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Miraculous Team: Valentine Lovers

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It had been an especially exhausting day for Mylene Haprèle. Being forced to wake up at 4 in the morning to battle an Akuma, along with the rest of the Miraculous Team, she arrived back home half an hour before she had to get up to go to school. Once there, she, along with the rest of the class had to take an Algebra test, which she believed had gone horribly. And as the cherry on top, she had volunteered to help out her dad on a couple of errands for his next show, which took most of the afternoon. When they finally finished, she was feeling like she had been run over several trucks during a period of four to five hours. Her dad noticed that she looked tired, but she dismissed it, saying that she was just a little sleepy. But the truth was, she was not just sleepy. Every muscle in her body ached, all because she did not have the time to rest and get her energies back, like it happened most times, after a major battle. When they arrived home, her mother had not arrived from work yet with their dinner, so Mylene told her father that she was going to rest a little bit. Arriving at her room, the first thing she did was to look around and see all her stuff, which as always produced in her a sense of peace. Like every teenager, to Mylene, her bedroom was her sanctuary and like every sanctuary, she made sure that it had everything a person like her would need. The walls were lined up with numerous posters, some from movies she adored, others from productions her father had entered. There were also a couple of framed photographs on the walls as well; photographs of her with her parents, and of her with her friends. On the shelves above her bed, there were a couple of trophies she had won, as well as some souvenirs from her vacations and a little wooden box, where Pin slept. In her bookcase, there were dozens of books, most of them novels that she had bought or that someone had offered her, as well as books on theatre, acting method and cinema. Like her father, Mylene wanted to be an actress, after finishing high school. It was one of her dreams, and she believed she was going to achieve it, if she kept working hard.  

Looking at her bed, she jumped onto it, feeling the softness of its covers caressing her hands and face. To her, right then, that was the closest thing to Heaven. As for her kwami, Pin, he jumped out of her backpack, relieved to be able to float around, without bumping into one of the books Mylene had inside it. Looking at her, the deer kwami could not help himself from commenting on the way Mylene looked, after such a rough day.      

“You look exhausted, Mylene.” -Pin told her.

“No, not exhausted. Super dead is more like it.” -Mylene said, as she sunk her head on her pillow, with no intention of moving for the next hour. –“My muscles are killing me with pain, including those I did not knew I had, Pin.” -she sighed, while trying not to move too much.    

The battle against the Akuma had been a rough one. With a little help from Reptile, Hawk Moth had akumatized a failed jazz player into Bebop, an Akuma that turned half of the 5th arroundissement into a garish version of the French Quartier in New Orleans, and attacking everyone and everything that appeared in his way, by blasting them with killing versions of numerous Jazz songs, and forcing them to dance to exhaustion. When she and the other heroes arrived, they all felt like they had stepped into a musical nightmare. To make matters worse, Bebop moved at an incredible speed, while playing either the saxophone or the trombone. All the while, Reptile had decided to cause trouble as well, trying to force the heroes to focus on him, instead of Bebop, so the Akuma could then attack them, when they leas expected. In the end, the battle was won. The Akuma Butterfly was destroyed, and Bebop was returned to normal, as was everything that it had been transformed or destroyed. As for Reptile, being the slithering snake, he was, he disappeared through the shadows of the night. And although the Ampulla Amulet reverted everything to its original state, there was one thing it did not revert, and that was the weariness that crept into the bodies and minds of the young heroes; something that would stalk them for the rest of the school day that still had to begin.       

“Thank God it wasn’t an Akuma powered by a Scarlet Akuma Butterfly, or things would have been way worst. I swear in the name of everything that’s holy, that I’m going to kill Hawk Moth for this… who in their right mind akumatizes someone in the middle of the night, Pin?” -Mylene sighed, her voice muffled by her pillow.

“Someone who doesn’t have any respect for you guys, that’s who.” -Pin joked, trying to cheer her up, but with very little success.

“No offense, Pin, but leave the jokes to Flint, okay?” -Mylene told him. She was too exhausted to hear anything. She just wanted to rest, and perhaps sleep a little bit before dinner.

“Sorry. I was just trying to cheer you up a little.” -Pin told her.

“Thanks, anyway.” -Mylene thanked him, grateful for her kwami being so attentive with her. –“I’m going to for a little bit. Could you wake me up in about 30 minutes? I have homework to do, before dinner.” -she asked Pin.

“Thirty minutes? Okay, you can sleep, that’ll wake you up in a bit.” -Pin said, as he flew towards the bookcase, looking for a book to read.

Closing her eyes, Mylene allowed herself to think about nice things, as she felt her mind being carried to dreamland, where a nice dream awaited her. Usually her dreams were about theatre plays or even movies, where she would play the main role, accompanied by one or more of her friends. And there was no reason why this time it would be different. But, when she was about to fall asleep, she heard a noise, which at first, she thought was part of an impeding that was about to begin in her mind, and did not pay attention to it. It was not until she heard her name being called, and felt her left ear being pinched that she opened her eyes to see what was going on. Turns out, it was Pin who was pinching her ear.

“W-What?! What is it, Pin?!” -Mylene asked, as Pin stopped pinching her ear.  

“You got a visitor.” -the deer kwami said, as he pointed to her window.

Standing outside, leaning on the window sill was Ivan as Grizzly Bear, waving at her. Upon seeing him, Mylene’s heart almost burst from her chest, fearing that if he fell, he would get hurt, when she remembered that he would be alright. The dizziness caused by sleep made her forget for a second certain things, like the fact that like her, he also had powers, and a fall from the fourth floor would not kill him. Getting up from her bed, she quickly opened the window, letting the cold night air enter.   

“Sorry if I woke you up.” -Grizzly Bear said, greeting her with a smile, which she returned.    

“No, I wasn’t sleeping.” -Mylene said, telling a half truth. –“What’s going on? Do you want to come in? Don’t tell me there’s another Akuma on the loose. Is there?” -she asked the bear hero, hoping that was not the case. The last thing she needed was another Akuma attack to suck up the rest of her energy.  

“No, don’t worry, everything’s fine. There are no Akumas running around.” -Grizzly Bear told her. –“And no, I don’t want to enter. I was just wondering… could you come out just for a little bit?”

“Right now?” -Mylene asked him. –“Ivan… it’s not that I don’t want to, but I’m really tired, and I’m waiting for my mom to arrive.” -she declared. She really was exhausted, and now that she had nearly fell asleep, the only thing she wanted to do was going back to sleep, until her mother arrived with the dinner.

“I know you are tired, Mylene, and so am I, but this is really important. Come on, it’ll only take a couple of minutes, and then, I’ll let you go back to sleep. I promise you.” -Grizzly Bear begged her. –“Come on, it’s really important.”

Sighing, Mylene was not able to say no to Ivan. She did not know how he did it, but whenever he begged her for something, she would say yes. Smiling to him, she told him that she would meet him on the rooftop of her building.

“I’ll be up there in a couple of minutes, okay?” -Mylene warned him.

“Alright. I’ll wait for you up there. See you in five minutes.” -Grizzly Bear said, as he started to climb the front of the building, on his way to the top of it.

“What do you think he wants?” -Pin asked Mylene, as she closed the window.

“I don’t know, Pin. But the sooner we find out, the sooner I can go back to my nap.” -Mylene said, as she yawned.

Grabbing her jacket, and letting Pin hide inside one of its pockets, Mylene exited her bedroom and told her father that she had to go out for a couple of minutes. Asking her what she was going to do, she answered him, saying that Ivan needed to give her something regarding their homework, that Miss Bustier forgot to give her, before she left and he was downstairs. Understanding, he told her to go and come back quickly.

“Alright, dad. Be right back.” -Mylene said, as she closed the door behind her.     

Taking the elevator to the top floor, Mylene wondered what could Ivan want. He was not the kind of person who would transform into his superhero self just to chat with her. Usually, if he needed to talk to her, he would call her cell phone, or try to reach her on Facebook or Discord. If he was doing that, then the reason he was doing it was very important, or so Mylene thought.  

What could it be? Ivan’s not the kind of guy to do this.” -Mylene asked herself. –“I know he said it’s an Akuma attack, so that’s not it. And if he wanted to talk to me, he would just call my cell phone.” -she continued to think on what would the reason be for him to show up as Grizzly Bear and ask her to meet him on the rooftop. –“Ivan, what are you up to?

“You’re thinking too hard about what could Ivan want, aren’t you?” -Pin said, startling her and breaking her train of thought.

“W-What?” -Mylene asked. –“What did you say, Pin?”

“I said that you’re thinking too hard on what could Ivan want. And don’t tell me you aren’t because I know you. You’re nibbling your lower lip, and you only do that when you’re thinking too hard on something.” -Pin pointed it out.

“I am.” -Mylene sighed. –“I just can’t figure out what could it be so important that he came all the way here, as Grizzly Bear, to talk about.” -she told her kwami, while looking up, and seeing that they were almost arriving at the very last floor.

“Well, you’ll figure it out in a minute or so.” -Pin told her, as the elevator stopped.

Once the elevator doors opened, Mylene exited it and made her way to the last flight of stairs that granted access to the building’s rooftop, where she knew Ivan would be waiting for her. With each step she took, Mylene came up with a different guess, as to what could Ivan want to talk to her. Some of them sounded pretty realistic, while others sounded absolutely ridiculous, to the point where she just did not know what to think anymore. Reaching the end of the stairs, she searched for the keys that opened the door that granted access to the rooftop. Everyone in the building had one, mainly because in the Summer, it was the perfect place for a person to come and tan itself, without having to go to the beach or the solarium. And the best part was that the only needed was some sun lotion and a beach towel to do so. Finding it, she inserted it in the keyhole and opened it. And as she did it, a gust of wind hit her right on the face. To say that the temperature had dropped drastically, after the sun went down, would be an understatement. It was freezing outside. Still, Mylene quickly buttoned her jacket and exited, closing the door behind her. Looking around, she did not see Grizzly Bear around. She was about to call him out, when she noticed something rather large moving in the shadows, which startled her, again. Exhaustion and sleep were not a winning combination for Mylene, which recognized the silhouette belonging to Grizzly Bear. But when he came out of the shadows, he was not Grizzly Bear, but plain old Ivan Bruel, smiling at her.   

“Hey! You made it.” -Ivan said.

“Yes, I did.” -Mylene smiled at him, as he approached her. –“So, what’s the matter? What is it that couldn’t wait? Do you have a problem? And if so, how can help you?” -she asked him. –“By the way, did anyone see you climbing the building as Grizzly Bear?”

“Oh, no, no problems at all.” -Ivan smiled at her. –“And no, I don’t think so. And even if they did, I hardly believe that they saw me transforming back to normal, with all this darkness.” -he pointed out to the fact that Mylene’s building rooftop was quite dark.

“Just get to the point of what brought you here! Don’t you see the girl wants to know what’s going on?” -Muria declared, as he came out of Ivan’s pocket.

“Would you hold your horses for a minute? I want to do this right.” -Ivan told his kwami.

“You want to do what right, Ivan?” -Mylene asked him, more confused than ever.

It was then that Ivan felt a lump in his throat. He had turned into Grizzly Bear to come and ask Mylene is she wanted to be his girlfriend. He had tried before, during Halloween, but with everything that happened that night, he felt the moment was not right, and decided to wait. And after a lot of thinking, he decided that Valentine’s Day would be the perfect opportunity to pop up the question to her. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that even if Valentine’s Day was just a couple of days away, he could not wait any longer. He had waited too long to tell her that, and he was not going to wait any longer.  

“W-Well, you see, Mylene, I… I…” -Ivan said, while beginning to stutter. –“Where did all that courage I had inside of me went?! I knew I shouldn’t have powered down. I’m nervous when I’m Grizzly Bear.” -he thought to himself, as Mylene kept staring at him, wondering what was he up to. –“Y-You see… I came here… well, I came here to… I came here…”  

Mylene looked at him, puzzled. She had only seen Ivan acting like that twice before. The first time had been two years before, when he tried to sing her a serenade, which ended up not so good, in part because he was incredibly nervous and because Chloe mocked him and told him that he had a terrible singing voice. As for the second time, it happened a few weeks after they got their miraculouses, when he first asked her to go out with him. Remembering them, everything became clear in Mylene’s head, as to what was happening right then.

Oh my gosh… he’s here to ask me if I want to be his girlfriend!” -Mylene thought to herself, realizing what was going on, and thinking that it was incredibly sweet of him to do such a thing.    

“Wait. Hold on for a minute.” -Ivan told her, as he placed his hands over his eyes. Mylene recognized it as something she had taught him; a trick that was used by actors when they were suffering from stage fright. It had been one of first tricks her dad had taught her, and Mylene had taught it to Ivan, telling him to use it when he felt that he was not in control of a situation. –“Okay, I’m a little less nervous now, so I think I can say what I came to say to you.” -he said. Seeing him do that, Mylene became happy to see that something she had taught him was helping him accomplish his goal.

You really didn’t need to do this, Ivan. But I’m glad you are doing it.” -Mylene thought to herself. The fact was that they had been unofficially dating for quite some time now. Between the movie dates, the walks in the park and the occasional kiss, they were already a couple. But seeing Ivan putting an effort to further develop their relationship felt nice, and she would be lying to herself, if she said she would not enjoy dating him officially.   

“I’m not very good with these things. People are always saying that I’m this big, brutish guy, who’s not afraid of anything or anyone, and whatever they throw in my way, I just find a way to overcome any obstacle.” -Ivan said. –“But the truth is… I am afraid of something. I’m afraid of losing you. You have been my closest friend for years, and … well, I love being friends with you, and ever since we got our miraculouses, that we have become more than that, we became partners, who are always looking out for one another,,, But I want to be more than just that, Mylene. I want to us to be more than just friends and partners.” -he declared. –“I want us to…”

It was then that he felt Mylene’s hands touching his, gently removing them from his eyes. Smiling at him, she then placed her hands over his shoulders, forcing hi to bend over enough for her, on the tips of her toes, kiss him on the lips. But that was not just one of those amicable kisses on the lips that they had shared before. That was a lover’s kiss, the kind of kiss that two people who are in love share. It felt different, while feeling strangely familiar at the same time to both of them. Once they broke the kiss, it was time for Ivan to be puzzled, while Mylene continued to smile at him.    

“I do.” -Mylene smiled at him, just before planting another kiss on Ivan’s lips. –“And you talk too much, when you’re nervous, silly.” -she giggled.

Hearing her say that, Ivan quickly grabbed her by the arms and span her in the air, making her giggle. After a couple of seconds, he put her down, while laughing. He was not the kind of person who was always smiling, unlike Mylene, but right then, there was no way he could help himself from smiling. After all, he had every reason to be smiling happily; the girl he loved had accepted to be his girlfriend. As for Mylene, she was used to smile all the time, but right then, her smile was one that Ivan himself had never seen before. It was the smile of a girl in love, who was experiencing one of the most beautiful sensations one could experience; to be asked to be that special someone in someone’s life.  

“You don’t know just how happy I am that you accepted my propose.” -Ivan said, as a tear ran down his face. Seeing that, Mylene could not help but to think that even the toughest of people have a softer side, and Ivan was one of those people. Hard, tough and slightly brutish, who had a heart of gold inside his chest.  

“I can imagine it.” -Mylene smiled at him. Though she still felt exhausted, the happiness that she was feeling right then, was enough to block the feeling of exhaustion she had, while also making her heart beat faster than usual. Deep down, she could still not believe Ivan had proposed to her. –“If you’re half as happy and joyous as I am…” -she giggled. 

“So… does this make us boyfriend and girlfriend now?” -Ivan asked Mylene, teasing her.

“Yes, you, silly bear!” -Mylene giggled, playfully elbowing him on the abdomen. –“I’m happy to say that I’m your girlfriend.” -she said, as she hugged him. –“Though, to be fair, we were already dating. We’d just never said it or expressed it like this…”

“Oh, wait, I almost forgot!” -Ivan said, gently breaking the embrace, as he looked inside his pockets for something, he had brought with him for that occasion. –“I wanted to give this to you on Halloween night, last year. But with everything that happened, I felt it was not the right time. And then, at Christmas I also tried to give it to you, but things did not go as expected either… but this time, I know there’s nothing that will stop me from offering it to you.” -he said, as he found what he was looking for. –“At first, it was supposed to be just a ring, but then I remembered that you don’t like wearing rings, so, I bought a chain and made it into a necklace. Here it is.”  

Dangling in Ivan’s hand was the ring that he had bought for her, now entangled in a silver chain. Looking at it, Mylene felt that both things were the prettiest things she had ever seen. They were quite simple, but they were beautiful.

“Do you like it?” -Ivan asked her.

“I love it.” -Mylene giggled, as she kissed Ivan once more. –“And I would be honoured to wear them.” -she said, signalling him to place the chain with the ring, around her neck.

Doing it so, the moment Ivan placed it around Mylene’s neck was an almost solemn moment for the two of them.

“I’ll wear this, whenever it’s just the two of us.” -Mylene told him.

“Only when it’s just the two of us?” -Ivan asked her, not understanding why she would do that.

“Well, it’s not that I don’t want anyone else to find out about us. It’s just that I like having you just to myself. It’s like having a secret that only the two of us know about. It’s exciting.” -Mylene asked him, as she held the ring on the tips of her right fingers.  

“Well, it might be a little difficult to do that, because I kinda told my parents that I was going to propose to you.” -Ivan admitted. –“And I might have asked Nino and Kim for a couple of tips on the matter.” -he smiled nervously.

“Oh…” -Mylene sighed. When she said that, Ivan thought that there was something wrong. But the following moment, he saw that there was nothing wrong, with Mylene smiling at him. –“Well, then, let’s keep it a secret between us for a couple of more days. You said it that you wanted to propose to me on Valentine’s Day, so, we’ll tell everyone else on that very day.” -she kept smiling at him. –“But until then, let’s keep it between the two of us, my sweet silly teddy bear.”

“Alright. Whatever you say, my little cute doe.” -Ivan said, making her giggle, as they both embraced.

And while this was going on, their kwamis, Pin and Muria, who had been completely forgotten in the midst of so many emotions, were happy to see their holders giving the next step in their relationship. Standing right there, they saw just how happy they were.   

“Do you think this means we’re going to play best men at their wedding?” -Muria asked Pin.

“Most likely.” -Pin said, being happy for both Mylene and Ivan. –“How many times have our holders actually ended up together?”

“Only once, back in the Middle Ages in what’s Belgium nowadays, remember?” -Muria told him.  

“I thought it had been during the Renaissance.” –Pin pointed out.

“Or maybe it was, I don’t know. Remember, the Renaissance did not happen at the same time everywhere.” -Muria said. –“Either way, it was only once that they did end up together. They wore the miraculouses for like six months and then, just before they handed them back to the guardian, they decide to get married… I still remember her, Adelina, the only girl who ever held my miraculous. She was delicate as a flower, but strong as an ox.” -he said, remembering that holder of his. –“What about you? Do you remember your holder back then?”

“As if I could forget about him. Bernard… now there was a sneaky devil. I was always saying that he had a way to get himself into trouble.” -Pin remembered. –“The two of them were perfect for one another. We were lucky to see them getting married, before they decided to return our miraculouses. Do you remember it?” -he asked the bear kwami.

“I remember seeing you cry, when they exchanged their vows.” -Muria declared.

“Oh, come on, so did you. You’re just like Ivan… a big softy.” –Pin shot back at him.

“Well, maybe I am, but that doesn’t mean I cry over everything I see.” -Muria said. –“Either way, I know I’m not the only one here who thinks that these two will end up married. They’re just perfect for one another.” -he said.

“They sure are.” -Pin said. –“And it will be hard for us two not to tell the others about them. Luckily, in a few days, they will tell everyone, and we won’t have to keep it just to ourselves.” -he said, knowing it        


After dinner, Rose told her parents that she was going to do her homework, and asked them not to be disturbed. She requested this, because she knew that her parents would usually come and see if she needed anything, until going to bed. Just like all of her friends, she was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. On top of fighting an Akuma and taking a test, Rose also had ballet practice that afternoon, where she got scolded by her teacher, saying that instead of spending her nights talking or playing against her friends online, she should spend her time sleeping. Rose, of course, could not tell her what she had really been doing, for obvious reasons.

Changing into her pyjamas, she put on her robe and started to do her homework. Because of the Algebra test she and the rest of the class took that day, Miss Bustier sent them just a couple of exercises to do, as well as a small text to read. Still, no matter how little her homework was, the feeling of exhaustion

“Hey, Rose, why don’t you go to sleep? You can read that text before going to school tomorrow.” -Flint told her, as he landed on top of the book she was reading.

“No, I have to finish it, other wise I won’t be able to sleep well.” -Rose told her kwami. Ever since she was little that the blonde could not sleep well, if she left something important to do. Usually, when this happened, she would wake up every hour, and would not rest properly. –“Besides… I promised Juleka that I would talk to her before going to bed.” -she said, trying to keep her eyes open.

“Fine, finish reading that text and then, go to sleep. I’m sure that your girlfriend will understand if you go to sleep. You’ve been up for nearly 17 hours, Rose. It’s not good for you to be awake for that long, especially with everything that happened.” -Flint told her, with a caring voice.

“I can’t, Flint. I made a promise, and I’m going to keep it. I’m going to talk to Juleka for 10 our 15 minutes, wish her goodnight and then I’m going to sleep.” -Rose told her kwami, as she gave a great yawn. –“I’m so sleepy…”

The flamingo kwami was about to say something, when Rose’s cell phone began to vibrate. Grabbing it she saw it was a text from Juleka, remembering her to log onto Discord, so they could talk, as soon as she could, and that she would be waiting for her. Thinking that she could both read the text and talk to Juleka at the same time, Rose did not hesitate. Logging in, it did not take long for Juleka to show up. She was also wearing her pyjamas along with the beautiful purple satin robe the blonde had offered her for her birthday the year before. Next to her was her kwami, Tamara, waving at both the blonde and Flint.   

“Hey, Rose!” -Juleka waved at Rose.

“Hey, Juleka.” -Rose sighed, while trying to keep her eyes open.

“What’s the matter? Why so gloom, Rose?” -Juleka asked her.

“Not gloom, tired… aren’t you tired as well?” -Rose yawned, as she looked the Goth and saw that she did not look exhausted at all. She looked the opposite of exhausted.

“Oh, that’s because I slept for a couple of hours, after getting home.” -Juleka smiled. –“Plus, I may have eaten two slices of my mom’s chocolate and toffee cake, which have given me enough caffeine to help me stay alert for another hour or two.” -she declared.

What was going on was almost surreal to Flint. Rose was acting like Juleka, and Juleka was acting like Rose. The whole scene looked like something out of “Freaky Friday”, where mother and daughter change bodies for a whole day.      

“This is just… I can’t even come up with a joke about this situation, without it sound like a bad taste joke.” -Flint thought to himself. –“Needless to say, that now, I think I’ve seen it all.” -he thought

“Well, at least one of us isn’t feeling like she was dragged through a minefield and then  

“Oh, believe me, I still feel like yesterday’s trash, but before I took a nap, I was feeling way worst than I am now.” -Juleka admitted. She still could not move her legs without gritting her teeth in pain, and the same could be said for her shoulders. –“Have you taken anything for the pain?” -she asked her.

“No, not yet. But I think a good night of sleep is all need. Luckily, tomorrow morning I’ll be feeling much better.” -Rose declared. –“I was actually thinking about going to bed a little earlier today, right after we finish our conversation, and I finish reading the text Miss Bustier gave us to read. Have you read it yet?”

“No, I haven’t. Actually, I completely forgot about it.” -Juleka admit it. –“But I’ll read it tomorrow, while having breakfast.” -she said. –“Either way, since you’re really tired and I don’t want to keep you form your beauty sleep, I just wanted to talk to you about something that I’ve been thinking about.”

“What is it?” -Rose asked.

“It’s about Valentine’s Day.” -Juleka told her.

“Juleka wants to know if you would like to go out that day, maybe go out and watch a movie or have dinner somewhere?” -Tamara asked her. The raven kwami had remained silent until that point.

“I don’t know… I would like to go out and have dinner somewhere. And it didn’t even have to be a restaurant or anything. We could transform and fly to the top of the Eiffel Tower or even the Montparnasse Tower and have ourselves a picnic there.” -Rose smiled. The idea of a romantic dinner with Juleka on Valentine’s Day was actually quite nice. –“But, I’ve been thinking about something else, regarding Valentine’s Day, you know?”

“Oh, yeah? What is it?” -Juleka asked her, curious.

“About our relationship. I’ve been thinking about it… and I think we should tell our friends about it.” -Rose declared, as she yawned for what was the umpteenth time.

Ever since they had declared their love for one another that Rose and Juleka had decided to keep it a secret from everyone close to them, including her friends. The only one who knew about their relationship was Juleka’s brother, Luka, who had accidentally saw them kissing and snuggling together, and even he had promised to not tell a soul about what he saw.

“So, you want us to come out of the closet?” -Juleka asked her.

“Yes, and no. I don’t feel ready to tell my parents, and I’m sure you don’t feel either, even if your parents might take our relationship better than mine will. But I want to tell everyone in our class.” -Rose declared. –“I think we owe them the truth, Jules. We’re with them every day. We risked our lives for them, and they have risked their lives for us. Like Marinette said, we’ve become the closest thing to a family, and… I feel that by not telling them the truth about us… I don’t know, I feel like we’re lying to them. And, to be honest, I’m sick of not being able to kiss you or caress your face the way I always do, when we’re alone, when we’re around them And I’m sure that you’re also sick of that.” -she said. –“We should at least be able to kiss in front of our friends, without having to hide our feelings for one another… I know that I’m sounding really, really selfish, but…”

What Rose said resonated inside Juleka’s heart. She was also tired of having to hide the fact that the two were dating each other. And not telling their families about it, because they did not feel ready to take that step was one thing. But not telling their friends, whom they were always trusting their lives with; friends whom they believed would be happy for them and whom they believed would have no problem in the two of them dating, was another thing. Just like Rose, she also wanted to tell them the truth. That way they would not have to hide their real feelings for one another in front of them. But unlike Rose, Juleka was afraid of what could happen if they did not accept their relationship. She was afraid that they might turn against them, or feel disgusted about two girls dating each other.

“I… I don’t know, Rose.” -Juleka sighed. –“Do you think it’s a good idea?” -she asked her, unsure about it all.

“Of course, it’s a good idea, Juleka.” -Rose told her, believing it was a great idea.

“But… But what if they don’t accept us for what we are? What if they feel disgusted? What if… what if in the end, they reject us?” -Juleka asked the blonde. You could hear the fear in her voice.  

“They won’t do that.” -Rose answered her with a calm and soothing voice.

“How do you know that?” -Juleka asked her. –“How do you know that they won’t do it?” -she kept insisting on the matter.

“I just know. Jules, we’ve faced tough situations and stared Death in the eyes with them by our side. They are our friends. Friends who would do anything to save our lives, if we were in mortal danger. Do you really think that will change if we tell them that we’re dating each other?” -Rose asked her.

“She’s right, you know?” -Tamara told her. –“I believe your friends will accept you for what you are, no matter what.” -she said.

“I agree with her.” -Flint said, agreeing with the raven kwami. –“Besides, it’s not like you’re committing a sin, or anything, by today’s standards… I mean you haven’t robbed a bank or anything.” -he said, trying to make a joke, but failing miserably, yet again. –“Sorry, I’m off my game today… either way, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you’re in love with each other and that you don’t want to hide it from your friends.”  

“Well, I can see most of them accepting… but what if one of them doesn’t? For example, what if Chloe feels disgusted about us, after we tell her?” -Juleka hypothesized.

“The old Chloe would definitely do that, I agree. But not this Chloe, Jules. She has come a long way, and we both have seen that.” -Rose answered her. –“Look, I know you’re scared about this whole idea, but I’m scared too, They are our friends, Juleka, and we shouldn’t fear telling them the truth, just because they might not react well to it… so, what do you say we both be scared of it, and go forth with it together, anyway?” -she asked her, hoping she would agree to it.

At such young age, most people think they know everything about love, but very little actually understand what love really is. They think that falling in love with a person means that they will love such person forever, when the reality of it is that most time, that never happens. Only a very small percentage of people with a young age understand that love is not forever and that to make it work, both persons have to make sacrifices, so everything works out in the end. Rose and Juleka were among that small percentage, who understood that when it came to love, there had to be work from both parts, so things could work. Rose knew Juleka feared she would be rejected by her friends, and although she too was afraid of that possibility, the blonde did not hesitate and asked her girlfriend to stand by her side. As for Juleka, she knew deep in her heart that Rose was both her soulmate and the love of her life, just like Rose also knew that she was her soulmate and the love of her life. And with that knowledge, she knew that if a person loves another, it must always try to stand by its side. What Rose was asking her was to take a leap of faith, while believing in the positive outcome of such leap. Such a thing is not easy to do, but deep inside her mind and her heart, Juleka also wanted to believe in Rose’s positivism. And so, she told herself that she was going to do it.

“Okay.” -Juleka sighed. –“Let’s do it together.” -she said.

“Are you sure? Do you really mean it?” -Rose asked her.

“I do.” -Juleka said. –“I’m still scared if they will all accept our relationship, but I want to do this with you, because you feel it’s the best thing to do.” -she smiled.

Hearing her say that, Rose’s heart was filled with excitement and feeling of release, and for a brief moment, she forgot about all her physical pain and her incessant desire to go to sleep. She knew just how hard it must have been for her to agree to do that, and she was thankful for that.  

“Thank you, Juleka.” -Rose smiled back at the Goth. As always, her smile had the power to fill up a room with positive energy, and eve illuminate the darkest of nights. It was a gift she had. –“I know just how hard it must be for you to accept to do this, and I thank you for doing it, from the bottom of my heart.” -she kept smiling.

“I’m the one who thanks you for giving me the courage to do it, Rose.” -Juleka said.             

“Can I interrupt?” -a voice called out.

That voice startled Juleka, who almost jumped out of her skin, while at the same time feeling like her heart was readying itself to escape through her mouth. Turning around, the Goth girl saw her older brother Luka, standing at the door, while leaning against the jamb, with a smile that Juleka knew one too well.  

“Luka!” -Juleka exclaimed, while Tamara remained still, trying to pass for a toy, like she always did, whenever there were people who did not know about her around. –“How many times have I told you to knock before entering?” -she asked him, clearly upset.

“In my defense, I did knock, twice, but you were so focused on your conversation with your girlfriend, you didn’t hear me… hey, Rose, how are things?” -Luka waved at Rose, who waved back at him.

“Well, I didn’t hear you out. Still, you should have keep knocking on it, until I finally listened to you.” -Juleka said. –“You scared the daylights out of me. Plus, I could have been naked.”

“Geez, Jules, I didn’t know you were such a scaredy cat.” -Luka joked, as he entered her bedroom. –“Besides, you wouldn’t get scared, if you weren’t doing anything you shouldn’t.” -he laughed, just to tease her, knowing that she did not like when he teased her. –“And as for you being naked, remember, we’re brother and sister, we’ve seen each other in our birthday suits plenty of times, since we were kids.”

Hearing him say that, Juleka just wanted to grab the closest thing to her and throw at him. But she did not do it. First, the closest thing to her was Tamara, who continued to act like lifeless toy and she did not want to hurt her, and second, because she felt that if she threw something at Luka, it would just give him an excuse to call her childish. She loved him very much, but it was times like those that Juleka wished she was an only child.

“True, but that doesn’t mean that you can enter my bedroom, without my permission. What do you want, Luka?” -Juleka asked him, wanting to know just what he was doing in her bedroom.

“Can’t a big brother come and say goodnight to his little sister?” -Luka said, as he got behind Juleka and kissed her on the head, while also looking at Tamara. –“Cute toy. Where did you get it?” -he asked her, as he grabbed the raven kwami and examined it with both his eyes and his fingers. –“These eyes look almost real, you know?”

“Rose gave it to me! And you’re not the kind of person to come and wish someone a goodnight, Luka. What do you really want?” -Juleka said, as she snatched Tamara from Luka’s hands, while raising an eyebrow at him, suspicious of his intentions. –“If he knew that you were alive, I’m sure he would be more careful with you, Tamara. Sorry.” -she thought to herself, while petting her kwami.

“Touché, little sister.” -Luka smirked. –“I just came here to tell you that I just found out that I got a gig on Valentine’s Day. I’m going to play in a bar near my school, and I was also wondering if you and Rose would like to come and see me. I can get you free tickets.” -he told her.

“We’ll think about it.” -Juleka said, not even giving her brother the time to add anything to what he was saying. –“Now, please, leave. I’m trying to have a conversation with Rose, okay?” -she asked him politely.

“Okay, okay, I know when I’m not wanted. Sweet dreams, little sis, and you too, Rose. It was nice seeing you.” -Luka waved at Rose in the monitor, who waved him back, as he exited the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Ever since he found out about Rose and Juleka, Luka had made his mission to tease his younger sister about that fact. And although he did that a lot, he was also incredibly supportive of their relationship, calling it “the cutest thing he had ever seen”, because of the two being the polar opposite of one another. Whenever the two of them were alone, he would ask Juleka how things were between the two of them, and make suggestions of places where she could take the blonde on a date.     

“Your brother’s really sweet… when he wants to, of course.” -Rose giggled.

“You got that right.” -Juleka smiled. –“When he wants to, he’s a sweetheart. But when he doesn’t want to… let’s just say that he’s anything but a sweetheart. Did he hurt you, Tamara?” -she asked her kwami, fearing that Luka might have accidentally hurt her.

“No, I’m okay.” -Tamara answered her. –“It’s nice to see that I can fool anyone, by making them think I’m just a toy.” -she smiled at Juleka.

“Well, you do a great job pretending to be a toy.” -Juleka smiled, as she tickled her, making her giggle. –“Sorry about that, Rose.”

“It’s okay, Jules. It’s nice to not have to pretend we’re just really good friends around your brother.” -Rose giggled. –“But his idea for a Valentine’s Day date is actually really good. We could go his concert, and then do that picnic, just the two of us.” -she suggested

“It’s tempting, I’ll give you that. And being Valentine’s Day, I’m sure that Luka will be playing every last love ballad he knows how to play.” -Juleka said, imagining Luka on the stage, while she and Rose were in the audience, applauding him. –“But going back to what we were talking about, how do you feel we should do it? How are we going to tell our friends about our relationship, and more importantly, when are we going to tell them?” -she asked her.

“To be honest, I was thinking, maybe on Valentine’s Day. We can gather them before, or after classes and tell them about it.” –Rose said.

It was not a very complex plan. In fact, it was a rather simple one. But sometimes, keeping things simple is the right thing to do. Coming up with incredibly complex plans, tended to produce undesirable, if not unwanted results. Plus, by keeping things simple, the odds of complicating things were very low.

“It seems simple and effective. I like it.” -Flint admitted. –“Why complicate things? You can never go wrong with simple plans.” -he said.

“It is a rather simple plan, I admit. But I guess it could work.” -Juleka admitted it.

“Of course, it will, Juleka. You’ll see. It will work.” -Rose smiled at her, before yawning. –“Sorry, but I’m getting really sleepy.” -she apologized, while yawning again.

“It’s okay.” -Juleka smiled at her. –“I’m guessing it’s time for my Sleeping Beauty to go and get her beauty sleep.” -she said.

“Not Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella. You know very well that my favourite fairy tale princess is Cinderella.” -Rose reminded her. Ever since she was little, the blonde felt that Cinderella’s story was so much better than Sleeping Beauty’s, even pointing out that Sleeping Beauty had to wait for her prince to come and save her, while Cinderella went to the ball to find him, because she was not in the mood to wait for him. –“But yes, it’s almost time for this Cinderella to go to sleep.” -she sighed, knowing that she still had to finish her homework, before slipping into her bed for a well-deserved night of sleep.  

“Alright, alright, my cute and petite Cinderella.” -Juleka smiled at Rose. –“I’ll let you finish reading that text, so you can go to sleep.” -she said. –“See you tomorrow, my cute and dazzling flamingo.”

“I’ll miss you. See you tomorrow, my beautiful and mysterious raven.” -Rose said, winking her right eye at her girlfriend, while also blowing her a kiss.

“See you tomorrow, Flint.” -Tamara said.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, see you tomorrow too, Tamara.” -Flint said, as the girls ended the call.  

Chapter Text

Just like it happened with all his friends, when he arrived at home, Nathaniel was feeling more dead than alive. But after a quick nap and an aspirin, he felt himself a little better. His body still ached with pains, but not as bad as before. And the best part was that his hands and his wrists were not aching, which was good because he had a lot of work ahead of him. Ever since he began working on his fan-comic of the Miraculous Team that he felt his mind swarming with crazy and insane ideas, some more than others. Not having to fully rely on what really happened in real life, he was having fun in coming up with different superhero identities for most of the team, as well as powers. But the best part for him was drawing them. He had come up with so many incredible sketches for both heroes and Akumas that it was starting to get difficult for him to decide which ones he should choose.

"This one's really nice." -Mulan said, as he checked out the drawing he had just finished. It was a rough sketch, but it had much potential. –"Did you base yourself on Bebop?" -he asked.

"Thanks, and yeah, I did base myself on the Akuma we thought today." -Nathaniel answered to his kwami. –"He was one stylish Akuma, I'll give you that. But I'll be honest, if I never hear "When the Saints Go Marching In" in my life, it'll be too soon." -he admitted, with that song still echoing in his ears.

"I kind of like it. It's a catchy song… though hearing it over and over can make a person go buggy." -Mulan joked. –"Still, you and the others managed to give that Bebop a lesson, before destroying his Akuma Butterfly."

"I know. I just wished that he had attacked Paris at a more decent time of the day." -Nathaniel said, as he looked for his eraser. –"Having to jump out of bed to go and fight that guy, just to come back here and have 30 minutes, before it was time to go to school… I just hope we don't have to do that again during the next couple of weeks. If I don't sleep for at least 6 hours in a row, my brain won't work the way it's supposed to work." -he sighed.

"Problems of being a teenager and a superhero, that's what I always say." -Mulan said. –"Still, look on the bright side. If you hadn't fight Bebop, you wouldn't have the idea for this new Akuma you are working on." -he said. –"Every cloud has a silver lining, they say."

And it was true. Sometimes bad things happen, but that does not mean one can not take advantage of what happened, and do something with it. Plus, as an artist, Nathaniel was more than used to seek inspiration on the most unlikely of places, as well as in the most awkward of situations. Looking at the now clean sketch, he believed that that new Akuma he was drawing was coming out a lot better than he had anticipated. Adding some shading to it, he then showed it to Mulan, from whom he expected an honest opinion.

"So, what do you think? Does he look evil enough?" -Nathaniel asked.

"Maybe… I think you should try and give him a bigger set of fangs." -Mulan suggested. He believed that the darker and creepier an Akuma would look on the paper, the better.

"Are you sure? If I give him fangs bigger than those he already has, he'll end up looking like a werewolf or a vampire." -Nathaniel told him.

"And would that be a bad thing?" -Mulan joked. –"Come on, you already said that this alternate universe of yours is going to be a little grittier than reality. So, what's the problem if they fight a werewolf or a vampire?" -he asked him.

"True, I've said that." -Nathaniel agreed. –"Still, I would like to keep any werewolf or vampire Akuma for a Halloween adventure." -he admitted, as he ran his eyes over the other sketches that he had piled up to his left, looking for a particular one.-"By the way, I think I didn't show you this one last night, because you were already asleep. What do you think of it?"

The sketch was of one of the heroes. It did not take Mulan more than a second to recognize who Nathaniel had drawn on that sheet of paper; it was Mylene. And instead of having her regular Forest Doe outfit, she was wearing a skin-tight grey and pink costume with a black-swan collar, black arms and gloves up to the middle of her upper arms, as well as black legs, starting at a point in the middle of her upper legs, and black boots, complete with a grey and pink mask. But the most distinguishing part of the outfit he had given her, was the hoodie with mouse like ears that covered her hair.

"Mylene with the mouse miraculous?" -Mulan asked him, wondering why he had chosen to give her that particular miraculous.

"I think it would be a cool idea. I mean, Mylene is pretty shy, when she's not being Forest Doe, and of course, mice are quite shy by nature." -Nathaniel said, justifying his decision to give her that particular miraculous. –"Plus, I think she looks great in grey, pink and black.." -he added.

"Well, I like the colour scheme, as well as the hoodie you added to her super outfit. And I don't know how you guessed, but the weapon that comes with mouse miraculous, is indeed a jumping rope." -Mulan told Nathaniel, who smiled at the happy coincidence. –"All in all, I think it's fitting miraculous to give her." -he said, while still admiring the sketch. –"What would her superhero name be?"

"I still don't have one… Multimouse, maybe?" -Nathaniel shrugged his shoulders. –"I need to think about it." -he admitted.

"Well, either way, it's a great idea for your comic book." -Mulan declared.

"I knew you'd like it." -Nathaniel said. –"And let's see if you like this one too. I worked on it, two nights ago." -he declared, showing the drawing to Mulan.

Looking at it, Mulan quickly recognized Kim, but instead of having the Antelope outfit, he was wearing a black, teal, and cyan suit, which gave him a slender and more muscular appearance. The suit had a snake texture along with the same kind of underbelly like a snake, and on his face, he had a cyan coloured mask with fangs like those of a snake, around his eyes. As a weapon, Nathaniel had chosen to give him a scythe. On the paper sheet, next to the sketch there was a written: "Think of a cool name for it… Viperion? Aspik?"

"You drew Kim wearing the snake miraculous?" -Mulan asked him.

"Yeah, I did… I mean, I did like the drawing with him wearing the monkey miraculous, but I wanted to try and see if he also would look good with other miraculouses." -Nathaniel said. –"So, what do you think? I like how the mask came out."

"You want my honest opinion?" -Mulan said, with Nathaniel waving at him. –"He looks alright, but, trust me when I tell you that you should give him the monkey miraculous, just like you were thinking. In terms of personality, he's too impulsive and carefree to be the holder of the snake miraculous. Believe me, I met one of the holders of that particular miraculous, before the Collector did what he did to it and the rest of the Zodiac miraculouses, and he was the polar opposite of what Kim is." -he declared. –"You should give the snake miraculous to someone else on the team… or someone outside the team. Whether we like it or not, even if you give a miraculous to each member of the team, minus Marinette, Adrien, Alya, Nino and Chloe, because you said you wanted to keep them with the miraculouses they have in real life, that means you will have three miraculouses that won't have a holder."

"Someone outside the team, huh?" -Nathaniel pondered. –"I'll have to think about it." -he said. –"And what about the possible hero names I came up with? Do you like them?"

"Aspik and Viperion? I'll be honest, Aspik doesn't sound very good, but Viperion, does have a nice ring to it." –Mulan said.

"You think? I was a bit afraid that it would sound too much like Vaporeon, you know, the water evolution of Eevee?" -Nathaniel asked him.

"Nah, it sounds alright. And I don't think of a Pokémon, when I say it." -Mulan told him.

Mulan was about to suggest someone to be the holder the of snake miraculous, when his eyes caught a glimpse of an unknown drawing that had been placed on the bottom of the stack of paper sheets. Wanting to know what it was on that sheet, he wasted no time and grabbed it, scattering the rest of the drawings that had been stacked, all over Nathaniel's desk.

"Oooh, what do we have here?" -Mulan said, as looked at the paper sheet.

"Mulan, wait!" -Nathaniel exclaimed, not wanting his kwami to see that particular paper sheet.

Looking at the paper sheet, the red panda kwami saw that this one was filled with doodles and sketches of the boy Nathaniel had bumped into a week before, Marc Anciel. Since that happened, that he had kept a close eye on him.

"Nice work. You really captured the kid's essence, especially his eyes. You always manage to draw the eyes in a way that makes them look alive." -Mulan pointed out. –"I wish I could draw like you do." -he said, without taking his eyes off the drawings. –"These are really, really good, especially these last two ones. You've been drawing him when I'm asleep, haven't you?"

"I have…" -Nathaniel sighed, admitting it.

Hearing him sigh like that, it was clear to Mulan what was going on. Nathaniel was in love, and he was in love with boy. Mulan was no stranger to love. He had experienced many times before. Maybe not in the same way that Nathaniel was experiencing, but he knew how that feeling worked and just how good it made a person feel. And he was happy that the holder of his miraculous was in love. He was not the first of his holders to fall in love, and Mulan knew he would not be the last one either. It filled his heart with joy, just from thinking about it.

"You're in love with him… with Marc, aren't you?" -Mulan asked Nathaniel, who was blushing a little, upon the mention of Marc's name. –"And don't lie to me. I know when you lie to me, Nathaniel." -he said. –"Go on, admit it. I'm not going to judge you for loving him, Nathaniel. There's no shame in admitting it. You know me. Live and let live, that's my motto."

"I… I admit that I feel attracted to him." -Nathaniel admitted. He had only talked to Marc once, and though he had the feeling he was a really nice guy, he did not know him well enough to say that he loved him. –"I don't know if I'm really in love with him or not, but every time I remember about the first time we spoke… actually, the only time we spoke, I get butterflies in my stomach. Plus, at school, whenever I see him, I try to disguise the fact that I'm not looking at him. Also, my heart starts to pound a little faster." -he said.

"That sounds like love to me." -Mulan said, as he handed Nathaniel the paper sheet with Marc's sketches in it. –"In fact, I would be lying if I said that that doesn't sound like young love… look at me, I'm talking like an old man." -he chuckled lightly, and noticing that Nathaniel was not chuckling with him, which he always did, when he came up with a joke. –"Nathaniel? What's the matter? Why aren't you chuckling?"

"Oh… it's just that… well, it's complicated." -Nathaniel sighed, with his head down.

"Complicated? What's complicated?" -the red panda kwami asked him, knowing something was wrong, but not what.

"Well… the fact that I might be in love with a guy." -Nathaniel sighed.

And then it hit him. Mulan had not thought about the fact that a boy loving another boy was not something that was seen with good eyes by modern society. To him, as a kwami, there was nothing wrong about it, but he knew that to most people, that presented a problem; a problem which made a lot of people suffer, just because they were being true to themselves and to their hearts.

"Oh, that…" -Mulan sighed.

"Yeah, that…" -Nathaniel sighed.

"Well, I never understood what the big deal is about you humans and your relationships. Society says "Boys should date and marry girls, and girls should date and marry boys.". I don't understand why people are always saying that. As I see it, there's no doubt that boys should date and marry girls, and girls should date and marry boys… but if a boy wants to date and marry another boy, and a girl wants to date and marry another girl, I don't see the big deal of it." -Mulan said. –"As long as that makes them happy, and they don't hurt anyone in the process, I don't see any problem in that. And neither should you. So, you're in love with a boy, big deal. It beat not being in love with anyone." -he said. –"Plus, I would be lying if I said that you two wouldn't make a cute couple."

Mulan's words resonated on both Nathaniel's heart and soul. It made him happy, knowing that the little kwami supported him. If everyone in the world were as supportive as he was, the world would be a better place.

"You're more understanding than most people, Mulan." -Nathaniel smiled at him.

"Thanks. But then again, I'm not even a person, I'm a kwami, remember?" -Mulan joked, making Nathaniel chuckle.

"Well, you know what I mean." -Nathaniel said.

"By the way, I never asked you this, but are you gay? I mean I saw you checking Marinette, and even Chloe once." -Mulan said, remembering those times.

"To be honest I don't see myself as gay. I see myself as bisexual." -Nathaniel answered him. He himself had doubts at first, because at first, he felt attracted to boys. But then, he also began to feel attracted to girls, which made him realize he liked both, and that that was normal for a bisexual. –"I mean, I feel attracted to girls, but I also feel attracted to boys. I think it depends on either my mood or something else, I don't know. It's complicated at times." -he admitted.

"Well, I don't see anything complicated about it. Whoever you chose to love, whether it is a boy or a girl, as long as they make you happy, I'll be happy for you. And so, should everyone else who cares about you." -Mulan said, as he patted Nathaniel on the head, with his little paw.

"Thanks, Mulan." -Nathaniel thanked his kwami. –"Still, there's one thing in all this that I don't know about." -he said. –"I don't know if Marc is straight, gay or bisexual. And even if he's not straight, I don't even know if I'm his type or not."

"Now there's a complicated issue, I'll admit." -Mulan said. –"Just between you and me, do you think he is straight?"

"I don't know." -Nathaniel sighed. –"That's' the problem with some people. There are people who are gay or bisexual and it's easy to see they are, and there are those who might be one thing or the other, and you just can't see if they are, or not. He can even be asexual or pansexual, for all we know." -he admitted Deep down, Nathaniel was ready for Marc to be any of those things, though in his heart, he wished he was at least bisexual. –"Don't get me wrong, if he's not interested into guys, I'd be happy to just be his friend, but…"

"But you want to be a little more than just a friend to him. I get it, believe me… you humans today with all those kinds of genders. Sometimes I wonder if they have existed since the dawn of times, or if you all just made them up, as you went along? But I digress… do you want me to find that out?" -Mulan asked Nathaniel, spiking his curiosity. –"Do you want me to find out if he's into girls, or into boys? Or even both, like you?" -he asked him.

"And how are you going to do that?" -Nathaniel asked him.

"A kwami has his tricks. Remember, I can pass right through objects." -Mulan said, as he passed right through the paper sheet Nathaniel was holding in his hands. –"So, getting into his locker wouldn't be that hard. Plus, cameras can't catch me, so there's no way anyone would see me doing it. And on top of that, I could ask help from some of the other kwamis. I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping me with that task." -he said, confident that he would be able to pull that stunt out. –"So, what do you say?"

The idea of Mulan finding out if Marc was straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual or asexual, just from looking into his locker and seeing his stuff, was obviously funny. Nathaniel did not expect Marc to have anything that said "I'm gay" or "I'm bisexual", or whatever lying inside his locker. He would just have to work up the courage to ask him that, after working up the courage to talk to him and befriend him. Still, if Mulan wanted to help him out, he saw no problem and allowing him to do it.

"Who knows? Maybe he'll find out something, although that's highly unlikely. Still, as long as it makes him happy to think that he's helping me, I don't mind it." -Nathaniel thought to himself. –"Alright, I guess you can help me. But, let's just keep this between the two of us, for the time being, okay? I don't have any problems in the others knowing about this, but let's keep it just between us, for the time being." -he told him.

"You got it." -Mulan said, winking his eye at him. –"And trust me, when I'm through with this investigation, and everything goes right, your romance with him will be one like in the comics." -he smiled, which made Nathaniel chuckle, wishing that would end up happening.

He had just finished getting ready for his fencing lesson, and already he wanted it to be over. Adrien did not want to admit it, but he barely had the time to rest properly, after he and the rest of the Miraculous Team dealt with Bebop the day before. Because of his busy schedule, instead of going home after class, he was forced to go to a photoshoot, whose photos were for the promotion of his father's newest winter line, and after it, he went back home, just to get ready for yet another high society dinner, this one organized by mayor Bourgeois. It if had not been for Chloe, who also attend it, to keep him company, Adrien would have died of boredom, waiting to get home, and have a few hours of sleep. Unfortunately, when he got home, he was unable to fall asleep, even though his body begged him for it. When he finally fell asleep, it was almost 4 in the morning. It was no surprise to him, when he almost fell asleep in class that morning.

"You look like a zombie… and not one of those zombies from the "iZombie" TV show. You look more like a Walker zombie from "The Walking Dead" with those nasty bags under your eyes." -Plagg told Adrien, as he grabbed his helmet and his sabre.

"I know, Plagg." -Adrien sighed. His only wish right then was to go home and sleep. But he knew that if he did that, Nathalie would then tell his father, and he would get into trouble, especially because the only reason he had to skip fencing was being too sick to even get out of bed. –"I never thought about this before, but I'm beginning to consider starting to drink coffee in the morning" -he said.

"Cappuccino? Americano? Expresso? Macchiato? Mocha? Latte?" -Plagg joked. –"Which one would be your guilty pleasure?"

"If I had to choose, cappuccino. I like the foam." –Adrien answered him.

"Spoken like a true wielder of the black cat miraculous." –Plagg joked. –"I also enjoy the foam as well. It gives me a moustache." -he laughed.

"I didn't know you were such a big fan of coffee, or that you knew so much about it." -Adrien pointed out.

"Well, you pick up a couple of things, when you are asleep, and I can't sleep a wink. So, to keep me entertained, I binge watch a series on Netflix, with some help from a cup of Java." -Plagg explained. –"Did you know that you have more than 30 kinds of coffee capsules in your kitchen?" -he asked him.

"That explains why sometimes your breath smells a bit like coffee mixed with cheese, and why Nathalie sometimes finds empty cups on the sink in the morning. She must think it was my dad's doing." -Adrien chuckled.

Most of the times, the locker room of the fencing academy would be packed with students, but on that day, for some unknown reason, most teachers had cancelled their classes. One of the few who had not cancelled his, was Adrien's teacher, who as always, only had two students, Adrien and his opponent.

"So, are you going to train with her again?" -Plagg asked him

"If by "her" you mean Kagami, then, yes, I'm going to train with her again." –Adrien said.

"I don't like her. She's got no sense of humour." -Plagg said. Not once had he seen the girl in question smile.

"She does have a sense of humour. You just need to know how to tackle it. Plus, you've got to cut her some slack. She's from a different country and from a totally different culture than ours. It's only normal that her sense of humour is different from yours or mine." -Adrien told him, while letting a yawn. –"Ether way, I have to go. You be good and don't do anything stupid while I'm not around."

"Does this look like the face of someone who would do anything stupid?" -Plagg asked Adrien, who promptly raised an eyebrow at him. –"Okay, okay… geez, I make one little mistake and everyone loses faith in you."

"Just one?" -Adrien asked him, wish a smirk on his face.

"Okay, a whole lot of them. But in my defense, some of them were accidents." -Plagg said, as he entered the locker. –"Thank God I brought your Nintendo Switch with me. I'll be playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for the next two hours." -he said, as Adrien closed the locker.

"Remember, don't do anything stupid." -Adrien said, as he walked away, leaving Plagg inside the locker.

Making his way to the room, where the class was going to take place, Adrien imagined how he was going to be able to keep up with his fencing opponent that afternoon, given his exhausted state. He knew his opponent was a fierce one, especially considering it was a girl. Besides Mylene and Sabrina in school, Kagami was the only other person who had it in her the talent, combined with the agility and the stamina, to beat him in a fair fencing match. Opening the door, he saw himself in the same old Louis XVI decorated room his fencing classes took place every week. As always, the rectangular room waxed floor was spotless, the opulent statues and marble busts did not have a single speck of dust in them, and the mirrors on the walls had been cleaned in such a way that

And standing next to one of the windows, looking through it, was Kagami Tsurugi, his fencing partner and opponent. Kagami was slender, and of average height height. Her pale skin, with visible freckles and sharp yellow-brown eyes, gave her an almost feline-like complexion. As for her hair, it was dark blue, swept to the left with light blue reflections, which reminded Adrien a bit of Marinette's own hair, even though Marinette's was a lighter shader of blue. Just like Adrien, she was wearing a white fencing outfit, with the only difference to it, was that while Kagami's had her family's crest on it, Adrien's did not.

"Hello, Kagami." -Adrien greeted her, with a smile.

"Good afternoon, Adrien." -Kagami said, as she slightly bowed herself to greet him. –"I hope you are having a most pleasant day." -she said in a formal tone.

"Well, I'm trying." -Adrien said, though it was hard for him, given just how exhausted he was. –"And, please, Kagami, you don't have to be this formal with me. You're not addressing my father or Nathalie." -he smiled at her.

"Forgive me, Adrien. It's just that I'm so accustomed to behaving like this around most people, that I sometimes forget that you don't like it." -Kagami apologized herself, still speaking in the same formal tone.

Kagami Tsurugi was, like Adrien enjoyed telling himself, was a rather peculiar girl who was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Given her formal education, she tended to display little or no emotion at all, when talking to someone. Not counting Chloe, she was his oldest friend. At first, he did not like her, because she acted around him in a cold, and rather distant form, a little like his father, after his mother's death. But it did not take him long to see that under a mask coldness, mixed with fierceness and stubbornness, she was an incredibly thoughtful and hospitable girl, whom because of her formal education, was socially awkward and shy. She was also incredibly competitive and prone to jump to conclusions, which on more than one occasion had put her at odds with certain people. Adrien and her met a year after his mother's death, when his father went into business with Kagami's mother. Her father, Ichiro Tsurugi, was the Japanese ambassador in France, while her mother, Tomoe Tsurugi, was a former fencing world-champion, as well as one of the most successful fashion designers in Japan. That meant she usually spent her time between Paris and Tokyo. It was normal for her to spend at least a week, every month, in Japan, accompanying either her mother or father in work. This also meant that she did not have much time to socialize with other people, not that she would mind, given her personality. In many ways, she was like Adrien, who until a year earlier, sometimes had to accompany his father in business meetings around the world. The difference was that he had a talent to make friends quite easily, while Kagami did not.

Adrien and her went to the same school together, although not the same class, until he was transferred to College Françoise-Dupont. But even after he was transferred, he continued to see her once a week, every week, during fencing class, where the two of them had requested their parents to always be given private fencing classes together.

"It's okay. And it's not that I don't like it. It's just that I think you don't need to act that way all the time. We're friends, remember?" -Adrien smiled at her. –"You don't have to act so formally around me." -he kept smiling. For years, Adrien had been trying to get Kagami to loosen up a little around him, maybe because he felt that she should act more like a kid her age, or maybe because he himself needed to be remembered of that as well. Having a father like Gabriel, had put some pression on him to be seen as something he was not. Luckily, he had met friends who kept reminding of that, as well as a certain kwami. But Kagami, she never had that much friends to remind of that, or at least, Adrien did not know about them, because she did not talk much about her private life, unless it was strictly necessary.

"Yes. I'll try to remember it." -Kagami smiled back at him. It was quite rare to see her smile, but when that happened, people would see just how beautiful her smile was.

She was about to ask Adrien something, when they heard the door behind them opening. Entering the room was their teacher, Michel Gaudin, the best fencing teacher in that academy, as well as former Olympic champion, who had won two gold medals and a silver medal.

"Monsieur Agreste… Mademoiselle Tsurugi… I trust that you are ready for today's lesson?" -Mr. Gaudin asked both of them with his usual authoritarian voice.

"Yes, sir." -they answered in chorus.

"Well, then what are you waiting for? To your positions, immediately." -Mr. Gaudin said, as the two of them put their helmets on and placed themselves in position.

Under the supervision of their teacher, Adrien and Kagami engaged in a duel, brandishing their sabres. As always, it took less than 10 seconds for them to engage in a fierce battle. They both began strong, but due to Adrien's exhaustion, he allowed Kagami to get the upper hand in combat, by resorting to a more defensive strategy, blocking most of her attacks, instead of attacking her. As she fought him, Kagami noticed that he was slower than usual, and he was hardly trying to match her blows. And she was not the only to do so. With his trained eye, Mr. Gaudin saw that Adrien was not giving his best. In fact, he was not giving even half of his best. Still, he allowed them to proceed, to see what happened next. A few seconds later, when Kagami successfully disarmed Adrien, who saw himself too exhausted to even try to avoid it. Usually, he would have given a lot more fight, but not on that afternoon. His body craved for sleep, and no one could tell him otherwise.

"Bravo, Mademoiselle Tsurugi." -Mr. Gaudin said, complimenting her on her victory, before turning Adrien. –"And you, Monsieur Agreste, what is the matter with you? I thought you were better than this."

"Forgive me, sir." -Adrien apologized.

"Wherever your head is, I suggest that you bring it down to earth. If you had your mind in the duel, Mademoiselle Tsurugi would have not been able to disarm like she did." -Mr. Gaudin told him. –"Now, grab your sabre and recommence. And remember, keep eyes on your opponent as well as your mind in the duel; and the same goes for you Mademoiselle Tsurugi. I will not have anyone slacking off in my class."

As the lesson went on, Adrien became progressively more exhausted. Feeling that he was not well, Kagami decided not to go so hard on him. This, of course, earned both of them a scolding for their teacher, who could not understand why they were not giving their all that afternoon. He was used to seeing both Adrien and Kagami fight with passion. He would usually even beg Kagami, who had the bad habit of taunting Adrien during their duels, to restrain herself from talking while fighting; something that was not happening then. It was almost as if they believed there was no reason to fight one another. But before he could get an explanation for their behaviour in duel, he was called to the administration's office.

"Continue to practice, until I come back. I'll try to not take too long." -Mr. Gaudin declared.

After he left the room, Adrien and Kagami waited a moment, before stopping. Taking off his helmet, Adrien felt relieved to be able to breath. Sighing, he knew that he would only be back to his old self the following morning. Signalling Kagami to join him, he sat down on a bench that was next to one of the windows.

"You look a little… off, today." -Kagami said, hesitating for a second. –"You usually are a better sword-fighter than this." -she said, trying to show that she was worried about Adrien.

"I admit that I'm a little exhausted." -Adrien said. –"I haven't been getting much sleep lately, and from the bags under my eyes, you can see that I'm telling the truth." -he declared, which was perfectly true. With everything that happened to him the day before, he hardly had the time to rest and regain back his strength.

"I see." -Kagami said. –"Is it a girl?"

"W-What?!" -Adrien said, slightly shocked with her question.

"I asked if it's a girl that is making you act this way; that is making you unable to sleep properly?" -Kagami asked him, frontal as always. She did not believe in making small-talk, before approaching a specific subject.

He could not say it was not related to a girl, because if he did, he would have to tell her everything that happened to him on the last 36 hours, as well as everything Miraculous Team-related. But the truth was, Hawk Moth's latest attack was not the only thing that was on Adrien's mind, while he was fighting Kagami. He also had something else in his mind… Marinette. He had been thinking about her more than ever before.

"Well… you could say that." -Adrien told her. –"I've been thinking about a girl. Don't worry, it's not you… I meant, it could be you, but… don't take this the wrong way… I'm not saying that… oh, crud, sorry, Kagami… what I meant is that I think you are a really good friend. But I was thinking of someone else." -he sighed, while thinking that he might have hurt her feelings. He knew Kagami was a tough cookie, but even the toughest of people have feelings.

"I understand." -Kagami said. –"For what is worth, to me, you're also a very dear friend, Adrien, but just a friend." -she said. –"It's not that I don't harbour any other feelings for you, but, none of them are romantic."

Hearing her say that, Adrien felt like a weight had been lift off his shoulders. It was not the first time he heard someone say that they did not harbour any sort of romantic feelings for him, but given how Kagami was, he was afraid that she would feel like he had insulted her.

"W-Well, I'm glad I didn't hurt your feelings." -Adrien told Kagami, as he placed his helmet on the ground, by his feet.

"Who's this girl you are thinking about?" -Kagami asked him. She was not curious about the girl in question, but she did want to know more about how he was dealing with it.

"Whoa, straight to the point… there are a lot of things I like in Kagami, but this isn't one of them. She always manages to catch you off-guard." -Adrien thought to himself, while thinking of how he should answer her. –"It's a girl from my school. I like her a lot, and I've been wanting to tell her just how much I really like her." -he sighed.

"And why haven't you done it? What's keeping you from doing it?" -Kagami asked him. She had never harbour romantic feelings for anyone, because she had been taught that love was a distraction. Plus, she had never met anyone her age, she felt was good enough for her, or that harboured love feelings for her.

"I… I… I really don't know. I mean, you know I'm shy, and…" -Adrien told her.

"My grandfather has always said "Shyness is invariably a suppression of something. It's almost a fear of what you're capable of" … you must not fear of being capable to do something, Adrien." -Kagami said. –"Tell me, do you think this girl likes you back?"

That was the one million-dollar question in Adrien's mind. He wondered if Marinette liked him, the same way he liked her. She was an awesome friend, and more than once she had been there for him, and that could mean she had deeper feelings for him. Plus, whenever he was Chat Noir and he flirted with her, she would always flirt back at him. Of course, that happened when she was also Ladybug, and Master Fu had told them that when they transformed, they became less inhibited, so all that flirting was just her letting out some steam. Still, he wanted all that flirting to mean something. He wanted it to mean that beneath all that flirting with him, she harboured deeper feelings for him… romantic feelings.

