled me enough for my targets to leave, and I need to find them again. This will get them off my tail.”

“That’s incorrect, Tiger Prawn. They can power themselves up with a water transformation, and this has also given them a chance to formulate a strategy. Don’t forget that you owe me their miraculouses.”

“I haven’t. Wherever I go, they’re sure to follow eventually. Maybe I can get them to split up to look for me.”

“Hm. Your powers aren’t well-suited for stealth, but fine. Not all of my akumas even bother with a strategy, so I expect great results from you.” He terminated the connection.

Ladybug and Chat Noir crouched at the top of the wall of the embankment, looking for signs of the enemy they were supposed to be fighting.

“I think it might be time for a power-up, M’Lady.”

“Me too,” she agreed, before looking down at her yo-yo. “Since it involves de-transforming, might as well make sure, though…”

“Lucky Charm!” she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a thin, large circle that was red with black spots, which then fell into Ladybug’s hands.

“A hula hoop? This… doesn’t seem like it would indicate using our transformation. Whenever it told me to go to Master Fu, it was always something that I could find where he was, like the movie ticket. This doesn’t say ‘go for a swim’ to me; it would at least be an inner tube, right?”

“Sea animals jump through hoops at the aquarium, don’t they? Would that count?”

“I don’t think so, but that gives me an idea…” Aha! Chat Noir… the football net… her hula hoop… Chat Noir’s staff…

“Chat, I need you to Cataclysm that goalpost.”


“Cataclysm!” he shouted, causing a black ball of energy to form in his outstretched right palm. He clenched it and pulled it close to show his control over the untamed destruction.

He touched the post and it disintegrated, leaving behind only the net. Before he could ask what she intended to do with it, she practically thrust her yo-yo into his face and grabbed his staff.

“Give me your staff. Take my yo-yo and track down Tiger Prawn. If she knows where any of those girls live, it could spell bad news for them and their families. Hurry, we have to do this before we transform back!”

Chat gave her a look, but he made the trade anyway. He whirled up the yo-yo and threw it. “Alright, inner Mister Bug, don’t fail me now.” With a tug, he went flying away towards the Seine in the direction he had seen the team members travel.

Thankfully, the yo-yo did appear to be listening to his desires. A number of guesses why went through his head as he swung around in search of signs of the big shrimp. Was it because he had been Mister Bug? Was it more broadly because his and Ladybug’s miraculouses were counterparts, or even just that the two of them were so in-sync with each other? Did her bequeathing the yo-yo to him cause it to recognize him as its new master for the time being? That happened in stories sometimes. Or maybe Tikki and Plagg got to have a say?

He’d have to ask later, because as he swung under a bridge, he saw the pink-ish figure once again. Quite literally, he had spotted the tail end of her leaving the river, a brief movement of her tail disappearing down a side street being what caught his eye.

Cutting a corner over the building, he caught another glimpse of pink on a rooftop a couple of blocks diagonally ahead. The shape proceeded to drop down, and he heard a nasty crunch. Ladybug’s words about her punch came back to him, and he feared the worst. With a single leap, he cleared the distance to where she had dropped and peered over the edge of the roof to see what had happened.

Tiger Prawn had stopped a car on a side road, rather forcefully judging by the fact that its front end was completely smashed, and had her blaster pincer pointed at it. Whether it was from a punch, the car being used as a cushion, or the akuma stopping the car by making it crash into her didn’t matter. Other cars had been forced to stop around them, some also crashing, which congested the road. Both of the front doors of the stopped car opened, and out crawled an older woman on the left and a younger one on the right.

Chat knew which one was the target, and he ran into a corner to position himself for the rescue. Jumping off the roof across the road, he threw Ladybug’s yo-yo out to a streetlamp on the main street, and it magically redirected his momentum directly towards it when he tugged to pull himself in.

His plan had been to ram through Tiger Prawn and pull out the footballer in the same tug, but it seemed the akuma noticed the yo-yo pass overhead, for she turned to face him. Thinking quickly, he flattened himself to the road and narrowly avoided getting socked, a loud crack slamming his eardrums from right above. Briefly losing his concentration from the startling noise, he nearly ran into the person he was trying to save instead of grabbing her, and he had to recall the yo-yo and use both hands to balance himself and avoid tumbling with/on top of his rescuee. The cat hero quickly set her down and placed himself between her and Tiger Prawn, spinning the yo-yo into shield form.

“Don’t tell me you support these bullies, too!” she spat, glaring at Chat with her blaster pointed at him.

“I don’t support any bullies, and what you’re doing goes far beyond bullying! Look around! You’re causing harm to the city and its people in the name of revenge!”

“What do I care? What’s the city going to do to stop them? Have you seen the mayor’s daughter? He practically supports it!”

“That’s…” not true? he thought, rather than said, realizing he couldn’t in good faith. He knew Chloé better than anyone in Paris, maybe even including her own parents, and one thing he couldn’t deny that she was a bully. He knew her reasons were… misguided, rather than truly malicious, but that’s not what really mattered, was it? Actions speak louder than words.

“… not the point,” he decided upon. “Two wrongs don’t make a right; just because one person is being enabled to be a bully doesn’t mean anyone else should be. That’s basically what Hawk Moth is doing with you, isn’t it? How is this any better?”

His words seemed to have an effect, as the telltale butterfly symbol appeared on her face that very instant. It was a little surprising, actually. Ladybug, being the kind, gentle, amazing soul that she is, attempted to talk down the first few akumas into giving up their powers, but they quickly found out that akumatization almost always threw out whatever common sense the victim had. He could count the exceptions on one hand, even if this one counted.

In truth, his goal was to stall for time until Ladybug showed up, and to let the civilians flee the area. His miraculous beeped, and he saw that two paw segments were now gone.

“The difference is that Hawk Moth empowers those who are hurt, not the ones doing the hurting. That’s the story of the Revolution, isn’t it? The oppressed taking arms and rising up against the bourgeoisie? Or the Bourgeois, as it tends to be.”

“Do you really think schoolkid bullying is comparable to the wealthy exploiting the working class? Hawk Moth’s just using you. He’s playing on your sensitivities to get what he wants.”

“Stupid cat. It’s an exchange: Hawk Moth lets me get what I want, and in return, I let him get what he wants. Your miraculouses!”

Tiger Prawn jumped on top of the car and began firing blasts at him. While the shield protected him, a cloud of hot steam soon began to cloud his view and the air around him. He jumped back and looked for ways to disrupt her while weaving between her shots.

Well, there was a pretty obvious choice here, though he figured Ladybug would disapprove of it. He threw the yo-yo to wrap around the tire of the car she was on and yanked it up, flipping it over and causing Tiger Prawn to tumble backwards off of it. While she was recovering, he had the yo-yo grab another car that was nearby, and with a yell, he swung the string overhead, the car going with it to slam down on Tiger Prawn herself.

Another crack in the air was heard, and the car crumpled in on itself as it crushed her. As he figured, the car was simply too massive compared to her fist for it to rebound the whole thing in one piece. With any luck, she was trapped, but he wasn’t going to sit around and wait to find out.

Chat leapt onto the first car and over the second, whirling the yo-yo into a shield again in case of a sneak attack. He found the shrimp villain crawling out from under the wreckage, and cautiously, he moved to pull off the headband where the akuma was hiding.

“No!” she cried, hastily bringing up her blaster and firing. Not at his torso, though, but his feet, where the shield didn’t reach.

“AAAAAUUUUGGHHHH!” he anguished, yanking his left leg up and holding the back of the shin where he had been hit. He fell over, the yo-yo clanking on the ground, and reeled in pain. His costume looked (and felt) partially melted onto his skin from the heat. It may be invulnerable to normal sources, but this clearly wasn’t a normal amount of heat, even for a miraculous.

With another bout of “encouragement” from Hawk Moth, Tiger Prawn weakly got to her feet and walked over to Chat, who attempted to scramble away but could hardly move from how much it hurt to move his leg. She kneeled and grasped his arm with her left pincer, delicately moving the other to grab the ring on his finger and–

Something smacked her in the back of the head, hard. If she wasn’t powered, it would be an easy concussion, but even so, she had already taken one beating and the attack caused her to lose focus. Also, whatever it was had a net attached to it, which briefly dangled in front of her face before sliding back and scooping itself around her. She was hoisted into the air, not by lifting but through a fulcrum, as if she was on a see-saw. Although her body was secure, her limbs dangled through holes in the net and she got tangled trying to free them or turn to see her new attacker, though she already knew who it was.

Ladybug stood on the ground, wedging the base of Chat’s staff under the car he had flipped, securing the tilt of her makeshift tool that held Tiger Prawn ensnared. The netting from the goalpost had been tied around the hula hoop and the staff to create a large butterfly net. The spotted heroine walked up to her catch and jumped to grab the headband before snapping it, causing the black butterfly to escape and for Tiger Prawn to lose her powers.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma,” Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within and swinging it to charge up.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. “Bye-bye, little butterfly!”

Next, she pulled the hula hoop down from Chat’s staff, letting the de-akumatized Lucille walk free, and then threw it in the air as well.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which spread out in groups to restore all the damage. The cars piled on the street were restored to order, the net disappeared as it returned to its place on the football field, which was also patched up from the various charred, muddy holes created from water blasts. One group encased Chat Noir’s leg, healing up the burn he had sustained.

“Hmm,” Hawk Moth toned, not feeling nearly as upset as he thought he would after another near-victory turned into defeat. “An interesting battle, for sure. Tiger Prawn’s turmoil was nothing extraordinary, but such strong capabilities came out of it, much like Party Crasher. And yet, others like Frozer lost so much more and possessed immense power… yet they squandered it terribly. I will have to think on this more. Wings fall.”

Despite the final resolution of the Miraculous Ladybug, Ladybug wasn’t relaxing quite yet. “Chat, are you alright?!” she exclaimed nervously, kneeling down to inspect his leg.

“My leg is fine, but the burn to my pride doesn’t heal so easily.” That was a lie; he almost had the akuma downed by himself, but he didn’t want Ladybug prying into the scruples of his methods.

He could see the relief on her face as she looked him in the eyes. “Silly kitty, you’ll get over it. You did fine for me not being there to help.”

The relief vanished, to Chat Noir’s surprise. “Speaking of help… we need to talk. Can you meet at our special secret spot tonight?”

The Secret Special Spot (trademark pending) was the term they used when one of them wanted to talk about the biggest of their problems and needed absolute privacy for it. Chat knew something like this would be coming ever since Ladybug had the Guardianship of the Miracle Box suddenly forced upon her; he would never forget what she had said just before it happened: “I'm the worst Ladybug that has ever existed!”

It was a complete shock coming from the cool, confident Ladybug he admired. Something must be seriously wrong, but he wasn’t going to pry into a touchy subject like that without prompting. Maybe that was the Adrien side of him speaking, but since Ladybug had brought it up, that didn’t matter at the moment, so…

“I’ll always make time for you, M’Lady. The usual time?”

“Yes. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

She walked over to the confused Lucille and reached up to place a hand on her shoulder. Stupid tallness. It would be hard to look confident if I wasn’t used to this sort of thing, comforting full-sized adults as a teenaged girl.

“I can’t believe I was akumatized… I really am weak, aren’t I, Ladybug?” the footballer asked with sadness in her voice.

“Anything but.”


“Being clumsy doesn’t define your strength as a person; there’s so much more to consider than physical talent. What really matters is your heart and your dedication. You may not be an excellent footballer now, but if you keep trying at it, you’re bound to get better. The real victory is not giving up and continuing to practice, regardless of what anyone says.”

“Also, if it means anything, you made a pretty scary akuma,” Chat Noir added. “Your positioning was excellent, and you were smart enough to hold your own in direct combat against the two of us. Not many akumas can do that, even the big ones that swing above our weight class.”

“I…’m sorry for giving you so much trouble?”

“What Chat was trying to say,” Ladybug emphasized, shooting a look in her partner’s direction. “is that you have other strengths at your disposal. You just need to have the courage to stand up for those strengths and figure out with your team how to make use of them. If these players refuse to listen, then you might want to find better ones, because a team that isolates its members is no team at all.”

“That new girl… she did seem like she wanted to help…”

“Exactly! Just take it one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll have a whole group of people who believe in you. But you have to believe in yourself first.”

“Okay… thank you, Ladybug.”

Her earrings beeped, and she realized she was down to her last spot. “Helping people is what I do. Now, I really have to go before I transform. Bug out!” She did her signature salute and yo-yoed away.

“Can you find your way home?” Chat asked. “I have to go, too.”

“I’ll be fine.”

He nodded. It’s too bad Marinette wasn’t here to receive that advice, he thought as he extended his staff and vaulted towards his house.

There was a magnificent view of the setting sun from their chosen secret meeting place: The very top of the Eiffel Tower, after the last elevator for the day. This way, no one would accidentally overhear what they were talking about, and the people of Paris knew better than to try and snoop on their business with a UAV or anything of that nature.

Ladybug didn’t often have time to sit and enjoy such things as sunsets, but she figured showing up a few minutes before the agreed meeting time wouldn’t hurt her. It gave her time to prepare herself, mentally, even if it was just the latest step in the processing she had been undergoing for the last couple of weeks.

She was just starting to wonder where that cat was when a black blur jumped into her line of vision. He was careful not to approach her from behind, ever since that one time where he thought it would be funny to scare her. Let’s just say that the owner of the Hostel Larue still believes that it was a freakishly large bird that hit their window, and he wasn’t going to tell them otherwise. He gave a friendly wave, and she replied with an unhappy one.

“I realized why my Lucky Charm didn’t want us to transform today, and it’s not good news,” she began.

“Oh?” he said, his ears perking as he sat down next to her.

“It’s because we’re limited on power-ups. Master Fu gave us supplies for three of each kind after Syren. We used one Aqua on Heroes’ Day, and another for Miracle Queen, so we only have one left. He probably intended to make more after that, but then… well, you know. What’s worse, Hawk Moth stole the translated grimoire, so I can’t make any for us either. The upside is that Master Fu, or rather, Mr. Chan, probably has all of the ingredients safely at his new house, but until we know what to do with them, we need to save our last Aqua form for when it’s absolutely necessary.”

“Wow, that’s… I hadn’t thought about that. And that means we’ll have to make the most of our transformations when we use any in the future, right?”


They spent a few moments of silence enjoying the sunset.

“So… that’s definitely not why you requested the Triple S,” Chat finally spoke, “What are you really stressed out about?”

Ladybug took a deep breath. “I mentioned help, and what I was getting at is that I need your help with something important.”

“How may I be of service, M’Lady?” he replied instantly. “You know you can count on me.”

“Well… actually… I don’t, is the thing – but not because I think you don’t care or can’t do what I need! Rather the opposite, actually. I’m worried that you care too much and may… overstep some boundaries.”

He gave her a quizzical look. He had an idea what she was talking about, since it was a conversation they’d had several times before, but what did she need him to do?

“What I mean is, I need, um, help with… managing…” she sighed, “managing stress. And emotions.”

“How so? I know what happened with Master Fu was hard on you – it was hard even for me, and I’ve only met him a couple of times. But against a regular akuma, you’re always so collected and composed, no matter what gets thrown our way. It’s one of your greatest strengths, and one of the biggest reasons why you’re Ladybug and not me, isn’t it? I learned that the hard way.”

“But I’m not just Ladybug anymore. I’m the Guardian of the Miracle Box, and that means I can’t–” she looked away from him, “I can’t fail. I can’t lose control of myself, of my emotions, for even a moment. Even in my civilian life. I have to be perfect now. Anything less is all that’s needed to make a fatal mistake, or for Hawk Moth to get his hands on me.”

Chat put a comforting arm around her, but she didn’t relax. Actually, she seemed to tense even further.

“You put too much pressure on yourself, Ladybug. I’m serious when I say I’m here for you. Whatever you need.”

“That’s the thing, Chat. What I’m worried about. You are here for me… because you love me. Even after I’ve said no, you still continue to try to win me over. If I let you see my heart, what do you think you’re going to do with it? Do you really believe that you wouldn’t try to take advantage of the opportunity?”

That question struck him, struck Adrien, really hard. He immediately removed his arm and instead wrapped it around himself.

“Do you really think it’s… taking advantage? Whenever we talk about this, I think back to the Oblivio incident, and that picture Alya took of us kissing.”

The red-spotted heroine shook her head. “So what? I’ve kissed you before to remove the effect of an akuma. It didn’t mean anything. Why would this?”

“Wait, you have?”

“Yeah, Dark Cupid, it was one of the earlier ones. Turned love into hate, only a kiss could remove the effect because fairy tale clichés, and you were hit. Like I said, it didn’t mean anything.”

Chat Noir let that sink in, remembering that that happened when he first wanted to confess his love to her. It didn’t change what he was going to say next, though. “But that kiss wasn’t to remove the effect of an akuma. On the contrary, since Alya took the picture, it was after she had been de-akumatized. I also studied the news coverage of the fight from before we lost our memories. We were both blasted by Oblivio after using our powers. That means we had to have learned each other’s secret identities, and whatever we saw, we must’ve both discovered that we had feelings for each other if it led to a kiss like that. I know we don’t remember it, and that we can’t know who we really are, but I trust that even without our memories, we didn’t make that decision on a whim.”

This only caused Ladybug to withdraw further, bringing her knees up as she curled into a ball. Her voice became shaky. “Chat… you don’t understand… When I said… that I can’t love you, it wasn’t because of that other boy I like. I didn’t want to tell you this, but I don’t think you will truly accept the reality of our situation unless I do.”


“Bunnyx visited me, sometime after Timetagger. She took me to a future where all of Paris had been destroyed. Destroyed by you.”

His green eyes widened. “Me?”

“Something happened, it led to you finding out my secret identity, and then it broke your heart. Hawk Moth akumatized you. Both he and I… died.”

“You… no… but how…?”

“She refused to let me see any of what actually happened. All I know is from what Chat Blanc said to me.” Ladybug paused for a moment as the words rang out in both of their heads.

“I’m sorry… As long as Hawk Moth is still out there, we can’t be together. Not romantically. But we’re still partners, and I still need you. I need your help to be strong, and not fail. Can you do that for me?”

“Chat Blanc…” he half-mumbled. “I… I really don’t know. I want to, but… you might be right. Can I trust myself not to take advantage of you?”

The girl looked at him. “Do you want some time to think about it?”

“No,” he answered, surprisingly quickly, while clenching his fist. “I’ll never say no to helping you Ladybug, especially not when you need me. The only question is whether I’m good enough. I just don’t want to promise anything that I might not be able to deliver.”

Ladybug smiled and placed her hand on his arm. “That’s fine. It may take some time, but I’m sure we’ll figure out a way.”

“Ladybug and Chat Noir are like, destined to work together, right? I bet we will.”

She laughed, just a little, and it warmed his heart. Since the sun had set and the air was cooling it back down, he took the initiative in standing, extending a hand to the one he loved.

“I believe it’s time for us to depart, M’Lady.”

“You’re going to keep on calling me those mushy nicknames just to annoy me, aren’t you?” she commented, accepting the hand and rising.

“Me? I would never do that, Bugaboo,” he taunted, gesturing dramatically. He started walking backwards away from her as a grin formed on his face. “Junebuggy. Button Spots. Seven-Spotted Wond–ahh!”

With its distinct sound, Ladybug’s yo-yo wrapped around the hero, pinning his arms. She didn’t pull him in or do anything other than stand there and smirk at him.

“Oh my, it appears my yo-yo has jumped at you of its own accord. It must be possessed by an akuma!”

“Careful, some kitties like to play with yarn,” he remarked, using his free forearms to grab the string and pull her towards him.

It would have been easy to resist, but she allowed herself to be pulled along, at least until she was in arms’ reach. The blue-haired one recalled her device, using her free hand to poke his blond-haired forehead and keep him at that distance. After a moment, they both fell into laughter for a solid ten seconds.

Once they had composed themselves, Ladybug closed the remaining steps and embraced Chat Noir in an honest hug.

“Thank you, Chat. I’m sorry it has to be like this, but you really do mean a lot to me.”

“You too, Ladybug. I couldn’t do this job without you.”

She motioned to release, and he obliged without attempting to linger. He didn’t quite like the smirk on her face. “Of course you can’t, kitty, because I’m the only one who can purify the akumas,” she stated with two quick pats, before retreating to the ledge and revving up her yo-yo. “Bug out!”

And she was gone. Chat stood there, enveloped in warmth despite the falling temperature. I love her so much. She needs me to be strong, and I won’t let her down!


Tiger Prawn's powers are based on two different kinds of animal: the pistol shrimp, which creates cavitation bubbles in its claws that reach temperatures over 5,000 K, 90% of the surface of the sun; and the mantis shrimp, with one of its two varieties smashing with its claws at 51 mph (83 kph) in the blink of an eye- rapidly enough also to create cavitation bubbles (though not as hot). So yes, shrimp really can be that dangerous.

Chapter 4: Meet the Miraculouses: Roaar


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Roaar's realization of self.

Chapter Text

In her effort to familiarize herself with the miraculouses, Marinette was going to spend time with one kwami each night. It would be good for them to get out of the Miracle Box and see the modern world, and they could tell her about their powers. Tonight, she decided she would wear the Tiger Miraculous. As she adorned the panjas, a sparkling maroon light appeared and transformed into the panther-like kwami Roaar.

"Ahhhhh, Marinette! We have much to talk about."

"We… do?"

"Yes ma'am, Tikki told me about your little predicament."

"Uh… predicament?"Please tell me this isn't about Adrien and Luka…

"This whole 'comparing yourself to everyone and finding all the things someone does better' predicament. Doesn't fly with me, you see. As the kwami of the self, it is my duty to see everyone under their own lens, and to measure them against themselves andonlythemselves. It is literally who I am."

The teen shrunk into herself a little bit. "You're clearly not shy about your feelings."

"Nope, and neither should you be! Consider this a pep talk. Being a miraculous holder is a great honor. It's a lot of hard work, yeah, and you won't always get what you want, but that's just a part of life. What matters is what you do with what you're given. Those with the greatest conviction to achieve their goals are the ones chosen to wield the jewels containing the power of the universe, to allow them to achieve those goals.

"That's you, Marinette. Tikki's been singing your praises to the rest of us kwami, you know. Your goals are noble, and your heart is pure. You shouldn't let any amount of mistakes or obstacles dissuade you from your vision."

"I'll tell you something similar to what I told Tikki, then: It's not just having the strength to pursue the vision, it's having the endurance to make it to the end. My miraculous gives me the strength, but nothing gives me the endurance, yet. I just spoke to Chat Noir about it tonight, to get his support."

"I'm glad to hear that. The most common misconception about self-confidence and self-reliance is believing that they mean someone must be confident in and rely ononlytheir self. Knowing oneself also means knowing one's limits, where their self ends. Tikki said you're having some problems with that, too."

Marinette shrugged. "If I'm the one best suited, or theonlyone suited, to do so many things, then I have to do them, don't I? I don't know what else there is to say about it."

"I think you're underselling the ability of your friends to support you in doing those things. Let's make a metaphor to a tiger out in the wild. Tiger's gotta eat, right? Right now, you're the tiger that only eats when you're so famished that if you don't eat something, you'll die. You fill up, and then proceed to ignore any potential meals, no matter how convenient, until you absolutely need them again. That's not how a real tiger works, of course. They're constantly searching for convenient meals to keep their bellies full, so that they never get to a point of desperation where they have no choice."

"Tigers also don't have to worry about a bigger threat catching them eating and attacking them, or their loved ones, while they're vulnerable, or using the information to remove all of their meal choices from places they can reach."

"No, but many Ladybugs of times past have. Tikki would know more about that than me, obviously. I sure wish there were more Tiger wielders to say the same about myself…"

The girl shook her head. "That's a conversation to have later. I called upon you to hear aboutyourpowers and experiences tonight. It's a step to solve that problem of yours, is it not?"

"Hmph, I suppose. Don't think you'll be able to escape my paws for long, though." Roaar paused for a moment to shift gears. "So, as we've established, I am the kwami of ego, the self, and all there is to do about it. Self-awareness, self-determination, self-expression… defining sentience and intelligent life is very convoluted, and that's even just within the confines of species on this planet. In a way, Iamthe definition, but on an abstract level – I could not describe it for you in words even if I wanted to, which I don't. Wielding my miraculous can guide this journey, but ultimately it is up to humanity to figure out the answers for itself. To activate my power, you must say, 'Roaar, paint my stripes.' Likewise, the de-transformation phrase is, 'erase my stripes.'

"While transformed, your miraculous tool is a whip. Just like your yo-yo, it's indestructible and can be willed to perform many utilities a normal whip wouldn't be able to accomplish through physics. In case you're wondering, I'm not happy that the tool of the kwami focused on theindividualis aknock-offof another miraculous. Although, I hear there's a famous movie series inspired by Nagual."


"The last superhero to wear the panjas, during the Peruvian War of Independence. You should probably know that the decolonization of that whole continent was one of the last and also one of the greatest conflicts the kwami have been involved in; most of the miraculouses came out of the Box for it, which almost never happens. Anyway, apparently the movies involve an archaeologist finding a magic whip in Peru and using it to hunt down other powerful artifacts before his enemies can. Sounds a lot like miraculouses, right? Plagg was jealous that they made it about me and not him."

"Why does that not surprise me… I think I know what movies you're talking about, but I haven't seen them. Anyway, uh, we were talking about your powers?"

"Right. Your superpower while transformed is called Showstopper. Say it, and all eyes will be on you. I mean that literally, your enemies won't be able to turn their attention away from you. If they can see you, theywillwatch, and if they can hear you, theywilllisten. Whateveryouwant to be known will be made known… or you could use it just for a distraction. Either way, I'm your gal."

"I see. Chat Noir might like that for a Unite." The heroine thought for a moment. "But if I were to give it to someone, I would want the kind of person who has a big heart and great skill at something influential, but who lacks the confidence to strive to make a difference. The Tiger Miraculous would empower them to let their true self shine and transform into a leader."

"Exactly. Oh, I'm getting excited just thinking about it!"

Marinette sighed.

"I'm still not even sure that Iwantto hand out the miraculouses yet…"

"Mmm. Well, it's not like you have to decide tonight. I'm sure you'll make the right choice when the time comes."

"I hope so. Tell the others I'll be seeing them too, okay? Right now, I should go to sleep."

"Will do."

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box, before storing it away in its secret hiding place at the bottom of her chest.

Chapter 5: Landover


Marinette and her friends take a trip to the Bois de Vincennes, except Adrien can't seem to escape from a photo shoot with Lila. They all have their own adventures, but it seems someone is getting upset by them...

Chapter Text

A pink bike burst down Boulevard South, narrowly avoiding the other cars on the road that it was keeping pace with. Although, if you asked any Parisians, they would say it wasn’t a particularly big accomplishment given how terrible Paris traffic is. The bike made a sharp left onto Place Cardinal Lavigerie and continued past the end of the road to its destination: La Pelouse de Reuilly, a massive concrete corridor at the western edge of the Bois de Vincennes. It made a hasty stop at a bicycle rack, the rider almost tripping as she dismounted and removed her matching pink helmet, rustling out the ruffles from her blue-tinted hair.

Without stopping, she hurried down the road towards a group of almost a dozen people gathered at the crossroads in the center of the space. Only when she had reached them did Marinette allow herself to gasp for air.

“Wow, someone was in a hurry,” Alya quipped, watching Marinette stand there, doubled over, not having said hi to any of the friend group yet. They had all come to expect this sort of behavior from their oftentimes-scatterbrained friend, but Alya was the best friend that got to call her out on it.

“Yeah… I didn’t… want to… be late… for once.”

She looked up to see who all was present. Alya happened to be the closest, with Nino standing next to her and holding her hand. Max was behind him, giving what appeared to be a lengthy speech to Kim (who looked bored), Rose (who looked fascinated), and Juleka (who looked somewhat nervous behind Rose, but seemed engaged by her friend’s enthusiasm, if nothing else). Ivan was holding onto Mylène from behind, both looking with interest at a drawing Nathaniel was showing them. She was surprised to see Marc present, standing shyly at Nathaniel’s side, but he gave her a small wave when he noticed she was looking at him.

That meant that Alix wasn’t present yet, so she wasn’t the last one there! Finally catching her breath, she beamed as she stood up. Then Alya and Nino both raised an eyebrow at her and suddenly she didn’t feel so excited.

“I know what you’re thinking, girl. Alix texted the group and said she’d be running late, which I’m guessing you didn’t see.” The brunette raised her phone for emphasis.

“Yeah, sorry, dude,” Nino added. “It was something about a new friend from her football practice?”

Marinette smiled. “Yeah, Lucille! She got akumatized the other day because the other girls on her team were bullying her. It’s good to see that she and Alix are getting along!”

“Speaking of people you’re getting along with…” Alya started with a mischievous grin. “I’m surprised you didn’t ask you-know-who to join us since you-know-who-else has a photo shoot today.”

The bluenette blushed, scratching the back of her head. “Ah, yeah, Luka, well, I just didn’t, uh, want to make things awkward, y’know, because Juleka’s here and everyone else is our age too, and, uh…”

“Alya’s only teasing,” Nino said, putting a hand on his girlfriend’s shoulder with a firmness that told her to tone it down. “I get it, this is still new to you, and not every couple is as smooth as Alya and I. Kim didn’t bring Ondine along, either.”

“She’s right, though. I really should spend more time with Luka. I’ll have to make sure to arrange a date with him in the near future. A real one.”

“Good on you, Marinette,” Alya approved. Even if I still support you going out with Adrien 1000%. All in due time, I suppose.

“Oh, there’s Alix! I see her!” Myléne suddenly shouted, getting everyone’s attention. Approaching from the west, perpendicular to where Marinette had come from, was a girl blazing through on roller skates, keeping clear of other parkgoers with ease. As she neared them, she slowed down and gave an enthusiastic wave that the non-shy members among them returned.

“Finally, the gang’s all here,” Kim said. “So, uh, how do we want to spend our day in the park? I know I want to visit the stadium where the 1900 Olympics were.”

“That’s, like, right here,” Juleka miffed.

“There’s also INSEP way on the other side,” Alix countered, coming to a stop in the space next to Marinette that was still open. “That’s the National Institute of Sport, Expertise, and Performance, for those who weren’t aware. You know Kim and I are considering trying out for the elite teams when we get to lycée, right?”

“I did not, actually,” Alya replied, a little surprised. “That explains the sudden football interest.”

“Well, yeah, rollerblading isn’t really a professional sport, though it totally should be. I don’t know how far I’ll go with it, but it’s an option my old man approves of.”

“I see. I was going to drag Nino to the Vincennes Zoo. My old man works at the Ménagerie du Jardin des plantes, and I want to compare the two to prove that his is better.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Kim commented.

Max pushed his glasses up. “You should. If memory serves, he was the zookeeper whose panther you taunted in front of him, angering him to the point where he was akumatized and chased after you.”

“Oh, yeah, that guy. That was your dad?”

The reporter leered at him, albeit not seriously. “Uh, yeah.” She pointed her finger at him teasingly. “Why am I not surprised you’re the one behind that?”

A particular thought came into Marinette’s head, one that gave her a sly grin even worse than Alya’s was. “As fun as this argument is, I know that the real reason Alya’s taking Nino to the zoo is because they first became a couple at one. They’re going to reminisce, if you know what I’m getting at.”

Alya’s jaw dropped, her finger left suspended in mid-air. Alix whistled, long and low, while Nino’s face turned as red as his cap.

“Marinette, you dirty, dirty girl!” the accused teen gasped. “I cannot believe that pure, innocent, Marinette Dupain-Cheng just said those words.”

Marinette was trying really hard not to lose her composure and burst into laughter. But she was on a roll, and she should know, since her parents owned a bakery. “Aw, come on. Your one-year anniversary is pretty soon. You’re just getting a little, heh, head start. Maybe without the start.”

Alya’s face was transitioning to the same red as Nino’s, but whether it was embarrassment or indignation was up to interpretation. It was probably both. “Oh. My. Gosh. Is this real life? There’s no way this is real life. This must be an akuma. That’s it, an akuma that takes the minds of teenage girls and tosses them in the gutter.”

Without warning, she pounced onto Marinette, putting her in a headlock with one arm while poking her in many locations with the other, causing her victim to start laughing from what was evidently being quite ticklish.

“Now where’s that akuma hiding, Dupain-Cheng! Nino, come help me!”

“I, uh, um…”

He didn’t get the chance to put his brain back together, because Marinette, with surprising strength, escaped from the headlock and completely turned the tables by getting behind Alya and forcing her to the ground with her hands behind her back.

“Looks like Hawk Moth wins this time, Rena–aaaaaissance Fair. Yeah, because the, uh, Renaissance Fair is held here. And now it’s ruined, because of the, uh, akuma.”

No one else seemed to have been listening to her near-slip up of Rena Rouge’s identity. Throughout the whole exchange, they all just stared. And kept staring, even as the fragments of sentences started falling from their mouths.

“Did Marinette really just…”

“Did Alya just…”

“How did Marinette do…”

“Can you get off of me, please?!” Alya grunted, snapping everyone out of their dazes.

Marinette stood up quickly, her face joining the round of reddened complexures, while her BFF pulled herself up from the ground.

“Wow. Today we learned what happens when Marinette decides to make trouble,” Alix stated.

“I think I’m kinda scared now,” Myléne said jokingly.

“Yeah, remind me never to get on her bad side,” Kim added.

“Look, uh, just,” the bluenette stumbled, “forget this ever happened. Please don’t tell my parents. Or Adrien. Or anyone. Ever.”

“I’m still not sure I believe it myself,” Nathaniel said rather quietly.

“Where did you even learn that kind of language?” Alya questioned, folding her arms before instantly losing her serious face. “Wait. It was me, wasn’t it? Who else could it be but me. I did this to myself.”

That finally broke the tension, and she and Marinette just fell over in laughter. Everyone else was laughing too, but none so hard as the two girls who could hardly stand and were crying. Nino had to physically support his girlfriend, a big smile on his face despite himself.

Off to the side, a young man on a bench huffed, closing the book he was reading and standing to leave. Of course the collégiens would make vulgar humor and treat akumas like a joke, he thought. I doubt any of them even know any akuma victims.

No late-summer sun pierced the dull cloud cover to reflect off of Lac Daumesnil as the group, sans Alix and Kim, now walked their bikes along Promenade Maurice Boitel and continued chatting about their plans.

“The Ferme Georges-Ville? That sounds so quaint! Are you going to pet the animals?” Rose asked cheerily.

“Actually, I wanted to learn about sustainability,” Myléne answered. “The farm holds educational workshops, but they’re only on the weekends, so I think it would be hard for our teachers to organize a class trip. Since we’re here, I want to see what it’s all about.”

“Petting the animals isn’t out of the question, though,” Ivan assured. “You’re welcome to join, if you want.”

“Thanks, but I’m good,” Nathaniel replied. “I wanted to work on my landscapes, and yes, it’s partially for the Ladybug comic. I’m pretty good with human shapes, but my backgrounds could use some improvement. Although, now that I think about it, pretty much all of the akumas happen in the city proper, don’t they? They’re never out in nature like this.”

“The park’s beautiful to see anyway…” Marc added softly.

“Yeah, the four of us,” Rose said, gesturing to Juleka as the fourth, “just wanted to walk around the park and look at all the pretty scenery!”

“Oh. That’s fine.” Mylène said. “What about you, Marinette? And Max too, of course.”

“I didn’t have any particular plans… I was kinda hoping we wouldn’t splinter off into our usual couples, to be honest.”

“Oh. Well, sorry… we made a reservation in advance.”

“Yeah, us too,” Alya said. “The zoo isn’t free.”

“In that case, perhaps you could offer me assistance with something?” Max asked.

“Sure, what is it?”

“Am I right in claiming that you possess experience in scheming?” he continued, prompting a strange look from her.

“Uh… I guess? I don’t know if that’s the nicest way of putting it.”

“It’s certainly accurate, though,” Alya quipped, tapping her chin. “Does Operation Secret Garden ring any scheming bells?”

There was a round of nods from all the girls present, and one of confusion from the boys.

“I’m guessing that’s the name of some plan to win over Adrien, right?” Nino figured.

“Right on the money, honey.”

“Now I want to hear how that went down. Can’t be any worse than our supposed date at the zoo, am I right?”

“No, you don’t, because yes, it can,” Marinette asserted, pouting as her face flushed red. “No one needs to know about that, okay? Or the zoo, since we’re on the subject.”

“Relax, Marinette,” Mylène assured. “We’re not judging you based on embarrassing things that happen in your life.”

“Your floundering around model boy isn’t exactly news to us,” Juleka added, causing the redness to deepen.

“Hey, I’m working on that, and… Max what did you need help with!”

“It will be easier to show you.”

After making a full lap around the stadium, Alix and Kim had determined that it was closed to the public, as it was fully surrounded by a fence with locked gates. There was a dressy-looking guy trying to read his book that didn’t seem happy that they were snooping around, but he wasn’t a park ranger or anyone important, so they tried to ignore him.

Of course, the solution there was simply to jump the fence. They wouldn’t mind for an hour or so, right? No one was practicing right now. On the inside, Vélodrome Jacques Anquetil was a typical outdoor playing field. There was a full-sized football field almost literally encapsulated by the concrete of the cylindrical cycling track that gave the facility its name. On one side was a set of covered bleachers for spectating, connected to a modest brick building that contained a restaurant by the name of La Cipale. It was reservations-only and not cheap, so they did not plan on eating there.

Although it wasn’t grand, Alix was here to appreciate the history behind it. Understanding heritage was something that her father Alim had instilled in her, even if she had little interest in his museology and archaeology and other -ologies that Jalil had taken after in spades. Idly, she thumbed the pocket watch she kept on her person at all times – the one that was secretly the Miraculous of the Rabbit.

Her future career as Bunnyx had been on her mind a lot recently, as she had realized a very important fact: Once she became the superheroine that watches over time, there was no going back. The others, they might be able to eventually, but the idea of having a future was completely meaningless when she could see the future and go there, and to any other time in all of history if she needed to, with the goal of preserving the right future that she would already know about. Well, it was probably meaningless. Maybe if everything was over, and then she went to the end of the time she had observed and renounced her Miraculous, she would be able to live a normal life, but when would that be? How old would she be – does she even age when transformed and travelling through time? Time travel was complicated. There were so many questions and so few answers.

“Hey, Alix, you up for a game?” Kim asked. He had dropped his bag and taken a football out of it.

She raised a pink eyebrow at him. “I didn’t know you played football, Kim.”

“I don’t! But I figured it’d be good to spread my wings a bit. Track and swimming are both excellent cardio, but football takes skill and coordination with others.”

“That’s not how that saying works.”

He merely shrugged. “You get the point, right? Isn’t that why you’re trying it, too?”

Well, actually… The real reason was that Future Alix had said she’d get her miraculous once she was cool enough. It was her mission now to be as cool and responsible as she could be, and her trying out for the football team was her first serious attempt at it. It was a team sport, and earning her spot, especially if she went for it in lycée, meant putting in a lot of hard work towards getting better at it. And it would branch out her friend pool, which was off to a great start with Lucille.

Wait… was she going to have friends once she became Bunnyx? Well, other than her superhero team, of course. She knew Ladybug and Chat Noir maintained civilian lives, and presumably they weren’t all alone there. Although, it was hard to imagine how they’d pull off the crazy antics they’d need to hide that double life from the people they knew.

Like how she needed to come up with a lie right now to cover that up from Kim.

“Well, sort of. Like I said, rollerblading isn’t going to pay the bills, and I don’t really know what I want to do in the future. I don’t want to get stuck at some sucky minimum-wage job because I didn’t see what could’ve been waiting for me, y’know?”

“I guess that makes sense. So, a game or not?”

A mischievous smile appeared on her face. “It’ll have to be quick, before the cops find out we’re here!”

Kim put on his best bravado as they walked out to center field. While he meant the things he said, he would be lying if he said his true interest in the sport wasn’t for the head-to-head competition. It was built for teams and was quite easy to play pickup matches, unlike track and swimming, which both ultimately had the goal of improving one’s own times despite being performed in races.

Why did that matter? The answer is King Monkey. Despite spending a whole three minutes as the superhero, it unlocked a thirst within him that couldn’t be silenced. Working with others to take down a bad guy… he had wished for it ever since the heroes had first called upon Rena Rouge to help them, but the fantasies couldn’t compare to the real deal when it finally happened. However, he had heard absolutely nothing from the old man who loaned him the Monkey Miraculous or Ladybug since then, so he was looking for something else to try and fill that desire.

“Since we don’t have teams with us, wanna do shoot-outs?” he suggested.

“You’re on, Kim! …Man, that’s not fun to say when I already use your last name.”

“Let me do it, then! You’re on, Kubdel!”

Rose, Juleka, Nathaniel, and Marc kept their visit to Reuilly and Bercy Islands on the lake short, because a certain someone among them was really excited to see the Parc floral, for some reason. They had a nice bike ride through the forested heart of the park, the only problem being some guy walking down the middle of the road with his nose too deep in a book to see them coming. When they passed through the entry gate from Route de la Pyramide, Rose ran to the left straight to the Valley of Flowers… where there wasn’t a blossomed flower in sight.

When Juleka caught up, she could see the disappointment on her girlfriend’s face as she turned around all poutily. In return, her one visible brown eye gave an incredulous look.

“You really didn’t realize that most of the park isn’t in bloom at this time of year?”

“I heard that part of it had flowers year-round… I was hoping it’d be here.”

“No, it looks to be a fair bit east of here,” Nathaniel’s smooth voice carried from behind them, as he looked at a fold-out map that Marc was holding.

The dark-haired one looked a bit miffed. Apparently, she was the only one among the four to have actually looked up their destinations online before they got there. She even planned a whole route through the Vincennes for them so they could get everywhere they needed, with minimal crowds…

“It looks like it’s called the Garden of Four Seasons,” Marc added. “Pretty fitting, I guess.”

“Y’know, I was hoping to save those for last…” Juleka informed, her voice attempting to leave her. She cleared her throat before continuing, “Figured we’d build up the anticipation with the other stuff first.”

“Hmmm!” Rose hummed with content. “Not a bad idea at all!”

They continued on, admiring the small lake named Miroir d’eau, the water mirror, and the performance stage on the other side.

“You know what’s also not a bad idea?” the bubbly girl continued. “We could get Kitty Section to play at the stage here! Imagine a beautiful outdoor concert!”

“You’d want to wait until the spring to have all the flowers in bloom, wouldn’t you?” Nathaniel suggested.

Juleka nodded. “Concerts are usually planned way in advance… we wouldn’t be waiting long before audition. Would be worth asking the others.”

Beyond the Valley and across the perpendicular path was a set of brick-roofed pavilions and covered walkways arranged in a diagonal grid: The Butterfly Garden. The thought of butterflies caused a small spike in Juleka’s anxiety. After all, she was pretty sure that her three akumatizations (four if you counted Heroes’ Day where everyone was akumatized), near additional one, and a sentimonster added for good measure were the high score among anyone in Paris. She really didn’t like the feeling of weakness it gave her, because most of them were caused by her own doubts about herself or her friends.

That anxiety topped the long list of things Juleka didn’t understand about herself. The scariest movies, creepiest alleys, and deadliest akumas couldn’t scare her, yet receiving almost any attention from all but a select few people caused her brain to shut down and get worked up all at once. It was the tragic irony of wanting to be included yet feeling too inadequate to include herself.

At least Rose would never give up on her. Even in her darkest days, she could always count on Rose’s optimism and support to try and cheer her up. It didn’t always succeed, however… Rose always followed her heart, but when you’re plagued by dark thoughts, no amount of positive emotion could block out what they were saying to you. Marinette was better at that sort of stuff, but she was busy most of the time. Juleka was somewhat glad that her blue-haired friend was giving a shot at dating her brother over pursuing Adrien, because she definitely needed the stress relief and he was good at that. Apparently even Luka wasn’t getting to spend much time with her, though, which was somewhat concerning. If only I knew the first thing about giving support rather than receiving it.

“Penny for your thoughts, Juleka?” Nathaniel asked. She blushed a little, embarrassed at having drifted away from reality like that as they walked through the garden.

“Um, it’s nothing…” she mumbled. “The butterfly garden reminded me of akumas.”

“You too, huh?” Marc said quietly from the side. “Darn Hawk Moth…”

“Let’s not worry about that, okay?” Rose assured. “I don’t see any of the pretty butterflies here anyway…”

“Sorry,” Marc responded. “Can’t help but think about what could be, or could’ve been, sometimes. It’s sort of what I do as a writer…”

“And I as an artist. But you’re right, reminiscing on the lower points of our lives isn’t productive. If this isn’t pleasant for us, we should really get moving to the other parts of the park.”

“No… I’m fine,” Juleka stated. “The butterflies might just be inside, really…”

The quartet crossed the street to the building housing the pavilion and went inside.

“You want to do what now?!” Marinette almost shouted in disbelief.

Fortunately, only a brown-haired man with a trench coat and a book was nearby to hear her; judging by the way he looked around and then fussed off, he didn’t spot where Max and she were hiding in the bushes. The boy’s scheme had brought her to the large fence of Fort Neuf de Vincennes. The fort was an active military establishment, and yet…

“I’m positive that I did not stutter. I want to steal away into the fort.”