"I don't know. But something deep inside me tells me the answer is yes." –Adrien answered her, with determination in his voice.

"You will forgive my bluntness, Adrien, but just because you think that deep inside you, she likes you, it does not make it real." -Kagami told him. –"The only way you'll know that, is if you tell her what you feel about her. Otherwise, you'll keep living with doubts in your head and in your heart… at least, that's what my grandfather has told me." -she said.

"Ouch! She has a point, but she didn't need to say it like that." -Adrien thought to himself, knowing that Kagami was right about what she had said. –"I guess you're right… there's no point in dwelling in what can be, if I'm not sure that that will even happen." -he sighed.

"Tell me about her. What is it that you like in her?" -Kagami asked Adrien. Once again, she was not interested in the girl Adrien had a crush on, but as interested on what he saw in her, that made him like her.

Answering her question, Adrien spent the next couple of minutes telling her just how amazing Marinette was, and what he liked about her. He told her pretty much everything there was to tell about her. And he did not just describe what he liked about her physically. He took his time to describe her personality and how she made him laugh sometimes, and how dedicated she was to the things and the people she loved and cared about. All in all, he described her as she truly was. Hearing him say that, Kagami believed him. She knew Adrien did not have a tendency to exaggerate when talking about something or someone.

"She does seem like an interesting girl." -Kagami said with a neutral voice. She had heard everything Adrien had told her about Marinette, and could imagine why he would want to date her. –"I can see why you wish to ask her to be your girlfriend." -she told him.

"Interesting? I think the word I would use is special. But she's so much more than that. Having her to accept to date me… that would be a romance like in the comics" -Adrien thought to himself –"And I really wished I could tell you more of what makes her special, but I can't, not without revealing a couple of secrets that I can't reveal, for your own protection, Kagami." -he mused about.

Chapter Text

As Adrien continued to talk to Kagami about Marinette, Marinette herself had her hands full with what was happening at her parents' bakery. Like every other year, whenever Tom and Sabine announced one of their famous holiday specialties, people would come from all over Paris to taste them. It was hard to tell which of their holiday specialties sold the most, but one could admit that the specialty they had come up with for Valentine's Day was one of the most popular. Over the years Tom and Sabine tried to come up with a sweet treat for that special day of the year. Their first attempts did indeed create delicious sweets, but it was only five years earlier that they came up with the one that would become the sweet treat that their bakery would be known for years to come, the Love Palmiers. This sweet treat was basically a giant palmier made of pink puff-pastry and then covered with strawberry jelly. A delicious treat that was sold only on the week before Valentine's Day, and on Valentine's Day itself.

Tom and Sabine loved to advertise that this special palmier should be shared, not only because it was a very large palmier, but also because it was the kind of sweet treat that lovers would love to share over a cup of coffee, or a mug of hot cocoa. And just like it happened every year, as soon as they placed the sign advertising them on the shop's window, announcing that it was Love Palmiers season, people rushed in to buy them. On top of that, that year they had decided to also hand out flyers, advertising them, as well as posting it on the bakery's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. They believed there was no reason for anyone not to know that they were selling them.

The first batches of Love Palmiers Tom had spent making, before the bakery opened in the morning, disappeared in a flash, forcing him to make more. Around midday, they were all gone, but Sabine warned the customers that after lunch there would be. She almost regretted saying that, because people continued to come to the bakery to buy more Love Palmiers, and she had to be in two places at once; behind the counter, serving the customers, and on the back, helping Tom with the palmiers, as well as the rest of the baking goods. Luckily, Marinette arrived from school, and she asked her to lend her a hand, so she could help her husband.

"Let me just put my backpack in my bedroom, and I'll be right back, mom." -Marinette told Sabine. –"Well, there goes the chance of being able to work on some of my sketches this afternoon… oh, come on, Marinette, who are you trying to kid with those words? You knew very well that mom and dad were going to need your help this afternoon, and most likely the rest of the week. Now, move your feet, the customers won't stop entering the bakery, just because you want to." -she thought to herself, as she climbed the stairs.

After going upstairs to her bedroom to leave her backpack, Marinette came down, ready to help her parents. Getting behind the counter, she began serving the customers, while Sabine stepped into the back to help Tom. With the two of them prepping everything, production increased much faster than before.

"I'm sorry, Marinette, but you know that…" -Sabine apologized to her daughter.

"I know, mom, don't worry. I know that these days are just like this." -Marinette smiled at her.

"Thanks for understanding, honey." -Sabine smiled at her. –"I hate to do this to her, especially since she came from school, but we don't have another option. Tom and I must really start thinking about hiring someone to help us during the holiday." -she thought to herself, while she made her way to the back.

Always with a smile, Marinette wasted no time in serving each customer that entered the bakery. Though some of the more usual customers came looking for fresh-baked bread, the majority of customers were there to buy Love Palmiers.

"Guess mom and dad's idea to advertise these palmiers on the Internet paid off. We're going to run out of them soon, if dad doesn't bring me another batch of them." -Marinette thought to herself, as she carefully placed another of the Love Palmiers inside a box.

The only good thing about having to serve all those customers was that it gave Marinette an excuse to be at the bakery, smelling the delicious scent of fresh baked bread and sweet treats. Those scents had always been able to do two things to her; first, it improved her humour, when she was feeling sad, angry or simply exhausted; and second, it always managed to spark up her imagination and creativity. Sometimes, when people asked her how she managed to come up with such beautiful and original designs, she would playfully comment that the reason why some of her designs were so good, was because she lived over the best place in the world to get good ideas.

"I'll never get tired of these scents… they're so good." -Marinette thought to herself, giggling lightly, only to be called back down to earth, by one of the customers. –"Oh, forgive me. Just give a minute." -she apologized herself, with a smile.

This went on for at least another hour, when the customers began to be less and less. Sighing, Marinette thanked God for less people entering the bakery, because during the time she spent serving them, she hardly had time to breathe, let alone rest for a moment. Seeing herself alone, she mischievously grabbed a macaron and ate it in two bites. After all that worked, she deserved a treat. Thinking that one was not enough, she grabbed another and ate it as well, without feeling guilty about it.

"Mmmm… it's a good thing my Ladybug powers don't let me gain weight. Otherwise, eating these delicious macarons all the time, I would become a whale in no time." -Marinette thought to herself. –"Which reminds me, I need to take something to Tikki, when I go up. I forgot to stock back the cookie jar in my bedroom yesterday, and she's got to be super hungry, by now." -she thought.

"Hey, girl!" -a voice was heard behind Marinette, startling her. Turning around, she saw it was none other than Alya, her best-friend. –"Let me guess, you had your mind somewhere else?"

"Y-Yeah, you could say that." -Marinette chuckled. She was so focused in her thoughts; she did not even hear Alya entering the bakery. –"So, what brings you and Trixx here?" -she asked her, knowing that her kwami was hiding in one of the pockets of the parka she was wearing that afternoon. A second later, she saw the fox kwami's tiny head and ears springing out of the parka's left front pocket. –"Oh, hi, Trixx."

"Hello, Marinette." -Trixx said, waving her little paw at her. –"Isn't Tikki with you?" -the fox kwami asked her.

"No, she's upstairs resting." -Marinette answered her.

"We saw the sign outside, promoting your parents' Love Palmiers. Do you still have one, or have you sold them all?" -Alya playfully asked her.

"All sold out. But my dad's making more as we speak. The next batch should be ready in 30 minutes." -Marinette smiled at Alya. –"Why? Do you want one to share with Nino?" -she asked her, with a mischievous smile on her face.

"Actually, I want two. One to eat with Nino, when we're out patrolling tonight. And another to eat, right now." -Alya whispered at Marinette's ear, making her giggle.

"Naughty girl." -Marinette giggled, making Alya giggle along with her. –"Well, you'll have to wait a little, until they're done." -she said.

"I don't mind waiting. Anything your parents bake, is worth waiting for." -Alya told her, when she saw Marinette's mom coming from the back, -"Oh, hello, Mrs. Dupain-Cheng!" -she exclaimed, signalling Trixx to hide, before Sabine saw her.

"Oh, good afternoon, Alya. Have you come to see Marinette?" -Sabine asked.

"Actually, I came here looking for two of those delicious Love Palmiers you and your husband bake so well. But Marinette has already told me that I have to wait a little bit for them." -Alya declared.

"Don't worry, they will be out of the oven in about 10 minutes. Then, we just need to let them cool, before decorating." -Sabine said. –"If you want to, why don't you two go upstairs, and I'll tell you when they're ready?" -she suggested to them.

"Are you sure, mom? We just stay here and chat, if you want to." –

"There's no need, honey. I think the worst is over for today. I'll take over counter duty from here on." -Sabine smiled.

"Well, if she doesn't have to stay at the counter, then, can I borrow her for half an hour?" -Alya asked her. –"What do you say, Marinette? Let's go for a quick walk?" -she asked her.

"Go ahead, honey, enjoy yourself. You've earned it." -Sabine told her.

"Alright, mom. If it's okay with you. I'll go." -Marinette declared, before turning to Alya. –"Let me just put on something a little warmer, and we can go, okay?" -she said, with the intention of also getting Tikki.

"Oh, honey, since you're going could you take the advertising flyers that are on top of the living room's coffee table and place them on the neighbourhood's mailboxes?" -Sabine asked her.

"Sure, mom." -Marinette said.

Equipped with her warmest parka, and with Tikki inside one of the parka's pockets, Marinette grabbed the flyers advertising the bakery and its Love Palmiers, that were on top of the coffee table and left with Alya, to enjoy a fun half-hour with her. While walking down the street, Marinette stopped in every mailbox and inserted a flyer. It did not take long for half of them to have been distributed, especially, because she had Alya helping her out. She was sure that they would be gone before one could say "Ladybug and Rena Rouge, best friends forever".

"You know, usually having to place these into the mailboxes is such a bummer, because it always takes me forever to do it. but having you to help me out, makes it a lot easier and faster, not to mention fun." -Marinette said, as she inserted another flyer into a mailbox.

"My pleasure, girl. Besides, it's like you said, this way you end up finishing it a lot faster." -Alya said, as she too inserted a flyer into a mailbox.

"But tell me the truth, did you really come to my parents' bakery just to get two Love Palmiers, or did you come to do something else?" -Marinette asked Alya. She knew her best-friend too well, and knew that

"Well, I wanted, and still want those Love Palmiers. You know they are delicious and I have a sweet tooth, just like Nino." -Alya told her. –"But you're right, it's not the only reason I went to their bakery. I also came to talk to you about something that I wanted to talk with you alone, today at school, but did not have the time, thanks to Miss Bustier's extra assignments and the lack of privacy." –she admitted.

"I knew it! I know you too well, Alya Cesaire!" -Marinette exclaimed in a playful tone. –"What is it that you wanted to talk to me about, then?" -she asked her.

"It's about Valentine's Day… did you forget what you told me the night that we were fighting Bebop?" -Alya asked her.


Bebop had just sent Grizzly Bear and Carapace flying into the air, by blowing his saxophone and releasing a ginormous sound wave, which propelled them into the air, leaving Ladybug and Rena Rouge alone in front of him. Things were not looking good for them. Bebop had proved that he was a lot stronger than they had initially thought. When they first encountered him, the whole team believed that they would be able to stop him in a couple of minutes. But when he showed them his powers, they immediately realized that defeating him was going to be a lot harder than they expected. It did not take long for him to split up the whole team into smaller teams, who were each dealing with a different problem. Still, even split, the heroes tried their best to solve the problems that had been laid in front of them.

Silently signalling Rena Rouge, Ladybug told her to follow her lead. Combining their attacks, the girls tried to catch Bebop off guard, as they charged against him. They believed that they had managed to trick him, as the Ladybug and the Rena Rouge that charged against him were just illusions conjured by the fox heroine to distract him, while the real heroes attacked him from behind. But Bebop saw what they were planning form the very start, and waited until the very last second to give them the treatment he had given to Carapace and Grizzly Bear. Blown away by the sound wave created by Bebop's saxophone, the girls ended up going through the wall of a building. When they finally stopped, they saw themselves inside someone's office. The impact had been quite big and they were both covered in rubble, as well as pieces of broken furniture. Rena Rouge fainted on impact, but not Ladybug. It took most of the scarlet heroine's strength and willpower to remain conscious. Sating on the floor, she looked around to see where they had landed, and quickly assumed that the there was no one around. Noticing Rena Rouge on the ground, with her eyes closed, she wasted no time in checking to see if she was alright.

" Come on, Alya, wake up!" -Ladybug exclaimed, as she shook the fox heroine, trying to wake her up. A few seconds later, Rena Rouge opened her eyes. –"Are you alright? Come on, speak to me! Did you break anything?"

" I-I'm okay. Just a little dizzy." -Rena Rouge said, as she tried to get herself back up. –"Whoa… okay, m-make that really dizzy." -she said, as she sat on the floor. She was feeling her head dizzy, and her body slightly battered, especially her right shoulder and arm, which had been the first things to go through the brick wall.

" Good, because I'm going to need your help… not only now, but also after as well." -Ladybug told her, relieved to see her friend was alright.

" After? What are you talking about, girl?" -Rena Rouge asked her.

" I know this is not the place or time to tell you this, but I've decided that I'm going to tell Adrien about my feelings, on Valentine's Day." -Ladybug declared. –"And I'm going to need your help to find the best way to propose to him."

Upon hearing Ladybug saying that, Rena Rouge jumped into her arms and hugged her, ignoring the pain that was coursing through her back, right arm and shoulder. She would be lying, if she said that she was not over the Moon with that news. She and Carapace had been trying to get her and a certain kitty cat to be together, and now she was hearing her say that she was going to take the initiative and tell him about her true feelings for him.

" You're right, this really isn't the time or the place for it, but I'm really happy for you, girl." -Rena Rouge told her, as they broke the hug. –"Whatever you need, I'll be there to help you."

" Thanks, and... watch out!" –Ladybug yelled, as she pushed Rena Rouge, while also dodging to the left. A second later, a large piece of rubble fell from the ceiling, just where there were before. –"And we better get out of here, before the rest of the ceiling comes down on us." -she said, as she helped her friend get up.

" Ouch… yeah, I don't want to end up with more bruises than the ones I already have." -Rena Rouge told her. –"I know this is hardly the time to talk about this either, but I'll say it anyway… even with our accelerated healing factor, the bruises tend to take at least a day or two to disappear completely. It's alright, while we're in the winter and we have to wear winter clothes. But once the weather starts to get warmer, it's going to be harder to

" Then, may I suggest that we don't get used like a punching bag by the bad guys?" -Ladybug suggested with a grin, on her face, as the two of them made their way to the whole in the wall they had created, when they were thrown against it, peeking their outside, to see if Bebop was still around. –"I don't see him anywhere." -she said.

" Well, guess we'll just have to go and look for him." -Rena Rouge declared, knowing that night was far from ending.

" Alright, come on. I'll give you a lift." -Ladybug said, as she shot her yo-yo, wrapping it around a statue on the top of a nearby building it. –"We've got to find that jazz-loving Akuma." -she declared.

" You know that I can fly, right?" -Rena Rouge chuckled.

" I know, but there's no reason for the two of us to waste energy, if the other is willing to give her a little ride." -Ladybug said, as she placed her left arm around Rena's waist and swung them both out of there. –"Plus, we're going to need to save our energy for later. This Akuma's a lot harder than I thought." -she said, while they are already in mid-air.

" Makes sense… but like I said, I can fly. I could have given you a lift, as well." -Rena Rouge pointed out.

" Oh, come on, I hardly get to swing from building to building with someone in my arms." -Ladybug confessed. –"Just give me this, okay?" -she said, which made the fox heroine chuckle.

" Alright, alright, whatever you say, fearless leader." -Rena said, which in turn made Ladybug also chuckle.

(End of Flashback)

It was only when Alya told her that, that Marinette's brain remembered about that conversation they had two nights before.

"Oh, that! I completely forgot about it!" -Marinette said, a little embarrassed.

"Girl, how could you forget about something like that? I mean, you were the one who even decided to tell it to me, when we were in the middle of a fight." -Alya kept reminding her.

"Sorry, it's just that… well, you know that I tend to forget about what I say during a battle." -Marinette told her. –"But now we can talk about it… I mean, after we finish distributing these flyers." -she said, pointing to the small number of flyers that she was still holding.

"Alright, let's get this done with, so we can talk. You've got to tell me what you have in mind for the big reveal, girl." -Alya smiled.

Ten minutes later, when the last flyer was placed inside a mailbox, the girls made their way to a nearby park, so they could talk about the issue regarding Marinette's proposal to Adrien. The wind began to blow from north, but nor too strongly, which was fine for the two of them. As long as it did not begin to blow too much, the parkas they were wearing would protect them. Still, as a precaution they put on the beanies that brought with them, in case it got colder. Buying themselves a bag of popcorn to share between them and their kwamis, from a popcorn stand that was at the entrance of the park when they entered, they found an empty park bench, underneath an old oak tree, where they began talking about how Marinette intended to propose to Adrien.

"So, let me get this straight, initially you were thinking about just going to him and tell him what you really feel about him?" -Alya asked her, as she grabbed some popcorn, slipped them inside the pocket where Trixx was hiding, so she could eat. –"It's a solid plan, I'll give her that. And knowing that he's head over heels for her, as much as she is for him, it'll work for sure. She knows they have chemistry together, but she doesn't know just how much." -she thought to herself.

"Yes, pretty much that. But I don't know anymore." -Marinette sighed, as she ate a popcorn.

"You don't know what anymore, girl?" -Alya asked her, as she too ate a popcorn.

"She doesn't know anymore, if she needs to come up with something a little more special." -Tikki's voice was heard from inside the pocket she was hiding in. –"I already told her that simplicity is the best way to achieve what she wants." -she said.

"Your kwami's got a point. Sometimes complicating things is not the way to go. You can't go wrong with a simple "Hey, Adrien, I love you very much. Would you like to date me?", Marinette." -Alya suggested her.

"But I don't want to this just be a simple proposal. I want this to be something… something really special, Alya." -Marinette sighed, as she tried to explain what was in both her mind and her heart. –"Tikki and Trixx don't know about this, but you do… you've seen over these two years that we met Adrien, dozens of girls at our school asking him to date them and to be their boyfriend. Heck, even Chloe tried to, more than once… I don't want to be just another girl. I want him to see that I'm truly in love with him, and that I want to be with him, do you understand?" -she asked her. –"I want him to see that I'm not just another girl who wants to date him because he looks handsome. I want him to see me more than just a friend. I want him to see that I truly love him, more than anything else, Alya."

It was hard for Alya not to understand what she was talking about. Unlike most girls, who when looking at Adrien, just saw a handsome blond boy with the prettiest green eyes ever, Marinette saw so much more. She saw a blond boy that was handsome, with the prettiest green eyes ever, but who had a gentle soul, a kind smile, and who was always there for their friends and the people he loves and cares about. In sum, she saw someone she could love for the rest of her life, both for his handsome looks, and for his beautiful personality and soul.

"I understand, girl, believe me, I do." -Alya said, as she caressed Marinette's shoulder. –"You want to do something memorable, that makes him understand just how much he means to you, and how much you want to be with him, I get it." –she smiled. –"Nino did the same with me… of course, all it took was a beautiful song and a custom made love bracelet, which he himself did and that I should use it, but I don't have anything that goes with it, because he chose to make it green and pink… but I'm digressing here. What I'm trying to say is that I know what you mean. And I promise you, we'll find the best way possible for that to happen, Marinette."

"I suggested her that she could propose to him as Ladybug, but she doesn't want that." -Tikki spoke, as Marinette handed her another popcorn.

"And why wouldn't you want that? That's so perfect! You show up, as the beautiful scarlet heroine in front of Adrien, and tell him that you love him. You two kiss, and voilá, romance is born!" -Alya declared with an enthusiastic voice. –"Okay, maybe I'm getting a little too ahead of myself, but you know what I mean, Marinette. It's the perfect setting. Plus, he won't be expecting it." -she smirked.

"No, Alya, that won't do." -Marinette sighed. –"I want Adrien to like me for me. I want him to see that it's Marinette who loves him, not Ladybug." -she said, whispering the last part. –"And before you say that were both the same person, you're right, and I'm beginning to accept that fact. But this is something I want to do as myself, not as my super self, do you understand me?"

After hearing her say that, Alya just wanted to slap some sense into Marinette, but she could not, because she understood what she was saying. She knew that she had always considered Ladybug to be a separate personality of her own person, and though she was beginning to accept that they were one and the same, she understood why she wanted to propose to Adrien as herself, and not as Ladybug.

"I understand you, Marinette. But now, you're going to hear me out on this, okay?" -Alya told her with a gentle and caring voice. –"I know that at first you considered your hero self to be a separate personality, and by that, a totally different person. And I'm happy that you are beginning to see that that is not true, and accept that you and her are the very same person, with the only difference being that Ladybug wears a suit and a mask, and you don't." -she smiled. –"I understand that you want to do this as yourself, but it wouldn't be a bad thing, if your other self could lend you a hand, doing it. Maybe you could, I don't know show up as her, and then revert to your true self and tell him about your feelings for him?"

When Alya told her that, Marinette felt that such an idea was not a bad idea. Showing up like Ladybug, and the revert to her true self, she would be able to tell Adrien just what went in her heart. Still, it was not the perfect idea that she was looking for. Marinette wanted it all to be perfect, just like in the movies she had seen, or in the books she had read. Of course, that was wishful thinking, but it did stop her from wanting it to happen. But she decided that she was not going to discard it, just because it did not gather all the elements the perfect idea needed.

"I can see by the look in your eyes that you don't think that's a bad idea." -Alya commented, always smiling. –"Still, if you think it's not what you want to do, we can put that on the pile of "good and/or acceptable ideas", and if we don't find anything better, we can go back to it, what do you say?" -she asked her.

"A-Alright, I guess we can put that one in the "maybes", for now." -Marinette asserted with her head.

"Good. We can think of other ideas, and leave that one on stand-by." -Alya declared. –"By the way, what are you going to give him? I mean, I know it's usually the boy who should give something to the girl, as a proof of his love for her, but this is the 21st century, girl. It doesn't have to be that way, of course, but since you're the one who's going to take the initiative, it's got to be you to give him something, as a token of your feelings for him." -she said.

It was then that Marinette remembered that she had not thought about that. She had imagined the whole thing hundreds, if not thousands of times in her mind. But in none of them, did she remember about the gift that would seal the beginning of their relationship as a couple. And what could she offer him? Unlike Adrien, her parents did not have the money to buy half the city of Paris, if they felt like it, so an expensive gift was out of the question. She could give him something made by her, but what could she give him that he did not have already? Thinking about it, she put the option of maybe knitting him a scarf, like she did before. She knew he had loved the blue scarf she had given him for Christmas, but she did not want to repeat herself. She did not want to give him the same thing twice. And the more the thought about it, the more she realized, she had no idea what she could give him, when professing her love for him.

"Actually, I haven't thought about it." -Marinette admitted in a shy voice.

"You haven't?! Girl, what were you thinking? That was the first thing you should have thought about." -Alya told her. –"But don't worry, you still have time to decide it."

"But I don't know what to give to him." -Marinette admitted.

"You'll find something. Besides, I'm not the only one whom you can ask for help. You got the whole girl squad to help you. I bet even Chloe wouldn't mind giving you a hand." -Alya chuckled.

No matter how much they had seen Chloe change over the past months, the idea of her acting courteously towards others, as well as treating everyone nice and engaging in trivial conversation, without throwing insults or comebacks, was still too wild to be believed, and if they had not seen it all with their own eyes, both Marinette and Alya would not believe it, given how the blonde treated everyone, whom she believed was above her. So, the idea of Chloe helping Marinette out with telling Adrien how she felt about him, was

"After everything we've all been through together, I'm ready to believe anything." -Marinette giggled. –"If Chloe hadn't changed the way she did, I can almost imagine how'd she react, if I asked her to help me out." -she declared, imagining the whole scene in her mind.

"She would say something like "You are asking me for my help, Dupain-Cheng?! Why would I do that?! The thought of it is ridiculous! Utterly ridiculous!" -Alya said, mimicking Chloe's voice and mannerisms, before bursting into laughs, followed by Marinette, who also began to laugh.

"Yeah… that's… that's so Chloe!" -Marinette laughed. "But let's stop saying… those things. We shouldn't talk about… about her that way. She's our friend now, and she's saved our lives more... more times than we can remember by now" -she said, trying to supress the laughter, only to laugh even harder, as tears ran down her face.

"O-Okay, okay, okay, I'm going to stop impersonating her." -Alya said, as she did her best to stop laughing.

"A little warning, the next time you girls start laughing like that!" -Trixx exclaimed angrily from inside her hideout. Because of all that laughing, both Tikki and herself were shaken pretty hard inside the pockets. –"I almost bit my tongue."

"Sorry, Trixx. But you know how I am. When I begin to laugh, I can't stop right away." -Alya said, as she petted Trixx and handed her another popcorn, as a way to say she was sorry.

"Sorry about that, Tikki." -Marinette also apologized to her kwami.

"That's okay. I'm alright." -Tikki said, as she peeked out of the pocket and winked at Marinette.

"Either way, going back to what I was saying, you've got every girl in our class ready to help you with suggestions, and even ideas for this to work." -Alya told Marinette. –"I would even suggest the boys, but you know that none of them can keep a secret… not even Nino, and I should know it." -she giggled. –"Well, there's Nathaniel… he's usually good at keeping secrets, but it's best if we don't risk it. We don't want a certain kitty cat to know what you're going to do on Valentine's Day, do we?"

Marinette was about to answer her, when she felt her cell phone vibrating inside her purse. Thinking that it might be her mother telling her that the Love Palmiers were done and that Alya could come and get them, whenever she wanted, the blue-haired teenager pulled it out of the purse. But to her surprise, it was not her mother calling. In fact, it was not even a phone call. It was a text from one of the apps she had downloaded into her phone, "Akuma Attack", the app that warned people whenever an Akuma attack was happening, and where it was taking place. It had been created to work along the warning system, whenever an Akuma attacked. Until then, the two had worked together like a charm, and a good thing too, because the young heroes had decided to use it to know whenever they were needed.

"Not now…" -Marinette thought to herself. The last thing she needed was another Akuma running amok in the city. She had hardly been able to get her strength back from the previous battle.

"Oh, no…we got trouble, Marinette." -Alya said, as she also checked her cell phone.

"I know. An Akuma attack" -Marinette sighed. –"Just what we needed." -she sighed again.

"A hero's job is never done." -Alya said, as they got up from the bench, knowing that they had to go and stop that Akuma. –"Let's hope we're not the only ones who respond to this." -she said. –"And let's also hope that this one isn't powered by a Scarlet Akuma Butterfly."

"You guys ready to go to work?" -Marinette asked the kwamis.

"Always." -Tikki stated.

"Say the magic word, and let's do it." -Trixx declared.

Chapter Text

Finding a place to change into Ladybug and Rena Rouge, the girls wasted no time in making their way towards the place where the Akuma attacked. Before transforming, the fox heroine checked the Miraculous Blog email, to see if anyone had sent her an image of the Akuma or a message, saying how the Akuma looked like and what it was doing, like it happened so many times. Unfortunately, the only things that had already been sent to her was a blurred photograph of the Akuma, along with the sentence “It’s made out of paper.” Intrigued by that sentence, Rena Rouge wondered what kind of Akuma would be made out of paper, and better yet, what kind of threat would present to them and to everyone who happened to be near it.  

Running on top of the buildings, the heroines made their way to place where the attack was taking place, according to the app. The place was the Bibliothèque Mazarine, which was located on the Collège des Quatre-Nations, just opposite of the Louvre Museum. The library had been named after Cardinal Jules Raymond Mazarin, whose talents brought him to the attention of the elder Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of Louis XIII, who made him a member of the council of State of the King. When he came from Rome, where he had been studying, he brought with him an impressive private library of five-thousand books, which would become the core of the Mazarine book collection. After he became the new Prime Minister, with the support of Queen Anne of Austria, Cardinal Mazarin continued to amass more books for his private collection. Shortly before his death, his private library held more than 25,000 volumes, and wanting to preserve it for posteriority, he bequeathed it in his will to the Collège des Quatre-Nations, a new college of the University of Paris that he founded for the sons of noble families from four provinces recently added to France. The new library building was constructed on the exact site of the medieval Tour de Nesle, that stood where the college was built. Over the following three centuries, the library continued to grow, with newer additions.

Nowadays, its whole collection is composed of more than 600,000 volumes, and since 1936, that the library served as a depository of publications relating to the history of the regions of France. In sum, it was one of the most important libraries in Paris, as well as France, and it was being attacked by one of Hawk Moth’s Akumas. 

“We better pick up the pace! I think we won’t be the first ones to get there!” -Ladybug told Rena Rouge, as she pointed to the numerous police cars that passed by them, on the street below; no doubt on their way to the library.

“Let’s just hope we’re not the only ones showing up to take down this Akuma.” -Rena Rouge said. She knew that most of the team had things to do that afternoon, which made it impossible for them to be on superhero duty. –“I know for a fact that Rose and Juleka won’t be able to come. Rose has ballet practice, and Juleka was helping her parents with something. And we can’t count on Sabrina either, because she went to visit her grandmother in Provins, to celebrate her birthday.” -she said, having found out about it, when the redhead posted it on Instagram.

“Adrien won’t be able to come either, because of his fencing practice.” -Ladybug said, remembering his weekly schedule, which she had memorized by heart. –“Kim’s also out of the picture. He told Alix and me that this afternoon he was going to the airport with his parents, to pick up his uncle, who’s coming back from a trip to Morocco. And I don’t think Chloe will be showing up as well. Today in class, she kept saying something about a charity party she had to attend with her dad this afternoon. And as much as I know that she loves being Queen Bee, after the beating she took from Bebop two days ago, I think she’ll gladly skip this one, and won’t even try to exit the party.” -she chuckled. –“What about Nino? Do you know if he’s coming or not?”

“Well, he didn’t tell me he had anything to do this afternoon, so, he might already be on his way there.” -Rena Rouge answered her. –“And to tell you the truth, if Chloe doesn’t show up today, I won’t judge her… Bebop dropped a huge section of a building on top of her and Ivan the other night. From the whole team, they were two of the members who suffered the most that night.” -she admitted.

“Yeah, if it wasn’t for Ivan, who was on the right place at the right time, she would have been turned into a pancake.” -Ladybug said. –“That said, I too won’t be able to judge her if she doesn’t show up.” -she said. –“I mean, there are so many of us. One of the good things about us being so many is that if the whole team can’t show up, then, just a few of us will also be able to handle the problem; the only problem is that we’ll take a little longer.”

“So true.” -Rena Rouge agreed with her. –“Still, I hope it’s not just two or three of us, because if it is, it’s going to take way longer to deal with this Akuma than usual, and I’ve got to be back home before my mom arrives with the twins.” -she declared. –“What did you tell your folks, to explain why you aren’t heading back right away?”

“I told them that you forgot a book in school, and that we were going to get it. That way I bought us an extra 40 minutes.” -Ladybug said –“We better make good use of them… and I guess we’re not really the only ones answering the call. Look over there, it’s Alix!” -she pointed into the sky.    

Flying about thirty meters above any rooftop, Dragonfly was enjoying herself, as she flew towards the action. To those who knew Alix like her friends did, they knew that part of the reason why she practiced all kinds of extreme sports and placed herself in so many extreme situations, was because of the rush of adrenaline she got every time she did them, but also because once everything was over, she was left with this sensation of accomplishment, mixed with melatonin inside her, that allowed her to relax and enjoy what she had done. Those two feelings were some of the best in the world for her. And that was why she was so high up in the sky; because when she decided it was time to dive towards the ground, she would get to experience those sensations, one more time. It was like an addiction, but a healthy one at that.

Spotting Ladybug and Rena Rouge, Dragonfly dove at an incredible speed, making her way towards her friends. Positioning herself by their side, she continued to fly at a speed which allowed her to keep up with them.             

“Hey, girls!” -Dragonfly said, while waving at them. –“Ready for another awesome fight against one of Hawk Moth’s Akumas?” -she asked them.

“As always, of course. What about you?” -Ladybug said, without slowing down. 

“What do you think?! I live for these things!” -Dragonfly exclaimed, as she performed a beautiful whirlwind move. –“Race you there!!!” -she said, as she propelled herself forward.

“You’re on!” -Rena Rouge exclaimed, as she slowed down a bit, placing herself behind Ladybug, and then placing her arms around the scarlet heroine’s waist, before taking off into the air. –“Hang on, Marinette! We’ve got a certain insect-girl to beat in this race!” -she said, as she began to speed up in the air, trying to catch Dragonfly. 

“N-not too fast! You know I hate it when you don’t give me a heads-up!” -Ladybug begged her. She was not against racing Dragonfly, but thought that her best-friend should have warned her that she was going to do that.    

The race against Dragonfly allowed them to reach the library a lot faster. As always, Dragonfly won the race, but no one heard her bragging herself about it. Unlike what happened when she went toe to toe with Antelope, and won, Dragonfly did not like brag about winning against the rest of her friends, because she knew that none of them were as fast as she was. Plus, she would only brag about it to Antelope, because she enjoyed to tease him and ridicule him in front of everyone else, just to see him fuming with anger. But even if he was there, and she happened to have won a race against him, Dragonfly knew that that was not the time to do so. When arriving at where the action was going on, they came across a scene that was absolutely bizarre… nothing was happening, or at least, nothing Akuma related was happening. Having landed on the rooftop of the Louvre’s Sully Pavilion, facing the Pont des Arts and the Bibliothèque Mazarine, they could see that the police had already sealed the bridge and the streets that gave access to the building, and in front of the library’s entrance, several police vehicles had been parked to create a makeshift barricade. There was a lot of commotion form the police, but other than that, nothing else seemed to be going on.

“What’s going on? Where’s the Akuma?” -Ladybug asked her companions, not seeing any trace of it.

“I don’t see him… maybe it’s still inside the library?” -Rena Rouge said.

“Or maybe it was just a false alarm.” -Dragonfly said.

“No, it’s not a false alarm. Someone sent a photo of the Akuma to the Miraculous Blog email. It was too blurred to see what how this Akuma looks like, but it was definitely one.” -Rena Rouge said.

“Then, that means that it’s inside the library.” -Ladybug declared with a serious voice. –“We have to get inside and see what’s going on.” -she said.

The scarlet heroine had just finished talking, when two more heroes arrived, joining her and the girls on the rooftop; Carapace and Forest Doe, ready to their part in that new challenge they were about to take.    

“Sorry if were a little bit late.” -Carapace declared, while winking an eye at Rena Rouge, who winked back at him.

“Do you know if anyone else is coming?” -Ladybug asked them.

“I don’t know.” -Forest Doe answered. –“I only know that Ivan’s not coming because he’s in the dentist.” -she stated. When she texted him, saying that there was an Akuma attacking the city, he texted her back, saying that he was in the dentist, and could not leave, because his mother was with him.

“Me neither.” -Carapace said.

“Well, we’ve faced other Akumas with fewer of us around and we managed to win. I think the five of us will just have to do it.” -Ladybug said, as she looked at the library’s building and tried to assess, what they should do next. A few seconds went by, before she spoke again. –“Whatever Akuma is waiting for us inside the library, we need to be careful. We don’t know what kind of abilities it might have.” -she said. –“Now, should we enter through the front or try another approach?!

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t just burst through the main entrance. I mean, that Akuma and at least one of Hawk Moth’s minions, are expecting us.” -Dragonfly said.

“True, but on the other hand, we don’t’ know if they have any hostages.” -Forest Doe stated. –“We can’t risk that.”

“Then, going through the front door might be out of the question.” -Rena Rouge said. –“Perhaps we could make our entrance through the dome. I mean, we break one of those stain-glass windows and we enter. I’m sure they won’t be expecting us to entre through there.” -she added.  

“Sound like a plan.” -Ladybug said. –“Okay, then everyone, let’s go. The faster we do this, the faster we can wrap everything up and go home.” -she smiled, positive that just the five of them would be enough to deal with the Akuma that waited for them inside.

They were about to jump off the rooftop, when they heard a cell ringing. Their first reaction was that there was someone else on that rooftop with them. But then, they remembered that their cell phones were magically fused with their weapons. Checking them, the one that was ringing was Dragonfly’s. Splitting open her frisbee, she checked to see who was calling her.; it was her older brother, Jalil. 

“Hello? Yes, Jalil, what’s the matter?” -Dragonfly asked her brother. –“What kind of question is that?” -she asked him.  –“No, Jalil, I’m not anywhere near that library. Why would I be near it, anyways? You know I’m allergic to libraries, when I’m not in school… yeah, well, I’m on the other side of town, right now. I’m going to meet a couple of friends… What? There’s an Akuma attacking that library, according to the app in your cell? Well, it’s a good thing I’m not near it… No, I’m not being sarcastic! Just because my voice sounds like I’m sounding sarcastic, that doesn’t mean I’m being sarcastic, okay?! Yes, I won’t forget to get the roasted chicken for dinner tonight. I remember mom asking me that, alright?! Alright… bye now!”     

“Your brother was worried about you, wasn’t he?” -Carapace asked her.

“That’s one way to put it… Since last week, when he sprained his ankle, that he does nothing but staying home, watching television and checking news in his cell phone… and, of course, nagging me to death with all kinds of requests.” -Dragonfly sighed. –“I know he can’t walk right now, but he could give me a break from those things he asks me. I’m his little sister, not his maid. And furthermore, I don’t need him to always be checking in on me. I can take care of myself!” -she said, while closing her frisbee, returning it to its usual shape, annoyed by the fact that his brother still treated her a bit like a little girl.

“He’s just worried about you. It’s what big brothers and sisters do, Alix. Nora’s always worrying about me too.” -Alya told her.

“Well, I would appreciate it, if he didn’t.” -Dragonfly said. 

“Changing the subject, is everyone ready to go?” -Ladybug asked them.

“You bet, girl.” -Rena Rouge said.

“I’m with you.” -Carapace said.

“Let’s do this.” -Forest Doe said.

“We’re right behind you, fearless leader.” -Dragonfly said.

Dropping down the building, the five heroes made their way towards Pont des Arts. Passing over the blockade created by the police, the heroes were hailed by the officers, who once more appreciated their help in solving an Akuma crisis. Running over the Pont des Arts, they could not help but to notice the padlocks that that been attached to the bridge’s railing and grates. Those were the infamous love locks, where tourists had written or engraved their first names in them, and then attach them to the bridge, before throwing away the key into the Seine, as a symbolic gesture of their commitment. Over the years, the city had appealed to the tourists to not do so, in order to preserve the bridge, and would cut them down. Still that did not prevent the tourists, or even the locals from doing it. It was beautiful gesture, that symbolized true love. Looking at them, both Rena Rouge and Carapace knew, that among all those padlocks, there would be one with their initials in it, if the city workers had not cut it yet. They placed it on the bridge last November, during one of their date nights. Ladybug herself was hoping that once she told Adrien about her true feelings for him, that they could latch a padlock with their initials to the bridge… but it did not have to be that bridge. It could be any other bridge, or even a secret place, which only they would know about, and where the city workers would never be able to find.

“Soon enough, Marinette… soon enough, you and Adrien will be able to do that.” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she imagined herself and Adrien writing their initials on a padlock, attaching it to the bridge’s railing, and then throwing away the key into the river, before sharing a romantic kiss.       

With each step they took, they came closer to the library and their adversary. Unlike what happened with Ladybug, and even Carapace and Rena Rouge, Dragonfly’s thoughts were focused on what awaited them behind the library’s doors. After their battle against Bebop, who proved to be an incredibly strong Akuma, she was hoping that this new Akuma would be easier to defeat than him.

Whatever this Akuma can do, let it be one of those Akumas who doesn’t know how to use its powers… and let it be that stupid lizard-man who choose today’s victim, please! I got a bone to pick with him, after I almost broke my neck the other night, thanks to him.” -Dragonfly thought to herself, as she remembered about it.

Arriving at the end of the bridge, another group of police officers that was stationed there to keep anyone from jumping the blockade they had set, greeted them. And they were not the only ones. Whenever there was an Akuma attack, people seemed to be attracted to the place where it was going on. Over the course of the months since Hawk Moth and the Miraculous Team first showed up that citizens of Paris would gather around the place where an Akuma attacked, just to get a glimpse of it, and of course the Miraculous Team. And they were the only ones. Some tourists visiting the city, both French and from other countries, would come to Paris, hoping that they would see an Akuma attacking the city, and the Miraculous Team saving it. You would think that instead of staying and seeing what was going on, that people would run as fast as their legs allowed them to, looking for a safe place, until the danger was over. But instead, they would do the opposite. And that presented a problem for both the police, who had to make sure they would not try and cross the barricades that had been placed around the area, and the Miraculous Team, who would have to be careful not to drive a battle to where innocent bystanders were.  

“There are a lot of people out here to see the show.” -Carapace declared as he used one of his tonfas to point at the crowd that had gathered behind the barricade on the left.

“Well, on the right, things do look the same.” -Forest Doe said.

“I don’t really get them… if I was them, I would be running away from here, before I got hurt by either the Akuma or was turned into an Akuma scout or something; not hanging around and tempting fate.” -Rena Rouge said, as she looked at the crowd, and saw people snapping photos with their cell phones.   

“Well, maybe you still have some neurons inside your brain that work, and they don’t.” -Dragonfly pointed out with a voice filled with sarcasm.  

“They can’t help themselves. They want to see what’s going on, and if even possible, be part of the action.” -Ladybug declared. She herself did not understand why people would risk their safety to be there, but deep down, she knew that that was just part of the human condition. –“Well, I’m sorry to say this, but we’re going to spoil their fun, by taking care of that Akuma indoors. We can’t allow it to exit the library, no matter what its powers might be.” -she said.

Suddenly, a loud bang was heard, coming from the library’s entrance. Turning their heads to see what was going on, they once again saw something they never expected to see in their lives. Bursting through the large wooden doors came numerous white creatures, most of them the size of cars. They were all-white and had the strangest shapes one could possibly imagine, with most resembling animals.

“What are those?!” -Forest Doe asked, as she pulled out her bow and arrow, pointing them at the creatures. 

“I’m not sure…. but they look like giant origami figurines.” -Rena Rouge said   

And they were origami figures, all of them shaped like numerous animals. Dogs, cats, cranes, bears, horses, among others. But unlike the tiny little origami figures that people are used to see, these were giant. This led the heroes to immediately assume that whoever that Akuma was, it had the ability of creating giant origami figures.  

“I guess this explains the “It’s made out of paper” sentence.” -Rena Rouge said.

Upon hearing the word “origami” and seeing one that looked like a butterfly, Ladybug could not help but to remember an episode of her childhood; one that had to do with the ancient Japanese art of paper folding and butterflies.  


It was a beautiful day of Spring, and Tom and Sabine had taken young Marinette for a picnic in Bois de Bologne. From the moment they arrived, that Marinette wanted to go and catch butterflies. She had been told by Alya, when they were in school that if one would catch a butterfly, the butterfly would grant her wish, just like the genie in the magic lamp. So, in her young mind, she thought that if she caught a whole swarm of butterflies, she would be able to ask numerous wishes. And she already had in her young mind numerous things that she wanted to wish for.

“Let’s see… I’m going to wish for that Barbie doll that I saw last week, and her car. I’m also going to wish for infinite cookies from mommy and daddy’s bakery, and I’m going to wish that grandma Gina comes to visit me every weekend…” -Marinette thought to herself. With only 6 years old, the little blue-haired girl believed firmly that by finding and catching enough butterflies, that these would grant her wishes. –“… oh, and I’m also going to wish for Alya to be my best-friend forever and for her to come and live with me, in my bedroom.” -she smiled, as she thought about it.

While her parents set the tablecloth, and placed on top of it everything they had brought with them for the picnic, Marinette went looking for butterflies, determined to catch every single one she saw with a butterfly net she had asked her mom to buy her. Looking around in the bushes, she kept calling the butterflies, telling them to show up. Unfortunately, after nearly 20 minutes of exploration, Marinette did not find a single butterfly flying around. Sad and crestfallen, she made her was back to where her parents were, while thinking that she was not going to get to wish for anything she wanted that day. Sabine, who was waiting for Tom to come back from the car with the bowl of chocolate pudding they had forgotten in it, saw Marinette and knew that there was something wrong with her. When she arrived, she was excited and filled with energy. And now, she looked like someone had told her she could not eat cookies, while dragging the butterfly net that she had brought with her. Waiting for her to reach the table cloth, Sabine allowed her daughter to sat on it, before engaging in a friendly conversation with her.

“So, Marinette, do you want to drink your juice now?” -Sabine asked her, as she grabbed the Mickey Mouse water bottle where the juice was, and showed it to Marinette.

“No, mommy, thanks.” -Marinette sighed.

“What’s the matter, sweetie? Did you fall and hurt yourself?” -Sabine asked her.    

“I couldn’t find any butterflies, mommy.” -Marinette said, as she tried not to cry.

Hearing her daughter say that, Sabine let out a sigh of relief, after thinking that. It was not that she was not interested on what else was going on with Marinette, but she was relieved that she had not hurt herself, while looking for butterflies. Smiling, she decided to find out what else was on her mind right then.  

“You didn’t? And did you look everywhere?” -Sabine asked her.

“Yes…” -Marinette sighed, while waving her head.

“And, why did you want to catch butterflies?” -Sabine asked her. When Marinette told her that she wanted to catch butterflies, and begged her to buy her a butterfly net, Sabine did not ask her if there was a special reason why she wanted to catch the pretty insects.

“Because Alya said that if I caught a butterfly, I could ask her any wish, just like the genie in the lamp from Aladdin.” -Marinette answered her.

“Oh, so that’s it!” -Sabine said with an enthusiastic voice, while smiling at her daughter. –“And you wanted a bunch of butterflies, so you could ask a bunch of wishes, is that it, my little sugar plum?” -she chuckled, making Marinette chuckle as well.

“Yes.” -Marinette declared. –“I wanted to do that… but there are no butterflies around here…” -she sighed. 

“Well, what if I told you I can help you catch as many butterflies as you want to, and you don’t even have to use your butterfly net to do it?” -Sabine asked Marinette, who looked at her with her eyes filled with joy, after hearing her say that. –“Do you want to know how you can do that?”

“Yes!”  -Marinette smiled, while clapping her hands. She knew her mom was filled with tricks, some of them that even looked like she was doing real magic, so she was anxious to see that she had in store for her.

“Okay… then, let me see if I can find what I need in my purse.” -Sabine said, as she looked around and grabbed her purse. Opening it, she took out a notepad she always had inside her purse and ripped a sheet from it.

Seeing her mom doing that, little Marinette wondered what she was going to do with that paper sheet. The only thing she knew was that whatever it was, it would be something amazing. Ever since she could remember that her mom loved to perform all kinds of tricks for her. During her birthday parties, instead of having a hired magician to do some tricks, Sabine would do that herself, having learned numerous card tricks and other kinds of tricks that one would see in a magic show. And on that day, she was going to teach Marinette a trick, which she would never forget about. 

“Alright, Marinette, what do we have here?”

“A piece of paper.” -Marinette answered her, smiling

“That’s right, a piece of paper. But not just any piece of paper… it’s a magical piece of paper.” -Sabine said, with a mischievous smile on her face.


“Yes, magical. With it, we’re going to make a beautiful butterfly, Marinette.” -Sabine smiled at her daughter.  

Hearing her mother saying that, Marinette wondered how would that be possible, as she kept her young eyes on the paper her mother was holding in her hands. Silently, Sabine began by folding it in half, and then, very carefully, she patiently continued to fold it in the proper order, until she finally completed it. Smiling, she showed to Marinette the beautiful origami butterfly that she just done for her. 

“And here it is! A beautiful butterfly!” -Sabine smiled, as she showed Marinette the beautiful paper insect she had just made for her.

“It’s magic!” -Marinette applauded Sabine, who could see the happiness in her pretty blue eyes.  

“Yes, it’s magic. A very special kind of magic. It’s called origami. I learned it from your grandma, when I was your age.” -Sabine said, as she handed the little paper butterfly to Marinette. –“Now you can ask it for any wish you want to.” -she smiled.   

“I know what I’m going to wish for, mommy!” -Marinette exclaimed, while making sure not to damage the butterfly origami her mother had made for her. –“I wish that you make a lot more butterflies!!!” -she giggled.

“Oh, that’s a good wish!” -Sabine smiled at her daughter. –“But, what if instead I taught you how to do these little butterflies? That way, you can make as many as you want to? What do you say, sweetie?” -she asked Marinette in a playful tone.


“Okay. Then, let’s try and make a couple more of butterflies, so we can show daddy, when he comes back, what do you say?” -Sabine said, as she pulled a couple of more paper sheets from the notepad.

(End of Flashback)

It was a memory from simpler times. On that day, the scarlet heroine learned with her mother on how to create an origami of a butterfly, never imagining in her young mind that one day she would be seeing a truly magical origami butterfly, flapping its wings, while flying in the ait, along with several other giant origami figures, which burst from inside the library.

“Girl? Girl, are you still with us?!” -Rena Rouge called Ladybug, having been calling for the past five seconds.  

“S-Sorry, my mind was somewhere.” -Ladybug apologized to Rena Rouge. –“Focus, Marinette! This is not the time to go down memory lane!” -she thought to herself. –“This is something you don’t see every day.”

And she was not the only one who was thinking that. Pretty much everyone who was watching that scene unfolding had the same thought in their minds. Still, that did not prevent the people who were behind the barricades to keep snapping photos and uploading them online. The police themselves were both confused and worried, as they were taken aback by what they were seeing. Most of them had already been face to face with at the very least a scout from one of the many Akumas that had attacked Paris, if not even one of the Akumas themselves. So, when looking at the origami animals, they did not know what was going to happen next. After bursting through the library door, they just kept walking around, without paying attention to anything that surrounded them. And this was making everyone ask themselves if they were going to stay that way, of if suddenly, they were going to start attacking and destroy everything that was on their path. Once again, Hawk Moth had managed to outdone himself, by doing something unexpected, and in a way, beautiful; which did not mean it was not also deadly.

“I still don’t see Akuma.” -Forest Doe declared, as her eyes scouted the surrounding, looking for anything that could point out the Akuma’s location. 

“Something tells me that we’ll really have to go inside and find it.” -Dragonfly said. –“Which suits me just fine. Like Marinette said before, it’s better if we take care of it inside, without risking the security of both the police officers and the civilians.” -she thought to herself.

“Then, let’s go inside. There’s no point just standing around here, waiting.” -Ladybug said.  

“And what about the origami animals?” -Forest Doe asked, without taking her eyes off of them.

“Leave them be. They aren’t doing anything dangerous… but just in case, I’ll place some energy shields over the barricades, just to be sure that they won’t harm anyone or destroy anything, while we deal with the Akuma.” -Carapace said.

Unfortunately, the origami animals did not remain calm, as the turtle hero had expected them to. As soon as he had finished raising the energy shields over the barricades, all of the origami animals launched began to act like ferocious beasts, launching themselves against the heroes. And just like the real animals, these roared, barked and howled just like the real ones.  

“You and your big mouth!” -Rena Rouge exclaimed, as she pulled her flute-staff and readied herself for another battle. –“What did I tell you before, lover boy?” -she asked, calling him by the love nickname she had give him.  

“To never say things that might attract trouble, while we’re in battle… I know, sorry, babe.” -Carapace sighed. –“I really should have kept my mouth shut this time.”  

“Spread out and make your way towards the inside of the library! We’ve got to get inside!” -Ladybug exclaimed, as she threw her yo-yo at one of the origami animals, a bull, which had its eyes set on her. Failing to hit it, she jumped over it, landing safely, only to see a couple of origami horses charging against her. –“It seems like they want to attack anyone else other than us. We can make use of that… if we keep them focused on us, maybe we can force them to attack the Akuma, once we discover it.” -she thought to herself. –“In any case, I really wished it was not just the five of us. Something tells me that whoever this Akuma might be, it won’t be easy to stop, given this incredible ability of creating giant origami animals.

Chapter Text

The giant origami animals attacked the five heroes, by charging against them by both land and air. And the only thing they could do was defend themselves, while making their way towards the library’s. They tried to destroy them with their weapons, but they seemed to be indestructible. And on top of it, the more they attacked the origami animals, the more vicious their attacks became. It was hard to choose which ones were giving them more trouble, if the fliers or the ones that walked on two or four legs.

What I wouldn’t give for one of Chat’s Cataclysms, right about now.” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she used her yo-yo as a shield to deflect the origami cranes that were trying to beak her to death. –“I bet with one of his Cataclysms he would reduce them all to ashes.” -she kept musing about, while giving her best to deal with her attackers, who had seemingly the power to regenerate themselves, even after she had cut them with her yo-yo. –“But thinking better about it, maybe what we needed was one of Queen Bee’s tornados. She could just blow them away and that would be the end of it.

But unfortunately, neither Queen Bee nor Chat Noir were there to help them. They would have to find a way out of that mess without the help of most of their friends, who were not there with them. And with the attacks of the origami attacks becoming stronger and faster, they needed to come up with a plan to get rid of them, as they tried to reach the library. Never before such a small distance felt so big to them, as they were mere meters from the entrance, which was being guarded by two enormous origami bears.

Oh, I wish Ivan was here, right now!” -Forest Doe thought to herself, as she threw another set of arrows into the air, trying to catch two origami birds, which she believed were storks that had been trying to poke her with their sharp beaks. –“If he was, I know he would be using these creatures as punching bags, and throwing them around as if they were ragdolls.” -she thought, imagining him as Grizzly Bear picking those two and use them as spears against one of the other origami animals.       

Up in the sky, Dragonfly was using her frisbee to knock down as many as the origami birds out of the sky as she could. But this was proving hard, because they were fast, and worst yet, they could change shape, alternating their size and their shape to avoid the frisbee. Still, that did not discourage her. Being as stubborn, as she preferred to be called, strong-willed, she loved a challenge, even when she was in mortal danger.

“Keep running… but no matter what you do, you’re all going down, birdies!” -Dragonfly said as she grabbed her frisbee and threw it again, hitting two giant origami butterflies.

Outside of the battlefield, the people that had gathered around the area where the heroes were fighting kept photographing them and cheering them, and encouraging them to keep fighting. The whole scene looked like something out of a football match, where the spectators applauded and cheered for their favourite players in field, and the police officers, who could not do a thing to help the heroes, began to feel like they were just security guards in said football match, whose only job was crowd control. But truth be told, most of them preferred it that way, because they knew that they did not stand a chance against whatever kind of enemies Hawk Moth would throw at the heroes. They had been trained to arrest criminals, stop bank robbers, and assist the community in anyways possible, not battle supernatural fiends.    

As for the Miraculous heroes, right then, they did envy everyone who was standing behind the energy shields Carapace had placed on the barricades, who were just there to watch the show and snap photos of the action, instead of having to deal with the numerous fiends that were trying to kill them.

“How can we keep these guys at bay, so we can get out of here and deal with whoever’s controlling them, inside the library?” -Rena Rouge said, as she smacked a pair of origami cats with her flute-staff, who were trying to attack her. –“These guys would be so cute, if they were not trying to kill us… no, Alya, don’t think about those things now, focus!” -she thought to herself, as her brain tried to come up with a way to get her and the others out of that mess. –“I could try and come up with a fire illusion… but if these guys are magical, I don’t know if they will burn to a crisp or not… still it’s a worth a shot.

Doing just that, Rena Rouge blew her flute-staff and quickly created a set of flames that spread around her and torched the origami animals that were nearer her. The paper creatures began to howl and shriek as the fire consumed them in a matter of seconds. Smiling, she believed that she had found a way to deal with those creatures and help the others. But the smile she had on her face quickly disappeared, as she saw the ashes that were once origami animals return to their original shape. And the worst part was that they looked even more ferocious than before.  

Just as I suspected… they burn down, only to reassemble themselves from the ashes… talk about a Phoenix complex…” -Rena Rouge thought to herself, while trying not to panic. –“So, if fire doesn’t work, and I’m betting soaking them with water will have a similar effect, how do we deal with these things?” -she kept thinking as a pair of origami goats charged against her, forcing her to dodge them, and hitting the floor pretty hard. Turning her head to the left and looking over her shoulder, she saw them making a dash towards her–“This is insane… If I take my eyes of one of them, they’ll take that chance to attack and… that’s it! I bet that they won’t be able to attack us, if they can’t see us!”  

Using her flute-staff, the fox heroine worked as fast as she could to bring to life the illusion, she thought would help her and her friends out of that situation. Three seconds later, on the floor around her, a bit of smoke appeared and began to spread in every direction. But this smoke was not smoke, it was fog; a fog as dense as pea soup, which did not allow one to see half meter in front of its nose. It did not take long for it to involve everything and everyone that were in the pram where the battle was taking place. As expected, the origami animals could not see what was going on, and that gave the heroes the advantage they needed. Like their opponents, they could not see much in front of them, but their heightened senses allowed them to sense what was around them. From behind the energy shields, people tried to see what was going on, but the fog was too thick to even try it. The only thing they could do was hear the origami animals making all kinds of noises.

Taking advantage of it, the heroes made their way to the library’s entrance, while avoiding the origami animals in their way. As they ran, jumped and flew through the fog, they thanked the times they had trained blindfolded for occasions such as that one. They knew Rena’s illusion would not last forever, so they did not waste time in fighting whatever obstacles that were in their way. The only one they knew they would have to fight were the two origami bears that were guarding the entrance, and they knew that because of the fog they were likely to still be guarding it, not knowing what to do. But to their relief, Carapace had a plan of his own to deal with them. Using his hearing to determine where the two origami bears were, and activating his powers, he placed the two paper bears into energy bubbles, making it impossible for them to exit them and attack them. Reaching the library’s entrance all at the same time, Ladybug silently told them to close the doors behind them. She did not want to give the origami animals the chance to follow them inside, after the fog disappeared. Doing just that, Rena Rouge and Dragonfly began to close the doors, while Carapace used his powers once more, this time to unite the energy shields he had placed to prevent bystanders from approaching the battlefield, and create a sphere, where the animals would remain, while they dealt with things inside.

“The last thing we need is one of those animals running wild.” -Carapace said, as he finished creating the energy sphere.

“Good thinking.” -Ladybug said, while thinking that she should have thought about it herself. Still, it was nice to see that like it happened so many times, she and her friends were in full-synchronization during a battle. –“That way, that will be less a problem for us to worry about.” -she said, as Rena Rouge and Dragonfly finished closing the doors.

Looking around, the library’s entrance looked like the polar opposite of what Ladybug expected it to look. She expected it to look like a war zone, or at the very least, a little messed up. But instead, it looked like nothing had happened there. Everything was in its proper place and there were no signs of any Akuma being there. For a second, she wondered if all of that was a trap that had been set for them, and they had fallen into it.

“Don’t you think there’s something strange going on here?” -Ladybug asked the others, while keeping an eye out for trouble.

“Now that you mention it, where is everyone?” -Rena Rouge asked, as she looked around, and just like her best friend, felt like there was something wrong with that picture; namely, the lack of people. A library that size should be packing with people. And on top of it, if an Akuma attacked it, then people would have tried to exit the building, before it could harm them. –“I don’t see anyone.” -she said. –“But there’s got to be people inside this library. Otherwise, who sent that blurred photo to the Miraculous Blog email?”

“Uh, guys, I think I know what happened to the people that were inside.” -Forest Doe said, as she entered into one of the side rooms.

Having heard the doe heroine say that, the remaining heroes went to check what she had found. And to their surprise, what they saw was something they were not expecting to see. Splattered all over the walls of that room were numerous cocoons made out of sheets of paper, with each sheet plastered one on top of another, until creating what they were seeing. And inside them were people, squirming and trying to get out. Looking at them, the cocoons did not have a disgusting appearance like it happened in monster movies, where the villainous creature places its victims inside cocoons that are either made from some kind of natural resin, or some slimy substance produced by the creature itself. But the idea of having people squirming inside them, was not a pretty one.       

“O-kay, this is strange, to say the least.” -Dragonfly said. –“I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think that we’re inside a monster movie of some sorts.” -she said, hoping that would not be the case.

“We’ve got to cut them open, and fast.” -Ladybug said, as she readied her yo-yo, to use it as a buzz cutter. –“And I bet that were going to find more people trapped like this, all over the library.” -she said.    

“Alright, let’s do it. The faster we do it, the better.” -Carapace said. 

They were about to start cutting open the paper cocoons and let the people inside them out, when a loud noise was heard from behind them. Turning around they saw a cloud of purple smoke materializing out of thin air, and from it, two rather familiar faces to them appeared. With her long bright-orange hair and her black and dress, holding a crystal ball on her hands, was none other than Hawk Moth’s lieutenant, the gypsy witch, Madame Romani, smiling at them with a smile worthy of a psychopath who wanted to quench its thirst for blood. As for the other, standing 7 feet tall, with chalk-white skin, fire-red hair and wearing a golden and black armour, was Brutus, another of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants. 

“Good afternoon, Miraculous Team… oh, just five of you? I was hoping to get you all here.” -Madame Romani said. –“Still, five miraculouses are better than no miraculous at all.” -she smirked evilly.

“Indeed. Master Hawk Moth will be content to have them.” -Brutus said. 

“Romani?! Brutus?” -Rena Rouge asked, slightly surprised to see the two of them. She was expecting to see the Akuma appearing to greet them, like so many other times, and not two of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants.  

“That’s Madame Romani for you, fox girl!” -the gypsy woman yelled at the fox heroine, clearly furious about being addressed that way.

“Well, if that’s how you want to play, then it’s not fox girl, you witch. My name’s Rena Rouge!” -Rena Rouge shot back at Romani, playing her game.  

“Are those things outside, your work?!” -Ladybug asked Madame Romani, demanding to know. Because if they were, then she had somehow acquired the power to create illusions that could regenerate themselves, and that would mean that her powers were getting stronger, just like hers and the rest of the team.

“My work? Don’t be ridiculous… I wouldn’t waste my energy conjuring up paper creatures to try and kill you, when I could conjure up swords or any other razor-sharp weapons to do just that, Ladybug!” -Madame Romani cackled maniacally. –“No, they are the work of the latest Akuma that my master has created, in order to kill you… and believe me, he will kill you.” -she smirked at them, the way only an insane psychopath smirks. –“But where are our manners? You’re here to fight him, aren’t you? Well, then, let’s not leave you hanging… Show yourself to these infernal brats!”   

When Madame Romani berated those last words, the heroes wondered what was going to happen next, only to have their answer given to them seconds later. A strange was heard coming down the stone staircase, and making its way to the lobby. Looking up, they saw a tornado composed of nothing more than sheets of paper approaching them. When it reached near Madame Romani, it stopped, and every single paper sheet fell to the ground, stacking themselves into a pile.  

“Well, that was anti-climactic…” -Rena Rouge commented.

But before Rena Rouge could finish her sentence, the pile of paper sheets began to slowly take form, folding themselves countless times, until they had assumed a human shape, bearing the resemblance of a 19th century Ronin. His whole body was made out paper, as well as his clothes and his weapon, a samurai sword. Apart from the sword’s sheet which was black, the only other parts of him that were not absolutely white, were his hair, which was also black, wore in a chonmage, a Japanese traditional topknot haircut, and his eyes which were red. Looking at him, the heroes could not tell what he was thinking about, due to his neutral face expression, and that alone, made him far more dangerous than a foe, whose emotions could be guessed, just by looking into its face.       

“Miraculous Team. Allow me introduce you to Origami… your executioner.” -Brutus smirked evilly at them.  

Up until 20 minutes ago, Origami had been a Japanese exchange student named Takeshi Matsuura; someone with a healthy obsession regarding origami, who, on that day had decided to visit the Bibliothèque Mazarine to find a book regarding that hobby of his. Checking the library’s catalogue, he found the one he wanted and quickly went to the librarian on duty to solicit it. Unfortunately, the book he solicited was a rare exemplar, which belonged to the “Rare Collections” and as such, it could only be solicited by someone carrying a written authorization from the library’s director to visualize it, and the librarian told him that the book was off-limits. He tried to persuade her to allow him to see the book, even if it was just for a few minutes, but she insisted that without a written authorization, she could not allow him to have the book. After nearly 10 minutes, he finally gave up, and as he left, he told the librarian, with his voice filled with anger, that a book, no matter how rare, should never be off-limits to anyone who wishes to read it. This statement was the reason why Brutus, who was visiting the library, scouting for possible victims, felt that he would give a perfect Akuma. He had requested his master to allow Romani to accompany him, so he would not have problems mingling with everyone in the library. The gypsy witch, who was not a fan of him or his methods, accompanied him, just because she did not want go against her master’s wishes.

And when Hawk Moth akumatized Takeshi, and he turned into Origami, Brutus believed that he had made a fine choice. He looked both deathly and serene, two qualities he appreciated in any soldier. To him, if there was an Akuma that would be able to kill the Miraculous Team, it would be Origami.        

“Kōkina senshi ni aisatsu… greetings noble warriors.” -Origami said, greeting them in both Japanese and English. –“You are here to stop me, but I must warn you, no one will prevent me from achieving my goal, not even you. So, I politely ask you to hand over your miraculouses, and I promise you that your death will be fast and painless.” -he said, as he unsheathed his sword, which just like everything else about him, was made out of paper. Still, 

“If I were you, I would do as he says.” -Brutus told the heroes. –“He may not look like it, but he is stronger than he seems, and incredibly fast.” -he said, after watching him cocooning every single person in the library, including the librarian that told him, that she could not grant him access to the book he wanted to read. He moved with a speed and agility that were beyond incredible, and the best part, was that he moved almost without making a single sound.

“Sorry, but not interested. Handing out our miraculouses to you guys, is not up for discussions.” -Carapace said.  

“Then, so be it. Your death will be painful and your miraculouses will be given to Hawk Moth.” -Origami said, as he extended his left arm and pointed his sword at the heroes. –“But I can promise you that even though it will be painful, it will also be fast. I have a book to read.” -he promised them.

A book? Is he telling us that he has been akumatized because of a book?” -Ladybug thought to herself.

“Bring it on!” -Dragonfly yelled at him. –“I’m waiting for you!”

Moving as quick as lightning, Origami targeted the heroes and before they could react, he had already hit the five of them on the chest, sending them against the wall. Somehow, they did not feel the blow, and if they had not been thrown the way they were, they would have thought that Origami had not even laid a finger on them. Hitting the marble covered wall, a wave of pain coursed through their bodies, and they knew that they would be feeling that in the morning. Falling to the ground, they gritted their teeth in pain, knowing that the fight had just begun and they were all on the ground.

“This library will be your tomb, heroes. And once we have dealt with you, we will find the rest of your little friends and kill them as well.” -Madame Romani cackled maniacally.

“Fat chance of that happening, you witch!” -Forest Doe exclaimed, as she got back up.

“You’ll pay for calling me that! Origami, finish them, quickly!” -Madame Romani ordered the Akuma.

Not wasting a second, Origami charged against the heroes. Only this time, already knowing just how fast he could move, Ladybug and the others did not hesitate, and instead of attacking him, they dodged his attack, moving as fast as they could.

“Operation: Divide and Conquer, people!” -Ladybug shouted at her team.

“You got it, girl!” -Rena Rouge exclaimed to her.

Operation “Divide and Conquer” was a plan they had come up with for occasions, when only part of the team would be present. It was a rather simple plan and it consisted in one of the most basic, yet effective tactics there was for the kind of problem they had in hands… multiple enemies. They would divide themselves into duos, where there would be a member of the team who was an expert in attack, and another that would be in expert in defense. Being paired up like that, they stood better chances of winning against whatever enemy that was targeting them.  

“I’ll handle gruesome twosome over there!” -Dragonfly exclaimed.

“I’ll help you!” -Rena Rouge told her.

“Count me in, as well!” -Forest Doe said.

“Then, looks like the boss lady and I will take care of Origami.” -Carapace said, as he drew his tonfas and prepared to attack the Akuma.

And with those words, a fight erupted in the middle of the library’s entrance, opposing the Miraculous heroes and the Origami, along with two of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants. Ladybug and Carapace did not hesitate and went against Origami with everything they had, while Rena Rouge, Dragonfly and Forest Doe attacked Madame Romani and Brutus.

Ladybug threw her yo-yo against Origami trying to him, failing numerous times. And when she believed she was going to hit him, he would either dodge, only to appear behind her, or shape-shift into a shield, a wall, or an animal. Seeing him do that, the scarlet heroine continued to attack him, hoping to find a weakness in him she could explore for her own benefit.

This guy has got to have a weakness! I just need to find it!” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she threw her yo-yo, trying to wrap its string around Origami, only to miss him again. –“Dang it! He’s slipperier than an eel!” -she cursed her bad luck, as he shape-shifter into an eel, just to mock her. –“Really?!”

As for Carapace, he tried to whack him with his tonfas, but Origami was just too fast for him. Seeing that, he tried a different approach. Instead of trying to hit him, he would create energy bubbles, trying to capture him. But it did not work, because every time he tried to encase him into one, he would just disperse, only to pull himself together a second later.

“Oh, come on! This is ridiculous!” -Carapace sighed, getting tired of that, as he dodged another of Origami’s attacks, which kept growing in speed and number.  

Next, he tried to block him with a couple of energy shields, hoping to corner him. But the best he could do was block a couple of attacks from Origami, who had begun to shape his hands and arms to look like pointy spears, cutting everything that was in his way. Ladybug quickly saw that that approach of theirs was not going to work, and that they had to do something to turn the tables on him. Looking at Carapace, Ladybug gave him the same look she would give everyone, when she felt like they should take the fight to another place. Her plan was to take Origami into a more secluded place, where even with his powers, it would be harder for him to move around, giving them upper hand in the fight.

We can’t stop him from assuming all these shapes and sizes, but we can definitely try and restrict the space where he can do it.” -Ladybug thought to herself.  

At the same time, Forest Doe and Dragonfly were dealing with Madame Romani, while Rena Rouge dealt with Brutus. At first, Romani wanted to take on the fox heroine herself, but Doe and Dragonfly attacked her, and forced her to deal with the two of them, leaving Rena Rouge to fight Brutus. And as she battled Madame Romani, Dragonfly made it her mission to annoy the gypsy witch as much as she could, just to break her concentration and gain the advantage in that fight.

“You clearly haven’t learned anything since our last encounter, you gypsy witch!” -Dragonfly said, as she caught her frisbee back, only to throw it against Madame Romani. –“Or should I call it “the last time we kicked your butt and sent you back to your master, whinnying that it wasn’t your fault that we beat the snot out of you, for the umpteenth time?”, huh?” -she kept ridiculing her. In the absence of Antelope, she was having all the fun, by mocking the villains. 

Hearing those insults made Romani’s blood boil inside her. She hated when the heroes amused themselves, by mocking and insulting her.

“You won’t be smiling that much when I’m through with you, you brat!” -Madame Romani said, as she conjured another one of her illusions; this time, a set of several flying swords, which she did not hesitate to throw at Dragonfly. –“I’ll break your neck with my bare hands, before I remove that miraculous that you’re wearing around it!” -she said, her eyes blazing with rage.  

“Try your best, you witch!” -Dragonfly exclaimed, as she dodged the swords the gypsy woman had thrown at her, by performing several backward flips, just before taking off into the air, where she hoped to escape, and come up with a counterattack.

“You won’t get away that easily! These swords will follow to the ends of the earth and back!!!” -Madame Romani roared, when she was hit on the chin by Forest Doe. –“Ughh… why you…” -she snarled, while massaging her chin with her left hand.

The deer heroine had used her invisibility power to disappear for a couple of seconds, reappearing right next to the gypsy with and elbowing her on the nose, before picking her up by the shoulder and throwing her into the ground. She threw Madame Romani so hard into the ground, that this one opened a couple of cracks on the pristine marble floor. Screaming in pain, Romani felt like she had broken a pair of ribs upon impact, but the rage she had inside her, prevented her from experiencing the totality of the pain. Panting hard, she tried to get up, only to be stopped by Forest Doe, who did not hesitate and shot an arrow at her, which landed a couple of centimetres from where her head was. Walking towards her, the deer heroine kept an arrow pointed at the gypsy’s face, so she would not get any ideas of moving.

“You should pay more attention to what’s going around you, instead of talking like a maniac.” -Forest Doe told her, as she kept pointing her bow and arrow at Madame Romani’s face. –“Otherwise, you’ll get into this sort of trouble.”

“And you should know that you’re not the only who knows a few tricks, little doe.” -Madame Romani smiled maniacally, with a smile that would put Pennywise’s creepy smile to shame.    

Without any warning, Romani’s body began to change. At first, it seemed like her body was melting, but it was not melting. Instead, it was turning into smoke, which quickly passed right through Forest Doe’s body, only to reappear behind her; but not before a smoke tendril wrapped itself around Doe’s bow and arrow and yanked them out of her hands. Looking at the gypsy witch, the deer heroine would have not believed un what happened, if she had not seen it with her own eyes.  

“Do you like it?! I recently discovered that I can turn myself into smoke and reappear somewhere else.” -Madame Romani gloated about her accomplishment, as she finished regenerating.  –“I can only roam a couple of meters when I’m only smoke, but it’s more than enough to get out of most sticky situations.” -she continued to gloat about it.   

Looks like we aren’t the only ones, whose powers can also evolve.” -Forest Doe thought to herself, while grabbing her bow from the floor.  

“Now, where were we? Oh, yes, I was about to take care of Dragonfly, but I guess I can start with you… ouch!!!” -Madame Romani yelled, as she felt something hitting her on the back of her head. Once again, Dragonfly, who had managed to give the swords that she had thrown at her the slip, had used her frisbee to strike her.

“Nice trick! Could you do it again? From up here, I couldn’t watch the whole thing!” -Dragonfly shouted at the villainess, while grabbing her frisbee, which had returned to her, the same way a boomerang would.  

“You’re starting to annoy me!” -Madame Romani berated at the dragonfly heroine, as she made her crystal ball appear on her hands, ready to conjure up a new and deadly illusion to deal with both Dragonfly and Forest Doe.  

And while the two of them were dealing with Romani, Rena Rouge was busy handling Brutus, who was giving her a hard time. This was the first time she was fighting him one-on-one, and he was presenting himself a tough customer.

“I must say that you are quite skilful with that staff. Almost as much as Chat Noir.” -Brutus complimented Rena Rouge, who continued to tray and lay a hit on him with her flute-staff, only for Brutus to block and deflect all of her attacks with his own staff. –“Don’t use your elbows… use your shoulders to gain thrust! Hat way your attacks will be stronger!” -he advised her, as he landed a blow on her left leg, making her drop to her knees.

“T-Thanks for the advice…” -Rena Rouge said, gritting her teeth in pain. She was sure that that last blow was going to leave a nasty bruise, which would take at least a day to disappear. –“… but instead, of giving me advices, why don’t you give one to yourself and give up!” -she said, as she quickly held up her flute-staff and blew it.

Using her powers, Rena Rouge created an illusion to allow her to escape the clutches of Brutus. Sprouting from her flute-staff a series of snakes with sharp fangs threw themselves at the brute, rapidly coiling themselves around him, making it impossible for him to move. She knew that he would be able to get rid of them, but it would take him a couple of seconds. And as he struggled to rip the snakes from his body, she used those precious seconds to put a couple of meters between the two of them.

“That was a dirty trick, Rena Rouge!” -Brutus said, as he ripped the last snake that coiled itself around his torso.

“Dirty trick? Look who’s talking… you can pull all kinds of weapons at will from your body.” Rena Rouge countered his statement. –“I’m just using what I’ve got to deal with you, you overgrown brute!” -she exclaimed, as her eyes deviated from Brutus for a second, to check out the battle between Madame Romani and the girls. –“They’re handling themselves, but we got to go and help Marinette and Nino. We need to take these two down and make sure they don’t come after us, while we’re dealing with Origami.

The fight opposing the two heroes against Origami changed places, with Ladybug and Carapace forcing the Akuma to go deep into the library, where they knew there would less space for him to move around. Their plan was to not give him enough room to use most of his shape-shifting powers. And as they went further into the library, they saw two things that made them realize that they had to put a stop to Origami’s shenanigans. First, they saw countless paper cocoons with people trapped inside them. And second, they realized that he could shape-shift into whatever he wanted with a snap of its fingers, as well as change his size. As they entered the library’s reading room, things got even more chaotic, and their plan to stop Origami by forcing him into a place where he could not use his powers so freely, felt redundant.

Climbing to the top of a bookshelf, Ladybug was trying to catch Origami, as he continued to shift sizes and shapes, while also taking his time to throw at her and Carapace all kinds of origami-shaped objects that went from shurikens to darts. 

He continues to evade all our attacks! We’ve got to make him stay still for a moment if we’re to have any chances of taking him down… maybe if we try to mock him, he’ll lose his cool and start acting like most Akumas do, when they’re taunted and provoked.” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she jumped from bookcase to bookcase. –“Hey! I thought I was battling an Akuma, not a chicken who spends his time running from us!” -she yelled at Origami, hoping to hit a nerve with that statement. It would not be the first time that would work.

“A chicken, you say? Let me show you that I am not a chicken, by transforming into a chicken’s biggest fear.” -Origami smirked at the heroes.

He’s going to turn into a pot of chicken soup or a cleaver? Because I can’t see what else a chicken might fear.” -Carapace thought to himself. He was so under pressure, that right then, he could not even think in abstract terms.  

Before Ladybug and Carapace’s eyes, Origami shape-shifted once again; this time into what was his biggest shape yet. He turned into a giant snake, which due to its sheer size, proceeded to crush everything that was in its way, while trying to catch the heroes. The two of them thought that due to its size, it would move a lot slower than before, but they were both wrong. If anything, Origami kept his speed, despite of his now massive size. It did not take long for all kinds of debris to start falling all over the place, as well as on top of Ladybug and Carapace.   

“Evasive manoeuvres!” -Ladybug shouted at Carapace. 

“You don’t have to tell me twice!” -Carapace chuckled, as he dodged a desk that was thrown in to the air. –“Looks like we’ve just got ourselves into an even bigger mess than before.” -he said.  

The whole place began to shake, as Origami, in his snake form, bumped against the walls, the floor and even the ceiling, trying to catch both Ladybug and Carapace. The turtle hero created a couple of shields and place them on Origami’s way, trying to slow him down, but once again, the Akuma would just find a way to evade them, by either jumping over them, passing under them, or by simply scattering his body, only to have it gather itself in one piece the second after. Launching itself against the heroes, Origami continued to shake the whole room, as the heroes began to think that the whole place could come down at any second. Using her yo-yo, Ladybug tried to swing by Origami’s head, hoping to kick him with both her feet, only to fail. The Akuma, seeing this did not hesitate and lunged his head forward, with the intention of grabbing the scarlet heroine with his fangs. Ladybug saw this and tried to dodge from them, only to fail. As she saw Origami opening his mouth, showing the sharp-pointy paper fangs in his mouth, time seemed to slow down for a mere second. And during that mere second, she saw how Carapace jumped up and placed himself in front of her, ending himself being the one who was caught by Origami.

“Carapace!” -Ladybug shouted, as she saw him being picked by Origami.  

With Carapace trapped in its mouth, Origami charged against every bookshelf, desk, and any other object that it was in its way, trying his best to tire the turtle hero, who was feeling his back being pushed to its physical limits. Every single time Origami went through a bookshelf, Carapace was the one who took most of the hit, causing him excruciating pains. Still, he was determined to stop that, using his tonfas to try and pry open Origami’s snake form mouth, and force him to let him go. But doing that was proving to be a lot harder than he thought it was going to be, especially because for an Akuma made out of paper, Origami was incredibly strong. All the while, Ladybug was trying her best to also force Origami to let go of her friend.

This guy’s not going to let go of me, and if I keep letting him use me like a battering ram, there won’t be much of me left to fight…” -Carapace thought to himself, while trying to come up with a solution to his predicament. –“Come on, let go of me you venomous snake, you!” -he shouted at the Akuma.  

Dodging the debris caused by Origami, Ladybug tried to use her sixth sense to see if there was anything in that reading room, she could use to help Carapace. The problem was that with Origami moving as fast as he was, the whole place would not stand still long enough for her power to work on. Climbing up a bookshelf, she sought a place where she could use her sixth sense power, without risking any major debris falling or hitting her, while also hoping to find what she needed to save her friend.

Hold on, Nino, I’m going to try and get you out of that monster’s mouth.” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she tried to come up with a solution to get him out of that tight jam.

Ladybug kept using her sixth sense, but to no avail. There just not seemed to exist anything in that reading room any combination of objects that could help her fighting Origami. She was beginning to wonder if her powers were working, when among all of the noise that origami was making, while moving through the reading room, a distinct sound was heard. A sound that was different from everything that she had heard, since their battle against origami in that room had begun. It was the sound of a window shattering. She had heard a few windows shattering when Origami rammed his colossal body against some of the windows that existed in that reading room, but the sound from it was different. His was the sound of a window shattering, because something or someone had entered through it. Looking down, seeking the place from where that noise had come from, she saw what had happened; another member of the Miraculous Team had showed up; Panda Rouge.   

“Sorry, I’m late!” -Panda Rouge exclaimed, as he waved at Ladybug, who was still on top of the bookshelf. –“Took me a little to get over here.” -he said, as the scarlet heroine jumped from the bookshelf, landing right next to him.  

“Better late than never, that’s what I always say.” -Ladybug smiled, happy to see her friend and teammate.

“What is that thing?” -Panda Rouge asked, as he looked at the giant origami snake that was holding Carapace in its fangs. –“You know what? Never mind… I think the only thing that really matters is getting him out of there.” -he said, before Ladybug could answer him.

“I’ve been trying to use my sixth sense, but it’s not working. Don’t know if it’s because things are so chaotic, or if it’s because there aren’t any objects that might help me get Nino out of there.” -Ladybug told Panda Rouge.

“Well, let me try and see if I can work this out.” -Panda Rouge smiled confidently, believing he could save the turtle hero. –“If it’s made out of paper, then maybe a little fire should do the trick.” -he said.  

“Wait, don’t!” -Ladybug shouted at him, trying to warn him. –“You might burn down the place… plus, using fire on him, will probably not work.” -she said, remembering seeing Rena Rouge trying to burn down the origami animals, only for these to regenerate from their ashes.

“Then, if we can’t use fire, let’s see if this works.” -Panda Rouge said, as his spear shrunk down to the size of a pen, and he began to draw with hit, making use of his special ability.

Wasting no time, Panda Rouge began to draw as fast as his hand allowed him to, and in a matter of seconds, he designed and brought to lie several pairs of giant scissors, like the ones that Haute Couture had used against them, during Paris Fashion Week, a few months prior. Commanding them, Panda Rouge ordered them to attack Origami. Doing so, they begun an almost choreographed attack on the Akuma, snipping a cutting in several points of the same. When he felt the first cut being made, Origami roared in pain, letting go of Carapace, who wasted no time in running from him. As he ran towards where his teammates were, he felt like his body had been used as a punching bag for several hours, believing that there was not a single fibre in his being that was not agonizing in pain. Still, he said nothing, while also trying to put the thoughts regarding that pain aside. That was not the time to think about it. Once Origami was defeated, he would complain about how much pain he was.   

“Thanks for the saving, bro!” -Carapace exclaimed, as he high-fived Panda Rouge. 

“Anytime.” -Panda Rouge smiled. –“Now, can either one of you tell me what we’re exactly dealing with here?” -he asked them, while keeping an eye on the scissors that were still attacking Origami.

“An Akuma that is literally a living origami, who can change its size, appearance and is incredibly fast.” -Ladybug promptly told him. –“Oh, and he can also create living origami creatures, like the ones you saw inside that energy bubble outside, but I think you might have already figured that one out.” -she added.

“Yeah, I was also going to ask you about that.” -Panda Rouge said. –“Are we the only ones here?”

“Dragonfly, Forest Doe and Rena Rouge are downstairs fighting Madame Romani and Brutus.” -Carapace answered him.

Their conversation was cut short, when an ear-piercing scream was heard, coming from Origami, who blasted the scissors Panda Rouge had created moments before, as he rapidly changed forms, returning to his original shape and regenerating from the injuries the scissors had caused him. Looking at the heroes, he saw Panda Rouge and quickly understood where those flying scissors had come from.   

“So, a new warrior has appeared.” -Origami said, as he finished assembling back into his original form. –“You too will share the fate of your friends… unless you hand me over your miraculous. If you do that, I will spare your life.” -he said, while holding his sword with both his hands.  

“Not going to happen, man.” -Panda Rouge said, as he made his spear expand, and prepared himself to fight.   

Panda Rouge had barely finished talking, when Origami used another of his tricks to deal with the three heroes. Firing what looked like paper bullets at them, Carapace quickly raised a shield in front of them, to protect them. But before those paper bullets could hit the energy shield the turtle hero had created, they shape-shifted into numerous butterflies. But unlike those that had attacked them outside, when they first arrived, these exploded when hitting or touching any surface. And the heroes quickly found out just how explosive they were, when those creatures began to land everywhere, triggering a series of explosions that filled the air with burnt pieces of paper, shattered glass, and other kinds of debris, before their ashes reassembled together, as if nothing had happened to them. The explosions were quite violent and made the room tremble even more than when Origami, in his snake form, bumped against the room’s walls. Luckily, Carapace’s energy shield protected them from the blasts, as well as the falling debris.

“You didn’t tell me he could do that!” -Panda Rouge exclaimed, with his ears buzzing from the explosions.

“We didn’t know he could do that!” -Ladybug exclaimed back, suffering from the same problem as Panda.

“He’s getting more powerful. No doubt he’s beginning to test just how many kinds of abilities he has!” -Carapace said. –“We need to take him down, before he decides to create exploding origami bears or walruses!” -he said, as he looked at one of the countless paper butterflies that had were still regenerating from the ashes.  

And just like that; looking at one of the numerous origami butterflies that were in the air, Ladybug’s mind took her for another stroll down memory lane, as she once again remembered about the day her mother taught her how to make origamis.


Tom had just come back from the car, with the bottle of juice, when he saw his wife and his daughter playing with what looked to him an origami. Seeing it, he could not help but to smile, as remembered that when he first time he met Sabine, she was also doing an origami; a crane to be more precise, which she offered to him.

“Well, well, well, looks like someone has decided to do some magic tricks with paper.” -Tom chuckled, as he looked at his wife, who smiled at him. He had always called “magic tricks with paper” to the art of making origami figures, because to him, the creation of such creatures was an act of magic that required only a piece of paper.

“She was so sad because she couldn’t catch any butterflies, in order to make a wish, that I couldn’t resist.” -Sabine declared, as Tom sat next to her and kissed her on the cheek.  

“Daddy, daddy, look!” -Marinette exclaimed, as she showed Tom the beautiful origami butterfly she was holding on her hands.    

“It looks really beautiful, honey.” -Tom smiled at his daughter, while caressing her hair.  

“It’s the strongest butterfly in the world!!!” -Marinette exclaimed, as she kept playing with the paper butterfly.

“It is a really strong butterfly, yes, Marinette.” -Sabine smiled at her. –“But, it’s also very fragile. She’s both strong and fragile at the same time, sweetie.” -she told her.

“Strong and fragile at the same time?” -Marinette asked her with an innocent voice, which matched the innocent look in her eyes, not understanding what her mother was talking about.

“Yes, I’ll show you. Give me the butterfly, please, sweetie.” -Sabine said, as she asked her for the origami butterfly, which she handed her. –“Now, if you throw it into the air, and let it fall, nothing happens to her.” -she said, as she did just that. Throwing the butterfly into the air, this one fell to the ground. –“See? It remains the same. And that’s not all… look.”

Marinette kept staring at her mother’s hands, as she herself played with the butterfly. After this one hit the ground, Sabine grabbed it and tried to pull it apart, trying to rip it, which caused Marinette to scream, not wishing to see the butterfly destroyed.

“No!!! Don’t rip the butterfly, mommy!” -Marinette screamed.

“Don’t worry, sweetie… see? I can’t rip it.” -Sabine said, as she demonstrated it, by gently pulling the origami in opposite directions. –“If you pull really hard, you can rip the poor little thing… but if you pull gently, you can’t rip it. That’s how strong an origami really is.” -she said. –“But, like I said, they are both strong and fragile at the same time… and here, is how fragile they are.”

With a swift and gentle move, she unfolded the origami and this one returned to its original shape, a blank piece of paper. Seeing that, Marinette was both sad and happy. She was sad because the origami butterfly, her mother had done for her was gone. But at the same time, she was happy to see such a trick, which like the first one, looked like magic to her.   

“Always remember this, Marinette. Something as delicate as this butterfly, can be both strong and fragile at the same time… just like you.” –Sabine told Marinette. –“You’re going to grow up into a beautiful woman, who may look like she’s fragile, but in fact, is really strong, on top of being curious, beautiful and playful.” -she said, as she tickled Marinette on her tummy, making her chuckle. –“Now, do you want me to make you a new origami butterfly, or do you want me to teach you how to make a different animal like a dog or a kitty?”

“Yes! Make another butterfly, another one!” -Marinette said, clapping her hands in excitement.   

(End of Flashback)

It was strange for Ladybug, to have remembrances of that day, crossing her mind twice in the same day. But she did not mind, because it made her once again remember about a day in her childhood where she had learned something that would help her later in life, in the most incredible way, one could imagine.   

That’s it! I know how we’re going to defeat this guy!” -Ladybug thought to herself, as a light bulb went off in her head, and a plan began to take form, all thanks to that particular memory of hers. –“Thanks, mom. If this works, I’ll have to thank you for it somehow.” -she mused to herself.

Chapter Text

The explosions triggered by the exploding origami butterflies, in the reading room, were heard and felt in the library’s entrance, where Rena Rouge, Dragonfly and Forest Doe kept fighting Madame Romani and Brutus. Upon hearing them, the girls knew something had happened upstairs. Fearing the worst, and being the fastest of them, Dragonfly decided to check if Carapace and Ladybug needed some help, ignoring the fact that panda Rouge had arrived a minute before. Looking at Madame Romani and Brutus, she saw that both Forest Doe and Rena Rouge could handle the rest. The three of them had been able to tire them enough, for them to become easy opponents.   

“Keep an eye on those two! I’m going to check if they’re alright!” -Dragonfly said, as she zoomed out of there.

“Go! We’ll handle these idiots!” -Rena Rouge exclaimed, as she saw Dragonfly go up the stairs to help Ladybug and Carapace.  

“Handle these idiots?!” -Madame Romani exclaimed. –“What do you think we are, sludge or some low-lives?!” -she questioned Rena Rouge, obviously infuriated with the way the heroes talked about her, as if she was some low-life.   

“No, you’re worse than sludge, and way worse than low-lives! You’re garbage! Disgusting garbage that decided to crawl up from the sewers!” -Forest Doe shouted at Madame Romani, as she fired three more arrows at her; one of them almost hitting her on the left shoulder. –“Dang it! I missed again!” -she thought to herself.

“There’s no reason to insult your opponent like that! A warrior must always respect the other, both in and out of battle!” -Brutus said, as he deflected one of Rena Rouge’s attacks, trying to smash her with his war hammer.  

“Oh, would you shut up about it?! You and your stupid honour and useless fighting rules! Why do you even bother giving these kids tips on how to wield their weapons and how they should attack us?! It’s like you’re asking to be defeated.” -Madame Romani yelled at Brutus, sick and tired of him and the way he perceived things. As she saw it, Reptile was not the smartest person in the world, but he did not waste time doing those things. All he wanted was to kill the heroes. –“Our master doesn’t care about those things! The only thing he cares about is to see these kids’ dead bodies at his feet, with or without their heads still attached to them!!!” -she continued to yell at him. 

“I do not wish to argue with you. We’re on the same side, and as such I agree with what you’re saying, but a warrior should always face its opponent head on, without denigrating him or her…” -Brutus told her, trying to reason with her, as he stopped fighting.

“There you go again!” -Madame Romani yelled at him. –“Why can’t you get it into that thick skull of yours, that it doesn’t matter how you fight these kids?! The only thing that matters is that they die and that we get their miraculouses, so Hawk Moth can destroy them!!!” -she said.


“Don’t you dare say another word, about it, you imbecile!” -Madame Romani continued to yell at Brutus.     

Seeing that, both Rena Rouge and Forest Doe felt like they were watching either an old couple arguing about the most trivial of things, or a sketch from the Three Stooges. It was the first time they were seeing two of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants arguing about something as trivial as that, in the middle of a battle. They had seen Madame Romani and Reptile arguing before, but nothing like what was going on between her and Brutus. Looking at each other, they did not know if they ought to laugh about it, or tell them to stop arguing and focus on the fight they were having.  

“This is surreal… and we’ve seen many surreal things before.” -Forest Doe whispered to Rena Rouge, who waved her head in agreement.

“What do you say we take advantage of this?” -Rena Rouge asked her, as she looked at the two enemies, who continued to fight like cat and dog. –“Let’s take these bozos down, and then go help the others.” -she suggested. –“Follow my lead and fire a few arrows in a circle around them, please.”

“With pleasure.” -Forest Doe winked at the fox heroine. –“And you don’t have to say “please”, we’re friends remember?” -she smirked.

Firing arrow after arrow, at an incredible speed, it took Forest Doe less than two seconds to have them trapped, just the way Rena Rouge wanted them. Hearing the sound of the arrows hitting the ground, Brutus and Madame Romani snapped back to reality. But when they did it, it was already too late. As soon as the last arrow hit the ground, completing the circle around them, Rena Rouge played her flute-staff and a silver tendril shot from it, grabbing both Madame Romani’s crystal ball and Brutus’ war hammer, throwing them away and out of reach, just before beginning to weave itself around the arrows with an incredible speed. Once that was done, the tendril erupted into flames, creating a circle of flames around Brutus and Madame Romani, who saw themselves trapped. And before they could think of crossing the flames, even knowing they would be severely burned by them, these began to change shape, until it assumed the shape that Rena Rouge wanted it to; a cage. But not just any cage, a glass cage.  

“You can try and break it, but believe me, it won’t work. I made this one to withstand the impact of a cannonball.” -Rena Rouge said, priding herself of her work. –“And before you think of even trying to turn yourself into fog and exit it, think again, you witch. It’s reinforced and sealed. Nothing goes in, and nothing comes out.” -she smirked at the gypsy woman. Deep down, she knew that the two of them would be able to get out of it. But it was going to be incredibly hard to do so, and by the time they had managed to pull such a stunt, Origami would have already been dealt with. –“You’re both stuck in there, whether you like it or not.”

“Let me out, you, insolent fox girl!!!” -Madame Romani ordered, as she hit the glass with her fist, trying to break it.    

“Forget it, you’re not going anywhere, you witch.” -Forest Doe told her, as she approached the glass and playfully stuck her tongue out. She was not the kind of girl who would do that often, because she had been raised, to never do it, but she just could not help doing it to Madame Romani, who, more than anyone else, deserved that kind of disrespect.

“Once again, that’s showing disrespect for your opponents.” -Brutus pointed out, as he tried to punch his way out of that cage, with no visible results.   

“Oh, shut up with that!” -Madame Romani screamed from the top of her lungs at Brutus. –“Stop talking and use your brute strength for something! Produce another hammer and break this thing! I can’t create illusions without my crystal ball, so you have to get us out of here!” -she continued to scream at Brutus, while cursing their bad luck.

“Now, don’t go anywhere.” -Rena Rouge told them, as she tapped the glass. –“We’ll be back, after we have dealt with your master’s latest victim.” -she said, while signalling Forest Doe to follow her. –“Let’s go and help the others, girl!”

“I’m right behind you, Rena.” -Forest Doe said, as she picked up the pace and joined the fox heroine on the stairs. –“Let’s hope they’re alright. Those explosions sounded pretty big.” -she said.

“This isn’t over yet! I’ll have your heads for this, Rena Rouge and Forest Doe! Yours and the rest of your friends as well!!!” -Madame Romani continued to yell at the heroines, as they went up the stairs. –“This is all your fault! Get us out of here, hurry! If we don’t kill those kids, the master will punish us!” -she told Brutus, who kept trying to punch his way out of that glass cage, while trying to ignore every word that came out of her mouth.   

Determined to destroy the Miraculous heroes, Origami continued to produce more and more origami animals to cause chaos, though most of them were butterflies that exploded when coming into contact with things, only to regenerate themselves from their own ashes and attack again and again, in a never-ending cycle of explosions that were continuing to damage the room. The room itself was looking more and more like a tornado had been unleashed inside it, destroying everything, after a massive bomb had been deployed inside it, which was not far from reality.    

Not wishing to end up blown into smithereens, Carapace converted the energy shield he had created earlier into an energy bubble, placing it around him and his friends, hoping that it would withstand the explosions, as well as safe-guarding them, while they tried to come up with a plan to deal with Origami. Their last plan failed and they needed a new one, if they were to defeat Origami and save the day. The explosions were becoming stronger and stronger, and Carapace was fearing that the energy bubble would not hold. Nothing had ever been able to break one of his energy shields or bubbles, but he feared that one day, an Akuma would be able to do it, making him nervous. On top of that, the noise was not helping his nerves. Focusing, Carapace insulated the bubble, so they could talk without being interrupted by the continuous explosions that were happening.

“Finally, some peace and quiet.” -Carapace said. He and the others had learned from Master Fu that the sound of silence was many times the best sound one could hear, when attempting to solve a problem.

“Thanks. I don’t know about you, but my ears couldn’t take much more of that.” -Ladybug told the turtle hero.

“This is getting really dangerous.” -Carapace said. –“I can’t hear the explosions right now, but just looking at things going “kaboom”, I know that things are getting way too dangerous.” -he said.

“And here I thought that fighting a guy who’s basically a living origami figure, would involve a lot more paper folding, and less explosions.” -Panda Rouge joked, with an uneasy voice.

“No offense, Nathaniel, but that was one really bad joke.” -Carapace told his friend. –“You should leave the comedy to Adrien and Kim.” -he said.  

Looking through the energy shield, Ladybug knew that things were not going to straighten themselves up alone. Origami was getting a better grasp of his powers as time went by, and soon, he would probably be able to discover a power or an ability that would make him even more powerful than he was right then. Sighing, she knew they did not have the time to just sit there and hope the others would be able to deal with Hawk Moth’s lieutenants in a flash, and come and give them a hand. They were on their own, right then, and even though she wished she had the rest of the team, including the ones that had not answered the call for help, she knew that they would have to do with what they had.

“I’ve got a plan… but before I tell you about it, I need to be sure of something.” -Ladybug smiled to the two heroes, trying to transmit a sense of confidence.  

“You need to be sure of what?” –Carapace asked her, before telling himself that whatever it was the scarlet heroine was thinking about, it would have to be important, for her to say something like that.  –“You know what? Never mind that question. Whatever it is that you need to be sure of, just tell us what we must do in the meantime.”

“I need you to distract him, by forcing him to shape-shift as many times as you can.” -Ladybug told them, after which, she looked Panda Rouge in the eyes. –“Plus, I need you to use your drawing powers to give me something that allows me to see things in slow-motion.”

“In slow-motion?” -Panda Rouge asked her, puzzled. But why would you want to see things in slow-motion, Marinette.” -he told her. –“You know what? I trust that you know what you’re doing. Let me see what I can come up with.”

Drawing as fast as he could, Panda Rouge came up with the sort of thing that Ladybug had asked him to. When he finished, he was holding in his left hand a pair of glasses with blue-tinted lenses. They looked like the kind of glasses one would see in a science-fiction film, with countless other gizmos that would help the hero to solve a problem it had gotten itself into.

“Glasses? Shouldn’t have you given her, maybe, a watch that could slow down time or something?” -Carapace asked Panda Rouge, not understanding why he had given her a pair of high-tech looking glasses.

“I don’t think my powers work like that.” -Panda Rouge told him. –“Besides, they aren’t just regular glasses, as you can see by the way they look. When you press this button here, it will record whatever is happening in front of you, and then, by pressing it again, you can see recording in slow-motion.” -he explained it to Ladybug, as she examined the glasses. 

“Okay, I think I get it how it works.” -Ladybug said, as put on the glasses, seeing everything bright-blue in front of her. –“Alright, let’s get out of here and do our thing. Remember, you guys distract him as much as you can, and leave the rest to me.” -she said. –“Be careful.”

“You too.” -Panda Rouge told Ladybug. –“Open this bubble, Nino.” -he told Carapace.    

Focusing, Carapace made the energy bubble disappear, exposing the three heroes to all that was going on around them. The air smelled of burnt things, which was not a surprise, given all of those exploding origami butterflies. Trying to ignore it, the three heroes spread out, with Ladybug trying to find a safe place to do what she needed to do, while Panda Rouge and Carapace ran into the opposite direction, charging against Origami. The Akuma, seeing the two heroes coming right at him, wasted no time and attacked them, launching more origami butterflies at them; only these were not the exploding kind. Instead, when in mid-air, they turned themselves into razor-sharp shurikens, targeting the two heroes. Quickly Carapace created an energy shield in front of him, to catch all the shurikens that came in his direction, while Panda Rouge used his spear, rotating it with both his hands, deflecting them.

“So, is this all you got?” -Carapace asked Origami.

“We were expecting you to give us something more.” -Panda Rouge said. –“I mean, no offense, but for someone who should be a really smart Akuma, and with the power to turn himself into whatever he wants, you are quite the disappointment. I mean, what you’re doing with these origamis, it’s art! And from an artist to another, you are not memorable at all.” -he told Origami, trying to play mind games with him.

“You know what, Panda? I bet that he can’t even turn himself into anything larger than that giant snake he turned into earlier.” -Carapace taunted the Akuma.

“A giant snake? Well, I bet that he can’t even be into places at once!” -Panda Rouge shouted, getting into Carapace’s game.

Hearing him say that, Origami decided to prove them wrong by dividing himself into two, and then assuming different forms. To do so, he pulled the pages out of hundreds and several books that were still in the bookcases. In a matter of seconds, the transformation was complete. The one on the right turned into a giant origami scorpion, while the one on the right turned into a giant preying-mantis. The two creatures looked at the heroes for a couple of seconds, before attacking them. Carapace used his tonfas to whack and counterattack the preying-mantis attacks with its razor-sharp grasping forelegs, while Panda Rouge decided to use his drawing powers to create something to deal with both scorpion’s stinger and its pincers. Drawing as fast as he could, he quickly drew some incredibly strong rubber bands, which he placed on the scorpion’s pincers, when this tried to snap him into two, and a giant cork, which he used on the scorpion’s stinger. Doing this, Origami was forced to turn himself into something else to deal with Panda Rouge. Shape-shifting in the blink of an eye, he turned himself into a Gashadokuro, a Japanese giant, whose body was made out of bones and was 10 to 20 times larger and taller than the average person. Panda Rouge recognized it from a book of Japanese folklore he read once. Looking at him, he saw that Origami’s version was smaller than the one described in various legends, but it was still incredibly ugly and scary to anyone who would look at it. 

Okay, I wasn’t expecting this to happen.” -Panda Rouge thought to himself, as the origami Gashadokuro roared and tried to smash him with his enormous fist. –“Maybe I shouldn’t have annoyed him in the first place.” -he mused about, while trying to avoid being crushed to death.

And while Panda Rouge dealt with the Gashadokuro, Carapace continued to fight with Origami in his praying mantis form, who was proving himself to be a tough customer. Every time one of the energy shields Carapace had created around him was struck by it, he feared that Origami had found the strength, or a way to break them. Until then, nothing was able to break one of his shields, but he feared that there would come a day when that would happen.

Who would ever think that a creature made out of paper would be able to hit this kind of strength?” -Carapace thought to himself. –“Come on, is that the best you can do?” -he shouted at praying mantis, who wasted no time in striking one of the energy shields, trying to kill him. –“Okay… I guess you can still do better!”

The battle raged on, with both Carapace and Panda Rouge trying their best to stay alive, while also striking Origami whenever they saw an opportunity to do it. And as always, the heroes were beginning to show the first signs of exhaustion, unlike the Akuma, who looked like he could do that the rest of the day, without getting tired. Suddenly, Dragonfly showed up, and was surprised by what was going on. She, who had not seen Origami using most of his powers, was impressed, to say the least, with what she was seeing.       

“Hey, guys, what’s going on?!” -Dragonfly asked her friends, noticing Panda Rouge next to Carapace. –“You’re here too?” -she shouted at Panda Rouge.

“Yeah, I got here a little after you guys entered the library.” –Panda Rouge said, as he performed a backflip, avoiding one of Origami Gashadokuro’s strikes, but failing to realize that the Akuma had deliberately pulled that strike, to allure him to a better position, where he could slam him with his other fist.  

Seeing her friend in danger, Dragonfly dove, with the intention of punching the Gashadokuro’s fist and prevent him from crushing Panda Rouge. But as she was halfway, she noticed that she was not going to be able to do it. So instead, she decided that the best thing to do was to grab Panda Rouge. Squinting her eyes, because of the speed, she pushed him out of the way, just as the Gashadokuro’s fist was about to crush him. As she zoomed under the Gashadokuro’s humongous fist, Dragonfly felt the air above her being pushed down, and that just gave her an even bigger incentive to not stay under it for more than a quarter of a second. Grabbing Panda Rouge, she zoomed back into the air, where she knew they would be safe.  

“Thanks, Alix.” -Panda Rouge thanked the pink-haired heroine, when they were already in the air.  

“Don’t mention it.” -Dragonfly smiled at him, without taking her eyes off the Gashadokuro. –“What is that thing?” -she asked him.

“It’s a Gashadokuro.” -Panda Rouge answered her.

“A what?!” -Dragonfly asked him, not having understood the name he had just said.

“A Gashadokuro. They are spirits that take the form of giant skeletons and are fifteen times taller than an average person, and they’re supposedly created from the amassed bones of people who died of starvation or in battle, without being buried.” -Panda Rouge explained her.

“And why didn’t you just call it a giant skeleton?!” -Dragonfly asked him, as they landed on top of one of the few bookcases that were still intact n all that mess. –“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay, don’t worry.” -Panda Rouge reassured her. –“Marinette and Nino told me that you, Alya and Mylene were dealing with Madame Romani and Brutus downstairs.” -she said.

“As far as I know, Mylene and Alya are still dealing with them. I came here to see if you guys needed a hand… and I guess you do.” -Dragonfly declared, as she looked at the Gashadokuro, who was slowly making its way towards them. –“Looks like tall, dark and gruesome isn’t happy that I took you away from him!” -she said.

“Go and help Nino, and keep Origami busy. I’ll take care of this Gashadokuro.” -Panda Rouge told her.

“Alright, and please, call it a giant skeleton! It’s simpler and doesn’t sound like a mouthful, okay?!” -Dragonfly told him in a playful tone, as she dashed out of there.

At the same time, Ladybug was recording everything that was happening with the glasses that Panda Rouge had given her. Just like he had told her, the glasses were incredibly easy to use and she was using them to look for something that would give her and her friends the advantage they needed in their fight against Origami. She did not know exactly what she was looking for, but she would know when she saw it. Just like she had asked them, Carapace, Panda Rouge, and now Dragonfly, made sure to keep Origami busy, while also testing just what he could and could not do. Origami himself seemed not have noticed she was absent from the battle, and the scarlet heroine took advantage of it, by sneaking around, while always being careful to not be spotted, either by him or any other of his creations, which was not easy. Still, taking advantage of her acrobatic skills, she kept moving almost nonstop, not giving anyone the chance to pinpoint her exact location. Unlike most Akumas, Origami seemed to have retained most of his intelligence, and did not look like he was obsessed with anyone in particular; that alone made him a lot more dangerous to the heroes, and Ladybug knew it. Whatever she was looking for, she needed to find it fast, otherwise, things could get more complicated.    

Okay, I think I got enough footage form this guy. Let’s see what I can find in them.” -Ladybug thought to herself, while also looking for a secluded location to do so.

Having found a place between two broken bookcases that had fallen, she wasted no time in going over the footage. She knew she was looking for a weakness, any weakness in Origami’s attack pattern, moves or simply his own physical form. Hawk Moth’s Akumas were incredibly resilient and strong, but they all had a weakness that could be explored. During their first missions as the Miraculous Team, Ladybug and her teammates had luck on their side and had been able to defeat the Akumas created by their worst enemy with relative ease. But as time went by, they had specialized themselves in spotting weaknesses in the Akumas, making their job a lot easier. And right then, that was just what Ladybug was going, she was looking for a weakness that would help them dealing with Origami.,   

“Alright, this guy moves really fast, can duplicate himself and can pretty much turn himself into anything he wants to, as long as he has an incredible amount of paper around him.” -Ladybug commented, as she looked at the footage of Origami duplicating himself and then turning into a giant scorpion and a giant praying-mantis. As she watched it, she pondered dragging Origami out of there, and into a place where there were less books and less paper sheets, thus cutting his supply of paper. But, doing so, they would have to find a place where they could fight him, without having anyone around, and outside, the crowd was already pretty big when they entered the library. If they did that, they would risk someone getting hurt in the process. –“No… that’s out of the question. We need to take him down here, inside this building, so no one else gets hurt. The people inside those cocoons seem to be safe from all that’s going on, so, that’s one less thing to worry about.” -she thought to herself. –“Come on, focus, you need to find something to help the others. Time is of the essence.”

And not just of the essence. It was times like that, that Ladybug hated being the leader of that team, because being the one in charge, when things got pretty bad, sucked. Still, she tried not to think about it, and focused on the task at hand. She needed to find if there was anything in Origami, they could use to defeat him. Going over the footage, she began to watch it in slow-motion, looking for any detail that would stand out. At first, she saw nothing, nothing out of the ordinary. It was just footage of her friends battling the Akuma, and the Akuma looked normal. Not normal, normal, as one would say, but normal when it came to how Akumas behaved and attacked; it was hard to explain. All she knew was that she was not seeing anything that stood out of the ordinary.

At the same time, she could hear the battle going on, and was cursing herself for not being at her friends’ side, helping them, knowing that they were doing their best to defeat Origami. But she knew that what she was doing was also important, and tried to put those thoughts aside, while continuing to look for anything, any speck of a clue that could turn the table in their favour. Going over the footage one more time, she took special attention to the parts, when Origami changed shapes, believing that that was the time, when he would be most vulnerable. And finally, she found what she was looking for and could not help but to smile.          

There it is! That guy really does have a weak spot!” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she viewed the footage once more. –“Well, not a weak spot, per say, but this… this is exactly what I was looking for!” -she said.

Re-watching the numerous pieces of footage she had, once again, she saw what looked like a small red origami figure, which showed up in the footage for a mere split second, every time Origami shape-shifted into a something else, or simply changed size. Unlike the rest of Origami’s body, which was mostly white, that little origami figure was blood-red and looked like an origami cube.    

“That little red origami cube that shows up, whenever Origami changes appearance or divides himself… that must be Origami’s true body. He’s able to divide and turn himself into whatever he wants, but those are just decoys to make us think we’re fighting him, and not just decoys. The real Origami never goes into battle.” -Ladybug smiled, knowing just what needed to be done. –“All we have to do, is to destroy that red origami, and he will be History.” -she went on smiling.

With that discovery, Ladybug was ready to go back into action and help her teammates. Leaving the glasses behind, which would disappear, once the Ampulla Amulet was activated, she jumped out of her hiding spot and made her way to where the others were battling Origami. To her surprise, while she had been reviewing the footage she had collected, Rena Rouge and Forest Doe had showed up, and joined up the fight. Seeing them, the scarlet heroine believed that they would be able to deal with Origami a lot faster now.

Panda Rouge was still dealing with Origami’s Gashadokuro’s form, with a little help from Forest Doe; having managed to immobilize it for a couple of seconds, before it was able to break free of the restraints that the panda hero had put it on, only to continue attacking them.

“Fire may not be able to destroy you… but let’s see if it can keep you at bay.” -Panda Rouge said, as he quickly drew a pit of fire around the Gashadokuro, hoping that that would keep it up still, while he tried to come up with another way to deal with it. –“Doe! Don’t let it move!” -he shouted at Forest Doe, who quickly shot multiple arrows at the place where the creature’s eyes would be, making it roar and buying Panda a little more time to finish what he was doing.    

Rena Rouge, on the other hand, was helping Carapace dealing with the giant origami praying-mantis, who had doubled in size, as well as speed and strength. As for Dragonfly, she was busy dealing with a few giant origami animals that were lurking around, making sure none of them would come near her friends, by using her frisbee to attract their attention, before beginning to bash them.    

“Welcome back, girl!” -Rena Rouge exclaimed, as she had finished conjuring up a giant tarantula, and placing it in front of the praying-mantis, knowing that they were natural enemies, hoping to scare it, as Ladybug landed next to her.

“It’s good to be back.” -Ladybug told her best friend, with a confident smile on her face.

“Tell me, you found something.” -Carapace asked her, without taking his eyes of the origami praying-mantis, who was attacking the spider Rena Rouge had created.  

“I did. And I know how we can solve this in just a couple of seconds.” -Ladybug told the turtle hero.

“Tell us what needs to be done, and we’ll do it.” -Carapace said.

“Alright! I need you to force him to shape-shift as many times as you can, again.” -Ladybug declared. –“Use every trick you can come up with. Insult him, mock him… as Antelope would say, go wild!”

“You got it!” -Rena Rouge said, as she conjured up one of her illusions, by blowing her flute-staff.

Combining their attacks, the fox and the turtle heroes, attacked Origami, while also mocking him, attempting to do just what Ladybug had asked them to do. But Ladybug did not let herself out of the action. Tagging along Rena Rouge and Carapace, she attacked Origami, and just like her teammates, she tried her best to force him to change shape and size. And just like she expected, he did just as she thought he would. Like all Akumas, Origami had a short temper, and they all took advantage of it. He began to shape-shift, only to prove the heroes that he could do it.   

There you are!” -Ladybug thought to herself, seeing the little blood-red origami cube, when Origami shape-shifted, as she kept jumping around like a jumping-jack, not giving him the chance to catch her. –“Now, all I’ve got to do is to catch you with my yo-yo, mister.” -she thought, as a smirk showed up on her face.

She waited for the right moment to strike him, while always avoiding everything that he threw at her and the other two heroes. She believed that if Origami found out what she was trying to do, that he would take measures to stop her. And when that moment finally arrived, Ladybug did not hesitate. Using her yo-yo, she threw it with the strength of a boxer, the finesse of a ballerina, and combined with the skill of an archer, hitting the small origami cube that she believed was Origami’s true body. Once the yo-yo hit it, every origami construct that the Akuma had created was reduced to nothing more than piles of paper sheets, which fell on the ground. Standing next to her, Carapace and Rena Rouge looked at one another, puzzled, and asked Ladybug what she had done. She answered them that she had caught the real Origami, as the rest of the heroes joined them.    

Walking to where the origami cube had landed, Ladybug looked at the tiny blood-red origami cube, and saw how it seemed to be moving, like trying to get out of there, in search of a spot to hide itself.  

“Looks like we found the real you, haven’t we?” -Ladybug smiled. She still did not fully understand how the memory of her mother teaching her how to create origami creatures had helped her figure out a way to put Origami in check, but she was not going to argue about the results. –“You really fooled us all there, thinking that we were battling the real you, when we were just fighting puppets that you were creating. But guess what, you can only fool a person for so long, until it sees through your tricks.” -she said.     

Ladybug was about to kneel and grab Origami’s real body, when this one blew up. The explosion was such that it threw all the heroes into the air, with them falling to the ground, slightly shook by it and with their ears buzzing like crazy. Trying to get back up, the heroes wondered what had happened, and more importantly, what was going to happen next. Standing where Origami’s real body was, was now a life-size blood-red origami samurai, looking at the heroes. Looking at it, the heroes saw that Origami had changed his appearance once again, surprising them, who had believed that they had him where they wanted him, but instead, he had turned the tables on them.    

“You may have managed to find out about my real form, noble Ladybug, but you will not prevent me from finishing you off and getting your miraculouses!” –Origami said, as he produced, not one, but two samurai swords, pointing them at the heroes.

Chapter Text

The heroes were taken aback by Origami, who had turned the tables on them. Following Ladybug’s plan to a tee, they all thought, Ladybug included, that Origami was finished, when she found out his real body. But it turned out that Origami had one last trick up his sleeve and he was going to use it. The heroes, who were caught by surprise, could not help but to feel like the real fight had just begun.

Oh, great… this guy’s really a box of surprises.” -Panda Rouge sighed to himself.

“And here I thought he wouldn’t give us more trouble.” -Ladybug thought, as she looked at Origami, who kept looking at her and the others, as if waiting for them to make the first move.

On that very same moment, Brutus and Madame Romani burst through what was left of the reading room’s door. Seeing what was going on, they quickly assumed that Origami had things under control. Still, neither one of them was just going to sit there and see him kill the heroes, when they too wanted a piece of the action, especially Madame Romani, who was anything but happy with the way Rena Rouge and Forest Doe had left her and Brutus trapped, to come and help the other heroes dealing with the Akuma. None of them said a word, and both sides seemed to be waiting for the other to take the first step, as if they were afraid to make a mistake that would cost them the battle. The heroes, gathered in a half-circle, tried to figure out how they were going to do that.

“So, what’s the plan?” -Rena Rouge asked Ladybug, by whispering to her hear.

“The plan? Well…” -Ladybug whispered back, only to be interrupted by Panda Rouge.

“I’ll take care of those two. You guys just wipe the floor with this guy.” -Panda Rouge whispered to Ladybug and the others. Being the one who had arrived later, he was not feeling as tired as the others felt, and he believed that with his drawing powers at his disposal, he could handle Hawk Moth’s lieutenants, while the rest of the team handled Origami.

“Shouldn’t it we do the opposite? With your powers, you could easily stop Origami.” -Ladybug suggested to him.

“As I see it, Origami can match anything that I can throw at him. With his powers, he can literally copy anything I create, or, he can match it with its opposite. The gypsy witch and Schwarzenegger over there, on the other hand, don’t have much of an imagination.” -Panda Rouge explained. –“We can’t fight fire with fire, this time. Instead we have to fight fire with water, if you get my meaning.”

The idea was not half-bad, and it did make a lot of sense. Origami was an Akuma whose powers were enhanced by his creativity, just like it happened with Panda Rouge. And even though Madame Romani’s powers also demanded that she used her imagination, her hatred for the Miraculous Heroes clouded her judgement and made her use her powers in the most basic of forms. As for Brutus, he was not the most imaginative person in the world. With that in mind, he was sure that he could put those two out of commission, especially because his teammates had already worn them out.

“Well, usually, I’m the one who comes up with the great plans, but I don’t see anything wrong with yours. Solet’s do it.” -Ladybug smiled at Panda Rouge.  

“You sure, you don’t need any help?” -Carapace asked him, between teeth.  

“Don’t worry about me. Just take care of Origami, and end this, before we find out he has any other trick up his sleeve.” -Panda whispered back at him. 

“He’s right. The longer it takes to defeat him, the harder this battle will be.” -Forest Doe said.

“Then, let’s do it.” -Ladybug smirked, as she began to spin her yo-yo, creating her famous spinning shield attack. –“Miraculous Team, go!” -she shouted.

And with that shout, the battle recommenced, with the heroes going against the villains. As decided, Panda Rouge took on Brutus and Madame Romani, single-handedly, while Ladybug and the others took on Origami.

Thanks to his powers, Panda Rouge was able to come up with a way to fight both Madame Romani and Brutus at the same time, even though their fighting methods were quite different from one another.

“You know, you could try and be a little bit more imaginative with those illusions of yours.” –Panda Rouge told Madame Romani, who had conjured up a series of doubles of herself, mimicking Flamingo’s own power, to attack him, –“I mean, if Flamingo was here, she would probably be really upset that you’re copying her.” -he taunted her, as he smacked one of the copies. 

“My illusions do not need to be imaginative to do what they’re supposed to do. They only need to kill you!” -Madame Romani said, as she ordered her copies to attack Panda Rouge. –“And you, attack him as well!”

“Do not tell me what to do. I know what I must do.” -Brutus said, as he charged against Panda Rouge with a sword in each hand.

One did not have to be a genius to understand that there was no chemistry between Brutus and Madame Romani. The gypsy witch’s temper and personality were clearly clashing with those of Brutus, who did not like when people bossed with him around. In fact, they both shared that personality trait, with the only difference being that Madame Romani saw herself as someone who was above him, in every sense of the word. Seeing them arguing, the redhead hero saw all of that arguing as a trump card he could play to his advantage.

“They don’t work well together. Perhaps I can take advantage of it.” -Panda Rouge mused to himself. –“Hey, Brutus! Are you going to let that witch over there, boss you around, the same way she bosses Reptile?!” -he asked Brutus with a mocking voice, as he punched the last remaining copy of Madame Romani that was still standing, only for this one to also disappear in front of his eyes.  

“Do not think that you are going to cause me to lose my focus with those silly taunts, young hero.” -Brutus said, as he attacked him, trying to chop off his head with a scissor move, only for Panda to escape it, by performing a backflip.  

“Who says I’m taunting you?!” -Panda Rouge asked Brutus, while dodging another attack from him. –“I’m just saying what I’m seeing, with my own two eyes.” -he said, dodging another thrust. –“But if you don’t want to believe me, fine…”

“Would you kill him already?!” -Madame Romani said, as she casted one more of her illusions; this time, she created several bludgeoning weapons, which she threw at Panda, only for him to dodge them. –“I missed!” -she cursed her luck. –“Just kill him, and don’t you dare give him advice on how to use his weapon! That’s getting old, you know?! What kind of a person, who calls himself a warrior, helps his opponents, by giving them advice, on how to wield a weapon?!”

“See? There she goes again. She clearly doesn’t’ trust you to take me down!” -Panda Rouge went on mocking Brutus, as he tried to cut off his head. –“I mean, if I were you I would tell her to mind her own business.” -he laughed in the face of Brutus.

“Enough! Stop talking and fight!” -Brutus exclaimed, as he dropped both his swords, only to pull out a spear from his left shoulder, so he could fight Panda Rouge with the same kind of weapon as him.   

“Well, I’m not really in the mood for fighting an idiot like you, so, instead of fighting, let’s play a game. Have you ever played “Let’s wrap-up Brutus like a beautiful Christmas gift!”?” -Panda Rouge asked Brutus, as he shrank his spear to the size of a pen, and began drawing with it. –“No? Then, it’s like they say, there’s a first time for everything!” -he joked, as he continued to draw.    

And while Panda Rouge was having fun with Brutus and Madame Romani, Ladybug, Rena Rouge, Carapace, Dragonfly and Forest Doe were busy dealing with Origami, who was showing them a new full set of moves. If he looked fast before, then now he looked lightning fast. The five heroes were having a hard time keeping their eyes on him, as he jumped around like the Tasmania Devil on Looney Tunes, while also trying to cut off their heads with his samurai swords. Still, they were not giving up, and they were determined to keep up with him, no matter what.     

“Stand still!” -Forest Doe exclaimed, as she shot a few arrows at Origami, hoping to hit him, but failing. –“I think I preferred when this guy was busy creating crazy origami constructs and throwing them at us.” -she thought to herself.

“If you can’t keep up, then you are not worthy of the miraculouses that you possess.” -Origami said, as he landed in front of Carapace and stroke him with his swords. –“And if you’re not worthy of them, you should just give them to me, so I can give them to Hawk Moth.” -he said, as he continued to strike him, only for the turtle hero to defend himself with his tonfas. 

“And let him destroy them, so he can rule this planet, unopposed? I don’t think so!” -Carapace exclaimed, as he hit Origami, taking advantage of an opening in his defense. –“I think I speak for myself and my friends here, when I say that as long as we’re around, that maniac will never get us paws on out miraculouses… thanks, babe!” -he said, as Rena Rouge joined him, and whacked Origami in the head with her flute-staff.

“My pleasure, turtle boy.” -Rena Rouge winked at Carapace, as she saw Origami change shape, this time into what she believed was a ninja. –“First a Ronin, then a samurai, and now a ninja? I’m seeing a pattern here. You sure like Asian-themed warriors.” -she said, as she tried to hit him again with her flute-staff, this time failing.

“Just like origami is the noblest of all arts, warriors from Asia are regarded as the best this world has ever seen. It would be a dishonour to me, as well as a shame, if I did not carry out their legend.” -Origami said, as he jumped up into the air and threw origami shurikens at the two heroes. Seeing them coming, they did their best to defend themselves from them, using with their weapons. –“Excellent defense, but you’ll have to do better than that!” -he said, as he shot more origami shurikens at the heroes.

While evading from the shurikens, Carapace and Rena Rouge did their best to not be cut or hit by them. Though they did manage to avoid being turned into pin-cushions, some of them did manage to cut Rena Rouge on the face, before Carapace placed an energy shield in front of them. Looking at his girlfriend, he cursed his nerves, for not having thought about that solution earlier.  

“Are you okay?” -Carapace asked her, as he saw a small drop of blood, running down her left cheek.

“I’m okay. It’s just a scratch.” -Rena Rouge answered him, as she wiped the drop of blood with her fingertips. –“What about you?” -she asked him.

“Don’t worry about me, I’ve got a tough shell.” -Carapace joked, making her smile, as Origami continued to throw more and more shurikens, which kept hitting the energy shield. 

“Just give up your miraculouses and this will end… augh!!!” -Origami yelled, upon feeling something hitting him on the back of his head. What had hit him had been Dragonfly’s frisbee.   

“You, Akumas, need to start talking less and attacking a lot more, dude! Otherwise, you’ll never kill us, much less get one of our miraculouses!” -Dragonfly exclaimed, as she retrieved her frisbee in mid-air, just before attacking Origami from behind, performing a series of rotating kicks, and hitting him on both the back and the head. –“Take that and that! And that’s for nearly crushing Panda Rouge and myself a couple of minutes ago, buster!” -she shouted, as she landed another kick on Origami, making him fall to his knees.  

“Well said, Dragonfly!” -Rena Rouge said, as she jumped over the energy shield, she was behind of and attacked Origami as well, with her flute-staff, hitting him on the back.

“Hey, save some for me!” -Forest Doe said, as she joined them, and punched Origami, who was having a hard time to evade those sudden attacks by the heroes.    

Seeing that they were temporarily in advantage, Ladybug decided it was time for them to put in motion one of their fighting tactics, and end that fight, that was already going on for far too long.

“Usually we do this with more of us present, but we’ll just have to work with what we’ve got. Let’s criss-cross this guy, everyone!” -Ladybug told her teammates, whose eyes sparkled when they heard her saying that word.  

Criss-cross was yet another one of the techniques that they had come up with, while training. This one consisted on coordinated attacks from every single hero, one after another, without giving the Akuma time to react, and thus inflicting as much damage as possible. Obeying Ladybug’s command, they did not waste any time and attacked Origami, using that technique. The first one to attack was Ladybug, followed by Forest Doe, and then by Rena Rouge and Carapace. The last one was Dragonfly, who spared no expenses, when attacking Origami. Once she finished attacking, the heroes repeated the pattern, not giving Origami a chance to even react. The whole criss-cross technique was one of the best in their list of techniques, mostly because it not only relied on their fighting abilities, but also on their speed. By itself, a Miraculous hero, with the exception of Dragonfly, could only reach a certain velocity, and its attacks, no matter how sequenced and destructive they were, could only inflict a certain amount of damage to an enemy. But when combining multiple attacks, from multiple heroes, the damage inflicted became far greater. And that was just what they were doing to Origami.        

Being hit all over the body, Origami tried to transform into a bird and fly away, to avoid that, but the incredible coordination of the heroes' attacks prevented him from doing anything, except absorbing them. In a desperate move, he tried to change shape into that of a giant, but due to the continuous series of blows from the heroes, he was unable to complete the transformation, ending up on the floor. Stopping, Ladybug and the others looked at him, and knew that that battle was over. A second later, from his chest sprouted a black Akuma butterfly, which began flapping its wings, trying to get out of there   

“No!!!” -a voice was heard. It was Madame Romani who had screamed, upon seeing Origami being defeated.

“Looks like someone’s not happy with our work.” -Dragonfly chuckled. –“Sucks to be her, right now.” -she laughed about it.