“But why? Do you want to get shot?” The blue-eyed girl was struggling to keep her voice down without it coming off as a sneer.

“I merely want to prove that it’s possible. I even formulated a plan before our arrival today, which is what I requested your assistance with. It is only 20.1% likely that the plan is foolproof, and you seem experienced at infiltration. With your input, we could raise that up to 75 or even 80% assurance.”

Marinette facepalmed. Max, evidently, was oblivious, as he opened his bag and Markov flew out. The sentient robot projected a small screen showing the floor plans of the fort, guard schedules, and other useful information in the air in front of them that Marinette didn’t want to look at. She really didn’t want to know how the tech whiz obtained this likely-confidential information.

Tuning out the duo’s exposition on their plan was harder, and eventually she gave in to the temptation to sneak a peek. It was… impressive.

“And then, after the watch is chasing down this trusty UAV of mine, Markov will sneak in from behind and–”

“Wait. What if the watch people don’t take the bait?”

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“Well, what if they have some sort of defense to disable it? Or have a separate group that investigates problems than the one in the watchtower? And what am I saying, we’re not breaking into the fort.

“Fine. Let’s treat it as a thought experiment, then. Hypothetically, if the UAV wasn’t able to distract the watch, then…”

Ivan and Mylène walked hand-in-hand alongside their small tour group, as the guide wearing regular farming clothes provided information about the Farm and its activities. The guide stopped, as he had several times to show an area of the farm that he was talking about in that announcer-ish voice of his. This time, it was a pasture with a variety of bovines.

“Here we have our cows and bulls. During the summer, the cows produce milk for their calves that they birthed after ‘fun times’ in the spring. We have to collect the milk every day to prevent their udders from getting too bloated, as the calves do not drink all of what they produce. If you’re interested, we have activities to milk the cows each morning and…”

Ivan was interested, but he could tell from the way that Mylène was resting against him that she was rather bored, so he wasn’t going to say anything. He knew that she was more invested in the bigger picture, the sustainability stuff, but personally, he found himself really enjoying learning about where their food came from. It’s pretty easy to take for granted the amount of work that goes into producing something that everyone needs to survive when all you see is the result that you buy.

Or maybe it was just because they were working with their hands a lot. He’d never been good at expressing himself, and he found that building and doing things were better outlets for his feelings than attempting to use words. Mylène once told him that the best part of any gift he gave her was how perfectly he had thought each one out to address whatever she was struggling with. She said that everyone could see how kind he was if he could help them in the same way, but, well… he didn’t know the others very well. Even being in Kitty Section, he still wasn’t comfortable opening those doors with the other band members. Marinette, maybe, but he knew she had a lot going on in her personal life that she wanted to keep private, so he wasn’t sure what to do to help.

Part of the reason why he had fallen for Mylène was how she was the exact opposite of him in this regard. She was a natural with people and had big dreams of being a politician and advocate for good. It was that tenacity that tripped her up sometimes, when she failed to break down a goal into its parts and bit off more than she could chew. Those were the times when he would be her rock and catch her. Yes, he understood the irony of that when his akuma was a giant rock monster.

“Alright, from here we’ll head on to the crop fields,” the tour guide announced. “I’ll tell you all about our innovative crop rotation!”

Ivan felt a noticeable shift from his girlfriend. Guess we’re getting to the good part now, he wondered. Not that it was his forte, but as long as she was happy, everything would be just fine.

Begrudgingly, Alya had to admit that the Vincennes Zoo had some merit to it. While it wasn’t as large as the Jardin des plantes as a whole and lacked the special exhibits and greenhouses for plants (as you might expect, since only one was named after them), the animal variety was cooler than in the ménagerie. Mylène would have been excited to see all of the endangered species that it kept, as conservation was one of the focal points of the zoo since its renovation. Maybe Marinette had a point about them keeping to their usual pairs too much when everyone got together, and it certainly didn’t help that most of those pairs were dating.

Just the thoughts of “Marinette” and “dating” in proximity caused her to blush at her best friend’s comments from earlier. The worst part is that Marinette was spot-on; if she hadn’t made the very idea of it super awkward, Alya totally would have made a move on Nino when they reached the panthers.

Instead, their conversation drifted towards more family-friendly topics like deaths due to zoo animals. They had almost completed their circuit around the zoo, with the turtle and flying fox habitat being the very last stop. This was intentional, given that the animals in this habitat were special to them.

“What a coincidence that our Miraculous animals share a place at the zoo, right?” Alya noted.

“Yeah. Maybe it’s a sign that we’ll move in together, honeybear.” He nudged her playfully, causing her to blush. She looked down, the turtle swimming in the pond suddenly grabbing all of her attention.

“Do you think Ladybug will ever let us use the miraculouses again?” she asked after a moment.

A couple of days after Chloé’s parents were akumatized into Heart Hunter, Ladybug had told them that there was actually a second akuma immediately afterward, which was Chloé herself. Her power had exposed everyone on the team except the original duo to Hawk Moth, so Ladybug said that she had no choice but to revoke their privileges to the Fox and Turtle Miraculouses to keep them safe.

“I dunno. Given what happened, I can’t think of any reason why Ladybug would change her mind – she’s been strict about this identity stuff since the beginning. But who knows what the future has in store? Que será será. We gotta live with what happens no matter how it happens.”

“True, it’s surprising that she was even okay with us knowing each other’s identities… but still, having Trixx was good for me. Actually being a superhero is so much different than running after one, and that’s helped me understand that pursuing the truth isn’t always everything and keeping secrets can be important. Especially since I was paired with the kwami of illusion, of all things.”

“I feel ya there. Granted, I got the protection power because I wanted to protect, but turns out there’s more to it than that, y’know? Turtles aren’t just immobile shells, they have flexible limbs too. Knowing what needs to be held onto and what can be let go… it’s deep stuff, babe. And I think we can be flexible even without our powers.”

Alya smiled at him and pulled her boyfriend into a one-armed hug. “You know what, you’re right. Miraculous or no, we should help out however we can. I knew I didn’t keep you around for nothing, turtle boy.”

“Other than your zany schemes, you mean?”

“Ahhh... You wouldn’t have a choice in those even if we weren’t dating.”

Light began pooling into a dark observatory as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. It was a display that always pleased the one inhabitant of the room, as it heralded the time to reap what misery the chaotic elements of life had thrown in some poor fool’s path.

“I can sense it… a pleasant day in the park, ruined by other people who don’t know the meaning of peace.”

One butterfly flew into the palm of his hand, which he clasped with his other and imbued with a dark power that blackened the butterfly to a deep purple. His empowered minion knew its task, and with a wave of Hawk Moth’s cane, instinctively flew out of the gap in the center of the view to the streets of Paris, heading towards the forest on the city outskirts.

“Enjoy the park, my lovely akuma. It will be so much grander once you evilize that young man!”

Meanwhile, the brown-haired boy with the book walked angrily down Allée Royale. “Stupid kids, getting in the way all day… almost hit by a football, run over by a bike… just wanted to read my book…”

Hector didn’t notice the strangely-colored butterfly that flew up to him until it landed on, and promptly absorbed itself into, his fantasy novel, turning it a deep purple. The outline of a purple butterfly formed at the edges of his vision, and then the silver-masked man became visible to him.

“Landover, I am Hawk Moth. I, too, hate it when miscreants soil such a calm day as today. I can grant you the power to close off this entire park and shape it into a fantasy world for your enjoyment only. Those other miscreants Ladybug and Chat Noir will also want to ruin your nice day… In exchange for your powers, I require that you take their miraculouses for me to collect once you defeat them.”

“I shall reshape the future for us both, Hawk Moth.” His book started growing larger, spreading its dark matter across his entire body, and the whole world began to shake.

“And once I capture the gateman in the tablecloth, Markov will disable the lock on the gate and we rush through to the barracks?” Marinette asked, pointing at the relevant spots on the digital map that she had heavily annotated.

“Negative, Marinette! Markov disables the gate first, because then the gateman will investigate the matter and leave himself open for your capture.”

“Ohhh, right.” She looked over everything once more. “Okay, I think I got it all down now. You ready?”

“Of course I am! Markov?”

“I estimate a 92.05% chance of success, with a margin of error of 4.23%. Ready to engage.”

“Alright, Operation: Fort Thwart is a go!”

The two had hardly stood up when the ground beneath them rumbled deeply. It only lasted a few seconds, but something had changed in the atmosphere. Soon, things began changing in the biosphere, as the bushes spontaneously began growing rapidly, developing thorns and transforming into nettles that threatened to ensnare the two teenagers.

“I think the fort is thwarting us, Marinette!” Max exclaimed as they scrambled onto the road. The sky was darkening as the trees grew taller and their foliage spread out to block the sunlight.

“Our best course of action is to flee to the fort, where they can protect us!” Markov informed, his face now a red exclamation point.

“It’s got to be an akuma! But all the way out-AAH!”

She nearly tripped as fissures opened up in the concrete, roots creeping up through the cracks and pulling the manmade infrastructure apart. The unstable terrain separated her from Max, with him closer to the fort.

“Marinette, hurry!”

“Go without me! I’ll be fine!”

“0% chance! You don’t abandon us, and we won’t abandon you!”

Unfortunately, the choice was made for him as the roots evolved upwards, forming irregular spiky walls that prevented them from reaching other. They were soon blocked from sight, and that’s when Marinette opened her purse. A very irritated-looking Tikki flew up to her eye level.

“Were you seriously just convinced to aid in a scheme to break into a military base?”

“Look, I… it was just hypothetical! And we have bigger problems right now!”

Tikki gave her another unimpressed look that said this conversation wasn’t over.

“Tikki, spots on! Haa!” With her spotted costume spread over her arms, body, and legs, Ladybug became a creature of the forest, just as magical as the environment that had appeared around her.

Even with the souped-up capabilities granted by her transformation, Ladybug had to be careful treading through the massive undergrowth of the forest, which was a place unlike any she had encountered before. Sure, she had seen fantastic forests of this kind in video games and movies, but it was an entirely different experience to be in one. This wasn’t an action-packed level with the forest as a backdrop. It was a three-dimensional maze of brambles, exotic bushes, and oversized trees that took not just skill but also precision to navigate her way through. She had climbed onto a huge branch near the top of one of the massive trees to chart a path, but it was still hard to make out any of the park’s layout due to how thick the canopy coverage was.

One landmark remained quite visible, because it loomed over the entirety of the landscape. In the center of the park was a building-sized tree that scraped the clouds, easily rivalling the Eiffel Tower in scale. It was essentially a giant beacon for the location of the akumatized villain. Before she set off, she made a quick call to prepare herself for the fight ahead. There was a certain someone she needed to find too, after all.

Unfortunately, the phone rang out with no response from the Chaton. I hope this forest didn’t have the same magical interference that Weredad’s beanstalk prison did, she fretted. Pulling up the GPS seemed to work fine, and it looked to be the only sort of navigation the heroine would have for this scenario. Too bad its magic powers didn’t also chart the changes the akuma had made; none of the paths marked on the map likely existed anymore. From the looks of it, the tree tower was right where Allée Royale ended in a big circle. Quickly, she texted her partner to tell him to meet her there.

Hopping down from her perch, Ladybug slid all the way down the tree trunk, landing on a glowing, oversized mushroom. It trampolined her forward onto the ground, where she used the momentum to continue jumping through the nettled gaps between the trees.

The travel time gave her a chance to plan. Walking right into the enemy base was pretty high on the foolish-decisions list, so she needed to be prepared for whatever was coming. Calling her Lucky Charm right now didn’t seem smart when she hadn’t even encountered the supervillain yet; knowing her luck, that would proceed to happen while she was de-transformed to recharge Tikki.

What ways did she have to distract the akuma? While she didn’t know what had caused someone to claim the entire Bois de Vincennes as their territory, she figured they probably wouldn’t like it if it started getting destroyed in a blaze of glory. That plan would also be useful because the smoke signal would be sure to alert Chat Noir to her location.

On the other hand… there were civilians in the park. Setting the area alight would endanger anyone around, and they definitely had no way to escape with the state the ground level was in. Her Miraculous Cure could restore any physical damage caused, but as far as she knew, it didn’t wipe their memories if the akuma didn’t have a mental influence on them. (It wasn’t exactly a conversation one could just have with a friend who had been akumatized, even if that was all of her friends, minus Adrien.) That meant people would remember getting burned alive, and maybe even who did it.

Fire wouldn’t do as a solution, then. She really wished Chat would show up already to help contribute. Another call, another, “Cat got your tongue?” Sigh… I should remember to make fun of him for that voicemail message someday.

On the opposite side of the city, a small crew had set up alongside Lac Inférieur in the Bois de Boulogne, across from the open field of Pelouse de la Muette that offered a view straight into the heart of the Paris cityscape, with the Eiffel Tower at its front. Their lights and camera were trained on two teenage models, one a boy with matted blond hair, and the other a girl with silky red hair down to her torso.

“Alright, you two, let’s take five minutes and start fresh with the next outfits!” the photographer, Vincent, announced.

Adrien sighed, removing his round-topped hat and going to lean against the sole tree between the lake and the lawn.

“Is something the matter, Adrien?” Lila asked in her usual sweet tone, approaching him from the same direction.

Yes, and I’m looking at her, he thought, hiding the malice behind his model game face.

“Just tired. Might be the weather getting me down.”

“You know you can count on me to cheer you up,” she promised, getting close and attempting to hook her arm through his.

He resisted, shifting himself to cause her to miss. “Didn’t I tell you to stop doing that? I’m dating Kagami, not you. You’ve already caused enough trouble when you got her akumatized over this.”

“I’m sorry that she felt entitled to your affection. I’m just trying to be a supportive friend, is all. Intimacy doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic, you know.”

“Sure, but you’ve made it clear that you see me in a romantic way, so I know you’re lying.”

The Italian girl scowled at that, but he wasn’t done yet.

“I seriously don’t know what your plan is here. Do you really think you can force me into a relationship by manipulating me and trying to drive off my friends?”

Her look transformed once more into one of hurt. “That’s so harsh! I don’t know why you would say such things about me. I might have to report to your father that his own son is making me uncomfortable on the job and unable to fully complete my duties as a model under his contract.”

Now Adrien was furious, which Lila seemed to have read as she quickly reverted to a smile that rivalled the Cheshire Cat; however, her threat was legitimate, so he forced those feelings down. He could practically feel it in his Miraculous, as if it could hear his desire to transform into Chat Noir and escape. Well, Plagg could actually hear him, but he didn’t know if a kwami interacted with its miraculous like that.

Simultaneous buzzing in the two teens’ pockets might have provided just the answer he needed. He pulled out his phone and saw that it was indeed an akuma alert, located in…

“The Bois de Vincennes? All of my fr–our friends are there today! C’mon, we have to go help!”

“Adrien, are you CRAZY?!” Lila shouted, projecting her voice well more than was necessary, while also forming a death grip on his arm to keep him from going.

He looked back at her, no longer hiding the anger on his face, but he could see Vincent already rushing over to see what was going on. Lila must have gotten his attention.

“Adrien, what appears to be the matter?” the photographer asked innocently.

“He’s worried about the akuma because our friends are near it,” Lila answered for him, her tone now sounding distraught. “I am, too, and that’s why I ask you earnestly to stay here, Adrien. I don’t do well with situations like these, so I need your support if we’re to continue the photo shoot. The akuma won’t affect us from the other side of the city, and I’m way too busy to postpone it. And a good model should be able to keep a straight face for the camera no matter what, right?”

The blonde didn’t buy a word of it, but she had clearly earned Vincent’s sympathy. “I agree with Miss Ita-Lila-na. The shoot must go on. There’s nothing we can do anyway; the alert says the park’s perimeter has been blocked off by the akuma. Ladybug and Chat Noir are surely capable enough on their own to handle it.”

And that’s why I need to go! Adrien fumed. Ladybug’s counting on me! I can’t let her down like this…

As they returned to the shooting site, he tried brainstorming some excuses to leave. But he found that all he could think about is how bad the consequences for bailing could be.

Finally, Ladybug reached a clearing, or at least it was clear relative to the density of the rest of the forest. The source was, of course, the colossal tree that occupied most of the area, with any open air around it being the result of its leglike roots that arched over the ground in a near-perfect circle.

“Welcome, Ladybug,” a two-tone voice greeted from seemingly all around. Along with a normal-sounding male voice, there was a booming undertone that felt as if the earth itself was speaking. It put the heroine on edge, and she brought out her yo-yo shield to ready herself for a battle.

“Show yourself!” she responded.

The ground in front of her rumbled, and then a pair of spectral green hands around half her size emerged from the ground, attached to noodle-y sprouts that were just enough like arms to creep her out. They scooped up the dirt and morphed it into a male human shape before retreating.

“I should introduce myself. I am called Landover,” the human mound spoke. “Are you enjoying this land of wonder I made? It’s a quiet fantasy where my reading shan’t be disturbed. I find it quite pleasant.”

Only confusion was drawn on the heroine’s face. “That’s it? You transformed this entire forest just so you could have a place to read?” Her eyes scanned the facsimile for any sign of a source of power. She doubted this was Landover’s true form – the closest Hawk Moth had gotten to a formless akuma was Style Queen being made of gold dust, but even then, she was human-shaped by default and had to will herself to become a dust cloud. And she didn’t have those eerie hands shaping her from the dust, either.

“I wasn’t able to read anywhere with those brats running around the park!” Landover shouted angrily, the deep undertone rattling the ground a little. “I’m told you plan on disturbing me, too. Is that true?”

“You can’t just claim a public park for yourself and trap everyone inside like this!”

“Fine. Be that way.”

The rattling intensified, but it wasn’t from his voice; in fact, the dirt double collapsed on the spot. Instead, several of the energy hands popped up around Ladybug, and she pulled herself into a tree branch with her yo-yo to escape their attempt to grab her. The branch proceeded to grow a cluster of smaller twigs around her to try and imprison her within their tangle, but she was one step ahead still and dove out into the clearing. She kept running towards the enormous tree as large numbers of hands sprouted up to capture her, searching for some way to climb or infiltrate it. That’s how it worked in the stories, right?

No such luck appeared before her, unless it was hidden deep within the burrows of the roots. Since that would leave her vulnerable to both the hands from the ground and the spontaneous plant growth, it would be very risky without a source of light. If only her darned partner was here, because then they could baton-evator to the top in a matter of seconds, or he could just destroy the whole plant with a Cataclysm. Chat… where are you?

Looking at her yo-yo with a frown, she realized she didn’t have any other choices. She did wait until she encountered the akuma, like she wanted…

“Lucky Charm!” she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a packet containing black-spotted red trapezoids, which then fell into Ladybug’s hands.

“Disposable blades? They’re a bit small for these plants…” by themselves. Her yoyo… she had a plan, but it wasn’t the right time, as she had also just thought of another way up the tree. She was going to have to work very quickly, unless she could make a distraction.

The first step was getting up there. She wound up her yoyo while jumping onto the big roots, then threw it as hard as she could around the tree. It wasn’t a surprise when the yo-yo flew around the other side and into her other hand; it had circled multiple national monuments before, so she didn’t expect this to be any different. Her real concern was tested when she gave both ends of the yo-yo string an experimental pull, seeing if it would hold or start cutting through the wood and destroying the tree the same way it did said national monuments.

There were no sounds of snapping bark and the line felt steady, so the bug-themed heroine began climbing the tree in leaps. It was effectively a partnerless belay, using the tension of the yo-yo string to hold her against the tree in between her jumps.

It was simple, except that Landover could still sense her against his tree. Thorny branches spontaneously grew above her path, forcing her to adapt to the side. Just when she thought she could clear the distance enough to reach the branches, her yo-yo string didn’t go up with her when she jumped, resulting in her tripping vertically onto the face of the tree. Further vines began to grow at her limbs, and she made a split-second gamble on what had happened by releasing the main yo-yo and jumping to the side off the tree.

Her assumption paid off, as instead of falling, the string caught, and she swung around to the other side where she could see that the bark had been made to grow over the string to trap it. Shifting her weight, Ladybug landed against the tree below the anchor point and climbed up as fast as she could to get to it, meeting the yo-yo as it raveled around and got caught. She pulled the yo-yo out of contact with the bark to prevent the same fate, then rapidly tore open the packet of blades. She slotted each one in turn into the gap between the yo-yo halves, except for one that she used to scrape the bark off of the string.

In the split second before gravity had taken her very far, she threw her newly-fashioned buzzsaw up to the lowest of the tree’s branches, where it looped around like normal and hooked in for extra measure. Tugging the string pulled her up to the branch, where she could finally catch her breath, also making sure her contraption wasn’t at risk of falling apart.

Strangely, the tree didn’t narrow as she ascended towards the top. When she reached the apex, she saw that it was really more like a giant rook piece from chess, with the top being open, and also covered in thorns. It was time for test number two, and she spun up the yo-yo and threw it in a hook. The saw-yo swept through the thorns with ease, opening an avenue for her to jump onto the rim and avoid the continuing attacks where she was. The plants may be many, but they were limited in their growth time.

From the top of the trunk, Ladybug could see inside. It looked somewhat like one would expect from a hollowed-out log, if it was also polished to look like a solid wooden cup holder. Sitting on a matching wooden throne was Landover, the real one, reading a book. Most of him was still a brown color like the dirt copy, but it was dominated by his huge overcoat that was a darker brown, almost like dark chocolate. His skin was a pale green starkly visible in contrast to its surroundings, despite only his face and hands being visible. The face also had a butterfly-shaped mask that was more of a forest green.

Basically, he had a tree-themed costume in his tree base. Not Hawk Moth’s best design work. More interesting than the villain himself was his book, which was almost as large as he was and bound in what appeared to be old leather. It was obvious that the akuma was in there, in part because he was reading out of it in an inscrutable language.

Paris’ heroine leapt into the heart of the tree, throwing her bladed yo-yo at Landover’s book at the same time. The villain, without looking up from his book, jumped out of his chair to avoid the attack, and Ladybug found herself doing the same as the floor grew wooden stakes behind him. While her foe could simply grow a foothold for himself, she had to rappel off of the crest of the trunk with her yo-yo again, which prevented her from using it like she needed.

Such a thing couldn’t stop her, of course. She kicked off the wall such that she rebound right to where Landover was, threatening to stomp him and the book into the wall if he didn’t move. Ungrowing the plants didn’t appear to be in his repertoire, so she was able to claim the foothold for herself and finally finish this fight in the home-grown arena.

With no floor, having to grow his perches in advance, and holding no direct weapons, Landover had grown himself into a corner. Ladybug had expected his magic hands to appear, but she guessed now that they were tied to the actual ground for his terraforming. Again, not the best work.

Not that she minded, since it made it pretty easy for her to overpower him. In less than thirty seconds, she made the final strike, hooking around his book with the bladed yo-yo and tearing it even as she yanked to bring it to her.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma,” Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within, which caused the disposable blades to fall out into her hands. She swung the yo-yo in a circle to charge up her throw.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. “Bye-bye, little butterfly!”

Next, she grabbed tossed the blades into the air as well.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

They burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which actually stayed together. The tree around them was eaten up as if the magical insects were termites, and they spiraled out to deforest the entire Bois de Vincenne back to its normal self.

A dark substance covered Landover and dissolved into the ground, leaving the boy with the coat on the ground. He looked around confusedly, before seeing his restored-to-normal book and scrambling to it.

“Pound it…” Ladybug said quietly, frowning at the lack of partner to share the victory with.

Hawk Moth shook his head from his place in his observatory. “Even without Chat Noir, that was pathetic. I expected better from someone who spends so much time reading about magic and fights in fantasy books. With the whole park at his disposal…” he slammed his cane into the ground in frustration.

“No matter. These akumas were mere placeholders while I worked on the Peaco*ck Miraculous. The real fun hasn’t even started yet.”

The silver-masked mastermind turned away from the window, the light from it shrinking as the lens closed back in until it was completely filled with darkness.

Ladybug landed down on the walking path of Allée Royale, setting down the brown-haired man whom she had carried there bridal-style.

“What an honor, getting a lift from Ladybug,” he commented, turning to shake her hand. “My name’s Hector Écriteur, by the way. It’s quite a pleasure to meet you in-person.”

The heroine did not share the same opinion of him, though she didn’t let it show on her face. “Yeah… Listen, I gotta go before I transform back. This is kind of far from my usual stomping grounds, you know? Bug out.” She left quickly afterward.

Her spaced out response was also because her brain was preoccupied with other matters. Beyond Chat’s failure to help, she considered that there were no less than three people in the park with her who had wielded miraculouses in the past. In a hypothetical universe where she didn’t care about their identities being known to Hawk Moth and entrusted them with those miraculouses to keep, they would have been available in his stead. She may have pulled through this time, but was this something she needed to prepare for in the future? Was there a legitimate reason why Chat didn’t make it? Had she taken for granted Chat’s ability to reach every akuma fight?

“Spots off,” she commanded, her superpowers dropping as her tired kwami re-appeared in her hand. She fetched a cookie for the godly little being and switched gears mentally. The only way to answer her questions would be to ask Chat himself the next time they met. Right now, she needed to be Marinette and try to enjoy the remainder of the day with her friends.

Maybe this time, she wouldn’t let herself get roped into breaking national laws.

Chapter 6: Meet the Miraculouses: Stompp


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Stompp's realization of action.

Chapter Text

In her effort to familiarize herself with the miraculouses, Marinette was going to spend time with one kwami each night. It would be good for them to get out of the Miracle Box and see the modern world, and they could tell her about their powers. Tonight, she decided she would wear the Ox Miraculous. As she adorned the nose ring, a sparkling blue light appeared and transformed into the bull-like kwami Stompp.

"Oh, Marinette! It's a pleasure to see you. Am I needed?"

"Not tonight, at least not for a transformation. I did want to ask you about the powers of your miraculous, though. What exactly does it mean to be the kwami of action?"

"What it means… well, think about the semantics of the word 'act'. Acting in a role is performing the responsibilities of it. A force acts upon an object. You act upon an impulse."

"Hey, no need to get personal…" Marinette joked, at least partially.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. Another appropriate word is 'work'. One's work is their job, what they do to make a living. Work is the physics term for applying energy to an object through motion. You work towards a goal. All of these definitions encompass the reality that there must be physical effort in order to make change. You can plan and think and feel all you want, but it amounts to nothing without action. That is what I am."

"Hmm… that's an interesting way to describe the world…" the girl pondered, thinking deeply about it.

"What do you mean?" the kwami asked, his tone one of inquisition.

"Well, in civic education, we learned that laws exist to protect people's rights. In theory, breaking the law means you've violated someone's rights, and that results in some kind of punishment as a way to bring justice. The only thing that matters, in this case, is that your actions broke the law. It doesn't matter if you had goodintentions, or if the actions actually created a good outcome in the end. It sounds similar to what you described, but I don't know if I like that or not."

"Why is that? It's a reasonable connection to make."

Marinette grew a determined look on her face. "Because I believe in the goodness in people's hearts. I think that good intentionsshouldmatter, because what we plan and think and feel make up who weare, and that matters more to me than what wedo. I mean, bad people can do good things, but that doesn't make them good, does it?"

"Think of the meaning of the word 'matters'. Matter is the physical substance that makes up our universe. Effectively, it defines whatis: that is, what does and does not exist as an entity in reality. When somethingmatters, you can think of it as being physical; it has a real effect on the physical space in which we all live. So, to play devil's advocate, why shouldn't it make them good? Their good deeds have a positive effect on society, contributing to it rather than taking away, regardless of whether they want them to or enjoy when they do. We cannot even know for certain whether those bad thoughts reflect who they truly are, even if they claim that they do, because the only person who can truly know someone's inner desires is their own self. But now we're encroaching on Roaar's territory, and I believe she has already spoken to you on this subject.

"Something that you probably already know is that the Miraculouses don't change who one is, they change what one can do. The beauty of them is that having these powers, in turn, often catalyzes the personal change, as the wielder comes to understand the philosophy and responsibility that their miraculous is formed around. Where my miraculous comes into play is for those who do not know how to distinguish between 'is' and 'does', even within themselves."

"I see. That makes it harder to figure out who would benefit the most from it." The heroine thought for a moment. "I think, if I were to give it to someone, I would want the kind of person who is kind and thoughtful, but has trouble expressing their motives outwardly. The Ox Miraculous would empower them to transform their good intentions into action.

"The issue is identifying those intentions when they're not being expressed correctly, because the opposite could be true… The last thing I'd want is for one of those bad people who do good things to decide to use the miraculous to enact their selfish thoughts."

Stompp nodded in agreement. "Very perceptive, Guardian. The Ox is one of the least used miraculouses for this reason. It is very simple to do wrong with it, and unlike the Black Cat, there is no Ladybug to balance it out. The opposite of action is inaction, and nothing results from inaction."

"Right. 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.' That's important to me as a Ladybug, and I'm certainly not going to discount any possibility when it comes to fighting Hawk Moth. For that, I need to know how to use your miraculous."

"That is simple. To activate the transformation, say the words, 'Stompp, charge forward.' To de-transform, say 'Hold back.' While transformed, you are granted a miraculous gauntlet that grants strength, durability, and size to one of your fists."

"Size? So it's like a giant boxing glove? That sounds so cool!"

"It's better than a glove, because you still retain use of all of your fingers. Additionally, the gauntlet is how your channel the miraculous's power. Say the word, 'Labor', and you shall be able to lift anything you want.Anything.The Eiffel Tower? Not a problem. A full-length train? Can do. The pure strength of action is at your command."

"Wow, that's impressive. Hawk Moth's akumas typically have the power advantage over us, but this miraculous could balance the scales."

"Indeed. I look forward to working with whomever has been chosen."

"Anyway, that was all I wanted to talk about tonight. Maybe in the future, we could go for a walk, if I can figure out a safe way to do it."

"That sounds like it would be excellent. Until then, adieu, Marinette."

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box, before storing it away in its secret hiding place at the bottom of her chest.

Chapter 7: Jubilenie


Three different dates end in one big disaster. Marinette and Adrien have to contend with their uncertainties while also contending with a sentimonster that turns the meaning of surging emotions on its head.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Tikki sighed as her chosen wielder removed and then recolored the same spot on her face for what had to be the seventh time. Not that she was keeping track… except she totally was, because this particular piece of human culture still confused her after so many centuries of watching it.

“I’m not sure I will ever understand why girls are willing to spend as much if not more time preparing for their dates as they are actually on them,” she commented, resting herself on Marinette’s hair, which was still up in curlers from several hours beforehand when the girl woke up to start getting ready. “And it’s not really helping in the ‘reducing your stress and pressure’ department. You know that Luka couldn’t care less if you wear makeup or not. La Mariquita wasn’t so lucky.”

Marinette frowned at her kwami through the mirror on her vanity. “Well, another convenience of modern feminism is that a girl is just fine getting all dolled up because she wants to... and so can guys. I’m no makeup artist, but I can say with certainty that having a properly made face is an important part of completing a look from an outfit. If your clothes are fab, but your face is drab, it’s like making a fruit tart and then not glazing it! You can bet that Adrien wears makeup a lot of the time.”

“I’m sure you don’t only know that from staring at pictures of him long enough that you can tell the difference.”

“That’s not important!” she squeaked, the makeup not concealing a blush rushing to her face. “My point is, I want to give my Marinette Best for this date. Even if Luka doesn’t care what I look like, he’ll still appreciate that I put in the effort, because it shows that I’m taking this relationship seriously. Which I am.”

“Oh, I see what you mean by doing this for yourself now...”

“I thought you were supportive of this idea!”

Tikki hugged the top of Marinette’s head. “You know I’m always on your side. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have some fun too!”

“No wonder you and Plagg are always paired up,” Marinette said dryly. “You two are more alike than you think.”

Now the kwami was the one looking flustered. “Nuh-uh! We’d be doomed if I pulled anything close to what he does!”

“Whatever you say, Tikki.”

At the Place de Vosges, a boy picked at his guitar with a concentrated look on his face. It was rare that he wasn’t able to find the right concord of notes to describe how someone was feeling. Marinette had been a hard one, and he knew her song still wasn’t complete; how could it be, when she was withholding a lot of her story from him?

The day she had broken down in his arms was one he remembered very clearly. Yet, despite opening up to him emotionally, she had remained very generic about the actual events that caused her overwhelming stress. It was understandable, given that they had only known each other for six months and spent a lot of their time together with the other members of Kitty Section, focusing on their music. He had no problem waiting as long as Marinette needed to become comfortable enough around him to trust him with the whole truth.

Today, the real emotion that he was unable to pinpoint with his melodies was his own. This was to be their first official date, and really one of the first solid pieces of evidence that they were even in a romantic relationship with each other, given Marinette’s hesitancy. Her feelings towards Adrien didn’t discomfort him one bit: the heart wants what the heart wants, after all, and it doesn’t always listen to reason when those desires are in conflict.

The problem was that he was part of that conflict. What his heart wanted, above all else, was to help Marinette be happy, because he could see what stellar achievements she was capable of when she had the motivation she needed. But he believed what Marinette’s heart wanted was to control her own happiness. She didn’t like feeling dependent on others, and that meant if she wanted fully to realize her heart’s vision, she would have to grow not to need him, and their relationship… which denied his own heart.

Was this a good idea for both of their first relationships? How invested should they get into it? Was it possible for Marinette to change her heart’s desire? Luka hadn’t expected to become so nervous about this… nothing usually fazed him. But now, everything felt like a paradox, a conundrum born of uncertainty.

Uncertainty. Maybe that was the key. He had been uncertain between several possibilities for her song, but maybe the uncertainty was the song. A seemingly discordant set of ideas that miraculously merge together into a beautiful sound…

His fingers began moving again almost without his input, and he became so fixated on crafting this tune that he failed to notice the muse herself until she sat next to him on the bench.

“That’s… quite the melody you’ve got there,” Marinette commented, looking a bit confused at the chaotic notes his instrument had been producing.

“Oh, Marinette. Sorry, I just got an idea for your song, and…” he took a moment to look her over fully, “… you look amazing.”

She had chosen an azure sundress that matched her bluebell eyes, ending just above her knees. Over it, she wore a cardigan that was mostly purple but had just enough red blended into the hue to make it pop, plus matching walking shoes. Her hair had been curled and most of it hung loose rather than being tied into her usual pigtails. What had been separated wasn’t folded back, instead forming two much larger curls that joined their brethren dangling just below the shoulders.

“Hee hee, thanks…” Marinette accepted bashfully. “You look nice too. You don’t think this is a bit much for a simple lunch date, do you?”

Luka’s version of dressing up was a pair of gray slacks, albeit not form-fitting ones, with a steel-blue overshirt worn open over a plain white shirt. Compared to her, he might as well have been wearing his same old jacket and torn jeans.

“You can be as much or as little as you want, Marinette. What inspired you to wear your hair down?”

“Oh, just…” Adrien said that I look beautiful with it down. Well, he didn’t say those words, he just agreed with them, but close enough. Wait, I can’t tell Luka that! She reddened a little bit as she realized she had started daydreaming, and suddenly words started pouring out of her mouth. “Uh, Kagami, would you believe it? You’ve met her once before, right? Japanese, just a smidge shorter than me, hair that looks incredibly similar to mine, which is weird because who else naturally has blue in their hair?”

She finally took in air and put her brain out of panic mode. “Uh, anyway, what I was trying to get at was, my hair ties fell out during… well, Chloé’s parents’ anniversary. It’s a long story. But Kagami really liked it, so I figured, well, maybe I should experiment a little bit. I’m not the same Marinette that decided to put it up in… gosh, I don’t even remember how long ago. CE, I think.”

“That’s a big step out of your comfort zone. I agree that it looks wonderful on you. It almost reminds me of… guitar strings. It makes me want to play with it.”

Marinette blushed as the visual formed in her head. “I think I would like that. But how about we start with our date? It’s a wonderful day out for a walk.”

“Sure thing. Whatever makes you happy.” Luka packed his guitar back into its carrying case and slung it over his shoulder to carry on his back.

There wasn’t anywhere in particular they wanted to go, other than vague plans for lunch later. For now, they were content to walk the streets of Paris and talk about whatever subjects came to mind.

Almost an hour later, the couple gazed up at the magnificent Palais Garnier where Paris’ national Opera was usually held. A row of Greek columns stood out on top of the ground floor arches, and the structure held up a roof of three tiers, ascending from gold to silver to a pale green color close to the one famously associated with America’s Statue of Liberty. Each tier had matching statues of figures from Greek mythology – she didn’t know which ones, since that wasn’t a particular of interest of hers – with a golden instrument standing out at the pinnacle in the center. Alya probably knew what it all meant.

“Have you ever been to the opera?” Marinette asked, turning her attention to the boy currently holding her hand. His teal bangs at the front of his black hair reminded her a bit of the building’s façade.

Luka looked back at her, a soft chuckle appearing from his mouth. “My mom won’t even get near the theater; she thinks it’s too pretentious to be considered real music. But I’d like to go one day, so I can make my own decision about that. It might just be a different form of expression than I know, you know? We Couffaines are well-acquainted with being different.”

“Yeah, I imagine a lot of people don’t know how to react when you tell them you live on a boat in the Seine.”

“They probably think it’s pretentious, too, especially after it became a pirate ship. It’s never really bothered me, but Jules worries about it a fair bit.”

“Hmm. I hadn’t thought about– WAH!”

Her Ladybug instincts kicked in as she deftly avoided something falling from the sky. It splatted on the ground, and she shivered upon realizing it was bird poop. A pigeon roosted on the lamppost above them, and it seemed to be watching her with bugged-out eyes.

Then more pigeons flew in, a few more bombarding her with near-hits. She snatched Luka’s hand again and ran for the nearest door as even more pigeons flocked around where they just were.

They burst through the entrance to a boutique, Marinette’s mind traveling a mile a minute. “Mr. Pigeon must be back! I don’t know what the birds want with me, but I’m gonna go hide in the back so they can’t see me!”

“Marinette, please calm down!” Luka said, tightening his grip and leaning back to prevent her from pulling him along any further. “I don’t think it’s an akuma. No one else is panicking, and there hasn’t been an alert.”

His words successfully stopped her hustle, but she clearly wasn’t settled down. He brought his arm around her in a comforting motion and led her to the window. “Look. I think they were just attracted to something on the ground.”

He pointed to the flock, which continued to huddle around the spot where they had been standing in front of the Palais. A few moments later, they all flew up and away.

The musician could feel his girlfriend deflate within his embrace. “I’m– I’m sorry. I guess I’m just a little wound up. It’s related to… the thing from before. All I can say is that the frequency of akumas around me is stressful.”

“That’s completely reasonable. It’s really uncanny how many of them happen in the same place and time that you are.” He rubbed her shoulder a little. “Let’s not dwell on those negative thoughts, though. We’re here to have a good time. Perhaps we could get André’s ice cream?”

“That sounds nice. I don’t think I’m in the mood for our stroll anymore.”

Adrien was hiding something. That much Kagami could tell. He had a pretty good poker face about it, but it was clear that he wasn’t enjoying their ‘Japanese lesson’ the way she had expected him to. Instead of her teaching him Japanese (which was, by design, a convenient way of being able to pack light and go anywhere of their choosing without supervision), they had chosen to relax in the sun at a café by the Seine and people-watch. Sometimes, it was nice to slow down and enjoy the little things.

And Kagami’s understanding was that these moments of freedom from his dad’s eye were times Adrien longed for greatly, much as she was opening her eyes to the great world beyond endless study and competition. Together, they were set to create a better path for themselves. One where they could not only succeed, but enjoy the success, rather than check it off of some parental checklist for them. She couldn’t understand why Adrien was shuffling along instead of charging forward to seize this destiny as she was. And so she asked:


The blond model was startled from his seat across from her at the café, almost spilling his cup of coffee. “Why… what?” he responded, looking very perplexed.

“Your façade doesn’t fool me any more here than in fencing, Adrien. You aren’t fully present for our date today. Why?”

He set his drink down in turn. “Oh, um… I’m just thinking about… things.”

“Still her?”

He blushed a little. “N-not entirely…” It was true that what Ladybug told him was still on his mind. Despite the cut-and-dried statement that they were not going to date, his heart hadn’t been dismayed; instead, he found it was drawn even stronger to her than before. He used to worry that the reason she liked another boy was because he wasn’t good enough for her, or that they were otherwise incompatible in some way he couldn’t understand. Those doubts were vanquished when Ladybug had confided in him last week, proving the real source to blame for their separation to be Hawk Moth.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. If you keep seeking other prizes while you already have someone firmly in your grasp, you might slip and end up without anyone at all.”

“I know,” he said, though it came out as more of an admission of defeat. He really was trying to focus on his relationship with Kagami; he had agreed to be her boyfriend, after all, and it was very important that he honor his agreements. But that possibility of a future with Ladybug simply refused to be left alone.

“Something happened the other day,” he started, deflecting the conversation. “With Lila.”

Kagami scowled, glad that she wasn’t holding her teacup, as she might’ve broken it.

“She basically trapped me into staying near her by using her lies on the adults around me. The more I think about it, the more grossed out I feel. I mean, why does she think controlling me will get me to like her? Is my father aware of this, and would he do anything if he was? Is there anything I can do?”

“Unlikely. Lila modeling for Gabriel’s brand was her idea, was it not? I doubt he cares about what she does.”

Adrien frowned. That’s not really what I wanted to hear… “But he cares about me, right? I know his business is important, but wouldn’t he want to protect my happiness, too? There are plenty of other models in the world than Lila.”

His date looked away. For five long seconds, she produced no sound.


“I don’t know.”

Whatever words he had jammed in his throat. Kagami, admitting defeat? Not that she was a sore loser, but she never took it lightly and never surrendered unless it was clear that the outcome was set in stone.

The fencer swiftly withdrew a pen and a blank sheet of paper and set them on the table between them. With two deft motions, she drew a set of perpendicular lines, meeting in the corner to form a graph with two axes. She marked the vertical axis with a C and the horizontal one with a T. Then, she drew a straight line diagonally out, followed by a curve one that started below the line but quickly shot up past it until the distance between them was great.

“Early on in my training with the sword, my mother showed me this diagram. She told me it represents my knowledge over time.”

“Your knowledge? How does that fit on two lines?”

“Simple. This line,” she explained, pointing the pen at the straight one, “is the knowledge I possess. And the other…” she shifted the pen to the curved one, “is the knowledge I know I do not possess.”

Adrien studied the graph intensely, a crease forming on his forehead as he processed the information.

“I apologize, but… I don’t know what this has to do with Lila.”

“It has to do with our path forward.”

His quizzical look turned up to her.

“We are both learning what it means to be our own persons.” With another flick, the pen returned to the straight line. “The knowledge we possess is that we are subject to the direction of our parents in ways that others our age have not been, and that the freedom to choose our own path is something we yearn for.”

The pen moved back. “The knowledge we do not possess is what means will obtain such freedom, what measures we must be able to take, and what they will cost. Ergo, I do not know what your father thinks. I do not know why Lila is a lying demon. But what I do know is that we cannot turn back in the middle of this process, so we must stick together until the very end.”

Silence hung for several seconds has he considered her logic. It was true that he would never, ever return to the life he had before wielding the Cat Miraculous. Chat Noir pushed his boundaries farther and farther than he could have ever dreamed of them going; Kagami probably felt the same way after becoming Ryūko in order to defy her mother.

And she was a good partner. Like Ladybug, she was decisive, determined, and never gave anything but her best. Unlike Ladybug, she had dedicated herself to him; for the first time in his life, someone had put Adrien as their #1 priority, and that was a feeling that was simply indescribable. So why was he so anxious about it?

“But… we aren’t completely on our own,” he said, voicing a different thought instead. “Marinette is there, and others at Françoise Dupont…”

“They are not in the arena with us. They can watch and support, but they are not experiencing our struggle. Only you and I are fighting the beast, Adrien.” She took his hand into hers and repeated, “Only you and I.”

“Right,” he replied, unsure of what to think of that.

“Ohhh, it pains my heart to have to say, but André is all out of ice cream today!”

“What?” Marinette murmured, Luka frowning behind her. She didn’t even know that was possible. She hadn’t expected that the line would stretch around the block in early fall, but either way, André picked secret locations for a reason. He knew how to manage his supply with the demand.

André shuffled his large body around the cart and put his hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Twice now the magic of Sweetheart’s Ice Cream has failed Marinette. To run out of ice cream! In fifteen years it has never been so. For this, I express my strongest regret.”

Marinette forced a smile for the ice-cream man. “It’s okay. It’s not a big deal if your magic is 99% effective instead of 100%,” she said, proceeding to look back at her boyfriend. “Besides, I found love in the end, right?”

“Mmm, this I suppose is true. Though I can practically taste the blackberry and blue raspberry for you.”

“It’s fine, we can come back another time for those flavors,” Luka assured, though Marinette could feel some tension in his chest. “How about some lunch.”

The woman at the café’s register frowned. “I’m sorry, but we had a huge surprise booking just five minutes ago. There are no tables for the next two hours.”

Behind her, Marinette could see the wait staff frantically arranging half of the entire dining area, and all she could do was sigh.

The man at the café’s register frowned. “I’m sorry, but there was a sudden kitchen fire just five minutes ago. We have to close for the next two hours to clean it up.”

Behind him, Marinette could see a chef arguing with the fire department, and all she could do was sigh.

The server at their table frowned. “I’m sorry, mademoiselle, but ze last of our beef bourguignon was used just five minutes ago. It will be anozher two ‘ours before we can have more,” he informed, speaking in a non-Parisian tone that was hard to place… and understand.

Behind him, Marinette could see the very dish she wanted being served to another customer, and all she could do was sigh.

“However, I can compensate you ze daube, which is a very similar dish.”


She realized there had been a mistake before the food even hit the table. The smell alone made her nose scrunch up, and she could see Luka attempting to hide a similar face, even as his delicious-looking coq au vin was placed in front of him.

The bowl presented to her looked like it had been scooped out of a mud pit and boiled for far too long. Chunks of brown and orange mush that she presumed were supposed to be beef and carrots floated in a thick base that looked more like it was supposed to come out of you rather than go in.

“What… is this?”

“Ze daube, mademoi’. It is a hearty Provençal stew; zhis recipe has been passed down in ze chef’s family for generations!”

Her stomach rumbled in protest, but she didn’t have the heart to voice it against the server’s comments. Instead, she presented another fake smile.

“Is that so? It must be quite an honor to try it. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome, mademoiselle.” Someone at another table flagged the server, and he left before Marinette could think of changing her mind.

The teen sat there for a moment, stirring in uncertainty, before Luka tapped the table to get her attention.

“If you want, we can switch meals. I hate seeing you so in the dumps.”

“No… I wouldn’t want to take away your enjoyment of our lunch because of my own bad luck. Then we’d both be unhappy.”

“I’m unhappy that you’re unhappy anyway. Please…” he implored, pushing his bowl towards her, “take it.”

She slowly reached for the bowl, but before she could grab it, she was interrupted by cheering. Many of the other customers had turned their attention outside, and when she looked too, she saw a scene unfolding that got stranger with each passing moment.

A crowd of people was rejoicing in the street, running around while holding various objects like flowers, jewelry, and food. As they progressed down the boulevard, more of those items were flying through the air at people, who caught them in confusion. After only a moment, they threw their reservations aside and joined in the festivities.

“What on earth is happening?” she exclaimed.

Light began pooling into a dark observatory as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. It was a display that always pleased the primary inhabitant of the room, as it heralded the time to reap what misery the chaotic elements of life had thrown in some poor fool’s path.

Today, the room had two inhabitants.

Hawk Moth turned to the woman next to him, holding with his free hand a silver piece of jewelry shaped like a fan with seven large, round slats: The Peaco*ck Miraculous.

“Nathalie… are you certain you’re up for this?”

“100%, sir. As we have discussed already, I am the best one for the job, therefore I shall do it.”

The masked man frowned. She didn’t really expect him to believe that, when he could still see the paleness in her face and the limited capacity to which she could perform her regular duties as his personal secretary, did she?

“This is not a game, Nathalie. As we have discussed already,” he stated, emphasizing his repetition of her words, “we do not know what will happen. That it may be easier for you because you are experienced with it is purely conjecture, as is the notion that your attunement to the miraculous will heal you in the same way that it has harmed you.”

He sighed wearily. If only the spellbook had any information beyond the ludicrously expensive reparation instructions. “As hopeful as I am that you are right, I need you at your strongest. For your sake, and for Emilie’s.”

Thinking about Emilie reminded him of his other reservation with this plan. The damage to the Peaco*ck was the genesis of this whole game of superheroes and supervillains. The Miraculous had drained the very soul of his wife, and now that it was repaired… it felt wrong to allow another to use it. To allow another to take the place of the woman who should be the one by his side wearing the functioning brooch on her chest. He cared deeply for Nathalie, and he was concerned at how easy it might be to become comfortable with her in that position and forget about just whom it was that he was waging this war for.

The suited woman placed a hand on his shoulder. “Gabriel… do not worry about me. If it is to help you and Emilie, I will become my strongest. I will become Mayura and help you win against Ladybug, Chat Noir, and all of their allies. They potentially outnumber us nine-to-one now that the girl is the Guardian, so my assistance is critical.”

Although Hawk Moth did not look content, he acquiesced. After another look of hesitancy at the Miraculous, he presented it to her, and she quickly pinned it to her blazer. Her indigo kwami emerged from within, but he wasn’t given a chance to speak.

“Duusu, spread my feathers!” Nathalie exclaimed, the enthusiasm unusual in her monotonic voice. She tossed her glasses aside as Duusu was sucked right back in, powering the Peaco*ck Miraculous with the same coloring. Her stunning dress formed in place of her regular clothing, followed by her one-eyed veil over her now blue face and hair as she formed and unfolded her signature fan. Mayura was here, and she felt better than ever.

“Hmm…” she chuckled. “I sense a very strong emotion, but also a very unusual one. Do you feel it too, Hawk Moth?”

“I do,” he nodded. “The desire for an eternal bond and everlasting happiness. Not an appropriate target for an akuma…”

“… but it ought to be quite the show for an amok,” she agreed, plucking a feather from her fan. She grasped it in her hand as dark power infused into it, blackening the feather to a deep indigo. She blew it forth through the gap in the center on the window, where it fluttered over the streets of Paris as if it knew what its task was.

As Adrien and Kagami stood to leave, they heard a round of applause erupt from a restaurant not too far away. They had a clear view of the event that was the source of the excitement: a man down on one knee, holding what could only be a ring box out to a woman who was crying. The applause faded so that his next words carried out across the street.

“Fleur Deliss, will you marry me?”

“Chou– you– y-yes!”

The happy couple embraced tightly, and Adrien felt Kagami grab his hand into hers, causing a rush of emotions to surge through him. He turned to examine the look on her face, which was one captured dearly in the romantic occasion. He wondered… was that the future she saw with him?

It was a question that would go unanswered, as in that moment, everything went terribly wrong. The cheers cut out suddenly as a large, wispy form emerged from the woman’s hand. Its shape looked vaguely human, though that was a generous description given that it was white and thus hard to discern against the cobbles and general brightness of the daytime. The couple looked at it in awe, and it formed its mist into an assortment of expensive-looking items that fell into the hands of the fear-stricken onlookers. Their attitudes flipped like a switch and they all began rejoicing once more.

The blonde model moved with practiced urgency, pulling Kagami along through their interlocked appendages. They ran inside the café, even as other patrons were evacuating the scene or foolishly getting a closer look, and he pulled her over the counter.

Instead of going with her, he released her hand and turned back to the storefront. “Stay here. I don’t think it can get you if it can’t see you.”

Kagami was stunned for a moment before she realized what he was doing. “Wait, Adrien! What happened to ‘we must… stick together…'?”

But he was already gone.

The first thing Ladybug noticed when she transformed was that her hair was back in pigtails. She had brushed off the curiosity that one time when her hair was in a bun, but her styling today was much more detailed and deliberate, so she had to wonder why the Miraculous insisted on this specific design for Ladybug. And why it keeps putting me in a bodysuit instead of something more fashionable… or modest.

The spotted heroine emerged on a rooftop above the restaurant her date was at. She felt bad about ditching Luka by disappearing into the crowd; he was probably worried that she had gotten caught up in the reverie. That was the best word there was to describe the utter madness that had taken the streets of Paris. Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians were cheering and dancing, creating a party worse than any sports victory celebration she had ever seen.

A single glance above the roof level was all she needed to identify the source. The presents she had seen were being conjured by a floating white mass at the center of the clustered people. The color also made it easy to spot the black form trailing the crowd, which filled the heroine with real joy of her own.

Remaining out of focus from the bizarre shape and its orchestrations, she caught up to her partner in short order. “Chat! Thank goodness you’re here.”

Chat’s face lacked its usual dashing-rogue look. “Ladybug! I’m so, so sorry I wasn’t at the last akuma, I just–”

“We can talk later. Right now, we need to figure out how to stop this akuma.”

“It’s an amok, and the feather is housed inside of an engagement ring that this white cloud emerged from. I saw it all happen.”

“An engagement ring? Does that mean this amok is feeding off of happiness?”

“It must be. No wonder it’s causing everyone to go wild – that gives it more fuel. Talk about too much of a good thing.”

“That, and it will be very hard to single out the person wearing the ring. This is a crowd of civilians we’re talking about.”

Chat growled quietly. “I bet the tabloids will have a field day reporting that Paris’ heroes policed everyone’s fun,” he grunted.

Wow, he’s really not his usual self if that’s what his mind is on. Does he think his absence has ruined his reputation or something?

“Regardless, I think it’s time we received a present of our own, wouldn’t you say?” she remarked with a smile.

“Lucky Charm!” she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a block of something that had been wrapped with red paper with black spots, which then fell into Ladybug’s hands.

She immediately made a tear in the wrapping to peek inside. “A ream of paper?” she wondered. “What am I supposed– oh, hold on…” She took out the top sheet of paper and handed it to Chat.

“A wedding? Are you an officiator in your civilian identity?” And just like that, Chat’s back to normal, or at least acting that way.

Her blue eyes looked around for something to use the flyers with. In the distance, one building caught her eye. Aha! The Palais Garnier… she couldn’t see the other items she’d need, but she knew where to find them.

“If it’s a wedding they’re excited about, it’s a wedding they’re going to get. I need to gather some supplies first, though. Can you shepherd everyone over to the Palais Garnier?”

“Just call me Chat-perone, M’Lady.”

Now she rolled those eyes. “Save the comedy act for the guests in case I’m running late.” She looked at him in his own green pair. “Whatever you do, keep them in the opera hall. Once I’m there, you’ll need to be ready to Cataclysm the ring.”

He nodded silently, and she jumped off the roof to prepare.

Not wishing to waste any time, he ripped off the outer packaging and stuffed it in his pocket as he emerged from their scouting position and approached the mass of celebrators.

“Hear ye, hear ye!” he yelled, as loudly as he could. He threw a handful of papers down into the alleyway and then jumped to the next building. “Listen up, party people! It’s time for the biggest wedding of the century!” Swish, more papers, new location. The sentimonster took notice of him, and it didn’t seem pleased.

“Come this way to the Palais Garnier!” -swish- “Our beloved guests, if you’ll pardon the pun,” -swish- “Chou and Fleur shall be- hey!”

Chat dodged out of the way of a white table that had been hurled his way by his foe. “If you want to set up the decorations, you’ll have to come with me, cloud monster.”

He continued his rooftop hopscotch, tossing more and more flyers into the crowd, throwing his pitches, and dodging the return shots. He couldn’t tell if the sentimonster had full control over the actions of the people it had placed into their stupor, but that wasn’t a chance he felt necessary to take. Also, he rarely had the chance to unleash his pun arsenal like this, and he was going to make the most of it.

“Make your merry way to marry the happy couple!”

“Come one, come all, to the most joyful operatunity you’ll ever experience!”

“This party’s not over until the fat lady sings! Palai-se yourself over at Palais Garnier!”

Whether they were listening or not, it seemed to be working, as the crowd and the angry sentimonster were both following his lead towards the opera building. It was all going smoothly until he noticed Ladybug carrying a large makeshift net, woven from her yo-yo string, holding such a mass of items that she looked like Santa Claus. He could see a slight shift in the form of the sentimonster, and a much larger shift followed from the crowd… in Ladybug’s direction.

“HEY!” he yelled, scattering the rest of the flyers into a cloud to get their attention. “The fun’s over HERE!”

When nothing happened, he began running as fast as he could over the roofs towards his partner. His shout seemed to have gotten her attention, at least, but she was still in no position to defend herself.

“C’mon, Ladybug’s too serious! You don’t want to party with her!” he continued to taunt, making a display of himself with his staff extended. The sentimonster ignored him and began forming ribbons and assorted large objects to send towards the heroine. There’s no way the Deliss couple knows that Ladybug is their primary enemy in this state… can Mayura influence the sentimonster behind the scenes?

“Hey, you made that joke last week! Ah!” Ladybug shouted, struggling to lift her sack to jump out of the way of a chandelier, which shattered on impact behind her.

“You said to save the good stuff for the theater!” he quipped. While his partner was evasive, their enemy’s projectiles were still narrowing their berth with each attempt. Fearing the worst, Chat dropped his charade entirely and simply blitzed over to her.

He wasn’t a moment too soon, as he saw a terrifying seven-tier wedding cake get lobbed towards her at a shocking speed for its size. “LADYBUG!” he warned, while performing a perfect swimmer’s dive over the edge of the last rooftop to her exposed location in the street in front of the Palais.

“CHAT!” she cried as he intercepted the confectionary bombshell and was buried under a delicious mound of mind-control frosting that Ladybug again jumped to avoid. A silent, tense moment passed before he rose from the splattered dessert, literally caked in the white goodness, and turned towards his partner.

“Mmm… vanilla.”

“Hu-what?! I thought you were–!”

He shrugged. “I’m just not the type of person who can be bought with material goods, I guess. Now, go. We have a job to do.”


With his staff, he intercepted another chair sent Ladybug’s way, and he opened the front door of the Palais to usher her in, as well as the manic crowd that had quickly caught up to them.

“Right this way to the marriage of the century!” he called again as everyone began pouring into the opera building. “One at a time, no pushing or stampeding, mind the step, children,” talk about no limits, he added mentally, “stay with your parents, and remember, stay quiet during the ceremony!”

As the crowd thinned, two particular humans stood before him. Their eyes were as misty white as the stories-tall genie that had rooted itself in the ring resting on their intertwined fingers. It remained as inscrutable as ever, though its lack of hostility at the moment meant it was either choosing to play along or smart enough to recognize that it couldn’t hurt him.

“Ah, the lovely couple! Congratulations on your special day.” He gestured them inside, and the mist downsized itself so it could fit through the doorway. Alright, that’s a good start.

“Now, I know your families couldn’t be contacted on such short notice, so we’ve arranged for yours truly to walk Miss Fleur down the aisle,” he explained, raising his eyebrows emphatically. The hero extended his staff to touch a door to a hallway to his right. “Mr. Deliss, if you would head around that way to the altar–”

Chat stopped as a shudder forced its way across his body. The mist had shifted, and he guessed it wasn’t too pleased given the way Chou was now scowling at him. He raised his hands in surrender.

“You know what, that’s fine, you can both walk down the aisle! I’m all for non-traditional marriages. Let me just get in touch with the wedding planner so she knows.” He retracted the staff and popped off the end to call His Lady, who answered quickly.

“Chat, is everything alright?”

“As smooth as my flirtatious pick-up lines, Bugaboo!”

She made a noise that sounded like a combination of groan and laugh on the other end. “Anyway, I was just calling to tell you that our happy couple wishes to walk down the aisle together. Can you work with that?”

There was a moment of silence, and then she replied in a sly tone, “Yes, that will be just fine.”

Three humans and a sentimonster walked into the grand hall of the Paris Opera. Ladybug couldn’t help but think that the situation was the start of a bad joke you’d tell your friends. It wasn’t every day that they peacefully escorted their enemies into a national landmark, after all. She was forcing herself not to admire the beautiful three-story interior as Chat approached with the amokized couple – it helped to remind herself that she didn’t want to spoil it in case she went with Luka.

All of the people under the sentimonster’s control had calmed down, at least enough to claim seats in the orchestra section. They were all acting antsy, fidgeting and shifting about, and it perplexed her. If this was a sentimonster built on joy, how was it able to keep this level of influence without everyone being totally consumed by their merriment? Was it some sort of addiction that kept them wanting more?

It doesn’t matter at this point, she reminded herself. Let’s just finish this.

The trio reached the stage, where she had just finished arranging the makeshift altar from the supplies she had collected. Chat Noir climbed onto the stage and helped Fleur and Chou up, being careful not to get too close to the ring connected to the amorphous being above them. Ladybug approached and ushered them to their place center-stage, underneath an arch that had been constructed from wood planks, tied together with a long strip of fabric, and adorned with a hodgepodge of flowers.

She then directed Chat to a lectern behind the arch that was really a music stand from the orchestra, before taking her place in the audience in the front row. Chat cleared his throat and his face grew neutral, which Ladybug admitted he pulled off better than she had thought.

“We are gathered here today to join the hands – figuratively speaking, since they’re already holding hands – of Fleur Deliss and Chou… hey, do you have a last name? And is Chou really your name?”

Chou remained still, giving no response at all.

“Well, okay then, let’s continue. It’s always a joy to see people joined in eternal love, and I know the proposal was only twenty minutes ago, and, um… you know what? Ever heard of a shotgun wedding? Let’s just get this over with and get back to the fun, yeah?”

Again, no response, from neither the bride nor groom, or anyone in the audience. Chat placed his right hand on the two already-conjoined ones with the proposal ring, and the sentimonster bristled.

“I now pronounce you… Cataclysmed!”

Before their foe could initiate any sort of aggression, black power sparked out from Chat’s hand, and the trail of mist connecting it to the ring was severed. Even as it reached down for Chat, the white form became hazy and dissipated into the air.

All at once, everyone else in the theater collapsed, which Ladybug presumed was from exhaustion. She leapt to the stage to catch Fleur as she fell, while Chat wrapped his left arm around Chou and gently set him to the ground. He then reached into his pocket and withdrew the wrapper for the ream of papers, presenting it to his partner along with the dark feather he had grasped in his Cataclysm hand.

“I brought wedding gifts, M’Lady.”

“No more evildoing for you, little amok,” Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within and swinging it to charge up.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The yo-yo caught the amok in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white feather floated up and away. “Bye-bye, little feather!”

Next, she grabbed the wrapper and threw it in the air as well.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which spread out in groups to restore all the damage. They all flew over the people in the audience, minus one that washed over the materials Ladybug had brought with her. Everything was whisked outside to be replaced where it had been before getting caught up in the amok. The ladybugs also cleaned up the streets that had been trashed in the festivities.

One last group covered Fleur and Chou, restoring the engagement ring and causing them to begin to awaken from the trance the amok had placed them under.

“Pound it!” both miraculous holders cheered as they bumped fists.

Within seconds, Ladybug’s earrings beeped loudly, indicating that she was on her last spot.

“Chat, I’m sorry, but I can’t stay,” she said, already backing away to the front of the stage and swinging up her yo-yo.

“I- I’m not mad,” she added, before pulling herself away towards the foyer of the building.

“Ladybug…” the black-clad hero replied, taking a futile step forward. It was good to know that she wasn’t holding his absence against him, but for some reason, it didn’t feel good.

“Impressive…” Mayura mused. “Jubilenie created a feedback loop of the emotion fueling it, increasing its own power and allowing it to grow beyond the control of the couple that possessed the amok. Even the grimoire did not possess this knowledge.”

Hawk Moth’s expression was not as pleased. “Obviously, it still needs work, since it was forced to comply to the couple’s wishes for their wedding, leading to its downfall,” he critiqued, before turning away from the window and looking at his sidekick directly. “The possibilities are certainly promising, but what I really need to know right now is, how are you?”

The blue-skinned woman laughed her sad*stic laugh and fanned herself menacingly. “Simply marvelous,” she replied, as the light shrank away from the window as its lens closed back in.

“Everything is marvelous,” she repeated, the room quickly fading into complete darkness.

The appearance of the amok was the final nail in the coffin of an enjoyable date, so Marinette and Luka had agreed to meet for something lighter the following day. They found themselves sitting at an outdoor café by the Seine, holding mugs of coffee and tea, respectively.

“I’m glad you were feeling okay to come today,” Luka began. “I was really worried about you… I realized it was an attack right after you walked out the door, but when I got out there… it was too late, I couldn’t find you anywhere.”

“I’m sorry I made you worry. I wish I could tell you what happened, but I don’t remember any of it. It’s just part of how Ladybug’s power heals everyone from brainwashing.”

“But that’s not everything, is it?”

Her eyes widened. “What makes you think there’s something wrong?”

“I can hear the turbulence in your heart as clear as the blue sky. It’s a nocturne on a sunny day.”

“It sounds so depressing when you describe it like that… but I suppose it is. It’s not every day that you question the very concept of happiness.”

“I can imagine that runs deep. Even witnessing the chaos from that amok…” he shuddered. “I’ve been to the sorts of rock concerts where everyone gets hyped like that and loses themselves. But even the pit comes with its rules that people follow. This was just pure mayhem.”

“That’s a good description. Like I said, I don’t remember it, but the fact that it happened… the fact that happiness could be so consuming that Mayura was capable of making an amok of it, really makes me wonder…” she trailed, turning away to hide a faint blush.

“Wonder what?” he inquired, though she was pretty sure he knew where she was going with this.

“Well, you know how I feel about Adrien, and how strong it was for the longest time.” Pretty much everyone who’s not Adrien himself does, she added mentally. “So I wonder, if in some parallel universe where my dreams came true and he fell for me as strongly as I did for him… would that have been us getting amokized?

“Is there such a thing as loving too much, and is that what I was doing this whole time?” she asked, her voice breaking a little.

Luka grabbed her hand and squeezed it comfortingly, but he didn’t say anything for several moments.

“I think there might be such a thing,” he finally responded. “There are a lot of things that can go wrong with love: It can be misplaced, or someone might not be ready for it, or… well, I’m not exactly an expert on relationships. But I know that, when I’m in the store looking for a good guitar, and I find the one that plays the notes juuuust the way I like, it’s a keeper for life. I never get tired of hearing it sing, and it never complains or holds back, no matter how I shred it, until the day it breaks apart in my hands. I don’t think people are all that different, really.”

“So what you’re saying is… a good relationship shouldn’t feel like it’s consuming a lot of love?”

“Basically. Tuning and maintenance is always a part of the process, of course, but a good rock performance doesn’t need smoke and fire and lights to get that energy flowing, you know?”

Marinette thought for a moment of her own on that. What he was saying made sense on a surface level, but Tikki’s words on baggage also came to mind. Life has a habit of throwing nasty curveballs at people, creating big messes that need a lot of work to untangle. If everyone saw those messes and was turned off because it took too much effort… those problems would never be solved, and those people would always be alone. She need not look any farther than Chloé Bourgeois for an example. It was an injustice.

No, the greatest application of love was letting it fuel that work to overcome those barriers. And that left her stuck, for all the reasons she had told Tikki about. She wants to help Adrien, but there are other obstacles in the way, and Luka… Luka is helping her with her own messes. The conclusion to that line of thought popped into her head with sudden force.

“Does that mean our relationship isn’t good? Because I’m a total mess and can’t keep my head on straight and you’re putting in all this time just to make me feel okay and it doesn’t really work because there’s all that stuff you know I can’t tell you?”

Luka smiled that easy smile of his and shrugged. “Slow down, Marinette. I think you’re exaggerating the situation a little bit. I admit I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but I promise that’s not how I feel about you. What I see is a girl who’s so brimming with ideas and passion and warmth of her own that she has a hard time keeping it all in line. Muse has never been one to sit down and stay quiet, so what’s the problem with that?”

“I-I, well…” she stammered, “I mean, when you that put it like, um, lut it pike that, uh…”

He laughed and used his free hand to ruffle her hair a little bit. “The only thing I need is for you to keep being you.”


The daube here is a play on words in French. Daube is a type of stew, but the word is also used as basically the French equivalent of the English word "crap". So the daube (stew) is daube (crap).

Chou and Fleur Deliss are also puns, with a reference thrown in. Chou (cabbage) and Fleur (flower) are both used as affectionate nicknames in French. Put them together into chou-fleur and you get... cauliflower, which isn't so flattering. This malapropism is used as a joke in Team Fortress 2 where it's said by The Spy, who is French. Fleur specifically is named for the fleur-de-lis, a well-known decorative symbol.

CE is short for cours élémentaire, the name used for the second and third grades of French elementary school, which if my math is right, is equivalent in age range to American second and third grades. I'm not actually French, despite my username.

Chapter 8: Meet the Miraculouses: Daizzi


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Daizzi's realization of prohibition.

Chapter Text

In her effort to familiarize herself with the miraculouses, Marinette was going to spend time with one kwami each night. It would be good for them to get out of the Miracle Box and see the modern world, and they could tell her about their powers. Tonight, she decided she would wear the Pig Miraculous. As she adorned the pearl anklet, a sparkling pink light appeared and transformed into the swine-like kwami Daizzi.

"Helloooo, world!" he announced with delight. "Hey, it's Marinette!"

"Hey, it's Daizzi!" the girl replied, her worries masked by the excitement of the moment. "How are you?"

"Oh, just dandy! I'm excited to have my turn outside of the Box."

"You know this isn't anything special. I'm just trying to get to know you."

"Compared to the isolation of the last one-hundred-and-seventy-two years, anything is special!"

Marinette halted. "Just since Fu got the Box? I thought it was protocol to keep you in there unless your Miraculous was in use."

Daizzi calmed his demeanor. "It's complicated. Broadly speaking, yes, but we kwami are not animals, despite our appearance. It is not healthy to keep us locked away, but it has been necessary since the destruction of the Order. Not everyone has taken it as well as others, though."

"Yeah, there's a reason I'm doing this one at a time instead of letting everyone out at once…" she agreed, scratching the back of her head. "I'm guessing you're one of the saner ones?"

"I don't mean to demean, so all I'll say is, as the kwami of prohibition, I fully understand Master Fu's decision to keep us off-limits from the world during his tenure."

The blue-haired girl slouched at the reminder of why she was meeting with each of the kwami and of why she specifically picked Daizzi tonight. "Um… yes. There's actually something I need to ask you about that. Something that I want to prohibit myself from, but don't know how."

The pink kwami floated closer and gently guided Marinette's face up towards his with a smile. "Hey hey, don't be glum about it! Prohibition isn't as scary as you think. I suppose it's hard to tell from my, uh, inspiration, but something being off-limits doesn't mean it's bad or dangerous."

"Oh?" Marinette responded, giving him her full attention.

"Pigs are known for being dirty, and are therefore often considered untouchable, meaning they're so gross as to be off-limits to normal contact. It's a term you may have also learned has been applied to groups of people that a society deems, well… lesser, to be blunt, as an excuse to justify all of the ugly things that follow. But the inverse is also seen – something can be considered toosacred, untouchable because we are not worthy to touch it. Many traditions are held in such regard, though the reasons and benefits from that are… also complicated. And there's stuff in the middle, too, like someone swearing off certain foods or technologies, or a controversial subject being restricted or banned in a public space in order to prevent disputes from erupting that could escalate into hostility.

"To sum up that explanation: Prohibition can be a boon and not simply a punishment. Impartiality and moderation are important tools in society. Does that make sense?"

"Yes… I think." She was still processing the information. "But I'm not sure that it is, in my case. My problem is that I can't control my feelings of love towards someone. It's detrimental to my friendship with him and to my actual relationship with my actual boyfriend. I was hoping to get your advice on how to manage that."

"Mmm… that's a tricky one. Emotions are Duusu's specialty, not mine. That's because you're right, they can be hard to control. The most straightforward application of prohibition to solve this problem would be a vow of chastity, like what many religious figures take. So much of the pressure is taken out of loving someone when you've promised yourself not to act on it, right? But something tells me you don't want that."

"You're very right about that. But it's not a bad idea… well, reminding myself not to act on it, that is. This boy is also dating someone, so the odds of anything happening even if I do are slim to none."

A terrible pit opened in her stomach, causing her to curl her legs up and hold them with her arms to become a little ball. She felt like crying. "Wow… it's really over, isn't it?"

"Not necessarily! This is simply part of the separation process. Trust me, I know all about this. Letting go of an attachment isn't easy, and you'll find yourself yearning for it more than once. Remember the old saying… if you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was meant to be. And if it doesn't, it was never yours to begin with. Only time will tell what sort of ending you're going to get."

Marinette sighed mournfully and rubbed her eyes, before stretching back out and looking at the kwami with renewed life. "I suppose you're right. I have Luka, and I have a loving family and plenty of friends. Adrien doesn't, and I need to do this so I can be there for him."

"That's the spirit!" Daizzi chimed, flying in a few circles around the bluenette's head. She couldn't help but smile at his enthusiasm. "So, I'm guessing you want to hear about my superpowers, yeah?"

"Oh, yeah, I nearly forgot! Although, I should first figure out who would be the best match for you…" The heroine thought for a moment. "If I were to give your miraculous to someone, I would want the kind of person who is optimistic and always willing to help, but who doesn't understand that goodwill can't solve all problems on its own. The Pig Miraculous would empower them to employ temperance, prohibiting their ideas when necessary to transform their positive outlook into positive change."

"Anyway, going back to the perceptions of pigs, my miraculous's activation phrase is, 'Let's get dirty!', and likewise, de-activation has you say, 'Let's get clean.' A transformed wielder is given a shovel to wield, and their sense of smell is greatly enhanced! Lastly, for the main attraction, they get to use the power of Sully, which fills that shovel with a special mud that's indestructible and incredibly sticky after it has been flung. This allows them to apply prohibition in a physical sense by sealing off whatever they hit."

"Huh. That's a creative way to go about it. It's too bad we'd have to Cataclysm the mud if we stuck an akumatized villain with it instead of the object, though. We could win fights very easily otherwise."

"Yeah, that's kind of the point. The Mage couldn't make the powers too easy, or they'll become easily exploitable, too."

"Right. I suppose you can never have too many precautions."

A moment passed without anyone saying anything, and then Marinette stretched. "Well, I should probably get to bed for the night. Thanks for the advice. I'll definitely need to see how I feel in the next few days."

"I'll be here! You know, unless you want to give me to someone…"

"That's not a discussion I want to have right now. Good night, Daizzi."

"Good night."

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box, before storing it away in its secret hiding place at the bottom of her chest.

Chapter 9: Snow Wonder


Ladybug and Chat Noir suit up with the Ice Power Up to get to the bottom of a raging blizzard they believe to be an akuma. However, the chilly atmosphere is both literal and figurative, as some important yet difficult conversations force their way up during their investigations.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Mmmph,” a voice muffles from under ruffling pink bedsheets, “You don’t get five more minutes, Hugo, I know better than anyone what can happen in that time… it’s already…”

The sheets stop, and blue hair begins to poke out from underneath them. A left hand worms its way out, burying itself under the exposed pillow and rummaging around until it finds what it was looking for and retreats to the larger coverage with a pink-cased phone. “It’s already… TEN FIFTEEN?!

The whole bed cover forms into a tangle of linens and human limbs as Marinette attempts to scramble out of bed and fails miserably. The pulsating mass of cloth tumbles to the end of the bed and then off of it, landing with an “Ah!” from the girl caught inside. The bluenette finally manages to pull herself out, scrambling over to her wardrobe.

“Marinette, your alarm­–” Tikki calls, waving her tiny arms to try and get her holder’s attention, to no avail.

“I know my alarm didn’t go off, Tikki!” the human replies. She emerges in an outfit consisting of a light-gray shirt with a flower pattern at the top, with a darker, almost brown cardigan and pink jeans. It’s an ensemble she wears a lot, sure, but it’s comfortable and reasonably stylish, and I don’t have time to think about this, I have to go!

“Wait, Marinette!” the kwami tries again, grumbling and disappearing into Marinette’s purse as she opens the hatch in her floor and half-stumbles down the stairs to the main floor. She barely notices her parents playing video games on the couch as she continues to the bakery below, thankful for the complete lack of customers as she steals a torsade and rushes into the bakery door… literally, into the door, colliding with a loud crash that sends her and her bread tumbling back onto the floor.

“Ow…” she groans, holding her head. She leers at the multiple doors, wondering when those got installed, until they merge back together, and she sees what lay beyond it. The puzzle finally put itself together for her.

Everything is white. The door to the bakery is half-buried in a meter of snow; all of the streets and signs and vehicles left out there are similarly whited out as a raging snowstorm shows no sign of stopping.

“Marinette,” Tikki says again, phasing through the side of the purse to speak to her directly. “Your alarm didn’t go off because I turned it off. An unexpected blizzard swept through Paris just a couple of hours ago and shut down the entire city. All schools are closed. With everything that’s been happening, I figured you really needed the extra sleep.”

“Oh, uh, well… thank you for doing that, then? One way or another, I’m definitely not tired anymore.” The girl picks herself off the floor, grabs her breakfast, and more calmly makes her way back upstairs.

When Marinette returned to the first floor, she was able to process that the video game her parents were playing was the one Max made, and her mom had just defeated her dad in a match.

“Looks like I’m zero for two,” Tom remarked, looking at his wife. “You beat me, and Marinette ran into the front door like you thought.”

“Hey, I’m right here!” the front-door-crasher responded indignantly. “You know, you could’ve woken me and told me about the storm.”

“We figured you could really use the extra sleep, dear,” Sabine replied. “It feels like we hardly see you anymore, with as busy of a bee as you’ve been.”

“Say, now that you’re awake and have no other plans, want to join us for a round of Miraculous All-Star Brawl?”

More like as busy of a Ladybug… Marinette grumbled mentally, shaking her head as she thought about her lengthy to-do list. “I wish I could, Papa, but I think I need the time to catch up on my homework and projects. Wait, is this a new version of the game? Some of these akumas didn’t exist when we beta tested it.”

“It’s the complete edition!” he announced excitedly. “You can also play with people online, and there’s a Story Mode where you play as Ladybug! I wish games were this involved when I was your age.”

She tried not to think about how that meant lots of people would be playing as her, or that it was possible for her to play as herself. “Time must be getting away from me, because I didn’t think this was coming out for a couple of months still.”

Sabine smiled. “It’s not. Your friend generously gave us an early release. He said he wanted us to try it for his ‘one-day patch’, but I’m afraid I don’t know what that means. I think you should play at least one round with us, get a good start to your snow day before doing whatever it is you have to do.”

Marinette would’ve been lying if she said the offer wasn’t very tempting. But there’s no rest for this busy Ladybug. “You know as well as I do that ‘just one round’ of a video game isn’t in my vocabulary, Maman. I’m sorry, but things have changed since before. I can’t afford any indulgences outside of what I make time for. I also have to ask that you please not disturb me up there unless it’s urgent. I need to focus.”

She didn’t give them a chance to respond as she hurried back up to her loft.

Marinette had a hand in her purse before she had even finished closing the hatch. “C’mon, Tikki, breakfast time for you too,” she said, taking out a pale blue macaron from the bag.

“Woah, what? Didn’t you just say you wanted to catch up on homework?”

“I can do that later. This ‘snowstorm’ is very suspicious. Paris never gets snow like this so early in the year. I know global warming is a thing, but that should be giving us less snow, not more. I’m thinking this might be the work of an akuma.”

“Don’t you think it’s a bit rash to assume that something unexpected is actually a problem that falls on you to solve?”

“That’s pretty much how my life is anymore, don’t you think?” she replied in a sudden outburst of anger. “I have to be prepared for any possibility, Tikki. Not every akuma fight is going to fall into my lap, but I still have to be there to fix them anyway. Even, or rather especially, if it’s not an akuma, as Lady-Ice, I have the power to help all the people trapped out in the snow. I’ve never left saving people’s lives to letting the Miraculous Ladybugs clean up after me, and I’m not going to start now just because Marinette gets a snow day.”

“I… can’t argue with you there. Just, please remember to keep balance like we talked about. You really ought to use at least some of this time for your own health.”

“I promise I will, Tikki, but not now. Please eat up so we can go.”

The kwami did as she was asked, the spot on her forehead forming into a hexagon as ice crystals grew on her back in a shimmer of white sparkles.

“Stalac-Tikki, spots on!”

Ladybug spun around as her frostier costume formed over her arms, body, and down to her feet, but she was surprised to see that her ice skates from last time were not present, even though the ice tiara still was. She quickly remembered that her Bug Phone had an answer for this, taking it out and navigating to the user’s guide. “Oh, I see…”

Leaping onto her bed, Lady-Ice pushed the ceiling hatch up like usual, only for it not to budge. Frowning, she gave it a superpowered heave with both hands, forcing the door open… and knocking a bunch of snow down onto her and her bed. I sure hope this is an akuma, because otherwise this will be an awkward conversation with Mom and Dad…

Hopping onto the roof, she closed the hatch behind her and looked out at what she wouldn’t describe as winter or a wonderland. She’d never seen this much snow in her life, except in fictional shows and movies where it was definitely special effects. It was unreal, in the truest sense of the word: she simply did not believe it was a natural phenomenon.

Not wanting to waste time, she opened her yo-yo like a pocket mirror rather than her usual sliding phone and tapped a specific button on the screen. She tossed the toy onto the ground, where it started glowing and then enlarged itself until it was even bigger than the shield of the Turtle Miraculous. Lady-Ice stepped on her new sled, tying the end of the string to a spot matching where it was attached to the main body, and held it with both hands like a pair of reins.

With a flick of the string, the yo-yo sled began propelling itself across the snow, and by pulling on the string on either side, she was able to steer its direction to navigate the frozen streets.

Thankfully, and in spite of her earlier concerns, she encountered no civilians left stranded out in the cold – she hoped all the akumas had finally taught people not to stay out in the open when there was danger. It didn’t take long for her to decide to head to the TVi studios to see if the newscasters knew anything about this freak storm.

When she got there, she realized that the TV station being a tall, modern cylindrical tower was both a blessing and a curse. There was no chance of the building getting buried or worse, caving in, which was a real threat for many of the older structures of the city. However, the front door was most definitely entrenched, and the only other way in would be the roof, allllll the way at the top. Ladybug found herself once again in want of an infinitely telescoping pole.

“Well well well, ice to see you, M’lady!” the answer to her wishes called from across the street. Ice Chat had outfitted himself with a pair of skis, mobilizing himself with ski poles fashioned from splitting and extending his normal staff.

“Chat Noir?? What are you DOING out here?”

“Oh, you know, I just got restless lazing about in my cat tower instead of enjoying the wonderful weather we have.”

Ladybug gave him her best deadpan. “You think it’s an akuma too, then?”

“Pshh, yeah. One fake winter storm was unbelievable enough, even if this one doesn’t have flying catfish and toy soldiers roaming the streets,” he affirmed, retracting his ski poles with the press of a button and re-attaching them to each other.

“Exactly! There’d better not be any Toy Ladybug or Chat Noir this time,” she added, minimizing her sled and wrapping her yo-yo back around her waist.

“The less said about those two, the better,” he agreed as she held on, and they ascended the tower using his staff.

When they reached the top, they were able to see that the giant mounted radio dishes had done little to prevent the roof from being blanketed in snow. Ice Chat had to use his staff to brush snow away so they could reach the door, and Lady-Ice didn’t even try opening it without planting a foot on the side of the wall for maximum force. It eventually gave way, opening just enough for them to slip in before getting wedged in the snow mounds.

Unfortunately, the building’s interior was pitch-black. “Nearly all of Paris must be without power if the broadcasting center doesn’t have any,” the heroine remarked, pulling out her Bug Phone to activate the onboard flashlight and taking the lead. “If anyone’s here, they’re going to be huddling somewhere away from the exterior.”

“How about the server room? Servers produce a lot of heat, so it would be the warmest, and they’re usually hidden away.”

“Great idea, chaton,” she said with a nod, before doing a double-take to look back at him. “Hey, where’s your flashlight?”

Chat reclined his hands behind his head in an easy gesture. “Oh, you know, nightvision is one of my many cat talents. Could come in handy if stealth is needed for any akumas lying in wait.”

“That is definitely not why you decided to do that. You’re just trying to show off.”

“Sounds like it’s working.”

“If you really want to compare what one of us can do that the other can’t, why don’t you try battling the akuma all by yourself, without my Lucky Charm?”

That caused him to stop walking, and Ladybug immediately realized her mistake. “Uh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that!”

He didn’t look comforted by that, so she walked closer and placed her hands on his arms in order to command his full attention. “Seriously, I’m not mad at you. I… figured it was inevitable, to be honest,” she admitted, her eyes turning downcast. She had gone over this conversation a dozen times in her head, but it wasn’t making it any easier to say for real. “Obviously, I’m no stranger to how difficult it can be to drop whatever you’re doing and who you’re doing it with to go fight an akuma. It would be unreasonable for me to expect that it couldn’t happen or to tell you that you can’t do it again – I don’t know what your civilian life is like even to make that sort of judgment.

“But the thing is, I don’t have the freedom to do that. I must show up to every akuma, even if it means leaving my friends high and dry with a lame excuse I don’t think they even buy half of the time. And you know I can’t do this alone. If I can’t…”

She paused before she said the words count on you, trying to fight down a re-emergence of her emotions from earlier.

“… I just need to know if this will continue to be a problem going forward.”

Chat remained still as before. After what felt like several agonizing seconds, she found the nerve to look back into his eyes, and she saw that they were swirling with many different feeling. Then they closed, and only sincerity shone through.

“Ladybug…” he said gently, replicating her gesture by placing his hands on her shoulders. “You know that I treasure being Chat Noir and fighting beside you more than anything else in the world. I do everything in my power to be here – I don’t care who I have to leave high and dry to make it happen. The only reason I would ever stop, even for one akuma… would be if I didn’t have a choice.”

He paused for a moment too, almost hesitating, as if he wasn’t sure whether he should continue or not. “There are commitments in my civilian life that I can’t just say no to. I know that I’m not allowed to share specifics, but that’s ultimately what my answer relies on. Things have gotten more complicated since we started this game of cat and akuma, and I don’t know what the future looks like yet. But I’ll never give up on this, on you. Um… you know what I mean.”

“Yes, I do,” she confirmed. “Honestly, I’m relieved that your response wasn’t that you lost your miraculous again. That would have been a much tougher conversation.”

“Lost my miracul–?” he started, before catching himself. “Right. Yes. Losing my miraculous. During Style Queen. Very careless. Will never happen again.”

The heroine decided not to press on this point any further, reading her partner’s irritation. They walked in silence for a little while, until they came across the entrance to the server room. A quick test of the handle showed that the door was unlocked, so the black-clad hero opened it quietly while Ladybug led the way with her flashlight to signify their presence.

“Hello?” she called, scanning the room with the plain white light. For some reason, she had the image in her head that the room would have been lit by the cool blue glow of the servers themselves, even though that was silly because the power was out.

“Don’t be bemused, it’s just Ladybug and Chat Noir,” her partner added, his joke subtle beneath his concerned tone of voice.

They got confirmation of others in the room through the shuffling they heard before they received their official reply. “I hope stealing my catchphrase means you have news to share,” a mid-range voice said, before its source revealed herself farther down the aisle of servers to be Paris’ prime newscaster, decked in winter gear.

“I’m afraid not, Ms. Chamack,” Ladybug replied. “The blizzard isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and even the rescue crews are still trapped right now. Is everyone here okay?”

Another head popped out from another aisle, this one the tan bald of Alec Cataldi. “Fine as in physically, sure, but I’m starting to get antsy with nothing to do around here. Without electricity or reception, my phone is useless!”

“Aren’t you an entertainer? Do some entertaining!” Chat suggested.

Not helpful, Ladybug thought. “Anyway, we’re here because we were hoping the weather people would have some information for us on the storm, despite how unexpectedly quick it shut down the city. Are they here?”

“Only if I count,” a third voice answered. The heroine didn’t recognize her, and her face was somehow still shadowed, only her bob-cut hair catching the light. “Our meteorologist has been on vacation all week and the weather girl never showed up this morning.”

“That would explain why no one saw the storm, then, if it developed overnight.”

“Mmm, you’re wrong there; it’s the opposite way around. I’ve been filling in and helping those two kids interpret the weather data, since they’re inexperienced. The forecast had been suggesting a storm for today since several days ago, which one of them kept reporting on the news, until it dissipated all of a sudden yesterday. Seems it came back with a vengeance, unless our radars need to be fixed.”

“Hm… I guess we should find the two weather girls and see if they have anything else that could help us. Please hang tight!”

“It’s not like we have much of a choice!” Alec snarked, and she chose to ignore him as she turned to leave.

“Ladybug, Chat Noir, one more thing!” Nadja called before the heroes reached the door.

“Yes, Ms. Chamack?” the former replied.

“If you two are active for this, does that mean an akuma is involved?”

“That’s what we’re investigating. We think it’s likely, but we haven’t found anything conclusive yet.”

“Which is odd, because akumas are usually about as subtle as a bull in a china shop,” Chat remarked.

“Well, stay safe out there, you two.”

Halfway to their next destination, the conclusive evidence they were seeking presented herself directly to them.

Ice Chat knew they were somewhere within the 11th arrondissem*nt, but only because of the GPS on their miraculous tools. He could hardly see the buildings on either side of the roads they were travelling with the raging snow. It was when that rage intensified such that they disappeared completely that an unnatural chill went down his spine that signified danger. He didn’t let it deter him, but when Lady-Ice disappeared from his peripheral vision, he turned and saw that she had slowed her sled.

“Ladybug, is something there?”

“I don’t know, but I’m getting a bad feeling about it.”

“We should keep moving, then. If we get cold feet, we’ll get frozen like popsicles!”

“That’s right…” a soft, feminine voice whispered ethereally somewhere around them. “A shame it’s too late…”

The snow began to swirl around the two of them like a tornado. Ice Chat quickly doubled back towards his partner, reverting his staff before he had even reached her. She moved to do the same, but he motioned her to stop with his free hand as his skis minimized into the soles of his boots.

“We may need a getaway,” he advised, hopping onto the sled himself with his staff at the ready.