“Well, then she’s about to be even less happy with what’s going to happen next.” -Ladybug said, as she readied herself to destroy the Akuma Butterfly –“No more evil-doings for you, you stupid Akuma butterfly!” -she said, as her yo-yo began to glow and she shot at it at the little dark creature. –“I relinquish you from evil!!!”

And with those words, the Akuma Butterfly was destroyed and the threat that Origami posed to them and everyone in the city of Paris was over, as he turned back into his original self. Seeing that, Madame Romani screamed on the top of her lungs, while continuing to battle Panda Rouge, who had managed to immobilize Brutus, by wrapping him up with numerous kinds of ropes and cables, making him look like a  With him out of the picture, Panda Rouge could focus on doing the same thing to her, as he did to Brutus, though it was a little harder, given how different her powers were, which allowed her to counter his. The remining heroes saw that Panda was still fighting her, and wondered if they should go and help him; but instead, they decided to leave him to handle her, seeing that he was handling himself pretty well. Plus, they knew that if needed help, he would ask them. Panda was just that kind of person, who would ask for help, whenever he felt he needed it, not afraid to show that a hero sometimes needs help.  

“You might have defeated Origami, but I will finish what he has started!” -Madame Romani growled at him.

“If I were you, I would worry about yourself!” -Panda Rouge said, as he performed a sweep kick, knocking Romani off her feet. –“See? What did I tell you?” -he mocked her, only for her to glare at him. If looks could kill, he would be dead in a matter of seconds.

“You mock me, but you’re going to regret doing that!” -Madame Romani growled, as she tried to get up, only for Panda Rouge to point his spear at her neck. She did not like to admit it, but she was running on fumes. Most of her energy was gone and she knew that there was no way she would be able to beat the hero in a hand-to-hand combat.   

“Doubt it. And now, I think I’m going to give you the same treatment I gave Brutus over there.” -Panda Rouge told her, as he pointed to Brutus, who was still on ground, trying to break free from the numerous ropes and cables that Panda had wrapped around him.    

But before Panda Rouge could do that, she disappeared in front of his eyes, along with Brutus, with the only thing proving he had been there being the ropes and cables that he had around his body.

“Where did they go?!” -Panda Rouge asked, looking around to see if that was one of Madame Romani’s tricks or not.

“I think they’re gone.” -Carapace said, as he too looked around, trying to see any sign of the two villains.

“They got away again like that?!” -Dragonfly asked out loud. –“Hawk Moth really doesn’t want us to find out where his hideout is, if he teleports his minions back to it, before we can even begin to question them. This is getting old, really fast.” -she said.

“I, for one, wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.” -Panda Rouge said, as he joined his teammates.  

Their conversation was interrupted by a loud cough; this one coming from Takeshi, he, who until a few moments before had been that day’s Akuma, Origami. As he tried to move, he felt like his whole body had been submitted to a monumental pounding, which was not far from reality. Opening his eyes, he was greeted by the Miraculous Heroes.

“W-What happened?” -Takeshi asked them.

“You were akumatized, but it’s okay. You are free from Hawk Moth’s influence, as well as his minions.” -Ladybug explained to him, as she helped him get up.

“Oh my… I can’t believe I was akumatized. And all because of that book.” -Takeshi sighed, ashamed of what had happened.  

“What book are you talking about?” -Carapace asked him.

“A very rare tome about origami that I wanted to check, but they did not allow me, because I need a special permission to check it. I just really, really wanted to consult it and see if I could upgrade my origami skills a little further. It’s my favourite hobby.” -Takeshi explained. –“I never had the intention of hurting anyone.” -he said.

“Well, that explains the theme for this Akuma.” -Rena Rouge thought to herself. –“Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone was hurt during your little rampage.” -she told Takeshi. –“But next time, maybe you should try and not get so mad, when people tell you 

“I think after this, I’ll lay out of the origamis for a while.” -Takeshi admitted, as he took a step forward, only to almost fall.

“Don’t worry, I’ll lead you outside. You’ll need to get checked by the paramedics.” -Forest Doe declared, as she helped him to walk. –“You guys can finish this without me, right?” -she asked her teammates.

“Yeah, go ahead and help him out. We’ll take care of the rest.” -Ladybug smiled at her.

As Forest Doe accompanied Takeshi to the exit, the rest of the heroes took a moment to see just how their surroundings looked like. They knew the reading room, as well as the rest of the library’s interior were in shambles because of their fight against Origami, but this was the first time they had the time to see just how bad it looked. On the floor, pages from hundreds if not thousands of books could be seen, as well as broken furniture, lamps and other sorts of objects. The damage to the place was quite big. Looking at it, a person who had not seen the fight taking place, would have thought that a bomb had exploded in there.  

“It’s a good thing we have the Ampulla Amulet, otherwise it would be really hard to put this place back as it was.” -Ladybug said, as she kneeled and picked up what was left of a book that was at her feet. Looking at the cover, she recognized it, Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island.

“Indeed.” -Dragonfly agreed. –“Anyways, another Akuma bites the dust, am I right?” -she asked her friends.

“And here I thought that Antelope was the only one who liked to throw Queen jokes around here.” -Carapace said.  

“Sorry, but I also like to throw them. Plus, he doesn’t own the exclusive rights to them.” -Dragonfly joked.

“Well, shall we put this place like it was before this whole mess began?” -Panda Rouge asked them.

“Definitely. I’m sure the people who are still trapped in those paper cocoons will appreciate being set free.” -Rena Rouge said, as she looked at all the paper cocoons that were spread over the reading room. –“Will you do the honours, Marinette?” -she asked Ladybug.

“Absolutely.” -Ladybug said, as she summoned the Ampulla Amulet.

And while things went back to normal at the Bibliothèque Mazarine, with the use of the Ampulla Amulet, back in Hawk Moth’s hideout, things were just about to heat up. Once again, Madame Romani and Brutus failed their mission, and their master was anything but pleased with it. And as always, he felt the need to teach them what failure meant. Screams echoed throughout the hideout, as hawk Moth electrocuted the two of them with his magic. Hiding in a corner, Reptile was watching the whole thing. He too had been punished by Hawk Moth for his failure, a few days earlier. Hawk Moth had ripped his left arm and his tail, and he was still healing. It was going to take a couple of more days for his tail and his arm to fully grow back, and until then, he was as useful as a pair of heat-seeking glasses on a blind man.  

The master is particularly upset this afternoon.” -Reptile mused to himself, as he saw both Brutus and Madame Romani being electrocuted. He enjoyed seeing Romani scream in pain, but not Brutus, perhaps because he treated him with respect, while Romani on the other hand, thought of herself as better than him. –“Something tells me the punishment won’t be ending anytime soon.” -he thought.   

“Once again, you have failed me.” -Hawk Moth told Brutus and Madame Romani, as he launched another purple beam from his cane, electrocuting them. –“How many times will I have to punish you, until you understand that failure is never an option?” -he asked them. –“If I hadn’t teleported you from there, you would have both been at the mercy of the Miraculous Team. Not only were you defeated by them, but you were defeated by only six of them.”

You could hear the bitterness and the rage in Hawk Moth’s voice. He was anything but happy, as he continued to torture his two lieutenants, whom each time they were electrocuted, their screams echoed around the hideout, making it feel like they were inside a horror film. Breathing heavily, Madame Romani’s lungs felt like they were on fire, just like the rest of her body. Hawk Moth had once more spared no expenses on the electricity that ran through her body. Looking at her left, she saw that Brutus was not looking so good himself. But unlike her, he did not look like he was about to faint because of the pain he was in. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying it; almost begging to be punished for what happened.  

“There is… no excuse for our failure, master.” –Brutus panted. –“I can’t… promise you that I will not fail again, but I can promise you… that I will accept this punishment, knowing that I deserve it for failing you, as will Madame Romani, I am sure.”

WHAT?!” -Madame Romani thought to herself. –“What are you doing, you imbecile?! I don’t deserve a punishment this harsh!” -she kept saying to herself.

Hearing him say that, Hawk Moth ordered Brutus to produce a sword. Obeying his master, Brutus pulled one from his chest and handed it to Hawk Moth. Grabbing it, he took a moment to observe its craftsmanship. There was no doubt that Brutus had a refined taste, when it came to create weapons. And then, without any kind of warning, Hawk Moth used that sword to stab Brutus on the chest, piecing it through his armour. Roaring in pain, Brutus did not even dare to move his arms, much less pull the sword out. The sword had missed his heart, and quite spectacularly, his left lung as well, as his blood ran down into a puddle at his knees.    

“Let this be a lesson for you to remember, the last time you fail me, Brutus.” -Hawk Moth said.

“T-Thank you, master.” -Brutus thanked Hawk Moth, as he coughed up some blood. He knew that if he had wanted to, his master would have pierced his heart and one of his lungs with that sword. But instead, he missed them purposely, because he did not want to kill him. He just wanted to make him feel pain, so he would remember that the next time he failed him, the pain would be even greater.  

“You may remove the sword; it won’t kill you, if you do it.” -Hawk Moth assured him, as he turned his attention to Madame Romani. –“And you… tell me, why shouldn’t I just stuck a sword, or even the hidden blade in my cane, into you? Not only did you fail me, but you continue to ignore the fact that you are supposed to work with your fellow lieutenants, not ignore them, in order to destroy the Miraculous Team.” -he said with a cold voice, as he looked her in the eyes. Right then, Hawk Moth’s blueish-grey eyes felt like they could freeze a person, from just staring at them.  

Madame Romani gulped, as Hawk Moth kept staring her in the eyes. And as this happened, her brain worked to find a suitable answer that would appease her master, and prevent him from punishing her further. Every idea that came to her mind were not bad ideas, but they were far from being what she needed right then. In a

“P-Please, master. Give me one more chance. I will find you a victim worthy of one of your Akuma Butterflies… one that will put a stop to the Miraculous Team, once and for all.” -Madame Romani begged her master. –“Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you want a victim, whose heart is broken with either jealousy, rejection or hate, so you can akumatize it and create the most powerful Akuma this city has ever seen, I can find it for you, master. You have my word.”

“If you know what’s good for you, you will do just that. Otherwise, I will punish you, by filling your mind with so many nightmares, you won’t be able to distinguish what is real and what is not. Do you understand?” -Hawk Moth asked her with a cold and uncaring voice.

“Y-Yes, sir.” -Madame Romani answered him. –“I will prove to you that these two idiots are useless and that I am the only one you need to destroy those brats.” -she thought to herself. –“Before Valentine’s Day is over, you will see that I’m the only one who is worthy of keeping by your side.

As he went down the street, Nathaniel was glad the trouble with the latest Akuma was taken care of much faster than he expected. He had a few places to be, and he was a little short on time, thanks to Origami, who forced him to interrupt what he was doing. After they used the Ampulla Amulet to turn things back to the way they were, he and the rest of the heroes were praised for their heroic efforts, and like always, when they exited the building, the news cameras were on top of them, trying to know what it happened and how it happened, while also trying to squeeze any more information regarding the heroes. When they finally managed to get out of there, Nathaniel made his way to where he was going, when he found out there was an Akuma on the loose, his favourite arts and crafts shop. After buying everything he needed to do a couple of more art projects, he made his way home, where he hoped to rest for a bit. The fight had drained him more than he wanted to admit.  

“That was one tough battle.” -Mulan said, speaking from inside the left front pocket of Nathaniel’s jacket. The red panda kwami was feeling a little ran down, due to lending his powers to Nathaniel, but was nonetheless happy.

“I know… I never thought that Romani would punch that hard.” -Nathaniel sighed. –“For a lady, she punches really hard.” -he said as he rubbed his left shoulder.  

“You’ve got to be more careful.” -Mulan told him. –“Remember, you’re not indestructible.” -he said.

“I will, don’t worry.” -Nathaniel smiled at his kwami. –“I will try and train my defense a little bit more, from now on.” -he said. –“But right now, I just want to get home, take a shower, eat a little snack and then paint something.”

“Paint something? And what are you going to paint?” -Mulan asked, curious.

“Like I said, something, anything. I’ll let my creativity be my guide today.” -Nathaniel said.

Nathaniel had just turned the corner, when he went against someone. Falling backwards, he was about to tell the person he had bumped into to see where it was going, when he saw it was. It was none other than Marc. When he saw it was him, he had bumped into, Nathaniel forgot everything he was thinking about.     

“Uh… h-hello.” -Nathaniel said, with awkwardest smile ever on his face. Right then, he could not help but to feel a bit like Marinette felt every time she talked with Adrien. 

“That’s twice we’ve bumped into one another.” -Marc chuckled. –“Sorry about that. I guess my mind was somewhere else. Are you okay?” -he asked Nathaniel, as he helped him get up.

“Y-Yeah. I’m okay.” -Nathaniel said.

“I don’t think we were properly introduced the first time we bumped into each other. I’m Marc, Marc Anciel.” -Marc said.

“Nathaniel, Nathaniel Kurtzberg.” -Nathaniel smiled at him. Looking at him, Nathaniel saw that Marc’s smile looked even more dashing and warn, than he remembered it.

“Here, let me help you pick these up.” -Marc said, as he started to grab everything that Nathaniel had bought on the store. –“You’ve got a lot of arts and crafts stuff here. Are you an artist?” -he asked him.

“I-I… Sort of. I’m still learning.” -Nathaniel said, trying to be modest. He considered himself a reasonable artist with the pencil, though the people closest to him believed that he was going to be one of the greatest comic book artists ever, during the next decade. And his Miraculous Team webcomic was already proof of it. –“Drawing takes a lot of skill.”

“I understand what you mean. I’m an artist myself, though, I can’t draw, even if my life depended on it.” -Marc shrugged his shoulders. –“But, I can’t say the same about writing.”

“You write?” -Nathaniel asked him.

“Yeah… like you, I’m also taking my first steps on it, but I like to think that I’m a fairly competent writer.” -Marc said, trying not to sound too cocky. –“I write during my spare time, mostly.”

The conversation between the two of them went on for a few more minutes, as they both learned a little more about one another. Marc was quite the talker, while Nathaniel, being a little shier, decided to let him do most of the talking, as he listened. You could say that that was the conversation they should have had the first time they met, but that had not happened, because Marc was in a hurry.  

“Well, I guess, I should be going.” -Marc said. –“It was nice seeing you again. I’ll be seeing you at school, Nathaniel.”

“Y-Yeah. I look forward to it.” –Nathaniel smiled, as he waved at Marc, while he crossed the street.

Mulan had heard the whole thing, as well as seen most of it, from inside Nathaniel’s jacket pocket, and the he could not be happier for his holder. He just wanted to tell him how happy he was for him, but decided to wait a little bit, just in case Marc decided to come back to talk to Nathaniel a little longer, or vice-versa. When he saw that this was not going to happen, he decided to speak.

“Well, well, well… and here I thought you were waiting for the right moment to talk to him.” -Mulan joked. –“Guess life does have a sense of humour, and has given you that right moment, right when you were least expecting it.” -he said.

“Oh, shut up, Mulan.” -Nathaniel chuckled. –“I know I said this when I first saw him, but I think I’m really in love with him.” -he thought to himself.   

Chapter Text

Once again, Paris was saved from one of Hawk Moth’s Akumas. But that was something that Adrien Agreste did not know about. Having left his cell phone in his locker, along with his kwami Plagg, he did not even suspect that Paris was under attack, as he continued his fencing practice with his friend Kagami. Fencing lessons were always a good way to let off some steam for Kagami, who enjoyed to fight Adrien, while Adrien just enjoyed to spend some time with someone who had been one of his few friends for many years. Because their teacher was called to the administration’s office more than once, they continued to talk about what was bothering Adrien that day, ditching practice. In a way, Adrien actually appreciated that, because he was just not in the mood for fencing that afternoon, not with all those thoughts regarding Marinette, swarming inside his mind.  

“You have described her to me, and you did a good job, Adrien. But, even if I understand that she’s an interesting girl, I still don’t see what makes her so appealing to you.” -Kagami told him. –“So, in order to understand it, I want you to tell me what makes her so appealing to you.” -she declared in a formal tone.

“What do you mean?” -Adrien asked her, a little puzzled with what she said.

“My grandmother has always told me that sometimes, the way a person sees another, is not how that person truly is.” -Kagami told him. Unlike her grandfather, who had taught her numerous things, regarding her behaviour and the philosophy of life that she upheld, her grandmother, on the other hand, had taught her things regarding matters of the heart, though she believed that she herself would never use them, except to, perhaps, help others.  –“I believe in that. But I also believe that the first impression a person makes, is everything and it also shows what kind of person, she lets other people think she is.” -she said.  

Adrien became a little confused with Kagami’s words, but he tried his best to see where she was going with that. As such, he said nothing, and merely nodded and listened to her, before giving her an answer that he thought would be the one she was expecting from him.  

“What I’m trying to say is that I want to know what was your first impression of her, when you met her.” -Kagami declared. –“And of course, how you met her. You failed to tell me how you first met her.” -she told him.

“So… you want me to tell you how we first met and what was the impression she gave me, is that it?” -Adrien asked her, to see if he had understood what she wanted from him.

“In one word, yes.” -Kagami said with a neutral voice.

“Then, do you want the full story, or…”  -Adrien asked her.

“No, that will not be necessary. I want you to tell me what are the seven words that first came to your mind, when you met her.” -Kagami said.

“You want me to tell you the first seven words that came to my mind, when I first saw Marinette? That might be a little hard, since I can’t remember everything that went through my mind back then.” -Adrien admitted.

“I know you can do it. You have an exceptional memory.” -Kagami complimented him with her usual formal tone. –“Go on, what are the first seven words that came to your mind?” -she insisted on the matter.

“Alright… seven words you say?” -Adrien said.

“Yes, and don’t hesitate. Don’t think too hard on them. Just let your memory guide you.” -Kagami said.

Adrien did not really understand where that was going in, but he decided to amuse Kagami. If she was a different person, Adrien would hypothesize that she was just having a little bit of fun with him. But he knew that Kagami was not that kind of person. So, he did as she asked him. Trying not to think too hard, he allowed his thoughts to take him back to the day when he met Marinette for the first time, so he could tell Kagami what she wanted to hear.   

“Cookies, fabrics, red, smile, sunshine, kindness… and blue.” -Adrien said. Those were the words that came to his mind, even though two of them had nothing to do with the first time he saw her.

“You hesitated on the last one, Adrien.” -Kagami told him, having noticed his hesitation.  

“A little, I admit.” -Adrien said.

“Still, now that you have said those words, we will analyse what they really mean.” –Kagami said with a serious voice.

The whole thing felt like something a psychologist or a psychiatrist would do. Adrien did not know what to think of all that, but he believed that what Kagami was doing was for a reason. He had come to trust her over the years, though at first, he did so out of courtesy, because that had been the way he had been raised. It was only when they became closer, that Adrien truly developed a kind of friendly trust that he only had with Chloe, and later on, with Nino, as well as the rest of his friends. Nowadays, he admitted that though they were not the closest of friends, he had absolute trust on her.    

“The first two words, cookies and fabric. Why did you say them? Or better yet, why did they come to your mind?” -Kagami asked him.

“Because Marinette smelled like cookies. Her parents have a bakery and that place always smells like cookies, fresh-baked bread, muffins, cupcakes… you know, nice and delicious scents. She smelled nice. In fact, she always smells like cookies and other delicious treats.” -Adrien said, realizing that he had never said that out loud before. –“And regarding fabrics, she wants to be a fashion designer, just like my dad. The first time I met her, she was carrying with her a sample book of fabrics, which landed on my feet, by accident. We bumped into one another.” -he declared.  

“I see. And what about the colour red? What was so special about it, that made you say it?” -Kagami asked him. More and more that looked like a police interrogation.  

“About the colour red?” -Adrien asked. –“Why did I say red? I don’t exactly remember what Marinette was wearing that day. I just said red, because Marinette’s Ladybug outfit is red and that just popped into my mind… but I can’t tell Kagami that. What am I supposed to say? Come on, Adrien, think, think…” -he thought to himself. –“I-I guess I said it because the first time I met her, she was wearing this red dress that she had designed and sewn herself, with a little help from her mother… of course, back then, I didn’t know about that part. I knew that the dress had been tailor-made, because I noticed the stitching… when your dad’s a fashion designer himself, you pick up a couple of things; but I didn’t know she had been the one who designed and sewn it. I only found out about it later.”  

Adrien lied about that part of the memory, but was hoping Kagami did not notice he was making it up. Though there was a bit of truth in that lie. During the first couple of weeks at Françoise Dupont, he noticed many things about his classmates, including that some of Marinette’s clothes were tailor-made, though not by a professional tailor, which made him think that either her mother had done them for her, or that she herself had done them. In the end, he found out that she had done them with a little help from her mother, and that she wanted to be a fashion designer. 

“I understand. You have always had a keen eye for spotting those sorts of things.” -Kagami said in a neutral tone.

“Well, when you spent so much of your free time alone, reading mystery and detective novels, you tend to also catch a couple of tricks to help you identify that surrounds you.” -Adrien said. When he was younger, after his mother died, he grew the habit of locking himself in the mansion’s library and read all the books he found appealing to him, a habit which he lost a little, since he began to have more friends.

They continued to analyse the words Adrien had said, with Kagami wanting to know why he had chosen them. He told her that the reason why he said smile, was because the first thing he had seen in Marinette was her gorgeous and beautiful smile. And when it came to sunshine, it was because that same smile irradiated the same warmth that he always felt, whenever he saw a beautiful sunset. Finally, the last two, kindness and blue were pretty obvious choices for Adrien. Kindness, because he saw just how kind she was, not just to him, but everyone she met. And blue, because that was the colour of her eyes and her hair, which excluding her smile, were the most appealing of her features. After hearing him say all that, Kagami had no doubt that not only Adrien was in love with Marinette, but that that love had a strong foundation in his first memories of her. He had fallen in love with her at first sight, but that love had grown into something more than just an attraction, and that was a good thing in her eyes. He loved Marinette with both his heart and his mind.    

“Forgive me for having made you answer all these questions. But I truly wanted to know if you were speaking from both your heart and your mind. One must never speak from just the heart, because a heart can be misled; though the same could be said about one’s mind. That’s why both must work together, Adrien. When it comes to all the things my grandfather and grandmother have taught me separately, that is one of the few things where they have always agreed on.” -Kagami said. –“They have both always told me that, when it comes to love, if someone speaks only from the heart, or only from the mind, then that is not love, but infatuation, which itself, can be very dangerous. And I can clearly say that what you are feeling for this girl is not infatuation, but true love, because the way you spoke about her, through your memories of her, you were speaking from both of your heart and your mind.” -she said.    

“I understand.” -Adrien said. Once again, Kagami had spoken with wisdom, well beyond her years, proving that though they were both the same age, their upbringing had been completely different.

“I am truly happy for you, my friend.” -Kagami smiled at him. It was the second time she smiled that afternoon, and yet, Adrien could not help but to notice just how rare that was. –“But as I saw it earlier, you seem to be hesitating to tell her what you truly feel about her. Perhaps, I could help you with it?” -she said, the last part with a rather shy voice.

Once more, Kagami had seen right through him and that amazed him. And furthermore, it amazed him that she would volunteer to help him with such a task, given that she did not know Marinette, and that she herself was not a person he would ask for love advice, given her views on love. Still, beggars can not be choosers, and Adrien knew he was going to need all the help he could get for that task.    

“Well, I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” -Adrien smiled at her. –“If you want to help, I’ll gladly take up on that offer.” -he told her. –“So… what do you think I should do? I mean, you already told me that I shouldn’t hesitate on telling her about how I feel, but what else should I do?”

“Well, if she’s that important to you, you should buy her something. Something that will symbolize your love for her. I could help you pick something nice for her. I am not one who likes to receive presents, but I do know that most people, especially girls, love presents.” -Kagami said.

Valentine’s Day was only a couple of days away. If Adrien wanted to tell Marinette how he felt about her on that specific date, he would have to decide how he was going to tell her and make a couple of preparations for it. And to do that, he was going to need some help. He was going to ask Nino to help him out, but he figured that perhaps help from someone of the opposite gender on that matter, would be best. If Kagami was willing to lend him a hand, who was he to     

“You’re hired.” -Adrien chuckled. –“I’m determined to find something really beautiful to offer her, when I tell her my feelings for her. And with you helping me, it will be a lot easier.” -he said, while thinking that that way he would not make the mistake of buying the wrong present for Marinette.  

He wanted to continue the conversation with Kagami and schedule when they would meet to go shopping for a present for Marinette. Unfortunately, Monsieur Gaudin returned and did not leave the room for the rest of the lesson. When the lesson ended, they both agreed they would talk over the phone later to decide when they would meet up to go look for a present, before hitting the showers. Though the fencing lesson was anything but special, he had managed to find in Kagami, an ally that would help him in his attempt to win over Marinette’s heart.  

“Took you long enough.” -Plagg said, as he heard Adrien’s footsteps. Usually, the black cat kwami would not say a word, but because he did not hear another person in the locker room, he decided to throw that comment to his holder, just to see what Adrien would talk back.  

“Not really. I mean, I might have taken two or three more minutes than usual, but that’s because I was talking to Kagami.” -Adrien said, as he opened the locker door. –“We spent most of the lesson talking about Marinette, you know?”

“And “Miss Uptight” was okay with you and her talking about your future girlfriend?” -Plagg raised an eyebrow. –“Never took her for the kind of person who you would talk about Marinette, Adrien.” -he said.

“Well, neither did I. But surprisingly, she is a really good listener. And before you ask, no, I didn’t start to talk about Marinette. Kagami just saw that I wasn’t with my head in the lesson today, and she asked me what was going on.” -Adrien admitted. –“Plus, she decided to help me pick something nice to give Marinette, when I ask her to be my girlfriend.” -he said.

“Whoa… are you sure she’s the same girl you usually have fencing lessons with?! Because, it doesn’t look like her.” -Plagg stated, surprised with what he had just learned.

“I was surprised as well. But, hey, if she wants to help, who am I to stop her? I need all the help I can ger.” -Adrien said, as he took off his training vest, and got ready to hit the showers.   

“I thought you were going to ask Nino, or even Alya to help you with the whole “Operation: Cupid”. What happened? Did you change your mind?” -Plagg asked him.

“I’m still going to ask Nino for a little help. As for Alya, I’m not going to ask her, because she’s Marinette’s best-friend, and I don’t want her to tell Marinette what I’m going to do. It’s not that I don’t trust her to keep a secret, but… well, you know what I mean!” -Adrien told his kwami.

“I know, I know. And believe me, Adrien, everything’s going to turn out just fine, you’ll see.” -Plagg told him, already knowing, just like it happened with pretty much everyone in that class, which also included every kwami, that Marinette was head over heels for Adrien. Adrien himself seemed to be the only one who did not know that, with the same being for Marinette, who did not know Adrien was head over heels for her. –“Oh, by the way! Just so you know, there was an Akuma attack, while you were practicing.” -he told him.

“An Akuma?!” -Adrien exclaimed. –“What happened? Did they manage to stop him?!” -he asked, almost demanding Plagg to tell him what had happened.

“Don’t worry, the others have taken care of it. I’ve been watching the whole thing on your cell phone.” -Plagg said, pointing to an image in the cell phone, which showed the members of the Miraculous Team that showed up, exiting the Bibliothèque Mazarine, after defeating the Akuma. –“Marinette, Alya, Nino, Mylene, Alix and Nathaniel had their hands full with this Akuma, called Origami. But they managed to kick his butt.” -he said.

“Wish I could have been there.” -Adrien sighed.

“Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have other opportunities to kick some Akuma butt.” -Plagg said. –“Besides, if you had gone and help them, I wouldn’t have been able to finally beat Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” -he joked. –“Now, hurry up and go take a shower, so your bodyguard/driver can take us home. I’ve got a huge chunk of Camembert cheese with my name on it, back at home.”

“You and your Camembert cheese… why can’t you just be like a regular cat, who enjoys eating some fish?” -Adrien asked Plagg, with a sarcastic tone, as he grabbed his towel.

“Well, regular cats prefer fish to cheese, which isn’t my case. And besides, if I was a regular cat, you wouldn’t be able to go into the night doing all those crazy stunts that you do on the rooftops of this city, because I wouldn’t have any powers to lend you.” -Plagg shot at Adrien, with a smirk on his face. –“Face it, I’m better than any cat out there!” -he laughed. 

“Sometimes I wonder if that’s true.” -Adrien chuckled.

After dinner, Marinette told her parents she was going to sleep earlier, saying that she was feeling a little tired. Tom and Sabine felt it was a little strange, given that Marinette had not done anything particularly exhausting that day. Still, they themselves were exhausted, and knowing that until Valentine’s Day, the movement inside the bakery was not going to diminish, and as such, they decided to go to bed earlier too, so they could get a few good hours of sleep.

As for Marinette, she said she was going to sleep earlier, but what she did instead, was spend the rest of her evening, looking over the idea she had had to tell Adrien she loved him. The idea was simple, but it sounded solid. But the more she thought about it, the more she wondered if it would work. Plus, other ideas started to pop up inside her mind; most of them hers, along with a few others that had been given to her by either Alya, Rose, Juleka, and Mylene. Ever since she told them about her crush on Adrien, that the girls threw in a couple of suggestions to help her find the best way to tell him she loved him. She had written all of the ideas and suggestions they had given her in a notebook, and that was the same notebook she had in front of her, right then. Looking at them, she began to feel like neither her idea, nor the ideas of her friends were what she needed to accomplish her goal. All of that, only managed to create even more doubts inside Marinette’s mind.

Usually, Tikki would be right by her side to encourage her. But because she ate too many cookies that night, and became a little sick, she told Marinette that she was going out for a little bit, leaving her alone. The blue-haired girl, as always, told her to be careful. She knew Tikki could take care of herself, but she always feared that something would happen to her, like being attacked by a stray cat, or a pigeon, or just losing her way and not be able to come home, which was silly, and she knew, but still, she cared for Tikki like she cared for her parents and the rest of her family. For her, Tikki was more than just her kwami. She was like her older sister she never had.    

When she came back, about an hour later, the scarlet kwami passed through the wall, to see Marinette with her eyes glued to the screen of her laptop. Wondering what she was doing, Tikki silently 

“What are you doing?” -Tikki asked her.

“I was thinking about how am I going to tell Adrien that I love him.” -Marinette sighed.

“But I thought you had already figured that out, and that you just did not know what kind of present you were going to give him.” -Tikki told her.

“I thought I had everything figured out, Tikki, but I’m not so sure anymore.” -Marinette sighed. –“The more I think about it, the more I think if it the whole thing is what I want to do, Tikki. Over the years, Alya and the rest of the girls suggested to me tons of ideas for it. I went to check the old notebook where I wrote those ideas, just to see if there was anything in it that might help my plan become even better… but it turns out, it only managed to sprinkle my mind with doubts.” -she sighed. –“That’s why I decided to go and read some fanfiction, to see if while doing it, something would pop up inside my head, that would help me put the whole matter to rest.”  

“Fanfiction? Of what?” -Tikki asked her, curious. She knew Marinette sometimes did this to clear her thoughts. But depending on the problem she had, and on her mood, she would read different kinds of fanfiction.  

“Well, you know I’m a really huge fan of Harry Potter fanfiction, so I started with it, but then, I decided to also check Sailor Moon fanfiction… and before you know it, I was reading Miraculous fanfiction.” -Marinette sighed. Miraculous or Miraculous Ladybug, was the name the fans of the Miraculous Team had baptized the fandom dedicated to it and its adventures.    

“Miraculous fanfiction? I thought you didn’t read that.” -Tikki said. Ever since Marinette had taken on the mantle of Ladybug, and made herself known to the whole world, along with the rest of the Miraculous Team, that a fanbase was established; a fanbase which dedicated itself to create all sorts of art, based on the Miraculous heroes. The number of fanart was such that hundreds of websites were created to share it, since the Miraculous Blog could not handle all of it. From fan comics to illustrations, there was something for everyone. On top of that, fanfics with all the different heroes existed, that ranged from simple stories where they would battle an Akuma, to alternative universes, where the heroes would have adventures in different time periods, different realities, or have different powers. And like all fanfics, these were divided by genre, which allowed everyone to find something that appealed to them. And because no one knew the heroes’ true identities, they were forced to come up with fictional civilian identities for them. All in all, it represented how a fandom works, and how some of the things created by countless artists inspired other people to do the same.   

“I don’t… or I didn’t, until now. I don’t know why I ended up reading it, but I did. Turns out, there are a lot of great fanfics with Ladybug as the main character, you know?” -Marinette pointed out. Some of her friends, sometimes spent a little time reading fanfics regarding their team, just for fun, but Marinette did not, because she preferred to read about fictional worlds, instead of something based on the real world. Which was not to say that she did not like to see art, like fan comics from the Miraculous Team, but that was different. –“And did you know that the most common name people use for Ladybug’s civilian identity is Bridgette?” -she chuckled. –“I don’t know why they choose that name, but at least that way no one will ever suspect that I am Ladybug. I mean, none of the fanfics I’ve read so far used Marinette… and guess what, most people use Felix for Chat’s civilian identity.”

“How many have you read, since I was gone?” -Tikki asked her. It was the first time she saw Marinette talking like that.

“About 14… I mean, most were just a couple of pages long. But this one I’m reading right now; it’s really long and it’s really good. It tells the story of an alternative universe, where Ladybug and Chat Noir are super-soldiers created during World War II, just like Captain America, to battle the Nazis, while the rest of the Miraculous Team are either spies for the Allies, or for the Nazis, or even supervillains working for the Nazis, which are being led by Hawk Moth, instead of Adolf Hitler.” -Marinette told her. –“And you know what the best part of it is? It’s that this Ladybug is in love with Chat Noir, and before they go on a mission, which might be their last, she asks him to marry him, and he says yes… Can you imagine it? Even in fanfics, Ladybug is courageous enough to ask Chat Noir to marry her… and I can’t even find a way, courageous or not, to ask Adrien to be my boyfriend…” -she sighed, frustrated, and feeling bad about herself.    

“You’re really nervous about tell him the truth, aren’t you?” -Tikki asked her, knowing that Marinette was not well, right then. And she did not even need to hear that speech she gave her about how things between Ladybug and Chat Noir worked out in the fanfic, while in reality, she did not know how make them work. She just needed to see the frustration and sadness in her eyes. –“Marinette, everything will turn out okay in the end. I know they will.” -she said, as she flew towards the blue-haired girl and hugged her left cheek.

“Tikki, I want this to be perfect, but I have no idea how to do it!” –Marinette told her, as she caressed the little kwami’s head with her right index finger. –“How will I do this? What should I say? I think my head is about to explode Tikki…” -she said, while trying not to start crying.

Poor Marinette… if only she knew.” -Tikki thought to herself. –“Maybe I should tell her that I know from Plagg  that Adrien loves her, the same way she loves him… no, I can’t tell her that! If I do that, she’ll know that I’ve always knew about it, and I didn’t tell her anything… I don’t want her to think that I didn’t tell her the truth, because of whatever crazy reason she might come up with in her head. Instead, I’ll keep quiet about it, and help her tell Adrien how she feels about him. I will tell her about knowing that Adrien loves her the same way she loves him, but only later, when they’re dating.” -she thought, believing that was the best course of action. –“Don’t say that, Marinette. You’ll be able to do it. And when I say that, it’s not just because I have faith in you. It’s because you always find a way to solve any problem that comes your way. And I believe that you will find a way to solve this one.”

Once more, Tikki’s words warmth Marinette’s heart and gave her the hope she so desperately needed right then. It was one of the things that Marinette loved the most in Tikki. She was nice, kind, but above all, she always had something encouraging to say to her, when she needed the most. Ever since she met her, Marinette’s self-confidence had grown, but she herself believed she was still a long way from being the self-confident person her friends already believed she was, whenever she donned the Ladybug outfit.  

“You never give up on me, do you, Tikki?” -Marinette asked the little kwami, as she shed a tear.

“Never.” -Tikki smiled at her, while wiping the tear from Marinette’s face, making her smile. –“Now, why don’t you forget about all that and go to bed?”

“I can’t sleep, Tikki… this problem won’t let me sleep.” -Marinette sighed, believing that with everything that was going on inside her head, she would not be able to sleep right that night.

“Just try, Marinette. A few hours of sleep will help you rest, and will also help you to find the answer to this problem you have.” -Tikki suggested her. -They say that a good night of sleep is what you need, when you have a problem, which seems to not have any answer.” -she said.

Marinette wanted to tell Tikki that no amount of sleep would help her, but as always, when the little kwami smiled at her, there was no turning back. Tikki just had the innate ability to make others do as she told them, just by using her tender smile. Smiling back, she agreed to go to bed and try to get some sleep.

“Alright, I’ll go to sleep.” -Marinette told her, as she closed the windows on the laptop. –“But I doubt my mind will let me sleep.” -she sighed.

“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to you until you fall asleep. I can even read you a bedtime story, if you want to.” -Tikki said.

“I might take you on that offer.” -Marinette smiled, as she turned off the laptop.

Being true to her word, Marinette changed into her pyjamas, brushed her teeth and got ready to bed. Climbing onto her bed, she made herself as comfortable as she could, as Tikki watched her. On most days, she was happy to climb onto her bed, which she viewed as a close friend, that was always there for her. But on that night, she felt that not even the softness and cosiness of her bed would be enough to provide her

“There. I’m in bed.” -Marinette smiled at her. –“So, can I get my bedtime story now?” -she chuckled, while rising an eyebrow at Tikki.

“What kind of bedtime story do you want to hear? Brothers Grimm? Hans Christian Andersen? Please, ask me for a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. They’re my favourites, especially Thumbelina and The Wild Swans!” -Tikki giggled. She had begun to read those fairy tales and memorize them, so she could tell them to Manon, when her mom left her to sleep at Marinette’s place.

“Well, I’m not really in a mood for a fairy tale tonight. Instead, can you tell me a story of one of your previous holders? I always like to know what other Ladybugs did in the past.” -Marinette said, as she pulled the covers.  

“Oh, alright… but who will it be?” -Tikki said, as she wondered which of story of her former holders she would pick. Because she had so many holders over the course of the millenniums, it was hard for her to just pick one. After a little thought, she decided who she was going to talk about that night. –“I know… La Coccinelle, the second French person to wield my miraculous. She was my wielder for nearly 10 years. She was a really funny girl, and I’ve got tons of stories about her.” -she said. –“Did you know that she was the very first girl, and as far as I know, the only one as well, who was accepted into the Musketeers?”

“The Musketeers?! You’re pulling my leg, Tikki. The Musketeers were all men. I doubt they allowed her to join them.” -Marinette said.

“And they didn’t, at first. But that didn’t stop her from trying. When they didn’t allow her to join them, she did what any girl her age would have done. She disguised herself as a young man, and got accepted.” -Tikki declared. –“But being the daughter of who she was, I was not impressed by that stunt of hers.” -she giggled.

“Whose daughter, was she?” -Marinette asked the scarlet kwami.

“She was the daughter of Charles de Batz de Castelmore. But you know him better by the name of D’Artagnan.” -Tikki told her.

“D’Artagnan?! You mean, the Count of d’Artagnan whose life served as base for the character of D’Artagnan in the Three Musketeers?” -Marinette asked her. She had read the novels written by Alexandre Dumas, and because her dad was a huge fan of them, she had seen pretty much every movie adaptation to feature the legendary team of musketeers, she knew a little bit more about the subject, than most people. –“I didn’t even know he had a daughter.” -she said, surprised to hear that.

“Most people only knew her older brothers. Her name was Louise de Batz de Castelmore. She used her younger brother’s name to get accepted into the Musketeers, when she disguised herself to do it, you know? But yes, she was the daughter of D’Artagnan and let me tell you, the way she managed to get herself into trouble, was nothing short of legendary.” -Tikki giggled. –“There was this one time, when she had just beaten a bunch of brutes, who were causing trouble to a group of merchants, only to get into another jam, where she was forced to go after a burglar, who had stollen her horse. She ran after him for nearly an hour, just to get the horse back. Luckily, she had me by her side, and used my powers to get him. That was one crazy pursuit, even by my standards.” -she giggled again.

“Did she have the same powers I have?” -Marinette asked her, curious.

“Most of them. But she had a couple of abilities that you don’t have; just like you have some abilities that she did not have. For example, you are much more acrobatic than she ever was. She, on the other hand, was pretty good handling all kinds of swords. On top of the yo-yo, she also had a rapier as a secondary weapon.” -Tikki answered her. –“The way she combined them in battle was phenomenal.”

Tikki continued to talk about La Coccinelle and Marinette kept listening to her, wanting to know more about that superheroine, who like her, had used Tikki’s miraculous, a long time ago, in the 17th century. It was nice to know that she was not the only Ladybug who had problems of her own, and that in the end, everything turned out alright. The more Tikki talked about her, the more Marinette wished she could go back in time and meet her, just to see her in action, or to ask her a couple of questions, which she believed only a fellow Ladybug would know how to answer. And without realizing it, the blue-haired girl started to get sleepy. With her mind not thinking about the problems she was having, she allowed herself to rest and relax; exactly what Tikki wanted her to do; to rest and sleep. When the little scarlet kwami finished telling the story she was telling her, Marinette was already snoring, peacefully. Smiling, Tikki was happy to see that she had managed to get her to sleep.

Goodnight, Marinette. I hope you have sweet dreams this night, and that these dreams help you realize, that no matter what, you and Adrien are destined to be together.” -Tikki thought to herself, as she kissed Marinette’s forehead, before turning off the light, and nuzzling herself, against Marinette’s neck, falling asleep shortly after, as well.   

Chapter Text

Valentine's Day was only three days away, and wherever you looked, you had all kinds of things that reminded a person of that date and how close it was. Throughout the city, decorations were put up in every shop window, while on the streets you would have vendors taking advantage of the holiday and selling heart-shaped balloons, roses, small trinkets, among other things. Not to mention that at night, some of the city's landmarks were illuminated with a bright pink light, to symbolize the date. In sum, Paris had proudly hoisted the love flag, crowning itself once more, as the most romantic city in the world. Or as Mayor Bourgeois had said in one of the press conferences he had called upon, earlier that week, the capital of Love in all of Europe.

And the same thing could be said about Collège Françoise Dupont. Just like it happened every year, the school was decorated to celebrate the happy event, with paper hearts plastered over the walls, banners with all the colours in the rainbow, among other things. And like always, this kind of décor invited the young people to show themselves and not hide in one of the many dark corners of the school, if they wanted to share some affection with the person, they loved the most. Though the school had a rather strict policy when it came to the display of affection between a couple, that did not stop the young couples from expressing their love; though most of the times that display of affection was nothing more than a couple of kisses. Most of the time, the faculty staff just closed their eyes to these situations, knowing what was like to be young and in love. And during the week that preceded Valentine's Day, they even encouraged this kind of behaviour, as long as no one took things to a more serious level.

Among the numerous couples on the courtyard, waiting for that were shown displaying some affection were Mylene and Ivan. They had yet to tell everyone they were dating, but because they were seen so many times together, exchanging looks and kisses, and even holding hands,

"I know it's still a couple of days until Valentine's Day, but I wanted to give you something nice I found yesterday in a store, when I was on my way back home from the battle with Origami." -Mylene said, with a rather shy voice, as her face blushed a little. Opening her backpack, she pulled out a cute teddy bear, that had Ivan's name embroidered in its belly. –"I couldn't resist it." -she said, as Ivan grabbed the teddy bear and planted a kiss on Mylene's forehead.

"It's really cute. But you didn't need to, Mylene." -Ivan said, as he held the teddy bear in his hands.

"Of course, I did. You are always offering me gifts and cakes. Offering you this, it's the least I can do." -Mylene smiled at him. –"Besides, you know I'm a sucker for teddy bears… after all, I'm dating the biggest one in all of Paris." -she said in a whisper, which only Ivan was able to hear.

Chuckling, Ivan hugged Mylene as hard as he could. When people looked at Ivan, the first thing they tended to think that he was a big brute, who if given the opportunity would break a person in half. But Mylene knew that that was just a lot of hogwash. The truth was that Ivan would not hurt a fly. And furthermore, he would give his life for those he loved the most, just to protect them.

"You know I'm lucky to have you in my life, don't you?" -Ivan told her.

"I do." -Mylene smiled at him. –"And you, do you know I'm also lucky to have you in my life?" -she asked him.

"I most certainly do." -Ivan smiled back at her, while continuing to hug her.

The other couple was Alya and Nino. Having been dating for more than six months, their relationship was different from the one Ivan and Mylene had, but that did not mean it as not as strong as theirs was. In fact, their relationship was as strong as ever, with the two of them supporting each other. When they started dating, both Alya and Nino were not absolutely sure if their relationship would work, mostly because it was the first time each of them was dating. They had spent nearly half a year flirting with one another, so they knew there was some attraction between them. But one thing is attraction, and the other is love, and though young, they both knew that was true. Still, they each decided to give the first step and began dating, to see if things worked out. It did not take long for them to understand that they were the right person for one another.

But being the right person for one another, did not mean they were perfect for one another. Like every other couple they had their fights, their disagreements and their squabbles. But they had managed to work things out between them, and their love grew even stronger than before. And that was just part of the reason why, when they each arrived at school, the first thing they did was to find the other, so they could spend a little time together before classes started.

"Good morning, foxy fox." -Nino smiled at Alya, having been the one who had arrived first that morning.

"Good morning, turtle boy." -Alya said, as she hugged Nino, before planting a kiss on his lips. –"Mmm… do I detect a new cologne?" -she chuckled, having smelled a different cologne her boyfriend was wearing that morning which had a slightly musky scent to it.

"Guilty as charged. I had to use my dad's, because mine ended yesterday." -Nino confessed.

"Guess I already have an excuse to buy you a new bottle of it for Valentine's." -Alya told him, making him smile.

"At least you have an idea on what to give me. Me, on the other hand, have no idea of what I'm going to give you." -Nino told her.

"Liar!" -Alya chuckled. –"I know that you have already bought my present." -she said. –"I don't know what it is, but I know that you have already bought it last week. And before you ask, how I found out about it, let's just say that Adrien knows how to keep a secret, but Plagg's a whole different story."

"That Plagg…" -Nino chuckled. –"I knew I should have never told Adrien about it, when Plagg was around. It's a good thing I didn't say what it was." -he admitted.

"Speaking of Adrien, is he finally going to tell Marinette how he truly feels for her?" -Alya asked Nino. He had told her a week before that Adrien had told him that he was determined to reveal his feelings for her on Valentine's Day, the same way Marinette was determined to reveal hers for him.

"Last time I checked, that's the plan." -Nino told her. –"He didn't get tell me any details, but it's going to happen on Valentine's Day, that I'm sure of." -he said. –"What about Marinette? Is she going to tell Adrien about it too on Valentine's Day?"

"Last time I checked, yes." -Alya smiled at him. There were no secrets between them, and that included things their best-friends had asked them to keep a secret. Usually, they would not reveal these to one another, but because their best-friends were in love with one another, they felt like they had the responsibility of setting them on the right track. –"She's a little nervous about it all, but I talked to her yesterday, after we defeated Origami, and she seemed more than determined to make it happen." -she admitted. –"You know what? It's going to be really funny, when they each find out about it. I can already picture it; Marinette will try to tell Adrien that she's in love with him, and Adrien will try to tell Marinette that he's in love with her, all at the same time! And in the end, they're going to end up laughing about it, before they share a kiss and telling each other they should have said something earlier… and, well, you can picture the rest yourself, without me having to say it."

Hearing her say that, Nino wondered if Alya herself had not thought about the whole thing more than Marinette had. Chuckling, he placed himself behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, just before kissing her on the back of her neck, making her giggle.

"It's going to be a really beautiful moment, Alya. That, I'm sure of." -Nino whispered to her ear. –"And… are we going to be there to see it?" -he asked her, with a mischievous voice.

"You know we will. After all, we've been trying to get those two together, ever since they first laid eyes on each other, so, it's only fair." -Alya smiled.

But from so many couples that existed in that school, there was one that was still a secret from everyone; and that was Rose and Juleka. The two had been dating for a few months now, just like it happened with Alya and Nino. But unlike them, their relationship was a secret from everyone. Everyone, except their kwamis and Juleka's brother Luka, who had caught the two kissing in Juleka's bed. Because of its secrecy, their relationship was different from their friends' relationships, and that just added a little spice to it. Not wanting to be seen by anyone while kissing, the girls made their way to the girls' bathroom, where they knew they would have some privacy. Entering it, they quickly checked to see if there was no one around, before locking themselves inside one of the cubicles. Alone, the girls jumped into each other's arms and kissed passionately. Though, on that morning it was Rose who seemed more eager than usual to kiss Juleka, than the other way around. As they kissed, the girls could smell each other's distinctive fragrances. Rose smelled like strawberries, mixed with cotton candy and orchids, while Juleka smelled like nail polish, mixed with leather and daffodils.

"Usually, I'm the one who craves your kisses." -Juleka giggled, between kisses.

"Sorry. I had a really great dream about you last night, and when I woke up, I just felt like kissing you." -Rose giggled, before kissing Juleka once again.

"A great dream, you say? Don't you mean, a kinky dream?" -Juleka joked, knowing well that when she talked like that, Rose would start to blush like a tomato.

"Juleka! Don't say that! You're making me blush!" –Rose told her, while trying not to blush.

"But you're so cute, when you get all blushed. It makes your eyes look even more beautiful than they already are." -Juleka whispered to Rose's ear, before kissing her once more.

"Girls, please! Tamara and I are here! If you want to continue to kiss like that, at least, let us out of the backpacks, so we don't have to hear you do that!" -Flint exclaimed from inside Rose's backpack.

"Don't mind him or me, girls. Just ignore him." -Tamara said, from inside Juleka's backpack. Unlike Flint, she did not have a problem with hearing Juleka and Rose kissing.

Hearing Flint and Juleka say that, Rose and Juleka stared into each other's eyes, before giggling a little louder than usual. They were giggling not because of the situation itself, but because of how each of their kwamis reacted to that whole scene.

"Let's just do like Tamara says and ignore Flint." -Rose told Juleka, as she caressed the goth's sweet face. –"I'll never get tired of your eyes. They're so beautiful." -she sighed.

"Well, I won't get tired of yours either. They look like two beautiful blue ponds." -Juleka said, as she gently kissed Rose, this time take her time to savour the blonde's lip gloss. –"You know, I've been thinking about the reveal and…"

"You don't want to do it?" -Rose asked her, fearing that she had changed her mind, regarding the matter.

"On the contrary, I want to do it. It's time for us to reveal our friends the truth. They are our friends, after all." -Juleka smiled at her, as she hugged Rose, as tight as she could.

Smelling the unmistakable fragrance emanating from her girlfriend's skin, Rose did not want to let go of her. In fact, she wanted that moment to last forever, where she would be hugging Juleka, feeling the warmth of her body against hers. But she knew that was not possible; first because they were both in the girls' bathroom, and there were places far more romantic to be, and they could be interrupted by anyone who entered there, and second, they had to get to class.

"You know, we have to get to class, don't you?" -Rose asked her.

"I do. But let me just stay with you, like this, one more minute, okay?" -Juleka whispered to Rose, who did not mind staying there another minute, hugged to the girl she loved.

"Alright, one more minute." -Rose giggled, as she leaned her head on Juleka's chest, hearing her heart beat.

Most of the class was already seated, waiting for Miss Bustier to arrive, when Sabrina herself arrived, followed by Chloe, who had given her a ride that morning. Saying hello to everyone, the two girls sat on their seats, while Chloe commented on just how awful her afternoon had been. She had attended boring charity parties before, but this one had toppled them all. But the main reason she had hated it, was because of what she had to wear to it. Sabrina, on the other hand, had a lovely afternoon, celebrating her grandmother's birthday.

"At least, you had fun at your grandmother's party. I, on the other hand, didn't have fun at that charity party." -Chloe sighed. –"And here I thought that this particular one would be fun. I can't believe I had to stand there, just smiling for the photographers… I mean, I don't mind doing it, but that's when the parties I attend have something fun for me to do, or at the very least, I'm wearing something that makes me look cute. Just look at this dress, Sabrina. I look like I was attending a funeral." -she said, as she showed her one of the photos that had been posted online. In it, she was standing by her father's side, wearing a black evening gown, with her hair in a honeycomb. She looked a lot older in the photo. –"I can't believe daddy allowed his personal assistant to choose this dress for me to wear, and then told me I had to wear it. That woman doesn't have a speck of fashion sense or taste in her entire body, or knows what looks good on me!"

"It's not exactly a dress that suits you. It's something that would look better on someone older." -Sabrina said, as she looked at the photo, and for a moment, it reminded her of Chloe's mother, and the photos of her attending parties.

"You know I don't care much about fashion, but that dress that you had to wear was… I don't even know what to call it." -Pollen said. –"But your hair looked lovely." -she said.

"Thanks, Pollen. It was the only thing I was allowed to choose." -Chloe sighed.

"Yes, your hair looks beautiful on the photo, Chloe." -Sabrina said, praising it.

"I don't believe I'm going to say this, but instead of attending that party, I would have rather have been used as a punching bag, again, by an Akuma." -Chloe sighed, as she closed the website on her cell phone. She had looked at the photo, where she believed she looked ghastly, to say the least.

"Well, your help would have been welcomed." -Alix told the blonde, as she got up from her seat and went to talk to her and Sabrina. –"With your wind powers, we would have sent that Origami guy to the Moon in a matter of seconds; him and every last one of his creations." -she said. –"It was one heck of a battle."

"Believe me, even after the beating I took from Bebop the other day, and saying that I wouldn't face the following Akuma, I would have preferred to go into battle, instead of attending that charity party." -Chloe sighed.

"Don't be say that, Chloe. I'm sure your dad was happy you accompanied him to the party." -Sabrina told her, trying to cheer her up.

In a way, Sabrina was right, and Chloe knew it. She knew that whenever her mother was not in town, and her father needed someone to accompany him to an important event, he was always happy to see her by his side. Still, it was times like this that she wanted her mother to not spend so much time in New York, and come back to Paris to fulfil this kind of duties, that Chloe so often fulfilled instead of her.

"Well… daddy was certainly happy." -Chloe smiled. –"But, you still haven't told me anything about what happened at your grandmother's party yesterday." -she said. She had been rambling about what had happened to her, from the moment she picked her up, and forgot to ask her how things went at her grandmother's house. –"Come on, spill the beans, Sabrina. I want to know everything."

"Now you've got me wanting to know about it, as well." -Alix said. She was not the nosiest of people, but when something good happened, she also enjoyed to know about it.

"The same goes for me." -Daria said, from inside Alix's jeans pocket, where he was hiding.

"Hey, hey, hey, calm down! She'll tell you, if you agree to shut up for a moment." -Mika told them, as his fluffy head sprouted from inside the pochette Sabrina was carrying with her that morning. –"Go on, kiddo, tell them." -he smiled at her.

And with that, Sabrina quickly told both Chloe and Alix how things turned out at grandmother's birthday party. She told them how she got to see most of her cousins and talk to them, just like it happened on most parties they attended together. She told them about the beautiful cake that her grandmother baked for the occasion, and how delicious it was. And of course, she told them that like it happened every time she visited her grandparents, in the end, she and her cousins would all take with them a bag full of chocolates, candy and all sorts of goodies, courtesy of their grandparents. But even if there no chocolates or candy, Sabrina would not mind. She loved to spend time with her grandparents.

"It's one of the good things when your grandparents own a café and they think you're too skinny, so they give you a ton of chocolates from the display case in the café, so you can become even sweeter than you already are." -Sabrina giggled. No matter her age, in the eyes of her grandparents, she was still a little girl.

"And have you already at them all?" -Chloe asked her. She knew Sabrina had a sweet tooth.

"No, but I plan on to, with Mika helping me, of course." -Sabrina declared.

"I'm not much of a chocolate lover, but hey, if you're willing to share them with me, who am I to refuse it?" -Mika said, making them all laugh.

Alix was about to say something to the blonde, when entering in the room, carrying several briefcases in her hands, came Miss Bustier. Like always, Caline Bustier arrived with a sunny disposition and a smile on her face, ready to teach her class.

"Good morning, class!" -Miss Bustier exclaimed, as she entered the classroom.

"Good morning, Miss Bustier." -the whole class in chorus, as everyone took their seats.

"Today, we're going to have a very special class." -Miss Bustier smiled at her class, as she placed all the briefcases she was carrying on top of her desk. –"We're going to discuss Valentine's Day." -she said. –"We're going to learn a little more about the various cultural traditions linked to this special day. I've prepared a presentation, which I think you're going to like, and we'll discuss it, as we go along."

Whenever Miss Bustier brought a presentation to class, that usually meant that the class was going to be fun, instead of just educational. And that was the kind of class most of her students liked, because they did not need to take so many notes as they usually did, and because time seemed to go faster, then when they had to write on their notebooks every last piece of information Miss Bustier wrote on the blackboard.

"But before we can take care of that particular part of our lesson, we're going to take care of another one. I want you to open your algebra's books on page 78 and 79." -Miss Bustier declared.

Upon hearing that, the whole class sighed, showing that they were not happy with that. And, as always, Alix decided to express her displeasure, just like she always did.

"Oh, Miss Bustier, why can't we just ignore that part of the lesson for today?!" -Alix asked her, annoyed with the fact that their teacher was going to force them to learn about what she considered a useless subject. –"You know none of us likes algebra, don't you? So, why tormenting us with it?" -she asked Miss Bustier, this time already with a slightly playful voice, trying to gain some sympathy from her.

"Speak for yourself." -Max told Alix. –"I happen to like algebra. It's quite challenging." -he declared.

"But you're a nerd, Max! Nerds like anything that has numbers in it." –Alix shot at him in a playful tone.

"Well, us nerds are going to inherit the world, while you, jocks, will end up working for us." -Max joked, making everyone chuckle.

"Now, everyone, calm down. Let's leave the comedy for another time." -Miss Bustier told them, as she herself, tried to stop chuckling. If there was one thing she knew, was that her students always managed to make her laugh, even when she did not feel like it. It was just one more reason why she loved them so much. –"Now, please, open your algebra books on pages 78 and 79, like I asked you. The faster we go over this, the faster we can begin Valentine Day's presentation." -she declared.

Doing as they were told; the whole class opened their algebra books and quickly saw what was in store for them for the next two hours. And like always, time seemed to drag itself, as Miss Bustier taught them. Between sighs and boring definitions, the whole class tried to pay attention to what their teacher was saying, while trying not to fall asleep, out of boredom. Some of them, like Kim and Alix even began to wish for an Akuma to attack the school, so they would have some action to break that monotonous algebra class. Daydreaming, they quickly imagined each, a different Akuma, accompanied by one of Hawk Moth's lieutenants or by Hawk Moth himself,

"And now, let's start with our Valentine's Day presentation." -Miss Bustier said, as she turned on her laptop and connected it to the projector. –"Today, I thought that we could examine some of the numerous traditions, regarding this holiday. In France we have some traditions that aren't the same as the traditions in other countries, and vice-versa. So, we're going to see how many there are and where are they practiced." -she said.

Just like the whole class had predicted, that was going to be one of those presentations where they could just relax and enjoy themselves, until lunch hour.

"But…" -Miss Bustier said, which earned the attention of everyone in the room. They knew that if she had said "but", that meant there was a catch to all of that. –"… before we can check on these different traditions, we have to discuss how did Valentine's Day came to be." -she said. –"Does anyone know what's the origin of Valentine's Day?"

"Wasn't it a holiday that was mainly created to sell candy and postcards, Miss Bustier?" -Kim asked her. He had read somewhere that that was the case, and that the main reason why it was celebrated everywhere. He himself did not really care about it. Every Valentine's Day, he would try his luck with a girl he fancied, failing miserably. Among the girls that attended that school, and that he had tried to ask to date him on Valentine's Day were Aurore Beaureal, Mireille Caquet, and of course, Chloe, with the three of them refusing, just to name a few.

"You're not wrong, Kim, but you're not right either." -Miss Bustier answered him. –"It's true that nowadays there are numerous companies that make money out of this specific holiday, just like it happens with pretty much every holiday there is." -she declared. –"But the origins of Valentine's Day go back to the earliest days of Christianity. Without wanting to bother you with a History lesson, I'll give you the shortened version of things."

Hearing that, almost everyone in class let out a sigh of relief, which Miss Bustier could not help but to giggle. She knew sometimes her feelings for a particular subject, would make her digress while explaining the fact. So, she tried her best to just stick to what she had decided to tell her students, without improvising.

"Saint Valentine's Day celebrates Saint Valentine, one of earliest saints. There are written accounts of Saint Valentine of Rome, who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge, and he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine" as a farewell before his execution. The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496, to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of the Christian martyr, Saint Valentine of Rome." -Miss Bustier explained, as she showed them images of both the saint and the feast itself, as it had been illustrated in the 5th and 6th centuries.

After that short historical explanation, she tackled the main subject, which was the numerous different Valentine Day's traditions around the world. She began with the French tradition of offering chocolates, flowers and cards, that was quite similar to most other traditions in Western countries, without forgetting a tradition that had been banned, called "Loterie d'Amour"

"Une loterie d'amour" or "drawing for love" was a practice that involved single people of all ages, entering houses that faced opposite each other and calling out through the windows, till eventually they paired off with each other. The male suitor if not particularly attracted to his partner would leave her and the women left single would build a large bonfire and ceremoniously burn images of the men that had deserted them whilst simultaneously hurling abuse and curses at the ungrateful men." -Miss Bustier explained.

"That was really… therapeutic?" -Alya asked out loud, not knowing what else to call to that tradition. And she was not the only one. All of the girls, and most of the boys felt like that tradition was not exactly a very good one.

"Well, like I said, it was banned a long time ago, and I can understand your reaction to it. When I was your age, and learned about it, I had the same reaction as you did. Nowadays, such a thing would be considered, for the lack of better word, barbaric. But, if one thinks about it, the whole thing could be compared to online dating in our days, minus the bonfires and the cursing, of course." -Miss Bustier explained, which earned a couple of laughs from some of the students.

But it was when she began talking about traditions from Asian countries, that she got the whole class's attention. Unlike what happened in France and most of the Western countries, in Asia, they had traditions that were far more inventive and interesting, which spiked the curiosity of Miss Bustier's students. She began with a Chinese tradition, the Qixi Festival, also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day or the Night of Sevens.

"Oh, I know that one, Miss Bustier! My mom used to tell me this tale that's the foundation of that festival, when I was little." -Marinette said. She had heard it so many times that she knew it by heart.

"Could you, then, tell us a little about it, Marinette?" -Miss Bustier asked her,

"Of course, Miss Bustier." -Marinette said. –"This is the tale of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl." -she said. –"A very long time ago, the sky was not as high as it is now and divine beings were not so far away from human beings on Earth. What happened to cause this great divide? The following is one telling of the sorrowful tale of two truly star-crossed lovers…"

She told them the whole story.; of how the two lovers fell in love; how their love withstood every obstacle in its course and finally, how their sacrifice and dedication to one another earned them the right to be together, even if it was for a single night, each year. While telling it, Marinette could not help but to think that that was the sort of relationship she wanted to have with Adrien, where both would always be there for one another, no matter the obstacles in their path.

"That was a lovely story, Marinette." –Miss Bustier told her, making Marinette blush a little. She herself had read the story, but the way Marinette had told it, made the version she had read sound so cheap and devoid of meaning, that she was happy her student had told it, instead of her.

Next, Miss Bustier told them about the way Valentine's Day was celebrated in Japan, which they all felt was something really beautiful. She told them how girls offered homemade chocolates to the boys, and these would have to offer them chocolates and gifts, a month later, during White Day. She also said that though it was custom for girls and women to do that, boys and men also did it, while also adding that a person can offer chocolates to foreseeable partners, or people who they admired a lot.

"Girls giving chocolates to boys? That is so different from what we do around here." -Chloe said, slightly shocked she had never heard about this tradition.

"It sure is." -Marinette said. For her, this did not come as a surprise, due to her habit of watching anime, where she had seen this action countless times.

"That is a really beautiful tradition." -Mylene smiled.

And with that, an idea popped up in Alya's mind. An idea, she knew everyone was going to love it, including their teacher. An idea she had to share, right then, with everyone in the classroom.