The storm seemed to constrict on them, the whirling wall of white rapidly closing until Lady-Ice had to stop completely or risk touching it. That was when they heard a cackle, putting them both even more on edge.

“Show yourself, akuma!” Lady-Ice dared, though she felt rather underwhelming sitting there on a sled that was supposed to be her weapon.

A blurry face formed within the snowfall in front of them, lacking any identifying features. “Something the matter…? Not enjoying the world of Snow Wonder?”

Chat slipped around his rather defenseless partner onto the face of the sled to protect her, but the face disappeared within its snowy façade.

“So you’re the cause of the blizzard, then?” he commented.

“One might say that…” the voice called from elsewhere. “One might also say my forecast merely came true…”

With a lash of Lady-Ice’s string, she brought the sled around in a slow circle within the eye of the circling storm. Neither of them could see the face anywhere.

“Snow Wonder, was it?” Chat finally asked, putting on his model face. “No need for the cold reception, come say hi!”

Instead of that, the response he got was a snowball to the face. Lady-Ice couldn’t help but snicker, and then she got a snowball to the face too, and Ice Chat laughed more openly at her.

And then snowballs came flying at them from all sides by the dozen. They were deceptively strong, causing both of them to cower from the impacts to avoid getting knocked off the sled despite them not physically hurting.

“Mush, Ladybug, MUSH!”

“Aah, I’m not a sled dog!” she cried, whipping the string many times so the sled would propel itself forward into the snow. Ice Chat crouched down so that she could see and so he wouldn’t get tossed off.

Squinting in concentration, she had to thrash the substitute reins about like she was trying to tear them loose in order to maneuver the sled, as snowdrifts and the snow-equivalent of sandpits spontaneously formed in front of and around them. It took all of her energy just to navigate the maze of traps, and they travelled in a big squiggle instead of a line like she wanted.

“We’re not getting anywhere, Chat! I need a distraction!”

“That’s going to be hard when everything is just snow!”

He looked around desperately for something he could use. With all the chaos, it was hard even to make anything out, but something sticking out of the snow caught his eye to one particular dip in the snow that wasn’t doing anything.

“Over there!” he shouted, doing his best to point at the vague feature as they kept turning. He also silently hoped that, if they couldn’t see the akuma, the akuma also wouldn’t see where he was pointing and what was there.

“I don’t see anything!”

“Just trust me!”

Lady-Ice gritted her teeth, doing her very best to follow Chat’s finger. It wasn’t until they were almost on top of it that she was able to figure out what he saw, and by then it was too late to make anything resembling a smooth landing.

“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!” they both screamed as they soared into the gap in the ground where the stairs into the Metro were. The sled bounced roughly off of the mid-flight landing and crashed into the second stairwell, capsizing itself and sending its two occupants careening and rolling on the subway platform. Lady-Ice and Ice Chat remained dazed as the sound of the impact reverberated off of the solid concrete walls, their orientation disabled by the pitch-blackness of an underground room without power. When the noise faded, all was deathly still.

“Talk about battling the elements…” Chat grunted as he finally picked himself off of the floor.

“No kidding…” Lady-Ice agreed. “Her powers may not be as strong in magnitude as Stormy Weather’s were last time, but as long as Snow Wonder is in this blizzard, we can’t touch her. She’s literally in her element. Say, can I get a light, Mr. Darkvision?”

Chat turned on his flashlight at the end of his staff, pointing it at her sled so that she could collapse it back into her own tool and light. They did a quick survey of the station, only to find it as abandoned as the frozen city above.

“Thanks,” she acknowledged, but the frown on her face contradicted her words. With nowhere else to go and a destination they still needed to reach, they began walking through the cold, unsettling subway tunnel.

“Is something on your mind, M’Lady?”

“Oh, I was just wondering… this is the second time in just as many weeks that Hawk Moth has made an akuma with large-scale environmental control powers.”

“Wasn’t Landover more of a Pushover, though?”

His pun somehow broke the icy mood, making her smile a little. “Yes, dork, but that was more because of how he used his power rather than the power itself. His main goal was to be alone so he could read; he wasn’t really even trying to defeat me despite the promise we know everyone makes to take our miraculouses for Hawk Moth. If he was serious about it, I think he would’ve been an ample challenge for the two of us.”

Chat grew quiet for a moment, understanding the implications of her explanation. “What do you think Hawk Moth’s up to? Is he trying to burn through our Power-Ups? Or is there something deeper?”

“I wish I knew. Without the grimoire, I’ve been having to talk to the kwami to learn anything about the miraculouses, and obviously I can’t do that with the Butterfly or Peaco*ck. My main confusion right now is what’s so different about Snow Wonder that she’s providing that challenge? All we know so far is that she got akumatized over her snowstorm forecast suddenly being wrong, which seems really minor compared to the likes of Backwarder thinking she lost the love of her life after waiting decades, Troublemaker being overwhelmed by the demands of those nosy TV show producers and of Jagged, or even something like Sandboy’s nightmares.”

After a short pause, she suddenly added, “What are your thoughts, chaton?”

The question caught him off-guard, causing him to stop briefly where he was. If he was Marinette, he probably would’ve tripped. “Huh? Oh, well…”

It dawned on him that he had never really analyzed this too deeply. Ladybug was the tactician between the two in battle, and his superhero-related activities in his civilian life were mostly wishing for a chance to transform and making sure Plagg didn’t get into too much trouble in the meantime. He didn’t usually consider the fact that he was supposed to be doing his best to stop not just akumas, but Hawk Moth as a whole. Probably because that would mean the end of Chat Noir, which was something he didn’t want to think about.

“Earth to Chat Noir? Are you there?”

“Oh, uh, sorry. I don’t really have anything insightful to say, I’m afraid. Understanding people isn’t my strong suit, and my only exposure to miraculouses other than my own is when people are wearing them. Plagg certainly doesn’t explain much. I don’t know much of anything about how these things work.”

“Hmm,” was Lady-Ice’s only response before falling silent again. She truly was an inscrutable mystery at times, but he imagined she was thinking five steps ahead as usual.

“I actually have another question for you, Ladybug.”

“Oh? What is it?”

“Why did you hesitate back there?”

This time, she was the one caught in her tracks. If she was Marinette, she probably would’ve tripped, too.

“Wha, what do you mean?”

“When Snow Wonder first approached us, you stopped in the open to observe what was happening and left yourself vulnerable. That’s not the Ladybug I know. You usually think on the fly, work with what you have and create a set-up that they never see coming… with panache, I may add. The one that usually has to be careful about what they’re doing is me. Something must be throwing you off your game.”

His partner’s expression paled, and he knew he struck a nerve. “I, uh… you-you’re so infuriating sometimes, Chat Noir!” she declared, raising her voice and beginning to pace. “I mean, the last time the city was on ice, we had this discussion and it was because you were being petty about me liking someone else, and now you’re going on about my superhero habits and your superhero responsibility and you’re so… so…” she walked right up to him… and buried her face in his chest. “… right.”

“Ladybug…” was again all he could manage to say as he wrapped her in a hug. They lingered for a moment before releasing, the spotted heroine brushing her eyes. It was then that Chat felt cold, and not from the tunnel. He promised to be there for Ladybug, but being so close felt so… close, to what his heart desired. He was providing the emotional support of a romantic partner without the romantic payoff he craved.

“What I mean to say is… thank you. For watching my back, back there and in here. I think I’m just feeling overworked right now. Talking to the kwamis every night, knowing the Miracle Box is in my room all the time… it feels like I never get a break. Also, the timing of recent akumas has been rotten lately, don’t you think? It feels like they’ve all been disrupting the fun parts of my schedule, which makes it hard to decompress. I mean, everyone our age is enjoying a snow day while we have to go out and hunt for the akuma that caused it.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” he replied curtly, putting on his model smile and declining to say anything else. It couldn’t have been two hours since they talked about how difficult it was for him to make akumas with his civilian life, but what really mattered was that he was there for her when she had trouble with it, right?

The duo took extra caution when emerging from the Metro station across from Collège Françoise Dupont in case of another attack by Snow Wonder. Lady-Ice didn’t think there would be since this was the way she came from, but one could never be too sure; it was also a good ruse since Ice Chat didn’t know she lived here.

While the front doors were also buried in snow, Lady-Ice knew that they opened inward to a covered walkway and therefore shouldn’t be obstructed. An experiment push yielded no results, however.

“Looks like they’re frozen shut. Lend a hand?”

With a superpowered shove on each side, they were able to force open the doors. Inside, the courtyard was unsurprisingly abandoned, and no one came out to greet their loud entrance.

“My guess is they’re in the boiler room,” Chat suggested, pointing at the door to their left.

“Good call again, kitty.”

It quickly became apparent when they opened the door that it might not have been a good call after all. There was no light or warmth emanating out, and when they ventured further in, they saw that the boiler had ceased functioning and the room was empty.

“Darn, not a lucky cat this time. Got any better ideas?”

“Hmm… We should probably look for signs of life instead of randomly guessing.”

Emerging from the dark, they scanned the courtyard… and found nothing useful. While the rooves of the hallways kept the doors clear of snow, they were still shut, and all of the windows were completely frosted over, suggesting the doors would be frozen just like the entryway had been.

Hesitantly, Lady-Ice stepped into the courtyard and peered up at the few areas not visible from the entrance.

“Ah, up there! There’s a section of the library windows that’s not frosted. I think I see light!”

Ice Chat joined her and peered up. “That’s great, but the library doors are the only ones that are blocked by snow. It looks pretty bad.”

“The glass will probably be easier to get through, then. If you’ll do the honors?”

“My pleasure, M’Lady. It’s a good thing the Miraculous Ladybugs are gonna foot the bill for any damages we cause.”

Chat again elevated them both on his pole, where Lady-Ice broke the circular glass pane to provide them entry. Almost immediately upon getting inside, they heard a loud shriek.

“It’s over! The wolves are here!”

They looked down from the upper balcony they landed on to see that a small fire had been lit in the center of the library; some fallen books near the fire revealed them to be the fuel. Only Mylène Haprèle was visible, cowering behind a chair next to the fire, but as Lady-Ice’s eyes adjusted to the lower lighting, flickering shadows of other students appeared through the bookshelves.

“Wolves?” Lady-Ice asked. “Please don’t tell me there are wolves involved in this, too.”

“Ah, um, sorry Ladybug…” Mylène replied, regaining her composure. “That’s just what happened in a movie I saw recently. It also involved students keeping warm in a frozen city by burning books in a library, and then they got attacked by wolves. Sorry if I scared you.”

The others emerged from their hiding places to greet the superheroes. The heroine recognized only Sabrina and Aurore from among the six students, plus Mr. Plusseau as the only adult.

Aurore and no Mireille means we have our akuma, she processed. But we still need to figure out how to stop her.

“What brings you here, Ladybug?” Aurore asked, resting on her umbrella with an attitude. “Fancied yourself a sleigh ride?”

“I take it you know it’s an akuma too, then?” Chat sassed back before the heroine could come up with a more tactful reply.

“Yeah, it doesn’t take an expert to know that snowstorms don’t magically re-appear overnight after they’ve dissipated. People were spreading rumors at school once they heard yesterday’s forecast. Especially a certain someone,” she spat, glaring in Sabrina’s direction, likely in reference to Chloé.

The accused girl winced. “Hey, don’t look at me, Mireille got our hopes up about Paris’ first big snowfall this year!”

Meanwhile, Lady-Ice had to hide her dumbfounded expression. I was at school yesterday, how did I not hear any of this?

“I see,” she replied so she could re-focus. “Shouldn’t she have been akumatized yesterday, then? Do you know of anything that happened this morning that would’ve caused it?”

“Afraid not. Caquet was as bummed as everyone else that we weren’t getting snow, but she’s been doing this long enough to know that sometimes the forecast is wrong. She didn’t seem upset enough to get akumatized, though I didn’t hear from her at all today before this happened.”

“When exactly did this happen?” Lady-Ice asked sheepishly. “I, uh, may have slept through it.”

“Around 8 o’clock,” Mr. Plusseau answered. “I was well on my way to the school when the closure announcement was made at 8:27, but by then the snow had already blocked up most of the city. It was easier for me to shelter here than attempt to return to my house, as I imagine is also the case for the students you see here. We lost power shortly thereafter.”

I guess that tracks with my 8:30 alarm… but it’s strange that my house next door didn’t also lose power. And it doesn’t help us identify the akumatized object.

“In that case, Mireille might have been home when she got akumatized. We’re going to have to investigate,” Lady-Ice concluded.

She opened her Bug Phone and brought up the map again. Leaving it open, she let her string to carry it down to the ground floor in front of Aurore. As the weather girl put in her friend’s address, Lady-Ice had a thought about how much trust the people of Paris put in her as a heroine. Here she was, requesting to search someone’s private space without any warning or a warrant of any kind, and that person’s best friend complies in helping without batting an eye just because she was akumatized. They might not even find anything related to the akuma, and the Miraculous Ladybugs certainly weren’t going to erase the memories of what they found after the fact.

“Her apartment is number 405.”

“Thank you, Aurore.” she acknowledged as she pulled her yo-yo back up.

“Yeah, just… go get her.”

The two heroes turned their backs to look at the map and make their plan. Mireille’s apartment complex was pretty close to the midpoint between the collège and the TV studio.

Ladybug, as usual, took the initiative in making notes, speaking in a whisper. “The closest Metro stop runs along the same road she caught us on last time, so we’ll have to take this one here and try to sneak in a back way.”

“Why don’t we just use the Horse Miraculous and Voyage into her apartment?”

“What?” she exclaimed a little too loudly, eliciting confused looks from those below. “No way, that’s too dangerous.”

“More dangerous than going outside where Snow Wonder is at a huge advantage? With Voyage, we can avoid that entirely.”

“Yes, because I have to get the miraculous first. No doubt Snow Wonder is scouring the city for us right now, and with her powers, I’ll have no way of knowing if she’s watching me when I enter the place where I have the Miracle Box kept. That would compromise everything.” It may be less likely when that place is literally 25 meters from here, but Chat can’t know that.

“… right. Sorry. I shouldn’t have questioned your judgment.”

She said nothing, simply leaping up to the roof. He followed her as they ran to the Metro station and back into the tunnels.

“Alright, this is the stop,” Lady-Ice said, her map and flashlight both up on her Bug Phone as they approached a boarding platform in the dark tunnels.

“Let’s gear up for whatever comes, then.”

“Of course.”

“Lucky Charm!” she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a long red sack with black spots, which then fell into Lady-Ice’s hands.

The sack nearly pummeled her to the ground with its mass, and Lady-Ice let out an “Oof!” as she righted herself. It wasn’t truly heavy to carry thanks to her transformation, but it was massive.

“What’s inside there?” Ice Chat asked.

Lady-Ice gave some experimental squishes with her hands, and with some effort was able to give it a shake. “It feels like sand.”

“A sandbag? You got a bag of salt the last time we did this ice thing. Do you think it will be similar?”

“Not likely, because that would be too easy. Lucky Charms are rarely that straightforward. More importantly, I don’t have a free hand while I’m carrying this, so I need you to be on high alert for surprises.”

He nodded and put on a serious face, and with their wits affirmed, they leapt up the stairs out into the harsh weather.

The snow wasn’t as piled up between the tall buildings as it was on the street, but it was still deep enough that they couldn’t just run through and had to hop their way around. There wasn’t enough space to equip either of their snow mobilities. They were only a block from their destination when the snow in the alleyways began growing into walls all around them.

“No, how’d she find us?!” Lady-Ice swore.

Ice Chat quickly grabbed her and telescoped his pole diagonally, just making it over the bank as it and the others converged onto where they had been standing. The pole bent under their combined weight to land on the revealed pavement, and it flicked up out of the snow mound when he retracted it.

“Run for it!” he called, not wasting an instant standing still. Already, the snow was beginning to advance back in their direction, and more snow was drawing in from the other streets in front of them.

Her partner again thought quickly, bursting ahead and extending his staff in her direction. “Alley-oop!” he called again, and she landed on the pole, which he then heaved up with all his might to launch her over the snow and all the way to the apartment complex. He barely cleared the snow wave by climbing onto the wall on all fours and scrambling around it.

A volley of snowballs began pelting Lady-Ice from the moment she landed, forcing her to shift the sandbag over her shoulder and focus on defense with her yo-yo shield. When Ice Chat caught up, he twirled his staff to start blocking shots aimed at the heroine before she toppled from the weight imbalance.

“Get inside!” he directed. She didn’t need to be told twice, quickly retreating to the door and forcing it open by using the sandbag as a battering ram. Chat followed shortly behind her. Above them, a snowy, humanoid figure scowled in frustration and moved around to the side of the building.

The two heroes bound up the stairs, only stopping to catch their breath on the second story.

“Firstly,” Lady-Ice said, “that alley-oop pun was very bad.”

Chat grinned widely at her. “Oh good, I was worried you wouldn’t have caught that.”

“Enough time around you, kitty cat, makes one ready for puns in any situation.” Her expression hardened. “But no more time for jokes. Snow Wonder probably knows we’re going for her apartment. We should go for a scissor attack, with one of us coming through the door and the other through the window.”

“Well I can’t imagine you climbing a building story while carrying that thing, so leave the ambush to me.

“Right. Find apartment 305 and listen well for my entrance above you.”

Chat opened the stairwell door and saluted her on his way out. Lady-Ice quickly ascended the next flight and did the same, running down the hall until she found the placard labeled with Mireille’s apartment number.

She turned the handle and pushed, only for the door once again not to budge. “Oh, come on…” she muttered. She stepped back to the opposite wall, breathed in, and then rushed at the door to shoulder tackle it and break through.

The first thing she saw upon entry was that searching the apartment was not going to happen. The windows on the far side had already been smashed, bringing in a layer of snow that covered the floor to her ankles and obscured all of the furniture. It was a mostly square room, with what appeared to be a countertop to her left and a square wooden table sticking out about halfway across. On the right wall, there were three side rooms adjacent to each other, but she couldn’t see beyond the entrances.

She had only just taken in the scene when a cold wind shut the door behind her, causing her to flinch and reactively prepare her yo-yo shield.

“You are foolish to come here…” the ethereal voice from before sounded again.

The snow in the center of the room swirled together, building up into a human figure that then became the akuma herself in a flash of cyan light. Snow Wonder was hardly any different than the snow itself, with icy pale skin and a pure white robe, the long drooping sleeves and sash around the middle identifying it as a kimono.

“I’m here to help you, Mireille. You don’t need to do this.”

Behind the villain, Ice Chat silently pulled himself up onto the center windowsill and into the room.

“Don’t start. The Heroine of Paris couldn’t possibly understand…”

Suddenly, another gust blew in from outside, dragging Chat forward as more snow piled up behind him. The jig being up, he decided to jump at the chance to try and grab the akuma’s sash, but his hand seemed to move through her as she floated to the side, circling the table and ending in front of the windows. The wind picked up and even more snow funneled in through the window at Snow Wonder’s command.

Chat turned around to face her, and something in one of the rooms caught his eye. “Ladybug!” he called, pointing to the farthest room. “There’s a shrine in that room!”

Snow Wonder grew angry at that and spread her arms, creating a blast of snow that knocked Chat back all the way into the counter. Lady-Ice jumped in front of him, her shield barely blocking the barrage of snowballs that began afterward.

“It’s futile,” their opponent said with that echoing voice. “You’ll be completely buried soon, and then I will have your miraculouses.”

Lady-Ice could see that the snow was up to their shins now, with further banks once again creeping up around them on the sides. She began looking around the room for something to use her Lucky Charm with. Aha! The sandbag… her yo-yo… Snow Wonder…

“Chat, open this!” she had to shout over the howling wind. He did as instructed, untying the string held over one of the ends. As quickly as the heroine could, she opened her yo-yo flip-phone style again and threw it forward as it expanded back into its sled form. Clutching the sandbag tightly, she leapt straight into the cover of the front dome as sand already started pouring out of it.

Snow Wonder erected another snow wall to stop the sled. Lady-Ice was up in the blink of an eye, throwing the now-empty sandbag over Snow Wonder’s head to fully capture her. The akuma hadn’t given up, a flurry of snow blew up around the sack as Lady-Ice struggled to hold the bag closed and get it tied. “Hurry, Chat! The bag can contain her in either form, but it’s not invincible!”

Ice Chat didn’t waste any time in extending his skis to race over, skidding past them and into the bedroom. Inside was a stone monolith, about four feet high, with a larger circular base. It looked like a trophy, and Chat didn’t have to guess what it was from.

“Catalcysm!” he called, pressing his hand to the akumatized trophy, causing it to crumble and a black butterfly to fly out. At once, the snow settled and the sack stopped resisting.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma,” Lady-Ice said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within. She swung the yo-yo in a circle to charge up her throw.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. “Bye-bye, little butterfly!”

Next, she pulled the sandbag off of a de-akumatized Mireille, and then threw it in the air as well.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

They burst into a swarm of ladybugs, expanding into a huge cloud that swept the clouds out of the sky, and then the snow off the streets. Within Mireille’s apartment, a group cleaned up all the snow and repaired the windows, and restored the trophy from the KIDZ+ competition to its place on the girl’s dresser.

“Pound it!” both miraculous holders cheered as they bumped fists.

They turned their attention to the weather girl, who had sat herself up and now looked up at them with sadness.

“Was I… akumatized?”

“Yes,” Lady-Ice replied, kneeling down to her level. “Is everything alright, Mireille? We heard about the blizzard forecast… but that was yesterday. Did something else happen today to make it worse?”

The teen clutched her head with eyes shut, as if trying to remember. “No…? I don’t know. I had only just gotten out of bed. I remember feeling very tired, like there was a big weight on my shoulders. I can still feel it.”

She turned her attention to her trophy. “I always look at that trophy when I’m sad to remind myself of what I’ve accomplished, to keep my head up. But today… it made me feel heavier, even though I wasn’t feeling sad or angry to begin with. I thought about the forecast, and how quickly some people turned on me, like I was the one that made the snow day go away, and how much of Paris must be feeling that way because of me. I just… I don’t know. That’s the last thing I remember.”

Ladybug’s earrings beeped, and she knew there was only one spot left. “It sounds like you were frightful of your ability to influence what people think. When you’re standing in front of that camera, in front of the whole city, telling them the forecast, and they listen. They trust that you’re telling them the truth. When you were akumatized, you said I wouldn’t understand it as a heroine… but I do. I’m in the public eye all the time. It’s scary.”

“Yes, but… you’re Ladybug. You’re a paragon of bravery, creativity, and kindness. No one looks at you and thinks about what you could be doing better, or whether you really deserve to be the heroine of Paris. I’m just the cute shy girl who happened to win a contest that lets her stand center stage in a segment of the news every morning.”

“That’s…” Ladybug began, her cheeks reddening from the praise.

“What I think every day,” Chat interrupted. This is not a conversation Ladybug is ready to have yet.


The cat hero sat down next to them to create a circle. “Ladybug is all of those things and more. I fight by her side all the time, and even I continue to be blown away by what she’s capable of. And that’s the thing: compared to the best, everyone else looks bad. Ladybug would be the first to tell you that she couldn’t protect Paris by herself and that I’m a vital part of our team, but guess what? The press and the talk shows still call me the sidekick, the backup, and even the burden sometimes.

“Basically, if you let yourself listen to the doubts in your heart and the boos from the audience, you’ll never see yourself as good enough for anything.”

Ladybug found herself speechless, and she swore she saw him look in her direction for the briefest of moments. Her earrings gave their final warning, pulling her from her daze. “I… have to go now.”

She stood up and unlocked the window nearby, but before she left, she looked back at her partner with the same sincerity he gave her earlier.

After Ladybug let herself out, the other two stood as well. Chat went to the same window, but before he also left, he turned around.

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Mireille.”

“Wha? What is it?”

“I didn’t choose to be the hero of Paris. My miraculous was given to me anonymously in a box, and then Stoneheart appeared and Ladybug and I were the only ones who could stop him. Before then, I was just a boy. In my civilian life, I still am. It may have been fate that brought you the opportunity to live your dream, but it’s still up to you to live that dream... and make it reality.”

Light began pooling into a dark observatory as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. Now that the storm had finally passed, there was no weather to threaten the butterflies that flew around, even if that irritating Ladybug would have cleaned it up regardless.

I shouldn’t think like that, Hawk Moth pondered from his usual place in the center. Defeat is not inevitable, unless I convince myself to believe that it is. That happened once and shall never happen again.

Today’s experiment had been quite… informative. To find a strong enough desire that grew from a seed rather than bursting forth in a desperate moment was not easy, at least within his usual criteria of not exploiting those truly in dire straits and miserable lives. He already had enough trouble getting many of his villains to listen to him, so the last thing he – or Paris – wanted was someone who was mentally unhealthy or even unstable before the touch of his akuma. The saying goes that there is nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal with nothing else to lose.

So, as far as this particular akuma went, the results were good. Certainly much better than Landover and Frozer, despite her power being essentially a mix of the two. His main observation was how the desire changed over time: initially, it was hurt over the doubts others cast on her, but with time, it transformed into a gripping fear from doubts cast upon herself. Impostor syndrome.

He remembered the days, after dear Audrey had first scouted him, when he felt the same way. It was always Emilie that assured him to believe in himself. And now… I’m exploiting that same desire in someone else. No matter, he had akumatized himself before, too. This was strictly business. There was no room to doubt himself anymore, because if he did, he may never get back the person that let him move on from it the first time. That was a doubt he refused to entertain.

Backlit by the late afternoon sun, Chat Noir jumped through his window, landing in a kneeling position. With the last tone of his ring, his transformation dropped and formed into his equally black kwami, who wasted no time in diving into the fridge. But Adrien paused, only pulling together the effort to stand when Plagg returned with his smelly cheese.

“You look like you could use some camembert. Should I have grabbed extra?”

“No, Plagg, I’m fine,” he said as he went over to his couch to mope. “… thanks.”

The fact of the matter was that this was one of the most trying akumas yet, but not because of the akuma itself. The fight was difficult, but short, and they had been in worse situations before.

It was everything else that had drained him. Ladybug was seriously upset at something today. He fixed it admirably, as he was supposed to… no, as he wanted to. His heart had brimmed at the opportunity to speak the admiration for her that he held every time he saw her face. And yet, there was another truth within those words that was the dark side of their relationship. Or rather, their lack of one. He did everything in his power to meet her needs, so that she could be the sun in the sky that saved the city. He felt her radiance, but it didn’t seem to permeate all the way through to match the glow of his impassioned speech. He felt dim, the same as Mireille.

It was that same feeling of being used, he realized. Of giving away – or possibly of being taken, since Ladybug was right that, as Guardian, she had no choice but greatness – and never receiving anything in turn. It was exhausting.

The vibration of his phone returned him to the real world. On a normal day, school was about to let out, and that meant moving on to the next item on his schedule. Today, that was a Chinese lesson, though he doubted he’d be able to focus.

Plagg watched his holder from his current reclining spot on his basketball hoop. It appeared that he was going to need to get into more trouble than usual today.


The thing Sabine referred to is actually called a 'day one patch'. For video games available on cartridges, there's a period of time in-between when game finishes development and when people are able to buy it, as the game's code has to be compiled into a build, the build put onto all of the cartridges, and the cartridges packaged up and shipped to retailers. During that time, the developers can still work on fixing bugs on their internal version, and then they can release those fixes as a downloadable patch when the game finally launches, on day one of availability. While most solo developers don't have the time or money to be putting their games on cartridges for gaming consoles, instead opting for a digital-only release on online stores connected to the consoles or for PCs, Max is a whiz and has Markov (an even bigger whiz), so he can do whatever he wants.

Chapter 10: Meet the Miraculouses: Ziggy


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Ziggy's realization of exchange.

Chapter Text

In her effort to familiarize herself with the miraculouses, Marinette was going to spend time with one kwami each night. It would be good for them to get out of the Miracle Box and see the modern world, and they could tell her about their powers. Tonight, she decided she would wear the Goat Miraculous. As she adorned the twin hair clips, a sparkling gray light appeared and transformed into the horned kwami Ziggy.

The kwami gave her a bashful look. “Oh, is it my turn already?”

“Yes,” she confirmed, lacking enthusiasm. “I actually need your advice on something.”

“What’s that?”

“Since you’re the kwami of exchange, I want to know something: is paying back a good deed considered an exchange?”

Ziggy smiled. “The term you’re looking for is reciprocity, and indeed it is! It’s an exchange of help, each agreeing to take a turn benefitting the other. So tell me, what is it you’re paying back? This must be no ordinary deed if you’re seeking the help of a kwami to understand its magnitude.”

“I don’t know how much Tikki keeps you in the loop about each of my adventures, but it’s about Chat Noir.”

“She’s certainly told us about him, and his affections for you.”

Marinette blushed. “Yeah, well, the thing is, it’s not any old affection he has. He really, truly loves me as Ladybug, and I don’t know what to do. I told him in no uncertain terms that we can’t date until Hawk Moth is defeated, because apparently it’s the literal end of the world, and he seems to have accepted that. But he’s still my partner, and I need his support to function with all of the stress I’m under, and he’s giving that too. But now I feel like I’m just taking and taking without giving anything back, but I have to be careful because I can’t play with his heartstrings. I also have a boyfriend as Marinette, who’s also doing his best to support me without me having the capacity to reciprocate, and despite all this, there’s a third boy who’s the real one I’ve been madly in love with for the last year.”

By this point, she had stood and was pacing back and forth. “And while we can’t date and definitely can’t know each other’s identities, I can’t help but wonder if Chat has a point about me falling in love with him if it happened anyway, which it did during an akuma that wiped our memories of it. Because the ways he complimented me today… were moving.”

“Wow. That is quite an extraordinary problem,” Ziggy said as her eyes followed Marinette’s expressive movements. “It’s a lot to take in, I’ll be honest.”

“Waaah, how on earth did I get into such a giant mess?” the human girl moaned, flopping down onto her chaise.

Ziggy put a tiny hand up to her chin, moving a little herself as she contemplated the issue. An idea came to her, and she flew to Marinette to hover where the girl could see her.

“This may sound unusual, but perhaps this isn’t an issue solved with exchange at all.”

“Really? How can that be?”

“It’s just what you said: You need the support to continue being Ladybug and fighting Hawk Moth to save Paris. That means the support being given to you is not for your benefit, it’s for Paris’s. In that sense, you don’t owe Chat Noir or your boyfriend anything, because they’re doing what they need to do to help protect Paris and really, the whole world.

“Exchange isn’t restricted to equal trades between two parties. A sacrifice is an exchange, giving up something of value in order to obtain another kind of advantage. And it doesn’t have to be physical – collective sacrifice describes scenarios where individuals in a community agree to give up certain liberties equally so they can get a result beneficial to the whole group. It’s a bit like Daizzi’s prohibition in that sense.”

Some moments passed without any response, and when she looked down, she saw that Marinette’s eyes were closed.

“Uh… Marinette?” she asked, poking the girl’s stomach with both feet.

“Mm? Sorry. I promise I was listening to all of that,” Marinette explained, forcing herself to sit up. “Today has been a long day, is all. What you said… makes a lot of sense.”

The bluenette appeared relieved as she returned her full attention to the being in front of her. “I shouldn’t be viewing this as a personal commitment. We’re all making sacrifices to make this work; even though it appears that mine are being compensated by theirs, that’s simply necessary for our success. It’s a part of them being on my team. This was helpful, Ziggy.”

“You could say I’m just doing my part as well!” Ziggy exclaimed cheerfully.

“Anyway, it’s well past time for me to learn about what sorts of powers your miraculous grants, don’t you think?”

“Ah, yes! Well, firstly, you need to transform with the activation phrase, which is, ‘Ziggy, horns down.’ The de-transformation phrase, as one might expect, is, ‘Horns up.’ The tool given while transformed is a broom, and I hear it can create a pretty decent gust of wind.”

Marinette snickered. “Now I’m picturing a member of the Order using your miraculous because they got assigned cleaning duty.”

The kwami frowned in response. “Guardians aren’t allowed to wear miraculouses, to avoid exactly the problem that Master Fu caused. He only wore the Turtle since then because of the exceptional circ*mstances. And obviously, you were a wielder before becoming a Guardian.”

“Oh. I, uh, didn’t know that either…” she admitted, finding herself breaking eye contact as painful memories began to emerge.

Ziggy became concerned and flew down to try and meet Marinette’s eyes again. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you sad!”

“No, it’s okay,” she denied. “This is the way it is, no point in pretending that it’s not.”

“No, really, this is a problem I keep having!” she explained, starting to pace in the air with anxiety. “I’m not very good with human etiquette, so I always wind up being too straightforward and making someone upset! Please forgive me!”

That caused the teen to give a weak smile, holding out her hand for the smaller being to perch on. “It’s okay, Ziggy. I’m well-experienced in saying exactly the wrong thing.”

“Thank you for understanding,” the kwami said with a bow.

With the conversation stalled, another few moments passed, and Marinette’s eyes slowly drooped…

“Marinette, stay with me!”

She jolted awake. “Sorry, sorry! Um… we should finish with your powers.”

“Right, of course. The superpower granted to a Goat wielder is known as Scapegoat. It allows the wielder to trade places with another in order to protect that person from an attack, also granting the wielder immunity to that attack. To aid in this power, the wielder can sense danger towards anyone within a considerable distance while the power is active, being able to determine the location and severity of any threats.”

“I see.” The heroine thought for a moment. “So if I were to give it to someone, I would want the kind of person who is attentive and considerate, but who lacks confidence to advocate for their needs and principles. The Goat Miraculous would empower them to engage with others and make the exchanges they need to transform their potential into tangible results.”

“That sounds like a good plan to me!”

Marinette’s face grew a bit serious. “I do have one more question, though.”


“How can I be sure that any sacrifice I make will give me a worthy advantage?”

Ziggy sagged somewhat, her enthusiasm leaving her. “You can’t, really. Making an investment always comes with the risk of losing it. Sometimes, the outcome of your investment depends on how the other party responds to it, or even if they choose to respond at all. This sort of thing is called a gambit, and it’s a much-studied topic in xiangqi, or I guess the Western variant that you would know better – chess.”

“Okay. I’ll have to do some research later. I’m way too tired to think about it right now… I should really go to bed.”

“That also sounds like a good plan.”

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box, before storing it away in its secret hiding place at the bottom of her chest.

Chapter 11: Mannequette


Chloé's behavior continues to upset everyone, which appears to include herself as the wake of Miracle Queen has not died down. Even the akuma has it out for her, which isn't anything new, but Marinette is having trouble figuring out what to do about the whole situation.


To prevent any confusion: One of the detail changes made was a buff to Venom, letting the Bee Wielder issue a command to whoever they stung. It was renamed to, well, Command, to fit.

Chapter Text

Caline Bustier made her last stroke on the chalkboard to complete her instructions, then turned around to address her class face-to-face. They did not look happy at the homework she was about to assign.

“That will be all for today, class. Over the weekend, each of you will need to write a two-page paper about your personal philosophy. Simply stating what you think of the world will not be sufficient for this exercise. You will need to reference the material we have covered on different philosophies of self and identify one that closest matches what you believe to be the meaning of your life and your main goal for yourself.

“Naturally, with such a focus on your individual thoughts, it will be fairly easy to tell if your paper was copied from or completed by someone else,” she added, slightly shifting her gaze to land on the two girls sitting in the front row on her left.

“Bah, as if!” Chloé spat. “I don’t need Sabrina to tell me who I am, I already know!”

The rich girl stood up. “And I don’t need goals, I’m already at the top of the ladder! Ridiculous, utterly ridiculous!”

“Just be careful not to fall, Queen Bee.” Alix mocked.

Miss Bustier saw the snarl even before Chloé turned around. “Shut up, fashion rag! You wouldn’t know the first thing about being a superhero if I Commanded you myself! Did Ladybug ever entrust you with a miraculous?”

“It doesn’t matter if she did,” Alya cut in, “because Ladybug has strict rules about keeping secret identities. Only you were ever stupid enough to out yourself.”

“If I’m so stupid, how come I know that you’re–”

The sound of her saying Rena Rouge was drowned out by a large crashing sound. Marinette had fumbled over her bag, falling into the aisle and spilling the bag’s contents. The bell signifying the formal end of class rung followed suit.

“Well at least you’re not as bad as Clumsinette here,” Chloé said, looming over the girl on the floor. “You don’t need to worry about your paper, Dupain-Cheng, because you’re too klutzy to accomplish anything no matter how much you want it. Ladybug wouldn’t entrust you with a miraculous even if everyone else in the city was akumatized.”

She stuck her nose in the air as she grabbed her bag. “Come on, Sabrina, we’re leaving,” she declared, strutting out of the classroom. The red-headed girl looked to the floor, and Miss Bustier thought she saw a slight hesitation, a glance in the direction of the others. But then she scurried away as well, and the notion was lost to the wind.

The teacher shook her head as the rest of the class packed their own things. Ever since Chloé’s parents got akumatized into Heart Hunter last month, there had been a lot of disarray in her classroom. Chloé had doubled down on her arrogance and insults, but most of the other students had stopped putting up with it, so arguments broke out frequently. Marinette had bags growing under her eyes that she thought she could hide with concealer, pretending that everything was fine whenever her concerned friends asked her about it. Adrien’s eagerness to learn and connect was also diminishing, slowly being replaced by the sluggish demeanor she usually only saw when he was leaving to go home.

She suspected there was something more to it, but if there was, none of them would speak of it. She had already attempted to encourage Marinette to confide in her, but she only received the same insistent denial the bluenette gave everyone else. She suggested the same to Adrien or advised that he try to see the school counselor, but he said it wouldn’t change anything and refused to consider it further.

It wasn’t even worth trying with Chloé, because it was clear that she couldn’t care less what Caline, or any other adult in Paris not named Audrey Bourgeois, had to say to her. Punishing her within her jurisdiction as a teacher would be cheap retribution and result in nothing. Principal Damocles was too scared of Mayor Bourgeois to act on anything seriously enough to warrant the city’s intervention.

The only way Chloé could be helped would be when she’s ready to help herself, and for that Miss Bustier’s only hope was positive role modeling from the other students. They were the only people whose opinions or actions Chloé might bring herself to care about; this went especially for Marinette, who, above anyone else, was the kind of person who might be able to get her to listen. Unfortunately, that hope seemed far out of reach now, because whatever was currently plaguing the blue-haired girl was just as mysterious as what had spurred her sudden courage to stand against Chloé to begin with last year.

Caline worried that maybe she herself was part of the problem. Maybe she pushed too much on Marinette to accept and show kindness to someone who for years had done nothing but the opposite in return, and earned the girl’s ire as a result.

There was nothing she could do for any of them now.

Marinette sighed in relief as the girl who had nearly just been outed herself helped her off of the floor. Sometimes her ability to create a big mess came in handy.

“Alya, what was that about?” she asked as they walked toward the exit. You should’ve known better, knowing that she knows, she added in her head.

“Oh, uh, nothing, ha ha. Chloé concocting some crazy rumor, I’m sure.”

“Well, you shouldn’t goad her like that. She may not be as good at spinning lies as Lila, but she can sling some nasty insults, as you heard her demonstrate to me. There’s a lot more where that came from.”

The brunette grew quiet. She didn’t tell Alya much about her life before the two of them had met, and Alya knew it was a sensitive subject. She didn’t need to know the side of her that had lived in fear each day, a barely-together, anxious disaster who couldn’t do anything right… way more than she was today. She wanted to move past that and be strong, and reliving those memories would only set her back. Alya was respectful of this; she even promised to suppress her journalist instinct telling her to interrogate all their classmates about it.

The two friends stepped outside into the sunlight of a rather chilly day and waved their goodbyes as they went their separate ways towards home. Despite that, Marinette could still feel the cloud of turmoil over herself as she thought about the fates of herself and her tormenter.

Miracle Queen occurred a month ago. Her assumption had been that, over time, Chloé’s anger and resentment would subside as the reality of her actions set in. But it hadn’t; it actually appeared to be getting worse. Maybe… she wasn’t able to cope with the idea. Pollen had said that she had no concept of earning or deserving. If that was true, then perhaps Chloé simply couldn’t understand why it was that she was never going to be a hero anymore?

No, that didn’t make sense. The first time she entrusted Chloé with the Bee Miraculous, it was because Chloé wanted to be useful and liked by… well, anyone. Using the miraculous was supposed to teach her what kindness was and how to look out for others. She knew that. And then it became too risky because she got akumatized when her parents were used against her. She knew that too.

The conclusion hit Marinette like a speeding car, causing her to stop where she was. Then she saw an actual speeding car about to hit her, and she stumbled forward out of the crosswalk that her epiphany had placed her right in the middle of, barely making it before she tripped and landed hard on the ground.

Her purse rumbled on its own. “Marinette?” Tikki’s muffled voice came from within.

She stood up and dusted herself off from her certified Clumsinette moment before opening the purse to speak to her ever-present companion. “Sorry, Tikki. I just realized something important. We can talk once we get home.”

It was, of course, a very short walk. There were only a few customers when she entered the bakery, which was a shame as she could smell the freshly baked bread from the oven in the back. Her mom was behind the counter, as usual for this time of day, and she gave her a kiss as she passed behind the counter.

“Nice save, dear,” Sabine whispered, discretely passing her an ice pack and causing her to blush.

“Yeah, thanks…” she grumbled.

The vertical trip to her bedroom went uninterrupted. Marinette briefly reflected on the fact that her scrambled brain had just nearly gotten her gravely injured, yet this sort of thing happened often enough that neither she nor her mother paid it a second thought. She made for her chaise to sit and apply the ice to her chest area while Tikki let herself out.

“So, what’s this revelation of yours?”

“It’s about Chloé,” she replied with a huff, “and how I totally screwed up.”

“We talked about this already, Marinette. You had no way of knowing she’d do that.”

“It’s not about what she did. It’s about what I did, to her.”

Tikki looked ready to respond, but she allowed her wielder to continue.

“For as long as I’ve known her, Chloé has been nothing but an entitled brat. She’s selfish, cruel, and petty. After meeting her mother, it became obvious where she got it from. I figured she had no idea what a good person even was.

“However, I told Stompp a couple weeks ago that I believe people are good at heart… and that means Chloé should be no exception. I mean, there must be something Adrien sees in her if he continues to be her friend even after seeing how awful her behavior is. What I’ve realized is that I’ve been thinking about this completely backwards.

“The whole reason she took the Bee Miraculous was to be different than her mother, to show that she was exceptional in her own way and not just by riding on the money and power of her parents. By giving the miraculous back, she swallowed her pride and decided to take the road where she earns Ladybug’s trust, and she promised to do good when I offered it to her again. She wanted to fix her messes, which includes the one where she threw away the idea of keeping a secret identity.

“For once in her life, Chloé had hope of getting to a place where people might genuinely like her and look up to her. And then, through no further fault of her own, I took it away from her.”

Her kwami closed her eyes for a moment, taking in and releasing a deep breath.

“I see what you’re saying. However, there are two major problems here. First and foremost, you can’t hold yourself responsible for Chloé’s emotional development. As Roaar has no doubt told you, everyone is their own person, and Chloé is no exception to that either. She may default to copying her mother in every aspect, but that is still her choice of behavior and not Mrs. Bourgeois’. If she really wants to be different and better than that woman, then that is something she must also choose to take on herself. You have no obligation to do anything for her just because you know her plight; if Chloé needs your help, it is on her to ask for it.

“This brings me to the second issue, which is that you don’t have the capacity for that. Your reason for taking away the Bee Miraculous was just – your top priority is defeating Hawk Moth, and having Chloé use a miraculous is detrimental to that due to the risks that come with it. It’s noble for you to want to help her and help Chat Noir and help everyone around you, and that endless heart is part of what makes you such a great Ladybug and person in general. But Daizzi’s advice applies to them just as much as it does to Adrien. You are but one person, and you need to take care of yourself and focus on the immediate problems.”

Marinette took in a breath of her own, releasing a major sigh, which was interrupted by a cough as the pain in her chest flared up. “… You’re right. It’s not like there’s anything I can do for her now anyway. She’s not going to listen to Ladybug, and Marinette isn’t supposed to know any of this. The only person who could be of any help is… Adrien.”

Adrien… she thought wistfully, before blinking herself out of it. She needed to resist the temptation to daydream about his kind, pure soul. Sabrina was technically another option, but the odds of her listening to Ladybug over Chloé were low; the odds of Chloé listening to Sabrina were almost as bad. And while Adrien was her only other friend… for the longest time, the reverse was true as well. He had a soft spot for her, like when he didn’t celebrate her leaving Paris, so it was possible he would be unwilling to tell her anything she may not want to hear.

Tikki peering closer at her pulled her from her thoughts. “Maybe we should give this a rest for now,” she suggested. “I think it would be more productive to focus on your homework assignment.”

“I suppose it would, because how the heck am I going to write a two-page paper in one weekend??”

The teen stood and walked to the rim of her bed to pull down the massive screen attached underneath it. It was a yearly calendar that dwarfed her in size, and the current month’s page was filled to the brim with tiny scribbles. She had Adrien’s full schedule in green, times for activities her friends were up to in yellow, blocks allotted for fashion work (blue), homework (red), and babysitting gigs and helping her parents in the bakery, because they still wanted that (orange). The blank space was filled with complicated notes, arrows to other timeslots, and pre-written excuses in purple in case any of those things got interrupted by an akuma.

It was no wonder that she couldn’t do anything eventful more than once every few days. They were like episodes of interest in a season’s worth of tasks and duties.

However, fate had decided to be purple today, as before she could even begin to go through her weekend plans, her phone buzzed longer than usual with a loud tone. She knew that could only mean one thing as she pulled the device out to look at it.

Marinette sighed. “Looks like we’re taking care of Chloé after all,” she said in Tikki’s direction. The kwami looked just as unamused as she did.

The location of the akuma was the Marchanderie boutique. It was a relatively well-known boutique, owned and operated by the Marchand family, and it had been a massive success from its very first day. This was in part because it was also a favorite shopping location of Chloé Bourgeois; evidently, the rich girl had gone for some serious retail therapy after class and either got someone akumatized again or became akumatized herself… also again. And she did it in record time.

“Tikki, spots on!” Marinette announced, and Tikki disappeared into her earrings as a red light washed down her body and formed her bodysuit.

Only a few blocks away was the pleasant, forest green façade of Marchanderie, nestled on the ground floor beneath several stories of apartments like so many of Paris’ businesses. The exterior had no obvious signs of damage from a fight, though it was clear that one was ongoing due to all the people fleeing the area.

Ladybug flipped down to street level in front of the building and cautiously let herself in. Almost immediately, a black clump was thrown in her direction, and she readied herself with her arms held out to catch what was evidently her partner fighting a losing battle.

She latched on through Chat Noir’s armpits, cushioning his landing and preventing him from toppling to the floor.

“Well, well, look who’s early today!” she remarked, looking down at him. “Looks like curiosity almost killed the cat before I got here.”

“The satisfaction of seeing you would have brought me back, M’Lady. Even if you’re a little Late-ybug.”

She gave him a very bemused look as he stood. “So what I’m hearing is you had plenty of time to learn about the akuma! Spill up, chaton.”

He turned and bowed. “Ma Cherie, follow me through Marchanderie. One of the employees saw it all happen, and he wanted to wait until we were both here so he wouldn’t be at risk twice.”

They leapt into action, making small hops to remain hidden behind the circular racks of clothing. Ladybug was quickly able to spot glimpses of the akuma as they cleared the entryway, since the boutique wasn’t all that big. Chat led his partner to the dressing rooms on the far side, where she could see the full scene.

The supervillain looked like she was made of wood. Her head and torso had merged into a single, sleek shape, like a mannequin. Her limbs, however, were detached, with thick strings running through pieces of wood roughly in the shapes of arms and legs to her appendages, like a marionette. While she couldn’t see the feet, the akuma’s hands had a similar structure. Five smaller strings branched out from each one leading to the individual fingers, some of which had connected themselves to hangars with items of clothing on them. The three middle fingers of her right hand extended in their direction, with shirts and pants that were flapping about on their own in what appeared to be a spirited fighting stance. The three of the other hand extended towards the wall, holding up a set of clothing currently being worn by one Chloé Bourgeois, who was struggling to free herself.

Chat tugged on her suit, and she turned away to meet their witness. Crouched in one of the stalls was a man, tall and well-built, with piercing brown eyes and dirty blonde hair slicked back but still voluminous. His outfit was similar to a concierge’s, wearing a coat that was the same forest green as the storefront with its sleeves folded back at the three-quarters mark, and black slacks. On his coat was a nametag reading, ‘Raoul’.

“Okay, we’re both here now,” Ladybug whispered. “What’s the rundown?”

“That’s my little sister out there,” Raoul hissed in a commanding baritone, his attention directly squarely at her. “That Chloé is a piece of work. I don’t know what got her goat this time, but Marceline just became old enough to work here. She wasn’t ready for a Bourgeois peak temper tantrum.”

“I see,” the heroine replied. “And she can animate those clothing items by connecting to them?”

“Yeah, and they pack a real punch for 100% cotton!” Chat certified.

“Does she have any other powers? Also, has she loudly announced her supervillain name yet?”

“Not that I know of, and yes. Mannequette, she declared herself.”

“Okay. Hopefully, this will be rather simple. Once we pull our daily special, that is.”

“Lucky Charm!” she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a wide red rectangular stand, with a matching cylinder sticking out of the top on one side that had a piece stretching to the other, shorter side. It then fell into Ladybug’s hands.

“A tape dispenser. Looks simple to me,” Chat Noir commented.

“I don’t agree,” Raoul disputed rather sharply. “Akumas usually have super strength, right? Do you really think that tape will hold her or her strings?”

Ladybug gave him a peculiar look. “I mean, we’ll probably need to tape together some contraption to wrap her or her strings up in to get them stuck. Why, did you have another idea?”

“I think I should talk to her, see if I can get her to stand down.”

“That’s not going to work,” Chat objected immediately. “Akumas almost never listen to reason, especially not when Chloé’s the one that angered them. She’s… not exactly morally defensible.”

“Maybe not from you,” he remarked, earning a look of surprise from the cat hero, “but I’m her brother. We have a really strong bond, like that of your tape there. That ought to fight against whatever emotional disturbance the akuma is having on her, at least enough for you to grab her akumatized object. As much as I don’t like Chloé, it’s a risk to fight… Mannequette when she has the brat hostage like that. She could even be used as a human shield against us.”

“That is a good point,” Ladybug considered, putting a hand to her chin in thought. He must care for his sister a lot. The way he paused there, he really didn’t like referring to her with an akuma’s name. “It’s worth a shot, I think. Do you know where the akumatized object is?”

“No, I didn’t see that part. I was working on the computer in the back here.”

“Unfortunate,” she said, before looking at him with concern. “And you’re sure you can handle going out into an akuma fight? Know that we’ll both be right there to protect you.”

His eyes met hers with ferocity. “Yes. I’ll do anything to protect Marcie. And the longer we sit, the longer she keeps torturing Chloé. You probably don’t want that.”

“No, we don’t. Let’s go.”

“Dance, Chloé! Dance!”

Mannequette’s voice sounded raspier than a normal person’s, but not like she was sick; rather, it seemed to be dampened from her wooden frame. Luka could probably explain how those acoustics worked.

Ladybug peered out to see that Chloé was indeed being forced to move her limbs through the clothing, the motions clunky and uncoordinated. Her pained expression showed that that she was not having a good time.

“Okay, here’s the plan. Chat will get her attention first while I escort Raoul over. Only evade, don’t fight back – we want her to see that we don’t mean her harm.”

“Man, distraction duty again?” her partner complained.

“Would you rather me do it?” Raoul replied sarcastically.

The spotted heroine suppressed a chuckle. I admit that was good, but you don’t have to be so mean about it. “I have the Lucky Charm that Raoul will need, and my shield can defend him better. It’s only logical.”

“Alright, alright. One costume show coming right up.”

He leapt onto one of the clothing racks, then to another farther to the side from them, and pointed his staff at their foe. “Hey, you can’t have a dance party and not invite Chat Noir!”

Both humans looked his way, and the clothes turned towards him in imitation. “I would never invite someone with such improper attire. Fortunately, I have a selection here just for you.”

Mannequette flicked with her right hand and the clothing moved into action towards him. Just as planned.

Nodding to Raoul, Ladybug ducked into one of the racks of clothes, then peered out of the other side to make sure the coast was clear. She ducked, tucked, and dove her way through the racks, while the non-powered boy calmly walked in a crouch through the open space between them. Around 5 meters away from the akuma was as far as they dared before Raoul decided to speak.

“Marcie!” he called, standing to get her attention. “It’s Raoul, your brother!”

“Yes, I haven’t forgotten you were here, Raulie,” the wooden villain replied calmly, keeping her attention on Chat Noir. Currently, a 200€ cashmere sweater was trying to wrap its sleeve around the hero while an equally expensive pair of jeans went to sweep him off his feet, which he hopped over.

“Have you forgotten that I’m here?!” Chloé yelled from her cloth captivity. “Ladybug, do something!”

I am, if you would have some patience, the heroine thought, trying to scan the villain for any conspicuous attached objects. There wasn’t a lot of space for something to be hiding, but nothing stood out to her.

“Marcie, please put Chloé down. Hawk Moth has corrupted you; you’re not thinking straight. You don’t have to do this!”

“Why not?!” she shouted. She crossed her left hand over her right, bringing her captive with her.

Ladybug immediately spotted what she had been looking for: Mannequette’s left thumb had a tapered gray knob attached to it, unlike her other fingers. The only problem was that it was nice and close to her captive.

“Look at this,” she continued, giving the outfit and girl inside a good shake, “Whiny, demanding, spoiled airhead, pushing me and half of Paris around like the whole city was built for her.

“Fetch this,” she mocked, forcing Chloé to make matching gestures, “I don’t want that, what gutter did you drag this out of, it’s not expensive enough!”

Off in the background, she moved a faux-fur jacket to try and eat the black-clad hero, and the jeans went for a wicked front kick at his head. He moved backwards to avoid both.

“And you think you can scare her straight by playing with her like a doll?”

“I’m just showing her what it’s like when the entitled elite force you to dance to their tune and do whatever,” she shook the hangar for emphasis, “they, want. Dance, Chloé!”

Ladybug couldn’t watch any more. “Stop it!” she yelled, jumping out from her hiding place. “Listen to your brother! This isn’t going to accomplish anything! She doesn’t deserve this!”

The deeper voice that came out next startled her. “Oh, she deserves it alright,” Raoul interjected. “Listen here, Chloé, because I’m under no influence at all. Everything my sister said is true. Your petty actions akumatized her, and now you pay the price.”

“No…” the heroine gasped, her hand moving to her mouth as her eyes went wide. “You tricked me!”

Her shock turned to anger, and she threw her yo-yo at the older boy. Having wrapped him up, she yanked him back and carried him back to the dressing rooms in one leap.

Mannequette grew enraged as well, crossing her left hand back and carelessly throwing Chloé into the discount bin in the back to turn her full attention to her brother’s snatcher. The clothes fighting Chat Noir were similarly pulled to face her, and her remaining fingers shot out to pick up more puppeted minions.

This freed the cat hero to return to Ladybug’s side, who had herself returned from taping up Raoul. “What’s our backup plan, Bugaboo?”

She looked around for anything that might be useful to her. Aha! The tape… the fingers and hangars…

“The answer really was simple. Help me round up the clothing.”

They leapt into the fray, Ladybug pulling on her tape as she faced down a haughty-looking suit jacket. She dodged a straight punch and stuck the end of her tape roll on, quickly encircling the article like she was capturing James Bond, before pulling it down and moving the tape around the hanger and attached finger to hold them together.

“Hey, what are you doing?!” Mannequette complained, attempting to shake any part of her now useless clothed fighter loose to no avail.

“The fashion police called,” Chat snarked. He engaged a mink scarf, which swayed back and forth like a snake. When it lunged at him, he twirled his staff to entangle it. “These clothes are under arrest for being criminally overpriced.”

He winked at Ladybug as she moved in sync to tape it up, easily sliding his weapon free afterward due to the soft material. It got her to smile, and he considered that a win. Angry Ladybug was much less fun to fight alongside.

The jeans came back in with a slide kick, which Chat grabbed the extended leg of and wrapped around the hangar for easy sticking. They took down the cashmere sweater comfortably, bagged the fur jacket inside of a baggy pair of trousers, and twirled up a long dress that had attempted to dance with Ladybug. One of the fingers had even grabbed a pair of gloves, with only the tiny plastic connector and a small plastic hook holding the item in one piece.

“Why does that count?” Ladybug pouted as the gloves dove straight for her earrings. She grabbed and taped them without much effort.

Soon, Mannequette had run out of fingers, resorting to thrashing the clothes about to try and loose them or hit the heroes. Hawk Moth’s butterfly insignia appeared, but whatever he said failed to get her to focus. Only the left thumb remained unattached to anything, and after slipping through the clothesline of defense, Ladybug simply popped off the gray knob and broke it.

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma,” Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within and swinging it to charge up.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. “Bye-bye, little butterfly!”

Next, she threw the nearly empty tape dispenser in the air as well.

“Miraculous Ladybug!”

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which pretty much just tidied up the store, removing the tape from the clothes and from Raoul, returning the clothes back to the racks, and smoothing them out as if they had never left.

A dark substance covered Mannequette and dissolved into the ground, leaving a small teenaged girl on the ground, holding a gray magnetic tag remover.

“Pound it!” both miraculous holders cheered as they bumped fists.

Hawk Moth stood in his observatory, looking rather displeased. “Maybe I should have akumatized Chloé instead,” he griped. He had decided against it because her heart was turbulent and her desires torn and unclear even to herself, and that made it too unreliable to determine what sort of power he would be able to give her. It had been easier to go for the younger girl that Chloé was taking her frustrations out on, but it seemed the intensity of that rage was still insufficient to create a desire with real potential for beating the heroes.

He thought he had Chloé all figured out: she was consumed by a desire to be special, one so strong that she was able to reject his akuma and later chose to turn against Ladybug for taking away the opportunity she had to fulfill it. It had been satisfying to watch her clutch desperately at the Miracle Box, like a child trying to pick up pieces of a vase she shattered… but it seemed the rotten Bourgeois was the vase now, attempting to put herself back together with a result that would be unrecognizable. He supposed using a miraculous tended to cause such transformations in people.

As the lens lighting up the observatory closed, Hawk Moth smiled. At least one good thing had come out of this scenario. Manipulating Ladybug was no easy feat, and this Raoul Marchand had caught her hook, line, and sinker. He could prove very useful to him.

Angry Ladybug quickly showed her face as she marched over to Mr. Marchand. “What on earth were you thinking?!”

He met her glare with crossed arms. “You can’t deny the truth, Ladybug. Chloé needed a kick in the rear.”

“And you think an akuma is a good way to do it?! You compromised our whole strategy! It doesn’t matter if she’s your sister, akumatized villains are dangerous. I didn’t say this before, but we’ve never actually managed to talk one down. You’re lucky nothing serious happened. She could’ve lashed out at you.”

“If anything, I’d say I gained more sympathy with her by saying what I did.”

“Raulie!” a young-sounding voice cried. Chat had gone over to make sure Marcie was okay, and now she ran from his escort into her brother’s arms.

“Marcie…” he said with relief. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Again, he looked at Ladybug, this time with an expression that dared her to continue while he was holding his dear sister. She likely would have, but Chat Noir grabbed her gently by the shoulders and made her his next escort, walking towards the entrance.

“It’s not worth it, M’Lady,” he whispered. “Just let it go.”

It wasn’t until they were outside that she calmed down. “Thanks, chaton,” she said, turning to face him. “I just can’t believe people sometimes. Akumas are not a game.”

“I wholeheartedly agree, Bugaboo.”

The heroine now gave him a strange expression. “There’s a ‘but’ coming.”

His green eyes looked away. “Well… I can’t say Raoul was exactly wrong, either.”

“About Chloé? No way. She’s been captured in the past by akumas she caused. Kung Food threatened to turn her into soup, and all she cared about was her hair.”

“Maybe, but… that was before.”

“It doesn’t really matter, to be honest. She made her choice, and it wasn’t to be on our side. If she wants to keep living like this, then so be it. I don’t have the time or energy to worry about her.”

Her earrings beeped. “Speaking of which, I’ve got to go. See you later, Chat.”

Ladybug flopped down onto her bed from the balcony, her transformation dropping. She let herself lie for a minute while Tikki went to fetch a snack.

“At least the akuma was short today,” the little being said as she munched on a cookie.

“Short but still tiring,” Marinette replied. With a grunt, she forced herself to scooch to the end of her bed and climb down, where she could see her schedule that was still unfurled underneath. Her eyes wandered to a particular event early next week that was written in both purple and yellow. It was labelled, ‘Ladybug and Chat Noir Anniversary Ceremony.’

Yeah, she really didn’t have any space to make for Chloé. Adrien… probably didn’t either, given who his father was, but maybe it would be worth asking. She decided she would need a second opinion on this, so she went over to open the hatch on the floor.

At the same time as she did so, the front door opened. The bluenette descended into the living room as her dad entered it.

“Done with the dough already, Papa?” she asked as they exchanged a light hug, one of his big arms matching her whole body.

“Yeah, it wasn’t too busy today, so I had some spare time. Done with your homework already, muffin-top?”

Marinette rolled her eyes. “Wouldn’t that be nice. I just got home not too terribly long ago. Actually, your timing is perfect. I came down because I had something to ask you.”

“About your homework?” Tom asked, before shrugging at her. “I haven’t touched algebra in a couple decades, but I guess I can try.”

She smiled up at him. “No, silly. It’s about, uh…” she fumbled for a response, “my friend Marc’s writing! He asked me for, uh, advice about a social situation his characters are in, and I didn’t have an exact answer for him. Most of the people he knows are introverts like him, so I really want to be able to help him out.”

“Hm, okay… your mom would be better at that, but I guess I can try, still.”

“Okay, so there’s this one girl, and she’s enemies with this other girl who’s really mean to her, but then she finds out a secret about the girl that explains a lot of why she’s mean. However, they have a mutual friend, and she knows the mean girl will never listen to her, so she wants to go to the friend so he can help, but she isn’t sure if it’s fair to drag him in or if it’s okay to share the secret. Should she go through with it?”

“Yes, well, um, what I think is, er,” Tom stalled, scratching the back of his head.

“I lost you, didn’t I?”

“Around the word, ‘enemies’, yeah.”

The teen facepalmed. “Uh, simple version is… I nee– I mean, this character needs her friend to help her enemy because she can’t, but she thinks asking him to do it might be a bad idea. What should she do?”

“Hmm. Well, it might be best for the friend to decide for himself whether he should help. I don’t think there’s any harm in telling him her thoughts; if she thinks he’s capable of helping, then she should trust that he’ll do what he’s comfortable with.”

He motioned with his large hand for her to move towards the couch, and they both went to sit. “You know, your mom and I had some troubles like this when we first started dating. You know how she does a lot of small things here and there that seemingly mean nothing, but are actually preparing for just about everything that could possibly happen?”

“Yes, Papa, she saves me from my own clumsiness and forgetfulness all the time.”

“Well, it can be hard to understand if you don’t already know her. If those possibilities don’t happen often, then it looks like she’s unnecessarily superstitious. If they do, then you start to wonder if she expected you to fail and didn’t have any faith in you.”

Marinette clenched her fists with passion. “But that’s not true at all! She’s simply the most mindful person and best mom on the planet!”

“Right, and I know that – now. But it took some frustrating experiences for us to get to this point. She had to learn to start communicating what she was doing, and I had to learn to trust her actions without needing to question them. While we were obviously in it for the long haul, it’s really not all that different for a platonic relationship. If this girl really has a solid friendship with this guy, she should be able to communicate her intentions without fear of ruining their connection and trust that whatever decision he makes is what he thinks is best.”

“I see…” she pondered, digesting the story. Another connection was forming in her head – that of her superhero allies. Each time she recruited somebody, she was trusting them with a miraculous. And her instructions were clear every time: use the miraculous to aid in her plan to defeat the villain and then return it. It didn’t line up with the moral of the story, which was trusting them to make the best decisions. She wasn’t letting them make decisions at all. This was true even of Chat, at times, despite her not owning his miraculous.

“Thank you, Papa,” she finally said to break the silence. “I think this will be very helpful for– my friend.”

They hugged again, and Tom released a long yawn. “Now, as your parent, I should probably instruct you to finish your homework first, before you get too involved in passion projects.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Marinette replied as she stood. She could save this thought process for another time; it didn’t mean anything until she answered the more troublesome question of whether it was safe to hand them out at all.

Right now, she would appreciate the clarity it gave her on the issue of Chloé. It couldn’t hurt to ask Adrien about her. She knew she could trust him with this; it couldn’t be that different than how she trusts Chat Noir against akumas, right?

It was the tail end of lunch the next day, after everyone had packed up to go to art class, when a great surprise tapped her on the shoulder from behind.

“Marinette!” Adrien greeted enthusiastically.

The spot on her shoulder suddenly radiated electricity, and she stiffened like a board. Like so, she waddled herself around, giving him an equally stiff smile. Focus, Marinette! she reminded herself, trying to relax. “A-Adrien! How’s the, uh, going you?” I’m off to a great start, wouldn’t you say?

“I have great news!”

“Oh!” she squealed a little too much. “What-what sort of good news? Like, a smidgeon good, or sort of good, or reeeaaallly good?” she said, putting her hands in front of her at corresponding distances.

“Reeeaaallly good,” he replied, his smile widening with her gestures. “Remember last month, when I invited you to study mathematics sometime?”

“Y-yes, I sure do!” she confirmed. Remember how I said yes even though I have a boyfriend? “Wait, do you mean…?”

“He said yes!” he gleamed, true excitement now showing on his face. “Nathalie put it on my schedule for next week!”

“Wow, that– that’s great! I mean, not that it can’t happen until next week, and it’s studying so it’s not really, um, well...”

The excitement vanished, his demeanor drooping to a frown. “Unfortunately, that’s the earliest I can do. I’m sorry it took so long to give you a response; I know we’re basically done with the unit now.”

The model walked around her, towards the door. “I’ll text you the day and time, so you don’t forget.”

“Wait, no, that’s not what I meant!” she said, tugging on his arm before he could get any farther. “I’m happy to study you–with you at any hour– uh, day!” She found herself staring almost directly into his green eyes due to how close she had pulled him, causing her to recoil back as if she had just touched the inside of the bakery oven.

“I, um, sorry! I just need to be in the right mood to get excited about mathematics, you know! I, you know, I have to go now, to do some mathematic measuring, in, uh, art class,” she fibbed, now moving around him for the same purpose.

“Marinette, wait,” he implored, freezing her solid before she could get any farther. Even glancing back over her shoulder, she could see that he was definitely looking directly at her now. “Is everything okay? You’ve been really skittish since yesterday. Truth be told, it seems like something’s been off for a month or so now. Pretty much everyone in the class is worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” she answered quickly, the lie rolling a little too easily off her tongue, even through her dampened expression. “It’s just that life has been pretty hectic recently, and I have a lot on my mind right now. It’s not really something I want to talk about.”

“… okay. Sorry I asked. See you later, then.”

So much for that plan, she bemoaned in her head as she left the cafeteria. It was comforting that Adrien and the others cared about her, but there was nothing they could do as long as she had to keep her secret identity. Even Luka, who was unconditionally supportive of her, was limited in what he could know and therefore do. In that way, she and Chloé had something in common: they were each saddled with a problem that kept everyone at a distance, forced to face it on their own.

Chapter 12: Meet the Miraculouses: Nooroo


In a twist on this mini-series, Gabriel re-assesses what he knows about Nooroo's realization of communication in his efforts to create stronger, more consistent akumas.

Chapter Text

“Nooroo, I have a question for you.”

Gabriel Agreste stood in his observatory with the lens opened. He was not here to akumatize any strong desires today; instead, he was here to prepare himself strategically for his future plans. Recent events had called into question his understanding of the specifics of his power, and it was past time he went to the source for information.

The swallowtail-like kwami emerged from the lapel pin hidden under his striped tie, looking timid under the designer’s scrutinous eyes. As always, what he wanted wasn’t a request, and there would be consequences for not answering. “Yes, Master?”

“Since you continue to insist that the miraculous isn’t to be used for evil, why don’t you tell me what its original purpose is.”

This piqued Nooroo’s interest. Was Gabriel finally starting to consider alternatives to his villainous deeds? He doubted it, especially with that tone of voice, but if he could spin the idea the right way… it was a chance he had to take.

“The miraculous of the Butterfly draws on the universal concept of communication. Communication is the expression of ideas between different parties. Much of it is sensual, such as verbal cries and language or visual displays and appearances. Much of it is not, like the biochemical processes that activate specific responses within living beings. Since the purpose of communication is almost always to further the desires of the communicating parties, the Butterfly Miraculous grants the power of Metamorphosis, which bestows superpowers onto another being so they can achieve those desires.

“An empowered individual is usually called a Champion, for the purpose of the miraculouses is to be used for the betterment of humankind, and a champion of the people is one who fights for such improvement. The power of the Champion is strongest when utilized by someone with high intellect and a strong drive, but who lacks influence. Metamorphosis will grant them the powers they need to communicate their needs and transform them into results.”

“That’s not helpful. How am I supposed to detect someone’s intelligence and determination when all I can sense is their desires?”

“You’re not, because the miraculous isn’t meant to be used to manipulate people! The most effective use of Metamorphosis involves having allies that one already knows, so that the wielder and receiver can identify what gap needs to be filled with a granted power. It is the miraculous of communication not for granting communication powers, but for maximizing the benefits of having good communication.”

“Ooh, are we talking about our powers!” an energetic voice suddenly added. Gabriel turned to see Nathalie had entered the room, along with her kwami Duusu, who was the one who spoke.

“To an extent. I need to iron out the consistency of my akumas, and that means understanding what sorts of people and desires generate strong powers.”

“And what have you discovered so far?” Nathalie inquired. Her steps were accompanied by the mechanical sounds of a lower-body brace (top of the line, of course), and she was moving slowly. The revival of Mayura last week was only the beginning of a long recovery process.

“Only that Nooroo can’t grant me the ability to hone my desire sensing to targets that would be more effective with my powers.” He gave Nooroo a stern look. “Quite disappointing, really.”

“It’s not my fault, it’s a restriction built into the miraculous–”

“Silence! I do not want to hear excuses!”

Nathalie placed a placating hand onto his shoulder. “Sir, if I may, that appears to be a common theme among the miraculouses. You know that my sentimonsters, while formed from strong emotions and designed to protect them, are only effective with one who can also manage those emotions, because they act only on orders from the holder of the amok.

“Our archnemesis Ladybug has a similar application of her Lucky Charm, judging by our numerous encounters and from having both emulated her powers using our own. The Lucky Charm may create an object, but in order to achieve victory, Ladybug must use her own creativity to combine the object with others to form something greater than the sum of its parts.

“I am sure we can make similar connections with the other miraculouses if we research them in the grimoire. In any case, I believe the lesson here is that you would benefit from finding consistent allies to accept your akumas, like Lila Rossi has been.”

Gabriel shook his head. “Lila Rossi is a fairly unique case. You will not find many people both capable and willing to side with a villain being portrayed by the media as a domestic terrorist who are not themselves serious about causing true destruction to the city or its inhabitants. That would not do, I want this conflict resolved with a net zero output of damage.

“Miss Rossi happens to fill the criteria due to her incredible skill at deception and her directed hatred towards Ladybug. It is already a delicate balance, for that matter, for she holds no true loyalty to anyone but herself. I have managed control as Gabriel Agreste by manipulating her into believing that she is the one benefitting from our alliance, and she has no choice but to respect my authority as Hawk Moth. I am fully responsible for granting her powers and, should she make it necessary, capable of removing them, and I am almost certain that this alone retains her allegiance to me. There is a reason she was not involved in the plot to obtain the Miracle Box; she would undoubtedly demand use, if not possession, of the Fox Miraculous as compensation, and it would be too easy for her to use those powers against us. That such desire I can detect within her even without Nooroo’s power.”

One of his Hawk Math smiles crept its way onto his face. “However, I may have found a promising candidate just today. I still need more information on him, so it will take some time to chart out and execute.”

Nathalie nodded. “Excellent, sir. I look forward to hearing more of this idea once it is completely formed. I must ask, do you still intend to pursue your plan to akumatize Marinette Dupain-Cheng? You have not spoken of it in some time.”

“Only if I can find another avenue with which to disrupt her heart. I do not believe Miss Dupain-Cheng nor the Collège Françoise Dupont will be caught unawares by Miss Rossi’s scheming a second time. There is still quite a while before my arrangement to work with her more closely through fashion will be enacted, which is currently my only route that could bear fruit. But we must tread carefully, because I also do not wish to destroy my professional relationship with her. She truly does have exceptional talent for someone her age.”

“Very well, sir.”

Gabriel turned his attention back to the observatory window. “I think that’s enough of the foreboding dialogue for the time being. As much as I wish that Hawk Moth could appear more than every few days, my fashion company isn’t going to run itself, and I need to be ready for the big day coming up.

“After all, we can’t allow him to miss his own birthday party, can we? Mwahahahaha!”

His evil laughter continued as the lens over the window closed, leaving the room shrouded in darkness once more.

Chapter 13: Pride of Darkness


It's Ladybug and Chat Noir's Anniversary! A big celebration is held in their honor, and they reflect on the wild ride of the first year of superheroics in Paris. The intensity quickly spikes as Hawk Math arrives with a special gift that vows to turn the whole event on its head. Along with their accomplishments, the heroic duo will be forced to come face-to-face with their own shortcomings.


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The weather was perfect for the large crowd gathered at the Trocadéro. There was nary a cloud in the sky, the temperature was fair, and the trees were beginning to show their autumn colors. Even the pigeons seemed subdued today, bringing with them hope that the reason for the crowd's formation wouldn't be briefly interrupted by the 28th attack of Paris' least threatening supervillain. More than one-hundred thousand people filled the Jardins du Trocadéro on the hill of Chaillot where they stood, overflowing to the surrounding streets which had been closed off to accommodate the massive turnout, and even stretching out to the Pont d'léna and the grounds of the Eiffel Tower on the other side of the Seine.

The central esplanade was cordoned off at all the surrounding stairways, creating a stage for the speaker and the guests of honor. The passageway through the two halves of the Palais de Chaillot had a mobile power station set up for the stage. Draped between the buildings was a massive red-and-black banner displaying the name of the event: "Cérémonie D'Anniversaire du Ladybug et Chat Noir" – Ladybug and Chat Noir Anniversary Ceremony.

Mayor André Bourgeois stood on a slightly elevated platform to reach over the front of the wall facing the Seine, and he was flanked on either side by the Ladybug and Chat Noir themselves, the heroine and hero being honored this day. As the central microphone gained power, it created a slight buzz from the loudspeakers in front of the two main staircases that quieted the many conversations among the crowd.

"Welcome, fellow citizens of Paris! Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, a tremendous event came upon us that has redefined life as we knew it in our grand city. In the face of an army of superpowered stone giants threatening our very destruction, two brave and courageous young warriors called upon their own powers to emerge victorious, and since then have continued to defend our home from the devious plots of Hawk Moth and the akumas he creates to feed on our moments of greatest weakness.

"While Ladybug, Chat Noir, and their newer allies provide physical protection and recovery from the damages, it is still up to us, the people of Paris, to remain strong in our hearts and minds. We must continue to march forward each day without fear and defy the terror that the foul villain seeks to sow among us to claim the powers that hold us together. I, as mayor, have passed laws protecting the rights of akumatized victims, providing services to those at risk, and organizing our forces to aid in the needs of our guardians, so that the people I serve can be assured in their confidence and so our economy may continue to prosper.

"Today, we honor the fortitude of every Parisian and pay tribute to the efforts, past and future, of the miraculous heroes who wield the responsibility of keeping our city safe."

He paused, the sounds of applause filling the air in the time before he next spoke. "Let us now welcome those very heroes to speak to us. Please show Ladybug and Chat Noir your greatest appreciation as they come forward!"

The applause grew severalfold as the Mayor stepped back and the two costumed individuals took his place, standing side-by-side in front of the eyes of Paris.

A man and woman stood on a platform at the end of a long catwalk, the gardens underneath illuminated by sunlight that was cast down through a massive window on the far end. The pod in the center was opened, revealing Emilie Agreste in her eternal stillness.

"My dear Emilie…" Gabriel spoke, gazing mournfully at his unresponsive wife. "Only a few short weeks after that terrible fate placed you here did I begin my quest to find your cure. Yet it feels as if an eternity has passed since even the anniversary of that accursed day, and the shadow of each sunset without you grows longer than the last.

"I almost gave up on you once, and I shall never forgive myself for it. It has now been as long since then as that time was from the outset… yet I do not know if I am any closer to my goal."

He paused, reflecting on the path that had led him thus far. His initial expectation had been that he could wear down the Ladybug and Black Cat holders and win through attrition, but they proved to be very competent and resilient for a couple of teenagers. Any remaining hope for that plan was quashed when they began pulling out other miraculouses and those elemental potions when forced onto their back feet, and that was when he found himself at a loss.

It was the chance to akumatize a miraculous holder that made him realize that his understanding of his powers was all wrong; it wasn't pre-existing evil that made for strong candidates, but the potential for evil that the akuma could push them into. The closer to one's core one had been wronged, the more powerful the abilities they would gain. Now his attention was focused on consistently finding candidates who wouldusethat power effectively.

The existence of a Guardian of the Miracle Box had been a major obstacle to his ambition, but his location was carelessly unraveled by the hands of the kwami, Fu's own sentimonster, and Ladybug herself. Though the transfer of Guardianship to Ladybug kept her main assister of the Miracle Box in play and out of his reach, it still gave him a great advantage, thanks to Nathalie.

Now he looked over to her, who respectfully remained silent as he spoke his feelings. If it wasn't for her, his mission would have failed long ago; it was she who saved him on Heroes' Day, she who took up the mantle of Mayura to aid him, and she who filched the Guardian's translated tablet to give them the knowledge to repair the Peaco*ck Miraculous. That much was the minimum he could do for Emilie.

It pained him that the fixed miraculous wouldn't be of any help in healing her; in the same fashion that using a damaged miraculous would eventually copy its wounds to the wielder, only byusingan intact miraculous could it restore one to good health. Emilie was not conscious; therefore, she could not use the Peaco*ck to reverse the damage it had caused. He was grateful that Nathalie, at least, would be able to regain what she had sacrificed to get them this far.

"Today," he began again, returning his focus to his wife, "the people of Paris are celebrating your continued stasis. Today, they sing their praises to the heroes who fight for them while blissfully ignoring the conflict being fought."

He felt anger and resolve building in him, and he turned again to his trusted assistant. "Paris needs to be reminded exactly who's responsible for giving those heroes work. Are you ready, Nathalie?"

She met his eyes with a rare display of passion. "Always… Gabriel."

He held up the two miraculouses resting in his left hand. It still felt disrespectful for anyone other than Emilie to equip the Peaco*ck. Today… he would fight with it in her honor. Gently, he lifted the Butterfly Lapel, and after one last gaze, he gave it to Nathalie. They nodded, maintaining eye contact, and pinned their respective miraculouses onto the top-center of their chests. The matching kwami of communication and emotion emerged, looking confused and scared by the swapping of their usual owners.

Gabriel and Nathalie spoke their commands in unison.

"Duusu, spread my feathers!"
"Nooroo, wings rise!"

Both miraculouses absorbed their kwami, the Peaco*ck's five tailfeathers turning a vibrant indigo and the Butterfly growing its four purple wings.

A masquerade-style mask, indigo with curvature to resemble a bird's beak and angular eyes, formed upwards on Gabriel's face, and his irises grew wide and pink. The magic spread to form his hair from the mask's edge, also darkening it to a similar color and adding a black stripe on both sides aligned with his eyes. Meanwhile, the distinctive silver butterfly mask spread itself onto Nathalie, absorbing her glasses. It wrapped around her head to dye her hair a very deep purple and part it down the middle, placing side bangs on either side of the singular thread in the middle that still drooped down and to her left.

Their suits formed in sync, indigo and purple running up their bodies. Nathalie spread her arms as the wave traveled down them, forming an open-vested magician's coat that ended in black gloves and grew downward past her waist to end in coattails in the same butterfly shape as her mask. From Gabriel's Peaco*ck Brooch, a deep blue grew upwards, creating a large collar that spread up his neck and out all the way to cover his shoulders. An indigo coat then formed down, meeting in the center with another blue line as the divider. It curved outward to end the coat around his calves in three parts shaped like peaco*ck feathers, leaving a triangle shape opening to another indigo patch, matching his hair, under the coat. A similar silver waistcoat drew itself in on Nathalie.

Gabriel gained the Peaco*ck's fan in his right hand, spreading it out. Nathalie formed the Butterfly's cane with both hands, with the top on her right side, then dropped her left hand so that she could twirl it around like a baton as she spun once clockwise. The transformation ended as she finished, the cane pointed forward as if it was a scepter, while her boss continued to stand morosely with the fan covering his mouth.

Ladybug didn't expect she'd ever feel nervous, but a part of her was still in disbelief that it had really been one whole year. Gazing past the crowd to the Eiffel Tower, she could still vividly recall how it all started there: the face of Hawk Moth that formed from his akumas and the impassioned speech she responded to his demands with as she grabbed every last one and purified them all.

"Good morning, everyone," she started. She attempted to clear her throat without it getting picked up by the microphone. Chat Noir looked at her and smiled reassuringly. It was him that had given her the courage to stand up for herself back then, when the police didn't have faith in her abilities and neither did she.

"One year ago today, I made a promise to you. I promised that Chat Noir and I would protect everyone, find Hawk Moth, and end his attacks, no matter how long it took us."

Again, she found herself pausing on the words she had rehearsed. She didn't think anyone, least of all herself, had anticipated that the conflict would still be going after this long.

"While there are still no leads on where Hawk Moth is hiding, our promise will forever hold strong. No misfortune is too daunting, and no amount of fame will ever dissuade us from our dedication to what matters most: keeping Paris safe. We've even recruited allies to help us in our battles; we regret to say that none of them could be here with us for the ceremony."That would be the doing of the man standing behind us, who insisted that this wasn't anyoneelse'sanniversary and that we should focus on highlighting the deeds of the original duo.She expected that all of them were in the crowd.

A sudden screech emitted from the speakers drowned out whatever train of thought she was on.

"And what a pity," a deep voice boomed that Ladybug instantly recognized, "because now they won't be here to save you."Hawk Moth.

Both she and Chat readied their weapons in a fraction of a second. Mayor Bourgeois' protection detail wasted no time in rushing forward to retrieve him, Chat Noir moving to watch the rear of the stage as they did.

"I'm going to check it out, Ladybug," he declared. "Hawk Moth must've hijacked the audio cables."

She leapt over the retreating protection detail to his side. "I'm coming with you; I can't risk him beating you one-on-one."

They ran over to the tech van, the spotted heroine keeping an eye on their surroundings while her partner located the audio setup.

"Oh no…" he mumbled.

"What is it?"

He was gazing at one of the audio ports, where instead of the cable that should have been plugged in, an indigo feather had been jammed into the slot. He plucked it out and showed it to her.

"Mayura's here, too. They used this feather as a receiver to broadcast their announcement."

"That means they're no longer in this location. This must've been a distraction!"

Shouts and gasps from the audience behind them confirmed her theory for her. They turned to see that their two foes had taken their places center-stage… only they weren't the Hawk Moth and Mayura they recognized.

The heroes were halted from advancing on them with the sight of Mayor Bourgeois in the Butterfly-wielding Mayura's grasp, her cane held to the mayor's neck with both hands. She was looking directly at them, and her threat was clear. A brief glance to the side showed that the entire protection entourage had been wiped out, the guards lying unconscious on the floor.

"Citizens of Paris," the Peaco*ck-wielding Hawk Moth spoke, projecting his voice without even needing the loudspeakers, "it seems a lesson is in order. You have been fooled to believe that Hawk Moth is some passive, crooked villain whose akuma lackeys Ladybug, Chat Noir, and their allies foil like a cartoon show. You are led to think that they are infallible forces of good who cannot falter, and I am here with my own ally to show the error in your judgment. This is a war, a battle of both brains and brawn. Today, I am Garuda, and I shall make it very clear that we whom you call the villains can andwilladapt to the battlefield."

Garuda held his fan up as Butterfly Mayura uncapped her cane, releasing a darkened butterfly that immediately made its way into her partner's miraculous tool. The signature insignia of akumatization simultaneously appeared over both of their masks.

"Pride of Darkness, I am Mora," she introduced, her voice projecting the same way as his. "I am giving you the ability to seek and draw out the dark desires and emotions lurking within the heroes of Paris. By combining our powers, you can put on full display the struggle they face against their inner demons, and we shall prove them unworthy of the Ladybug and Black Cat miraculouses!"

Garuda needed no agreement as the process commenced, dark matter sweeping up and across him. His costume was recolored to a pure black with dark purple accents, excepting the red eye patterns on the five tails of his coat. He turned to his enemies, his real eyes piercing them with a matching red glare. Both heroes were ready to pounce, but Mora kneed Mayor Bourgeois to make him cry out as a reminder of the situation. Ladybug wouldn't be able to revive him if she had to use the Miraculous Ladybugs on the new akuma.

The villain in question took a step forward and plucked a blackened feather from the fan. It began charging with power as he delivered his next speech.

"Ladybug. Behind your heroic façade, you are nothing but a scared little girl. I can hear the voice in the back in your head, no matter how much you try to silence it. With every move you make, it asks you if that was a mistake, if you're being judged for it, if it will snowball into a catastrophe that costs you something you hold dear. Your deepest desire is to return to being a normal girl with a normal life, but you know it will never happen."

Pride of Darkness released the feather, silhouetted with a purple glow despite remaining perfectly dark, and it began to expand into a shapeless mass. The mass slimmed out into a torso, growing four limbs, shortly followed by the protrusion of a head that itself gained two smaller knobs on either side of the space where it met the neck. By the time it reached the ground, it was standing as a full-scale black replica of Ladybug.

The villain had plucked another one before the formation even completed.

"Chat Noir. Your jokes and playfulness are a pitiful attempt to compensate for the deep loneliness that eats at your being. It is a black hole darker than your suit, and it only grows larger with each day. Your deepest desire is to be loved, but all those whom you love have erected walls to keep you out."

He released that feather as well, which followed the transformation of the first. It soon distinguished itself with a long tail and two triangles pointing out of its head.

Mora turned, releasing the mayor and shoving him aside as she entered a combat stance with her cane. Shadow Ladybug and Shadow Chat Noir pulled out their copies of the yo-yo and staff, and they commenced their assault.

Chat Noir struggled to keep his composure as their dark duplicates bore down on them.Be strong, be strong, be strong,he repeated in his head.Can't fail Ladybug.He didn't know the Butterfly or Peaco*ck had powers that strong; the words Pride of Darkness spoke to him sounded even more true than any that he could tell himself. If this duplicate was the manifestation of those desires… he didn't know if he could defeat it. It's not as if he was winning that battle in real life.

Next to him, Ladybug looked as determined as ever. Unfortunately, they still lost ground quickly with the two real supervillains looming on either side to cut off their flanking options.

"What should we do, Ladybug?" he asked as they backflipped over the tech van.

"I – I don't know yet!" she exclaimed. Shadow Ladybug wrapped her yo-yo around the van and threw it at them, wires sparking as it became forcefully disconnected. Chat threw his staff while extending it, and it held between the two buildings to catch the van and ricochet it out past the villains. He flinched as it soared past the stage and hoped that the crowd had evacuated quickly enough that it didn't crush anyone. Not his best idea.

"We need to focus down either Mora or Garuda. If we stop one, we can cut off the clones at their source." She snatched his staff with her yo-yo before her doppelganger could do the same, pulling it back and returning it to its owner. "But I don't know how."

By this point, they were already backed into the Place du Trocadéro, past the end of the barricade. Fortunately, it wasn't very crowded, and he expected that whoever was here had heard the commotion from the stage.

"I think we may need some help of our own," he suggested.

"No!" she shouted with sudden alarm. "He could just make dark versions of them, too. And–" she cut herself off as if to block out some thoughts, her voice cutting down to a hiss between clenched teeth, "if these things are drawing on our consciouses, even thinking about the you-know-what at you-don't-know-where could give its location away."

Now that they were in the open around the Ferdinand Foch statue in the center of the plaza, they could see all four of their foes staring down at them. Pride of Darkness pointed, and both of his creations charged forward in a single leap.

"We need to split up," Ladybug ordered.


"No time, I'll explain on the go!"

She pulled her earbud out of her yo-yo, throwing the toy to her left with one hand even before she had finished placing the device with her other. Chat did likewise, beginning his vault immediately in the other direction. The two shadows landed where they had been, then copied their actions to follow suit.

No matter how skillfully she swung through Paris, Ladybug's shadowy counterpart kept pace with her, following her like… well, a shadow. She was forcing herself to focus on the task and not the disturbing insights Pride of Darkness had made, just like she wasn't thinking about the you-know-what. Even if what she had told Chat Noir wasn't true, it was clear that she wasn't going to lose this foe long enough to– do the thing.

"Okay, what's the deal?" Chat asked through her communicator.

"We have to find a weakness of some kind, so I'm testing their decision making. Since they came from the Peaco*ck's Fan, they must be sentimonsters, which means they should still be tied to the amok even if they're feeding off ofouremotions."

"But there wasn't an amokized object, they formed right out of the feather!"

"I know, but Pride of Darkness was still giving them directions. The fan itself is probably the source."

"It could just be an extension of the akumatization link," Chat said. "Have either of them chased you?"

"I don't see them, but I would imagine one of them is," she replied.

The spotted heroine swung through Place de la Concorde in seconds, the dark copy following like a delayed afterimage. Running may have seemed cowardly, but it kept the akuma from doing anything else other than chase her. It also gave her a chance to think, her mind moving just as quickly as her body. There had to be some way to distract the dark Ladybug, or…That's it!

"Chat!" she called. "We could use a power-up! The Shadows can't use those!"