"Hey! I have an idea! Why don't we do that?" -Alya asked everyone.

"What? Girls offering chocolates to the boys?" -Rose asked her.

"Yes, but not just the girls. The boys could also offer chocolates. And each one of us could offer chocolates to whomever we wanted to. Then, a month from now, the person we offered the chocolates to, would have to offer us some as well." -Alya answered her. –"What do you think, Miss Bustier? Can we do it?"

"I don't see why not." -Miss Bustier smiled at Alya. She still had to plan an activity for Valentine's Day, and Alya had given her one. –"If you all agree with it, we could do that. It will be a fun activity." -she said.

"Does that mean we're not going to swap Valentine's cards between us, like we do every year?" -Ivan asked. Ever since the first year Miss Bustier became their teacher, that the whole class would swap Valentine's cards. But these, would not be signed by the person who made them, and instead of having Valentine's messages, would have friendship messages, so everyone in class would get one.

"Of course, not, Ivan. We will be doing that. But we will also be doing this one as well." -Miss Bustier smiled at him.

"Does that mean we have to make our own chocolates, or can we just buy them?" -Adrien asked. Besides making toasts and sandwiches, he had never cooked before, so the idea of making chocolates was a bit dangerous, especially because he did not know how his father would react to the idea, of having him in the kitchen, cooking. –"I'm sure dad wouldn't be too happy with it, especially because I would probably blow up the kitchen by accident, while doing it." -he thought to himself, while imagining the whole scene in his head.

"No, Adrien. I don't think that's necessary. Those of you who want to try and make your own chocolates, can do that, but you can always buy them, if you don't have the time or the cooking skills to do them." -Miss Bustier answered him.

Unintentionally, Alya had started a new tradition that the whole class would continue from then on. She never thought that her teacher would approve of it, especially since it was an idea that she came up in the heat of the moment. Still, the idea was good, and she was anxious to see what would come of it, especially because she knew a certain blue-haired friend of hers would take the opportunity to offer some chocolates to a certain blond crush of hers. Looking at Marinette, she saw in the girl's eyes that she was already thinking on what kind of chocolates she was going to make for Adrien, and could not help but to smile, while also wondering if Adrien was thinking about giving Marinette a box of chocolates. One thing was certain; she and everyone else would find out on Valentine's Day.

Chapter Text

Thanks to Alya and Miss Bustier, the whole class had won a new Valentine’s Day tradition. And just like their tradition of swapping Valentine’s Day cards with friendship messages between them all, this new one, would also promote friendship and camaraderie amongst everyone. It did not take much for most of the class to decide who they were going to offer chocolates to. But some were having doubts about it, not knowing who would be the lucky person that they would offer chocolates to.   

One of the class members who was having this problem, was Sabrina. While heading home, Sabrina was thinking if she was going to buy chocolates or make them, with the help of her mom. But more importantly, she was thinking on who she was going to offer those very same chocolates. Miss Bustier said that they could offer them to anyone they wanted to, while highlighting the fact that it did not have to be a lover; it could be a friend or someone who was special to them. She knew that she was not going to give them to any lover, because she did not have boyfriend or liked anyone. With everything that had been going on in her life, Sabrina did not have the time or the patience to think of such things, Plus, she felt there was no one she knew, who was good boyfriend material. But when it came to friends and people she cared for, and who were special for her, she had numerous ones, from where to choose. But who could she choose? That was the main question in her head, right then.   

“Kiddo, what’s going on? You haven’t spoken a single word, since we left school.” -Mika asked Sabrina, snapping her back to reality. Usually, when walking home, she would talk to him about anything that came to her mind, but on that day, she was as silent as mouse.

“Uh… sorry, Mika. I was just thinking.” -Sabrina told him.

“About what?” -Mika asked her, curious.

“Nothing really.” -Sabrina quickly answered him.

“Nothing really, huh? Sabrina, how many times do I have to tell you that I know you, better than you know yourself.” -Mika told her. –“There’s something bugging, isn’t it? And don’t try to pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m too old to fall for that trick.” -he told her.

Upon hearing Mika talking like that, the redhead could not help but to giggle a little. Just like all the kwamis, Mika could tell when something was wrong with its holder, and like always, she was not the best at keeping secrets from him, even if she wanted to.    

“I… I was just thinking about who am I going to offer some chocolates to, on Valentine’s Day.” -Sabrina answered him, as she stopped in front of a crosswalk, waiting for the right moment to cross it. –“I don’t know who am I going to offer them.” -she said, as she looked to both sides, and started to cross to the other side of the road.

“Well, you don’t have a boyfriend, so that’s out of the question.” -Mika stated the obvious. –“That means, you can give chocolate to one of your friends… hey, why don’t you give chocolates to your teacher?” -he suggested her.

“To Miss Bustier?!” -Sabrina exclaimed.

“Yeah, her. I mean, she’s always there for you and everyone else in your class. She’s nice and you and the others are always saying that she should win the “Best Teacher of the Year” award, every year. So, why not give her a box of chocolates? I’m sure she would like it… that is, if she doesn’t suffer from diabetes. Do you know if she does? Because if she does, then, forget what I said.” -Mika told her.  

The idea was not half bad, and Sabrina knew that Miss Bustier was not diabetic, nor was allergic to chocolate, because every year, during her birthday, she would always bring a chocolate cake to share with the whole class. In fact, the idea of giving chocolates to Miss Bustier was quite good. Bu then, she remembered that she might not be the only one having that idea. Everyone in class loved Miss Bustier, and she would not be surprised if one, or more of her friends, wanted to offer her a box of chocolates.

“Maybe not. I mean, I think it would be cool to offer Miss Bustier some chocolates, but I’m sure some of the others will have that idea as well. I don’t want to look like the girl who had the same idea as the others.” -Sabrina said, even though, deep inside, she felt like that excuse was a very lousy one. Deep inside, she really did not know who she truly wanted to give chocolates to.  

“Well, then, just pick one of your friends. I’m sure all of them deserve chocolates. After all, you guys are all like family.” -the wolf kwami said.

What Mika said was true and was resonating in Sabrina’s mind. Ever since they had become the holders of the miraculouses, that she and the rest of her friends had grown incredibly close. Even those she never thought would be more than mere school colleagues, had become people she would put her life on their hands, so it was hard for her to just pick one. All that thinking was beginning to give her a headache; for a moment, just a single moment, she wished she was still only friends with Chloe. And then, it hit her. She knew just who she was going to offer a box of chocolates to. 

“I know! I’ll give a box of chocolates to Chloe! Or better yet, I’ll make a box of chocolates for her!” -Sabrina exclaimed in a tone, that the people that were passing by her, thought that she had discovered gunpowder, or solved an unsolvable equation.

“To Chloe?” -Mika raised an eyebrow at her.

“Yes, to her.” -Sabrina smiled. –“She’s both my best-friend and she’s one of the people I look up to.” -she declared with a proud smile on her face.  

“You look up to her?” -Mika asked her, not understanding why would that be. –“I mean, I know that you and Chloe were pretty close, even before you got the miraculouses, but I don’t see how she can be someone you look up to. From what she herself has said, more than once, she was not someone you wanted to be friends with.” -he said.  

And it was true. Sabrina and Chloe were quite close. But he was also right, when he said that for years, Chloe had not been a person that anyone in their right mind would be friends with. Still, unlike Sabrina, Mika had not seen what Chloe had been through, and did not see just how low she had to sink, before realizing she had reached the bottom of the well, and that only if she changed, would she be able to get out of it.  

“Oh, Mika… if only you had seen what I did, you would understand why I look up to her.” -Sabrina told him. –“I don’t like to brag about this, because there’s nothing to brag about, but I stood by Chloe’s side, when she was the worst kind of person you can possibly imagine. I’m not saying she was worse than Hawk Moth, but she was still pretty awful. And there were times where I asked myself, why I was still friends with her, I admit it. A part of me just wanted to tell her that I did not want to be friends with her anymore, while the other part kept telling that if I did such a thing, I would be even worse than she was. ” -she sighed. Mika could tell that what she was saying was not something easy for her to say.

“Then… why did you stay friends with her?” -Mika asked her.

“Because that Chloe… the Chloe that was the meanest girl I’ve ever seen in my life, was not the Chloe I knew, when I first met her. When I first met her, she was… she was a lot like she is now. She was nice, she was kind and she was generous to everyone.” -Sabrina told him. –“And I think that I stood by her side, even when she was the nastiest bitch there is, because deep down, I still believed that the Chloe I knew still existed under that fake persona that she created… and I was right. She was still there. She just needed to find the right reasons to come back. I don’t know if you ever experienced this, but… to see someone you know sink so low, only to realize that what she has been doing is beyond awful, and see her rise up from all that and become the person she was destined to be from the very start… that’s something amazing, and I was lucky to have seen that with Chloe.” -she said. –“For those reasons, and many more, I look up to her. She’s a terrific person, who went through a lot, and in the end, she managed to find the strength to become the best version of herself, even if she believes that she still has a lot make it up for, after treating so many people the way she did.”

The wolf kwami heard every last word that came out Sabrina’s mouth and saw that she truly respected and cared for the heiress. But he did not need to listen to the words that she spoke. All he had to do was to see the way Sabrina’s eyes shimmered, when she talked about the way Chloe had managed to turn herself around. That, and the sweetness in her voice. Just from hearing her talk, Mika was sure that every word that came out of her mouth, whatever they were, they were honest and true.   

“Well, then, give her some chocolates. If you think she deserves them, then, who am I to say it otherwise. After all, you know her way better than I do… better than any kwami in fact, minus Pollen, of course.” -Mika added.

“I will… but should I make them, or should I buy them? I don’t know, Mika. I mean, I know who I’m going to offer them to. But now, I don’t know if I should make them, or if I should just buy them. Chloe’s a little bit picky with her chocolates.” -Sabrina admitted.

“Can’t you decide that, when we get home? I’m hungry!” -Mika told her. –“Come on, Sabrina, stop thinking about those things and pick up the pace, I’m begging you!” -he said, as he heard his stomach grumble.  

“Alright, alright, I’ll walk a little faster, you little glutton.” -Sabrina said, as she speeded up a little. –“You know you’re starting to eat a lot. If you continue to eat the way you’re eating, you’ll become a very fat kwami, you know that?” -she giggled, while imagining a pudgy Mika.  

“Sorry, kiddo, but that’s not going to happen. Us, kwamis, have a unique metabolism that doesn’t allow us to gain a single pound.” -Mika told her 

But Sabrina was not the only one who was having a little problem with the chocolate offering. Rose was also having a problem with it, though hers was a little bit different. She knew exactly who she was going to give it to; Juleka. The problem was that Juleka was not a very big fan of chocolate, and Rose did not know what to do about it. She tried to find a solution to that dilemma, while getting ready to go to her ballet lessons.

Juleka will never admit it, but she’s not a big fan of chocolate.” -Rose thought to herself, as she placed her ballet slippers inside her gym bag, along with her leg warmers. –“I know she likes chocolate cake, but I’ve never seen her eating any kind of chocolates that weren’t M&Ms…” -she continued to muse about it.  

Already on the street, she kept thinking about that problem that was bugging her, while thinking that Juleka would pick her up later, like she did, whenever she had the time. And she knew that they would either go for a walk, before she accompanied her home, or they would stop at a café or some pastry shop and have a little snack, just to have an excuse to be together a little bit more.     

“I know that she’s going to either buy me those chocolate bonbons that I love so much, or she will try to make some that will taste like strawberries.” -Rose thought to herself. –“Knowing that, I have to make or find something that she’ll like… I mean, I know that she will love any kind of chocolates I give her, because it will be a present from me. But I want her to love it, because she will enjoy it, and not just because I gave it to her. What am I going to do?” -she kept thinking, while trying to come up with a solution.

Rose knew it was silly to think that coming to a solution that problem she was having, was more important than anything else. But silly or not, she wanted to come up with a solution to it. She wanted to find the perfect chocolates to offer Juleka on Valentine’s Day. She wanted her to truly enjoy them. And more importantly, she wanted to see her beautiful smile when she bit the first one and realized how good it was. In sum, she wanted her to see her truly happy. Just thinking about it, made Rose believe that no matter her age, she would never stop being a hopeless romantic. In her mind, there was something about romance that made life ever so much better.

She was a couple of blocks from the ballet academy, when there was something that caught her attention, forcing her to stop walking. Her kwami, Flint, who was inside the gym bag noticed that Rose had stopped and wondered what was going on. He had learned to count the number of steps it took her to get from her house to the ballet academy. And even counting the bus, he noticed that she was nowhere near it. Peeking his head from inside the gym bag, he looked at Rose, who looked like she was mesmerized.    

“Rose? Rose, what are you doing?! You’ll be late for your ballet lesson!” -Flint warned her.

Rose ignored Flint, as her eye and her attention had been captured by something that was to her left; a candy store. But this one did not look like just any ordinary candy shop. This one looked like old candy stores that you would see in old postcards, with its pink and white striped awning, and beautiful window shop. She made her way to the ballet academy through that street, three times a week, and she had never noticed it before. And she only noticed it this time, because there were a few people coming out from it, carrying a few boxes of chocolates; as well as a sign on the window saying “Valentine’s Homemade Chocolates, Half-Price”. Looking inside, she saw that the store looked incredibly well-stocked. She had to get to her ballet lesson, but she figured that noticing that store for the first time ever was a sign that she ought to enter it and see what they had in sale.   

“Rose! Rose, wake up! Earth to Rose!” -Flint exclaimed, trying to get her attention. –“What are you doing?! Come on, pick up the pace!” -he told her. –“If you arrive late, your teacher is going to yell at you for running late.”

“W-What? Don’t you worry, I still have a couple of minutes to spare.” -Rose told him, as she checked the time. –“I just want to check one thing.” -she said, as she walked to the shop’s door.  

When she entered the store, this one looked even more fantastic than from the outside. The walls were covered with countless shelves, and in them, you could see every kind of sweets one can imagine. There were creamy chunks of nougat, delicious pink and blue squares of coconut ice, fat, honey-coloured toffees; hundreds of lollipops of every shape, size and colour; glass jars, both big and small, filled with jawbreakers, salt-water taffy, gummy bears, liquorice straws, and bubble gums; boxes of Pocky from numerous flavours, as well as Pez dispensers, among other things. But, the true stars of that candy store were the chocolates. From candy bars to bonbons, there was a little something for everyone. Unlike that happened with the other candy, the chocolates, all of them wrapped in beautiful wrappers of every colour one can imagine, were all kept in showcases, which could only be opened from behind. Looking around, Rose quickly recognized some of the brands, including her favourite, Carambar, while there were others she had never seen or heard about. Surrounded by all those sweets, Rose felt like she was either in Candy Wonderland. And if what her eyes were seeing was not enough to tempt her to buy everything that was in that store, then the delicious sugary-scent in the air, would do it. Still, she tried to focus on what had led her to enter that candy store. The only in the store, other than herself was the shop girl, who was standing behind the counter. She was a young woman, probably in her late twenties, with brown hair and matching eyes, and a shy smile on her face. She was wearing a pink and white 20’s waitress inspired outfit.     

“Good afternoon.” -Rose said, as she stopped in front of the counter.

“Good afternoon, miss. How may I help you?” -the shop girl said, as Rose noticed the name on her lapel, Edith.

“I… I saw the sign on the window, and I was wondering if…” -Rose said.

“Oh, yes, our Home-Made chocolates. They are quite famous.” -Edith told her. –“I suppose you’ll be wanting a box?” -she asked Rose.  

“Yes, well… It’s just that, the person I’m going to offer the chocolates to, let’s just say she’s not very fond of chocolate. She likes it, but it’s not something that she’s really fond of, you know?” -Rose explained.

“Oh, I see. Well, does it have to be chocolates? Can’t it be something else? I’m only asking, because there are always other options; options that your friend might like better.” -Edith declared. –“I suppose these will be for a good friend of yours?” -she asked.

Upon saying that last sentence, Rose blushed a little, and did not know how to answer it. She had no problem saying she was a dating another girl, but at the same time, she did not know how would Edith react if she told her that.

“Yes, she’s a very good friend. In fact, she’s my best friend.” -Rose declared, though deep in her heart, she wanted to say that Juleka was more than just her best friend. She was her girlfriend. –“And yes, it has to be chocolates. We’re going to swap them in class. It’s part of a new tradition that our teacher has decided to start.” -she said.

“Well, if she’s not a very big fan of chocolate, it might be a little tricky to get the right kind for her.” -Edith said. –“But, our store prides itself on having a little bit of everything for everyone. I’m sure we’ll be able to find the right chocolates for her.” -she pointed out. –“They say that a person’s personality matches the kind of chocolate they like. So, if I may ask, how is your friend’s personality?”

“She’s very romantic… a little bit like me, but different, you know?” –Rose giggled, just thinking of how different she and Juleka were from one another, and how they managed to get along so well. If they would stand side by side, no one would ever say that the two of them were friends, let alone girlfriends, because of how different they looked. 

“Different how?” -Edith asked.

And for the next minute, Rose told Edith just how Juleka was, hoping to give the shop girl an idea of the kind of girl she was, and with it, the perfect kind of chocolate for her.

“From what you’re telling me, she is someone that would perhaps enjoy dark chocolate. Most people that aren’t big fans of chocolate, usually don’t like milk chocolate or white chocolate, because of its sweetness. But, as you know, dark chocolate is bitter, so she might like it.” -Edith said. –“But, she also sounds to me like someone who would like gumdrops and other kinds of candy, like liquorice straws.” -she said.

“Yes, she does.” -Rose said. Ever since she met Juleka, that she had seen her eating liquorice more times than she could remember. She had never asked her about it, but now that she thought about it, that was probably her favourite candy. –“What kind of a girlfriend am I, that doesn’t even remember what her favourite candy is? A bad one, that’s who. I should know these things, and not just because Juleka’s my girlfriend, but because she’s my best friend as well… I will have to ask her about these things later.” -she thought to herself. –“But I don’t suppose you have any chocolates that taste like liquorice, do you?”

“No, we don’t. But there is a way to have the two combined.” -Edith declared. –“We can always make chocolates with liquorice centre.” -she said.

“You can do that?” -Rose asked, thinking that was the answer to her dilemma. She believed that by combining the two, Juleka would love it.   

“Of course. But it will take two days to be made, and they will be a little more expensive than the ones that are already made.” -Edith warned Rose.

“That won’t be a problem.” -Rose said. She could wait two days for the chocolates, and when it came to money, she had already bought Juleka’s Valentine gift, and the rest of the money she had been saving for it, and did not spend, would certainly cover those one of a kind chocolates.

“Well, if that’s the case, how many chocolates would you want, and what kind of liquorice would you like for their centre?” -Edith asked Rose, as she took out a writing pad to write the order.

“Fifteen, and could the centre be filled with red liquorice?” -Rose asked, remembering that whenever Juleka ate liquorice, it was always red liquorice.  

“Absolutely.” –Edith said. –“And in which name will the order be in?” -she asked Rose.

“Rose Lavillant. And I’ll be paying for it upfront.” -Rose said. –“Oh, and since we’re at it, I’ll be taking some chocolate bars with me, right now. I’ll have three Carambars, a matcha Kit-Kat and… do you have any cherry flavoured lollipops? If you do, I’ll take two of them, for a very good friend of mine who loves cherries.” -she said, knowing Flint was listening.   

When she got home, the first thing Marinette did, after leaving her backpack with her school books in her bedroom, was to go down into the living room and look for a chocolate recipe in one of the many recipe books that had belonged to his dad’s side of the family, and had been handed down over the generations. In them, there where hundreds of recipes, and she was hoping that one of those hundreds of recipes would be the one she was looking for. Sitting at the table, she opened up the first and began to read it. Because Marinette was so busy with that search of hers, Tikki decided to help herself to some cookies, making her way to the kitchen. Stopping in front of the counter where the cookies were, the ladybug kwami had to make a choice, which seemed easy, but to her, who was incredibly hungry and was a sucker for all kinds of cookies, was incredibly hard.     

Let’s see, chocolate chips, raisins or macadamia nuts? Tough choice… which one should I pick for my afternoon snack?” -Tikki thought to herself, as she looked at the three glass jars, each containing a different kind of cookies inside them. All of them looked delicious, and the more she looked at them, the harder it was to decide. –“Maybe I’ll take one of each. That way I won’t feel like I betrayed any of them.” -she giggled, as she flew over to the first and unscrewed the lid, taking out the cookie.

While this happened, Marinette’s eyes were glued to the pages of one of the recipe books. She was sure she had seen a recipe for chocolate bonbons that belonged to her great-grandmother in one of those pages, but right then, she could not find it. She remembered it vaguely, but not enough to know it by heart. If she attempted to make it, it could end up being a disaster, and she wanted it to be perfect… Perfect, a word that she had been using more than she should. Marinette knew that perfection was something impossible to obtain. But her stubbornness, mixed with a very large dosage of determination, made her believe that perfection could be obtained, if she just struggled enough to get it. Flipping through the pages, she found numerous recipes that contained chocolate as its main ingredient, but none of them were the one she was looking for. Closing that recipe book, she grabbed another and began flipping the pages, hoping that the recipe she was looking for was in that one.

I know it’s around here… come on, where is it?!” -Marinette mused to herself, while trying not to get frustrated.

Tikki, who had just finished eating the three cookies she had taken from the glass jars, decided to check on Marinette. Usually, when looking for something, Marinette tended to make a lot of noise, but on that afternoon, she was as quiet as a mouse.

“Marinette?” -Tikki called her. –“Marinette?!”

“Not now, Tikki. I’m this close to finding the recipe I’m looking for. Once I find it, you and me, we can both get started on it.” -Marinette said, without taking her eyes from the recipe book.

“Marinette…” -Tikki said, when she was interrupted by Marinette, who did not even allow her to finish the sentence.  

“I’ve got to find this chocolate recipe that’s so good, when Adrien bites the first one, he’ll say “This is the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted, Marinette”. I can already see the whole scene in my head, Tikki. But it won’t work, if I don’t find that recipe that I’m looking for.” -Marinette said, without taking her eyes from the books, once again.   

“Marinette… whatever chocolates you make for him, I’m sure Adrien will like them. If your macarons are so delicious, I’m sure your chocolates will be as well. You don’t have to worry about it.” -Tikki told her.  

“Chocolates and macarons are totally different things, Tikki. I can’t risk messing this up!” -Marinette said with a sharp voice, as she threw the recipe book she was reading aside, only to pick up the following one.   

Hearing her say those words, Tikki knew that Marinette’s nerves were getting the best of her and that she needed to calm herself down a little bit. But like always, that would be easier said than done, especially because when Marinette became like this, she allowed her stubbornness to cloud her judgement and her good will. Luckily, Tikki knew just how to make her snap from it.

“Marinette… stop!” -Tikki shouted at Marinette, as she placed herself on top of the recipe book, staring at the blue-haired teen with a serious look on her face. –“I know you want to find this recipe, but ignoring me like that, as well as my advices won’t help you.” -she said, as her face changed into the caring look Marinette knew so well. –“Whatever you make Adrien, he’ll love it; you think that the perfect recipe for chocolates will allow you to make the best chocolates he has ever tasted, but that doesn’t mean that another recipe won’t produce the same outcome. As long as you make them with your heart, they will come out delicious, and he’ll tell you that.”

Once more, Marinette’s stubbornness and persistence got the best of her, and she needed to hear Tikki’s words of wisdom, to understand that what she was doing was not healthy, and that ignoring the scarlet kwami, when she was trying to help, was not something she should do. Sighing, she wondered how could she have allowed herself to do that to Tikki, when she was just trying to help.    

“Thanks, Tikki.” -Marinette said quietly. –“I… I don’t even know what I was thinking about.” -she admitted, clearly ashamed of her behaviour towards her kwami.

“You were thinking solely with your heart, that’s what it was.” -Tikki smiled at her. –“Usually, that’s not a bad thing, because your heart is in the right place. But sometimes, you need to also use your brain, to balance things.” -she said. –“Now, why don’t you tell me what’s the recipe you are looking for, and let me help you? Between the two of us, we can find it twice as faster.”

“Okay. We’re looking for a recipe that’s similar to this one here.” -Marinette said, as she pointed to a page on the recipe book, where a recipe had been written with one of the most beautiful calligraphies Tikki has ever seen. 

Helping Marinette, Tikki also began to check the recipe books, hoping to find the recipe Marinette so desperately needed.

“Sorry, Marinette, but I don’t think the recipe you are looking for is here.” -Tikki sighed, as she flipped the last page of the book she was looking into.    

“Then, there’s only one thing left to do.” -Marinette said with a serious voice.

“What’s that?” -Tikki asked her, wondering what could she be thinking about.

“I’m going to call grandma Gina and ask her for some help with this.” -Marinette said, as she pulled her cell phone from her jacket pocket. –“If there’s one person who can help me with this, it’s her. She has the memory of an elephant, and if the recipe that I’m looking for isn’t in the recipe books anymore, it will be inside her head.” -she said. –“I just hope she picks up.”

“It depends. Where is she now?” -Tikki asked Marinette. Ever since she retired, Grandma Gina spent most of her time travelling around the world, never staying still for a moment, claiming that life was too short to not take advantage of it.   

“Last time I checked; she was still in Argentina.” -Marinette said, having received a text message from her, saying that she had arrived to Buenos Aires and that she was going to stay in a friend’s house. –“So, if it’s 3 in the afternoon here, then in, Argentina is… 11 in the morning. Grandma Gina must be looking for a place to have an early lunch, like she always does.” -she said, as she dialled up her grandmother’s cell number. –“Come on, grandma, pick up, please… grandma Gina?!”

“Marinette, sweetie! What a nice surprise!” -Gina said. –“How are things in Paris?” -she asked her.  

“Everything’s great, grandma.” -Marinette told her. –“So, how is the trip in Argentina going?” -she asked.

“It’s been fantastic, Marinette! You should have seen what I already saw, with your own eyes, sweetie. I knew this was one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but I never expected it to be this beautiful.” -Gina told her granddaughter, who was hearing the commotion that was on the street she was in. –“I wish I could convince your grandfather to come with me on these adventures. He doesn’t even imagine what he’s losing, by staying home.” -she said. Unlike her, her husband Roland was not someone who enjoyed travelling, preferring to stay home, organizing one of his many collections.

“I wish I was there with you. It sounds like you’re in a party.” -Marinette told her.

“Not a party, but you’re close. I’m near one of the local markets and there’s some sort of festival happening.” -Gina said, as she looked over her shoulder and saw the commotion that had settled in front of the local market she was talking about. –“But something tells me that you didn’t just call me to ask me how I’m doing, am I right?” -she playfully asked her.

“What makes you say that? Can’t a girl just want to hear the voice of her favourite grandmother and ask her how she’s doing?” -Marinette asked her in a playful tone.

“Oh, that’s sweet of you, Marinette, but saying that I’m your favourite grandmother, makes it sound like you don’t like your grandmother on your mom’s side of the family, and I know that you love her, as much as you love me.” -Gina told her. –“Plus, I know you… when you call me, when I’m on a trip, it’s because you need my help with something. So, tell me, what can grandma Gina help you with?” -she asked Marinette with a kind voice.

And with that, Marinette quickly told her that she was looking for a special chocolate recipe, she knew was in one of the recipe books, and could not find it. She also added that it was important for her to get it, because she and her friends were all swapping chocolates on Valentine’s Day. When Gina asked her if she remembered anything about the recipe, Marinette told her that the only thing she remembered was that it took rum and ginger.

“Oh, you must be talking about your great-great-great aunt Beatrice’s cinnamon and ginger chocolate recipe. It’s the only chocolate recipe in our family that has rum in it.” -Gina said. –“Yes, I remember it very well. I think the reason the recipe is not in any of the books, is because your grandfather visited your parents, while you were in that holiday camp, and must have took it with him, for some kind of culinary project of his, and forgot to give it back. You know that he also likes to experiments and twists on old recipes, even if he will never admit it.” -she giggled. –“But, you said you need it for Valentine’s Day. Are you going to make some chocolates to a special someone? Is it for that handsome boy you are always taking about? What was his name? Alain… Albert… Alexandre… no, I think it was Andre…”

“It’s Adrien, grandma Gina! And you know what his name is, don’t pretend you don’t. You’re always telling me that we would make a cute couple!” -Marinette giggled, knowing her grandmother was just kidding with her. –“But, yes, I’m going to make some chocolates for him… in fact, I’m going to tell him that I love him.” -she giggled nervously.

“You are?! Oh, sweetie, I’m so happy for you!” -Gina told her. –“You keep talking about him and how much you love him. I’m happy to hear that you’ve finally found the courage you need to tell him that.” -she said. –“I’m sure that when you tell him that you love him, he will tell you that he also loves you.”

“You think so?” -Marinette asked her with a hopeful voice. Deep down, she was truly hoping that would be the case.   

“I do. Call it a grandmother’s intuition… but, if you’re going to tell him that and ask him to be your boyfriend, you’re going to need something a little bigger than chocolates to dazzle him. You know what they say, the fastest way to a man’s heart, is through his stomach.” -Gina laughed of her own joke. –“I know, why don’t you bake him a cake and use that chocolate recipe you were looking for, to make some ganache and place it on its centre? You can even decorate it with other little chocolates around it.” -she suggested.

“Don’t you think a cake is a little too big?” -Marinette asked her. She did not want to be the only one with a cake, when the whole class was swapping chocolates.  

“It doesn’t have to be a big cake, sweetie. It just needs to be a little bigger than a cinnamon roll.” -Gina told her. –“And if you want to, I can give you the recipe of the perfect cake for the job, along with the recipe of your great-great aunt’s cinnamon and ginger chocolate. It’s a recipe I learned, when I visited Russia.” -she said.   

“That would be great, grandma… let me just get a pen…” -Marinette said, as she signalled Tikki to get her one. –“This plan will make it easier for me to get Adrien’s heart. I’m so glad I called grandma Gina.” -she thought to herself.

Chapter Text

And while Marinette heard both recipes from her grandmother, Nathaniel was once again debating with Mulan what he wanted to do, regarding Marc. When Miss Bustier talked about the Japanese tradition of girls offering chocolates to boys on Valentine’s Day, and then Alya threw the idea of the whole class doing it, Nathaniel had the idea of offering Marc chocolates. It was true, that he was not part of the class, but no one said that one could not offer chocolates to another person in school. And for Nathaniel, there was only one person he wanted to offer a box of chocolates, and that was Marc. The more he thought about it, the more he wanted to do it. But at the same time, there was one thing that was preventing him from doing it… fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of being seen as different. Fear of making the wrong impression. In sum, fear of showing to Marc how he truly was. Nathaniel knew that all those negative thoughts were not healthy, and if it was not for the fact that whoever wore a miraculous, could not be akumatized, he would be the perfect candidate for akumatization, all because of the fear that was tormenting both his mind and his heart.    

He tried not to think about it too hard, but the more he did that, the harder it became to do it. Once he got home, he did the only thing he could to stop thinking about gibberish. He sat in front of his desk and began to work a little bit on his Miraculous Team webcomic, hoping that by doing it, he would keep his mind too busy to think of other things. The trouble was, not even drawing was helping him that afternoon. He tried to draw the Miraculous heroes, only to stop, because he did not like what he was drawing, or because he ended up drawing Marc’s face on more than one of them.

“Dang it! Not again!” -Nathaniel sighed, as he ripped the drawing sheet and ripped it into two.

Seeing this, Mulan, who had been quiet, ever since they got home from school, felt that he had to say something, anything, to help Nathaniel deal with what was going on in his head.

“You’re not feeling it today, aren’t you?” -Mulan asked, as he hovered above Nathaniel’s head.

“No… and it’s all because of these thoughts in my head.” -Nathaniel groaned, as he felt those very same thoughts playing in his mind, and blocking any bit of inspiration he might have on him that day.

And Mulan knew just what thoughts Nathaniel was talking about. He did not even need to hear him say what they were. All he had to do was look at him and see what those thoughts were doing to him that day. It pained him Mulan to see Nathaniel that way.   

“Your head’s a mess, right now, Nathaniel.” -Mulan said. –“The only good advice I can give to you right now, is that you need to clear your thoughts, so you don’t do something that you might regret doing later, or not.” -he said.      

“I know, I know… I haven’t had a headache this big in a really long time, Mulan.” -Nathaniel sighed. –“This problem is literally turning me bonkers.” -he said. –“I mean, it’s not really a problem, it’s more like… well, you know when you have a really great idea, but you are afraid of putting it into motion, because you are afraid the outcome might not be the one you were expecting? That’s me right now.”

Mulan remained silent and kept hearing Nathaniel. He figured that the best thing he could do, right then, was to let him talk and sort his thoughts on his own. The red panda kwami understood what was going on in Nathaniel’s head, and felt that whatever he could tell him, would not help him getting a clearer picture of the whole problem. He knew that sometimes, people must try and figure things out on their own, and the best way to do so, was to have a serious talk to themselves. And that was just what was going on, as Mulan allowed Nathaniel to have that same talk.  

“I know it’s stupid, but I’m afraid to mess this up. I don’t want to push Marc away. I mean, I want to do it, I want to offer him a box of chocolates. But what if he thinks that I’m weird?! Or, what if he interprets things in the wrong and thinks that I’m trying something that he’s not going to like?!” -Nathaniel sighed, as his voice revealed that he was doing his best to not have a panic attack. –“This is a really stupid idea, Mulan… I don’t even know if he’s into guys. For all we know, he’s straight, and would even punch me in the face if I offered him some chocolates.” -he said with a low-down voice.

Sensing that that was not going anywhere, Mulan decided to try and steer Nathaniel in the right direction, by helping him to realize that his fears were mostly unsubstantiated, and that he should not let them cloud his judgement.

“He doesn’t’ look like the kind of guy who would do that. I mean, he’s clearly not a jock.” -Mulan said. Though the only jock he personally knew was Kim, and Kim did not act the way most jocks act, the red panda kwami had seen enough television series, and had also observed some of the students at Collège Françoise Dupont who inserted themselves into the jock stereotype, to know just what he was talking about. –“I don’t believe he would do such a thing.” -he said.

Though he wanted to believe in the words Mulan had just said, deep in his mind, Nathaniel was truly.

“He looked nice… but so did Chloe, when I first met her, only to find out how she truly was.” -Nathaniel told Mulan. He did not like to use Chloe as an example, but there was no way to avoid the fact that before the previous summer, she was the meanest kind of person one could ever had the unfortunate bad luck to meet. And he feared that beneath a friendly face, Marc could be just like she was. 

“Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. But you’ll never know, if you don’t try and see what happens. I mean, you might actually have a nice surprise.” -Mulan told him. –“He might even fancy you. And if he doesn’t, well, at least you’ll have another friend, you can talk to.” -he declared.

“I thought you said that you were going to ask the other kwamis for a little bit of help, finding out a little more about Marc.” -Nathaniel said.

“I still haven’t had the chance to ask them for a little help. But don’t worry, it will happen, I promise you that.” -Mulan promised him. –“But in the meantime, why don’t you go out and try to draw something on your sketchbook?”

“I thought I told you that today is not a good day for art.” -Nathaniel reminded his kwami. –“I can’t draw anything today, even if I want to.” -he sighed, knowing that the mess that was his mind that day, would not allow him to even sketch a single drawing, without looking like crap.

“Maybe. But you always get your best ideas, when you go out. And right now, you need to go out and do something to get those thoughts from your head. It’s not healthy. So, go on, grab your stuff, put on a jacket and let’s go. You can buy me a snack on the way.” -Mulan told him.

Sighing, Nathaniel decided to do as Mulan told him. He was not in the mood to go anywhere or do anything that afternoon. But he knew that staying at home and do nothing, with that kind of thoughts in his mind was not healthy. Putting on a jacket and a beanie, he then grabbed his sketchbook and a few pencils and pens, placing them in his pockets and got ready to leave.

“Alright, let’s go out for a little while. But we’ve got to be back before my parents come home.” -Nathaniel said, as Mulan slipped inside one of the pockets in his jacket.   

“You’re doing the right, Nathaniel. You’ll see. You’ll be feeling way better in just a couple of minutes, once you start breathing some fresh air.” -Mulan told him.

Already on the street, Nathaniel felt the afternoon wind against his skin. For a moment, he felt like turning around and go back inside, where it was warm. But he knew that if he did that, Mulan would not shut up about it for the rest of the day; and right then, he did not need a lecture from him. Walking down the street, he allowed himself to go where his feet decided to take him, with no fixed destination.

Nathaniel usually liked to go to a garden, or anywhere near the Seine to find the inspiration to draw. But because of the wind on that afternoon, he decided that he needed to go somewhere, where there was less wind. Taking the bus, it was only a matter of minutes, before he found himself near Gare du Nord. Being the most important train station in Paris, there was never a dull moment there. Sometimes, Nathaniel liked to go there, just to see the constant fuss that was part of that place. It inspired him to draw action sequences. And on that day, with the wind constantly blowing, the best place to be around there, was inside the station, or better, inside one of the many cafés, where he could just sit inside one of them, drinking something hot, while drawing.

Crossing the street, he decided that he was going to do just that. Find a café inside the station, where he could have a good view of the place, buy something hot and delicious to drink and try to draw something. Sighing, he admitted to himself that Mulan had had the right idea. Now that he was there, on the street, his mind felt more at ease, and he was not thinking so hard on his problems.

This little guy really knows what’s best for me.” -Nathaniel thought to himself, as his eyes looked at the pocket in his jacket, where Mulan was hiding in.

He was so focused into his thoughts, that he did not realize that he was about to bump into someone, who was coming in the opposite direction. Bumping into it, Nathaniel fell on his back, dropping his sketchbook. It was not a serious fall; he had been hit with a lot more force from the many Akumas he had faced as Panda Rouge. As he tried to get up, the person who had bumped into him offered to help him out, by giving him a hand.

“Whoa… sorry, I… no way…” -the person that bumped into Nathaniel said.

Looking up, Nathaniel’s heart skipped a beat, as he saw who he had bumped into, yet again. Staring at him, was Marc Anciel. Trying to come up with what to say, Nathaniel’s brain froze, as his heart began to pound a lot faster.

“You know, this is starting to get old.” -Marc chuckled. –“We’ve got to stop bumping into one another like that.” -he said.

“Y-Yeah, we really should try.” -Nathaniel chuckled as well, though his chuckle was a nervous one. –“It’s starting to be… a habit, you know?” -he said, trying to force his brain to work properly. The last thing he wanted was to say the wrong words, right then.  

“So… the last time you were coming from arts and crafts shop. So, where you coming from today?” -Marc asked Nathaniel. –“Dumb question! What did you ask him that? He’s probably going to think that you’re just mocking him.” -he thought to himself.

“I… I just came for a walk. Hard day in school.” -Nathaniel said, when he remembered that his sketchbook was still on the ground.  

“Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you.” -Marc said as he grabbed the sketchbook and prepared to hand it to Nathaniel, when his eyes got a tiny glimpse of one of the many drawings in it. –“Uh… do you mind if I?”

“Uh, no, go right ahead.” -Nathaniel smiled. This felt unusual for him, because he was not someone who would let most people see his sketchbook, even if they asked him. To allow Marc to check the drawings in it was a big deal.

And Mulan, who was listening to the whole thing, realized that what Nathaniel had done was incredibly big. There were only a handful of people that he allowed such an honour. Smiling, he believed that perhaps he would not have to ask the other kwamis to help him out, finding more things about Marc, because if Nathaniel played his cards right, he could find them out by himself, right then.

It’s all in your hands now, Nathaniel. Just keep calm and be yourself.” -Mulan thought to himself.

As the little kwami mused to himself, Marc was still looking at the sketchbook in silence, admiring the multiple drawings and just how each one looked like it was about to come to life. He had seen some pretty incredible artists their age before, but to him, Nathaniel took the cake when it came to technique, which looked flawless in many points.  

“Whoa, you did these?” -Marc asked Nathaniel, without taking his from the drawings.

“Y-Yeah, I did.” -Nathaniel said, trying not to blush. –“They’re nothing special, really.” -he smiled awkwardly.  

“Are you kidding? These look great! I mean, I wish I had half the talent you have to draw like this.” -Marc said, as he looked at a drawing of Ladybug. –“Incredible, you make Ladybug look so realistic… plus, great attention to detail. You didn’t make her too busty or oversexualized, like so many other artists do.” -he said.

“I-I try to keep her and the rest of the heroes on a realistic visual. I don’t mind seeing other artists drawing them as if they American superheroes, but that’s just not my style. I prefer to keep things simple.” -Nathaniel said. Plus, he knew that if he attempted to draw the girls like so many other artists did, he was sure to get bumped on the head by more than just one of his friends from the opposite sex, who did not feel very comfortable being depicted as if they were characters in a mature comic book or worst.    

“Well, you’re doing a pretty good job. I wouldn’t mind reading something with this level of detail in it.” -Marc said, as he closed the sketchbook

As his hand reached for the sketchbook, Nathaniel felt that perhaps that was a good time to ask Marc if he wanted to hang out a little bit. It sounded like a good idea, and there was nothing that made it wrong for him to ask another boy that. After all, they attended the same school, and it was clear that they had at least a couple of things in common, like their love for art, even if Marc’s case was in the form of writing, and in Nathaniel’s case was in form of illustrations. His heart was trembling, as he tried to make up his mind about asking him if he would like to hang out, or not. Finally, in what looked like an eternity, he made up his mind about it, and went for it.    

“Hey… huh, I… I was actually going inside, grab something to drink and just sketch a couple of things. Would you like to keep me company?” -Nathaniel asked Marc, showing he was a little nervous about making him that invitation. –“Worst case scenario, he’ll just say no. No biggie… just keep your cool.” -he told himself. –“I-I mean, if you don’t have anything else to do and…”

“Sure. I mean, it’s already the third time we bump into one another. I don’t know if you believe in fate, but I do. And I think fate is telling us that perhaps we should try and get to know each other a little better. After all, we attend the same school.” -Marc said. –“Besides, I’ve got nothing better to do this afternoon.”

Hearing those words, Nathaniel’s heart began to pound a little faster. Marc had agreed to come with him. Still, he tried not to get ahead of himself. He knew that he had to keep his cool. He had already managed to do the hardest, which was to talk to him and find a way to get to know him a little better. From that point on, it was all uncharted territory. 

“Cool. Shall we go in?” -Nathaniel asked.

Entering the Gare du Nord, the two of them immediately felt the agitation that place passed on to anyone who entered in it. All the people looked like they were in a hurry to get somewhere, which made sense, since that place was a train station. The numerous sounds of people walking, trolleys being pulled, shouts, trains arriving or departing, along with other noises that could be heard, when combined, sounded like an unholy racket. Though for some people, that had both the patience to do it, would almost sound like the numerous instruments in an orchestra, that once combined, produced a rather fascinating melody; an infernal melody, but still a melody. Ignoring the noise, they looked around for a place they could just sit back and talk. Entering the Starbucks that was conveniently located just before the stairs that granted access to the Eurostar trains, they both ordered something hot and sweet, before taking a seat in one of the very few available tables. The scent of freshly brewed coffee was in the air, making Starbucks the perfect place for a friendly talk.

As with every first conversation, they both talked about themselves, about their families and about their hobbies. By the time their beverages arrived, they already knew a little about each other. And that knowledge kept growing. It was only a matter of time before anyone who was watching them, thought that they were the best of friends. Little by little, Nathaniel felt more at ease with Marc, though he still kept his guard up, trying to get to know him better, before asking about certain subjects. So, it was no surprise to him, when their conversation focused on their hobbies and on Marc’s opinion regarding the Miraculous Team, which seemed to be a subject they had a shared interest into.      

“I’ll be honest, I really like Ladybug, as well as the rest of the heroes. She looks something, doesn’t she?” -Marc asked him. –“But to be absolutely fair, and don’t laugh because of this, my favourite one is Panda Rouge.”

“W-W-Why? I-I mean, why is he your favourite?” -Nathaniel asked him, as deep down, he felt incredibly humble, when hearing Marc say that he was his favourite hero.

“I don’t know. There’s something about him… maybe it’s his powers. With that kind of powers, he can literally create anything he wants to.” -Marc said. –“I sometimes even wonder if we need all those heroes, if we got someone like him. With that kind of powers, you would think he could defeat the Akumas and even Hawk Moth, all by himself.” -he chuckled.

Hearing him say that, Nathaniel understood why some people wondered about the need of having the rest of the Miraculous Team, if Panda had the power to create literally anything he wanted. But what Marc did not know, and Nathaniel could not tell him about for obvious reasons, was that Panda Rouge’s powers came with a catch. He could create anything he wanted and bring it to life, but he could only bring one thing or a group of things to life, at a time. Plus, the more complex the creation, the more energy it was needed for him to bring it to life, so it was not a good idea to come up with overcomplicated creations, right from the start.

“Well, he is quite powerful, but I think that even he must have his limits.” -Nathaniel said, as he took a sip from his hot cocoa.

“I guess, you’re right. Still, how cool wouldn’t it be for one of us to have those powers?” -Marc asked him. –“I would be sure to put them to good use.” -he said.     

“I’ll be honest, me too.” -Nathaniel said, as he finished drawing a simple sketch of himself as Panda Rouge. –“There, finished. What do you think?” -he asked Marc, rather shyly, as he showed him the sketch, hoping he liked it.

“Whoa… okay, I’m speechless, again!” -Marc exclaimed, as he drank a sip from his coffee. –“And you still say that you aren’t talented. If I had that kind of talent, I would be bragging about it, all the time… well, not all the time, but whenever I had the chance.” -he chuckled.

“I’m sure you’re talented, when it comes to your writing.” -Nathaniel told him.

“I’m good, but I’m not extraordinary… not like you, with your drawings.” -Marc admitted. –“I only write fanfics.” -he said. He had tried to write something original, but every time he did, he could never finish it. It was only with fanfics that he felt comfortable enough to write anything that came to his mind.

“So? I pretty much draw fanart, most of the time. There’s no shame in that.” -Nathaniel said. –“You write fanfics of what?”

“Well, I wrote one or two based on DC Comics Teen Titans, as well as Justice League. I also wrote a couple of Harry Potter fanfics… oh, and I tried to write one about the Walking Dead, but didn’t go past the first two chapters, because I couldn’t figure out what to do. I mean, it’s the Walking Dead, most characters die in a matter of episodes, so it’s kind of predictable.” -Marc said.

Just from hearing that last sentence, Nathaniel figured out that Marc was not a fan of predictable things. To him, that was a good thing, because if an artist likes predictable things, he might end up making his own creations predictable, and that is something that one should never allow to happen.

“And recently, I decided to start writing some fanfics about the Miraculous Team, but they’re still in the early development.” -Marc admitted.

“Really? And what kind of fic would it be? I mean, an action one? A romantic one?” -Nathaniel asked him, truthfully interested in what he was talking about.

“Oh, it’s basically one where the heroes go to school together and everyone knows they are superheroes. Like I said, it’s still in early development. But there’s one thing that I already know how I’m going to do it; their personalities. I checked all the interviews they have given in the Miraculous Blog, and I’m trying to create an alternate universe, where some of them are going to sound and behave a lot differently.” -Marc explained.

“The Miraculous Blog? Yeah, that blog has all that info on the heroes. I know, because the person who runs it, she’s a friend of mine… she’s in my class.” -Nathaniel declared.

“Wait! The creator of the Miraculous Blog is someone our age and is in your class?” -Marc asked him. –“That is so cool. You’re lucky to know her. I bet she tells you tons of things regarding the heroes.” -he said.

“It’s one of the bonuses of knowing her, and having helped her to create the blog. It was nothing much, but I designed the logo of it and…” -Nathaniel said.

“Wait, you did that logo?”” -Marc asked Nathaniel, who nodded his head. –“That was an amazing work there.” -he congratulated him.

“T-Thanks…” -Nathaniel answered him, not exactly how to react to all the praises he was hearing.

“I’ll be honest. When I first saw that logo, I wondered who could have done it, because it’s really cool.” -Marc admitted. –“I-I know that this is the first time we’re talking and all, but, let me ask you one thing. Have you ever considered about working with a writer and develop a comic book?” -he asked. –“I ask that because, one of my dreams is to create a comic book series, and… well, if you were interested, then, maybe, we could both work on a project, or something. It doesn’t have to be right now… but in the near future.”

Nathaniel could hear in Marc’s voice that he was talking serious. Nathaniel himself had never considered having a partner to work with, especially since he himself wrote his own comics. Because of that, he had never thought about it. Still, the whole idea had a nice ring to it, and he would be lying if he said that he would not like to work with Marc, not only because he seemed like a guy with great ideas, but also because it would give him the chance to get to know him better. His first thought was to say yes, but then, he told himself that if he said yes, right then, he might regret it later. He still needed to see if Marc’s writing skills were as good as he was saying. And more importantly, he needed to see if they would work well together.   

“Huh… well, I don’t know.” -Nathaniel said with a shy voice. –“Don’t tell him you’re not interested, don’t do that. Tell him, that you need to think about it, before giving him a straight answer.” -he thought to himself. –“I mean, I never actually thought about it. But who knows? I’ll have to think about it… and while I’m thinking, maybe you could, one of these days, show me some of your writing. I’ll be honest, I would really like to read some of the things you wrote. Do you post them online?”

“Y-Yeah, I mean, yeah, I post them in a couple of websites. I go by Anciel the Wise in most fanfic websites.” -Marc declared.

“Anciel the Wise? When I get home, I’ll check them out." -Nathaniel said.

“Thanks. But, let me warn you. Some of them aren’t as good as they could.” -Marc warned Nathaniel, not wanting him to think that he had been bragging about being a good writer, and then Nathaniel finding out that he was just full of hot air.  

“Okay, understood, but let me be the one to judge them, the same way you did with my drawings.” -Nathaniel said, smiling.

And while all this happened, inside Nathaniel’s pocket, Mulan was listening to the whole thing, trying to contain himself.

Guess this means I won’t have to go and ask the others to help me investigate this kid. Nathaniel’s doing a good job on his own.” -Mulan thought to himself.       

The recipes her grandmother had given Marinette, required a lot of ingredients, some of which, she did not have at home. Knowing that, she was getting ready to go out and buy them, so she and Tikki could start cooking, when her mother came knocking at her bedroom door, asking her, if she could help out in the bakery for a little bit. Marinette happily told her that she would do it, knowing that it would only be for maybe half an hour, leaving her with plenty of time to go shopping for the ingredients she still needed. Unfortunately, she was proven wrong, when that half hour turned into nearly three long hours, with customers entering and exiting the bakery. When Sabine finally told her that she could go up and rest, Marinette saw that it was already too late to go shopping for the ingredients, and on top of that, she felt incredibly tired, as if she had been battling an Akuma. Dragging herself up to her bedroom, she made a mental note to go shopping for the ingredients, the next day, after school.   

And that was what she did. Once classes ended, Marinette decided to go looking for the ingredients she still needed. There were only two more days until Valentine’s Day, and she still had to test the cake and the bonbons, before making the ones she was going to offer Adrien. She asked Alya if she wanted to come with her, but she already had plans. Plans that involved babysitting her sisters, Ella and Etta for the rest of the afternoon. Sighing, Marinette went shopping, having only Tikki as her company on that afternoon. Looking at the list, she wasted no time. Having researched on the web where she could get most of them, she went to the shops that sold them. The hardest ones to obtain, were some spices that only a handful of Russian grocery stores in Paris sold. By the time, she managed to finish shopping, it was nearly four in the afternoon. With ingredients inside her backpack, Marinette decided she and Tikki deserved a little break, before heading home. Taking a seat in a street bench, the blue-haired girl took out of her backpack some candies she had bought in the same grocery she had bought the Russian spices, and shared them with her kwami.

“Thanks, Marinette.” -Tikki thanked her, as she nibbled the sweet treat. –“Who would have thought that these Russian sweets would taste this good?” -she said.

“Not me. But if grandma Gina says that something is good, then it’s got to be really good.” -Marinette said, as she savoured the candy, which tasted like sour apples and honey, with a dash of cinnamon. Gina had told her that if they had that particular sweet in one of the groceries, that she should try it.   

“What’s it called again?” -Tikki asked her.

“It’s called pastila. It’s similar to Turkish Delight.” -Marinette said, as she ate another piece of it. –“Once again, grandma Gina introduces us to a delicious treat.” -she smiled, when something caught her attention.

Making the turn and entering the avenue came a black limousine with smoked windows. But this was not just any limousine. It was the limousine that drove Adrien to school every day. She kept staring at it, as it passed by her, wondering if she was just imagining things or not. But upon seeing the limousine’s license plate, any shred of doubts that she might have, disappeared. It was Adrien’s limousine.    

That’s Adrien’s limousine…” -Marinette thought to herself. –“I remember him saying to Nino that he had a photoshoot in Rue Crémieux. But that’s on the other side of town. What’s it doing here?” -she thought, as her eyes accompanied the vehicle in motion, which stopped on a red light. Usually, the back window would be down, enabling one to see who was riding it, but not on that day. –“This is all really strange… maybe I should call him and see if everything’s okay.

Doing just that, she grabbed her cell phone, dialled up Adrien’s number and waited for him to answer. Unfortunately, two seconds later, the one who answered her was not Adrien, but his phone’s voice mail, meaning that he had his cell phone turned off. As she ended the call, she looked at the limousine and could not help but to feel that something was wrong about that. She did not know what, or why, but it was a feeling she could not help to have.

It could just be my imagination, but… there’s something wrong about this. I need to know why the limo’s around here and if Adrien is inside it.” -Marinette thought to herself.

Grabbing her backpack, she slipped it over her right shoulder, just as the red light turned green and the limousine continued down the avenue, and began to follow it. Tikki, who was caught off guard, wondered what was going on, and immediately asked Marinette.     

“What’s going on, Marinette? Why are you running?!”

“I’m following Adrien’s limousine.” -Marinette said, as she kept running down the street, doing her best not to go against anyone, who showed up in front of her.

“Adrien’s limousine? But why?” -Tikki asked her, trying to understand why she was doing that.

“I heard him telling Nino that he had a photoshoot this afternoon, but the place where that photoshoot was happening was on the other side of town.” -Marinette said. –“There’s something fishy about this. Don’t ask me how I know it, because I don’t know either. It’s just a feeling I’m getting.” -she said, as continued to run after the limousine.

“Maybe the photoshoot changed locations? Or maybe it’s his dad who’s in that limousine?” -Tikki hypothesized, while trying not to bump into every last thing that was inside Marinette’s backpack.  

“Changed locations? If that had happened, by lunch time he would have already know about it and commented with at least one of us, and he didn’t. And as for being Adrien’s dad in the limousine, I don’t think so. He uses another limousine, a white one, and has a different driver, for when Adrien’s bodyguard/driver is not available.” -Marinette said. After spending more than two years observing Adrien, she discovered a couple of things that only those who had paid attention to the way things were done in the Agreste household, would have seen. –“Plus, I read yesterday that Adrien’s dad is in Milan for a fashion show, so he’s not in town.”    

“Then, maybe Adrien’s driver decided to come and do some errand. Or maybe, Adrien managed to skip the photoshoot and came to do something around these parts.” -Tikki continued to throw theories into the air.

“In the limousine? Hardly. He hates being driven. If he wanted to go out, he would have either take the bus or the underground, while being accompanied by his bodyguard, of course. Or, he would have transformed into Chat Noir. Adrien never goes anywhere in the limousine, unless his dad forces him.” -Marinette said. –“But, Tikki could be right about Adrien’s driver be doing some errands. I can’t discard that hypothesis. Still, my instincts are telling me that there’s something odd about all this.” -she thought to herself. –“No matter, we’ll find out, when the limousine stops, wherever that is.”

“And what about the cake and the chocolates, Marinette?” -Tikki asked her.

“That can wait a little longer. Trust me, Tikki. I know what I’m doing.” -Marinette told her. 

Chapter Text

With her eyes set on the limousine, Marinette was being guided by nothing but her instinct, truly believing that something was not right about that situation. She did not why that was happening, but in her heart, there was something that was telling her to do that. She had been following it on foot for four blocks, when the first signs of exhaustion began to appear, making it harder for her to keep up. Her first thought was to find a place where she could transform into Ladybug and continue the chase on the rooftops. When Marinette transformed into her, her stamina increased enormously, allowing her to do things that in her civilian form she could not. But she also knew that using her powers for something like that was not something she liked. So, she tried to come up with an alternative. Looking around, she quickly found what she was looking for. On her right, several electrical scooters, the same kind that tourists were encouraged to use to move around, were laid in a perfect parallel line. Ever since these showed up, that the traffic in Paris became a lot more dangerous, especially because whoever used them to go around, represented a menace to the pedestrians, as well as cars and buses. Still, Marinette could not care less about that small detail, given she was in a hurry. Swapping her bus pass on the display of one of the scooter’s, she placed herself on top of it and sprinted out of there, with her eyes set on the limousine. She never drove one of those scooters before, but she kept telling herself that it could not be harder than riding a bicycle. Turned out, it was a lot easier than it looked. In an instant, she understood why so many people liked to drive those things around. But she put those thoughts aside, and told herself that she needed to focus on what she was doing.       

Am I taking things too serious here?” -Marinette asked herself, as she dodged a pedestrian that was coming her way. –“Maybe I am, and I’m panicking over nothing. Maybe it’s just like Tikki’s saying… then again, my instinct rarely fails me.” -she thought to herself. –“No matter what, I’m going to find out what’s really going on.

Inside Marinette’s backpack, Tikki tried her best to stand still, so as to not get sick. The little scarlet kwami hated whenever Marinette would start to run like crazy, because that meant that everything inside her backpack would start to shake and jump like crazy. And right then, even with Marinette riding a scooter, the craziness that was going on inside her backpack was just as bad as when she was running.

Why can’t Marinette just accept that maybe there’s nothing wrong going on?” -Tikki thought to herself. More and more, she was tempted to just spill the beans about Adrien loving her, the same way she loved him, so she would stop with that crazy pursuit. –“But what if there really is something wrong going on? Maybe Marinette is on to something.” -she thought, pondering on the remote possibility that Marinette was right about seeing Adrien’s limousine on the opposite side of town.

The pursuit went on for a few more blocks, when Marinette noticed the car’s rear lights signalling, that they were about to park. Stopping the scooter, she knelt behind a parked car and waited to see what happened. As she waited for the car to park, she noticed that it had parked right in front of a jewellery. And not just any jewellery. It was one of the three Cartier jewellery shops in Paris. It was the kind of shop that one would need to book an appointment, just to enter in it. Marinette, like most girls, had always dreamed of one day entering one of those jewellery shops, where some of the most beautiful jewels in the world were for sale, even if it was just to admire them. She knew that only in her wildest dreams would she even be able to afford their cheapest piece. At least, until one day, when she became an important fashion designer, and even then, she was not sure she would be able to afford such a luxury. It was a magical place. Looking at the shop’s entrance, she wondered if it was really Adrien inside that limousine.

Maybe it’s Adrien’s dad who’s inside the limousine. But if that was the case, then during lunch, Adrien would have said something about him coming home today… unless, of course, if he didn’t know about it.” -Marinette thought to herself, without taking her eyes from the limousine. –“Still, what would Adrien’s dad be doing at Cartier’s? And even better, what would Adrien be doing at Cartier’s?” -she wondered, as she tried to figure that small riddle. –“The only reason people come to this shop is to buy jewellery pieces, expensive ones…

Before she could finish that thought, Adrien’s driver/bodyguard, nicknamed Gorilla by Adrien himself, exited the car and quickly proceeded to open the rear door on the passenger’s side. Exiting from the limousine was a slender girl, of average height, pale skin, with visible freckles and sharp yellow-brown eyes. As for her hair, it was dark blue, swept to the left with light blue reflections. She was wearing a white long-sleeved blazer with black outlines around the collar, running down across her waist all the way to the bottom to the hem, with an attached logo on the right of her chest.  Underneath it, she was wearing a black collared blouse with many gold buttons, and attached to the collar she had a red tie with blue parallel lines. She was also wearing a red skirt with an asymmetrical texture with blue and white intersecting vertical and horizontal lines. tight black leggings and a pair of red sneakers with white toecaps. Just from looking at her, Marinette had the distinct impression that she was not a very friendly person. And then, exiting the limousine came Adrien. Marinette, who was still trying to understand what was going on, was shocked to see Adrien there.

Not taking her eyes off Adrien, she wished she was closer to know what he was talking to Gorilla right then, who had just closed the passenger’s door. 

“Kagami and I won’t be long.” -Adrien told Gorilla, before turning his attention to Kagami. –“Shall we?” -he asked her.

“Lead the way.” -Kagami said in her usual formal tone, as she followed Adrien inside. 

“Who’s that girl?!” -Marinette asked, shocked to see Adrien with a girl she had never seen before. –“And furthermore… did Adrien just lie to Nino and everyone else about having a photoshoot, so he could came here with that girl?!” -she asked herself.

Entering the Cartier shop, Adrien felt a little intimated by the opulence of the shop. It was not so much the number of jewels that were on display, but more so because of the shop’s décor. It looked like time had stopped in it, and they had been transported at least 100 years in time. The only things that prevented that from truly happening was the fact they knew that they were on the 21st century, as well as the employees who were dressed in modern, yet formal attire. As soon as they entered, a man wearing a black business suit with a white shirt underneath it and a black and yellow tie, approached them. He was a man in his late fifties, with greyish hair, combed in a way that not even a single hair was out of place, blue eyes and a gracious smile. Smiling, he welcomed the two teenagers.    

“Good afternoon, Mr. Agreste, welcome. I’m Renée Arnault, and I’m the manager. We spoke on the phone yesterday.” -Renée told Adrien.  

“Uh, yes, how do you do?” -Adrien shook his hand. –“Thank you for receiving me on such short notice.” -he smiled at Renée.

“Not a problem at all. Your father was, and still is, one of our finest customers.” -Renée said. Sometimes, when Gabriel wished to seal a deal with an important business partner, especially if that partner was a woman, he would offer her a piece of jewellery, to demonstrate his appreciation. –“So, logically, when you called, I did not hesitate.” -he declared, as he looked at the two teenagers. –“And who this young lady might be?”

“This is my friend, Kagami Tsurugi.” -Adrien said.

“Enchanté, mademoiselle.” -Renée said, as he was about to kiss Kagami’s hand, only to fail, because Kagami refused to extend her hand to him. She was not someone who liked that kind of greetings, even if they were part of a gentleman’s code of conduct. -“Y-Yes, well, follow me please, I took the liberty of reserving one of our private rooms just for you.”

As they followed the manager, Adrien’s eyes could not help but to gaze at some of the beautiful jewellery pieces that were on display. Some were quite simple, while others were intricately complex. But all of them looked beautiful. Even he, a boy, would not mind wearing some of them. Still, he tried to focus on what he and Kagami had come to do. To avoid anyone knowing what he was going to do that afternoon, he lied to everyone that he had a photoshoot. He did not like to lie to his friends, but he could not risk anyone knowing about that. He wanted to find the perfect jewel to offer Marinette, when telling her about his feelings for her, and more importantly, he wanted it to be a secret. And to find the perfect jewel, he had brought Kagami to help him. He did not know much about buying jewels, and he believed that neither did Kagami, given her personality. Still, she had offered him her help, in finding the best way to tell Marinette that he loved her, and that meant help him finding a jewel which Marinette would love.   

Arriving at the private room, this one was a small round room, with its walls covered by red satin curtains. The only furniture in it was a beautifully hand-carved mahogany desk with a green felt top and three equally beautiful hand-carved armchairs. All in all, a very simple, yet stylish room.  

“When you called, you said that you were looking for a special gift for a young lady. I assume that Miss Tsurugi is the young lady in question?” -Renée asked Adrien, as he and Kagami sat down.

“No, it’s not Kagami, I’m afraid. It’s for another girl.” -Adrien said, slightly embarrassed, as he sat on the armchair. He had never done something like that before in his life. –“I’m going to ask her to be my girlfriend and I want something special.” -he admitted.

“Oh, I see. Well, either way, you have come to the right place.” -Renée declared. –“I can assure you that you will not leave this jewellery store empty handed.” -he said. –“Now, if I may, what exactly are you looking for? A necklace? A ring? Perhaps a pair of earrings?”