"We don't know that for sure!" he replied quickly. "They might be able to change to mimic our form as long as they're connected to us. Hawk Moth–err, Garuda, might even have some himself, since he has the grimoire."

"Urrrgh!" she groaned, but not through her earbud. Her only readily available option was using her Lucky Charm, but that was a huge risk, regardless of if Chat was right or wrong. For one, it might just be able to read her plan and render the superpower useless. Two, she expected that it would keep the physical prowess of a sentimonster even if it copied her de-transformation. Her foes would almost assuredly find out her civilian identity if time ran out, either through an akumatization link or from the Shadow easily overpowering her until one of its masters arrived. She expected at least one was following from a distance, especially if it needed commands. That also ruled out just de-transforming to test the theory.

The Lucky Charm would be an all-or-nothing gamble. Was that a chance she was willing to take?

Chat Noir wasn't having any better luck on his end, as he twisted his way through some back alleys in the 16th arrondissem*nt with the even darker Chat, well, shadowing him perfectly. Since he didn't see Mora or Pride of Darkness either, he was considering testing that luck by taking his Shadow head-on, which had already nearly happened once when he tried to hide in a dumpster and it had found him. If it really was feeding on his thoughts, maybe he could weaken it if he suppressed his desires, like he was always forced to as Adrien.

Don't be ridiculous,he chided himself. While the initial dread may have worn off, the truths Pride of Darkness had dredged up were quite literally following him around both physically and mentally. He needed to stay focused like Ladybug always did, and that part of him was saying that if one of the Shadow's masters had chased them, he was going to lose a direct fight no matter which way.Unless…

There wasoneoption readily available to him, but it would be a huge risk. He couldn't be sure if it would work, because it hadn't gone well when Lady Noire did it and Ladybug refused to let him try it as a result. If he failed, he would now be on a timer with a foe that could follow him until he de-transformed, that would likely be berserk, and may have perfectly competent backup.

But what other choice was there? He and Ladybug had shot down all of their normal tactics, and they were getting nowhere figuratively while running everywhere literally. Ladybug wasn't here, and he wasn't Lady Noire. He knew a lot more about how his Cataclysm functioned, and he still thought it was possible to destroy a sentimonster with it. And sometimes, you just have to take a chance if you want to get the reward.

He returned to a main street, extended his staff, and made a huge vault all the way over the Seine onto one of the apartment buildings. He turned around to make sure that the Shadow had committed itself to the same jump to reach him.

"Cataclysm!" he shouted, causing a black ball of energy to form in his outstretched right palm. He clenched it and pulled it close to show his control over the untamed destruction.

If Shadow Chat Noir had a face, the hero would've seen its eyes go wide in terror as it fell right into his trap. He had to remind himself that it didn't, it wasn't him or anyone sentient, and he was only destroying a magic sentimonster copy.

His hand contacted the body of his doppelganger, and time seemed to slow. The Shadow ceased movement and what felt like an eternity passed where nothing happened. Adrien relished in how good itfelt, even if his idea was about to fail, to confront a representation of all of his problems with the full force of Chat Noir's Cataclysm right to the heart.

The black figure slowly dissolved into ash, blowing away in the wind. Chat Noir heard himself release a breath he didn't know he was holding. He didn't feel any different in the aftermath of his power, so it appeared that he hadn't destroyed any part of himself. And that was good, because he had a mission and it was time to capitalize on his progress.

"Ladybug," he initiated over the comms. "I defeated my copy. Let's meet up and take down yours. Where at?"

"Okay– hold on, what?!" she nearly shouted. "How… no, did you Cataclysm it?!"

"Didn't have a choice," he said. It wasn't really true, but it also wasn't exactly false. "And it worked, and I'm fine. I'm going to recharge now."

"You– ugh, we'll talk later! When you're ready, head back to the Trocadéro for recon until I get there. I don't think Mora or Pride is following us, and that means they're up to something."

He leapt down into an alley and checked his surroundings to make sure no one was around. Given that it was an outside ceremony that got interrupted, he wasn't sure what people were up to now, and there were always the Alyas of the city running around, looking for some action.

"Claws in," he commanded, and his leather suit dispelled down his body as Plagg emerged from his ring.

"I'm glad you're really starting to take the idea of rebellion to heart, but breaking Ladybug's rules? Gutsy move, kid."

Adrien gave him a confused look as he procured some camembert for Plagg to snatch. "How do you know I did that?"

Plagg took a huge bite of his cheese. "Have you forgotten whose power it is you're channeling every time you call on a Cataclysm? I know everything you've ever touched with one, becauseI'mthe one that destroys it." He took another bite; the wedge was already half-gone.

"Then I guess you're also to blame for my plan working. And you know what, I trust Ladybug to use her Lucky Charm to the best of her ability all the time, so she should be able to trust me and my power just the same. Now finish your cheese so I can be ready for the next round. Pride of Darkness almost definitely felt the destruction of his sentimonster, so he's probably coming after me right now."

Plagg gulped down the last of his snack. "Well alrighty then, have fun sorting this out. Glad it's not my job."

The boy grew miffed. "Supportive as always. Plagg, claws out."

His suit formed once again as green light washed down his body, and he rose up and away using his staff. He was careful not to get high above roof level so as to avoid being spotted from afar by his foes, wherever they were. The place he decided he would counter-snoop on them was one of the buildings next to the Eiffel Tower, where he would hopefully not be too conspicuous while still having a good view of the Trocadéro. He pressed his staff's pawprint to pop open the phone, switching it to its camera mode so he could zoom in to see whatever was happening.

What he saw shocked him so much that he nearly dropped the staff. Pride of Darkness was plainly visible on the stage, and so were thefiveother Shadows forming a rank in front of him. He was currently creating a sixth one, which formed out into the shape of a tall boy with a long baton not too different from his own weapon. The akuma had created Shadows to copyallof their ally superheroes, and with a wave of his fan, they turned and moved as a group onto the Pont d'léna, likely to provide backup to their Shadow of a leader.

Chat ducked down to remain out of their sight. "L-Ladybug…" he gulped into his earpiece. "He made more."


The heroine on the other end was between swings in her crossing of Les Invalides, and she began falling to the street as she lost her concentration from hearing the news. She snapped back to reality soon enough to tuck into a roll as she hit the ground in the middle of the street.

"How many?"

"… six. One for each of our teammates. And Mora's not here."

Ladybug turned around to face her Shadow as it landed more gracefully on the cobblestone, while also looking around frantically for signs of the Butterfly wielder. Panic struck her when she saw a small form leaping on the horizon, in a different direction from that of the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadéro. The incarnation of her own shortcomings pierced fear into her soul as it foreshadowed the threat of a half-dozen more ghosts that was likely on its way.

Her instincts were screaming at her not to say the words forming on her tongue, but she could only see the situation getting worse the longer she waited to let them out. Chat's arrival would be delayed, perhaps even beaten by that of the other Shadows, and he wouldn't be able to Cataclysm them all at once.

"Lucky Charm!" she shouted, throwing her yo-yo in the air. She knew exactly what her duplicate was going to do, and she jumped into the air to catch what had formed into a sealed red bucket before it could be intercepted, kicking off of her black copy and flipping back onto the ground.

Something sloshed within the bucket as she moved, and looking down at it, it was surprisingly void of its regular black spots. Only a singular black circle covered the entire lid, and she had a pretty good guess as to what the bucket contained.

A plan formed quickly in her mind, painting over her fear.Aha!The can… herself… Shadow Ladybug… the Hôtel de Invalides…

Just like that, everything that she had been worried about happening was now what shewanted to happen. If Hawk Moth and Mayura thought they could flip the script and pull an unexpected victory, then she would let them believe that, right up until the very moment she pulled the rug from under them and turned it right back into defeat.

The form of Mora that was on the horizon quickly approached Les Invalides, and she was trying to come up with a new battle plan along the way. They had not expected Chat Noir to destroy his Shadow, and now Ladybug had circled around back towards the Eiffel Tower, if the position of her Shadow continued to be accurate. She wasn't used to being unable to track the sentimonsters herself, and it was a frustrating line of communication to have to rely on the relay of Garuda's connection and orders. It was for that reason that she had decided not to go with Shadow Ladybug initially to chase the real one, but circ*mstances had changed, and she didn't trust the Shadow alone now. Ladybug was too good at capitalizing on these sorts of surprises.

"Shadow Ladybug just entered Napoleon's Tomb," Pride of Darkness informed through their akumatization link. "The others will be there shortly. If you can keep Ladybug inside, she'll be surrounded, and victory will be ours!"

With another leap, the woman was only a block or so away from the Hôtel and the Tomb next to it. She didn't see any signs of the battle, though that was understandable since it seemed Ladybug had spent most of it running away. Despite her partner's claim, Mora knew better than to assume that the end of that activity had resulted in anything in their favor. She would believe the evidence when she saw it herself.

It wasn't until she was near to the Tomb's entrance that the ink-black Ladybug impression walked out, alone. The Shadow turned to her, looming in the shadow of the entryway. It lifted its equally dark yo-yo and spun it in a circle around itself; Mora understood the message.Ladybug has been caught.

Her first reaction was to question that conclusion, running over possible ways that Ladybug could get out of this. The heroine had previously managed to subvert her sentimonster copy from Mayura's control, but nature of this one as everything Ladybug didn't like and the Peaco*ck Fan being back at the Trocadéro meant she couldn't persuade or force the sentimonster to her side. Her Lucky Charm may be able to free her from her bindings, but Shadow Ladybug was still as clever as the real one and wouldn't have left her alone unless it was sure.

Soon, she saw six black specks approach, their forms very conspicuous against the pale blue sky, and she finally felt secure in her next statement.

"Ladybug has been captured by her Shadow, sir. On your command, we shall engage in taking her miraculous."

"Finally! I've waited a whole year for this!"

With Shadow Ladybug in the lead, Mora and the Shadows moved in unison into the upper level of the Tomb. The suited villain's cane echoed off of the floor as she moved, and she kept an eye all around her for someone lying in ambush. Chat Noir's whereabouts were still unknown.

Shadow Ladybug stopped in front of the rim of the circular balcony of the atrium, and the other Shadows spread out around it. Mora walked up next to her to look down at the tombstone itself, and she saw–No!

Her next sensation was being flipped over the railing as the Ladybug next to her threw her overhead. She landed roughly, face-up, next to theotherShadow Ladybug that was tied to Napoleon's tombstone with a yo-yo, with a black splotch on the ground next to it.

"Chat, now!" the real Ladybug above shouted, disappearing from sight. The entire wall she could see beyond her circular viewpoint turned as black as the Shadows, and Mora hopelessly scrambled towards cover as the whole building came toppling down on them all.

Ladybug tucked and rolled to avoid the debris from the collapsing Tomb behind her. She briefly felt bad for defiling Napoleon's grave, but at this point, it was just another on the list of national monuments that had been destroyed in one akuma fight or another. She kept running towards the street as her now less-black-than-her partner vaulted into step beside her.

"I see black is the new… red-and-black!" he joked. "Lady Noire's already taken, though, you'll have to come up with something else."

"Not now, Chat," she replied in a serious tone, carefully lifting up the large manhole cover she had tracked down. "I don't know if that will hold them for long, we need to hide."

He jumped down and she followed suit, re-positioning the manhole where it had been before dropping down. They ran through the tunnels until they reached a spot where the sewer split, and each hero took a side and finally stopped moving.

"Spots off," Ladybug said, the black paint washing away with her costume.

"Claws in," Chat Noir mimicked.

Marinette leaned back against the curved wall with a sigh, opening her purse for Tikki to come out with a cookie. Adrien similarly procured another chunk of cheese for Plagg.

"Hawk Moth sure hates celebrations," the blond commented.

"I should've known, I should've kept our partners on standby," she criticized at herself.

"You can't know everything, Ladybug. We're going to get through this, we always do."

Marinette scowled and lightly banged the wall with a clenched fist. "Not if you pull anything like that Cataclysm again!"

Adrien turned to face the inner divider, for whatever good it would do him. "What, you don't trust me to use my own power? I follow your Lucky Charm plans all the time without questioning your decisions, why can't you do the same for me?"

The bluenette stood and mirrored the movement, but began pacing as well. "Because there's ahugedifference between your power and mine! IfImess up my Lucky Charm, I'm the one that has to fix it, and I get to try again as many times as I need as long as I can hold onto it. When I succeed, I'mguaranteedto accomplish whatever it is I wanted, which is usually straight up winning against the akuma.

"But ifyoumess up your Cataclysm, that's it!" she exclaimed by spreading her hands forward, not that he could see them. "You don't get another shot without having to stop and hide to recharge, and there's no guarantee of anything no matter how times you use it. And guess what, if you fail, the person who has to clean up after you isstill me, because my power can't function if yours isn't used correctly! Taking a risk like that,without telling me, in a fight that we were already starting to have trouble with, was incredibly irresponsible of you, Chat Noir!"

Adrien crossed his arms. "So what, you expected me to just keep running away without doing anything until you came up with an answer? That plan of yours just now never would have worked if I hadn't done what I did, because I wouldn't have been able to ambush them if my Shadow was still on my tail."

"Iexpectthat you at leasttry it outbefore deciding to stake the entire fight on it! You could've Cataclysmed an easier sentimonster like the Lollipop Boy in a battle with lower stakes."

"Right, because youdidn'talready forbid me from doing that andwouldn'thave yelled at me just like this if I did it anyway."

"I wouldn't if you told me in advance what you were trying to accomplish!"

"That's not true and you know it. You're only saying this now because I forced the conversation."

"I don't mean to interrupt your old couple's squabbles," Plagg's whiny voice interjected. "Well, actually, I do, because we don't have all day to wait for those sentimonsters to track you down, and I'm filled up and ready to go. Also, if you ask me, this argument sounds like a two-way street! You're both right, which means you're both wrong!"

"I have to agree with Plagg," Tikki added more softly. "Both of you are making good points, and that meansneitherof you handled things perfectly. You should apologize to each other and set this aside for now, because we need to focus on our objective. We can talk about this, hopefully more civilly,afterwe've defeated the akuma."

"Right, I, uh…" Adrien exhaled and leaned back against the sewer wall. "Sorry, Ladybug. I knew that I was risking a lot by doing that, and it was careless of me."

Marinette ran a hand through her hair and held the other to her forehead. "And I'm sorry for yelling at you. You're right, I… should trust you more."

Her recent conversation with her dad came to the forefront of her mind, but she banished the thought. Tikki was right, they needed to focus on their mission.

"Tikki… spots on."

"Plagg, claws out."

They both stepped out from their cover and looked at each other in the eyes, and then Chat Noir gave her one of his cheeky smiles. "Let's wrap up our birthday with some confidence, shall we?"

"Yes. Paris needs us."

Pride of Darkness had to hold in his anger and frustration when he came upon the literal ruins of his success in the form of Napoleon's Tomb. ThatblastedLadybugalwaysfound a way to outsmart even his most well-crafted plans. She was supposed to believe that her Shadow formed out of her own mind and could read her intentions, andstillshe managed to figure out a way to dispose of it. How does someone outsmartherself? It was inconceivable!

He set the Shadow Chat Noir he had already re-created to clearing the rubble as he poured his fury into another feather, releasing it to form a replacement Shadow for the very girl the anger was directed at. Almost immediately upon its formation, it pointed up at the sky. When Pride looked up to see what it was, the two of them became forced to split and jump high in opposite directions.

It was an interception by the real Ladybug and Chat Noir. Pride heard Ladybug's yo-yo before he saw it, and he twisted in midair to swat it away with his fan before landing on his feet.

"No more games, Hawk Moth!" she exclaimed. "It's just you and us now!"

"And your worst nightmares," he replied confidently. He needed no command for them to join him in surrounding the two, all of them readied with their weapons.

"We're not afraid of a couple of fakers!" Chat Noir shot back. He initiated the fight with a rightward sweep of his staff, his Shadow moving out of the way and allowing him to pivot into a lunge towards Pride.

"No matter how dark or hopeless things get, Ladybug and I can count on each other until the very end!"

In one motion, Pride of Darkness dodged the weapon and swept his leg in a circle to try and trip Ladybug, who had just leaned back to avoid a swing of her Shadow's yo-yo and countered with one of her own to catch its arm. She had to ditch the move and hop into an awkward roll to avoid the villain's attack, which gave him and Shadow Ladybug space to stand between the two heroes and separate them.

Ladybug pulled her yo-yo back to her with finesse, not looking deterred in the slightest. "That's right! We'llnevergive up and we'llneverstop working together to overcome any obstacle in our way!

"Lucky Charm!" she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a black-spotted red cylindrical shape, wider in the middle and open on one end, which then fell into Ladybug's hands.

A vase?Pride thought. He hated how unpredictable those Lucky Charms were, and he needed to prioritize taking it away from her so she couldn't use it. A normal akuma wouldn't think of such a plan, as obvious as it may be, and he hoped that he could catch her off-guard with it.

At the very least, the vase now occupied one of her hands and put her at a further disadvantage to him and his sentimonster. Shadow Ladybug, following its primary directive, took the initiative and leapt forward towards its light counterpart. It threw its yo-yo again, but this timeatLadybug's yo-yo, which forced the heroine to dodge since blocking would entangle the weapons. The move left her open for Pride's follow-up slash of his fan, which she became again forced to block.

Behind them, both the real and imposter Chat Noirs were dueling in a whirlwind of pure black and slightly-less black. While the genuine hero appeared to have the upper hand, Pride had commanded the Shadow intentionally to play defense to keep him away from Ladybug.

He smirked at Ladybug's look of increasing frustration as she had to put all of her effort into her own defense.

"How's that teamwork working out for you, Ladybug?" he taunted. "Face it, no partnership was ever going to save you from the adversity inside your own heart! As long as that exists, you'll never defeat me!"

He finished that comment by finally getting past her guard, hitting her yo-yo shield at just the right angle to bat it away despite it still swinging. She staggered, and her Shadow took the opportunity to throw her own yo-yo and pin Ladybug's arms to her sides. She struggled against her bonds but only accomplished tripping backwards onto the ground, and Pride savored the look of utter despair that appeared on her face. He brought his fan back up to his face as he loomed over her.

"The Year of the Ladybug is now over."

He bent down and reached with his free arm towards Ladybug's right ear as she flailed even harder in the gravel.

Then, out of left field and actually to his left, he heard an impact, and then Shadow Ladybug tumbled on top of him. Chat Noir had, in desperation, thrown his weapon like a billiards cue to hit the black eight-ball, a move which left him wide open for his Shadow to put him in a lock with its own staff.

He shoved his minion off of him, but the damage had already been done. Ladybug seized the moment of surprise to escape the yo-yo, and he realized that he had dropped his fan just in time for her to dive aggressively for it with both hands. She snatched it just out of his reach and sprung off the ground, landing on her feet with a flourish of the feathered tool.

"NO!" he bellowed, leaping to his feet. That fan controlled his Shadows, and Ladybug had evidently figured that out as her dark counterpart jumped on him more intentionally to put him in a grapple of his own. He brusquely shrugged her off using his larger stature; he wasnotgoing to let the battle end like this.

"Your desperation techniques aren't going to work on me!" Pride roared. He on the other hand still had a legitimate trick up his sleeve that thosechildrencouldn't use. Ladybug hid the fan inside her Lucky Charm, and he scoffed at her pathetic attempt as he channeled his rage with all of his might. The fan obeyed his command to return to him, moving with such ferocity that it forced not only the vase but Ladybug herself with it, her grip barely holding as she dug in her feet and groaned with the effort as she was dragged across the rocky path.

When she was only meters away, he made eye contact, and the fire in her eyes told him that he had just fallen into her trap. He was suddenly tackled from behind by Shadow Chat Noir, the fan and vase flying past where his hand used to be, and the real cat hero was waiting behind him to catch them. Shadow Ladybug made its third and finally successful attempt at Ladybug's command, joining its shadowy partner in holding Pride of Darkness to the ground.

He realized then what Ladybug's real goal was, what the Lucky Charm had been summoned for. Each of them had just gained the chance to break the fan to de-akumatize him and destroy his Shadows, but they didn't. They were instead turning them against their master and continuing to fight. They wanted that extra manpower, because they wanted a bigger victory: taking the Peaco*ck Miraculous.

"I release you fr–gah!"

His snap was interrupted by an uncomfortable pressure against his hands that forcibly curled his fingers in, and he found that he couldn't move them. It was the blastedvase, he could tell. It had flipped their fortunes after all, as Ladybug was now the one standing above him; she was quickly accompanied by Chat Noir.

"Everyone has their own darkness that they must face, and that will never go away," she spoke, looking tenderly at her partner before returning to a steely glare in his direction. "What matters is having people we care about by our side to help us through it, because the power of love is always stronger than the hate you sow!"

The two Shadows forced him to his feet, and he saw one last hope clamber out of the ruins. Ladybug reached for his brooch, but then a wave of purple matter washed over him and his two captors, dissolving them completely. A purple butterfly flew out of the Miraculous, and he ignored it completely to leap over the heroes straight to Mora's side, who was leaning on her cane for support. She managed to knock the vase down with it as he looked at their enemies with a surprising determination of his own.

"Then listen well, Ladybug and Chat Noir. That same power of love is what drives me to make my Wish. I will never give up either, not until I have the person who was taken away from me back at my side!"

He hooked an arm around Mora, and the two leapt away over the ruins of the Tomb. Ladybug let them disappear towards the horizon, because Garuda had left behind another task that she needed to take care of before it could get worse.

"No more evildoing for you, little akuma," Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within. She swung the yo-yo in a circle to charge up her throw.

"Time to de-evilize!"

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. "Bye-bye, little butterfly!"

She walked over to where her Lucky Charm was lying on the ground, picking the vase up and throwing it into the air as well.

"Miraculous Ladybug!"

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which spread out in groups to restore all the damage. Napoleon's Tomb was fixed to its pristine state, and the rest flew over to the Trocadéro to clean up the stage, restore the tech van, and heal Mayor Bourgeois and his downed protectorate.

When Ladybug looked back down from the sky, Chat Noir was in front of her, and they made eye contact. Then she fell to her knees with a small cry and hung her head.

"Ladybug…" Chat whispered, kneeling in front of her and placing a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Her hands were trembling. "I… I don't know, Chat. He wasthere, he was seconds from having my earrings. I know it's happened before, but… not like that."

"But you did it.Wedid it. We followed through on what we said. No matter how hopeless it may seem, we always trust in each other and keep fighting."

"Yes, I-I know, but… I almost didn't. I fell straight into his mind games, chaton. I let him convince me that he had plucked my darkest fears straight into that feather, even though it was a regular sentimonster the whole time."

"That's just what Hawk Moth does. Every time he sends out an akuma, he preys on those doubts and fears to get his victim to accept his devil's bargain."

Ladybug looked at him with her bluebell eyes. "And I'm supposed to be one above all that. The paragon that sees past the deception and shines through the darkness to save the akumatized person and the day. That's why Master Fu chosemeto wield the Ladybug Miraculous… and become the Guardian of the Miracle Box… I just don't know…"

"If you're human?" Chat said with a little bite. "I– I'm sorry, that was rather blunt," he immediately added, then sighed.

"I was just as scared out there as you were, Bugaboo. And I know what it's like to have to be the golden boy and hide any blemishes behind a perfect smile. After a while, you begin to question who you really are under the masks and the expectations, or if there's even anyone there at all. I think that's why Master Fu chose me to wield the Cat Miraculous, to let the real me come out of the shadows. I think that's… why I defied you and Cataclysmed that sentimonster."

"So what Pride of Darkness said about you is true, then…"

His ears drooped, and he looked away. Ladybug reciprocated his action from earlier, her hand on his shoulder getting him to look back up at her.

"I've been an awful partner to you, Chat Noir. I never even considered that maybe your problems weren't simple or light enough that they could be ignored for me. If those problems prevent you from helping me with my problems, or if they lead to a loss themselves… then it's just as much of a failure as if my problems had been the cause."

Ladybug's earrings beeped, and she knew she had only two dots left. Counting that was automatic by now. She kept her gaze and smiled weakly at her partner.

"I… I wish things could be different. I know this isn't fair to either of us. But I want totryto help you, at least. We should meet sometime to talk about your problems."

He laughed, but it wasn't a good laugh. "You're right, Ladybug, it's not fair. I'm going to echo what you told me last month. You were concerned that I would take advantage of you if you opened up to me. You told me that you can't love me back, yet you're saying now that you want to provide that same deep, emotional support for me?"

Chat Noir stood up. "It can't work. There's nothing that can be done about your Guardianship or aboutChat Blanc. The only way I can be what you need is to push my problems away from you."

The dark hero turned away from her. "I'm going to go now, so that I don't see your secret identity." And he did just that.

Ladybug stood with a startled expression. That heartfelt moment went sour quickly… and she couldn't say that it was unjustified. Ziggy had said that she shouldn't take it personally, because, as Chat just explained, it really can't happen any other way. She had to be perfect, and she said as such to him last month as well.

Maybe shewasstarting to lose herself. But was it under the weight of the expectations, or simply her own failures to meet them? Was she being entitled and making both of their lives harder than it needed to be?

Ladybug turned around to the Tomb behind her. Napoleon Bonaparte was a man who did incredible things, but even 200 years later, people still debated over what he made better and what he made worse. This past year also marked an era of incredible things, superpowers and chaotic battles beyond what anyone could have imagined even the day before it all started. So much had happened that she didn't even recognize the Marinette Dupain-Cheng from that day. She had grown in many ways, but also changed in others that she didn't know whether were better or worse either. There was a lot she didn't know right now.

Master Fu's final letter came to her mind. The road may be winding, and life wouldn't always give her the gifts she was hoping for. What really mattered was that she kept going. It may take time, but she had to trust that she would find the right answers eventually. The future,herfuture, depended on it.


I drew up concept art of Garuda and Mora, if you like visualizations: https://imgur.com/a/A0BtzH0

This also includes Pride of Darkness's color change: https://imgur.com/yUJsgXJ

Chapter 14: Meet the Miraculouses: Duusu


In a twist on this mini-series, Nathalie re-assesses what she knows about Duusu's realization of emotion in the aftermath of Pride of Darkness's defeat at Ladybug and Chat Noir's anniversary.

Chapter Text

Nathalie Sancoeur opened her eyes.

The first observations she made were that she was laying in her bed, still in her work clothes, and that it was dark outside. Her memories were hazy, but some of the blanks started to fill themselves in shortly thereafter. The collapse of Napoleon's Tomb hadn't seriously injured her, but moving those massive chunks of stone to escape had been incredibly taxing, even with the boost of the miraculous. She remembered emerging just in time to see Gabriel in danger, and then they escaped, and then… he must have put her here to rest, where she evidently had been sleeping for time.

Now having her mental bearings, Nathalie sat up, and it hurt. Everything hurt, and not just from the exhaustion of the day's events. Recovering from her usage of the broken Peaco*ck was going to take as long, if not longer, than it took to receive it, and her use of the Butterfly instead today had not helped one bit.

The fact that Pride of Darkness lost made it feel even worse to her, especially because their plot could have been even more powerful if Gabriel had gone along with her idea for how to capitalize on the aftermath of the Miracle Queen plot. Her proposal was to create one last sentimonster that would be able to track and observe the revealed identities of Ladybug's allies, allowing them to identify weaknesses in both their decision-making and in Ladybug's miraculous distribution methods.

Gabriel terminated that discussion without a second thought; he absolutely refused to risk any more harm to her right when they had finally secured the means of reversing it. He said that having a sentimonster from the broken miraculous tied to her could impact her ability to recover from the damage at all, even after its fix.

Nathalie didn't care. She would doanythingto restore Emilie and bring back the happiness in Gabriel's soul. Because it was she who found the miraculouses to begin with, their entire plight was her fault, and therefore it was her responsibility to fix it, regardless of how much Gabriel blamed himself for it. Like all of her responsibilities for the Agrestes, she would see it through no matter what she had to do to make happen.

She never expected that she would feel this strongly about anyone, or really, feelanythingthis strongly ever again. She had spent so much of her life locking away her emotions, constantly being reminded that they were signs of pain and weakness and only got in the way of the work she needed to do not to fail. That continual drive eventually led to her being hired by Gabriel Agreste, a man notorious for his high standards, as his personal assistant.

Since then, the Agrestes had become something of a surrogate family to her; she didn't think she would be capable of having a family of her own at any point in the near future. She knew the pressure and loneliness that Adrien felt, and she wanted to protect him from it, even if that meant going behind his parents' back at times.

Her mind returned to the real world, the throbbing throughout her body having subsided somewhat. On the nightstand next to her was her glasses case, and behind that… a small box? She had a guess as to what was in there, and it was confirmed when she opened it. As she adorned the Peaco*ck Brooch, a sparkling indigo light appeared and transformed into the feathered kwami Duusu.

"Miss Nathalie? Are you feeling better?"

"Yes… relatively speaking."

Duusu frowned. Nathalie knew he felt guilty about the damage using his miraculous caused her and Emilie, even though he had no part in any of that.

"Is Mister Gabriel okay? You… akumatized him while he was using my miraculous."

"He was not harmed by our activities today, if that is what you are wondering."

She also knew that, despite Duusu understanding the emotional hardship that led to Gabriel's quest for a Wish, he did not particularly approve of the methods. Like Nooroo, he insisted that the miraculouses should be used for good and not their personal gain.

"Oh, I see…"

"On the subject, I require some answers from you about sentimonsters."

A small bit of magic washed over Duusu's form. Just as they could forbid the kwamis from saying or doing certain things, they could also compel them to do the same, and she had just spoken the activation phrase she set to, well, require him to answer. Why this was possible, she did not know.

"What information do you need, Miss Nathalie?"

"I want to know why Pride of Darkness's sentimonsters were unable to read the thoughts of the superheroes they were based off of, and why Chat Noir was able to Cataclysm one completely. These facts contradict my understanding of your power."

"Both of those seem to share a common misconception. That being that, despite appearances, sentimonsters are not truly alive."

Nathalie squinted an eye in skepticism. "How can that possibly be? I created a perfect clone of Ladybug. You can't get any more alive than that."

Duusu shook his head. "While defining life is… complicated, to say the least, the key difference in this case is that sentimonsters are entirely a product of my power. They are not born and do not age, grow, or die as regular lifeforms do, because their form and sustenance come directly from me."

"I do not see the relevance of that. If they are an extension of you, and you are alive, then that still makes them alive."

She didn't like the look she received from the indigo being. "… are you really about to tell me that you're not alive?"

The kwami briefly glanced away. "Like I said, defining life is complicated, and the truth is not always what appearances would suggest." He spun in a circle, his tailfeathers spreading to make the gesture seem grand. "The form you see here is not the real Duusu. It is only a minute fraction of a fraction. As you know, we kwami are based onuniversalconcepts… so consequently, we areuniversalin scale. We do not – andcannot, if you know anything of the square-cube law – possess a physical form. Our thoughts, powers, and actions… to be blunt, are something far beyond the comprehension of mankind."

Nathalie was stunned.The grimoire had no mention of this."Then… what is the being floating in front of me?"

"A channeling, of sorts. A Miraculous is an outlet that the greater kwami uses to condense some of its awareness and interact with those on planet Earth, which necessitates giving it a name and form recognizable by the peoples that the miraculous is being used with. The peaco*ck best represents the concepts of emotion and instinct – biological drive – that I embody. Even this isn't exactly true, because there are many languages and cultures and they evolve over time, so there are multiple valid forms that I could take and many names that have described me over the ages."

As if in disbelief, Nathalie removed her glasses momentarily to clean the lenses. Such monumental description sounded even more incredulous in Duusu's squeaky voice. "And… how does that relate to the problems I described?"

"It is mainly relevant for Cataclysms. Sentimonsters are externally sustained through the amok and do not experience entropy as real beings do; in essence, they are magic. A regularly-applied Cataclysm will not be able to destroy them, because it will target the body and not its source and result in unpredictable behavior. Chat Noir was able to direct his Cataclysm to target the magic and cut the plant at its roots, so to speak."

"I… see. And what of the Shadows' connection to the heroes they were based off of?"

"A limitation of the miraculous and the sentimonsters. Creatinganyhumanlike sentimonster is very difficult, because the concept being channeled does not include sentience and intelligence. There is a reason they're called monsters. Even the form of a human evokes those human qualities and requires a specific mindset to conform to this specification, as well as a sufficiently strong will to fuel the creation of a sentimonster of such complexity.

"Because a sentimonster is magic, it is not truly a human, only a simulation of one. The Shadows, as you call them, were mere simulacra, taking the form of those heroes and copying their general decision-making. They had no true connection, and they never will without amokizing the heroes themselves."

Nathalie closed her eyes in thought, and partially in exhaustion as well. This was taking a lot of brainpower to process. "And yet, I was still able to create a sentimonster sentient enough to possess morals and free will when given the choice."

Duusu looked over Nathalie as if in appraisal. "Your creation of the Ladybug sentimonster was an incredible circ*mstance born from your sustained and targeted hatred of Ladybug and analysis of her behaviors, and the intensity and determination you possessed in the moment when you created the amok. Banish any thought of amokizing your morning cup of coffee to make a human."

The woman sighed, coming out as more of a strong exhale from her tiredness. "Of course. I think I need to rest now so I can think about this more clearly. Thank you for answering my questions."Not that you had a choice.

"Yes… do rest."

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the small box, setting it back on the table. She did likewise with her glasses and laid back under the covers to sleep.

Chapter 15: Burnmaster


Sabrina questions whether she should stay by Chloé's side; meanwhile, Chloé's father forces a fire captain to remove people from his, and Hawk Moth sets his sights on him. A not-study date at Adrien's sets Marinette's heart alight, but all of Paris follows soon after...


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Dad… I have a question… if it's not too much trouble."

Roger Raincomprix slurped down the last of his takeout noodles before addressing his daughter's question. "Sure thing, sweetie, what is it?"

Sabrina looked at him timidly from her seat across their small table in the center of their small apartment. "You've said many times that 'protect and serve' is our family motto… but what exactly does that mean? Why do we need to protect? What cause are we serving?"

Her father stroked the non-existent beard on his chin while he composed his answer. "Well… you see, throughout history, the world has been driven by big thinkers. Not everyone can be a big thinker, so it's important to stand behind the ones you agree with. Or, in some cases, in front of them, because other thinkers and those who support them sometimes want to enforce their ideas through force. By protecting and serving the people you believe in, you are doing your part to support the cause."

A glint shone in his eyes, and he then slammed the table with his hands to rise from his seat. "And the Raincomprix family has dutifully served its proud nation of France for hundreds of years! From Napoleon to Louis Napoleon, the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth Republics," he counted them on his fingers, "de Gaulle… well, he also led one of the Republics, and d'Estaing, who signed the bill establishing the Paris mayorship that Mr. Bourgeois now holds. Basically, if they're in charge, the Raincomprix are at large! Wherever the country was headed, we helped make sure it got there in one piece!"

Sabrina blinked with wide turquoise eyes. His speech was certainly… impassioned. But if she understood it correctly, it sounded like her family's allegiance wasn't actually held to any ideology like he described, but rather changed its loyalty pretty much to whoever was winning at any point in history. It only increased her uncertainty about the concern behind what she had asked.

"But, Dad…" she replied, feeling invisible compared to his loud presence. "What if I simultaneously believe in two people who oppose each other?"

"Uh, well… how exactly is that possible…?"

"It's– well, it's Chloé," she explained, "And Ladybug. You see, after I was akumatized into Miraculer, Ladybug took away Chloé's privileges to be Queen Bee. Chloé pushed herself away from all the hero stuff after that, the comics and roleplay and such, which was understandable. But then her parents were akumatized last month and now… I really don't know what's gotten into her. Not only does she refuse even tohearLadybug's name, but she's pushed me away, too. She usually has me come along to Marchanderie to shop for her, but just last week, she said I wasn't worthy to see her in the latest trends and banned me from going. She hasn't spoken to me since she caused that akumatized girl to come after her.

"It's like she's back to who she was before Ladybug appeared, almost as if… she's in denial, trying to forget that anything happened. And that doesn't make any sense to me, because I didn't think shelikedwho she was then, she was trying to be better, and I definitely don't like whoIhave been, and I can't just turn my back on Ladybug because she'sLadybugand–"

Roger stopped her now-distraught rambling with a large hand on her shoulder. "Slow down there, let's take this one statement at a time. I understand what you mean and why this is so troubling for you. You're saying you can't continue to serve Chloé's needs while also supporting Ladybug, who protects and serves the city of Paris."

Sabrina calmed her breathing. "Y-yeah. I'm starting to wonder if I evencanhelp Chloé. If… I evenshouldhelp Chloé."

Her father frowned at her. "Now, that's not the young lady your mom and I raised. I taught you that when someone is at their lowest is precisely when they need to be helped the most."

"Well it's not just about her, it's also… someone else. Do you remember a girl by the name of Marinette Dupain-Cheng?"

He nodded. "Yes, the baker's daughter. The one Chloé accused of stealing her bracelet, which led to me getting akumatized. She had guts, standing up to a Bourgeois."

The teen blinked again. It wasn't surprising that he remembered the fiasco at Career Day last year, but Marinette's involvement was not the cause of it, and most people didn't like talking about their akumatization experiences. She certainly didn't.

"That is… something else that has happened since Ladybug first appeared, actually, and one that wouldn't go away even if Ladybug did. As time goes on, Dupain-Che– Marinette's opposition has only grown firmer. Not long after that incident, she stood up to Chloé to win class representative, and the entire rest of the class has gone to her side. Because she… well, she takes her duty seriously and serves everyone's needs, just as we do."

She removed her glasses to wipe some dust off and closed her eyes wearily. It was weird, pulling these memories back up only a few days shy of a full year after they actually happened, but they were events she could recall vividly, and her dad was rarely around for her to have this sort of discussion with him anyway. Reflecting on it now, she wasn't sure that he would have approved of the sorts of things she and Chloé had been doing to Marinette over the last several years. He had scolded her for attempting to steal Marinette's diary that day of the election.

Sabrina replaced her glasses. Right now, her dad looked deep in thought, his left hand placed awkwardly on his forehead where she knew he usually held the rim of his police cap. She took a drink from the glass of water placed next to her half-eaten meal.

"There was one time where she even convincedmeto stand against Chloé and not do all the work for her, when the three of us were assigned a project together. She said that Chloé only ever took advantage of me and that a real friend shouldn't do that."

"She did?" he replied immediately, his contemplation replaced with confusion. "It doesn't seem like anything has changed between you."

"No… it hasn't," Sabrina confirmed. "Marinette failed to coordinate any sort of work on the project and made excuses as to why, just like Chloé always does. I wound up doing all the work by myself and never gave her advice a second thought… until all this started happening."

She meshed her fingers together on the table in front of her, staring through them. "I remember Chloé's immediate response to Marinette's comments. She said that because she was myonlyfriend, it didn't matter how she treated me, because I was nothing without her. And she was right." She paused, the silence emphasizing her feelings for her.

"So… what if Marinette is also right? WhyshouldI continue to devote myself to Chloé, when she doesn't want me around and actively despises the heroes that protect Paris? Maybe I dismissed Marinette – and the friendship she offered – too readily."

Again, Roger was silent. He had always been encouraging of her and Chloé's friendship, so she wondered how he was receiving this new conundrum under the hood.

"Well…" he finally began, looking at her with an oddly serious face. "Firstly, I stand by what I said that you shouldn't abandon Chloé in her hour of need. I would disgrace myself as an officer of the law if I did such a thing, because it just ain't right. I can count on my squad to have my back, and they can count on me to have theirs. You should do the same for the people you care about."

"Oh…" she whispered.

"However," he continued with a softened expression, his old chair creaking as he leaned back, "I also know that there's a firm line between selflessness and self-destruction. Your concern about protecting yourself is valid; trying to force yourself onto Chloé when she's being distant is only likely to hurt one or both of you even more. From your description, Marinette Dupain-Cheng sounds like a good ally to have, but if you don't think you can side with either one without the other declaring you an enemy, the safest play would be to declare neutrality. Keeping the peace and getting a truce to form could pave the way to everyone working this out civilly. This way, the worst anyone can do to you is say no, and if Marinette's as supportive as you say, she might even encourage some of the others who could be more willing to receive you."

Neutrality?Sabrina considered.

"Do you really think she would do that?" she decided to ask.

"Of course I do! The more support you have, the better, I say, and I'm sure Ladybug would agree since she picked out those superhero allies of hers. I, for one, wouldn't know what to do if I had to dismiss any of my proud brothers and sisters in the line of duty."

Meanwhile, across the city, a different Bourgeois placed an intimidating pile of paperwork onto the center of a large, ornate wooden desk. A well-built man dressed in fire-safety clothes looked up from his seat nestled in the inner curve of the desk's edge.

"Sorry to say, Captain Hessenpy, but you're going to have to dismiss a decent amount of your employees," the mayor declared, sounding less sorry than his words suggested.

The fire captain's blue eyes shrunk with dismay. "What– why? How could you do this?"

"Budget cuts, my dear boy. The city's annual review shows that fires are at a record low with the extra precautions being taken to prevent akumas, and Ladybug's miraculous powers do a great job of cleaning up any messes caused by those pesky villains. There's just no need to keep so many people on staff when the money could be better spent on paying off my backer–, uh, backlog of contracts and outstanding fees for other essential services."

Hessenpy felt like he aged five years in the last five seconds. "I… I can't… I'll need some time to decide, to figure out who can afford to be let go."

André shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me who it is. Since it's already late, I'll be generous and give you until the morning, but I expect you to have an answer by then."

The portly man turned and left, leaving Hessenpy to bury his forehead in his hands.

The golden light of sunset pooled into the observatory constructed at the top of the Agreste manor. Hawk Moth took a moment to appreciate the calm that radiated onto him through the hole in the center of the observatory's ornate window. The calm before the storm.

It was not yet the time to reap what misery the chaotic elements of life had thrown in some poor fool's path, however. For he had made a promise that he intended to keep; chaos was not where his interests lie today. He had promised to adapt, to become smarter and stronger, and his new theory had been given credence by Snow Wonder and could very well tip the scales like never before. He needed to go further, be more selective, and that meant he would need to plan more of them ahead of time when he could afford the opportunities.

He closed his eyes, and the wings of the Butterfly Miraculous began glowing white and bright. The touch of physical light faded, and a dazzle of smaller lights formed around him in his mind's eye, like the many stars of a galaxy. Each one was a soul in Paris, shining with a color and intensity indicating their desires, and they spoke to him when he turned his attention their way.

A violet light, large and flickering with irritation. He felt a patient yet perfectionist play director's errant wish to be able to control the people in her production as she neared her wit's end with a struggling new actor. It would have been suitable before, but it wasn't going to meet his expectations for today. Still, plays took several months to produce, so he could keep an ear on it in case these disputes blossomed into a real problem.

A magenta light, pulsating with frustration and stubbornness. He felt an imaginative young man's… strange desire tostealrare artifacts to prove they are miraculouses… to win an argument on the… forget it. Miraculous-based powers were always strong, but he had akumatized this theorist before, and the boy proceeded to allow his wild speculations to distract him from his assignment and get tricked into losing.

A red light, burning with anguish and pressure. He felt a well-respected, well-principled fireman's hopeless plea to escape the very ugly decision being forced upon him, violating every part of his good conscience, and on a short deadline. Since he was a member of the Paris Fire Brigade, that meant he had some military training alongside his preparation for hazardous situations. He should be more than capable in a fight.

His plight wasperfect, and when time was up, Hawk Moth would feast on the flames.

Although it was supposed to be a short midmorning walk from the Metro to the gate of the Agreste mansion, space seemed to contort itself to make each of Marinette's steps longer than the last. Her feet felt like magnets, and her arms clutched her tablet so tightly that she had to keep adjusting it so it wouldn't break.

Her stomach was paradoxically a collapsing void and an expanding bubble at the same time. Each beat of her heart was a swell of heat and passion followed by a pump of guilt and dread for feeling that way, because her brain was trying to reassure her that shewantedto do this, to be afriendandhelpAdrien. This was no big deal, it was just studying, not a study date– ohhhh, why'd she have to think that particular word!

Her throat constricted in a gulp as she reached the gate, her eyes fixating on the port where she knew the camera-on-a-stalk was going to pop out at her when her finger finally reached the call button... at the sluggish pace she could manage to move it at. Her ears confirmed that motion's completion with the buzzing of the intercom, and two seconds later she realized that she needed toremoveher finger after that happened.

The red dot of the camera's unfeeling eye immediately bore into her as it emerged, seemingly filled with annoyance. She grinned at it sheepishly.

"Uh, hi, studying!" she jumbled, presenting her tablet to the lens. "Adrien, mathematics, this time of day? Please?"

The orb receded with an equal lack of amusem*nt, and Marinette sighed as her wits decided to return to her after their instantaneous disappearance. A small part of her was grateful that the large gate began its inward swing to allow her in, rather than deciding that her presence had no value and should be turned away.

That part also filled her with some resolve, because if she could complete this first step, she didn't want to squander the opportunity and lose her chance to have a second one.

When the gate's control panel notified Nathalie of a visitor, she quickly examined it to confirm that it was the person who was arranged to be here. She pressed a button on the landline connected to the panel and spoke as soon as the phone confirmed the call's recipient had been reached.

"Adrien, your friend is here. Take care that she doesn't wander."

He laughed on the other end, a rare expression from him. "Of course. Thank you so much, Nathalie!"

She hung up and unlocked the gate, watching from the other cameras in the security feed as the plucky girl strolled into the courtyard. Marinette Dupain-Cheng was an intriguing character, even though Nathalie had only seen her a handful of times. She carried herself with a complete lack of confidence or grace, even for being in the awkward teenage years of her life, and yet her actions seemed to speak with a wise sincerity that her bizarre word choices never could. The more Nathalie learned about her, the more she came to understand why Adrien, most of his classmates, and several high-profile figures like Jagged Stone valued her so much.

That was why, contrary to what Gabriel told Lila, Nathalie considered her a good influence for Adrien. She wasn't sure if her boss really believed that, given his interest in her design talents; the man could be inscrutable at times. In the case that he did, she had decided to schedule this study session without his knowledge. For Mr. Agreste was preoccupied with, shall we say, prior arrangements at this time…

Light began pooling into a dark observatory for the second time as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. It was a display that always pleased the one inhabitant of the room, especially on an occasion such as this where he could already sense the bright beacon that his akuma would be drawn to.

"Just as I expected. The fireman's heart is crushed by the gainless choice he has to make."

One butterfly flew into the palm of his hand, which he clasped with his other and imbued with a dark power that blackened the butterfly to a deep purple. His empowered minion knew its task, and with a wave of Hawk Moth's cane, it instinctively flew out of the gap in the center of the view to the streets of Paris.

"The stage is already set, my akuma. Now be the spark that ignites it into a blazing inferno!"

Hessenpy dragged himself to his desk, unceremoniously collapsing into his office chair. Despite his musculature, he felt like a limp balloon, and the bags under his eyes seemed to droop down as he looked at the blank termination forms still sitting on his desk.

He couldn't do it. He made hard decisions all the time out in the field, but this one… he just couldn't do. All of his firemen and women were perfectly qualified, and most of them needed their jobs as Paris' economy struggled through the prolonged war against Hawk Moth. It tore him apart, how grateful he and the rest of the city's emergency responders always were that Ladybug could restore the buildings, streets, and everyone in them over and over with that cure, yet now it was also breaking those brave people down. He took off his badge and stared at the miserable man that appeared in the reflection.

The sheen of light was eaten by murky darkness as a purple butterfly entered the badge, and the sensation brought the fire captain back to attention as Hawk Moth's butterfly insignia appeared around his eyes and the man himself appeared to him through it.

"Burnmaster, I am Hawk Moth. A little butterfly told me that Ladybug is putting your people out of work. Well, as the one responsible for the messes she cleans up, I can grant you the power to make this cityburnand continue to burn so that Ladybug's cure won't be able to keep up. Your fire department will never run out of job security again, and once she is exhausted, you can give me her miraculous, and Chat Noir's as well, so that your woes will cease for good. So, what do you say? Will you sign off on this plan instead of those termination papers?"

Hessenpy was trembling. To side with Hawk Moth against the city ran afoul of his pledge to protect it… and yet, it spoke so much to the shadows surrounding the dwindling flame inside of him. To keep his people paid and doing good work instead of letting Ladybug do it all in their place…

He couldn't bring himself to speak. Silently, he re-pinned his badge, lowered the mask of his helmet, and allowed the dark matter to consume the rest of his body as it just did his heart and mind. Only red eyes glowed through the glass covering the darkness of his face.

In and out. In and out. With each step up to the imposing mansion, Marinette took a breath. In and out. The left door opened as she reached the very top, and Mr. Perfect himself appeared with a perfect smile on his perfect face.

"Marinette!" he greeted with a perfect wave. "Come on in!"

"Perfect! I mean, yes, I shall do that. Whatever you say! I mean, um, thanks!" She said imperfectly, not trusting her tongue to do anything other than continue to thrash about while he stepped back to hold the door and let her in. In and out.

A different thought of In and out came about to her then, suggesting that she turn around and bolt right back out the door. She fought it away with a mental stick, trying not to look too bashful as the door closed and they proceeded through the foyer.

I have nothing to worry about,she told herself in her head.Adrien is leading me to his bedroom, and I'm fine, everything's fine, we're going to study mathemati–

"Marinette, can I just say that you coming over means a lot to me?"

I'mnotfine, we'renotgoing to study mathematics, and everything'sa disaster!

"Marinette…? Are you okay?"

"A disaster!" she blurted, her already blushing face quickly accelerating its course. "Err, uh, I wasn't saying this was a disaster, I'm happy to be here, y'know, we'll be alone in your room, just the two of us, and, uh, what I really meant was… I'm the disaster," she finished, sounding deflated.

"You're not a di–"

"No, please don't start this again," she interrupted, trying to force herself to calm down. "This shouldn't be so hard. Talking to you, I mean. Just because I'm, uh, such a, well, y'know–"

"Such a big fan of mine. Yes, I know," Adrien finished, though he didn't sound enthused by it.

"… right. Totally star-struck, that's me."

That can't really be it, can it?he questioned.Marinette's the kind of person who wouldn't let her feelings get in the way of doing what's best. She knows just as I do that we're both spoken for, as Plagg put it, so she shouldn't be nervous around me for that reason, right? Is it possible that she's a fangirl after all? Maybe she still doesn't understand why this is important to me…

"Marinette," he said firmly, with a matching grip on her shoulder. He noticed how her eyes got wide when he did that. "I don't see you as just a fan. I'm sorry if I made you think that. You're afriend, and a great one at that. I mean, I'm still learning how friends work, even though it's been a whole year...

"Uh, anyway, my point is, I've never had a friend over to my house before. Not intentionally, at least, since that one party was a surprise and the time before that was Lila's sweet-talking. This is the first time that I'veinvitedsomeone to spend time with me, and my fatherallowedit. Well, I think he did, at least. I can't imagine Nathalie keeping a secret from him… um, sorry, I keep getting distracted.

"What I'm trying to say is, even if it's just studying mathematics, this is an important occasion for me. And I can't think of a better friend to achieve that with than you."

I'm the one that should be sorry,she thought, continuing to stare at him like he was made of solid gold. Actually, not that, because he hadbeenturned to gold by Style Queen, and that wasn't fun to see at all. Whatever he was, a realization had come to her.Here I am, so absorbed in myself and my own feelings that I forgot about yours. Maybe this was what Tikki was talking about with not being ready for a commitment like this. Though complimenting me like that certainly isn't helping at all!

"That's ve-ve-ve-very quind– erm, kind of you to say, Adrien," she managed to vocalize while continuing to process his confidence. "I'm here be to ha– happy to hereby for– with you. Argh, there I go again."

Adrien smiled, with those gorgeous white teeth that made her own teeth bite her lip with desire. "Relax. Just think of me like you would any of our other classmates."

I'm already trying to do that…she sulked internally. The model stopped at the very first door after they had walked up the central stairs, and he gestured for her to proceed. "Here we are. Ladies first?"

"You make it hard to think of you as just a classmate when you're being such a gentleman," the girl copped, accepting his offer regardless and stepping into his room. "I mean, not that Iwantyou to be rude, or anything, that would be silly…"

Adrien let out a small chuckle. "Don't worry, I get what you mean. Just the other day, someone at school was in a rush and accidentally bumped into me. I apologized for being in the way, and then Alix told me I was too polite all the time!" He turned on the lights in his room, as the sky had grown very dark outside from cloud cover.Huh, we weren't expecting a storm today. Shouldn't the meteorologist be back from vacation by now?he thought.

"Better to be too polite than not polite enough?" Marinette offered.

"Maybe, but I want to get it just right, like a normal person. I think I've gotten into a habit from all of the formal events I've been dragged to. Anyway, my point is that I should treat you as just a classmate, too. I mean, neither of us would say things like this to Nino, would we?"

Marinette laughed at that, a genuine laugh with no nervousness. "Maybe we should, just to see how he would react."

"That's brilliant!" Adrien exclaimed, showing a sudden excitement Marinette had never seen in him before. "Especially because of that sort-of-date he messed up at the zoo. It's been a year since then too, huh? Do you know if he and Alya have any anniversary plans?"

"Yes, but they refuse to tell me what they are, because of," she couldn't help but smirk just thinking about it, "what happened at the Bois de Vincennes."

"What was that?" he asked, his face flipping quickly to serious mode. "Is everything okay between you?"

Marinette resisted an urge to giggle.Oh, Adrien, you are so clueless sometimes."Oh yeah, everything'sfine," she answered overdramatically. "I just implied some things that, uh, let's just say, aren't suitable for the audience of a children's show."

"Is that so?" His face was hard to read. It seemed to be a mix of surprise, humor, and… pride?

"Am I going to have to worry about that?"

In record time, the slightly-blue-haired girl had a more-than-slightly red face, and her brain more-than-slightly shut down. DidAdrienreally just say that? Pure, sheltered, Adrien Agreste? What kind of cosmic karma wasthis?

"I-I-I-I uh, why said you that is? Err, uh, why do that you say? Why are you–I–doing this?"

Before any holes could be dug deeper, an obnoxious tone was heard from both of their pockets, snapping them both to attention. They withdrew their phones and saw that it was an akuma alert, apparently with a new notification sound to get people's attentions.


Without flinching, they hurried to Adrien's window wall. In the distance, they could see a massive plume of smoke, which spread throughout the sky and was the true source of the darkness rather than anything in the stratosphere.

"Wow," Adrien spoke, finally. "This might be as bad as Stormy Weather's volcanic winter."

"No kidding. I need to go make sure my family is okay!" Marinette turned quickly and ran to the door.Not as Marinette, but…


Now the blue-eyed girl flinched, her hand hovering over the doorknob. She looked back at Adrien, who had concern written all over his face.

"Be careful out there. I have a bad feeling about this. Maybe tell Alya this isn't an akuma to run after."

She gave him a small, yet genuine, smile. "Don't worry, I'll be fine. Can't make any guarantees about Alya, though. You take care too… though you're probably not going anywhere."

He didn't say anything, lest he make a slip up. The moment she closed the door behind her, Plagg came out of his jacket, holding a red slice of cheese.

"You're really going to have a snack right now?"

"No. I told you, I hate transforming. I'm holding this so you can't make me eat it!"

Smoke stung Marinette's eyes and heat clung to her skin from the moment she opened the front door. Grimacing, she kept moving; the Agreste mansion almost certainly had exterior cameras, and she wasn't going to transform in front of those. She crossed the street into an alley, and Tikki immediately popped out of her purse holding a red macaron.

"You're going to need this!" she said with a serious face.

Marinette took the magicaron while crouching to shield herself from the acrid air. "Technically,youare."

"Tikki, power up!"

Marinette threw the Red Magicaron into the air, which Tikki dove onto and ate. All of her black spots began to glow with white energy that swirled around her until she was just a whirlwind. When it dissipated, Tikki's forehead spot was shaped like a flame, and her legs had been replaced by a trail of fire like a meteor.

"Tikki Torch!" she exclaimed with a pose.

"Tikki Torch, spots on! Haa!"

Instead of Ladybug's usual domino mask, a full set of goggles and gas mask grew out of flames. After her bodysuit had formed, light armor plates grew into existence from spots on her shoulders, torso, and thighs, along with gloves and boots reaching to her elbows and knees. The Ladybug symbol formed on her waistline, creating a black bland to form a belt, with a holster where her yo-yo spawned. She stomped to enter a modified version of her usual finish, and glowing spots flared up on all of the black armor in spurts of fire.

Adrien stopped to catch his breath on the cubbies in the middle of his room. "You know, Plagg… I read the guide to your miraculous when I got those skis. I learned that I can transform first and then eat the cheese to power up that way. And if I did that, you wouldn't get any."

The cat kwami turned from his position on the second floor. "I mean, if youreallywant to eat stinky cheese… oh, but I so want this all to myself! Decisions, decisions…"

"Fine," he concluded. "Have ityourway."

"Plagg, power up!"

Adrien threw the Red Magembert into the air, which Plagg dove onto and ate. His body began to glow white, and he spun rapidly as his form was consumed. When the light dissipated, Plagg had a crest of fire on his forehead, and the ends of his tail and antenna were also on fire.

"Plaggma!" he exclaimed.

"Plaggma, claws out!"

Instead of Chat Noir's usual domino mask, a pair of green-lensed goggles grew out of flames, followed by a front-breathing gas mask that grew whiskers. Orange bands appeared surrounding his wrists, and thick black armbraces formed beneath them at the same time as a matching cuirass on his upper body. Stretching both arms out triggered his bodysuit to form down from them, meeting with the lower half that formed up from knee-length boots with bands of their own. They coalesced into the Black Cat symbol, which then sent flames to both sides and out the back to create his belt. He crouched to scratch the fronts of his boots, then stood and quickly scratched each shoulder, both sides of the torso where his pockets were, and his armbraces. To finish, he posed with his left arm pumped and right one stretched at a downward angle, causing glowing green vents to flare up in the places he scratched.

Once Firebug cleared roof level, she immediately knew that this was going to be her least favorite Power-Up yet. With the other two, the novelty of swimming through a flooded city or sledding through Paris' greatest snowfall in history could at least distract her from the massive casualties that came with it, and in normal circ*mstances, those activities were pleasurable on their own.

Here, there was nothing to see or wade through but fiery carnage, and less than five minutes after the alert sounded, it already looked like an entire arrondissem*nt was up in flames. How many thousands of gruesome deaths had already occurred?

"Ladybug!" a very familiar yet slightly muffled voice called from behind.

Fire Chat landed next to her, and she immediately noticed how fearsome he looked in his Fire suit. The heat suddenly felt like it was getting to her.

"Chat Noir, thank goodness you weren't caught at ground zero," she said.

"You too. Looks like Hawk Moth's threat was more than mere theatrics."

She didn't need to see his face under the filter mask to know what he was thinking. No puns, no calling her Bugaboo… he was taking this seriously. Good.

"I'm starting to believe that he really is trying to use up our Power-Ups intentionally. But let's not worry about that right now; we need to focus all of our attention on stopping this akuma as quickly as possible."

Her partner nodded, and they began running over the rooftops towards the growing inferno.

"Okay, Chat," Firebug said before long, "I need your help deciding when I should use my Lucky Charm."

"You're thinking about that already?"

"Yes, because my Charm often relies on items from our surroundings during battle. If this akuma is incinerating everything around it, figuring that out could become very hard and very dangerous to execute."

"Ah," he recognized. "But on the other hand, if you do it now, you run into the problem of not having any information to guide your Lucky Charm."

"Exactly. I seeBugaboyhas learned a thing or two!"

"Oh,nowyou're joking?" he replied amusedly. He was rubbing off on her! "Does that make this Power-Upyourclown costume?"

"It certainlylightsthe mood!" Her expressiondidlighten under her goggles.

"And it's a great way tovent!"

Firebug's smile faded and she signaled for them to slow down as they drew near the flames' edge. She observed the scene and didn't see any people around, and that was… probably not a good thing, since everyone was supposed to be evacuating. The air was so smoky around her that visibility was reduced to only a couple of blocks, which gave her an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu from their last Power-Up adventure.

"I think our first challenge is going to be even finding the akumatized villain in all of this fire," she commented, examining a nearby piece of smoldering wreckage. "Until we know what the akuma's powers are, we're not going to know how, or evenif, we can track it by studying the fire."

"Right… which is another point for using the Lucky Charm now. Every second we burn is more of the city burned as well."

Firebug sighed, which came out more like a huff of exhaust through her twin filters. "Why can't these decisions ever be simple anymore? Fine, let's see what it has in store for me today."

"Lucky Charm!" she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts formed together into a long, L-shaped red bar with small black spots, which then fell into Firebug's hands.

"Like I said," she bemoaned. "A crowbar is the perfect tool for pulling out some part of something nearby to use."

"Try not to overthink it, Ladybug. Your Lucky Charm sometimes has a simple solution that just needs tolookcomplicated to confuse the villain, like the tape dispenser last week."

"I know… but sometimes I miss the early days when superheroing felt more like it was about the action and thrill of outwitting my opponents, and not... all this," she explained, gesturing to the obvious.

"I feel the same way… but now's not the time toburn out, eh, Bugaboo?" he joked, nudging her with his elbow.

She smiled at him, hoping he could see it under her own mask. "Well it sure doesn't stop you from being an insufferable goofball all the time!"

"That's all part of the job, M'Lady. I may not be able to carry the load for you, but I can make it feel," he flicked the flaming bell on his costume, "lighter!"

Reminding her of how much fell on her shoulders didn't exactly cheer her up, but she could see where he was coming from. She was starting to understand his side of their conversation when they had switched miraculouses. Being Lady Noire was great stress relief, and it let her see the side of a fight that Mister Bug might not have due to tunnel vision. Hmm… was that related to whatever problems Chat Noir was having? Did he need this to have stress relief from his civilian life?

I can ask him about it later when we talk,she decided, switching gears in her mind. "Let's get this load taken care of, then."

They resumed their leaping through the flames, but each one was shorter, more calculated, and remaining aware of potential hazards or signs of the akuma. Firebug felt weird not swinging around on her yo-yo like usual, but she didn't trust the buildings' structural integrity not to fail the moment she pulled on anything.

It was only a short time before they encountered a lead, and a molten lead at that. Some sort of flaming liquid had been sprayed onto the streets and the buildings, providing a starter for the massive conflagrations that were eating up the city. The liquid was still burning, and Firebug had no idea if it was recent or not.

"See any pattern to this, chaton?"

"Hmm… not exactly, but…"

"But what?"

"Well… it kind of looks like it was sprayed in a circle," Fire Chat replied, before jumping up onto a clear part of a nearby rooftop and peering out. "Especially from up here."

"Is that so? But that would mean… the akuma released all of that and then just left."

"Hey, I think I see something!" Chat suddenly called, sounding on alert.

Firebug tensed, grabbing her yo-yo in an instant and clenching the crowbar held in her left hand. "What is it?"

"I'm not sure; all I saw was something moving through the smoke. For all I know, it could just be heat haze."

"Let's follow it anyway. The fires are too big for this to be the only source, so the akuma must be on the move to make more. It could be what you saw."

Chat remained on the rooves, using his staff to test his footholds and safely vault between buildings as he led his partner in the direction he thought he had seen the movement in. He had an idle thought about whether the Mage who made the miraculouses intentionally designed their tools to be different for situations just like this, so as to prevent everyone from being handicapped at the same time.

"There. I see it," he reported in a whisper, pointing his staff down around the corner from her.

Firebug moved quickly yet cautiously while Fire Chat quietly dropped to her side. An imposing, humanoid shadow was visible through the smoky air, but it didn't lighten as they approached. What stood before them wasn't an elemental being but a charcoal-black figure, large and burly and with burning cracks in its exterior resembling some kind of vest. Instead of hands, it had two nozzles like those from a hose.

The akumatized villain turned to them, and what should've been its face was shrouded in darkness behind a clear, curved plate, with two red lights shining out where its eyes would normally be. The only other source of light was a burning badge of some sort on its chest, right over its heart. Fire Chat couldn't make out the details, but he had a good guess that the akuma was hiding in there.

Burnmaster wordlessly pointed its arms at them, dripping with what Chat recognized as that liquid fire. Before his conscious mind had even registered what was happening, he reactively dove away, barely dodging the white-hot streams that spouted from the nozzles with great pressure.

He tucked into a roll and began strafing their opponent, observing Firebug do the same on the opposite side. The akuma turned to follow the heroine, its fiery jet sweeping towards her and forcing her to jump onto the wall to avoid incineration.

In actuality, Firebug ranintothe wall, as it instantly collapsed under the force of her jump. She broke through to the other side and became obscured in the rubble. Chat gasped, but quickly shook off the astonishment. The akuma was already readying for another round to finish her off.

Only one idea came to mind, and it wasn't very bright, but there wasn't time for brainstorming. He stuck his pole out and vaulted directly at their brutish opponent, keeping his legs straight to deliver a jump kick directly to the back of its head.

Burnmaster merely flinched from the attack, but it accomplished its goal, as the cracks in the akuma's body erupted in indication of its rage. Fire Chat felt the heat emanating into his soles in the brief moment before he kicked to backflip off of it, dodging the swing of its cannon-hand as it turned around to knock him off.

Its other cannon was already aglow with a counterattack, and Chat noticed it a moment too late. He was only saved by a sudden jerk in its arm that threw the magmatic deluge's aim above him and to the right, registering the signature whoosh of the restraining yo-yo as it happened. He bolted from the spot before any superheated debris could catch him, sliding under the villain's free arm to meet Firebug on the other side.

"Run!" was all she cried as she released her hold. Burnmaster turned clockwise towards Ladybug, so she dashed to Chat, who had his staff extended and wasted no time in vaulting the both of them over the building she had crashed into.

They kept moving once they landed on the next street over, neither of them feeling like they could stop to catch their breath.

"That's some serious firepower," Chat commented, knowing he was stating the obvious. "Literally. Good save, by the way."

"You too," Firebug responded. "And you're right, it's almost like this thing is too… dangerous to fight…"

Aha!Her crowbar… her yo-yo…

Like a fiery meteor, Burnmaster leapt through the air and crashed down only a handful of meters behind them, sending splinters of cobblestone flying. The two of them instinctively jumped away to avoid being shaken by the impact, and Firebug looked back. That badge…

She turned to her partner. "I have an idea, but I need a little more breathing room than this to put it together!"

"You got it! All aboard the Chat Noir Express!"

Firebug surprised him by wrapping herself around him to hold on, but he couldn't linger in the hug and took off on his staff to avoid scorching flames that shot out towards where they were.

"I knew you'd warm up to me eventually, M'Lady!" he joked.

"Oh, please, I just needed my hands free for a bit."

He landed in a plaza, and sure enough, she let go as soon as he did. He could see that she had tied the Lucky Charm to her yo-yo, and she holstered the tool to wield the crowbar as her new weapon.

"What I'm going to try will only have one shot before it catches on, chaton. You need to give me an opening."

"Got it."

They turned around to face the incoming akuma as it landed, both cannons dripping and primed to fire. It sprayed both streams to their right and swept them around, forcing them to evade in the same direction. In response, Chat cleverly pinned his staff down at an angle facing the akuma, taking Firebug's hand using his tool as a swivel to pivot up and over the liquid flames.

Midway through their arc, he let go, astonishing Firebug as she sailed farther through the air while his staff bent downward, and he landed to face the akuma directly from its front.

"C'mon, you smoldering Stoneheart knock-off! Let's turn the heat up a notch!"

"Cataclysm!" he shouted, causing a black ball of energy to form in his outstretched right palm. He clenched it and pumped his arm close to show his control over the untamed destruction.

Firebug hit the ground, skidding to a stop in a three-point crouch, then looked his way. Chat made eye contact, and she nodded knowingly.

He wasn't going to Cataclysm the akuma, of course. But the mere threat of it would force their opponent to take him seriously and not simply gun down Ladybug. He anticipated that Hawk Moth wouldn't call his bluff, given how he had obliterated that sentimonster in their latest fight.

Burnmaster's response was to jump backward, nearing the edge of the plaza, so it could aim at both of them simultaneously. Chat readied to dodge, but when the akuma unleashed its flames, they fell short of any human targets. It was instead coating the arena between them to create a floor of lava and walls of fire to keep them away.

Two can play it that way,he decided. If the akuma was going to make everything too dangerous for them, then he'd fight fire with fire and turn the danger so high even the akuma wouldn't be able to handle it. Because if you play with fire… you're going to get burned.

"Hrrrraauuugh!" the black hero shouted, slamming his fist down to the ground. The chaotic sparks of the Cataclysm activated, fanning forward in a wide arc that created fissures over most of what had been covered and extended all the way to the buildings behind Burnmaster. The ground quaked as it broke apart into churning chunks and the buildings began to topple forward onto the stumbling behemoth.

Was it necessary for him to be this dramatic? Not really. Was it freaking awesome? Pawsitively!

"Now, Ladybug!" he shouted, which he knew also wasn't necessary. The heroine had already leapt into action.

Firebug rapidly closed in on the akuma, playing fiery hopscotch on the few safe pieces of overturned concrete. Burnmaster regained its composure and pointed its cannons right at her, firing twin streams that were too late to catch her before she left the ground and landed right on its left shoulder. She hooked the crowbar under its badge and flipped behind it, pulling as hard as she could on her string as she landed on the volcanic terrain.

The maneuver struck true, and the badge was ripped up off of Burnmaster's chest along with a small portionofits chest, causing it to careen backwards and land roughly on the ground. The badge spun through the air like a coin before landing in Ladybug's outstretched palm, and she immediately pierced through it with the crowbar, cracking the surface and releasing the akuma.

"No more evildoing for you, little akuma," Firebug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within. She swung the yo-yo in a circle to charge up her throw.

"Time to de-evilize!"

The yo-yo caught the akuma in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly flew up and away. "Bye-bye, little butterfly!"

Next, she untied the crowbar from her yo-yo string and threw it in the air as well.

"Miraculous Ladybug!"

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which spread out in groups to restore all the damage. They swept over the plaza to clean up the wreckage, then spread out over the greater area to put out the fires and clear the smoke to resume the bright and sunny day.

Burnmaster was enveloped in a dark substance that soon dissolved into the ground, leaving in its wake an exhausted firefighter.

"Pound it!" both miraculous holders cheered as they bumped fists.

"Curse you, Ladybug! And Chat Noir!" Hawk Moth swore from his chamber, slamming his cane into the ground. "That akuma should've overwhelmed you. He was a perfect target! How do you always find a way…!"

He turned away from the light of his observatory window, and the lens closed behind him and snuffed out the last of his efforts.

Helping the fireman up from the ground felt like it was harder than it should've been with two people, though the akuma fighthadbeen very draining. That had been happening a lot recently.

"Ladybug… I'm so sorry…" the fireman said as she steadied him on his feet.

She gave him an encouraging smile. "Well, you work a stressful and dangerous job… I wouldn't be surprised if Hawk Moth was just waiting for you to have a bad day so he could akumatize you."

Inside, her gears were turning as she tried to place where she had seen this man before.

The man shook his head. "I'm the fire captain. Out of anyone, I'm supposed to be the one who's strong, who can resist that man's devil's bargain. Imagine the statement this is making to them now."

Firebug's mind jumped in recognition. He was the one who had showed up when Chloé pulled the fire alarm last winter.

She formulated a response, but it was interrupted by the loud beeping of her earrings as they went down to their last spot.

"Um, I need to go, but… if they're good people like you are, they won't let something like this ruin their opinion of you. They'll follow your lead no matter what, right Chat?"

"Of course, M'Lady. Even the best of us struggles at times, and loyalty is about trusting each other's intentions and accepting their decisions, even if we don't agree with them."

"Trusting my intentions…" the fire captain murmured. "I suppose you're right. And thank you. I should never forget that we're on the same side."

Firebug revved her yo-yo. "Yes. As I said, our top priority is always keeping Paris safe. Now, this hero needs to keep her identity safe. Bug out!"

That night, Marinette was studying in her math book at her desk in her room. Along with the city, Burnmaster had torched the rest of the time she might have had with Adrien, thanks to his strict schedule (and father) that made sure piano and Chinese lessons were held in higher regard than having a social life.

It came as quite a surprise, then, when she got a phone call to the tune of Snake Charmer from Jagged Stone's Rock Giant album, the one that she designed the cover for, that Adrien asked her to sign! She immediately dedicated a song on the album to her undying love for him, which she now somewhat regretted given that whole "trying to get over it" thing. Not to mention, snakes reminded her of Sass and therefore Luka, her actual boyfriend. But the song had been his ringtone for so long now that it would be justweirdif she changed it.

Remembering that she needed toanswerthe call before it went to voicemail, she took a breath and brought her phone to her ear. Tikki floated herself to the other side of the device to listen in.

"H-hi, Adrien."

"Hey. I'm glad that you picked up. I was worried with how long it was ringing that you were mad and didn't want to talk to me. I just wanted to say that I'm sorry that we couldn't study like I had promised."

"Don't be," she responded sharply. "I-I mean, it wasn't your fault that an akuma attacked then. If anything, I should be sorry that your first friend hangout was ruined."

"That wasn't your fault either. But I also shouldn't have teased you like that when we were supposed to be getting ready to study. We promised no more pranks, right?"

Marinette didn't want to think about the incident at the wax museum. "This was nothing like that. You were just trying to make light humor. Really, I'm not mad at you."

"That's such a relief to hear."

The blue-eyed girl paused for a moment to make sure he had nothing else to say. Because she did.

"Actually, I've been thinking about our conversation. You said this is your first time just hanging out, but, um… what about Chloé? Haven't you hung out with her as friends?"

"Not really. Mostly it was events both her and my parents were invited to, or in cases where we weren't allowed to attend, me being sent over basically to be babysat by her butler Jean with her. To be honest, now that I'm getting to experience whatrealfriends in the real world are like, I'm not sure that I consider her much of a friend anymore."

"Wha– really?"

"Wait, that didn't come out right! She's more like a stepsister than a friend, I think. With friends, you find the people you get along with and become closer, right? But with family, you stick it out with them whether you like them or not, because that's what family does. I've known Chloé way too long to give up on her, even if I see now that she's mean to a lot of people for no good reason. And… I don't know whatshewould do withoutme, to be honest. She first became really attached when her mom left, and I don't think things ever really got back to normal. I mean, her parents just got akumatized on their anniversary not too long ago."

Marinette shifted uncomfortably in her chair, although Adrien obviously couldn't see it. "Yeah… I feel pretty rotten about having left, even if it saved us from getting eaten by Heart Hunter. That's actually why I was thinking about her. She hasn't been the same since then."Most of that is because of what happenedafterHeart Hunter, but you wouldn't know anything about that since you were probably mind-controlled like the rest of Paris.

"So… you noticed, too. I thought you and Chloé hated each other, though?"

"I mean, yeah, but… I can't just turn a blind eye to something like this. Chloé didn't choose her parents. I'm really fortunate to have two that love me. If there's something that can be done to help…"

On the other end, Adrien smiled.Yep, just like Ladybug,he thought,always thoughtful and putting others' happiness first.This must've been what was on her mind in the cafeteria last week. He knew she topped the list of people Chloé had been horrible to; his first day at school had made that pretty obvious.

"… which is why I want to ask if you would be willing to reach out to her."

His train of thought came to a halt. "Me?"

"We just said that Chloé hates me. She doesn't want my help – I've tried that a couple times already. She likes you, and you know her situation better than I do. If anyone can get her to open up, it's you."

Can I, though?He didn't know the first thing about understanding people's inner thoughts. That was why the whole wax museum mess-up happened in the first place, because he didn't know what todoto restore the faith in him held by the very person talking to him on the phone right now. He was pretty good at finding words to make someone feel better; Mom had taught him well in that regard. But feelings weren't the same as attitudes. The one time he got Chloé to try to be nice by throwing a party for the class was an accident, and it didn't really count anyway because holding his friendship over her head like that would never instill real change. Especially not now.

It wasn't something he would be able to take on anyway. Keeping his promise to Ladybug to help her be okay and stay focused was already very taxing for him. And now Marinette wanted him to try and pull Chloé out of the maelstrom she has sailed into, with nothing in return from any of them?

Again, his mind returned to his thoughts about being used. It had taken him so long just to voice those thoughts to begin with, and there was a lot he was still processing, his own parents being high among them. Why was it that it took his mother's disappearance for him finally to start sticking up for himself and showing his true colors? Chat Noir… wasn't the whole answer.


"… I'm sorry, Marinette, but I can't help you."

"Huh? You can't?"

"I didn't choose my parents either, you know. There's a reason she and I haven't resolved this in the past already. And I really don't want to talk about it. Sorry."Plus, I can't let slip that the real reason she's like this is because she was akumatized herself afterward. There's no way you'd know, because the only way I know is because I fought her as Chat Noir.

He hung up thereafter, leaving Marinette sitting there with the phone still to her ear. She didn't stir as Tikki flew in front of her face. "So… what's your plan now?"

"Nothing, I guess. If I can't do anything and Adrienwon'tdo anything, then that's that. Like you said, I have no obligation to her and don't have any effort to spare. This just isn't worth pursuing anymore."

She spun her chair to release her tension. "Urgh, I thought I was being so careful with this sensitive topic… what was I thinking, asking him to do that? I've really messed up with him now, haven't I?"

Tikki zipped around to meet her with a gentle smile. "I'm sure he understands that you were asking from a place of goodwill. You know how much he appreciates what you do for others. If you're really concerned, though, you should try to apologize for hurting his feelings anyway."

"Maybe… but what if he remembers this, deep down, and then one day when the time's finally right and Ifinallyconfess my feelings and ask him out, it comes back to the surface and causes him to reject me forever? Tikki, I'm going to regret this for the rest of my life!"

Tikki sighed, placing her tiny hands up to her head. "Some things never change…" she commented to herself.


Want to see just how fearsome Firebug and Fire Chat are? I drew them up as well: imgur.com/a/Wd8SvFX

Chapter 16: Meet the Miraculouses: Barkk


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Barkk's realization of loyalty.

Chapter Text

In her effort to familiarize herself with the miraculouses, Marinette was going to spend time with one kwami each night. It would be good for them to get out of the Miracle Box and see the modern world, and they could tell her about their powers. Tonight, she decided she would wear the Dog Miraculous. As she adorned the collar, a sparkling ochre-colored light appeared and transformed into the big-eared kwami Barkk.

Immediately, she floated at attention. “Ah, Miss Marinette! For what purpose have I been summoned?”

Marinette blinked. “Ah, I mean… I just wanted to talk. Y’know, hang out, get to know you. Like I’ve been doing with all the kwamis.”

“Of course, but there must be a reason you chose me in particular.”

“You mean other than the fact that I’ve spoken to most of the others already?” she asked with an incredulous look… which quickly deflated. “… fine, there is. But before I get into specifics, I’d like to hear about your concept. It might help me put my thoughts into perspective.”

“Very well, then. As a refresher, I am the Kwami of Loyalty. When you think of loyalty, the association you get is probably of one person making the choice to stand by another person or to an organization of some kind. But the idea also covers the underlying reasons for the loyalty: faithfulness to whomever they are loyal to, dedication to a cause or ideal, and, to be blunt, personal gain. Additionally, some loyalties are born not of preference but of necessity.”

“Out of… necessity…” Marinette pondered, looking deep in thought. “I assume the breaking of those underlying reasons will cause a person to sever a particular loyalty?”

“If all such reasons are broken, that is obviously the case, but it’s important to note that the weighing of these things and the resulting decision-making aren’t entirely conscious; a person may not even use the term loyalty to describe their feelings and actions. The concept runs deeper than language can describe it.”

The new information only further furrowed the girl’s brow. She was still trying to make sense of how Adrien could say that he wouldn’t give up on Chloé and then proceed to refuse the suggestion to reach out to her. It was a contradiction.

“Okay, maybe I should just tell you the problem directly. You see, there’s someone that I… seem to care about, but I don’t know why. She’s a terrible person, so terrible that she causes a good chunk of Hawk Moth’s akuma incidents, and she’s especially terrible to me specifically. I have every reason not to want to help her – I mean, sure, working on her meanness would help reduce those incidents, but it’s not really that important to the bigger picture of stopping Hawk Moth himself so that there are no akumatizations to begin with. It would be a huge investment for me that would probably fail anyway, and the only person who would be likely to make progress just said no for reasons that I equally don’t understand.”

“Is that what you were seeking my advice on?” Barkk asked, wearing an expression that was hard to pin down.

“Sort of. You see, my dad gave the advice that I should trust this other person to make the decision he thought was best, and this isn’t what I thought he would say… even though, logically speaking, it actually is what’s best. The easiest and most beneficial option for me is simply to move on from this.”

“But for some reason, you can’t.”

“Yeah. My conscious keeps telling me that giving up on that spoiled brat would be wrong, that there’s something worth keeping around in her. It reminds me if I don’t help, no one will. Tikki suggested that maybe I’m biased towards her due to our history, but again that makes no logical sense because I know that my success in life is not dependent on or in spite of how this girl has treated me. And yet… a part of me does wonder if maybe the reason I feel so strongly is out of some desire to show that I’ve ‘outgrown’ her by killing her with kindness, which is exactly as petty as it sounds.”

“Pollen certainly thinks she’s worth keeping around,” Barkk countered.

This gave the girl pause. “… how did you know this relates to Pollen?”

The kwami smiled smugly. “It’s only natural. For the Miraculouses, they all come in pairs. You know that the Ladybug and Black Cat are counterparts, of course. The Fox and Turtle are, too, as are the Butterfly and Peaco*ck. Of the Miracle Box’s inner circle, that leaves the Bee, and its counterpart… is the Dog. My miraculous.”

“It is? I mean… I guess that makes sense. Subjection and loyalty both relate to social structure and power.”

“They’re more entwined than just that. You see, subjecting people to one’s rule is only effective if they stay there. Followers who lack faith in their ruler, whose needs aren’t being met, will leave or rebel. A hierarchical system can only function and be beneficial when both Pollen’s and my concepts are present. We’re paired because the natural result of this truth is that the two come together – that is to say, a good leader will attract loyal followers, and wise followers will only subject themselves to a good leader.”

“Okay… but how is that relevant to this?”

“I think your attachment to the girl Chloé is like that. You know that there’s potential in her to become a strong ally, and she made clear in the past that she believes strongly in Ladybug. Your partnership could be very effective if allowed to blossom.”

“No, I don’t think it can,” the blue-eyed girl replied instantly. “She may have believed that in the past, but she doesn’t anymore.”

“Have you interacted with her since that incident and she clearly stated as such?”

Marinette smiled sheepishly. “Um… I suppose not. I was a little preoccupied during her last akumatized victim attack to talk to her.”

“Then I don’t think you can know that for sure,” Barkk said with a shrug. “Perhaps it is true that there is nothing else you can do for her at this time, but I don’t think you should lose hope in the possibility that her fate may yet change.”

“Yes, I suppose that’s true.” The bluenette’s features softened in ponderance. “I guess only time will tell. In the meantime… on the topic of your miraculous, I’d like to hear about your powers.”

Barkk’s tail began wagging enthusiastically. “Ooh, yes, yes, I’d love to share! First off, in order to transform, you need to say, ‘Barkk, on the hunt!’ Once you do, you’ll get a magic ball that always returns to you when you throw it! You’ll also get my superpower called Howl, which will set up communication with anyone holding the ball! It’s super cool!”

“Woah, slow down there!” Marinette stated exasperatedly. “I don’t quite get it. Doesn’t the ball already provide communication as the miraculous’s tool?”

“Yes, but you have to use it actively to do so. Howl lets you all share your thoughts and what you’re seeing and hearing even if you’re using the tool to fight or are unable to talk or use your hands for some reason.”

The kwami put her hands on her hips. “Also, whatever that magic talking brick thing you have that lets you do that normally is relatively new, from what Tikki told me. My power used to be very useful!”

The heroine blushed as she glanced at her phone that laid on her desk. “Yeah, well… it still sounds useful, I promise!”

She thought for a moment, recalling all she had learned tonight. “So if I were to give the miraculous to someone, I would want the kind of person who is hardworking and intelligent, but who lacks a goal to strive towards. The Dog Miraculous would empower them to engage their skills, their newfound loyalty driving their potential and transforming it into great contribution.”

“Most certainly,” Barkk agreed with a nod. “Do you have anyone in mind?”

“Well… knowing that the Dog is the counterpart to the Bee gives me an idea, but I don’t know if it would work out any better than it did with Chloé. My understanding of people’s loyalties clearly still needs some work.”

“I’m at your call if you need it, Marinette. Oh, wait, I nearly forgot something! To de-transform, you say, ‘Off the hunt.’ Simple enough.”

“Yeah. Say, speaking of needing you… there is one more thing I wanted to discuss.”

“Yes?” The doglike being tilted her head, which Marinette thought looked very adorable.

“When Hawk Moth crashed my anniversary party, he told me that he wants the Wish to bring back a loved one. It seems he possesses an undying loyalty towards this person that’s what’s driving him to make akumas to go after our miraculouses. But I don’t understand how he could possibly think that one person is worth all of the destruction and chaos he’s causing.”

Barkk’s ears drooped. “Unfortunately, the Earth itself is also something that you can have – or not have – loyalty to. Some people will let it burn if it means they get what they want.”

“His willingness to let the world burn was quite literally made clear today. Just how far do you think he’ll go?”

“I wish I knew. All I can say is that sometimes, love knows no bounds, and all you can do is keep fighting and hope to win before something irreversible happens.”

“Yes… and to do that, I need to be well-rested. I think it’s time to call it a night.”

“I agree. Good night, Marinette.”

“Good night, Barkk.”

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box, before storing it away in its secret hiding place at the bottom of her chest.

Chapter 17: Mightyllustrator


It's Nathaniel's birthday, and it's shaping up to be a whole lot better than last year when he was akumatized into Evillustrator. The memory still lingers when a particular gift causes them all to reflect on what it means to be akumatized... a memory that Hawk Moth is all too happy to prey on by utilizing all the powers at his disposal.

Chapter Text

Although it was the weekend and the sky was dark, Collége Françoise-Dupont was abuzz with activity. A particular class of students was bustling to and about one of the second-story classrooms; they were moving boxes (some of which were wrapped), hanging streamers, and arranging tables and chairs.

“Dudes, this party is gonna go down in history! You won’t believe the tracks I got lined up for tonight!”

“I won’t believe if you ignored Marinette’s clear instructions to keep away from the crazy rave dance music! Where is that girl, anyway? She’s supposed to be here with the cake, and she lives next door, for pete’s sake!”

“You’re the one that would know, miss BFF!” a higher-pitched voice snarked.

“No, not that wall! Markov’s schematic clearly labelled the snack table as being against the wall across from the windows!”

“Affirmative, my calculations determined that obtaining refreshments will be 31.2% more convenient in that position!”

“Why did your calcumajiggies demand we set tables together anyway? You try carrying both of these all by yourself!”

“Everyone, please, calm down! This won’t be fun for anyone if we’re all fuming at each other the whole time.”

“Hey, someone’s coming! I think it’s Nathaniel! Aurore, you said he wouldn’t be here for another five minutes!”

“I did! He didn’t text me anything about being early! Quick, everyone hide!”

“But we’re not ready yet!”

“You sure that’s Nathaniel? Looks like Marc to me…” someone said quietly.

“Oh yeah, that’s definitely Marc, thank goodness. Don’t scare us like that, Mylène!”

“I’m sorry!”

“Oh, and there’s Marinette with the cake! It looks so yummy– even from here!”

“Great, that should be everyone, then! Wait, Alix, wasn’t that new friend of yours supposed to come with you? Lucy or something? Remind me why she was invited, again?”

“Lila, her name’s Lucille, and she was invited because I wanted her to meet all you guys and Nathaniel was cool with it. She said she was running late from practice and wouldn’t be by for another hour or so.”

“Excuse me, pardon me, cake coming through!”

“Woah, that’s a lot bigger than I expected! You gonna need some help with that?”

“Relax, Kim, I’ve been working in the bakery lately, so this is literally a cakewa– wu, wah!”

Everyone gasps.

“Phew! See, nothing to worry about!”

“Don’t scare us like that, Marinette! Poor Marc looks like he’s seen a ghost!”

“Aurore, don’t announce that to everyone! You’re only making him feel worse.”

“Now kids, what’s going on here?”

Everyone suddenly grew quiet as a grey-haired gentleman walked into the room. Mr. Monlataing was their ‘supervisor’ for the party, which is to say he let them use his art room as a free space for it and unlocked the doors so they could get in on a Saturday night. He was still around in case of emergency and to lock up afterward, but he had otherwise allowed them to plan their night as they wished and wasn’t trying to interfere.

“Uh, sorry, Mr. M,” Alix spoke up. “Were we being too obnoxious?”

“Oh, no, it’s quite fun hearing you banter back and forth,” the art teacher said with a smile. “I just wanted to make sure everything was going alright. Rose is right, try not to get too worked up, or someone might end up going one step too far and saying something that causes a real problem. Nathaniel’s birthday is an important occasion to him, we certainly wouldn’t want to spoil it.”

“Definitely not,” Mireille agreed.

“Hey, uh… he says he’s here,” Marc interjected, holding up his phone.

“What?” Alya exclaimed. “Everybody hide, for real this time!”

Nathaniel felt nervous going up the stairs. This was why he hated surprises, and he was grateful that the others had decided to tell him about it ahead of time. Still, this was the largest birthday party he had ever had… and it would be a lot of socializing for a guy like him. It was out of his comfort zone.

Room 33 was tucked in the corner right near the right-side stairwell, so he could see that they had closed the door even before he got to it. Taking a breath, he grabbed the doorknob and turned it, opening the door to view an admirably decorated room. Majestic purple valances drooped down between the curtain rods in front of the windows. The large sculpting platform sat in the far corner and had its place taken by one of the normal art tables, which was stacked up with presents. The other two had been moved together against the right wall; one held up a beautiful sheet cake frosted with a red-orange gradient with the black half-lidded eye of his favorite shirt decorated on it, and the other displayed a variety of charcuterie and other snacks. All three had been draped in tablecloths matching the valances. The statues had been moved to the edge to make room for plastic chairs arranged in a semicircle, but they had also been decorated with streamers, lights, and balloons like they were dressed to party, too. He couldn’t help but smile.