“Actually, I’m not sure.” -Adrien admitted. He really had no idea what he wanted to offer Marinette. –“That’s why I brought her with me. To help me choose.” -he said, as he looked at Kagami. –“But there’s one thing I know. I don’t want something that is incredibly pricey.”

When he said that, Adrien felt a little bad about making that comment. He did not want Renée to think that he did not have the money to buy even the cheapest piece that store had to offer. The truth was he did not have the money to buy the most expensive piece in the store, but he certainly had more than enough to buy the cheapest. The reason he said that was because he did not want to buy something which made Marinette feel bad about accepting it. Thinking about it, he was beginning to think that perhaps he should have thought of another place to buy something for Marinette, and that place was not the right one. But then he told himself that he had come looking for something special, and if he did not find it, he was not obliged to buy anything.

“What I mean is, I don’t want something that’s worth hundreds of thousands of Euros or even millions of Euros. I’m looking for something that is beautiful, but that doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive. So, no diamonds or any precious stones.” -Adrien declared. –“I don’t want Marinette to feel bad about being offered something that is more than her parents make in a whole year.” -he thought to himself.

“I understand what you’re saying. And I can assure you that we will find the right piece for the young lady, you wish to declare your love to.” -Renée said, as he got up from his chair. –“If I may suggest, shall we begin with perhaps some earrings? We have some that are sure to be what you have in mind for the young lady.” -he said, as Adrien nodded his head, thinking that earrings could be a good option. –“I’ll go get them, right away. With your permission.”

And with those words, the manager left to get the earrings he was talking about, leaving Adrien and Kagami alone. The blond decided to take the opportunity to once again thank Kagami for helping him with that.

“I know I already said this, but thanks for helping me with this.” -Adrien told Kagami.

“My pleasure. I told you that I would offer you my help, and I stand by my solemn oath.” -Kagami told him, always speaking in the same formal tone Adrien was used to hear from her.

“I know that. Still, this is really important to me. I could not have asked for someone better to help me with this.” -Adrien told her. Though he was not being entirely honest about not having someone better to help him with that, he was still incredibly thankful for having Kagami with him. He could have asked Chloe, who always had an eye for jewellery to help him choose the perfect gift for Marinette, or even Alya, who was Marinette’s best friend, and who knew her better than anyone else. But fearing that one of them would accidentally tell the blue-haired girl what he was up to, he preferred to have someone who Marinette did not know, helping him. –“I’ll never forget this.”

That last comment made Kagami smile for the first time that day. It was incredibly hard for anyone to make Kagami smile, but Adrien seemingly had a special talent to do it. Kagami herself believed he truly had the unique talent to make her smile, even when she did not want to. She did not know how he managed it, but the truth he did it, almost without wanting to.

“Like I said, it’s my pleasure to help you finding happiness, Adrien.” -Kagami said, this time with a smile on her face.

Shortly after, the manager returned, caring a case, which he quickly placed on top of the desk. Opening it, Adrien and Kagami saw some of the most beautiful earrings they had ever seen in their young lives. Just like Adrien had asked, none of them had any precious or semi-precious stones. They were all shapes and sizes. From simple hoops to studs, as well as dangles and clip-ons, there were earrings inside that case for every occasion and personal taste.   

“As you can see, we have an incredible selection of earrings.” -Renée said, as he pointed to some of the earrings. –“Now, it will all depend on your taste, as well as the young lady’s taste in earrings.”

Upon hearing Renée saying that, Adrien immediately realized that earrings were not an option for Marinette, given that she had her ears pierced, but she was always wearing her Ladybug earrings and could not remove them. Thinking about it, Adrien assumed that she could pierce her ears once more, so she could wear another set of earrings; but at the same time, he did not feel comfortable forcing Marinette into doing that, just because he offered her some earrings. He would just have to choose something else.  

“They are pretty, there’s no doubt about it.” -Adrien said. –“But now that I think about it, I don’t think that earrings will be the thing I want to give to Marinette. She’s quite picky when it comes to her earrings.” -he lied about the last bit. Marinette was many things, but she was not picky about most things.          

“Oh, I see. Then, perhaps, a brooch or necklace would be more to her liking?” -Renée asked him, as he closed the case.

“Definitely.” -Adrien answered him. A brooch or a necklace were things that Marinette would be able to use, without having to relinquish her miraculous.  

“Very well, I’ll be back with some of our finest brooches, along with some necklaces.” -Renée declared, as he got up and grabbed the case. –“And if you don’t see anything that you feel is perfect, I will be happy to show you some bracelets and pendants, that we received early this week.” -he said.     

Time went by, and Marinette wondered what Adrien and the girl he had entered with in the jewellery shop were doing. Seconds turned to minutes, and the more she waited for the two of them to exit, the harder it was for her to just stay there and wait for them to get out. She needed to enter that jewellery store and see what they were up to. But she knew that unless she was someone incredibly important, or had booked an appointment, she would not even be able to get close to the store’s entrance. Desperate, Marinette decided to use a tactic to know what was going on inside the store. In fact, she was wondering why she did not think about it before.

“Tikki, go and find them.” -Marinette asked her kwami. –“Go inside the jewellery store and find out what’s going on between them.” -she begged her.

“Marinette… don’t take this the wrong way, but aren’t you being a little paranoid about this?” -Tikki asked her with a soft voice. She did not want to insult Marinette or her feelings, because from the way she was looking at her, Tikki knew that she was really thinking about the worst possible scenario.

“Paranoid, me?!” -Marinette exclaimed, surprised by what she was hearing Tikki saying to her. –“I’m not being paranoid. I just want to know why Adrien entered in one of the most expensive jewellery stores in Paris with a girl that I’ve never seen before in my life, instead of supposedly being in a photoshoot where he said he would be this afternoon. I mean, it’s not too much to ask… my precious Adrien, with a girl that I know nothing about. For all I know he could be buying her an expensive gift that says “I love you”, and instead of dating me, he’ll end up dating with her, and he and I will never be happily ever after with three kids and a hamster!” -she practically yelled, trying not to sound like she was about to go insane, but failing. –“Okay, that sounded a lot less creepy in my head…”

“I call that paranoia. And what’s with the whole having a hamster idea?” -Tikki asked her in a sarcastic tone, while raising an eyebrow at Marinette. –“You know what? Never mind that last comment. You don’t have any reasons to be worried, Marinette. For all we know, she might be a friend of Adrien, that he has never talked about. You must also have friends, which you never mentioned to your other friends, right?” -she told her.

Marinette knew she was being paranoid about all of that, and that Tikki was right. She was letting her imagination and her fear cloud her judgement. But right then, her brain and her heart were not going hand in hand, and she knew it.

“You’re right… still, please, Tikki, go inside and see what’s really going on. My heart can’t take much more of this…” -Marinette said with a slightly over-dramatic voice. If she could hear herself talking, she would say that she sounded the way Chloe did, when her dad did not agree to do something, she had asked him to do.    

“You’re being incredibly paranoid about all of this… but I’ll do it.” -Tikki sighed, as she got out of Marinette’s backpack. –“Stay here and don’t do anything stupid, okay?” -she asked her.  

After deciding that he was not going to offer Marinette earrings or bracelets, Adrien decided that the best idea was to offer her a necklace or a pendant. Still, there were a lot of options and Kagami herself was not helping very much. She would only say if she liked it or not, if Adrien asked her about it. Still, he could not say he was not learning a couple of things that afternoon, while shopping for Marinette. Renée was kind enough to explain to him the difference between the various types of necklaces and the name they all had. All the while, Plagg, who was inside of one of Adrien’s jacket pockets, was becoming increasingly bored with all of that. In that short time, he had already heard more about jewellery than he needed to.  

Come on, Adrien, just pick one… I’m getting tired of just hearing that guy talk! It’s like he’s a broken record, who only says the same thing after you ask him to show you a different jewel piece!” -Plagg thought to himself. –“If you’re already taking this long to choose a gift to give her, when telling her about your feelings for her, then I don’t even want to think how long it will take you to choose an engagement ring, or the wedding rings, when you two decide to get married!” -he mused to himself. Right then, he just wanted to be home, savouring a delicious piece of Camembert cheese, while watching something on the television. –“Hey, wait a moment! I’m not the only kwami around here…

Plagg had sensed that one of his fellow kwamis was near. He did not know which one, but he knew that whichever it was, it was near. Determined to see which of the other kwamis was around there, the black cat kwami placed his head out of the pocket and waited for the right moment to slide down Adrien’s jacket, without anyone noticing him. While waiting, he felt that the other kwami was getting closer and closer to where he was. Finally, the right moment came and he slid down the jacket, quickly hiding beneath the desk. Having made up his mind to find out which other kwami was roaming around there, he made his way out of that room, always being careful to not be spotted.

Already outside the private room, Plagg noticed all the cameras that were on the walls, but he was not worried about them, because kwamis could not be spotted on video. He was only worried about someone seeing him. That store was one place where he could not just pretend, he was a harmless little trinket or a kid’s toy, because it would raise suspicions. Hiding beneath the store’s showcases, he kept looking for the mysterious kwami. But the only thing he was seeing was that no matter how clean that place was, people had forgot to vacuum beneath the showcases, forcing him to hold his breath, so as to not start to sneeze like crazy.        

What’s with dust that likes to get into these kinds of places?” -Plagg thought to himself, as he stopped, to feel where the other kwami’s energy was coming from. –“Whoever you are, you’re really close.” -he told himself.

A couple of seconds later, he spotted under one of the showcases that was opposite of the one he was hiding under, a small scarlet creature floating a couple of millimetres from the floor, who was seemingly trying not to get spotted. He instantly recognized her as Tikki, and wondered what she was doing there. Waiting for the right opportunity, he zoomed the distance between the two showcases, and approached her.

“Tikki?” -Plagg called her.

“Plagg!” -Tikki exclaimed. –“Don’t sneak up on me like that! You scared me.” -she told him. She had sensed his energy, but was too focused on not getting caught

“What are you doing here?” -Plagg asked Tikki.

“I… well, what are you doing here?” -Tikki asked him, trying to avoid answering him what she was doing there. The scarlet kwami would not know how to answer it, without making Marinette sound like someone who had lost her mind, no matter how she put it.

“Adrien came here to buy a gift for Marinette for Valentine’s Day…” -Plagg told Tikki, before realizing that he should have not told her that. –“… crud, I shouldn’t have told you that.

But it was a good thing he told her. Upon hearing the reason why Adrien had come to that place, Tikki felt like they had removed a weight from her chest. Deep down, she knew that Adrien had a good reason to visit a jewellery store, and that reason had something to do with Marinette.

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Marinette a thing.” -Tikki smiled at Plagg. –“We both knew that this would end up happening, sooner or later.” -she said.

“And about time, if you ask me.” -Plagg said. –“It’s clear to everyone, including us kwamis that those two are made for one another. They seem to be the only ones who haven’t figured that they are both mad in love with one another and that they belong together.” -he smirked.

“Still, who’s the girl that’s with Adrien? Marinette’s a little afraid that she might be a competitor for Adrien’s heart.” -Tikki asked him, omitting the part that Marinette was going bonkers, from just thinking about it.

“The girl? Don’t worry, there’s no chance those two will ever become a thing. Kagami only sees Adrien as a friend, and vice-versa. There’s not even a spark of romance between the two of them, believe me.” -Plagg declared. –“Adrien asked her to come with him, to help him choose the gift he’s going to give Marinette for Valentine’s, because she volunteered to help him out, and because he needed a feminine word on the matter.” -he said.

“He could have asked Alya for help.” -Tikki told him, knowing that if there was someone who knew Marinette better than anyone else, it was Alya.

“Yes, he could have, but he’s afraid that she would spill the beans and tell Marinette everything. He truly believes that Marinette might not like him, the way he likes her.” -Plagg said. –“If only he knew the truth…” -he chuckled.

“Indeed. The same thing’s happening with Marinette. She doesn’t know just how mad in love Adrien truly is with her.” -Tikki said.

“Well, she will know in just two days.” -Plagg declared. –“Providing you don’t tell her what I just told you.” -he said.

“I won’t tell her, if you don’t tell Adrien that she’s mad in love with him either.” -Tikki said. –“I hate to do this to Marinette, but she only has to endure this little pain for another two days, and then, Adrien will tell her that he loves her, and she’ll tell him that she loves him, and everything will be alright… that is, if I can make her calm down and not freak out about the possibility of Adrien falling over another girl.” -she thought to herself.

While the two kwamis swapped words, Adrien believed that he had found the perfect gift for Marinette. Renée had showed him a beautiful white gold ladybug pendant with a matching chain, which he instantly felt in love with. It was both simple and beautiful, and Marinette could wear it with pretty much anything, that she would look good on it. Of course, there was a moment of hesitation, before saying out loud that he thought it was perfect for her. He wondered if she would like it, because she had told them once or twice that she viewed herself and Ladybug as two separate persons; and he feared that by giving her that pendant, she would think that he loves her for being Ladybug, and not herself. 

“This one’s beautiful….”

“But?” -Kagami said, noticing the hesitation in Adrien’s voice.

“I… I don’t know. Ladybug’s are her favourite animal, but I don’t want her to think that I chose this for her, just because I know she likes ladybugs.” -Adrien said, lying about ladybugs being Marinette’s favourite animals. He remembered her telling him once that her favourite animal is the dolphin, because of a dolphin plushie her dad had given her when she was younger.      

“You want my honest opinion?” -Kagami asked Adrien, who nodded at her. –“In my country, when someone offers a present to someone they care about, they usually offer them a present that that reflects one of their interests, not because they think they only know them because of that distinct interest, but because it shows that they know them and they wish to know them better.” -she declared in her usual formal tone. –“So, I don’t see why you shouldn’t give her that necklace. It’s a nice necklace and I’m sure that she will like it.” 

With Kagami there were no fancy words or pretty metaphors in her speech. She was always straight to the point, which could be perceived as either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who was listening to her. Adrien himself saw that as a good thing.

“When you say it that way, it does sound like a good thing.” -Adrien admitted, as he stared at the pendant, admiring it once more, and imagining how it would look around Marinette’s neck. –“Alright, I’ll take it.” -he told Renée, believing that he had chosen well.

“Excellent choice, if I do say so myself. Just like your father, you have splendid taste in jewellery.” -Renée told Adrien, congratulating him on his taste. 

“Thank you. Oh, just one more thing, if possible. Could we just keep this between us? I don’t want my father to know about this.” -Adrien asked Renée. Though he did not believe Gabriel would forbid him from dating Marinette, especially because from the times the two had met, she had made a good impression on him, deep down, Adrien believed that it was better to play his cards wisely and not have him know about it. At least, not until he had told Marinette who he felt about her. Once that was out of the way, and if his father opposed to them dating, Adrien would find a way to make Gabriel see he was wrong about it. Of course, that would only happen, if Marinette agreed to date him.

“But, of course. If that is your wish, I’ll be as quiet as a mouse regarding this matter. Discretion above all.” -Renée said, as he closed the case where the pendant was, leaving it outside of it. –“Will you be paying in cash, check or credit card?” -he asked Adrien.

“Huh… cash.” -Adrien said, when it occurred to him that he had not even asked Renée the price of the pendant. He hoped that he had brought enough money with him.  

“I see. Well, then, that will be 279 Euros.” -Renée said. –“If you follow me, we can take of the payment, while I place this little guy in a proper box.” -he said.     

As he and Kagami followed Renée, Adrien thought to himself that the necklace turned out to be a little less expensive than he thought it would be. To pay for it, he decided to sell a few videogames he had just lying around in his bedroom. They were some he would not be missing, and that his father would not notice either, given the amount of presents he had bought for him, or had asked Nathalie to buy on his behalf, over the years. While he was choosing the videogames, he was going to sell, he could not help but to realize that though he was rich, he was not able to spend a single dime without his father’s approval. Gabriel would assign him an allowance every month to cover some of his expenses, but Adrien could never go on a shopping spree, like Chloe loved to do, because his father controlled every single of his bank accounts, stating that he would get access to them when he was older, and that until then, if he needed money for something, he would have to ask him for it. And for that reason, he decided to sell some of his stuff, so he could buy Marinette that present for her, without his father knowing about it.

Good thing I managed to sell some of those videogames online. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to buy this without dad knowing.” -Adrien thought to himself, as he and Kagami continued to follow Renée. –“I really hope Marinette likes it.” -he thought.    

While she waited for Tikki to come back with news, Marinette’s obsession with finding out what Adrien was doing at Cartier’s, led her to get closer to the limousine, where Gorilla was waiting for Adrien to return. She did not want to be spotted by him, or anyone else, so she did her best to keep herself out of sight. Still, she was keeping her eyes peeled for Tikki, who was taking her time coming back. 

“Where’s Tikki?! What’s taking her so long?” -Marinette thought to herself. She knew the store was big, but not big enough for one to get lost inside. 

Minutes went by, and there was no sign of either Tikki or Adrien with the unknown girl he was with. Little did Marinette know that Tikki had found Plagg and stroke a conversation with him. Talking to him, Tikki found out who the unknown girl was and what she and Adrien had come there to do. She found out everything that Marinette had asked her to find out, and yet, she could not tell her a word about it. Not only because she promised Plagg, but also because if she told Marinette, she would ruin the surprise Adrien had planned for her. When she finally exited the store, passing through the building’s wall, Marinette, who was waiting for her to show up, quickly waved at her from where she was hiding, so the little kwami would know where she was.   

“What happened?! You took so long, Tikki?” -Marinette asked her, a little anxious, hoping that she had managed to find out anything, as Tikki stopped in front of her.  

“I’m sorry, Marinette. But I couldn’t find them.” -Tikki lied to her. She hated lying to her, but she did not have any other alternative. She could not tell her what Plagg had told her.

“You couldn’t?!” -Marinette exclaimed, as she felt her heart being consumed by fear and insecurity.

“Yes, I’m sorry, Marinette. I did try and find them, but the store was just so big and I did not see either Adrien nor the girl she’s with.” -Tikki said, once again lying to Marinette. Every word that came out of her mouth felt like a nail was being stabbed into her tiny little heart. –“I’m sorry, Marinette, but I can’t tell you the truth.” -she thought to herself.    

If Marinette was already feeling absolutely paranoid with what was going on, then when she saw Adrien and Kagami coming out of the jewellery store, a few seconds later, her heart almost stopped. Adrien had just managed to make Kagami smile, once more, and this time, not only he made her smile, but he also managed to make her giggle. The whole scene looked like something out of one of those teenager comedies, where the boy takes a girl out on a date and manages to make her smile or giggle, after telling her really lame joke.

Seeing that, Marinette felt her heart break into a tiny million pieces. After seeing what she did see, the sadness, mixed with doubt and rage that was making her way into both her mind and soul, was making her feel like just show up and confront both Adrien and Kagami and demand a few answers out of them. But instead of doing that, Marinette did the exact opposite; she fled. Gritting her teeth, she ran out of there, as fast as her feet allowed her, while trying not to start crying.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing in the world Nino loved about dating Alya, it was the fact of her mother, Marlena, being one of the best chefs of Paris, not to mention of France. He knew that whenever he was invited to have dinner with Alya’s family, that he would leave with his stomach full, and that night was not going to be any different. It was not the first time Nino was invited to one of the Cesaires dinners, and as things were going, it would not be the last time either. On that night, Alya had invited him over, because she felt like having dinner with him, along with her family. She liked to do that, because it would mean she would get to spend a little more time with her boyfriend, while also enjoying dinner with him and her family. If one would ask Alya if she was the sentimental type kind of girl, she would say that she was not. But the truth, was that she was incredibly sentimental and she liked to have those she cared the most around her, especially around a table, so they could enjoy a meal together.    

On that night, Marlena had prepared some of Alya’s favourite dishes, which were also her sisters’ favourites as well. On the table there were Boudin Créole and Poulet boucané, among other delicious goodies, which were then perfuming the Cesaires’ dining room. Marlena could just cook up anything, but her true specialty was French cuisine and Creole cuisine. And you could see that was a fact, from the delicious aroma that came from the plates she had prepared that evening. The aroma was so good that even Ella and Etta, Alya’s younger twin sisters, had not said a single word, since they had sat at the table. The other one who had not said a single word either was Nino.   

“You’re talking very little today, Nino. Is there something wrong?” -Marlena asked Nino.

“N-No, no, on the contrary.” -Nino said, as he took another bite from his Poulet boucané. –“It’s just that, the food is so good, that a person even forgets to talk.” -he said.

“I have to agree on that one with the boy, Marlena. Once again, you have outdone yourself.” -Otis told his wife, who smiled back at him. –“And from the look on everyone’s faces, I’d say, me and Nino aren’t the only ones to think that. You know when no one says a word at the table is because our forks and knives do the talk for us, thanks to your cooking.”

“Oh, come on, you’re always saying that.” -Marlena said.

“But it’s true, mom. Your food’s the best.” -Alya declared. –“And the best part is that we don’t have to feel jealous of the hotel guests at the Le Grand Paris. It’s them who have to feel jealous of us, because we get to eat your food almost every day, while they don’t.” -she joked.

“Oh, stop it, you’re going to make me blush.” -Marlena said.

One thing was certain at the Cesaires house. There was never a shortage of praising between them.  

“Alright, alright, I think we can stop with all the praising.” –Marlena said. –“Changing the subject, it’s nice to have you coming around for dinner, Nino.”

“Indeed, it’s nice to have you over for dinner, kid.” -Otis told him.     

“It’s always a pleasure to accept an invitation to have dinner at your place, Mr. Cesaire.” –Nino answered Otis.

“Nino, I told you already, that Mr. Cesaire is Alya’s grandfather. You can just call me Otis.” -Otis told Nino, always smiling at him. From all the boys Alya could have picked to have as a boyfriend, to Otis, Nino had been the best one ever, and he was happy she picked him.

“I appreciate the offer, but my parents have raised me to never address older people by their first name.” -Nino smiled. Maybe in a couple of years, when he was older, he would begin to treat Alya’s dad by his first name, but not right then.

“And they did a very good job raising you.” -Marlena told Nino, also with a smile on her face. –“They must be very proud of you.” -she declared. –“I know I said this once, but I’ll say it again. You really picked the nicest boy in Paris for a boyfriend, Alya. Not only is he a nice, he’s also quite handsome.”

“Mom! Don’t say those things! You’re embarrassing me in front of Nino!” -Alya told Marlena, in a playful tone, which earned a couple of giggles from Ella and Etta. –“What are you little Sappotis giggling about, huh?” -she asked the twins, in the same playful tone, and calling them by the nickname she had given them.

“N-Nothing!” -Ella and Etta laughed in chorus.

As everyone was laughing, they failed to realize that Nino was blushing a little from all those praises.  

“Well, I still think he’s too skinny.” -Nora declared.

“You say that about every boy out there, Nora.” -Alya told her older sister. –“Sometimes I wonder if you would want me to date a bodybuilder. I mean, you would, if you found one that was strong enough to take you down in the ring.” -she told her, with a voice filled with sarcasm.

“At least he would have a bit more muscle to protect you, if you were attacked by either a robber, or one of those nasty Akumas that that Hawk Moth freak is always throwing at the city!” -Nora said.  

“Nino doesn’t need muscles to protect me. He may be skinny, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the strength to protect me from anything or anyone who might threaten me.” -Alya told Nora, while winking an eye at Nino, who returned it. If Nora knew just how Nino, as Carapace, had saved Alya’s life more time than she could count, she would not talk that way about him. –“Besides, I can take care of myself.” -she shot at her. Just because Nora was her older sister, she believed that Alya could not take care of herself.

“Now, now, girls, what have we talked about this? No fighting at the table.” -Otis told his daughters, ending that discussion. –“Why don’t we change the subject again, so Nino here doesn’t think that you two spend your time?”   

“Oh, he knows that we spend our time fighting, dad.” -Alya joked, which earned her a smirk from Nino, and the stink eye from Nora, having decided to ignore the last one. –“But since you insist, why don’t you choose the subject?” -she asked  

“Oh, alright. I actually have something to tell you all. Today, at the zoo, we received a new animal, and guess who’s going to be in charge of its well-being for the next couple of weeks?” -Otis asked them

“You, daddy?” -Ella asked him.

“That’s right, Ella. I am.” -Otis smiled.

“And what animal is?” -Marlena asked him. –“Hope it’s not a very dangerous one.” -she said, a bit worried. She knew her husband was used to handling wild animals, but she still worried about his safety.

“I bet it’s an elephant!” -Etta said, as she imagined Otis next to an elephant, as the elephant petted him with his trunk.  

“No, sweetie, it’s not an elephant.” -Otis said. Being as young as she was, Etta, as well as Ella did not understand that their father was a specialist in felines, both large and small, and because of that, whatever animal he was going to be responsible for, it could never be an elephant. –“It’s a panther, a black panther.” -he said.

“A panther?” -Marlene said.

“Really? Is this one, another animal that has been rescued from poachers?” -Nino asked him. Alya had once told him that the zoo where her father worked, sometimes received animals that had been captured by poachers and other illegal hunters, to be sold on the to the highest bidder in black market. –“Just like that lion, last year?”

“No, not this one. This one came from Berlin’s zoo. We traded a gorilla for this panther.” –Otis declared.

The way Otis was talking about it, it almost sounded like he viewed the animals as trading cards. But his family, along with Nino knew that that was not the case. If anything, he was happy and thrilled that the trade happened without a hitch, because when these trades or loans happened between zoos, it was for a good cause like getting a mate for an animal, or providing better accommodations to a particular specimen, because the original zoo did not have the proper installations to care for it. And this panther was an animal that he had been trying to get to the zoo, under one of the many wild life exchanging accords the zoo had signed between countless other zoos in the world, over the last decade.    

“Then, you’re going to have another panther to keep company to the one the zoo got a couple of months ago.” -Alya said.

“Indeed. This one’s a male panther, and we’re hoping that he becomes the mate of the female panther we already have. Providing they like each other, of course.” -Otis declared. –“Hopefully, they will be on good terms with one another, when it’s time to show them at the exhibit.” -he said

“An exhibit? What exhibit?” -Nora asked her father.

“Oh, I forgot to mention that. On Valentine’s Day, there will be an exotic animal exhibit at the Champ de Mars, and the two panthers will be taking part in it.” -Otis said.

They all had seen the ads and the posters for that exhibit over the last two weeks, and they were a little surprised, when Otis told them about the panthers. In them there was no mention to the fact that there would be two panthers in the exhibit.  

“I know I’m not an animal expert like you, Mr. Cesaire, but isn’t it a little too dangerous to have two wild animals in an exotic  

“Well, they won’t be the only wild animals at the exhibit, Nino. There will also be snakes, bearded dragons, geckos, spiders, frogs, fennec foxes, marsupials, hedgehogs, and even some monkeys.” -Otis told him. –“I admit that the panthers were not among the animals that are going to be in it, but the zoo has decided to loan them to exhibit, as part of a marketing campaign, to get more people to visit it.” -he said.

“And is it safe to do that?” -Alya asked him. Just thinking about the possibility of two man-eating panthers escape their cages, was something that no sane person would want to happen. The whole thing was just as bad as having one of Hawk Moth’s Akumas on the loose.

“I admit that it’s a bit dangerous to take two wild animals that still haven’t had the chance to get accustomed to one another’s presence, to an event with so many people in it. But we’ll be taking precautions to avoid any incident, like having the two panthers in separate cages. Plus, I will be there, along with other zookeepers, and we’ll be carrying tranquilizer darts, just in case.” -Otis told Alya, assuring her that there was no reason to expect the worst would come to pass.  

After dinner, Alya and Nino went to her bedroom, where they could get some privacy. Most parents would not let their daughter alone in her bedroom with her boyfriend, without at least leaving the room’s door 10 centimetres open, so they could see what was going on. But knowing Nino, and knowing their daughter the way they did, both Otis and Marlena felt there was no need for such a thing. They had once been young, and knew just what young people in love did, when alone. But they trusted their daughter to do the right thing, and as such, allowed her to be alone in her bedroom with Nino.   

“Your family sure is something.” -Nino joked, as he lied in bed next to Alya, and placed his left arm around her.   

“Yours isn’t so bad either. Your parents are also cool. And your little brother, is only half the devil my little sisters can be.” -Alya chuckled, being honest, as she cuddled to him. –“I’m glad you had fun.” -she told him.

“Are you kidding? Your parents make me feel like I’m their son.” -Nino said, as he allowed her to rest her head on his shoulder. 

“Well, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but my dad thinks of you as the son he never had.” -Alya whispered at him. Otis had been blessed with four beautiful daughters, but he had always dreamed about having a son. And in Nino, he saw that son he never had.

“I won’t. And it’s nice to hear your dad thinks of me that way.” -Nino said.

“You know, what my mom said about you was true, as well. I could have not picked a better boyfriend than you.” -Alya told him.

“You’re not do bad yourself, you know?” -Nino told her, making her giggle. –“You know, I consider myself lucky, because I’ve got the best girlfriend in the world, whose family also loves me… well, except for Nora. Your older sister really doesn’t like me.”

“Well, every family has a black sheep, so they say.” -Alya commented. She did not like to admit it, but Nora managed to behave in a way that was not the way her girl her age should behave. -“Sorry about what she said, again… sometimes I think that she loves to mock you and to tell you that you’re not good enough for me, just because she believes she’s a lot stronger than you are.” -she sighed, knowing that if Nino ever used his real strength against Nora, he would knock her out with either a punch or a well-placed kick. –“Sometimes, I really wished you would challenge her to an arm wrestling competition and beat the snot out of her…”  

“So did I. But if I did that, she would wonder where I got all that strength, and she could find out about my secret and yours as well. But hey, when we get married, she’ll be part of my family as well.” -Nino told her, as he kissed her on the cheek, making her giggle. –“Maybe then Nora will think that I’m man enough for you. I always thought that if I had problems with anyone accepting me as your boyfriend, it would be your dad.” -he joked.

“You know what? Forget what Nora is always saying. If she knew just what you’ve done to protect me, as well as this city, she would never, ever attempt to badmouth you again, thinking that you’re not good enough for me.” -Alya declared. –“I love her with all my heart, but sometimes she behaves like…”

“Like a little kid?” -Nino chuckled, finishing her sentence.

“No, a kid would be a little less idiot than she is.” -Alya laughed.  

One of the things they both loved was to talk to one another for hours. And the best part was that they never ran out of subjects to talk about. They could talk about what had happened in school, or about what had happened during one of their missions, or even about something they had seen on the street. But what they liked to do, more than anything else, when they talked, was to point out the things they loved about each other.

“You know what I like the most about you, my sneaky fox?” -Nino asked Alya, as he caressed her hair.

“My heart-shaped lips?” -Alya giggled. 

“I’ll admit, I like those too, but no. What I like the most about you, it’s that fiery and incredible personality you have. The things and the people you love, you will do anything to protect them with everything you got. While the things that you hate and the people you despise, you will make sure that none of them will ever harm the ones you love.” -Nino told her. –“In sum, I fell in love with someone I know will do anything in her power to make things right when they’re not. You may have been granted the fox miraculous, but you’ve got the heart and the soul of a lioness, girl.” -he said, as he caressed her

“I didn’t know you were such a poet and a philosopher, turtle boy.” -Alya smiled at him.

“Well, when you are into music like I am, you pick up a few tricks.” -Nino smiled back at her.    

They continued to talk to one another, while their kwamis finished the dinner they had brought to them. Having sneaked a couple of goodies from the kitchen, when Alya’s mom was not watching, Alya and Nino made sure that neither Trixx, nor Wayzz would go hungry. Like always, they had picked one of the empty spots in one of Alya’s bookshelves, to have dinner, giving the two lovebirds a little privacy. And as they listened to the two teenagers, the more they felt that the two were made for one another. It was not the first time that the holders of Trixx and Wayzz’s miraculouses fell in love with one another, but Alya and Nino’s relationship had something to it, that made it different from others. Different and special.

“I think they have even forgot that we’re here with them.” -Trixx giggled, as she ate a piece of Poulet boucané Alya had brought her.

“Let them be. Young love is such a beautiful thing to see. Besides, as Confucius once said “Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue”, and what is more sincere and true than young love, Trixx?” -Wayzz asked her, as he nibbled a baby carrot. –“I’ll tell you what, nothing. Absolutely nothing.” -he declared.

“I’ll take your word for it.” -Trixx she told him.

After a while, Nino and Alya began to talk about a particular subject they both needed to talk, Valentine’s Day. This was one subject they could have talked at school, or even on their way home. But people like combine business with pleasure, and Alya was no exception to the rule. Though she admitted her plan was not that one, by inviting him over for dinner, she managed to get Nino to have dinner with her and her family, and spend a little more time with her; and thus, giving them the chance of talking about what they were going to do that day. They were already going exchange chocolates, but that was happening in school, and they both wanted to celebrate Valentines the way it should be celebrated, once school was over.

“So, what do you want to do for Valentines? Go to the movies? Romantic dinner? Or, who knows, go out on patrol?” -Nino asked her.

“Mmm… well, it would be fun to go to the movies, but I bet everyone will have that idea, especially since the newest Deadpool movie is going to premiere on Valentines, and you remember what happened with the previous one? It became everyone’s favourite Valentine’s Day movie that year, and I just bet the same thing is going to happen again, and that means, major confusion and very little romance.” -Alya told him, preferring to wait for another time to go to the movies with Nino.  –“Besides, we got school the next day. As for going on patrol, tempting, but no. The nights have been really chilly, lately. Plus, we can do that whenever we want.” -Alya told him. –“But a romantic dinner sounds like the perfect idea. My place, or yours? I can try and get my parents and the rest of my family out.”

“No need for that. My parents are going out on that day, so we have the whole house to ourselves. And before you ask, I can ask my neighbour to babysit Chris. I’ll be happy to cook a delicious dinner for my lady.” -Nino declared in a chivalrous voice.

“Since when do you know how to cook?” -Alya asked him, laughing. –“The last time you tried to make food, we ended up having to order pizza.” -she said.

“I’ve been taking a couple of lessons.” -Nino said. –“I asked my mom to help cook something that wasn’t macaroni and cheese, without burning it.” -he admitted. After that mishap, Nino decided that he needed to learn to do something more than just toast and macaroni and cheese, so he asked his mother to teach him. –“I can cook up for us a delicious Beef stroganoff with white rice, or maybe some spaghetti Bolognese with meatballs, if you like?”  

“Well, well, my boyfriend, the cook. This I’ve got to see.” -Alya chuckled, as she kissed him.

“Stop joking!” -Nino grabbed one of the pillows that was to his left and playfully hit Alya with it. –“I may not be Gordon Ramsey, but I’m not a hopeless case in the kitchen.” -he chuckled, as Alya grabbed the other pillow and playfully hit him with it.  

“Okay, I’ll stop.” -Alya said, as she hit Nino with the pillow once again, before dropping it on the floor. –“A dinner sounds lovely. I mean, whatever we do together will be lovely, as long as we’re together.” -she sighed. –“And I know that you wanted to go the movies… don’t deny it, I know you too well. When you ask me, what is it that you want us to do, the first thing you suggest, is always the one thing you really want to do. But don’t worry, we can go to the movies some other time.”

“Yeah… maybe the next time we go to the movies, we can ask Adrien and Marinette if they want to come with us. You know, a double-date?” -Nino asked her.

“That would be so good. It would be great if the two of them finally told one another what they really feel… tomorrow I’ll have to talk to Marinette and see if she needs help with something regarding her plan.” -Alya said. –“I don’t know why, but I’ve failed to talk to her about it these past few days. Don’t know where my head’s been.” -she admitted.  

“Don’t beat yourself over it. You’re only human. Besides, Marinette knows that she can count on you, no matter what happens. You are her best friend.” -Nino told her, reassuring her that everything was alright. –“And, since we’re talking about it, any chances of you telling me what she’s got planned for my bro Adrien?” -he asked her, as a smirk showed up on his face.

“Sorry, but my lips are sealed. I can’t reveal it to you, even if I wanted to.” -Alya said. She had made a promise to Marinette, and she was going to keep it.

“You promised her, you wouldn’t tell me anything, didn’t you?” -Nino asked her.

“Guilty as charged.” -Alya admitted. –“And let me guess, Adrien made you swear that you wouldn’t tell me anything of what he’s up to, am I right?” -she chuckled.

“Actually, he hasn’t told me what he’s got planned, but I know he’s got something up his sleeve.” -Nino told Alya.

The conversation between Nino and Alya, regarding Valentine’s Day went on. But they were not the only ones talking about that. Ivan and Mylene were also trying to decide on what they were going to do, while on the phone.  

“If you want to, we could go to the theatre. You’ve been talking about that new play you wanted to see.” -Ivan told her. –“I can get us

“It would be fun, but we got school in the morning. I already checked and the play will only end close to midnight. I don’t think my parents will allow me to go to the theatre because of that.” -Mylene declared. –“I know! Why don’t we go to the movies? I know you’re a big fan of Deadpool. My dad has a friend who can get us tickets for the afternoon session on the cinema he works at.” -she said. –“We could go after school. It would be our date.” -she said.

“I know I am a big fan of him, but you’re not, and I don’t want to go to the movies to watch a movie that you don’t like.” -Ivan told her, as he remembered the time, he took her to see the character’s first movie. –“I had a great time, but you not so much. I want us to have fun together.” -he said.

Ivan was being sincere. He wanted Mylene to have a good time, just as much as he wanted. In his mind, that was the job of a boyfriend, and now that they were officially a couple, Ivan wanted to make sure Mylene was the happiest girl not in Paris, but also in the world.

“I know you say that, but I stand by what I said before. I want you to also have fun. We’ll find something where we can both have fun.” -Ivan told her.   

“Take her to the carnival!” -Muria suggested him. The bear kwami had been listening to the whole conversation, like he always did, when Ivan was on the phone with someone.

“No, not the carnival, Muria. I keep taking her there all the time.” -Ivan told his kwami. –“It’s Valentine’s Day. I want to take Mylene to a nice place.” -he said.

“I think the carnival is a good idea.” -Mylene told Ivan, having heard him talk to the kwami. –“I know you are always taking me there, but it’s a place that I like to go with you. We should have thought of it before.” -she said.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go to another place?” -Ivan asked her, insisting on the matter. He wanted her to have the best date ever. –“Because we can keep looking for alternatives.” -he said.

“I’m sure. I want you to take me to the carnival, so we can both ride the merry-go-round, the Ferris wheel, and you can win me a plushie from one of the carny games. Oh, and I also want us to go to one of those photobooths and get a special photo of our first date as an official couple.” -Mylene giggled. –“It may not be the most romantic place in the world, but that doesn’t matter. All it matters us being together. And I want to do all those things I said, with the boy I love, which is you.” -she said.

And with those words, she convinced Ivan. No one would ever think that Mylene was such a sweet talker, due to her incredible shyness, and yet she was. But she was only like this with either her parents and Ivan, who she felt at ease to do that. As for Ivan, in his mind, if that was really what Mylene wanted to do on Valentine’s Day, then he was happy to make it happen. He also enjoyed going to the carnival with her.

“It’s settled then. I’ll pick you up after school, and we’ll spend the rest of the day there. Just the two of us.” -Ivan told her.

“Just the two of you?! And what about us? Are you two going to ditch us?” -Pin asked. Like Muria, she too had been listening to the whole conversation. –“You two know you can’t leave us at home, in case of an emergency.” -she pointed out.

“Pin! That’s no way to talk to Ivan!” -Mylene reprimanded her, before continuing the conversation with Ivan. –“But she’s right. We can’t leave her or Muria behind. They’ll just have to come with us.”

“I don’t see any problem with that.” -Ivan told her.

“Good, because that way you can buy me something sweet to eat, big guy” -Muria told him.

“Do you ever think of anything else other than your stomach?” -Ivan asked him.

“I do, but in order to think, I need to have my stomach full.” -Muria said, which made Ivan chuckle.

But while Alya and Nino, as well as Ivan and Mylene, came up with plans for Valentine’s Day, Marinette was in her bedroom, trying not to relive what she saw that afternoon. And what she saw was Adrien shopping at Cartier’s, accompanied by a girl she had never seen before. When she saw them coming out of the jewellery, the two of them laughing and giggling, Marinette just felt like revealing herself, so she could berate at Adrien, and demand him to tell her why he had lied to Nino about where he was going that afternoon, while also asking him who the girl was. But instead of doing just that, she ran. She ran as fast as her feet allowed her, while trying not cry her eyes out. Of course, deep down, she knew that no matter how sad or heart-broken, she would have never done such a thing. She knew her heart would never allow her to hurt someone, even if that person did deserve it. She was not a vengeful person; but right then, she wished she was.    

Upon arriving at the bakery, she used the backdoor, so her parents did not see what an emotional mess she was. She did not want them to worry about her. Right then, she just wanted to be alone with her thoughts, no matter how bad they were. She was incredibly upset, and the first thing she did once she reached her bedroom was drop her backpack and throw herself into bed and began to cry. It did not take long for her to lose any sight of time, as the tears rolled down her face.

Usually, Tom and Sabine would have found out about what had happened to their daughter at dinner, when they called her down. But that would not happen on that day. Because of an unexpected order that was made, an hour before the bakery closed, Marinette’s parents were forced to stay down at the bakery to get started on it. Sabine still had the idea of calling Marinette to come and help them. She knew Marinette had arrived, because she heard the backdoor closing. But Tom convinced her that the two of them would be able to handle the order by themselves. So, instead of asking her to come down to the bakery, she sent her a text, telling her to not wait for them and that if she was hungry, to dine without them. She got it, but she did not even read it. The only thing that Marinette did was cry her eyes out, while trying not to think about what she saw, and the more she tried not think about it, the more she thought about it.    

A-Adrien… I lost you… I lost you, because I was scared to tell you how I felt…” -Marinette thought to herself, truly believing, even without proof, that Adrien did not love her, the same way she loved him. –“I-I… I lost you… I l-lost the love… of my life!” -she thought, as more and more tears rolled down her face, unable to stop crying. The pain in her chest was so great that if she could, she would rip it from her chest and cast it away, just so she would never feel that kind of pain again.   

This went on for nearly two hours. Two long hours, when the only sound that was heard was Marinette’s muffled cries. During that time, Tikki did not say a single word to the blue-haired girl. She wanted to say something, to comfort her, but she did not know what she could say to her. She did not know what to say that could help ease the pain, without revealing what Adrien was really doing in the jewellery. It pained her to know just what was going on and not be able to tell her.

I’m so sorry, Marinette. I really want to tell you all about it. More than anything I want to tell everything to you, because I hate to see you crying like that. But I can’t… if I do that, I’ll be breaking a promise I made to Plagg.” -Tikki thought to herself. Right then, she felt like her heart was ripping into two. On one side, she had a duty to share what she knew with Marinette. But on the other, she could not betray Plagg’s trust. –“I’m so sorry, Marinette… forgive me…” -she thought, as she tried her best to not start to cry.

When Marinette finally stopped crying, the Sun had already set in the horizon. And she stopped, not because she did not feel like crying anymore, but because she ran out of tears. The pain she was feeling was still inside her. And just like Tikki, she felt like her heart was ripping into two. The difference between them was that in Marinette’s case, it was because she felt like she had lost the opportunity to experience true love with the boy she loved, while Tikki felt like she was betraying Marinette. Still sniffling, Marinette sat on her bed, hugged her knees and began to cry again, though this time, no tears came out of her eyes. Still, that did not prevent her from continuing to cry. She hoped that by crying, the pain in her would subside and her heart stopped aching the way it was.    

“Marinette…” -Tikki said. –“… please, stop crying.” -she begged her. Tikki could not bear to see Marinette crying like that any longer.

But Marinette did no such thing. Instead, she cried even harder for a few more seconds, before stopping. The little kwami hovered in front of the girl’s head, waiting for her to lift it, so they could talk. Once she did, Tikki saw just what hours of incessant crying did to Marinette. Her eyes were bloodshot red, as they would be, after all that crying. The mascara she had been wearing under her eyes was all smudged. And her face looked puffy. In sum, she looked awful. But what surprised Tikki was not how Marinette’s face looked. What surprised her was the hopelessness she saw in her eyes. She was so used to see Marinette’s eyes filled with joy and happiness, that she was shocked to see that all of the joy and happiness in them, had been swept away and replaced by hopelessness.

“Marinette…” -Tikki said.

“I-It’s o-over Tikki… Adrien d-doesn’t… he doesn’t love me…” -Marinette sighed, while trying not to burst into tears once more. Looking Tikki in the eyes, she saw just how sad the little kwami was as well.

“You don’t know that, Marinette.” -Tikki told her. –“He loves you more than you think.” -she thought.

“What are you talking about, Tikki?!” -Marinette practically screamed at her. –“He lied to Nino about that photoshoot! He lied about where he was going to be! If he lied about that to his best friend, then what else is he lying about?!” -she yelled.

Knowing why Adrien had lied to Nino, it was hard for Tikki to see Marinette like that. More than ever she wanted to tell her the truth, but knew she could not do it. Not without spoiling the surprise Adrien had for her.

“M-Maybe what we saw isn’t what we believe we saw.” -Tikki told Marinette. –“Maybe there’s a reasonable explanation for all of it.” -she said.

“W-What kind of reasonable explanation is there for what we saw, Tikki?” What reason could there be for Adrien to lie to Nino about what he was going to do this afternoon, Tikki?! Tell me!” -Marinette yelled. Tikki had never seen her acting like that. –“And you saw just how happy he was with that girl! He was laughing with her!”   

“Marinette, I know you’re hurt, but believe me, I know that…” -Tikki said.

“You know what?! You know what it’s like to have your heart broken like that, Tikki?!” -Marinette spat at her kwami. –“You’re not even human, you’re a kwami! What do you know about having your heart broken by someone you thought you might have a future with?! You don’t know anything! You know nothing about love or having your heart broken! So, don’t give me that talk and shut up!!!” -she yelled at her.

Marinette had never spoke to Tikki like that before. And the moment she finished saying those words to her, she knew that she had gone too far. Breaking down into tears again, she cried even harder than before. She was letting all the rage and all the doubts that were in her heart to get to best of her judgement, and Tikki was the one who was paying the price of it.

“I… I… I’m s-sorry, Tikki, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to… I didn’t mean to say those words…” -Marinette said, between sobs.

Tikki did not say a single word, and instead, she merely flew towards Marinette and hugged her left cheek, not caring about the tears that were rolling down it. In other circumstances, the scarlet kwami would probably have been angry, upset or even mad at Marinette, after what she told her. But she knew that was not her talking, it was her broken heart talking, and when a broken heart speaks, one can not control what it says.

“It’s okay, Marinette, it’s okay.” -Tikki told her with a sweet and caring voice. She knew from experience that talking with a sweet and caring voice was the best thing to do, when talking with someone whose heart was broken. –“Just let it all out.”

Marinette kept crying for a little longer. And when she stopped crying, and looked at Tikki, the scarlet kwami saw that instead of hopelessness or any other similar feeling in them, her eyes were filled with remorse and regret, which made Tikki feel even worst about not telling her what Adrien had been doing with Kagami.   

“I’m so sorry, Tikki. I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.” -Marinette said, as she wiped the last tears from her eyes. –“Everything that happened… it’s not your fault…”

It kind of his…” -Tikki thought to herself. –“It’s okay, Marinette. I know that you did not mean what you said.” -she said.  

“I don’t know what to do or what to think, Tikki… what if he really likes that girl he was with?” -Marinette asked her kwami, while trying her best, to not start crying again.

“Well, the only thing I know is that sometimes things aren’t what they seem.” -Tikki told her. –“It’s not just you humans who have thought that something had happened one way, only to find out that it did not. We, kwamis have also made that kind of error before.” -she said. With that kind of talk, she was trying her best not to tell her the truth of what happened.

“I don’t know anymore… I mean, I didn’t see them kissing or anything, but… I’ve never seen Adrien acting like that with anyone else before. Not me, not Alya, not Nino, not Chloe, no one…” -Marinette sighed. –“I don’t really know, Tikki… I feel… I don’t even know what I’m feeling anymore. And I don’t know what to think anymore…” -she sighed, trying to withhold the tears. –“It’s like… It’s like I’ve got a puzzle in front of me, and I know that there’s piece missing from it, but even knowing that, I don’t know what the puzzle is supposed to be.”

“Well, I do know one thing. I know that in the end, everything will be resolved, one way or another.” -Tikki told her. –“And I know that a few good hours of sleep might help that head of yours, as well as your heart. Why don’t you go and sleep earlier tonight? I’m sure that in the morning” -she suggested her. –“But first, you need to eat something. Your parents texted you, while you were crying and said that you should dinner without them, because they received a really big order and were going to work on it.”

Right then, she did not feel like sleeping. She did not feel like doing anything but to cry a little more. But in her heart, she knew that crying the way she had been crying for the past few hours, was not going to help her. And while sleeping, she would not be thinking about what she saw.  

“You really think I should go to bed earlier?” -Marinette asked Tikki, who waved her head. –“O-Okay, I’ll do it. But before that, let’s go downstairs and eat something. With all of this happening, I completely forgot to get you something to eat.” -she said, as she got out of bed. –“Thanks again for not being mad with what I told you, Tikki. I’m so sorry I said those things… I wasn’t myself when I said them.”

“It’s okay, Marinette. Let’s just forget about it.” -Tikki said. –“I just hope that you can forgive me for not telling you the truth of what really happened today, Marinette.” -she thought to herself.     

Chapter Text

Chloe Bourgeois had a very strict morning routine, which she followed to a tee, almost every morning. She would get up an hour and a half before going to school, so she could take a long shower and do her hair the way she liked. She would then pick her clothes from her humongous wardrobe, hoping to find the right outfit that would match her disposition. And after that, she would have breakfast, which would be delivered to her bedroom suite by her butler, Jean, while she finished getting dressed.

But it was not always like this. Before she got her miraculous and decided to turn over a new leaf, Chloe was the laziest girl one could possibly imagine, when it came to get up early, so she could go to school. She would get up late and arrive late, just because she believed it was stupid to get up early to go to a place she did not like. She would have Jean pick her clothes for the following day, on the night before, and complain to him that he did not have the sense of fashion she had, forcing him to go inside her wardrobe and bring her countless different outfits, until she finally decided on one, or just insult him and tell him that she would do it herself.

She had changed so much, that Jean and the rest of the hotel staff had noticed it and wondered what had happened? Some believed that she had a change of heart, while others believed that her father had punished her someway that she was forced to change her habits, as well as the way she treated others. But no matter how much they thought and tried to guess the reason for this change over the last couple of months, they simply could not guess it right. But whatever the reason was, they were happy it happened, because that meant Chloe was nicer towards everyone, which also meant that their job was a lot easier now.

"Thank you, Jean." -Chloe thanked him, as he left the breakfast tray on the table for her and left to get the car ready to take her to school.

After Jean exited, Pollen dashed towards the table where the breakfast tray was, having sensed the delicious smell of honey under it. Not waiting for Chloe, the bee kwami pulled the lid off the tray and saw that Jean had brought the usual for Chloe. Two warm croissants with apricot jam, a bowl of strawberries, a glass of chocolate milk and last but not least, a small jar of honey.

"Sweet, sweet nectar of the gods." -Pollen said as she looked at the golden liquid inside the jar.

"You must be hungry if you didn't even wait for me to finish putting my clothes on." -Chloe giggled, as she sat at table and looked at her breakfast. –"Mmm… I'm really hungry this morning." -she said, as she grabbed the fork and began with the strawberries.

"So am I." -Pollen said, as she tasted the honey in the jar. As always, it tasted delicious.

"Really? But last night you ate a whole jar of honey. You're starting to become a real glutton, just like Plagg." -Chloe joked, which made Pollen chuckle lightly.

Once they finished breakfast, and Chloe brushed her teeth, the two of them were ready to go to school. Calling Jean, the blonde told him that she was coming down, while also asking him if her father was still in the hotel, so she could wish him a good day. Unfortunately, Jean told her that the mayor had already left for a early meeting and would only be back by dinner time. This did not surprise her. She was used to her father exiting the hotel early in the morning.

Making her way down the corridor, Chloe tried to remind herself what she needed to do that afternoon, once she got out of school. She had written it on a paper, but forgot where she had placed it.

"Let's see, I can't forget that I scheduled an appointment to have my nails done, right after the appointment at the Spa. I've been feeling so hurt lately, that I really need one of those hot stones' massages. They make me feel so relaxed afterwards." –Chloe thought to herself, while trying to remember what else she had to do that afternoon. –"I know I had something else to do, but what? Oh, now I remember! I need to buy a box of chocolates for tomorrow, so I can offer them to Sabrina." -she remembered. –"But if I go and buy them, I won't be able to attend my appointment at the spa… I could reschedule the spa, but my back needs that massage. And there's no way I'm not doing my nails today…. What am I going to do?"

"What's the matter Chloe? Did you forget something?" -Pollen asked her. As always, the bee kwami was hidden inside Chloe's purse, and had noticed there was something wrong, from the way Chloe was frowning her eyebrows. She had learned that whenever Chloe with that with her eyebrows was because she had forgotten something, or because she had something on her mind. –"What's wrong?"

"I… I just remembered that I have a lot of things to do this afternoon, and I don't know if I'll be able to do them all." -Chloe told her. –"I need to go to the spa, and then I need to go and do my nails, and I need to go and buy a box of chocolates for Sabrina." -she said. –"And if I go to the spa and do my nails, I won't be able to go and buy the chocolates, because by the time I'm finished with it, the stores will be closed. I could cancel my appointment at the spa, but my back is feeling so tense that I'm really in the need for a massage… I know I'm being really selfish, right now, but…"

"Then, why don't you ask Jean to go and buy the box of chocolates?" -Pollen asked her. –"You can't be in two places at once. Only Rose has that power." -she giggled. –"If you send him to buy the chocolates, you don't have to worry about missing your appointments."

"Jean doesn't know Sabrina like I do. I could tell him to go and buy some chocolates for her, but he would buy some that Sabrina would surely won't like. She'll never admit it, because she's too nice to say it, but she loves a very specific kind of chocolate. And if there isn't that kind, she only likes another." -Chloe said, as she stopped in front of the elevator and called it. –"Besides her parents, I'm the only one who knows what kind of chocolates she will like, in case the ones she likes can't be found." -she said.

Pollen liked to hear Chloe talking like that. It meant that she valued Sabrina's friendship and was willing to go the extra mile, just to get her something she likes.

"Well, why don't you do your nails some other day? They don't look like they are in serious need to be done." -Pollen said, as she popped her head out of the purse and looked the blonde's nails. –"I know that you do your nails every week on the exact same day, but maybe you could postpone it to Saturday? That way, when you get out of the spa, you can go and buy Sabrina the chocolates she likes." -she said.

Thinking about it, it was a good idea. Chloe was a bit obsessed with certain bits of her beauty routine, but she had grown to be a little bit more flexible regarding that routine, if it meant doing something for someone she cared about. Looking at her nails, she silently agreed with Pollen; she could go a couple of more days without doing them.

"Fine, I'll do my nails some other time. After the spa, I'm going shopping for the chocolates." –Chloe declared, as the elevator's door open and she walked in.

"Great." -Pollen said.

Going down, it was a matter of seconds before the elevator reached the ground floor. Once the doors opened, Chloe saw that the hotel's foyer looked as busy as always, with hotel guests checking-in and out at the reception desk, while others made their way to the dinning room where breakfast was already being served. Crossing the foyer, she tried to not bump into anyone, while making her way to the exit, where Jean was waiting for her. She could also see through the hotel's entrance door that the car was parked just outside, as always. Going out, she saw just beautiful the day was. She had not opened the curtains of her bedroom, so, she had not seen just how glorious the day looked.

"Thank you, Jean." -Chloe said, as he opened the car door for her, before he himself entered it.

As they made their way into the early morning Parisian traffic, Chloe decided to touch up her make-up a little. As always, she felt like she needed a little something else to make her feel like she was ready to face any challenge that day could throw at her. Putting on a little bit more of mascara and accentuating the shade on her eyelids, Chloe felt that her make-up was perfect. Putting things back in her backpack, she leaned against the car's door and began to look through the window at what was happening on the street. As expected, the streets were filled with Valentine's Day publicity and advertisement. Not counting the Bastille Day, Valentine's Day was the most important holiday for the city of Paris. While staring at some of the ads, she could not help but to remember that her father had told her that someone had suggested that City Hall could dye the Seine pink on Valentine's Day, the same way many cities in the United States did during St. Patrick's Day, by dyeing rivers green. An idea, which was turned down, because it could affect the river's ecosystem. Over the years, as long as she could remember, she had heard her dad telling her come incredibly bizarre ideas people came up with for that holiday, and that one was one of the most bizarre yet.

Feeling a little hot, Chloe opened the car's window to let a little fresh air in, when her nose detected a distinct smell in the air. It was a mix cinnamon, spices and freshly baked croissants, which was coming from one of the nearby bakeries. Inhaling the delicious scent, the blonde suddenly felt like having a second breakfast, and she knew just where she was going to eat it.

"Jean, let's make a detour before heading to school." -Chloe told him. –"Take me to the Dupain-Cheng Bakery, please." -she asked him. –"I'm in the mood for a second breakfast, and one of the cakes from Marinette's parents bakery, is just what I'm craving for, right now."

"Uh, but Miss Bourgeois…" -Jean said, when Chloe interrupted him.

"I told you can call me Chloe, when it's just the two of us, or even when Sabrina's around, Jean." -Chloe smiled at him.

"Very well, Chloe… if we do that, I don't know if we'll make it to school on time. Not with this traffic." -Jean explained her. He did not wish for her to be late for class.

"Miss Bustier won't mind if I arrive a couple of minutes late. And besides, that way, I'll give Marinette a lift to school." -Chloe told him. –"Now, come on, take me there, please." -she asked him.

At the Dupain-Cheng Bakery, things were pretty chaotic, with dozens of customers inside it, waiting for their orders. Tom and Sabine had their hands full, and they hardly slept that night. Tom himself slept only three hours, before he came back down to finish the special order, they had received the day before, and begin to bake the bread and the croissants, so they would be ready for when the opened doors. He was exhausted, and one could see it from the bags he had under his eyes. Still, he knew that they just had to endure that day and the next. Once Valentine's Day had passed, the hustle and bustle they had seen during that week would cease, and things would be a little calmer.

But they were not the only ones who had very little sleep that night. Marinette had gone to bed earlier, after Tikki insisted on the matter, and spent most of the night having nightmares about what she had seen outside Cartier's the afternoon before. She did not know how many times she woke up, or how many nightmares she had, but she knew they were nightmares, because no one wakes up from a good dream. And when she woke up, she tried to remember what she had dreamed about, only to not be able to remember. Which was a good thing, as she saw it. Whatever she had dreamed about, it must not have been good.

She dragged herself to the bathroom, hoping a hot shower would improve her mood. But not even the hot water against her body, as well as the steam, helped. She still felt miserable, as she believed that she had lost Adrien to the girl he was with at Cartier's. She tried not think about it, but just like the night before, she could not help but to play the whole scene in her head, over and over. As she dried her hair, a tear ran down her left cheek.

"Adrien… why didn't I tell you about my feelings for you?" -Marinette thought to herself.

After getting dressed, Marinette emptied her backpack, which still had the missing ingredients she needed to make the cake she was going to give to Adrien, so she could place her school books in it. Placing the ingredients on the floor, she wondered what she would use them for, now that she was not going to make any cake or chocolates for Adrien with them. Sighing, she slipped her backpack on and got ready to go downstairs and try to eat some breakfast. But not before she got Tikki. Just like her, the little scarlet kwami did not sleep very well during the night, and was still sleeping; a result from all the resentment she felt, for not telling Marinette the truth about what Adrien was doing that afternoon. Gently, she grabbed Tikki with both her hands, and placed her on a pouch she was going to wear that day, being careful not to wake her up.

"Let's go, Tikki." -Marinette whispered to a still sleeping Tikki.

Due to the mess that her head was, Marinette could not bring herself to eat more than a couple of spoons full of cereal, before she felt full. Wondering if she would be able to eat anything else during the rest of the day, she grabbed a couple of cookies for Tikki and placed them in her purse, so when she woke up, she would have something to eat. Looking outside, Marinette saw that it was a beautiful morning. Unfortunately, it did not help her feel any better. In fact, it made her just feel even worst. It made her feel like that despite her heart being broken, the world had not stopped spinning.

What she wanted to do right then, was go back to bed and forget that the rest of the world existed. But she knew she could not do it. If she did it, her parents would know something was wrong with her, and she did not want them to worry about her. They had been working so hard the past week, that she could not bring herself to have them worried about her, even if that was their job as her parents.

"I'll just have to learn to live with this… I'll have to learn to live that Adrien and I… it was just not meant to be." -Marinette thought to herself, as a tear rolled down her face.

Swallowing hard, she exited the apartment and made her way down the stairs, hearing the commotion that was coming from the bakery. Before stepping out the door, she did her best to put on a happy face, so neither Tom nor Sabine thought that there was something wrong with her. Opening the door, she saw that the hustle and bustle in the bakery was a lot bigger than she thought it was. Sabine was operating the cash register, as Tom showed up carrying a tray filled with still-warm croissants. Seeing their daughter, who they had hardly seen for the past 24 hours, thanks to all the work, and her going to bed earlier, Tom and Sabine smiled at her.

"Good morning, Marinette!" -Tom and Sabine greeted her in chorus.

"Morning, mom… morning, dad…" -Marinette said, as she tried to look as cheerful as possible, when she noticed the blonde that was leaning against one of the bakery's showcases with a Love Palmier on her hand. –"C-Chloe?!" -she asked, surprised to see her there.

"About time you came down, Marinette! I've been waiting for you for the past ten minutes." –Chloe smiled at her. –"I had time to eat one of these palmiers and drink a cappuccino, while waiting for you." -she said, as she nibbled her second Love Palmier.

"What are you doing here?" -Marinette asked Chloe, still a little shocked with her visit.

"Chloe stopped by to give you a ride to school. Very kind of her." -Tom smiled.

"I came by to check if you needed a lift to school… and have my breakfast, while I was here. You didn't tell anyone in class that your parents did these delicious palmiers." -Chloe said, as she took another bite of the delicious treat. –"Mmm… if I didn't work out the way I do, like you know I do, I would sue your parents for making such delicious things." -she said, as she bit the palmier, once more.

"It was so thoughtful of you, to come here and give Marinette a ride." -Sabine said.

"I happened to be in the neighbourhood, Mrs. Cheng." -Chloe said. –"Well, are you going to stand there all day, or are you coming? I got Jean with the car, waiting for us outside." -she pointed out, while finishing the palmier.

"Uh… y-yes, yes, I'm going. See you later, mom. See you later, dad." -Marinette said, as she followed Chloe outside.

"Have a pleasant day at school, honey!" -Tom exclaimed.

The shock of having Chloe picking her up was so great that Marinette took a minute or two to get her mind on the right track. Entering the car, Chloe thanked Jean for waiting and told him to take them to school. They had been in the car for nearly ten minutes and while Chloe kept talking about how upbeat she felt that morning, Marinette had not said a single word. Usually, the blue-haired girl would be talking how the day looked so beautiful and about what they were going to do in class that morning. And more importantly, her eyes would have a certain happiness to them. But on that day, they looked devoided of that happiness. She did not look like herself. So, it was no surprise when Chloe noticed that there was something wrong with her. She felt like asking Marinette if she was alright, but saw herself unable to do so. She did not know why that was happening, but thinking about it, she believed that she was not entitled to ask her something like that, because of their past. Chloe had bullied her for such a long time, that sometimes she wondered how come everyone in her class, especially Marinette had managed to forgive her. It did not matter if she had changed or not. At times, she still believed that she was unworthy of their sympathy and their friendship.

"No, you need to ask her if she's alright. She's your friend now, and friends look out for each other. She might have seen normal at the bakery, but she doesn't look normal now." -Chloe thought to herself, as she looked at Marinette. –"Go ahead, ask her!" -she thought. –"Marinette, are you alright?"

Hearing Chloe ask her that, and not feeling like talking, Marinette quickly came up with an answer.

"I-I'm okay." -Marinette said.