His classmates and friends were all poorly attempting to hide behind the tables, the supply chest, the loudspeakers, and the various art pieces. It really wasn’t a good room for this sort of thing, especially when their purple party hats all stuck out like traffic cones.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAAAAYYY!” they all shouted, leaping out from their hiding places.

“Wow, guys,” he said, his smile growing wider, “this is all so amazing!”

“Of course it is, because we’re amazing!” Alix responded. “And so are you, buddy! I hope you’re ready for the best night of your life!”

“Yeah, we’re going to blow the roof off– um, I mean, have a pumped but not too overbearing night of celebration!” Nino laughed.

“Really, words fail to describe how in awe I am,” Nathaniel said. “So… where do we begin? Cake? Presents? I’m afraid that I’m unfamiliar with birthday party proceedings.”

“Why not both?” Aurore answered with a mischievous smile.

Soon, everyone was lined up to get their slice of cake from Marinette, and once each got theirs, they moved to bring the pile of presents over to Nathaniel, who sat in a chair facing everyone else.

“I didn’t know your bakery made cakes this large,” Ivan wondered as his slice slid onto his plate.

“We don’t, usually,” Marinette explained. “It’s a special request we take for medium-sized parties like this. Not a lot of patisseries in Paris offer it; it’s something my dad started doing since we can use our bread and pastry machines together to make them. But I made this one all by myself, with my own two hands!”

“You did a great job, Marinette,” Mylène complimented. “It’s too bad we’re going to eat it all.”

Marinette laughed. “Well, that’s kind of in its nature! Can’t have your cake and eat it too!”

Once everyone had received their serving and gathered around, the auburn-haired boy began to open the presents. Most of it was nice art supplies or merchandise of the Miraculous heroes or his favorite anime. Marc got him a nice canvas of the two of them holding up the final version of their comic’s first issue.

After all the gifts had been opened and gathered back on the table, Nathaniel spotted a forgotten little box, striped and held with a bow, that had been hidden among the rest.

“Oh, what’s this?” he pondered as he picked it up.

“Aw, man, can’t believe I forgot about that!” Nino said, surprising a few of the others.

“Is that from you?” Mireille commented.

“Actually, it’s from Adrien. He had me bring it since he couldn’t make it.”

“Huh,” Nathaniel replied. “How thoughtful of him.”

He pulled the ribbon on top to loosen its hold and remove the top. Inside was a note and a figurine that made his jaw drop.

Delicately, he pulled out a scale model of himself on a stand, just small enough that he could fit it in his palm, except that it wasn’t dressed like him. It had been painted with a white top half and black bottom half, transitioning in the middle and with black zigzagging stripes over the white, and a black circle in the middle of his chest that had red, yellow, and blue circles placed within it in a triangle shape. His hair was styled into tufts instead of his smooth combed look, and it stuck out downward from a black beret. His eyes were concealed by a plain black domino mask, and his right wrist was covered by his drawing tablet.

“Hey, isn’t that…” Marc began.

“… yes… it is…”

The figurine was of Mightyllustrator, his persona from the Ladybug comic.

He stared at it in awe for a few seconds before someone pulled him from the trance.

“Hey, what’s his note say?” It was Kim.

“Oh, um…

“Dear Nathaniel. Sorry I can’t be there at your party. I know how much your comic means to you, so I contacted my friend over at Musée Grévin and commissioned this for you. Who knows, maybe if your comic gets popular, they can make more! Anyway, enjoy your time with everyone. Happy Birthday. –Adrien.”

“Awww, that’s so sweet of him!” Rose exclaimed.

“I can practically hear it in his voice…” Marinette added wistfully. She was blushing and staring into the distance.

“Yeah… I’ll have to thank him at school,” Nathaniel said, looking downcast.

“You seem unenthused. Is… this because of your last birthday?” Alya inquired.

His green eyes blinked. How very observant… not as if her skill as a journalist had been in doubt.

“I suppose it is… though I don’t know why. I have no reason to dwell on the trainwreck of last year, because I’ve gotten a new muse for my art, and,” he stole another look at Marc, “a writing partner to share it with from the event. I certainly have no complaints to air about this one, I’m grateful that you all put this together for me.”

“Still, being akumatized isn’t something you just ‘get over’,” Alya replied. “Trust me, we’ve all been there. Some of us, like me… very recently.”

“Having all your insecurities broadcast all over Paris is never fun,” Myléne agreed.

“Even worse, you broadcast them, and then you don’t even remember doing so,” Nino added.

Max sighed at that. “And it doesn’t even end there… I mean, do you guys ever wonder like I do, whenever I go somewhere new, if people recognize your voice from all the cringe statements you made as an akuma and are judging you over it?”

“Definitely, which sucks because they’re not even that accurate,” Kim answered. “I get this sick feeling whenever I’m near the Pont de Arcs. I hate that Hawk Moth prays on those little never-supposed-to-be fantasies that we don’t even mean. Nate, it totally makes sense to look back on that with disgust.”

“Hey now, cheer up, everyone,” Lila suddenly countered. “Aren’t we here to have fun tonight? Let’s not ruin it by moping about the past. Otherwise, Hawk Moth might decide to pay another visit.”

The dim light of the moon began pooling into a dark observatory as a lens opened its cover blocking a large window. It was a display that always pleased the one inhabitant of the room, as it heralded the time to reap what misery the chaotic elements of life had thrown in some poor fool's path.

Hawk Moth refrained from his normal commentary as he looked down upon the silver brooch in his palm. Tonight, he was going to run an important test whose success was necessary for the completion of a greater scheme. Gabriel was technically supposed to be taking care of a business matter with a retailer, but the window of opportunity for this akuma was slim and only existed on this particular night, so Nathalie would have to handle it for him. The reason for this test was that if he wanted flexibility in scheduling to keep planning his attacks, then he would also need to be flexible in how he planned them. Because, as Jubilenie showed, sometimes an amok is the right tool for the job, even if Chat Noir was potentially capable of Cataclysming them… which was also why, sometimes, both powers would be needed simultaneously.

Mentally preparing himself, he pinned the Peaco*ck Miraculous below the Butterfly, it attaching seamlessly into the supersuit material.

“Nooroo, Duusu, Unify!”

Once again, Duusu barely phased into existence before being recalled back to the Peaco*ck, his indigo painting it as its five eyespots lit up red. It sent a lighter purple pulse out across his suit, flaring out his black collar like wings as an overcoat formed over it, spread out to his hand and down towards his waist, where it split and circled to his back.

The Peaco*ck Fan formed in his right hand, which he brought up to his face. A large eyespot, black with a purple rim, formed over his right eye, with the spot itself a transparent purple so he could see. He grinned and opened the fan, leaning on his cane in a pose as the transformation completed.

The grimoire had warned of the stress of combining multiple miraculouses, but if Ladybug and Chat Noir could pull it off, it should be easy for a man of his conviction. He supposed he ought to have a name for this particular transformation so his targets would know he meant business. Something grandiose like a peaco*ck, but still intimidating. Definitely not Peaco*ck Hawk or Peaco*ck Butterfly, despite the latter being a real animal. Actually, anything involving the word peaco*ck would more likely be made fun of than taken seriously. Perhaps the unnerving of the eyespots, which hawk moths also had, or how the spread tailfeathers loomed over the body. Yes, something shadowy…

Shadow Moth. That would do. Now that the matter was settled, he could move on to the second half of the test, since it was the much harder and more important one. Duusu had told Nathalie that creating humanlike sentimonsters was incredibly difficult, and ones with humanlike intelligence were even more so. It was a fact most infuriating, since it meant the mistake that led him and Emilie to this point had been doomed to failure before she even put the brooch on. It only furthered his determination to reverse that mistake.

Gabriel could feel the lingering damage of a roomful of akumatized victims, but he only had one target in mind tonight. There was only one there who fit into a particular mindset that could test the extent of this difficulty, one who existed in the small overlap of knowing what an akuma was like and having a strong hatred for a sentient being who has been akumatized, while also having had the faculties while akumatized himself that he could direct the sentimonster effectively.

He pulled a feather from the fan as one of his butterflies flew up to meet it. Transferring his cane to the other hand after it closed the fan, he opened his palm, which he then closed around his two vectors and imbued with dark power that saturated them to a deep purple and an indigo. His empowered butterfly knew its task, and with a wave of Shadow Moth's cane, instinctively flew out the gap in the center of the view to the streets of Paris, the feather fluttering around the wind of its wingbeats as if it knew to stick close.

Some time after the main festivities, the circle had broken into its usual social pairings. The members of Kitty Section were gathered together discussing band stuff, but during a lull in conversation, Rose suddenly released Juleka’s hand and shifted her position to be closer to the other girl in the group.

“Oh, Mylène, I just remembered something I wanted to ask you about. A little hush hush, if you know what I mean?”

Juleka nodded ever so slightly, but the other couple looked confused. Rose gently took Mylène by the hand and snuck away while the taller girl turned Ivan’s way to explain that it meant her special penpal was involved.

“I’m confused about this need for secrecy.”

“Well, normally, it pertains to info that Prince Ali has mentioned in a letter that’s not supposed to be public. But in this case, I actually just wanted to separate the group!”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Marinette was right at the park last month. We should try to socialize with everyone instead of keeping to our same couples all the time. But you and I both know that Juleka and Ivan wouldn’t do that on their own, so I did it this way! I bet they’re already striking up a conversation!”

She glanced over at them subtly to see that they were both standing there awkwardly and not saying anything.

“Well… maybe soon!”

Mylène’s eye was caught in another direction, however. “Oh, look, is that Alix’s friend? I haven’t seen a girl like that around school.”

Rose followed her gaze to an impressively tall blonde wearing a goldenrod-yellow t-shirt and brown mid-thigh khakis, with matching sneakers. Immediately, the girl was approached by Alix and Kim.

“Yo, you finally made it!” Alix exclaimed.

“So this is your new buddy buddy? Almost as tall as me!”

“Kim, why are you acting like you’ve never seen her before? You literally watched our football game together.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know her then! I was watching the game, not checking out the ladies! I’m a taken man, you know.”

Alix rolled her eyes, and Lucille looked at him fretfully. She didn’t seem especially discomforted or disappointed by that statement… in fact, she looked a little relieved. But she was glancing more at Alix than Kim, and it was with a look Rose could identify from kilometers away. So that’s how it was…

Interestingly, Alix either hadn’t noticed it or wasn’t interested. She had always been one of the boys, so her kinship with Nathaniel and being unfazed with Kim’s obvious showing off made sense, but if even girls looking at her like that didn’t spark anything, then it made her wonder…

The triad was joined by another girl, one who walked with confidence trailed by flowing brown hair. “Oh, so this is the Lucille we’ve heard so many stories about! I’m Lila. It’s a real pleasure to meet you,” Lila greeted, outstretching her hand.

“Um, hi?” Lucille replied, limply accepting a handshake. “I, uh, I didn’t know you were telling stories about me, Alix…” she continued with a blush.

“Not that many. Lila just has a flair for the dramatic.”

“I’ve heard enough through them to get a good impression. You’re a rising football player, is that right? I happen to know some talent agents looking for young new acquisitions, if you’re interested.”

“I– well, I’m not that good, yet… I dunno, if you wanted to, maybe you could watch a game and see for yourself…”

“Why, I’d be delighted! I’ll have to find a time to fit it in with my busy schedule, between all my charity work, visiting with important figures from around the world…”

“You know,” Alix said suddenly, “how about I introduce you to everyone else? We do have a party going on.”

“Um, sure. It was good to meet you, Lila.”

“Let’s talk again soon!”

When Lila turned around, Myléne was standing a short distance behind her, looking a little unhappy.

“Lila… I thought you were working on your lying habits. You know, I did some research on ways to retrain your responses, I use it for–”

“Oh, shoot! I did lie to her, didn’t I? Sorry, I was so worried about making a good impression to Alix’s special friend that it came out automatically and I didn’t even realize… I’ll need to go apologize once Alix has shown her around. It might ruin the mood to talk about it with everyone around, and if she finds out before she knows me better, she might never trust me again, just like Marinette!”

She sighed with anxious intonation. “But that’s what happens when I dig holes for myself, so I guess I need to bite the bullet…”

“Okay, okay, maybe you should wait until you feel a little more comfortable. I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities.”

The brunette smiled at her. “Thank you so much for understanding. Oh, I’m so nervous now. I think I need some water, if you’ll excuse me.”

Myléne didn’t smile back as the slender girl walked towards the refreshments table. She didn’t think having a friend with a mental disorder could be this frustrating.

Nino was also at the table, oddly by himself. He gave a rather leery look to Lila and turned the other way to leave, only to be startled as Max was standing right next to him.

“Nino! I was not aware that you appreciated the fine creations of Syncretia!”

He paused for a moment to process the statement and identify the electronic lo-fi track that had recently began playing through the speakers across the room. “Oh, uh, yeah! Of course I do! This is a great focusing tune when I need to work on an assignment. I figured it’d be appropriate for the chillaxin’ vibes tonight, y’know?”

“I do find it very fitting! I feel that I have underestimated your variety of genres in your mixing skills. Say, have you done any work with VGM?”

“Since I don’t know what that stands for, I’m going with no!”

“Video game music. And not just bit-tunes like the ones you made for Miraculous All-Star Brawl; modern games have music spanning all kinds of genres! It is a big well of untapped potential you might find intriguing for your hobby.”

“Oh, well in that case, I might just have to give it a look!”

Alya re-entered the room then, but as she looked around for her boyfriend, she took in how everyone was intermingling, and she smiled. She soon spotted who she was looking for; after catching some of his conversation, she decided that she could let him geek out for a bit on his own. Instead, she singled in on the singular person by himself, as she had recently learned of his proficiency as a writer and was curious to know more since publishing was such an integral part of journalism.

“Heeey Marc, how’s it hanging?” she greeted as she approached.

“Um… okay, I suppose. Can… can I help you?”

“As a matter of fact, I have some questions for you! You’re a writer, isn’t that correct? How long does it take for you to write one of your comic strips? Would you say your final product looks very different from your first drafts? Do you have any tips for when to use certain words?”

“I, um, I dunno, I’d say maybe, um…”

“Alya, please let up on the poor boy!”

“What– oh, Marinette!” The girl had waded through the crowd gathering around Lucille to reach them. “Are you snooping on my conversations, girl?”

“No, you’re just not at all discrete when you get into interrogation mode,” she replied with squinted eyes. “Which you should be careful about, some people like Marc here are shy and don’t like being pressured into answering a lot of questions at once.”

The boy exhaled. “Yes, um… that. Thanks.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Marc,” Alya said. “I guess I got a little too passionate…”

“It happens. Can’t say Nathaniel and I haven’t had our moments.”

“Speaking of which,” Marinette said, “where is Nathaniel?”

“I… don’t know. I thought he was just here.”

The red-haired boy stood in front of the mirror in the bathrooms, his eyes still glued to his figurine. The others were wrong: Mightyllustrator wasn’t a reminder of The Evillustrator; Mightyllustrator was a reflection of The Evillustrator. Mightyllustator was a reflection of himself.

He remembered his time as an akuma. His desire wasn’t a twisted, unrealistic fantasy, it was only to give Chloé the payback that they would agree she deserved… and he even gave that up, just so he could enjoy time with his crush at the time, Marinette. The power he had been given was to make his drawings, his dreams, come to life – to make his imagination into reality.

It was because of this that Mightyllustrator existed in the first place; he easily could’ve picked an original appearance or more unique power for himself. He could’ve gone with a regular superpower like the ones he and Marc made for the American capes, or changed things once Ladybug started calling allies and made up some miraculous not under Ladybug and Chat Noir’s care, like a lot of competing fanfic writers did with their OCs. But he didn’t. He chose the powers he had already had, because they were everything he could’ve wanted to make the world a better place. Expressing that was his true inspiration for Miraculous Adventures, but even Marc didn’t quite understand that about him. Nobody did…

Nathaniel didn’t notice the butterfly or feather until they landed in his figurine, painting it black and causing the purple outline of a butterfly to appear around the edges of his vision. Only, the Hawk Moth that appeared looked a little different.

“Welcome back, Mightyllustrator.”

“I’m not going to fa– wait… what did you say?”

“That’s right, Mightyllustrator,” the man repeated, his emphasis of that name causing Nathaniel to flinch. “I am not Hawk Moth, and I am not here to make you a villain again. I am Shadow Moth, and I’m here to transform you into a hero like you’ve always wanted.”


“Firstly, I must apologize for nearly disabling your power last time, which you surely remember from your unique experience. All you wanted was to use your powers for good… and fortunately for you, I believe in second chances. Right now, we are both in a special position that allows me to grant you your wish, for I, too, have undergone a transformation to improve myself and my powers. With it, I can bestow upon you your very own villain to fight so that you may prove your worth to Ladybug and Chat Noir. You might be familiar with her as the nemesis from your comic… Queen Wasp.”

“From… my comic…” Nathaniel gasped, his face contorted as he wrestled with the idea. “But… you want the miraculouses… for evil…”

Shadow Moth gave him a furtive smile. “Why, of course a hero would never agree to take such things, now would he? Your only job will be to make sure Queen Wasp doesn’t get them, just like your story. Simply accept my power, and all of your dreams shall come true.”

The redhead’s face dropped, then relaxed as he opened his eyes. “How could I say no to that…?”

His figurine’s dark color spread, a matching blue substance mirroring it in the mirror, until he was fully coated and a second human figure had formed next to him.

Everyone heard the buzzing before they knew what the disturbance was.

“Nino… are the speakers not working properly?” Marinette asked. Marc was covering his ears next to her.

“They should be… lemme check.”

He muted the music, but the drone remained, and the disquiet rose.

Then Rose squealed and pointed. “Out there!”

A cloud of glowing yellow stirred up in the courtyard, erratically patterned with black from the bodies of the magical bees that composed it.

“That looks like an akuma!” Alix cried. Lucille was already pulling up the SNAP app – Système de Notification des Akumas de Paris – next to her.

“Not just any akuma, it’s Queen Wasp!” Alya amended.

The door crashed as Ivan slammed it shut. “So Chloé got akumatized again?”

“Wait, isn’t Nathaniel still out there?” Mireille asked.

Replies to either were cut short as several bee monsters punctured straight through the door. Their glowing eyes glowered down upon them, but as they rose their stingers to attack, the rest of the door burst into fragments, and a disk-like apparatus was tossed inside onto the ground. With no apparent source, it began spraying water above it to distract and agitate the bees.

The source then leapt up from the first floor, looking very familiar to them all as he drew on his tablet to create a clear dome around them.

“N-Nathaniel?!” Marc exclaimed, pushing through the others in front of him with surprising confidence and pressing himself against the smooth wall.

“It’s Mightyllustrator. Don’t worry, Nathaniel’s safe,” he said with a wink.

“But how do you–”

“That’s not important. What matters right now is staying safe while I handle Queen Wasp.”

As the bees regained their composure, he erased a hole in the floor beneath him, falling through just as they came in to attack for him. The others tried to look down the hole or out the door for signs of the battle, but they were too far away to see much.

“Do you think he’s coming back? I don’t know if I like being stuck in here…” Mylène asked.

“I see why Marc’s the writer now,” Aurore added snarkily.

“Hey, wait a sec,” Kim interrupted. “What happened to Marinette?”

"I… don't know. I thought she was just here."

Each stroke was deft, yet meticulous. Swift, yet precise. Artful, yet still writing.

Adrien placed his pen down with a heavy sigh. Those were the mantras his Chinese tutor consistently repeated to him, at least, but as he stared at a two-thirds blank sheet of paper, he knew they weren’t going to help him today. He couldn’t bring himself to care right now about how perfect his characters were… much like himself.

“Adrien, what is the matter?” his tutor, an older Chinese woman, asked. “You don’t usually have this much trouble with the simplified characters.”

Comments like that certainly aren’t helping.

Both of their attentions were pulled to the angry buzzing of their phones from their place by his computer, where the tutor had insisted they be left so they would not distract from the calligraphy. The blond quickly registered what was happening, standing instantly and moving into action to see what foreknowledge the alert could provide him.

“Ey, and where do you think you’re going, young man?”

“It’s an akuma alert, and another bad one! Hurry, in here!”

Already seeing the glowing minions rise up above the buildings, he half-pulled her over to the bathroom and towards the shower.

“Is that any way to treat your elder! Your father will be hearing about this! What’s got you so worked up, anyway? They won’t come here with all the security.”

The model had to keep an unfriendly scowl from appearing on his face. “Akumas can tear right through the defense system; trust me, I’ve seen it before. The bees don’t like water, so use my showerhead to defend yourself. I’m going to the guest room to spread out.”

He almost slammed the door on her, refusing to listen to a second of her angry retorts. The demands of his father to be here, the demands of Ladybug to be there… no, he knew he shouldn’t conflate the two. He’d rather throw away his Miraculous than let Chat Noir become the boy that cat walked down the runway.

“Plagg, claws out!”

His mask and ears appeared, then his costume spread out across his arms and down to his feet, quickly joined by his belt. He steeled himself as he vaulted to his window. If nothing else, he wouldn’t let any responsibility of Adrien get in the way of protecting his friends again.

Ladybug leapt up to the railing of Françoise Dupont’s upper floor, swinging around to avoid a pod of wasps that flew up after her. Another rounded the corner from the courtyard stairwell, causing her to run away from them until a third group flew out from the door at the end of the hall. She readied her yo-yo shield, but then a shimmering blue forcefield trapped the minions in a cube.

“Did someone call for a hero?”

Mightyllustrator, as he was calling himself now, leapt down from the ceiling onto the cube, flicking his pen out from his tablet like it was one of those kids’ top games to form water balloons already in flight to smack the wasps on the other side.

“Evill– Mightyllustrator, what game are you playing here?!”

The wasps that had been contained began jabbing their enclosure, quickly forming cracks that caused Mightyllustrator to wince.

“There–gah!– isn’t one. I have been called upon to help you against our most heartless enemy.”

More wasps came diving at them, which the self-proclaimed hero hurriedly erased. His imperfect job left a head and some limbs to smack against the wall behind them.

“We need to get out of here, there’s not enough room to us to maneuver,” Ladybug commanded. “Follow my lead.”

Just as the constructed wall shattered, the spotted heroine entered a graceful dive into the courtyard, catching the attention of the wasps. She landed on her hands into a front spring, making a full rotation in the air as she grabbed the bars supporting the basketball hoop like a trapeze to loop herself even higher as her followers crashed into the backboard or the brick walls of the stairs as they missed her on her ascent. She landed three-point style on the roof, where Mightyllustrator swooped up from below riding a giant book that Ladybug recognized as Reverser’s old mount.

“How’s this?” he boasted.

“It’s ridiculous, utterly ridiculous.”

They both spun around to see the queen of the hive float up from the outer wall, a chorus of buzzing accompanying her as she lounged in a bee-shaped vehicle made of bees.

“That’s rich, coming from the person riding flying barf,” a fourth voice yet contributed. Chat Noir elevated himself onto the roof with his staff, taking his place on the other side of the bookcraft from Ladybug.

“Well, some of us are rich and can do as we please,” Queen Wasp retorted airily, before standing and looking at her with piercing fury. “Like taking your miraculouses. Get them!”

The entire abdomen section of the swarm broke off to fly at them like a drill.

“Get on!” Mightyllustrator instructed, drawing handlebars onto the pages that the two wielders grabbed onto before he shot off into the sky with two yellow masses on their tail.

“Okay, can someone explain what’s going on?” Chat inquired over the howl of the wind. "How are there two akumas?! What’s the deal with your power?”

“Why do people keep asking me that?!”

Without warning, Mightyllustrator entered a nosedive, swooping down under one of the bridges crossing the Seine to soar near the water. The wasp hoard mimicked him.

“Because your power was given to you by Hawk Moth! Are you telling me you really see yourself as a hero?!” Ladybug told him.

“I’m here to help you! Only Queen Wasp is the supervillain here!”

“And what do you think’s going to happen once we defeat her? Do you plan on staying as Mightyllustrator for the rest of your life?” The two heroes were alternating their arguing.

They came upon Île Saint-Louis bisecting the river. He kept right, and each of the swarms took one half… which was when he suddenly looped up, across, and around, weaving between Notre Dame’s twin towers and curving to fly back the way they came.

“I don’t know. Shadow Moth will probably re-akumatize me to help the next one!”

“What, Shadow– forget it, do you even hear what you’re saying?! He’s playing you! Why would he create more enemies for himself?”

The artist ducked down onto his glider as they entered the cramped space of Sorbonne Université, making cutting turns to confound the bees further. They made it through and cleared the fence to La ménagerie to duck down behind a building, where Mightyllustrator erased the handlebars and turned his book up to sit atop it.

“I’ll make this simple. My mission is to defeat Queen Wasp. You can either join me or not.”

“Go,” Ladybug said just as simply.

“Fine.” He flipped his ride back down and flew away.

“Are you sure about this?” Chat questioned once he was out of sight.

“Do I look unsure to you?”

He flinched at her sharpness. “I’m just saying, if we make an enemy of him, it’ll be even harder to deal with Queen Wasp. She’s not an easy akuma.”

“That’s implying he was really on our side in the first place, Chat. He’s clearly just like any other akuma, having lost his common sense from the akumatization and acting purely in his own interest.”

The black cat hero thought back to his exchange with Tiger Prawn last month. It was true that no one had yet to reject an akuma outright, and Hawk Moth had enough sway to make sure of that, but it wasn’t always for a lack of trying. How did akumatization really work? What was Hawk Moth, or rather, Shadow Moth’s agenda with this? How were they – and the normal Parisian citizenry – supposed to build resistance to this sort of thing?

“I can’t deny the soundness of your reasoning… but what should we do?”

“What I always do when I’m not sure how to proceed, of course!”

"Lucky Charm!" she shouted, throwing her yo-yo into the air to exude a multitude of hearts. The hearts then formed together into a small red replica of a well-known Parisian tower with black spots, which then fell into Ladybug's hands.

She gasped at the object, staring at it in her palm. Chat peered down at it.

“It’s a miniature Eiffel Tower?”

“It’s a key chain of the Eiffel Tower, and everything makes sense now. Our enemy, our real one, truly is heartless.”

“You mean Shadow Moth? You think him changing his name really makes him crueler?”


The total lack of inflection caused him to pause. She wasn’t joking.

“I apologize, but… I don’t understand.”

“Do you remember when Mayura made a fake Ladybug?”

“Of course. She was so like the real deal that even I–” he stopped mid-sentence. “No… No!”

“Yes. Shadow Moth changed his name because he’s using the Peaco*ck Miraculous. The Queen Wasp out there is a sentimonster.”

“That’s– can that actually be true?” he hissed. “Those sentimonsters from last week were also modeled after us… but were they alive? Is this Queen Wasp alive? Can the Peaco*ck really create copies of people?”

“I don’t know, Chat Noir. She’s based on an akuma, but… I really don’t know. And it pains me to say that it doesn’t matter. Even if she is alive, we have to free Nathaniel from the akuma and purify the amok so she stops attacking Paris. Her death… can’t be avoided.”

Her partner was gazing the other way, but she couldn’t tell if he was on lookout or simply pondering internally. “But how are we going to do that? How do we know Shadow Moth isn’t holding onto the amok and can keep this up infinitely?”

Ladybug clutched the keychain in her hand, closing her eyes to concentrate on her recollection. She had had conversations with Master Fu about the limits of the Butterfly and the Peaco*ck after the more unbelievable incidents like Miraculer stealing their powers, the triple akumatization of her friends after that fake video from Félix, and of course, the sentimonster clone of herself, which still greatly perturbed her. There was also that akumatized sentimonster, but Fu understandably didn’t want to talk about it. Sadly, his training had been too incomplete to know if they had any beyond the prevention of self-akumatization, and the grimoire did not provide any useful or specific information on it. She had to assume that this plan wasn’t about needing to game his powers, but rather forming some sort of strategy against them.

“Technically… it wouldn’t be infinite if you Cataclysmed it, which he knows you can do now. So he has to be relying either on us not figuring out that she’s a sentimonster, or on something preventing you from getting the opportunity to do it... or maybe, someone.”

“So he akumatized and amokized Nathaniel instead so he could protect the sentimonster out in the field? But doesn’t he want to stop her as much as we do?”

The spotted heroine looked at her Lucky Charm again. “No… he doesn’t. He wants to be Mightyllustrator.

“That’s why he couldn’t comprehend what would happen after Queen Wasp’s defeat. Think about it: comic book superheroes wouldn’t be interesting without a villain to fight. As long as he has powers, Nathaniel has a reason to keep Queen Wasp around, which means stopping us if necessary. It’s two superpowers for the price of one in Hawk Moth’s book, and he doesn’t have to lift a finger to maintain it.”

“Wow… after all that talk about this not being a cartoon, he turns around and preys on someone to make them think that it is. You’re right, it’s heartless. It’s despicable. We have to put an end to it.”

“Hold on, we’re not going to be able to take them both head-on. We’ll need some way to get one of them to stand down, and I have a feeling finding the akuma and amok isn’t going to be that simple. Fortunately, I have just the right plan to figure it out.”

Ladybug swung up to the central roof of Notre Dame where Mightyllustrator and Queen Wasp were duking it out. The art hero had decked out his book with a windshield and twin water blasters that he was using to stave off the latter’s swarm as she continued to recline on the throne of her minions. The spotted heroine wondered if he was actually challenged or if this was some kind of display to try and earn her or Paris’ favor.

“Mightyllustrator!” she called. “I’m here to help!”

He looked her way and reversed Reverser’s ride towards her slowly, keeping most of his attention on preventing the wasps from breaking past him.

“I’m glad you realized that working together is better. Where’s Chat Noir?”

“He’s not coming, because he couldn’t swallow his pride. He’s going to be waiting for us to defeat Queen Wasp so he can Cataclysm the Bee Miraculous. It’s not going to happen like it does in your comic.”

Mightyllustrator got fidgety at that statement. “That’s risky with her minions, but whatever, we can make it work. Do you have a plan?”

That’s clue #1. She doesn’t have the Bee. Ladybug smiled and held out her key chain. “Yes, thanks to my Lucky Charm. I’m going to need to get up close to her.”

“Right. Hop on and I’ll do my best.”

She did as instructed, going to hold onto his waist in lieu of available handlebars, but he suddenly grabbed her left wrist with his hand and redirected it up to his chest area.

“I need my waist for pivoting our ride.”

That raised suspicion in her, but she didn’t let it show. Instead, she made sure to touch him delicately as she wrapped her other arm around to embrace him as her hold.

“Right. My bad,” she whispered as innocently as possible.

She could see his cheeks fluster with color, but he remained focused on his opponents. She thought about how much Chat Noir had struggled with that; it was a shame that none of this was actually real, because she could see Nathaniel being a powerful ally if given the opportunity.

An opportunity I have the power to give him… she reflected on, before shaking her head. She needed to be like him and not get distracted.

Once he had begun battling the wasps again, she snuck a look at where her hand had been about to be placed. She saw a pouch had been tied around his waist.

That’s clue #2.

“Ahahaha, look, wittle Wadybug has to rely on her wittle boyfriend to do the fighting for her! How pathetic!”

“Chloé, it doesn’t have to be like this! You don’t need to resort to Commands to try and fix your life!”

“What are you blabbing about? With Shadow Moth’s power, I can force everyone else do whatever I want to make my life perfect!”

“Relying on someone else’s power to get what you want isn’t going to make you happy!”

“Yeah, right! Says the person using a miraculous to live out her dreams of being a hero!”

“This isn’t my dream! I didn’t ask for this!”

“What?” both of the others exclaimed, but Queen Wasp quickly regained her composure. “Enough of this, Ladybug! Shut her up, minions!”

Clue #3. We have a winner. Migthyllustrator remained entirely quiet as he turned around and took to the sky.

“It’s true! I’m not a bigshot hero that fights comic book monsters! The only monster is Hawk Moth for turning life’s victims into his tools! Can’t you see that?”

“Do I look like a victim to you? I enjoy being akumatized! I’ll never change no matter how many times you try to force your help upon me!”

“You are a victim, Chloé! You’ve allowed yourself to be defined by how others see you. But you also recognized that it was wrong to create your own problem just so you could look good while solving it. Do you remember what I said after you became Queen Wasp the first time? Even heroes are capable of making mistakes, but a real hero will fix them. Make the right choice. Don’t repeat the mistake that was made then.”

Her last statement was pointed directly at Nathaniel, who was pointedly looking straight forward as Shadow Moth’s insignia appeared around his face. She tightened her hug on him.

“See, there’s Shadow Moth right now, telling you to keep doing his dirty work for him by fighting us! This is the same man who said to all of Paris last week that he’s not a cartoon villain!”

“Both of you stop it!” Mightyllustrator cried, turning and smacking her away with his arm. She stumbled back off of the book with a cry, leading to his own as he realized what he had done.


The world seemed to stop as she fell, the wasps around them remaining still.

“The pouch!” she cried, which confused him greatly. Then he realized what was happening.

An unexpected intruder swiped his pouch right off of his waist, one black hand tearing it open and grabbing the figurine inside with a black burst and a quick proclamation of, “Cataclysm.”

The yellow in the sky remained as still as the stars as Ladybug and Chat Noir used their weapons to lower themselves to the ground, the latter setting down a de-akumatized Nathaniel. His giant book crashed down in the background.

"No more evildoing for you, amok and akuma," Ladybug said, opening her yo-yo like a ladybug opens its wings to the glowing white compartment within and swinging it to charge up.

"Time to de-evilize!"

The yo-yo caught the akuma and amok in one swoop, closing up to perform its magic purification as it returned to her hand.


She opened the compartment again, and a regular white butterfly and feather flew up and away. "Bye-bye, you two!"

Next, she threw the miniature Eiffel Tower in the air as well.

"Miraculous Ladybug!"

It burst into a swarm of ladybugs, which flew around the city to clean up all of the wasps and cure the petrified people. One group dove into Collège Françoise-Dupont to clean up the holes in the building and remove the barrier trapping everyone in the art room.

"Pound it!" both miraculous holders cheered as they bumped fists.

“Grr!” Shadow Moth raged, throwing the Peaco*ck Fan onto the ground. “You catch on to my ruses so quickly, Ladybug! Somehow, someday… I’ll get you when you least expect it.”

The lens began closing back over the observatory window, filtering away the soft moonlight until only darkness remained.

“And on that day, you’ll wish you had never worn that miraculous to begin with.”

With figurine in hand again, Nathaniel continued to stare up at the sky where Queen Wasp’s minions had been.

“Nathaniel?” Ladybug asked, tapping his shoulder. “Do you want us to take you back to the school?”

“I don’t know if I can show my face around there anymore. They must think I’m so childish for this.”

“Don’t be silly,” Chat Noir said, placing his hand on the boy’s other one. “I’ve actually read your comic. You and your writer have some pretty interesting ideas in there.”

“Y-you have? W-we do?” Nathaniel exclaimed, looking embarrassed.

The green-eyed hero smiled easily. “Of course I have! I love reading what our fans have to say about us. Uh… except the ones that take advantage of our costumes, if you know what I mean.”

Ladybug cringed. “There was one sicko who threw me into a dumpster without any– you know what, let’s stop talking about that. I think the point is that it’s natural to put some of yourself into your work. Especially when you do so literally.”

“I can guarantee that whoever gave you that figurine did so because they also believed in the power of your ideas,” Chat added.

“Yeah, but…” he started, pausing to look at the figurine again. “You know, maybe you’re right. And I can use this experience to further develop these ideas.”

“That’s the spirit!”

He hesitated before speaking again. “So, Ladybug, I need to know… what you said about yourself, and about Chloé… was it all true?”

“You… remember that?” Ladybug asked, startled.

“Yes. That’s how it happened last time too to get me into this whole conundrum. Please, tell me.”

“Every word of it,” the bluenette confirmed, looking somber. “Chloé was able to become Queen Bee because I lost the Bee Miraculous, and she did it to impress her abusive mother who doesn’t even remember her name. She was a good hero when I called upon her after that. The reason she can’t be that anymore is because her identity being public is too risky. Hawk Moth has already preyed on her multiple times over it. That’s all there is to it.”

Her earrings beeped, having just one spot left. “By the way, if you want us take you back, it’s a limited-time offer.”

“I’d rather not walk half the length of Paris to get there, if that’s alright.”

“I can take him,” Chat offered.

“Before you go,” his partner interjected, “I’d like to talk to you for a second.” She turned to Nathaniel. “We’ll make it quick.” He shrugged.

She threw her yo-yo up high, and Chat placed his staff and extended it to follow her. She brought them both up all the way to the top of the cathedral.

“Is everything alright, Ladybug? I heard what you said out there too.”

“Yes, well, that’s not new information to you.”

“No, but it has helped me understand the Chloé situation better. And it sounds like you haven’t given up on Chloé as much as you said at Marchanderie.”

Ladybug crossed her arms. “It doesn’t change what the situation is. In an ideal world, we could help her, but that’s not the world we live in. I even had a civilian contact who I thought might have an in, but they said no. Regardless, I didn’t ask to talk to you about her, or about me. I want to ask about you.”

Chat Noir crossed his arms too. “What about me?”

“I still want to try and help you. What I just said also applies to you: we should consider all the options available to us before giving up and saying our situation can’t be helped. If I can do even a little bit, it would be better than nothing.”

“… okay.”

Her eyes widened. “Wait, really?”

“Yes. Like I said, this has helped me understand the situation better.” He allowed himself to relax, before looking at her with determination.

“There’s a lot I still don’t know about, well, a lot of things… but that doesn’t mean I can just give up because it’s getting hard. A friend told me recently that you can’t turn back in the middle of a big change, and I’ve realized that I can’t turn my back to all those who care about me, and who I care about, with so many changes happening in our lives. It might take a lot of time, but I have to trust that we’ll find the right answers eventually.”

“Chat, I…”

She started to reach for his hands, but stopped herself. “I’m proud of you. Let’s say the Secret Special Spot, middle of next week?”

The cat hero thought for a moment. “I can make that work, but I’ll have to figure out how and then message you a specific day later.”

Beeps from their miraculouses served as their buzzers. “I appreciate it, chaton. Let’s get going.”

They both disappeared into the night.

Chapter 18: Meet the Miraculouses: Orikko


In this mini-series, Marinette talks with each of the kwami in the Miracle Box. Today, she learns about Orikko's realization of causation.

Chapter Text

In her effort to familiarize herself with the miraculouses, Marinette was going to spend time with one kwami each night. It would be good for them to get out of the Miracle Box and see the modern world, and they could tell her about their powers. Tonight, she decided she would wear the Rooster Miraculous. As she adorned the thumb ring, a sparkling auburn light appeared and transformed into the rooster-like kwami Orikko.

“Hooray! At long last, some fresh air! Oh, hi Marinette.”

“Hi, Orikko. You’re in a good mood tonight.”

“I’m always in a good mood! Every day is a new day!”

This elicited a laugh from the teenager. Orikko’s jubilance was certainly contagious.

“So, you’re the kwami of causation, right? Master Fu told me you were a special one. I still don’t quite understand everything he said about you, though,” she explained, massaging her temples as a show of her statement. “Could you explain it a little more for me?”

“Ah, yes! Causation! Where do I begin… do you know what an if-then statement is?”

“Sure. If I say ‘Tikki, spots on’ while wearing the Ladybug Miraculous, then I will transform into Ladybug.”

“Yes! And that will happen all the time. It doesn’t matter who, where, or when you are, saying ‘Tikki, spots on’ while wearing the Ladybug Miraculous will cause the transformation into Ladybug, every time. That’s the foundation of logic.”

“This reminds me of what we learn about in science class, with chemical reactions and such. If you mix baking soda and vinegar, it will cause an explosion!”

“Yes, that’s part of it too! These causes and effects happen all the time on an atomic level. Everything you see, and even that which you can’t, is driven by actions that cause other actions that cause other actions and so on! Say, do you know anything about computers?”

Marinette had a response ready but found it fumbling as Orikko suddenly switched topics. “Uh… I’m pretty handy on a computer, I’d say. And I love to play video games! Does that count?”

“Sure, why not! Tikki told me about this thing called electricity and it sounds so interesting! Do all of your tools really use electricity? Does that mean there are people who control electricity to make these work? Are they wizards?”

“Woah, slow down.” So this is what Daizzi meant about not everyone taking isolation so well. “I’m not really knowledgeable in the inner workings of computers, I’m afraid. I just use them a lot. But I have a friend who knows a lot about that stuff. He’s that one that wielded Kaalki…” the bluenette trailed off, looking down.

“Aw, don’t be sad, Marinette! We’re all here for you, you know! Please let us know if there’s anything we can do beyond simple advice!”

“I appreciate you saying that. But for now, perhaps just some simple advice in the form of telling me about your powers?”

“Sure thing! To transform into a superhero, all you need to say is, ‘Orikko, rising sun!’ If you want to transform back, you say, ‘Setting sun.’ While transformed, you can use a magic mirror!”

“A mirror? That sounds a bit fragile.”

“You could say the same thing about your yo-yo string. The miraculous tools are deceptively strong.”

“That is very true,” Marinette agreed. She then closed her eyes as if trying to recall something. “Now that I think about it, a rooster hero sounds really familiar. I think I saw someone like that in the grimoire.”

“Yes! You’re probably thinking of Tomoe Gozen. She was one of the best Rooster holders there ever was! She was ingenious with the Rooster powers and has earned her place in the Miraculous spellbook.”

“I see. That’s pretty amazing.” The heroine thought for a moment. “So if I were to give the miraculous to someone, I would want the kind of person who has great imagination and strong ideals, but lacks the charisma to spread their vision to others. The Rooster Miraculous would empower them to find the path that causes their dream to transform into reality.”

“That sounds really great, Marinette! Whoever you choose will be able to do that using the power of Foresight, which grants them a vision of the future through the mirror! Isn’t that great, too?”

The look on her face suggested that she didn’t agree. “Welllll that depends on what sort of vision it is. My Lucky Charm grants the ability to achieve my goal using whatever item it gives me, but it’s rarely straightforward and never makes sense at first. If Foresight is similarly vague, it could be troublesome to use effectively.”

“That’s true, but if your chosen is the right one to wield the miraculous, then they’ll have the tools to figure it out! See what I did there?”

“Yes, I did! You’re right. Actually, I think I know exactly the person who I would give it to. But I still don’t know if handing out miraculouses is a good idea to begin with.”

Orikko’s face changed from delight to curiosity. “Why is that?”

“Because that person was akumatized today. He wanted to be a hero so badly that he allowed Hawk Moth to manipulate him. Sure, if he had the miraculous and actually was a superhero, none of this would have happened, but this exact scenario is what created the Miracle Queen incident. Naturally, that’s something I need to stop from happening ever again.”

The kwami grew pensive, but only for a moment before her smile returned. “Why must that future be avoided?”

Marinette frowned. “Because then Hawk Moth will take their miraculous and gain even more power?” Duh? she didn’t add.

Orikko moved a little closer. “How do you know for sure that an akumatized hero will cause their miraculous to be lost?”

The girl opened her mouth but paused before saying anything. “You know… that’s a good point. We’ve had heroes akumatized in the past, or brainwashed in Chat Noir’s case, and Hawk Moth never went straight for their miraculouses. He always wanted… mine. Because that’s what he needs for his Wish.”

Orikko moved closer again. “Why else do you think that might be? Why hasn’t he taken Chat’s miraculous to make it easier to go for yours?”

“I have no idea. Any miraculous he gets significantly increases his odds of future victory.”

Orikko moved closer still; they were almost in Marinette’s face. “Does it? The power of the Lucky Charm has never failed you in the past. You always win as long as you have that. One could even say… it causes your victory.”

“Now hold your horses, rooster,” Marinette sassed, pushing the kwami back with a finger. “My Lucky Charm isn’t a win button, I just said that it requires a lot of brainpower to use successfully. Hawk Moth was able to get the better of it on Heroes’ Day…” she began, but then furrowed her brow. “… by akumatizing my team members.”

“Now you’re starting to get it! While your allies provide troubles for akumas and may even spell victory for you, in order for him to win, he has to take you out,” they explained, pecking the girl on the word ‘you’ for emphasis. “Also, Hawk Moth doesn’t really have any allies to give miraculouses to, so while he’d be limiting your options by taking them, the impact is probably less than you think.”

“Your logic makes a lot of sense, which I guess is fitting for you. I still feel it’s a bit more complicated than that, though. Hawk Moth also nearly won last week at the Ladybug and Chat Noir Anniversary, even if the Charm wound up doing its job in the end. I’m not sure what to think about that, and I think it’d be best if I slept on it... mostly because of the time. The akuma ran late tonight, and I’m tired.”

“Okie-dokie! Have a good night, Marinette! And remember, every day is a new day!”

“Hee hee, I will. Good night, Orikko.”

With that, she removed the miraculous and returned it to the Miracle Box, before storing it away in its secret hiding place at the bottom of her chest.

Tales of Misfortune and Fame - EnPassant4264 (2024)
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