But she was not, and Chloe could tell it. The blonde admitted to herself that she never had the talents that most of her friends had, like being a good seamstress like Marinette, or an extraordinary reporter like Alya, or a great dancer like Rose, or even an awesome athlete like Alix and Kim. Still, she had one talent, or an ability that no else she knew had. She could tell when someone was lying to her face. During her time as a bully, she had used this talent of hers to know when people were lying to her, even though it not always worked. And right then, by observing Marinette, she could tell there was something wrong with her. She did not what, but she knew her friend had something in her mind that was making her behave differently.

"No, you're not." -Chloe told Marinette. –"There's something wrong with you, I can tell." -she said. –"Do you want to talk about it? I know I'm not Alya, but, I'm here for you."

Even after everything they had gone through, it still felt weird for Marinette to hear Chloe say that. And it did not feel weird just for her. It also felt weird for Chloe, who for so long had never cared about anyone but herself, to say those words.

"I… It's complicated." -Marinette said, hoping that that would stop Chloe from wanting to know what was really going on.

"Complicated or not, you should talk about it. Like I said, I'm here for you." -Chloe declared.

"She's sounding so much like Alya, right now." -Marinette thought to herself. –"Should I tell her about it? I mean, Adrien's a childhood friend of Chloe, plus, she has or had a crush on him, just like I did, until last night…" -she thought. –"Oh, what do I have to lose?"

"Come on, speak up. Whatever it is, I'm sure that it will help talking about it." -Chloe told her.

"It's… it's about Adrien…" -Marinette said in a whisper.

"Adrien?! What's wrong with him?!" -Chloe asked her, clearly worried.

"He's… dating someone…" –Marinette said, trying to withhold her tears. Just thinking about it, was making her heart ache.

"W-Wait, what?!" -Chloe screamed. –"He's dating someone?! Who, when, why?!" -she asked her.

But Marinette did not say anything, as she began to sob. Feeling the two needed a little privacy to have a serious talk, Chloe decided it was best if they talked, while walking the rest of the way to school. They were still a few blocks away from it, but it did not matter. It would give her time to get Marinette to tell her everything.

"Jean, stop the car! Marinette and I are getting out here." -Chloe said, as she grabbed her backpack.

"But we're still a couple of blocks from the school." -Jean told her, as he pulled over.

"We'll walk the rest of the way. After all, with this traffic, we wouldn't get there in time anyway." -Chloe told him. –"Don't forget to pick me up today, after school." -she reminded the butler, as she exited the car, dragging Marinette with her. –"Come on, Marinette, let's go!"

Dragging Marinette with her, Chloe hoped to both stop her from crying, and find out what the whole story about Adrien dating someone was. She had accepted that she and Adrien would never be a thing, but that did not mean that she would prevent someone like Marinette to be happy with Adrien. He was one of her best friends, and when Marinette said that he was dating someone, she knew something was wrong. Adrien was not the kind of person to date someone and not tell anyone. She knew him, and she knew he would never do something like that.

"Marinette, please, stop crying." -Chloe said, as she saw Jean leave in the car. –"If you continue to cry, I won't be able to help you. Come on, let's find a place to sit."

Walking, the two quickly found a bench, where they sat down. Marinette kept sobbing, as if someone had done something unspeakable to her. Looking at her, Chloe could not help but to remember the times when she had bullied Marinette, in which most times ended with her crying her eyes out, just like that. Just remembering about it, made Chloe feel bad about having been that heartless towards Marinette. Still, she tried not to think about it, and focused on what was going on. She allowed Marinette to cry a little more, before sensing she had cried enough and was ready to talk. Pulling out a handkerchief, she offered it to Marinette, who wiped the tears of her eyes with it. Blowing her nose, she somehow felt better for a brief moment.

"Feeling a little better?" -Chloe asked her.

"Y-Yes…" -Marinette sniffed.

"Now, I know that whatever happened is causing you to… to feel sad and…" -Chloe said, without knowing what to say. –"Crud! What do I say?! I don't know what to say! Marinette needs me to tell her that whatever is going on I'm here for her, and I've got no idea what to tell her, or what words should I use!" -she thought to herself, trying not panic.

The whole situation could not have been more awkward to Chloe. She was usually the one who needed a pep talk, when feeling sad and miserable, and it was usually Sabrina who talked; she just listened to her. She could not even remember the last time she gave someone a pep talk. But Marinette was her friend, and she had been there for her before, so she needed to figure out a way to help her, even if she did not know how to do it. Taking a deep breath, she tried to remember what things Sabrina would tell her to cheer her up in those situations.

"Look, Marinette… I know I'm not the best person to do this. I'm not Alya, nor Sabrina, nor anyone else who's used to doing this. But… But I'm going to stay here and listen to whatever you need to get out of your chest." -Chloe declared, trying to sound confidant enough, for Marinette to open herself up to her. –"And… And if you don't want to talk… I'll just stay here, so you can cry in peace, okay?" -she said, as she looked into Marinette's eyes.

"I saw him… I saw Adrien with a girl…" -Marinette sobbed.

It took Marinette a lot of her inner strength just to say those words. But once she did say them, it was like having a weight pulled from her chest. By saying them, it was easier for her to then tell Chloe the rest of the story, not skimping on the details. And while doing it, she tried her best not to cry; she did not like being seen crying, even if it was in front of one of her friends. Still, a few more tears ran down her face, as she told everything to Chloe, who listened to her, without uttering a single word. Inside the girls' respective pouch and purse, their kwamis were listening to the whole thing. Tikki had awakened and felt bad for everything that was going on. So as to not interrupt the girls, Pollen communicated with Tikki via telepathy and asked her for a few more details on the story. Tikki wanted to tell Pollen everything, but she kept her promise to Plagg, and told her that she could not tell her more than Marinette was telling Chloe. Hearing this, Pollen did not insist and told Tikki that whatever it was, she could not tell her, she would respect her decision.

Chloe waited until Marinette finished talking and telling her everything, before saying anything.

"I don't know who she might be. But it's definitely not someone who goes to our school." -Chloe said. It was not the best thing to say at a time like that, but the blonde could not think of anything else to say, given what she had heard.

"I don't know her either… but… but they were both laughing and… I-I… I think I lost him, Chloe." -Marinette said in grief, trying not to burst into tears again. –"I… I lost my chance with Adrien…" -she said, as she burst into tears.

It was no secret to anyone, except for Adrien himself, that Marinette loved him. As one of his oldest friends, Chloe had asked herself how could he have been so blind to that fact. Of course, because for a long time she was obsessed with Adrien and becoming his girlfriend, Chloe did not even care that he had never noticed how in love Marinette was with him. But now, she wondered why that happened. She knew Adrien also had a crush on Marinette, so what Marinette was telling her did not make any sense. Chloe knew Adrien well enough to know that if he loved Marinette, he would never begin to date anyone else, especially, without telling anyone.

"But are you sure that they are dating?" -Chloe asked her. –"Were they giving hands? Did they kiss? What happened?" -she asked.

"N-No… they didn't kiss or gave hands. They were just giggling together." -Marinette declared, as she tried to catch her breath. All that crying had made her forget to breathe.

"Then, how do you know they were dating?" -Chloe asked her. She could not understand why Marinette was acting like that, if all she saw was Adrien giggling with an unknown girl.

"I-I… I don't know… I just…" -Marinette continued to sob.

"Marinette… I know Adrien. I've known him a lot longer than you or any of the others have, and I'm telling you, he wouldn't do that. It's just not in him to do such a thing." -Chloe told Marinette.

"B-But then… why did he lie about having a photoshoot to Nino, and then going to Cartier's with that girl?!" -Marinette said, as Chloe allowed her

"I don't know. But whatever the reason was, it must have been a pretty good one." -Chloe said, as she too tried to –"I don't know who that girl might be, but I do know that Adrien loves Marinette too much to throw everything away… I mean, the way he looks at her; the way he's always smiling at her. Even when he's Chat Noir, that doesn't change. I can't see him doing that to Marinette. And I've got to show to Marinette that she doesn't have to worry about him not loving her. But how?" -she thought to herself, when it hit her. –"Perhaps that girl was the daughter of one his dad's business partners, and Adrien took her with him to get something his dad had bought for that business partner. It's one of the things he tends to do, especially when the business partner is a woman. And Adrien tends to know every single son and daughter of his dad's business partners. It's the same thing with me and my parents."

What Chloe said made some sense, Marinette had to admit. But it still did not explain the fact that Adrien had told Nino he had a photoshoot that afternoon, in a place in the opposite side of town.

"That still doesn't explain why he lied to Nino." -Marinette stated.

"Maybe he didn't. Maybe he was at a photoshoot, and his dad showed up and told him to go do that, once he finished it." -Chloe suggested. Even she did not believe that, but stranger things had happened.

Marinette did not know what to believe anymore. She did not know if she ought to believe in what Chloe was telling her, or if she ought to believe in what her eyes had seen. Maybe she jumped to the wrong conclusion, upon seeing Adrien and the girl. Or maybe her fear of not having Adrien correspond her feelings for him, made her imagine things.

"D-Do you think that maybe, I'm imagining things or that I saw what I wanted to see?" -Marinette asked her. It was the kind of question she would only ask Alya or Tikki, but given things and just how much of a mess her head was right then, she did not care asking it to Chloe.

"I don't know… But I do know one thing. I know that you are an incredible girl, whose only flaw in this situation, is that you allow your emotions to get the best of you, when you think you see something that might not be what you think it was." -Chloe said. –"And here's what you're going to do, Marinette. You're going to take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you're an incredibly strong girl. And then, tomorrow, you're going to tell Adrien what you feel about him. If you really are as brave as I and everyone else knows you are, you can do it." -she told her.

Marinette blinked as she heard those words coming out of Chloe's mouth, and something inside her clicked. At first, it felt like nothing, but as the seconds went by, a strange feeling began spreading inside Marinette, with her sad face beginning to slowly change into a more cheerful face. And then, she began to smile, only to start laughing. But that was not Marinette's usual laugh. It was an almost hysterical one. The people who were passing by them all looked at Marinette and just how hysterical she looked. She was laughing in a way that it looked like she had inhaled a whole tank of nitrous oxide.

"W-What's so funny?" -Chloe asked her, surprised and a little scared by Marinette's reaction. One minute she was crying, and the next she was laughing like crazy. In fact, she was acting like someone who had been thrown out of a mental institution.

"I-I'm sorry, I'm sorry, Chloe…" -Marinette said, while trying to supress her laughs. –"It's just that… I n-never thought… that one day you would be giving me romantic advices!" -she said, while trying to stop laughing.

Hearing her say that, Chloe was able to relax. She had feared that Marinette had gone crazy. Staring at her, the blonde decided it was best for Marinette to speak, before she did.

"T-Thanks, Chloe. I guess I needed that more than I thought." -Marinette thanked her, as she tried to catch her breath. She still could not believe that Chloe Bourgeois, her former bully, turned friend, had actually gave her romantic advices. –"I guess… I guess that I was making a mountain out of a molehill, about all this…" -she said. –"Or as you would say, I was being ridiculous, utterly ridiculous."

"Hey! That's my trademark line, Dupain-Cheng!" -Chloe playfully warned her. –"But, I'm glad I could help you. I don't know what went through your head, when you saw Adrien with that girl, but I'm glad I could help."

"You did more than that, Chloe. You helped me see that my fear was making me make assumptions, without having the whole story." -Marinette said. –"Not even Tikki was able to help me the way you did this time… oh, speaking of which, I must have woken her up with that crazy laughing scene I just did." -she said, as she checked Tikki. –"Hey, Tikki… sorry if I woke you up."

"No, I was already awake." -Tikki smiled. –"And I heard the whole thing. I'm glad you are feeling much better." -she said.

"All thanks to Chloe." -Marinette said, as she smiled at the blonde. –"You said you weren't the kind of person who's used to do this, but maybe you were wrong about it. You were able to help me, when I needed the most, Chloe." -she said.

"Oh, don't say that. And I mean it. I've got a reputation to maintain." -Chloe declared with an overbearing voice, before smirking and winking an eye at Marinette, who winked back.

"Don't worry. I won't ruin your reputation." -Marinette giggled. –"Thanks again, Chloe." -she said. –"If it wasn't for you, I would still be thinking about Adrien and how he's supposedly dating someone we don't know, while having my heart broken."

"So, you don't believe that he's dating someone else anymore?" -Chloe asked her.

"I don't know about that part, but I do know one thing. I'm going to do as you told me. Tomorrow, I'm going to tell him how I truly feel about him, which I should have done a long time ago. –she said. –"Uh, that is… I know that you also have a crush on him and…"

"Don't worry about that. It's in the past." -Chloe told her. Thinking about it, she felt it was the right time to tell Marinette what was also in her heart, and allow herself to let go of one of the weights she still carried in her heart. –"Adrien is a really special friend to me… he's like the brother I never had. And, because of a lot of things, including my stubbornness, my stupid pride, my snobbish and condescending attitude towards everyone, I always believed that I was the only girl who was good enough for him. But I was so wrong." -she sighed, trying not to cry. –"I'll be happy to just have him as a very dear friend of mine. He deserves someone who loves him as much as you. And I truly hope that when you tell him how much you love him, the feelings he might have for you, are the same kind as yours."

Upon saying that, Chloe was hugged by Marinette. Now, it was time for Marinette to do what Chloe did for her a few moments before. She knew that it could not have been easy for her to once again admit how horrible she had been in the past not just to her, but to everyone. And that revealed just how much she had changed. From everyone in their class, Chloe had been the one who had changed and matured the most, and Marinette was proud of her. She was proud of having in her a friend, who she could count on, just like Alya and the rest of her class.

"Who are you, and what did you do with the old Chloe?" -Marinette asked her with an emotional voice. –"Sabrina has confided in me and Master Fu that you are always thinking that you don't deserve that miraculous you wear. But today, you proved once again, that there's no one else in the world who deserves to wear it more than you, Chloe." -Marinette smiled at her. –"Thanks for sharing that with me, Chloe."

"Yeah, well, you know. I hate to see anyone I care looking sad and all that." -Chloe declared, with a voice pretending she did not really care, though Marinette knew that she cared.

"Guess we're going to be really late for school." -Marinette said, as she broke the embrace and checked the time on the clock of a nearby shop. –"Still, I'm really glad we talked." -she said, as she slipped her backpack into her right arm. –"Let's go, before Miss Bustier gives us both detention?"

"Are you kidding me?! With that face, like you have been crying for hours in a row?!" -Chloe pointed out. –"If we arrive at the same time, and you look like that, everyone is going to think that I treated you badly, which I didn't. And to quote Alya the last time I bullied you "If you hurt Marinette ever again, I swear to God, I will kill you, you blonde bimbo bitch!". So no, we're not going anywhere, until I help you with your make-up and try to make you look a little bit more presentable." -she said, as she looked inside her backpack for her make-up kit.

Rose and Juleka had arrived early at school that day. And like most days, they arrived together. And like always, the moment they entered the courtyard, they saw one of their classmates nearby. This time, the one they saw was Nathaniel. As usual, while waiting for classes to begin, Nathaniel entertained himself by sketching something in his sketchbook. Approaching him from behind, they startled him, when Rose touched his shoulder to call him.

"Nathaniel?" -Rose called him.

"Huh! Oh, it's you girls." -Nathaniel said, still a little startled. –"I was so focused, I didn't even heard you."

"Sorry. It was not our intention." -Juleka said.

"Nah, it's okay. I get so caught up on my drawings, that I forget the rest of the world even exists." -Nathaniel said.

"What are you drawing today?" -Rose asked him, as she peeked his sketchbook.

"Uh… nothing important." -Nathaniel quickly answered her. He did not want her or Juleka to see the drawing. Unfortunately, he was not quick enough, and the blonde saw the rough sketch he was working on.

"Oh, he looks cute." -Rose giggled. –"Don't you think so, Juleka?" -she asked her.

"Yeah, a little. He's not really my type." -Juleka chuckled, being absolutely honest about it, as she too checked the drawing. She only had one type of person she liked, and that type was named "Rose". –"Hey, isn't he that guy you bumped into the other day?" -she asked Nathaniel, remembering the incident.

"Uh…" -Nathaniel hesitated.

"What was his name? Oh, yeah, it was Marc!" -Rose exclaimed. –"You managed to draw him real nicely." -she said.

"T-Thanks." –Nathaniel said.

"Are you going to offer it to him, when its finished?" -Rose asked Nathaniel, as he tended to offer the drawings of people he drew to the models, once he had finished them.

"Uh… I-I don't know yet" -Nathaniel said, with a rather nervous voice.

"I think you should. I'm sure he's going to love it. It'll be agreat way for you to let him know what a talented artist you are." -Rose smiled at Nathaniel, who seemed to be getting more nervous by the minute.

"What's the matter? You look a little nervous. Is there something wrong?" -Juleka asked him, wondering why he looked that nervous.

"Uh, no, everything's fine." -Nathaniel said.

"Hey, what do you girls think this is, twenty questions?!" -Mulan asked them, as he peeked from inside Nathaniel's pencil case, where he was hiding. -"The next thing you are going to ask him is if he loves him, or something!"

"Sorry, we didn't mean to offend anyone. We were just curious." -Rose said, wondering why the red panda kwami was talking like that.

"It's okay, Rose. Mulan is just in a bit of a bad mood this morning." -Nathaniel said, lying about it.

"Oh, don't worry, I understand. Flint's also a little grouchy this morning." -Rose giggled.

"I'm not grouchy! I just didn't get enough sleep!" -Flint spoke from inside Rose's backpack.

"Shut up! Everyone will hear you!" -Tamara told him.

The first thing that came to Nathaniel's mind was that he was happy Mulan had decided to interrupt his conversation with Juleka and Rose. He knew that they were just curious about it, but he was not yet comfortable to talk when the topic was Marc. The truth was that he had been sketching that portrait of him, so he could give it to him, the following day, along with a small box of chocolates, hoping that Marc would like it, while not thinking he was making a move onto him. Nathaniel had decided that before anything else, he wanted to be friends with Marc. Only when he got to know him better, would he try to see if he would be willing to be more than just friends.

Chapter Text

As it would be expected, Marinette and Chloe were the last ones to arrive, and when they did, Miss Bustier was already wondering what had happened to them. The two of them apologized to her, and lied about having ended up stuck in traffic. Most teachers at Françoise Dupont would give them detention for arriving nearly 20 minutes late. But Caline Bustier was not like most teachers. And because of it, she let the girls go with a warning, while telling them that if that happened again, she would have to notify their parents regarding the matter.

“It won’t happen again, Miss Bustier.” -Marinette said.

“Yes, what, Marinette said. It won’t happen, I promise.” -Chloe promised her.

“Very well. Now, if you can take your seats, maybe we can go back to our class.” -Miss Bustier smiled, as the two of them made their way to their respective seats.     

Once they were in their respective seats, Miss Bustier continued what she was talking about. On that day, she had decided to continue with the teaching of Arithmetic, while reserving the second part of her class to the teaching of French literature, and the last part, after lunch, to talk to her students regarding the chocolate and the friendship letter exchange that was going to happen the following day. She wanted to know if they had already written the letters and made or bought the chocolates; and if that was not the case, to remind them not to forget about it.     

What happened, Chloe? For real…” -Sabrina asked her, by writing it on her notebook. She knew something had happened, but could not tell exactly what.

I’ll explain later, during the break.” -Chloe answer her, writing the answer on the notebook.

And Sabrina was not the only one who noticed something had happened. When Marinette sat by her side, Alya noticed that her eyes were slightly red and the make-up she was wearing was not the brand she usually wore. Most people would not notice it, but Alya being a girl, and someone who had a keen eye for details, noticed it. This prompted to ask her best friend, what had happened.

Girl, what happened? Were you crying? Did Chloe go back to her old ways?” -Alya asked her, writing it on her notebook. She did not want to assume Chloe had turned evil again, but having Marinette and Chloe arriving at the same time, and seeing Marinette with her eyes red, just as if she had been crying, made her assume the worst.  

No, everything is fine. I’ll tell you later. And before you ask me, no, Chloe did nothing wrong.” –Marinette answered her, by writing the answer. –“If anything, she helped me.” -she added.

And like she had promised, once it was break time, Marinette dragged Alya to a place, where she knew they could talk without being interrupted. And this place was the school’s rooftop. Up there, they had all the privacy they could ask for, and they were free to talk about anything, without having to worry about being interrupted or heard by the wrong people.

“Okay, girl, spill the beans. Were you crying? How did Chloe help you?” -Alya asked Marinette. From the tone of her voice, the blue-haired girl knew she was worried about her.

To make her calm down, Marinette quickly told Alya what happened the day before, when she followed Adrien. She told her what she saw and what happened afterwards. Reliving the whole thing in her mind, as she told it was not easy, but Marinette owed Alya every last detail of it. Upon hearing all Marinette told her, Alya felt bad about herself. And not just herself, she felt bad about Marinette as well. When she needed her the most, she was busy having dinner with her family and Nino, and later spending time with Nino. None of it was her fault, but she could not help but to feel like it was hers.   

“Oh, girl, why didn’t you call me? Or better yet, why didn’t I call you to check up on you?! I knew I should have called you last night… I told Nino that lately I hadn’t been talking to you very much, and… I can’t even believe what you had to go through last night. I’m sorry. I knew I should have called you.” -Alya sighed, as she apologized

“It’s okay, Alya. To be honest, I don’t think you could have helped me last night. Not even Tikki was able to help me, other than to convince me to go to bed earlier.” -Marinette declared. –“My mind was in a really dark place last night, Alya.” -she admitted.

“A really dark place indeed. I hope you never end up in that place again, Marinette.” -Tikki said, as she remembered the whole thing and what Marinette told her in a fit of anger.

“I’ll try my best so that never happens again, Tikki, I promise you.” -Marinette smiled at the little kwami, who smiled back at her.

“But who was that girl you saw with Adrien, anyway?” -Alya asked Marinette. She did not tell her if she had found out about who she was.  

“I have no idea, Alya. The only thing I know is that because of what I saw, my brain began to obsess with the idea that Adrien was secretly dating her and that I had lost any chance of being happy with him.” -Marinette answered her, while doing her best to not relive the scene inside her head again. She had relived it more times than she would have wanted.  

“And is he?” -Alya asked her.

“I don’t really know anymore. But, after Chloe talked to me, I believe that everything that I’ve seen was not what it seemed.” -Marinette answered her.

“Which leads us to what happened early this morning, with you and her arriving at the same time.” -Alya pointed out. –“What exactly happened that made you two arrive that late, and at the same time?” -she asked her.

The first thing she told Alya, was reassuring her that Chloe was not back to her old ways. She felt that she did not need to tell that to Alya, but figured that it would not hurt repeating what she said earlier. She told her that Chloe had showed up at the bakery and had given her a ride. But seeing that she looked so gloom, the heiress and her got out of the car and looked for a place, where Marinette told her everything that happened the afternoon before.

“Chloe Bourgeois gave you a pep talk?!” -Alya asked, surprised by Marinette’s words.

“I know, right? She herself believed that she was not the right person to do it, but in the end, she was. I don’t know if it’s because she knows Adrien longer than we all do, or whatever, but she helped me to see the light, so to speak.” -Marinette declared. –“She did what you always do, whenever I’m feeling as low as a Beagle’s belly.” -she said.

“Then, the make-up you’re wearing…” -Alya said.

“It’s Chloe’s. She was afraid that if we both showed up together, and I looked like I had been crying, that everyone would think that she had been mean to me.” -Marinette told her. –“I told her there was no need, that all I needed was to wash my face and I would be good to go. But she insisted, and… well, you can see it for yourself.” -she said.

“That Chloe never ceases to surprise me…” -Alya sighed. –“Now I’m feeling a little bad for thinking she had hurt you. I know it’s stupid, but…”

“It’s okay. You were just worried about me. And I don’t think she would” -Marinette said. –“I’m just happy that I feel a bit more like my usual self.” -she smiled.

“Pollen must be really proud of Chloe, right about now.” -Trixx said. The fox kwami had been silent the whole time, but could not help but to make that comment.

“She was. I know, I was there.” -Tikki told her.    

“But there’s still one question that needs to be asked.” -Alya declared, as she looked Marinette in the eyes. –“What are you going to do regarding Adrien? What’s your plan for tomorrow, girl?” -she asked her.

Marinette had not thought about it yet. With the mess her mind had been, she had not even thought about what she was going to do. But thinking a little, she knew what she was going to do.

“I’m going to do what I was thinking of doing, before all this mess happened.” -Marinette answered her. –“After school, I’m going straight home and I’m going to make the cake I was planning to do, along with some chocolates. And tomorrow, I’m going to give it to Adrien, and tell him that I love him.” -she said.

“That sounds like a plan. You need any help with it? It’s the least I can do, for not having been around when you me needed the most.” -Alya volunteered. She really felt awful for not having been there for her best-friend.

“Thanks, but Tikki and I got this covered.” -Marinette thanked her. –“You probably need the time to also make some chocolates or buy them, for Nino.” -she giggled.

“God, I completely forgot about it!” -Alya said, as she remembered she had not bought any chocolates for Nino. When it came to her mind, that she had the perfect solution for it. –“But no worries. It’s my mom’s day off, so I’ll ask her to help me with it.” -she said.

“Perks of having one of the best chefs in Paris as your mom.” -Marinette joked.

“Got that right, girl. But truth be told, my mom’s pastries will never beat your parents’. There’s something about them, that make them one of a kind.” -Alya told her.

“It’s the love they put in them… that, and a few secret spices.” -Marinette smirked at her best friend.       

At the same time, in the library, Chloe was talking to Sabrina about what had happened. Just like it happened with Marinette and Alya, the two of them chose a place where they knew their kwamis did not need to be hidden, and risk having themselves seen by one of the other students. 

“Whoa… you really did a great job, Chloe.” -Sabrina smiled at the blonde.

“She did indeed.” -Pollen agreed.  

“I learned from the best. And I’m being honest. If it wasn’t for all the times that you did it for me, I wouldn’t have been able to help Marinette this time.” -Chloe smiled at Sabrina.

“Oh, don’t say that, you’re going to make me blush.” –Sabrina said, while trying not to blush.

“More than you already are, kiddo?!” -Mika laughed at Sabrina. –“You become as red as tomato, whenever someone tells you something nice! If you had a boyfriend, you would remain absolutely blushed, whenever he was around!” -he laughed.   

“Stop it!” -Sabrina exclaimed, when she remembered they were in a library. –“Oops… I think we better speak a little quieter, before we get expelled from here.” -she said, while looking around to see if anyone had heard and had come to warn them to keep quiet.

“Sorry about that. I think I may have exaggerated a little bit.” -Mika apologized.

“Just a little, you furry little wolf?” -Sabrina asked him, as she playfully petted Mika on the head. -“Either way, I may have taught you a thing or two, but I’m sure your heart did the rest.” -she told Chloe, with a tearful smile on her face. –“I know that this is going to sound super cheesy and lame, but… more and more, when I look at you, I see the Chloe that I met so many years ago.”

“To tell you the truth, I feel a lot like my old self. I can’t believe how blind I was to the fact that over the years, I was turning into someone who was the polar opposite of who I really am.” -Chloe told her. –“And I can only thank you and the rest of our friends.” -she said.

“More importantly than that, you must thank yourself for realizing that you were going down that path, and decided that you didn’t want to, anymore.” -Sabrina said.  

“Now, you’re sounding a lot like Master Fu. Are you sure you haven’t been hanging out with him, when you’re not hanging around with me?” –Chloe asked her, while raising an eyebrow, which made Sabrina giggle.

Adrien’s plan was to ask his father for some advice on how to tell Marinette he loved her, while also announcing him that he intended to begin dating her. To say that he was a little nervous about telling Gabriel about it was a bit of an understatement. He knew his father was not the kind to show emotion; and he was also the kind of person who thinks that there are people whom to his eyes, were not right for Adrien. But Adrien believed that Marinette would be one person his father would approve to be his girlfriend. He had sympathized with her, on the occasions they met, and he knew that she was a sweet, caring person, who would never take advantage of anyone; not to mention, she was also an aspiring fashion designer and seamstress. In sum, Adrien believed Marinette was the kind of girl, Gabriel would be happy to see him dating, even if she was not of the same social status as the Agrestes were.

The pendant he had bought for Marinette was incredibly beautiful. It had been a little more expensive than he thought it was going to be, but he did not care. Marinette was worth a million of those pendants. But if he knew just how Marinette felt after seeing him and Kagami coming out of the jewellery store, Adrien would have never gone and buy it. Never in his wildest dreams, would he ever hurt the girl he loved most in the world. But without meaning it, he did. Still, he would remain absolutely ignorant to that fact, and not even think of the possibility that someone who was not supposed to see him at Cartier’s did that. As he was driven home by Gorilla, Adrien kept thinking about what he had talked with Nino, during lunch.


Adrien had not told much about what he was planning for Marinette on Valentine’s to Nino. The model had decided to keep most of what he was planning a secret from everyone, including his best friend. Other than Kagami, the only one who knew about his plans was Plagg, who had accidentally told Tikki about them, who in turn promised the black cat kwami, that she would not say a word about it. But with less than 24 hours to go, he felt that he needed another opinion. So, he decided to tell Nino what was his plan. Sitting into one of the benches in the courtyard, Adrien showed Nino an image of the pendant he had bought. When seeing it, Nino was surprised by what he saw.

“That’s pretty.” -Nino said.

“Thanks. Do you think she’s going to like it?” -Adrien asked Nino.

“Bro, you went to one of the most expensive jewellery stores in Paris to buy her that. Of course, she’s going to love it. And it’s not because it’s super expensive, it’s because it’s both beautiful and it’s a gift from you to her.”

“The way you say that, it’s like you’re saying that she’s mad in love with me.” -Adrien said.

“Oh, Adrien, how can you be so blind to the fact that the girl loves you?” -Nino thought to himself. He just wanted to slap him silly and tell him that Marinette loved him, just as much as he loved her. But, then, he remembered that in 24 hours, he would find out about that, and so, he decided to let that slip. –“Maybe, maybe not… you know that she digs you, Adrien. You two are good friends and you are partners in crime, so to speak.” -he said.

“Yeah, but I don’t want her to be just a good friend of mine, or just my partner in crime, as you call it. I want her to be more than just that. I want her to be my girlfriend. I want her to be the girl who I tell my most intimate secrets, passions and dreams…” -Adrien sighed.

“And you’re leaving your best friend out of that department? That’s cold, bro!” -Nino joked.

“Tell me about it. If she becomes his girlfriend, he’ll never tell us anything, ever again.” -Plagg, who was inside Adrien’s jacket. Said with a sarcastic tone.

“Would you two grow-up?! Do you really think that is really going to happen? That just because he might start dating Marinette, that he’ll never share anything with either one of you again?” -Wayzz asked them, as his head popped out from the pocket in Nino’s jeans. 

“Yes!” -Plagg exclaimed.

“Maybe…” -Nino joked.

“I’m with Wayzz on this one. You two really need to grow-up a little.” -Adrien said, which made them all chuckle. –“But seriously, what do you think about the plan?”

“Going up to the school’s rooftop, tell her how you really feel about her, then ask her to be your girlfriend, by presenting her with that sweet pendant you bought for her? That plan? I think it will work.” -Nino smirked. –“Do you need some music? Because I can totally find you the perfect song to be played for when you tell Marinette you love her.” -he suggested to Adrien, offering his musical talents.

“I appreciate the offer, but I think I’ll just keep things simple.” -Adrien told him. –“All I need now it to come up with the right words for the speech.” -he said.

“You’re telling me that you still don’t know what you’re going to tell her? Next, you’re going to tell me you haven’t bought her a box of chocolates for tomorrow. You have bought one, haven’t you?” -Nino asked him, a little worried. 

“I already bought her one. As for the speech, I’m going to ask my dad for a little help on that department.” -Adrien said

“You think that’s a good idea? I don’t think your dad’s the most romantic guy in the world, bro.” –Nino said. To say that he thought Gabriel Agreste was one of the stiffest people he knew, was to say little. In his mind, he could not imagine him helping Adrien with that little detail. –“By the way, have you told him that you plan to ask Marinette to date you?”

“I was going to take the opportunity to tell him about it. I think, from all the girls I could want to date with, Marinette is a girl I think he’ll approve. I mean, at least. she’s not one of my stalker fans…” -Adrien chuckled, as he imagined Marinette as one of his stalker fans.

“I admit that from all of the girls you could have picked to start dating, Marinette is the best choice.” -Nino said. –“Still, your dad’s not known for being someone who thinks with his heart, but rather with his head, and he’s quite stubborn.” -he pointed out.

“I’m a little worried, I admit it. He’s my dad, and I know he wants what’s best for me. But I hope that he understands that he raised me to also know what’s best for me as well.” -Adrien told him. –“And if he doesn’t agree, I’ve got a back-up plan. I’ll ask Nathalie to help me out. He usually hears her out… and if that doesn’t work, I’ll ask my aunt Elodie to help me convince him.” -he said.

“Well, let me know how it went, after you talk with your old man, bro.” -Nino said. –“Hope he does approve of the idea.” -he said.   

(End of flashback)

Adrien truly hoped his father would approve of Marinette, and that he would help him find the right words to profess his love to her. But when he arrived home, after school, he found out, through Nathalie, that Gabriel had to leave on an unexpected business trip to Dubai, and would only be back in a week. When she told him that, Adrien could not help but to feel that once again, when he needed him the most, his father had left him hanging, He knew that it was not his fault; after all, running a financial empire as the Agreste fashion line was not easy. But, even so, it made him sad. 

“Is everything alright, Adrien?” -Nathalie asked him, seeing him so down.

“N-No, it’s just that… I wanted to talk to him about something…” -Adrien answered her.

“Maybe I can help?” -Nathalie asked him.

Well, I guess it’s worth a shot. Gorilla won’t open his mouth, no matter what I ask him.” -Adrien thought to himself. –“I could call Aunt Elodie, and ask her for advice, but she’s probably already asleep by now.” -he thought, remembering that she had texted him a few days before, saying that she would be in Singapore for the next couple of weeks. –“I guess you can try.”

“Then, what’s it about? Tell me.” -Nathalie smiled.

“It’s about… well…” -Adrien said, being a little shy about it. –“… you see, there’s this girl and…” -Adrien told her.

“Oh, I see.” -Nathalie smiled. –“And let me guess, the girl you wanted to talk about with your father, if the same one you bought something at Cartier’s yesterday?” -she asked.

When Nathalie said those last words, Adrien felt his heart being squeezed, as if someone had placed its hand around it and slowly squeezed it. The same kind of feeling he had, whenever he knew he was in trouble.  

“Surprised that I know that?” -Nathalie asked him with a serious voice. The smile on her face had disappeared, and she was looking at him with a stone-serious expression on her face.

“H-How…” -Adrien said.

“Let’s just say that your driver let it slip that he had taken you and Miss Tsurugi there, yesterday afternoon.” –Nathalie told him, while keeping the same expression.

Great… thanks to Gorilla, I’m in trouble now.” -Adrien thought, truly believing that he was in trouble.

But the seriousness on Nathalie’s disappeared as quickly, as it had appeared, and her smile returned. But this time, it was not her usual smile; the smile she made whenever she was around Gabriel. It was a kind hearted one. The kind of smile that a mother would put on, upon realizing her son was slowly turning into a man.  

“Why did you keep it a secret?” -Nathalie asked him.

“Well… I was afraid that my father would not agree with the idea of buying something for the girl… I mean…” -Adrien said, trying to explain the situation, while the words felt like they were gone from his mind.

“I understand. But why didn’t you tell me?” -Nathalie asked him.

“Because you might tell him, and… I’m sorry, Nathalie. I didn’t want to keep this a secret from you, but I feared…” -Adrien apologized.

“You feared that I would tell your father? I understand what you are saying, Adrien. But first of all, I am not your father. I know that you are usually afraid that he might not accept some things, because he has established a few goals for you, that he would like you to achieve with your education. But believe me, when I tell you that he would never oppose you dating someone you truly like. It’s only normal for you to start dating a girl. You are not a little boy anymore, but a young man, and he wishes for your happiness, just like I do, more than anything. In fact, I think he will be very happy for you, once you tell him that you are dating Miss Tsurugi.” -Nathalie smiled at him. –“Still, I hope whatever you bought for her at Cartier’s wasn’t incredibly expensive. Though I think that Miss Tsurugi’s taste and discipline would never allow you to do such a thing.” -she said, knowing that Kagami was not a girl who liked exuberant jewellery.   

“Uh, it wasn’t very expensive, don’t worry… but, I’m not dating Kagami, Nathalie.” -Adrien told her, which made the personal assistant of Gabriel Agreste become slightly shocked.

“You’re not?” -Nathalie asked him.

“No. She just came along with me, to help me choose the gift I’m going to offer to the girl I truly love.” -Adrien admitted.

“Then, who is the girl you are in love with?” -Nathalie asked him. –“Could it be one of his classmates? Perhaps the mayor’s daughter?” -she thought to herself, as she imagined Adrien dating Chloe.

“It’s… It’s Marinette…” -Adrien answered, with an uneasy voice.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng? That Marinette?” -Nathalie said, a bit surprised, as Adrien nodded his head. She knew they were good friends, but never imagined Adrien with her. –“I see. Well, you certainly have good taste.” -she said, not being able to come up with anything else to say.

The way she said it, it made Adrien think that she did not approve of Marinette, just like he thought it might happen when telling his father. But that was not the case. Nathalie was just surprised by it. From what she knew of Marinette, Adrien had done a sensible choice. Fearing that she might have given him the wrong impression regarding the matter, Nathalie quickly tried to assure him that she was in no way against his choice for a girlfriend.

“Don’t take this wrong way, Adrien. I’m merely surprised that you would choose Miss Dupain-Cheng to be your girlfriend. She’s a nice, sweet and hard-working girl, and she’s clearly talented. You’re afraid your father won’t approve of her, am I right?” -Nathalie asked him.

Adrien did not have to answer that question, for Nathalie to know it. Just from looking at his face, she could see the signs of anxiety in him, as well as a glimpse of fear in his eyes.   

“I don’t think you need to be afraid of telling your father about Miss Dupain-Cheng. He does have her in high-esteem, like every last one of your friends.” –Nathalie told him.

“Well, it sure doesn’t look like it…” -Adrien said, remembering some of the times when his father told him that he was not allowed to go someplace with one of his friends.

“I know that your father doesn’t show it, but he does see your friends as a good influence on you, every last one of them.” -Nathalie assured him. –“If he did not, he would have transferred you to a different school, a long time ago.” -she said. –“I know I’m not supposed to say this, since your father is my employer, but, I feel the need to say this. After your mother passed away, your father started to have trouble expressing his feelings towards others, including you. And because of it, most of the time he comes out as someone cold, insensible, uncaring and even heartless. But he’s actually the polar opposite of it. He cares a lot about those that surround him, and the who mean the world to them… and with that said, I think that he will be very happy to see you dating Miss Dupain-Cheng. After all, like I said before, he wishes for you to be happy. And if your love for her makes you, he will be happy for you and her.” 

“You really think so?” -Adrien asked her.

“I know so.” -Nathalie smiled. –“And if you allow me the boldness, may I ask how did it go, when you asked Miss Dupain-Cheng to be your girlfriend?” -she asked him. –“How did she react?”

“Actually, I still haven’t asked her yet. That’s why I went to Cartier’s yesterday; to buy her something pretty for when I ask her tomorrow, after lunch.” -Adrien admitted.

“Oh, I see. And, if I may ask, what did you bought her?” -Nathalie asked Adrien, who pulled out his cell phone and showed her the photo he had taken of the pendant. -“It’s a beautiful pendant. I’m sure she will love it.” -she declared.

“I hope so. She has a fondness for ladybugs.” -Adrien said, as he placed the cell phone back into his pocket. –“Now, all I need is the courage and the right words to tell her I love her. Got the courage part… now for the rest.” -he sighed.        

“You don’t know what to tell her?” -Nathalie asked him, which he nodded. –“Well, perhaps I can assist you with that.” -she said. –“I may not be a poetess, but I might be able to help you find the right words to tell her you love her.”

While Adrien, with a little help from Nathalie, tried to find the right words to tell Marinette, how he truly felt about her, Marinette herself was already busy with her Valentine’s Day project for Adrien. Locking herself in the kitchen with Tikki to lend her a hand, the blue-haired girl wasted no time in cooking up the chocolate cake her grandmother had given her the recipe for. To make sure it was as good as grandma Gina claimed to be, Marinette did one that was just a little larger than a cupcake, to test the recipe.

“This will definitely work, Tikki.” -Marinette said, as she placed the cake batter into the pan.

“Well, the batter looks good and smells really good too. I think your grandma’s recipe is going to taste extra-special.” -Tikki said, as she licked the spatula. –“Mmm… delicious!” -she giggled.

“Mmm… you’re right, it really is good.” -Marinette said, as she also licked a little bit of the cake batter from the spatula. –“But now comes to final test… cooking it. If it comes out as delicious as it is now, we’re making the real one, and then we’re going to shape it like a large bonbon and covering it with powdered sugar, surrounded by little chocolates.” -she declared.

“Which we’re going to make right now, right?” -Tikki asked Marinette.

“You bet.” -Marinette smiled, as she went to the cupboard and grabbed a large bowl and a few more things from inside it. –“We only need to decide which flavour will the chocolates truffles be. Do you have any suggestions?” -she asked her.

“Well, if these were for Plagg, then cheese would be the best flavour.” -Tikki joked, making Marinette laugh a little. –“But in this case, maybe we should make the chocolates truffles with a flavour that Adrien likes.” -she said.

“That would be orange. He told me that once.” -Marinette said. –“So, we’re going to chocolate truffles with an orange filling. We’re going to need orange zest, lots and lots of it, Tikki.” –she said, as she grabbed an orange.

Chapter Text

Marinette worked through most of the afternoon to finish both the chocolate cake and the chocolates for Adrien. When she and Tikki finished them, the whole kitchen looked like a field of war, with dirty bowls and kitchen utensils, half-used ingredients among other things, all over the place. You did not need to be a genius or a mind-reader, to know that they were going to take at least half an hour to clean it all up. But that did not mind. What did mind was that the chocolate cake and its decorative chocolates were done and they all looked perfect. They had made it to look like a giant bonbon coated in powdered sugar, and it looked like one. As for the decorative chocolates, they were shaped like little hearts. Looking at the whole thing, Marinette wondered if she had ever made a more beautiful chocolate cake than that one.

“It’s so beautiful, Tikki.” -Marinette sighed. –“I almost feel sorry for giving it to Adrien… almost.” -she giggled. –“I can’t wait to give it to him.”

“Well, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.” -Tikki told her. –“I bet he’s going to be impressed, and he’s going to love it.” -she said. –“By the way, you told me that you were going to offer Adrien something, when you asked him to be your boyfriend. What did you get him?”

“Get him? Nothing… I decided to make him something, instead.” -Marinette declared. –“I decided to make him a love bracelet. I used beads of different colours to make it, and each colour represents a feeling.” -she said. –“In fact, I made it for him almost a year now, but I was too scared to give it to him. But that’s going to change tomorrow.”

“I’m sure he’ll love it, as much as you loved making it for him.” -Tikki told her.

“I hope he does. I made it, while thinking about him and his beautiful green emerald eyes.” -Marinette declared, as she imagined Adrien standing in front of her, looking at her with a smile, which was a mix of his usual dashing debonair smile, and his cocky grin, for when he was Chat Noir. Just the thought of it, made Marinette’s heart pound a little faster inside her chest. 

Suddenly, there was a knock at the kitchen door. Before whoever it was that knocked, entered the kitchen, Tikki quickly disappeared out of sight, leaving Marinette alone. As the door opened, Marinette saw who had knocked. It was her mother, Sabine, who had come up to see what Marinette was up to.  

“Who are you talking to, Marinette… oh, my God, what happened here?!” -Sabine asked out loud, as she looked at the state of the kitchen. –“It looks almost like a tornado was here, Marinette!” -she exclaimed.

“Sorry, mom…” -Marinette smiled nervously. –“I guess I got a little carried away.” -she kept smiling, as she looked at the mess she and Tikki had done.

“Just a little, Marinette?” -Sabine asked her.

“Okay, a lot… but it was worth to finish this for Adrien.” -Marinette told her, as she showed her cake.

“Oh, my, that looks so precious. I know I keep saying this, but you have inherited your dad’s talent for baking, sweetie…” –Sabine said.

“And your good looks. I know, mom, I know.” -Marinette giggled. She was happy her mother liked the chocolate cake she had baked for Adrien. –“I made it, so I could offer him tomorrow morning at school.” -she said.  

“Does that mean, what I think it means?” -Sabine asked her with a hopeful voice.    

“Yes, mom. I’m finally going to ask him if he likes me, and if he does, I’m going to ask him if he wants to be my boyfriend.” -Marinette answered her.

“Oh, honey, I’m so glad to hear that! And what do you mean, if he likes you? Whenever he was here, I saw the way he looks at you, Marinette.” -Sabine told her daughter. –“It’s about time you decided to ask him if he likes you… the poor dear; he’s probably too shy to ask you if you want to date him.” -she giggled.

“Mom… may I remind you that the last time you thought a boy liked me, it turned out that he liked Alya, instead, and the reason why he was always staring at me, was because I was always next to Alya?” -Marinette giggled, remembering when Nino began to set his eyes on her best-friend.

“Oh, Marinette, even a mother can be wrong sometimes.” -Sabine chuckled. –“But this time, I really believe that I’m right.” -she said.

“Well, we’ll find out if you’re right tomorrow, after lunch.” -Marinette said, as Sabine inspected the cake a little closer. –“What is it mom? Is there something wrong with the cake?” -she asked her.

“Oh, no, no, honey. I’m just seeing, if we could, perhaps add it something more, to make it even more special.” -Sabine said, as she looked at the cake. –“Maybe we could add pink sprinkles to it? Just a little bit. The cake looks absolutely beautiful, but it doesn’t feel like a Valentine’s Day cake, even with these little heart-shaped chocolates around it.” -she suggested to Marinette.     

“Well, I don’t think it would hurt.” -Marinette said, as she imagined the pink sprinkles on top of the cake. –“Do we have some? I couldn’t find any in the cupboards.” -she said.

“Not here… but downstairs, we’ve got plenty of them. I’ll go get some and tell your dad the good news.” -Sabine smiled at Marinette.

“What good news?” -Marinette asked Sabine, not understanding what she had just said.

“That his daughter is about to become the girlfriend of the cutest young model ever, who also happens to be a very big fan of our macarons and pretty much every other delicious pastry that we bake in our bakery.” -Sabine laughed happily.  

“Mom!!!” -Marinette exclaimed, while giggling. –“I don’t even know if he really likes me.” -she said. –“I really wish he really liked me, though. Every time I think about him, my heart goes crazy. He’s got to be the sweetest and cutest boy I know… at least, when he’s not Chat Noir. When he is, he’s both sweet, cute, cocky, protective, has a thing for puns… he’s perfect, just the way he is.

“Well, you will know tomorrow, honey. And please, try not chicken out… again. You’ve been trying to tell him that you love him, ever since the day you first saw him, and it’s starting to become ridiculous how you can’t just go up to him and tell him how you feel.” -Sabine told her daughter.

“Et tu, mom?!” -Marinette asked her with her dramatic voice, before bursting into laughs. –“Last time I checked, you’re not Alya, who keeps telling me that.” -she giggled.

“Just proves that she’s right. You need to be bold and daring, so you can tell Adrien that you love him. Or else, you’re going to lose him to some other girl… or boy. We never know if he likes boys.” -Sabine joked, which made Marinette giggle a little. –“But seriously, honey, he’ll never know you love him, if you don’t tell him.” -she stated. –“Now, let me get those sprinkles, so we can both finish decorating that delicious looking Valentine’s cake.”

While Marinette, with a little help from her mother, placed the last finishing touches on the Valentine’s Day surprise for Adrien, Rose was picking up the box of chocolates she had ordered for Juleka. The box was of a beautiful red colour and it was square shaped. Adorning it was a pink bow. Just from looking at it, the blonde believed that was the prettiest chocolate box she could have gotten for her girlfriend. As she left the candy store, she wondered what would Juleka’s reaction, when she ate the first chocolate in the box and realized that it was filled with liquorice.

I’m sure you’re going to love it, Juleka. My heart is telling me that, and it’s never wrong.” -Rose thought to herself.

And while thinking about Juleka’s reaction to her gift to her, she also thought about the fact that the next day, she and Juleka would be revealing the truth about their relationship to their friends. She was both nervous and excited at the same time. She was excited, because when they told the others, they would not have to pretend they were just the best of friends when they were around them, and they could act like a real couple. And she was nervous, because she feared the others might not accept her and Juleka being a lesbian couple. But she tried to keep those nervous thoughts out of her head, because she believed her friends would not judge them, and would not see them in a different light, just because they were dating one another. 

Everything will turn out okay tomorrow, and it will mark a new beginning in our relationship. Jules and I will finally be able to express ourselves in front of the others, without having to keep hiding the truth about our relationship. But what if something… oh, stop thinking about what could go wrong, Rose! Everything will turn out okay, you’ll see.” -Rose thought to herself. –“This is not the Dark Ages… it’s the 21st century. And your friends will keep liking you and Juleka, because they are your friends and they want us both to be happy. So, everything will turn out okay, and that’s that.” -she thought, trying to have positive thoughts about it.  

To keep her mind from wandering into unpleasant thoughts, while feeling that the way home was taking too long, the blonde decided that some music would be just what the doctor ordered. Checking her playlist, she chose one song she felt was perfect for that walk. It was a song which she had not listen in a long time. “Back for Good” from Take That. To say that Rose was a big fan of romantic songs, was to say little. Being the inveterate romantic that she was, there were very little romantic songs, especially romantic ballads that she did not like, and that one was quite special for her. Because her mother was a huge fan of Robbie Williams and of Take That, that particular song was the first one she heard of them, when she was younger. Putting her headphones on, she began walking down the street, listening to the song, while being careful not to drop the box of chocolates she was carrying, as if it was the most sacred object in the world.  

If Flint was here, he would already be telling me that this song sucks.” -Rose thought, becoming amused by the thought. Flint was not really romantic; or at least, not like her. And whenever she started to hear something that resembled a love ballad, he would immediately beg it to stop. –“Then it’s a good thing, I allowed him to stay home, while I came pick this up. This way, he can’t say bad things about this song.” -she giggled, as she turned up the volume.

And as if by magic, her way home became a lot shorter and a lot jollier. Music had that effect on Rose, and she loved it. While walking, she checked the time and saw that it was almost time for her mother to close the shop, so she decided to go and get her, so they could walk home together.

Flora Lavillant had just finished dealing with the last customer of the day, and was getting ready to close up shop. She owned a small flower shop, which sold all kinds of beautiful flowers and plants, all year long. It was the kind of place that a person upon entering, would not leave without purchasing something beautiful. And just like it happened with so many other flower shops, Valentine’s Day was one of the busiest days of the year for her; not that that was a problem for her. As she began to sweep the shop, she could not help but to look herself in one of the many mirrors that were around the shop. Flora was a slender woman with long blonde hair worn in a ponytail, brown eyes and she had one of the cutest smiles ever, according to her husband, and her daughter. She wore a light-green long-sleeved shirt and a pair of light-blue jeans, with matching shoes.

“Uh, I totally look like a mess, don’t I?” -Flora said out loud, as she looked at some chrysanthemums that had not been sold that day. -Oh, don’t look so sad, girls. You might be lucky tomorrow, and make someone incredibly happy. Trust me, I know what I’m saying. There are tons of people who love chrysanthemums, you’ll see.”–she said, talking to the flowers. –“There I go again, talking to you. ” 

Flora loved to talk to flowers when she was alone. She truly believed that they understood what she told them. The last few days had been incredibly exhausting, and she knew that the following day would be no different, with people shopping for beautiful flower bouquets at the last hour. But, as long as she was surrounded by flowers, she would not mind. Unlike her husband, Michel, who worked in an office, Flora was someone who would never feel alright, working in one. She had always loved flowers, so when it came the time to choose a career, she decided that she was going to open a flower shop. That was the place where she felt she belonged, and she would not trade it for any other in the world. She had just finished sweeping the floor, when she heard someone knocking at the door. Before turning around to see who it was, she figured it would be a customer, who wanted to ask her, if it could still place an order for the following day. It would not be the first time that happened. But when she turned around, she saw that it was no customer, but her daughter waving at her.   

“Hey, mom.” -Rose said, as she waved at her mom through the door’s window.

“Rose! I thought you were home already.” -Flora told her daughter, as she opened the shop’s door, and allowed her to enter. –“Come on in, come on. It’s cold outside. Oh, a box of chocolates. Is it for me?” -she asked her. 

“No, mom, sorry. It’s for tomorrow. I’m going to give it to Juleka.” -Rose smiled. –“Miss Bustier decided that this year’s everyone in our class, would be sharing a box of chocolates with a person they choose to.” -she explained.

“And so, you’re going to offer a box of chocolates to your best friend.” –Flora stated. –“And here I thought that you were going to give it to one of the boys in your class. I’m sure you must have a crush on at least one of them, Rosie.” -she said, calling Rose by the nickname she and her husband had given her.  

“Hmm… there isn’t one in my class that I like enough to offer him a box of chocolates.” -Rose declared, with an uneasy voice.

Her parents did not even suspect that she liked Juleka, and she feared what would happen if they found out. She knew they were not against gay or lesbian couples, and they both supported the LGBT community and its rights. But she did not know how they would react, when they found out their only daughter is a lesbian. Still, she tried not to think about it. She had talked to Juleka about it, and they had both agreed they would not reveal the truth about their relationship to their parents; at least, not until they felt ready and believed the time was right, for fearing that their parents would not accept it.   

“Oh, don’t worry, Rosie. I’m sure one of these days you’ll find the right boy.” -Flora told her daughter.

“Y-Yes… I suppose I will.” -Rose said. –“Mom… if only you knew the truth. That I already found the love of my life…” -she thought to herself.

“By the way, I wanted to ask something. Do you know if your dad has some surprise planned for me tomorrow?” -Flora asked her. Her husband was the romantic kind and he would always come up with something special for her on Valentine’s Day. –“Come on, you can tell me, if you know. I won’t tell him that you spilled the beans, in case he asked you keep a secret.” -she smiled at Rose, while continuing to tidy up the shop.

“Nope, sorry mom. Whatever he has planned, if he has something, he hasn’t told me a thing.” -Rose said, as she placed the box of chocolates on top of the counter. And it was the truth. That year, her dad had not told her if he had something planned, though she knew he had, like always.

“Your dad’s up to something, I just know it. He’s probably the most romantic person I know, right after me, of course.” -Flora said.

“No wonder, I’m incredibly romantic.” -Rose thought to herself. –“Are you going to offer him another one of those WWII little figurines he likes to collect?” -she asked. Her dad was passionate about anything regarding World War 2, and one of his biggest hobbies was to collect miniaturized figurines of that time.

“I am. The one I got him this time, is one that he’s been looking for nearly two years.” -Flora told Rose.    

“I’m sure he’s going to love it.” -Rose smiled.  –“Oh, I almost forgot. Juleka asked me if I wanted to go to a concert with her, tomorrow night. Her brother’s going to play at it, and she asked me if I could go with her and support him. Can I go?” -she asked Flora.

“Hmm… I don’t know, Rosie. You’ve got school in the morning.” -Flora stated.

“I promise that I’ll do the house chores for a whole month, if you let me go, mom. Please, it’s very important to Juleka’s brother, and to her too.” -Rose said, trying to sweet talk her mom into allowing her to go to the concert.

“Well… I suppose that if you do the chores for a whole month, and that you come home before 11, I suppose you can go.” -Flora told her. –“But, I’ll be holding you to that promise of doing the house chores. You miss one day of chores, and you’re grounded until the end of the month, Rosie.” -she warned her.

“I won’t, I promise. Thanks, mom.” -Rose said, as she hugged Flora.

Valentine’s Day arrived, and it was a beautiful day. The Sun was shining and the temperature went up a couple of degrees, making it feel like Spring had arrived earlier that year. You could smell the love in the air, per say. The streets were even more decorated with more red and pink balloons than the previous days, and everywhere you looked. From the early hours of the morning, numerous tuk tuks, all of them fully decorated to celebrate the holiday, began to transport numerous tourist couples to the most romantic places in Paris. But these were not the only ones who were celebrating in such a way, welcoming the tourists and anyone who would be celebrating Valentine’s Day. Throughout Paris, restaurants were advertising special Valentine’s Day menus for those who would want to have lunch or dinner at them. Bookshops  

The spirit of Valentine’s Day that was all around, and in College Françoise Dupont it was no different. The whole school had been decorated earlier that week, but just like it happened with the rest of Paris, on the day itself, more decorations were placed, more heart-shaped balloons were filled and tied to the railings in the courtyard, among other things. In the school’s gymnasium something was also be setting up, but no one could see what, because the doors were closed, which led many students to wonder what could it be. As the students passed the front door, on top of a makeshift stage, which had been assembled just before the school opened, Principal Damocles welcomed them with kind words, telling them to enjoy the day and to make sure they demonstrated the spirit of Valentine’s Day, not only to those they loved, but also to all of their classmates, promoting camaraderie, friendship and respect. The principal made that speech every year on Valentine’s Day, and it would usually end with him adding that on that day, the cafeteria would serve a very special menu to all of them.  

Inside Miss Bustier’s classroom, upon entering it, her students all saw numerous boxes on top of her desk. They were all square-shaped, and they were wrapped in colourful paper, and each one had a beautiful white bow, along with a small card, which said “Happy Valentine’s Day.”. Like the previous years, Miss Bustier had decided to offer everyone in class chocolates. It was her way to say that she loved her students, as if they were her own children. The first one to check them out was none other than Kim. He was not one to admit it, but he had a sweet tooth, and he whenever he could, he would eat up a whole bunch of chocolates, claiming he needed to replenish his blood sugar levels.

“Looks like Miss Bustier is going to offer us chocolates again.” –Kim said, as he checked the boxes. –“I bet they are from that usual candy shop she’s always talking about.” -he said, as he imagined himself opening the box and seeing the 16 delicious chocolates inside it.”

“As if they needed to be from that specific candy shop for you to swallow them all, like they were Tic Tacs.” -Alix said in a sarcastic tone, as she entered the room, having listened him saying that. –“You keep eating chocolates like you do, and in a matter of time, you’ll end up with a pot belly!” -she joked.

“As if! These here are made of steel, Alix, and they will continue to be made of steel!” -Kim said as he pointed to his abdomen.

“You want to compare six-packs, Kim? Because you aren’t the only one who has them here.” -Alix shot at him, with a smug-like smile on her face.

“Could you guys stop that?!” -Max asked them as he walked into the room. –“People can hear you from the street.” -he joked. –“You guys really need to calm down with the throwbacks this early in the morning. The next thing you know, you’re throwing dares at one another.”

“Well, in case this case we don’t need to throw dares at each other, because we already did, a couple of days ago, bro.” -Kim told him. –“I dared Alix to offer me a box of chocolates. But I guess she didn’t get me one.” -he said, as he looked at Alix and saw no box of chocolates.

“Guess what? You’re wrong, sucker!” -Alix shot at Kim with an evil grin on her face. –“I have it in my backpack. But I bet that you didn’t get me a box of chocolates. Or have you forgotten that I also dared you to get me one?” -she chuckled maliciously at him, truly hoping he had failed to get her one, so she could rub it in his face.  

“Well, guess what, you’re wrong, as usual, Short stuff.” -Kim smirked at Alix. –“I did get you one, just to prove to you that whatever dare you give me, I’ll do it!” -he shot at her.

“Oh, very funny! One of these days I’m going to give you a dare so bad, you won’t even dare to do it! And don’t call me Short stuff! I hate it when you call me that!”

“Why do you think I call you that, then, Short stuff?” -Kim asked her with a mocking voice, once gain calling her that nickname she hated.  

“How would you like if I called you String Bean or Stilts?!” -Alix shot at him. –“I bet you wouldn’t like that, now would you?!”

Watching Kim and Alix bickering, Ivan and Mylene, who had entered a little before them, could not help but to chuckle, as they watched them. The scenes those two put up were as much hilarious, as they were cute. They were clearly in love with one another, but had not figured it out yet.    

“When do you think they will realize that they love each other, but just don’t want to admit it?” -Mylene asked

“I don’t know… but they do love to spend time bickering at one another, so, I think it will happen, sooner or later.” -Ivan smiled at her. –“But right now, the only think I really care about, is the fact that I can’t wait to tell the others about us.” -he told her.

“Why? So, they can be a little jealous of us?” -Mylene asked him, while giggling.

“A little… but also, because I want everyone to know that you’re my girl, and that my heart belongs to you.” -Ivan said, as he placed his arm around her, making her giggle a little bit more.  

And they were not the only ones who were anxious about revealing secrets. As he entered the school, accompanied by Nino, who had just arrived, Adrien was a little bit nervous. Everything that he had planned was about to culminate, when he revealed his true feelings for Marinette to her. Seeing the nerves in his eyes, Nino tried to calm him down, as they walked into the courtyard. 

“Relax, Adrien. Everything’s going to be alright. Tell me, you brought it with you, didn’t you?” -Nino asked him, referring to the pendant he was going to offer Marinette.

“Plagg is keeping it safe inside my backpack.” -Adrien told him.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Do I need to remind you what happened the last time your kwami got a little too close to an expensive piece of jewellery?” -Nino asked him, reminding Adrien the time that Plagg got his head stuck on a priceless bracelet that belonged to Chloe.

“He learned his lesson. Besides, what he’s guarding isn’t a bracelet, it’s a pendant, and I already promised him a wheel of Camembert if he keeps it safe. You know that he’ll do anything for that stinking cheese.” -Adrien told Nino. 

“Let’s hope so, for your sake.” -Nino told him, as they went up the stairs and saw Marinette and Alya at the end of them. –“There she is. Don’t worry, and keep calm, bro.” -he whispered to Adrien. –“Morning, ladies.”

“Hey, there, turtle boy.” -Alya said, as she wrapped her arms around Nino and kissed him. –“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you too, my sneaky fox.” -Nino smiled at Alya.  

“Hi, Adrien.” -Marinette smiled nervously at the blond. She was trying her best not to sound nervous or eager.    

“Hey, Marinette.” -Adrien smiled at her. Right then, he had his heart pounding like a crazy ticker, and was trying his best not to show it. –“So… valentine’s Day, huh?”

“Y-Yeah… who would have guessed that it’s already here again?” -Marinette giggled nervously. –“Stupid, stupid, stupid!!! Couldn’t you have come up with something a little less awkward to tell him?!” -she thought.

“Y-Yeah, who would have guessed?” -Adrien answered her. –“What were you thinking? You don’t just repeat what a girl says… she’s going to think that you’re an idiot!” -he thought.

Noticing their friends sounded a little stressed, Alya and Nino exchanged a look and quickly went to their rescue.

“Well, I think we should be going in, don’t you think?” -Nino asked.

“Yeah, you’re right. Miss Bustier should not be long now.” -Alya agreed with him, as she pulled Marinette. –“Come on, Marinette, let’s go.”

And just like Alya said, a few minutes later, Miss Bustier showed up. Unlike most days, when she would be dressed in white, on that day, she was dressed in pink, to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The amount of pink she was wearing was so much that she looked a bit like Rose, who was known for wearing mostly that colour. The only thing that was not pink in her garments was her shirt which was white, and a small golden brooch that she was wearing on a lapel.

“Good morning, class!” -Miss Bustier exclaimed, as she walked into the classroom.

“Good morning, Miss Bustier.” -the whole class said, as they

“First of all, let me wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.” -Miss Bustier told them, as she leaned against her desk. –“As you might have noticed on top of my desk, we have 14 beautiful boxes, one for each of you. I feel that I’ve learned from you as much, as you have learned from me, and what’s inside the boxes, is just a little gift from me to you, to express just how much I appreciate having you all in my life.” -she said, doing her best not to get too emotional. –“But before I give them to you, and you can also offer the boxes of chocolates you brought with you to the person you want, I want to tell you that today’s class will be a little different. Instead of staying inside, we’re going outside, until lunch time. And after lunch, we’re going to watch a movie.”

“Is it going to be a romantic movie?” -Ivan asked Miss Bustier.

“Yes, it will be. But it’s also a very funny movie. You’ll see which one is, after lunch.” -Miss Bustier declared.

“And, what will we be doing outside, Miss Bustier?” -Juleka asked.

“We will be attending a play.” -Miss Bustier answered her.

“A play?” -Max asked. –“Guess that explains why they weren’t letting anyone enter the gym, when we arrived.” -he thought to himself.   

“Yes, we will be watching one of the most celebrated plays in French History, Cyrano de Bergerac, courtesy of a local theatre company, who has agreed to put it on for the whole school.” -Miss Bustier said. –“But before we go downstairs and see it, I think we should start with our usual Valentine’s Day friendship letters exchange, as well as our new box of chocolates exchange tradition.” -she smiled. –“I hope none of you has forgotten either the letters or the chocolates at home.”        

Upon saying that, everyone took out from their backpacks a letter they wrote and went to place it on Miss Bustier’s desk, where she quickly sorted them out, before calling each of the students, to give one to each. It did not matter who had written them, because all of them contained messages of praise, friendship and admiration. And after reading one of them, they all felt great. But on that day, what they all really wanted was to exchange the boxes of chocolates they had bought with a special someone. Wasting no time, Miss Bustier handed hers to each student, earning a smile and a hug from each of them. And then, it was time for the students to share theirs.

“Here, Kim… I hope you like it. And don’t worry, they haven’t been filled with laxative, just in case you’re thinking I might have done it.” -Alix told him, as she handed him a box of chocolates.

“Well…. Thanks, I guess. Here’s yours, and don’t worry, I didn’t add any laxative to yours, in case you’re wondering.” -Kim told her, as he gave her the box of chocolates.

“Don’t think that just because I gave you those chocolates that it means anything.”

“And why would it mean something? I just gave you those, because you dared me to.” -Kim said.

And while Kim and Alix kept bickering with one another, Chloe and Sabrina were busy offering chocolates to one another. They both had the same idea of offering each other chocolates, and they could not help but to feel a little surprised about it. Each thought the other would be offering a box of chocolates to someone else, so it came as a nice surprise to both.

“Here, Chloe. These are for you. For being such a great friend.” -Sabrina smiled, as she handed the blonde, a box of chocolates, which was wrapped in a golden wrapping paper with a black satin bow. –“I hope I got you the right ones.” -she said.

“Oh, thanks, Sabrina!” -Chloe hugged her. –“I’ve also got you a box of chocolates… it’s my way to thank you for having the patience to put up with me.” -she smiled, as she broke the embrace and handed Sabrina the box of chocolates she had bought for her, which was wrapped in a red satin wrapping paper with a white bow.

“Chloe, you shouldn’t have.” -Sabrina said.

“Oh, don’t say that. You’re being ridiculous, utterly ridiculous, Sabrina.” -Chloe giggled, making Sabrina giggle as well. –“Of course, I had to. Like I said, it’s my way to thank you for putting up with me.” -she smiled.

“I don’t mind putting up with you, especially when you’re nice to me and everyone else.” -Sabrina told her. –“You’re my best friend. And a box of chocolates is not nearly enough to thank you for being my best-friend.” -she smiled tearfully.

“Oh… don’t say those things! You’re going to make me cry and I don’t want to smudge my make-up, you sweet redhead!” -Chloe smiled her, trying not to start crying.  

But Chloe and Sabrina were not the only ones to exchange emotional words. Rose was surprised by Juleka, who offered her a box with her favourite chocolates, with each chocolate having a letter on it. Spelling them, it formed a sentence, which read “To Rose, the bestest girl in the world.”. Upon reading it, Rose almost cried, knowing that “bestest girl” was the expression they both used to say girlfriend, without anyone realizing it. Smiling at Juleka, the blonde gave her the box of chocolates she had specially ordered for her.  

“I hope you like them, Juleka. I wanted these to be extra special.” -Rose said, as Juleka opened the box and looked at the chocolates, which seemed pretty normal. Looking at Rose, Juleka noticed that she looked a bit nervous, who seemed to get even more nervous, as she grabbed one of the chocolates and bit it, savouring it. –“So?” -the blonde asked.   

“Black liquorice? They’re filled with melted black liquorice?” -Juleka asked her, as she gulped the chocolate. You could see in her face that she had loved it.  

“I know that you’re not a big fan of chocolate, but that you love black liquorice, so I decided to surprise you with it.” -Rose smiled.

“Thanks, Rose. I loved it.” -Juleka told her, as she hugged her. What she really wanted, was to kiss her, but she told herself that they could not do it in class.

And while those two hugged, Marinette had gotten out of her place and went to Adrien’s, so she could give him the chocolate cake she had baked just for him. Feeling nervous, she tried not to think too hard on what she was about to do. Alya, who was being given a box of chocolates by Nino, could not help but to keep her eyes on her friend, and the same thing could be said for Nino, who has his eyes on Adrien. Taking a deep breath, Marinette smiled, as she stopped in front of Adrien’s desk.  

“Uh… this is for you, Adrien.” -Marinette smiled, while feeling like her heart was about to stop. –“Happy Valentine’s Day.” -she said.

“T-Thanks. It’s quite big.” -Adrien said, as he grabbed the box and carefully placed it on top of his desk. –“I… I also got you something.” -he told her.

When she heard him say that, Marinette’s heart nearly stopped beating for a full second, only for that to almost happen again, when Adrien showed her the box of chocolates, he had bought for her. Seeing that, Marinette smiled at him.

“Thank you, Adrien.” -Marinette said, as she accepted the gift. Looking at it, she knew it had been incredibly expensive, due to the quality of the paper and the way it had been wrapped up. Still, she did not care about how much the chocolates inside had cost Adrien. She was just happy that he had decided to offer her a box of chocolates, when he could have offered it to any other person in her class. –“Uh… I hope you like mine. I know you like chocolates, but I wanted to offer you something a little bit different.” -she said.

“T-Thanks. I’ll open it right now.” -Adrien smiled, curious about what could have the girl he liked had offered him, as he gently ripped the scotch tape that was holding the wrapping paper. Once that was out of the way, he carefully opened the box and saw what was inside. Upon looking at it, his eyes sparkled with joy at what Marinette had offered him. –“A chocolate cake?” -he asked, absolutely surprised.

“I know it’s your favourite. Like I said, instead of just chocolates, I decided to offer you something a little more special.” -Marinette admitted. –“I also add those little chocolates, so the cake wouldn’t feel so lonely.” -she giggled.   

“It’s beautiful… I’m kind of sad that I’ll ruin it, when I decide to eat it.” -Adrien smiled. –“It’s perfect, just like you, Marinette. More and more, something deep in my heart tells me that when I ask you to be my girlfriend, you will say yes, and I’ll be the happiest guy in the world.” -he thought to himself.

He loved it! I’m so happy I could die right about now… But I can’t! Only when I tell Adrien that I love him. Then, I can die happy.” -Marinette thought to herself.

Seeing them interacting like that, Nino and Alya looked at one another and silently agreed that everything was going according, and the same thought went through their minds.  

It’s today. It’s today that they finally become a couple. And about time too… they have been doing this dance for more time than anyone should.” -Alya and Nino thought together.   

Love was everywhere that day. In fact, it had been everywhere for the past week or so. And that was not good for Madame Romani. After failing to retrieve the miraculouses from the Miraculous Team, she was given another chance to succeed by her master, who warned her that if she could not find another victim for him to akumatize in the next couple of days, she would be severely punished. And with those words echoing in her mind, the gypsy witch had not returned to Hawk Moth’s hideout since then. She remained on the streets, scouting, checking, and looking for anyone who she thought would become a truly fearsome Akuma. After what happened with Origami, she could not take any risks and suggest any bumbling idiot who was merely upset at something in his life, to Hawk Moth, for him to akumatize. But no one seemed to be good enough for what she was looking for. And to make matters worse, the spirit of Valentine’s Day seemed to have infected people into having romantic, or at the very least, friendly thoughts towards everyone. For someone like Romani, who never felt loved by anyone, not even her parents when she was little, it was hard to understand how could people love or feel love. And more importantly, it was hard for her to understand how could those feelings be magnified by something so shallow and artificial as a holiday that had been created to sell cards, boxes of chocolate and baubles, which would end up in the trash.  

 “Curse all this pseudo-romance! There’s nothing more fake that this accursed holiday!” -Madame Romani thought to herself. –“For days I’ve been looking for a victim to be akumatized, but all that I find are just idiots who are angry about their jobs or pathetic losers who don’t know what to do with their lives! I need someone whose heart is filled with absolute insecurity, or rage, or hate, or fear, or whatever! Something that can be used to turn it into a powerful Akuma!!!” -she thought. –“But it seems like this holiday only makes people think about nice things, instead of the opposite… If I can’t find someone, who seems worthy of master Hawk Moth’s Akuma Butterflies, I’ll be in deep trouble.

She had been walking for many hours, always with a disguise, which she alternated every two hours, when she saw herself in front of the Le Printemps Haussmann, one of Paris swankiest and most fashionable department stores. Like every other major department store in Paris, the building’s front was decorated with all kinds of Valentine’s Day motifs.

Look at this place. A monument to opulence! To imagine that people enter a place like this just buy things that cost a fortune, because they think that because they cost a fortune, they are better than those you would find in a regular store… Curses! Look at me! I’ve been spending so much time with that slithering lizard, that I’m even starting to talk like him!” -Madame Romani thought to herself. –“Still, it’s true… people who come here have more money than most people in Paris. You would figure that their hearts would be filled with greed and envy, but the amount in them is not enough, not for what I need and… wait! What is that?! What is that I’m feeling?!” -she thought, as she picked up a huge spike of negative energy, which was quite close to her.

Following it, she wondered where it would take her and who she would find there. Two minutes later, she saw herself on an alley behind Le Printemps. This alley was used for deliveries, as well as for employees to come and take a break. Walking slowly, she tried not to make much noise, as she approached the source of that spike of negative energy. She believed that whoever it was that was letting out all that energy, it was the one person she had been looking for. Stopping behind a few piled up wooden crates, she tried to see who it was, without being seen. Spotting it, she saw the negative emotions were coming from a young woman in her early 20’s. She was slender, with peach skin and long dark raven hair, tied into a French braid, which reached her hips. Her eyes were light blue, and she had a small nose and heart-shaped lips. She was wearing a white long-sleeved blouse with matching pants, a black blazer, white shows and a pink star-shaped pendant around her neck. In her blazer, you could see a golden tag with her name on it: M. Ambrose. The “M” stood for Madison. And she was having a really lousy day.

After a customer, who kept talking about how perfect her Valentine’s Day date was going to be, made her make a scene, in which she insulted her, Madison’s boss told her to take her break, while adding that when she came back, she ought to come back calmer or she would be fired. So now, she was there, in the back entrance of one of the city’s largest shopping centres, trying to not to explode from all the anger that was coursing through her being.      

“Valentine’s Day this, Valentine’s Day that!!! Curse this blasted day! I can’t stand it anymore!!!” -Madison said. Her heart was filled with anger and envy, after hearing people saying they had found the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the person they loved, or that they had made a reservation in a fancy restaurant, where they would later be dining with their better half, and it would be the most perfect date ever. Hearing that over and over, was making her go insane, especially after what had happened to her the night before. –“It’s bad enough that I got stood off yesterday by that pretentious jerk, who texted me that he wasn’t interested in me anymore, because he felt I wasn’t pretty enough! But now at work, I’ve got to listen to every single customer saying that they love Valentine’s Day, the most fake of all holidays?! A holiday that was made to sell crap!!!” -she yelled into the air. –“They truly believe that Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day in the year! But guess what… it’s not! It’s the day of the year where you buy cheap baubles and give them to someone you think might care about you, but who doesn’t! That’s what this holiday is all about! Love is the last thing that matters in this day, and I’m probably the only one who knows it!”    

Hearing her say that, Madame Romani felt like she had been listening to herself a few moments before. The negative emotions that were coming from her were just the kind the gypsy witch was looking for, and they were highest she had sensed in many days. If there was someone who would make a phenomenal Akuma, it would be that girl. In her mind, Romani imagined the kind of chaos someone who hated Valentine’s Day could cause.

She’s perfect! Just what I was looking for… Master Hawk Moth! I’ve found you, your next Akuma, sir.” -Madame Romani said, contacting Hawk Moth via telepathy.

Hawk Moth was in his private quarters, when he felt Madame Romani’s telepathic attempt to contact him. He had been expecting news from her for a while now.  

“You certainly took your time.” -Hawk Moth said, as he looked at the potential victim through Madame Romani’s eyes. –“But you have delivered what you promised me. I can sense the anger, the rage and the bitterness in her heart. She will give a magnificent Akuma, no doubt about it.” -he said. –“I will be sending you one of my lovely Akuma Butterflies. You know what to do with it.”

Walking to the glass dome where he kept the dark diabolical Akuma Butterflies, Hawk Moth gently grabbed one of them and caressed his wings.

“It’s time for those infernal heroes to be dealt with, once and for all. Fly my pretty. Fulfil your dark purpose and akumatize her.” -Hawk Moth said, as the black butterfly flapped its wings, before disappearing.

Once the Akuma Butterfly appeared in front of her, Madame Romani was careful to hold it, and even more careful upon releasing it. She did not want the girl to see it coming. She and her fellow lieutenants had learned that when a victim sees an Akuma Butterfly, their feelings tend to change, and the Akuma that is created, might not be as powerful as initially envisioned. Waiting patiently, when she saw the right moment, she released the Akuma Butterfly, which flew in the direction of Madison. Because she had her back turned, she did not even see it coming. Upon landing on her back, Madison felt herself in grasp of Hawk Moth, who wasted no time in talking to her.    

“Good morning, my dear, I am Hawk Moth, and I have proposition for you.” -Hawk Moth’s voice echoed inside Madison’s head. –“You have been hurt, and you are entitled to revenge. If you do me a favour, I will grant you the power to exact your revenge, not only on the person who has broken your heart, but also everyone else, who believes in this fake holiday, which is in fact devoided of love.” -he told her. –“Would you be interested in that?”

“Yes, Hawk Moth.” -Madison answered.

“Very well. All I ask of you is to cause chaos and mayhem throughout the city. By doing so, you will cause for the Miraculous Team to show up. Once they do, kill them and bring me their miraculouses, so I can destroy them.” -Hawk Moth declared.

“I will do as you command, Hawk Moth.” -Madison declared. –“Consider the miraculouses as good as yours.” -she said.

“Then… rise, Aphrodite! Rise and make sure to teach people what true love really is!” -Hawk Moth

With those words, Madison’s body was enveloped by a cloud of dark smoke, which changed her appearance and gave her the power Hawk Moth had promised her. Her skin was now milky white, while her hair was now blonde and longer than before, reaching her feet. Her eyes were now violet and was wearing pink lipstick. She wore a magnificent pink and fuchsia gown with Greek motifs to it, and around her neck, the pendant which was initially pink was now dark violet. She had become Aphrodite, and she was ready to cause chaos and mayhem in Paris.    

“Love. Valentine’s Day is all about love. Another pathetic lie… I will teach them what love truly is.” -Aphrodite said, as she laughed maniacally.

Watching her from the shadows, Madame Romani could not help but to smirk, as she wondered what Aphrodite had in store for the Miraculous Heroes. Soon, they would be history and she would once again become her master’s favourite lieutenant. She was sure that Aphrodite would do what other Akumas had failed to do, and that was to bring the heroes of Paris to their knees.

Chapter Text

The employees of Printemps Haussman prided themselves on always being ready to help any customer that might need it. But none of them was ready for what happened, when Madison Ambrose was akumatized by Hawk Moth and decided to cause chaos inside the building.

As she walked through the department store's service corridors, she only had two thoughts in her mind; revenge and payback. She wanted to get even with everyone that was shopping right then, and who she had to listen to their incessant stories of how wonderful Valentine's Day was going to be for them. And more importantly, she wanted to teach a lesson to the guy who stood her out the previous night. But first, she was going to deal with the customers.

When she was about to enter the store she worked in, she bumped into her boss… the same boss who told her that if she did not come back calmer, she would be fired. Looking at the woman, Aphrodite felt the need to teach her also a lesson, but she deemed her unworthy of her attention. She had bigger fish to fry, and was not going to lose her precious time with her.

"W-What? Who are you?!" -the woman asked, demanding an answer.

"Out of my way!" -Aphrodite told her.

"You can't be in here! How did you get in here?!" -the woman insisted on being given an answer, blocking her path. She had not realized that she was in the presence of an Akuma.

"I said to get out of my way! Here, why don't you love yourself a little bit more?" -Aphrodite said as she blew a kiss at her boss.

As she did that, a sparkling violet powder was blown into her face, spiralling into the air and hitting the woman, who became instantly smitten. She began to feel her body relaxed, her eyes turned pink, and as she looked at herself in a nearby mirror, she fell in love with her own reflection.

"Hey, there! Haven't seen you around here before…" -the woman said

"So much better… what's not to love about loving one's self?" -Aphrodite asked. –"And now, let's show these people just what love truly is."

Entering the store, she saw that some of the customers who were shopping when she was told to taker her break, were still there. And more importantly, the woman that made her make a scene was still there as well. The first ones to notice her presence were some of the customers, as she made her way to the centre of the store.

"You all think that you are entitled to having a perfect romantic day on Valentine's Day, don't you?! Well, I, Aphrodite, am here to show you what true love really is!" -Aphrodite told everyone who was in the store.

At first, both the employees and the clients wondered if that was some kind of publicity stunt, that had been organized by the department store. But when Aphrodite began to blow kisses, using the same kind trick she did with her boss. Upon being hit by the spiralling violet powder, the Akuma released on them, everyone began to feel relaxed and in a matter of seconds they too suffered the same fate as Aphrodite's first victim. Only this time, instead of just falling in love with their own reflections, some people fell in love with the person that was next to them, and vice versa, and in the worst possible scenario, they fell in love with some object they were holding or looking into, which caused them to begin fighting for that same object.

"That's mine!" -one of the women screamed, as she pulled a sweater.

"No, it's mine! I'm in love with it! Get away from it!" -another women screamed as she punched the other, forcing her to let go of the sweater. –"Don't worry, I won't let her take you! We're destined to be together!"

The whole scene looked like something out of a bad comedy movie. But it was not. It was real, and for anyone who had managed to escape that first attack from Aphrodite, and was watching it, it made them wonder what other powers she would have.

"Yes! That is what true love really is!" -Aphrodite said, as she looked around her, when she spotted the customer that had made her mad before. –"Where do you think you're going? Don't you want the perfect Valentine's Day? Allow me to give it to you." -she smirked evilly at the woman.

Blowing her a kiss, the violet power spiralled into the air with an incredible speed, making its way towards the woman, who tried to run away. But no matter how fast she ran, the powder, which Aphrodite decided to baptize as "Love Powder" caught up to her. Hitting her, she became infatuated with the first thing she saw, which in that case was her own reflection. Without hesitating, she began to flirt with it, while claiming that her boyfriend meant nothing to her.

"Glad to see that I've given you the perfect Valentine's Day, you wanted so much." –Aphrodite laughed wickedly, feeling good about herself. - "But there is much to do. Everyone here needs to know what true love really is!" -she laughed, as she made her way out of the store. Looking around, she picked her next target, a group of women who was coming towards her. –"Dear ladies, allow me to show you what love is really all about!"

Madame Romani, who had kept herself hidden, was following Aphrodite and admiring her handiwork. When her master akumatized her, she wondered what kind of Akuma she would be turned into. And now that she had seen her at work, she knew that Hawk Moth had created an incredibly powerful Akuma, all thanks to her judgement and locating skills.

"Incredible. Making these fools fall in love with each other, with their own reflection, or with an object… with this kind of power, it's only a matter of time before things begin to escalate, and those kids are drawn into it. And once that happens, Aphrodite will make sure this will be their last day on Earth." -Madame Romani thought to herself. –"I can't wait to see that happening."

It did not take long for someone inside the department store to call 112 and warn the police about an Akuma inside. And as always, the Parisian police promptly answered the call, by dispatching numerous patrol cars and the task force that had been created for such cases. Along with them, also came firemen and paramedics. Ever since Hawk Moth showed up, the police had had their hands full, thanks to the incredible number of Akumas that continued to appear, week after week, each more powerful than the previous one. To say that they trusted and depended too much on the Miraculous Team was no lie. They had learned to do so. Unlike the heroes, the police did not have the kind of power they had to deal with those creatures. But that did not mean they had not developed ways to deal with the Akumas in their own way. Over time they had learned that Akumas could be hurt through the use of the right weapons like taser guns and tear gas. Fire weapons were strictly used in dire situations, or as a last resort against any Akuma, because they did not want to risk to fatally hurt someone; after all, a victim of akumatization did not have any control over their actions.

Through the use of certain containment strategies, the police were also able to prevent the Akumas from destroying public property, or hurting innocent bystanders. Of course, those strategies only worked when the Akumas were still learning to control their powers. Once they had managed to learn to do so, the only ones who could stop it were the heroes. But on that day, those that had been dispatched there were determined to hold down the fort until the heroes arrived to finish the job.

The first thing the authorities did was to seal the perimeter to prevent any civilians from entering said perimeter, as the task force arrived, accompanied by several other police vehicles and ambulances. Once more, a section of Paris had turned into the closest thing to a scene in a major Hollywood movie about cops and robbers. Behind the barricades, hundreds of people who were passing by, took the time to stop and start snapping photos and videos of what was going on.

Among those in lead was Sabrina's dad, Roger Raincomprix, who once again saw himself in the front of battle. He had seen more Akuma attacks than he would like to, and he firmly believed that this one would not be the last. Still, like a good law enforcement agent, he tried to remain calm. One of the first things he was taught at the academy was to always act calm, even when the situation seemed out of control.

"What do we have?" -Lt. Roger Raincomprix asked one of the officers, as he approached him.

"Most people that managed to get out are talking about an Akuma who's making everyone fall in love, lieutenant." -the officer answered.

"Making everyone fall in love? Don't tell me Hawk Moth decided to create an Akuma based on this holiday?" -Lt. Raincomprix asked, as he tried to imagine how the Akuma would look like. Until then, it had not showed itself to the police, and no image of it had surfaced online.

"It wouldn't be the first time, sir." -the officer stated.

"Why are the building doors shut?" -Lt. Raincomprix asked, while looking at the building's front.

"From what we were able to find out, it's part of their security system, lieutenant. In case of theft, the doors sealed themselves, to prevent the robbers from escaping. Some of the security guards inside must have deployed it, either by accident or on purpose to not allow the Akuma out." -another said.

"Whether it was an accident or not, we best be prepared." -Lt Raincomprix said. –"And hope that it was just a false alarm. We've already had this month's share of Akumas." –he thought to himself. –"Has the commissioner arrived yet?"

"Not yet, sir. He's still on his way."

"I see… well, I'll go talk to the task force and tell them to get ready to move in soon. And someone get me the blueprints of this building. We need to find the best way to get in there, if we can't open those doors. In the meantime, keep an eye out for trouble. Whenever one of Hawk Moth's Akumas show up, his minions also tend to show up." -Lt. Raincomprix warned his men.

He was on his way to do just that, when suddenly, the doors of the Printemps building opened and what came out was something none of the people were expecting to see. Usually, monsters and creatures tended to show up, along with the Akuma. But this time, something different happened. This time, what came out were not monsters or creatures, and instead, it was people. Regular people, who seemed to be enjoying themselves, by kissing and smooching, while also dancing to the sound of some music that could not be heard by anyone, except themselves. On top of that, their eyes were all pink. Surrounding them was some sort of purple mist, which seemed to be moving around them, with a mind of its own. Watching it, both the authorities and the civilians that were behind the barricades, wondered what was really going on.

"What's going on there?"

"They seem like they've been hypnotized, or are under some sort of spell or something."

"Look at their eyes! They're pink!"

"Whoa, this doesn't look like an Akuma attack… it looks more like a party!"

Hearing the civilians saying that, the police officers, the paramedics and even the firemen wondered what was really going on. But before they could do anything, the mist that was around those people began to converge into a single point, right in the middle of that crowd of people. Holding their breath, little by little, they all saw the mist acquiring a definite shape. turning into a person, a beautiful woman, who was not a simple woman, but an Akuma. Seeing that, most police officers drew their weapons and pointed at Aphrodite and her entourage, though none of them had intention of firing them.

"Good afternoon, officers! I was wondering when Paris' finest would show up." -Aphrodite said. –"Allow me to introduce myself, I am Aphrodite, and I'm here to show you what love really is, unlike this stupid holiday!" -she declared.

"What is she talking about?" -Lt. Raincomprix thought to himself. –"Whatever it is, it can't be good." -he mused.

"What are your orders, sir?"

"Hold your fire! I repeat, hold your fire! Don't shoot, you might hit one of civilians!" -Lt. Raincomprix ordered them. The last thing they needed was for a dead civilian. –"She's smart. She's using them as a shield, and she knows that no one will dare to fire against her, while she has civilians under her control next to her." -he thought to himself, while trying to think of a way to take Aphrodite out, without hurting any of the people she was keeping around her, under her control.

"You all seem rather stressed… perhaps some of my Love Powder is what you need." -Aphrodite smirked. –"Yes, that's just what you and everyone else around here needs. Once you are under the spell of true love, I'm sure that those Miraculous Heroes will come to your rescue… here, let me blow you a kiss." -she said, as she did so, sending Love Powder flying into the air.

At the same time, in College Françoise Dupont, the whole school was inside the gymnasium watching Cyrano de Bergerac, without even dreaming about the fact that another Akuma was on the loose in Paris. But not all the students were happy about being forced to watch that play. Most just wanted to get out of there and do something that was both fun and non-educational. And one of them was none other than Chloe Bourgeois, who had never enjoyed Cyrano de Bergerac.

"I'm bored, Sabrina." -Chloe whispered to the redhead. –"The story of this play is so boring." -she sighed. –"Why did Miss Bustier had to force us to leave our cell phones in the classroom?"

"Well, I like it. It's quite beautiful." -Sabrina whispered back at the blonde, as she paid attention to the play.

"Well, I would rather be checking my profiles online, than watching this." -Chloe sighed. –"It's bad enough we had to study this play in class a few months ago, but now we've also got to watch it." -she thought to herself.

But there were some students who were enjoying it, like Mylene Haprele. Loving theatre and acting, her eyes were literally glued to the stage, watching the play. She had seen Cyrano before, when her dad's theatre company did it a few years before. In it, her dad played Christian de Neuvillette, and told her, that perhaps one day, when she was older, she would be able to play Roxanne. The young Mylene imagined herself playing Roxanne, but as years went by, she began to think that perhaps she was not physically suited for the part. But her dream of playing the character did come true, the year before, when she played Roxanne for one night, courtesy of her dad, who upon the lead actress coming down with a flu, asked Mylene to play Roxanne, in an adaptation of the play that had been written for children

"You're really enjoying it, aren't you?" -Ivan whispered at Mylene.

"I love the play so much. Every time I watch it, I remember the night I played Roxanne." -Mylene sighed, as she remembered the night in question. –"It was such a magical night." -she whispered at Ivan.

"I wish I could have seen you in it." -Ivan whispered at her. He had seen Mylene acting countless times. But those times had been mostly for short-films. He had only seen her on stage three times, and they were all small parts, not leading parts.

"If you want to, I can put on a private performance just for you." -Mylene smiled at her boyfriend.

"I would like that, very much." -Ivan smiled back at her.

And of course, then there were those students who took the opportunity to whisper among themselves as the play went on. Two of them were Alya and Nino, who despite being attentive to the play, were talking about something far more interesting, the state of Marinette and Adrien's relationship.

"Looks like things are going smoothly, wouldn't you say?" -Alya asked him in a whisper.

"I guess we can say that." -Nino whispered at her. –"The look on Adrien's face when she presented him with that cake was priceless." -he declared.

"She told me that she wanted to give him something special." -Alya said. –"Especially, after what happened the other day." -she stated.

"What happened the other day?" -Nino asked her.

"Marinette told me that two days ago, she saw Adrien with another girl and she believed that he was secretly dating her. It was a real blow to her confidence." -Alya answered him.

"What?!" -Nino exclaimed, making almost everyone near them to keep quiet. –"Why would she think something like that?" -he asked her in a hushed voice.

"Because this is Marinette we're talking about here. You know how she is. She might try and act tough in front of everyone, but her heart is the polar opposite of that. Sometimes it only takes a word to make any shred of self-confidence she might have disappear." -Alya reminded him. –"And what she saw that afternoon, messed her up pretty bad. It made her think the worst. It made her that she had lost any chance with Adrien."

"But that's not what happened. Adrien told me he didn't want anyone to know, including me that he was going to buy Marinette a present. The only ones who knew were Plagg and the girl he took with him, who happens to be an old friend of his, and with who he practices fencing two times a week." -Nino told her. –"He told me that she volunteered to help him out. That's all." -he said.

"Well, maybe he didn't have that intention, but the fact is that in doing so, he made her think the worst. It's a good thing Chloe gave her a pep talk yesterday, which lifted her spirits a bit, because if she hadn't… we would've seen Marinette crying her eyes out in the middle of the class." -Alya told him.

"What matters now, is that everything is bound to turn out okay. That's what really matters. It's about time those two realize they are made for one another." -Nino commented.

"By the way, what's the present he's going to give her?" -Alya asked him, curious.

"I shouldn't tell you, but, it's a pendant. I don't know exactly how it looks like, because he didn't show it to me. But I know it's a pendant." -Nino said

"Hey, would you guys be quiet?! Some of us are trying to watch this." -a girl who was in front of them asked them, clearly annoyed by their chat.

"Sorry." -Alya and Nino apologized in chorus, and realizing that they better not talk during the rest of the play.

A few rows behind them, Marinette and Adrien were sitting next to each other, watching the play, without thinking that their best friends were talking about them. Though they were watching the play, their minds were somewhere else, thinking about each other.

"Should I tell her now? No, I left the pendant in the classroom. Plus, asking her to be my girlfriend, while surrounded by all these people isn't very romantic." -Adrien thought to himself. –"After lunch, I'll tell her everything and give her the pendant. Let's hope I don't forget the speech that Nathalie helped me memorize yesterday." -he thought, as he looked to his left and saw just how pretty Marinette looked in the dark.

"The face he did when he saw the cake… he made the cutest smile ever." -Marinette mused about. –"But I can't let those thoughts distract me from my plan. After lunch, I'm going to tell him about my feelings for him… and if I back down, Tikki knows that I've given her orders to slap me, until I gain the courage to do it." -she thought.

As they reached the end of the second act, everyone applauded. But the applauses were not just from the students and the teachers. Hidden in a place where they could see the play, without being spotted, the kwamis were also applauding. That was a rare opportunity for them to attend a theatre play, and they were loving it; well most of them were. One or two of them were not into theatre.

"Why are we applauding this?" -Plagg asked, clearly bored.

"I'm with him. This is really boring." -Muria said.

"Because it's in good taste to applaud in the theatre." -Mulan told the cat and the bear kwami.

"And because it's a beautiful story." -Tikki said.

"Beautiful? I'll tell you what's beautiful. A lovely piece of Camembert. Now that is beautiful, cupcake." -Plagg told Tikki.

"Yuck! Only to think such a thing, Plagg. And don't call me cupcake!" -Tikki told him.

"Well, I think that it's quite entertaining and the morals of the story are quite good. Older men can fall in love with younger women. Younger women usually fall in love with young men, but surprisingly, they sometimes look favourably on an older man, especially one with unusual ability, virtue, or kindness. And of course, men fall for feminine beauty." -Wayzz said, summarizing some of the morals of the play for his fellow kwamis. Unlike Nino, who read only some parts of the play, he read it in full.

"You and your philosophical mumbo jumbo. Don't you ever get tired of saying those things?" -Daria asked Wayzz.

"Not really. Philosophy is a wonderful thing." -Wayzz answered the dragonfly kwami.

"Well, I prefer comedy to philosophy, and I wouldn't mind if this play had a little more humour in it." -Flint said.

"I think it doesn't need a single joke. It's perfect as it is." -Tamara told Flint.

"Well, I would trade it for a good action movie, like those that I'm always watching with Kim." -Imp said.

"Well, I prefer a good theatre play, instead. Just wished Mylene could attend more of those." -Pin said. –"Unfortunately, the only ones she goes to are those that her dad is in." -the deer kwami said.

"Hush, everyone! The third act is starting." -Pollen warned the other kwamis.

As the third act began, Miss Bustier checked her cell phone to see if she had received any texts. Unlike her students, who she told to leave their cell phones in class, she had brought hers. And it was with great surprise that she saw that she had received a warning from the Akuma Attack app, signalling there was an attack in progress.

"An Akuma attack?" -Miss Bustier thought, as she looked at the warning on her cell phone. –"And it's relatively near here. Let's hope it doesn't come this way and that the heroes are on the job and manage to take it down quickly." -she thought to herself, hoping that by the time the play ended, the Akuma had been dealt with.

The streets in the 9th Arrondissement were an absolute chaos. Aphrodite had managed to put everyone she saw under her control. All the policemen, firemen and paramedics, as well as civilians that had gathered in front of the Printemps building became infatuated with her love spell. And as walked the street, more and more people suffered the same fate as them. As for Aphrodite, she was happy to see those she had showed what love truly was, to experience it first hand, while also destroying anything related to Valentine's Day.

But Madame Romani was not happy about what she was seeing. She was seeing a lot of chaos, with people kissing each other, their own reflection or any object they felt it deserved their love and adoration. But she was not seeing the faintest glimpse of the Miraculous Team.

"Where are they? Usually, they show up before the Akuma can do any kind of serious damage." -Madame Romani asked herself, as she looked around. She had not decided to show herself to Aphrodite, believing that it would be best only to show herself, when the heroes showed up. –"Maybe we need a little more chaos." -she thought, as she contacted her master via telepathy. –"Master… the heroes have not showed up yet. Perhaps we need a little more chaos to force them out of their hideout."

Hearing her, Hawk Moth did not waste time in contacting his newest Akuma, to tell her that what she was doing was not enough. She needed to gain the attention of the heroes, so they would show up.

"Aphrodite. You are doing well. But it's not enough… the Miraculous heroes still haven't showed up. You must wreak even more chaos into the city." -Hawk Moth told Aphrodite.

"Very well, Hawk Moth. It shall be done." -Aphrodite said. –"Just don't forget that I still have unfinished businesses to take care of." -she reminded him.

"I haven't forgotten it. But those can wait. Once the Miraculous Team is dead and their miraculouses are mine to destroy, you will be free to do as you please." -Hawk Moth said. –"Make use of your powers. I've given you more than the ability to make people fall in love with each other or with their own reflection. Make use of them, and spread true love everywhere." -he said with a malicious voice.

"Understood." -Aphrodite said, as she terminated her conversation with Hawk Moth, and turned her attention to everyone that was around her. –"You all have seen what love truly is, people! But there are millions of people in this city who still don't know what true love is! It's time for you to show them what that is as well! Go and spread the love!" -she ordered them, as the pink eyes in her victims turned red.

Chapter Text

By the time the third and final act of the play was over, half of the gymnasium was half-asleep, while the other half was applauding the actors, whose performance was incredible. But there was one thing that all of them were, right then. They were all hungry. And knowing the cafeteria had a special menu for them all that day, all the students hurried out of the gymnasium. Well, most of them did. Marinette and the others stayed behind and waited until it was safe for their kwamis to come out of their hiding spot and join them. When almost everyone had already left the gym, the kwamis used the opportunity to join their holders, as they too left to see what they had for lunch that day.    

“What do you think it’s going to be lunch?” -Marinette asked. She had a light breakfast that morning, so she was a little hungry.

“Pizza, maybe?” -Alya suggested.

“I could definitely go for pizza. Especially one with mushrooms, bacon, olives and extra cheese.” -Ivan declared, as he imagined the pizza he had just described.  

“Don’t forget the pineapple.” -Max pointed out.   

“Pineapple on pizza, Max?!” -Adrien asked him. –“Nino, help me out here, please.”

“I’m with Max on this one, bro. Pineapple on pizza is life.” -Nino declared.

“Alya, your boyfriend is insane.” -Adrien joked.

“So, what’s new?” -Alya giggled. –“I don’t mind him loving pineapple on pizza, as long as he doesn’t force me to eat it.” -she laughed, as he placed her arms around him.

“I’m still going to convince you to change sides on that matter, Alya.” -Nino smiled at her, as she kissed him.   

“Keep dreaming, turtle boy.” –Alya smirked at him, before he kissed her again.

“Well, it better not be spaghetti and meatballs. No offense, but last year, I counted more than ten couples in the cafeteria, doing the dinner scene from Lady and the Tramp.” -Kim said, as he remembered of the previous Valentine’s Day.

“And here I thought the thing you would be remembering about last year’s Valentine’s Day was the fact that Chloe told you she did not want to date you.” -Alix snickered.

“Oh, very mature, Alix, very mature.” -Kim shot at her.

“For the record, I told you that I didn’t want to date you, because you’re not my type, and because you’re a jock, Kim. I don’t date jocks.” -Chloe declared.

“And because you were a really nasty bitch?” -Alix asked her.

“Yeah, that too.” -Chloe agreed. –“Still, I stand by what I said. You’re not my type, Kim.” -she said. –“Still, I think you would make a great boyfriend for Alix.”

“Like that will ever happen.” -Kim scoffed at the idea of dating Alix.

“For once, I agree with him. That will never happen. Like you, I’ve got standards, and they prevent me from loving an idiot like him.” -Alix told Chloe.

“She’s… hey!” -Kim exclaimed, making everyone else laugh.   

At first, they wanted to go their classroom to grab their cell phones. Adrien himself was going to get it, as well as the pendant he was going to offer Marinette. But Kim convinced everyone to leave them where they were, and go to lunch instead. Unfortunately, by doing so, he made it impossible for any of them to know that there was an Akuma attacking the city. The only one who did go up to the classroom was Nathaniel, and even he forgot about his cell phone. The only thing he wanted to get right then, was the box of chocolates he was going to offer Marc, as soon as he saw him. Grabbing it, he quickly went back to the cafeteria, where most of the class was already on the lunch line.

Like Principal Damocles had stated earlier, the cafeteria’s menu for that day was a special one… pizza. But not just one kind of pizza. There were several kinds of pizza. Usually, there was only one kind, but on that day, there were at least six different kinds. And there was also a special dessert, for whoever had a sweet tooth; chocolate and strawberry eclairs. Sufficient to say that there was not a single student who did not think that they had hit the jackpot that day with such a great lunch. The aroma of all those different kinds of pizza filled the air, as the students all waited in line for their turn.     

At the tables, there was laughs and jokes, with the main conversation theme between the students being the play they all had finished seeing. But at the table where Marinette and her friends were having lunch, the conversation theme was different. They were all talking on just how great the pizzas were. And they were not the only ones saying it. Their kwamis, who were as always hidden from watchful eyes, were also enjoying themselves, as they were given small bits of pizza by their holders. All the while, the teenagers made sure not leave a single crumb on their plates, which earned one or two of them a couple of remarks.    

“Chew your food, Kim! If you don’t, you’re bound to choke with a piece of pizza, stuck in your throat.” -Alya said, as she took a small bite of her slice of Neapolitan pizza.

“You too, Sabrina. You look like a wolf, chowing down all that pizza.” –Chloe said, as she watched the redhead eating what was her third slice of Carbonara pizza

“Sorry… but I just love Carbonara pizza, especially the mushrooms in it.” -Sabrina said, as she finished the slice, before licking her lips. –“Do you think they’ll let me get another plate? I don’t know why, but I’m super hungry today.” -she said.

“Well, I think that if you ask nicely, the lunch ladies might get you a few extra slices.” -Marinette said, as she finished her slice of Four cheese pizza, her favourite. –“But you’re not the only one… I’m also super hungry today.” -she said. Her nerves were making her eat anything she had in front of her.

“It’s probably because the pizzas are extra delicious today.” -Max said, as he allowed Ari, who was hiding in one of his pockets, to nibble the slice he was holding.

“I concur. They’re really good.” -Ari said, as he savoured the pizza.

“Still, I wished they would have used Camembert on them.” -Plagg spoke from inside Adrien’s shirt pocket.

“Keep dreaming, Plagg.” -Adrien told him.  

“Well, they’re pretty good, no doubt about it.” -Juleka said, as she continued to eat one of the slices of Margherita pizza she had on her plate. –“Still, I wish they had pepperoni pizza.” -she said, on account she only liked Margherita and Pepperoni pizza.

“Don’t worry. We’ll get one later. With cheesy crust, just like you love it.” -Rose giggled, as she nibbled a slice of pizza.  

“Tonight? What are you girls going to do tonight?” -Marinette asked them, curious.  

“Juleka’s brother, Luka, is going to give a concert, and we’re both attending it.” -Rose said. –“Oh, I forgot to tell you that my mom agreed to let me go tonight. That way you won’t have to go alone to the concert.” -she smiled at her girlfriend.  

“That’s great. Luka will be happy to have us in the audience, cheering for him, as he performs.” -Juleka smiled at the blonde. –“And that way, will have our Valentine’s Day date, Rose.” -she thought to herself.   

They continued to talk, when Mylene decided to ask Chloe something she always wanted to know about her. Something that she was not the only one who wanted to know the answer.    

“Don’t get me wrong, Chloe, but why don’t you ever eat pizza with your hands, like everyone else?” -Mylene asked, seeing her eat with the pizza with a fork and a knife. Like all the others, she had never seen Chloe doing that whenever they had pizza, or hamburgers or even French fries. She would always use cutlery.   

“Because unlike most people, I don’t like to have my fingers covered in greasy cheese. I love pizza, but I hate having greasy fingers.” -Chloe said politely, as she used a fork and a knife to cut a little piece of pizza and then gave it to Pollen, who was hiding inside her purse. Even when they went out for a bite, after a battle, she would always use a fork and a knife, which she would bring with her in her purse, to eat junk food. –“Plus, I don’t want to ruin my nails.” -she said.

“It’s a good thing I don’t have to worry about that little detail.” -Nino said, as he took a huge bite of a slice of veggie pizza.

“Privileges of not being a girl.” -Adrien pointed out. 

“Correction, privileges of not being a girl who’s always trying to look her best, Adrien.” -Chloe told him, only for Adrien to chuckle. –“There’s a big difference. And you boys tend to forget how easy you have it.” -she said.

“I’m with Chloe on this one. You boys have it so easy on you. You wake up, comb your hair and you’re ready to go.” -Alix declared, agreeing with her. Still, no matter how many times it happened, Alix still felt a little weird in agreeing with a girl she despised for so long.  

“I concur. Even you take at least half an hour in the bathroom to look presentable.” -Daria told Alix.

“As if! Do you really think I look this dash looking, after I get out of bed?” -Kim asked Alix. –“I need to shave, moisturize and stylize my hair and put on a little bit of cologne, before I put on some clothes.” -he pointed out.

“You mean a gallon of cologne! Phew” -Alix said. –“I wasn’t going to say it, but you smell like you poured down a whole bottle of cheap cologne on you this morning.” -she told him.  

“Cheap cologne?! I spent part of my allowance on that cologne, and it wasn’t cheap.” -Kim said. –“Besides, most girls like it.” -he declared.

“Well, not me.” -Alix said.    

“Me neither, Kim.” -Rose said. –“I didn’t want to tell you, but you put on too much cologne today.” -she stated, with the cologne’s smell making her a little bit dizzy. –“It’s making me dizzy just from smelling it.”

“That goes double for me.” -Alix stated. She did not say anything to him, because she did not want to pick a fight with him, especially on a day where teachers insisted, they would all get along.    

That last comment from Rose and Alix, made Kim smell his own clothes, and he quickly realized that he had indeed put on a little too much cologne. Because his cologne was the kind whose scent got stronger as time went by, and because he was already used to its scent, he did not notice he had put on too much that morning.

“Okay, maybe I put on a little too much today. But just so we’re clear, this cologne was not cheap.” -Kim said, while thinking that when he got home, he would have to change his clothes. 

“We’ll take your word for it.” -Juleka said.

But not everyone was as chatty as Kim. Nathaniel was not talking much that day, and Marinette noticed it. So, she decided to ask him if everything was alright with him.

“Hey, Nathaniel, you’re awfully quiet today. What’s on your mind?” -Marinette asked him.

On top of not talking, Marinette also noticed Nathaniel had barely eaten the pizza on his plate. This was all because he kept thinking if he ought to give the box of chocolates to Marc, or not. He had gone to the classroom to get it, and now he was having second thoughts about it.

“Uh… nothing! I-I mean, I was just… I’m not very hungry.” –Nathaniel said.

“Not hungry? I never seen you pass on a pizza, even when you are hungry.” Marinette smiled at him. –“What’s really going on? You can tell me… in fact, you can tell all of us.”

He wanted to, but he did not know how they would react to him having a crush over a boy. Still, he figured he did not have to say it was a boy. By not saying if it was a boy or a girl, Nathaniel could talk about his problem, without any fears.

“Well, there’s this person… I brought a box of chocolates to offer it to that person.” -Nathaniel sighed.

“I noticed it.” -Marinette said. She had seen that Nathaniel had brought a box of chocolates with him, but did not offer it to anyone in class, which suggested that he was going to give it to someone else. –“You didn’t offer it to anyone in class, so I figured it was for someone else.” -she said.

“It is… but I’m having second thoughts about it.” -Nathaniel told her.

“Why?” -Marinette asked him.

“It’s… it’s because I don’t know if that person will like it, that’s why.” -Nathaniel said.  

“Well, if you don’t try it, you’ll never know.” -Marinette said. –“Great advice, Marinette. You always had a knack to tell other what they should do or not, but you can never follow your own advices.” -she thought to herself. –“Well, today I am following my own advice and I’m going to do the very same thing I told you Nathaniel. I’m going to tell Adrien how much I love him.

Thinking about Marinette had just told him, Nathaniel agreed that if he did not risk it, he would never find out the outcome of that endeavour of his. He had already decided that before he was going to try and win Marc’s heart, he was going to befriend him and strengthen their friendship. That way, if there was any chance of him having any kind of romantic relationship with Marc, it would be based on a strong friendship. Sighing, he thanked Marinette, before getting up.

“I’ll be right back, then. Don’t let Kim or Ivan eat my pizza, okay?” -Nathaniel said, as he grabbed the box of chocolates and walked away from the table.

“As if I would eat someone else’s pizza!” -Kim shot at him in a playful tone.

“I don’t know… I’ve seen you eat everyone’s leftovers before.” -Alix joked, before bursting into laughs, which made Kim feel insulted.

“Hey, you gave me permission to do it, and it was one time!” -Kim remarked it.

“Who do you think he’s going to offer the chocolates to?” -Chloe asked Sabrina, trying to ignore those two bickering at each other.  

“I don’t know. But whoever it is, I’m sure he’ll tell us later.” -Sabrina said, as she too got up. –“Now, if you guy’s will excuse me, Mika and I, are going to try and get a few more slices of pizza.” -she said.

“Got that right. I hope they give you a few more, because I think I’m beginning to like these, more than I like sweet bread.” -Mika said from inside Sabrina’s purse.

As they walked away, Mulan did not hesitate in praising Nathaniel, for deciding to go look for Marc and give him the box of chocolates. More than even Nathaniel, the red panda kwami wanted things between the two of them to work out.

“I was beginning to think you were not going to do this.” -Mulan told him.

“To tell you the truth, so did I.” -Nathaniel whispered to his kwami. –“I guess I needed to hear a few words of encouragement, before doing it.” -he said.

Looking for Marc in that busy cafeteria, Nathaniel wondered if he had finished eating and was outside. He still had not seen him that day, and so, he did not know what he was wearing. If he did, it would be easier for him to identify him amongst all those people. Still, it did not take long for Nathaniel to spot him. He was sitting in a table, all by himself, with a plate of half-eaten pizza on one side, and a whole bunch of papers on the other. Gulping, Nathaniel hesitated for a brief moment, before forcing himself to go over to Marc’s table, so he could give him the chocolates. Approaching him, Nathaniel made sure not to scare him, after he saw that he writing something.     

“Hey, am I interrupting anything?” -Nathaniel asked Marc in a rather shy voice.

“Uh? Oh, it’s you. No, not at all. I was just going over some notes I wrote, while I was watching the play.” -Marc said. –“But where are my manners? Go ahead, sit down. Have you had lunch?”

“Uh, yes and no. I was having it with my friends over there, but I saw you and came to check on you.” -Nathaniel said, as he sat down. –“You wrote all of that, while you were watching the play?”

“Well, not everything. It’s just that I had a really great idea for a story, while watching the play, and I had to write it down, before forgetting about it.” -Marc told him.

“I-I understand. Sometimes I wish I could do that with my drawings.” -Nathaniel said. –“Come on, man, enough talk. Just go for it!” -he thought to himself. –“Uh, I almost forgot… these are for you.”

“For me? But why?” -Marc asked him, as Nathaniel handed him the box of chocolates.

“Well, it’s… this year, my friends and I decided to offer chocolates to people we care about and admire, and well, I thought that since you’re new here and you probably don’t have any friends yet, that you would like these.” -Nathaniel said, trying not to mess up the words. –“You can consider it them a welcoming present. That is, if you’re not allergic to chocolates and all…” -he said.

“Thanks!” -Marc said, as he looked at the box. –“Well, I’ll give you one thing. You have good taste. These are my favourites.” -he said.

Hearing him say that, Nathaniel’s heart skipped a beat and he felt like he had done the right thing. He was afraid he would not like it, but now that he had given the chocolates to him, Nathaniel was happy he had given them to Marc. He did not know if that would make a possible future relationship with him a reality, but he did know that with that gesture, he had cemented their friendship, and that was good enough for him. And he was not the only one who was happy. Mulan was also happy for Nathaniel, after seeing him face another challenge that life had placed in his way.      

“So, what are you writing about?” -Nathaniel asked Marc, trying to talk to him about something else other than the chocolates.

“Well, like I said, it’s an idea for a story. In this case, it’s an idea for yet another Miraculous Team fanfic.” -Marc answered him. –“I had this insane idea, where some of the members of the Miraculous Team are akumatized by Hawk Moth and they turn against their friends… I even got some of the names for their akumatized forms. Ladybug would be Antibug, Chat Noir would be Chat Blanc, Carapace would be Shell Shock, Queen Bee would be Wasp Queen and Rena Rouge would be Rena Rage. I’m still trying to come up with names for maybe some of the others, in case I decide to use them, instead of these, you know?”

Nathaniel kept listening to the idea Marc had, and he himself considered this one to be quite interesting. He had checked a couple of fanfics from time to time, just to draw a little bit of inspiration for his own Miraculous Team fan comic. And among the ones he had checked, there were maybe one or two where one of the heroes was akumatized when he was in its civilian form. But he had not read one where the heroes were themselves akumatized while in battle. Still, he could not help but to know that something like that would never happen. The miraculouses prevented him and the others from being akumatized, even if Hawk Moth and his minions wanted to do such a thing.  

“That seems interesting, I’ll give you that. But, now that I think about it, I don’t know if the heroes can be akumatized.” -Nathaniel pointed out. He knew that was not possible, but other people did not know about it. –“I mean, if that was possible, don’t you think Hawk Moth would have tried to do it?” -he asked him. Nathaniel did not know why he was talking that to Marc; he had never talked about subject with anyone else before. But for some reason, he felt at ease to talk to him about it.

“Maybe he has, and we don’t know about it. Think about it, do you really think that we have seen all the battles of Ladybug and the rest of her team?” -Marc asked him. –“I know this is going to sound a little farfetched, because this is real life and not a comic book, but in the comic books, the heroes sometimes battle the bad guys and people don’t even know about it, unless they reveal it. You don’t get to see everything that goes on, even if you want to. That could happen in real life, I’m just saying.” -he said, as he scribbled something else in one of the papers.

The truth was, the heroes had battled a couple of Akumas who were not public knowledge. These Akumas turned out to be so weak, that they hardly made any kind of damage and they were dealt with, without the public knowing about it. And while thinking about it, Nathaniel could not help but to remember the fact that they had battled the Collector a few weeks before, and the public did not find out about the whole story surrounding him.   

“Well, I think you might be right.” -Nathaniel agreed with him. –“There might be some things that the heroes do, and that we don’t even know about it. It’s not like they have a Facebook or an Instagram, or a twitter account and are always posting things.” -he said.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.” -Marc told him. –“But to me, as long as they keep protecting us and this city, I’m okay with not knowing everything they’re doing.” -he said. –“One thing I know for sure. They must be taking care of that Akuma, right now.”     

Hearing him say that, Nathaniel’s eyes almost popped out of their sockets, having no idea what Marc was talking about.  

“A-An Akuma?!” –Nathaniel asked him.

“Yeah, it’s all over the news. There’s an Akuma attacking the city. I got the warning from the Akuma Attack app. Didn’t you get it?” -Marc asked him.

And the reason why he did not know about it, was because he did not have his cell phone with him. There was an Akuma attacking the city, and neither him nor the others knew about it.

“N-No. I left my cell phone in the classroom.” -Nathaniel said, trying to look as calm as possible. He knew he had to warn the others, but he also knew he could not just leave Marc, without an explanation. The last thing he wanted was for him to think he was being rude to him. Going through his thoughts, Nathaniel quickly came up with an excuse, to get out of there. –“Oh, rats! Sorry, I just remembered that my teacher asked me to do something for her, and I’ve got to go.” -he said, excusing himself. –“I’ll see you later!”

“Uh… sure. Thanks again for the chocolates.” -Marc said, as he saw Nathaniel walking away. –“He’s a little bit odd, but I kind of like that about him.” -he thought.   

Making his way back to the table where the others were, he knew that time was of the essence. Sabrina had just come back and was happy the lunch ladies gave her three more slices of pizza, and was about to bite the first one, when she saw Nathaniel running towards them, looking like he had seen a ghost. 

“Hey, what’s the matter, Nathaniel?” -Sabrina asked him. –“Did you give the box of chocolates to the person you wanted to?”

“We need to talk, guys.” -Nathaniel told them.

“Then, talk. We’re listening.” -Chloe told him.

“Not here… it has to be in private. You know, away from prying eyes?” -Nathaniel pointed out.  

When Nathaniel said that, the whole gang understood that there was something wrong. Quickly, they left the table and went outside, where they could talk. The last one to leave was Kim, who upon seeing the pizza slices Sabrina had left in her plate, helped himself to them, not wanting them to go to waste. Alix seeing him doing it, quickly prevented him from doing it, pulling him by the wrist. Kim protested, but the pink-haired teenager ignored his protests and kept pulling him, so he would join the others. Looking for a place where they could talk freely without anyone hearing them, they chose an empty corner near the library’s entrance. Once there, Nathaniel did not waste any time and spilled the beans.   

“Guys, we’ve got trouble.” -Nathaniel said. –“The kind of trouble that begins with an “H” and ends with another “H”, if you know what I mean.” -he pointed out.

“Hawk Moth?” -Alya asked him in a whispered voice, to which he nodded. –“And here I thought we were going to have a calm and peaceful day, guys.” -she sighed.

“I’m with you, Alya. We don’t really need an Akuma attacking the city, right now.” -Mylene said.

“Hawk Moth sure knows how to spoil a person’s lunch.” -Ivan said.

“Why couldn’t Moth breath have waited until the end of classes? It’s going to be really hard for us to get out of here and deal with that Akuma, without getting into trouble.” -Nino stated.

“What did you find out about this Akuma, Nathaniel?” -Marinette asked him.

“Other than it’s attacking the city, nothing. I came to warn you, before I could find out anything more about it.” -Nathaniel admitted.

“We should have really gone and pick our cell phones from class, after we got out” -Juleka sighed.  

“Blame, Kim. He’s the one who convinced us to go to the cafeteria to have lunch, instead of going to the classroom first.” –Chloe shot at him.

“Hey! How was I suppose to know that we would have an Akuma running wild?! It’s much my blame, as is everyone else’s.” -Kim stated.

“Never mind that! We’re all to blame here, because we were all hungry and decided to have lunch, instead of going to the classroom to get our cell phones.” -Marinette said in an ushered voice. –“But that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that we go get out cell phones, find out what we can about this Akuma, and then find a way to get out of here, without anyone finding out and take care of it.” -she said, while knowing the part of them exiting the school without anyone finding out was not going to be easy.   

“I’m with you all the way, Marinette. But, how are we going to do that?” -Adrien asked her. –“It’s not like we can ask Miss Bustier to leave earlier.” -he added.  

Before Marinette could answer him, a high-pitched scream was heard, alerting them to something not being right. This was not the kind of scream one makes when being surprised or scared. It was the kind of scream one makes when being attacked or hurt.  

“What was that?!” -Alya asked.

Chapter Text

The scream Alya and the others heard was coming from the school's entrance, and upon hearing it, they did not waste time in trying to find out what was going on. Wondering what could have happened, they feared the worst. Not knowing what kind of Akuma was running wild in the city, the possibilities of what could be happening right then, were nearly infinite. If the Akuma happened to have fire powers, it could be torching things and people up, On the other hand, if it happened to have water powers, it could be flooding the city, and turning it into the closest thing to Venice. And that was just if they had elemental powers. With Hawk Moth granting each Akuma a different power, trying to guess which powers would the next one was like trying to guess the winning combination of the lottery.

Hoping that whatever happened that had caused the person they heard to scream, was not as bad as they thought, they rushed to check it. But upon arriving at the courtyard, they saw that it was even worse than they thought. Several people were entering through the school's entrance and were seemingly chasing after everyone they saw in front of them. They were giggling and laughing like crazy, and their eyes were red, just like the eyes of a white rabbit. As soon as they grabbed hold of a person, they would kiss it or hug it, resulting in this person beginning to act just like it. The only difference was that instead of having red eyes, its eyes became pink.

"What's going on?" -Marinette asked, as she saw what was happening.

"I have no idea. But I don't think we want to really find out, milady." -Adrien told her.

"Look out!" -Alix yelled, as a possessed girl made a run for them, giggling and laughing like a maniac.

Dodging to the sides, they all managed to evade her. But a student that was passing behind them was not so lucky. As soon as she placed her arms around him, she immediately kissed him. And like it happened with the remaining victims of Aphrodite's love powder attack, the boy became smitten, his eyes turned pink and began to kiss the girl. Seeing this happening in front of them, neither one of the heroes could do anything to stop it.

"Whoa… this is… this is messed up. She attacked him, and now they're kissing." -Nino said, without being able to look away.

"This is wrong in so many levels." -Alya declared, as she looked around and saw the same thing happening to more and more people. –"They look like… like love zombies, or something." -she said, as she saw one of the school janitors, who had just been kissed by a brunette, and was now kissing her back.

"What do we do?" -Rose asked, as she too kept looking at what was happening.

"For starters, let's head to our classroom. We'll be safe there. Come on!" -Marinette told them all, as she began running.

Making a dash for it, the whole gang followed Marinette, crossing the courtyard, while nearly doing the impossible, to make sure to avoid being the target of any of the "love zombies" as Alya had called them. Looking around them, they saw so many of their fellow students being attacked and turned into the exact things that had attacked them. Climbing the stairs, two steps at the time, all they thought was to get to their classroom, where they believed they would have the privacy and the security to think of what they were doing next. Ivan, who was at the rear of the group, was attacked by one of the fellow students and was forced to dodge her. Mylene seeing this, instantly stopped and ran towards her boyfriend, who told her to keep going.

"I'll handle this! Just go, Mylene!" -Ivan said as he dodged the girl's attempts to hug him.

Mylene did not want to leave Ivan behind, but she knew he could take care of himself, and that she needed to get to safety. Gritting her teeth, she started to climb the stairs, hoping that Ivan would come after her, sooner after. At the same time, already on the first floor, the rest of the gang, led by Marinette was making their way towards the classroom, hoping there they would be safe. And they were not the only ones who had had that idea. Some other students, noticing there was something wrong going on, also decided to head to a place where they felt would be safe. Panic was quickly settling in. Looking down, Marinette saw one of the teachers down on the courtyard ordering the students to run, while allowing himself to be caught, to buy them some time to run.

"This is getting out of control! We've got to do something and fast!" -Marinette thought to herself, knowing it was imperative for her and the others to put a stop to what was going on.

Arriving at the classroom door, she turned the knob and opened it, allowing everyone to enter, one by one. When Mylene entered, Marinette was about to close the door, when Mylene prevented her from doing it. Looking her in the eyes, Marinette saw she was worried.

"Don't close it, just yet! Ivan's still out there!" -Mylene told her.

"We need to close it, or those things might see the door open and think of coming here and see what's going on!" -Max said.

"He can take care of himself! He's a big guy!" -Chloe shouted at them.

"No! We're not leaving him outside with those things!" -Mylene shouted back at Chloe, before turning to Marinette. –"Please, Marinette, don't close it, just yet. Give him some time, please!" -she begged her.

"I'm sure he… wait, here he comes!" -Marinette said, as she saw Ivan running down the corridor towards her, with a couple of love zombies on his tail. –"Come on, Ivan, hurry!" -she told him.

Hearing Marinette's voice, Ivan ran as fast as his feet allowed him, knowing he was being followed. He had been able to get rid of the love zombie that had attacked him, but as he was climbing the stairs, two more tried to grab him, pulling and ripping his shirt. Holding his breath, he sprinted the last couple of meters, his footsteps echoing on the walls. Allowing him to enter, Marinette quickly closed the door and locked it, as the love zombies tried to enter. Turning around, she saw Adrien, Nino and Nathaniel holding Miss Bustier's desk, with the intent of using it to barricade the door. Getting out of the way, she allowed them to do just that. With the desk blocking the door, the three of them felt a little safer.

"There! That should keep them out." -Adrien sighed. –"We better also lower all the blinds." -he suggested.

"Good idea! The less people know we're here the better." -Marinette agreed.

Hearing her say that Rose and Juleka quickly lowered the blinds on all the windows, as Adrien himself turned on the lights. At the same time, Mylene was checking in on Ivan, who was on the floor, still panting from all that running. She could see he was exhausted and feared that he might have been touched by one of the love zombies. If so, that would mean he would be turning into one of them, and become a danger to himself and everyone else in that classroom.

"Did they touch you?" -Mylene said.

"No… they we're not fast enough to do that. But my mom's going to kill me, because of this." -Ivan said, as he pointed to his shirt which was ripped. –"And the worst part is that it's brand new." -he sighed

"Are you sure? Because if you were, we'll have to toss you out, buddy." -Kim asked him, as he approached Ivan.

"This isn't the Walking Dead, Kim, and we're not going to throw him out." -Sabrina told him.

"Look, I'm just saying…" -Kim said, when Alix interrupted.

"We know what you're saying, but it's like Sabrina said. This isn't the Waking Dead or any other stupid post-apocalyptic series that you watch in your spare time. This is reality. And if Ivan says he wasn't touched or kissed, then there's no reason for us not to believe him." -Alix told him.

"Well, excuse me if I'm just trying to look out for everyone's safety!" -Kim shot at her.

The two of them continued to argue about it, but that did not matter to neither Ivan nor Mylene. He was just happy to be there with her, and she was happy he had managed to escape that attack and was there, with her.

"Don't do that again, okay?" -Mylene told Ivan, as she hugged him. –"Don't ever tell me to just leave you behind, you big idiot" -she told him, though the last part was said with sweetness and care.

"C-Can't say I won't do it. But I promise I'll try not to." -Ivan smiled, as he hugged Mylene back.

The loving scene between Mylene and Ivan was interrupted, when the love zombies that were at the door began to pound their fists against it, trying to get in, while speaking of how love would set them free, mixed with some scary laughs and giggles.

"They're coming in!" -Juleka said.

"Everyone shut up!" -Alya ordered everyone. –"If we don't talk, maybe they'll go away." -she whispered.

Doing as they were told, everyone stopped talking and silence flooded the whole classroom. The only sounds heard were their own breathing and the incessant noise the love zombies were making outside the door, trying to get in. Time seemed to stop, as the passing seconds felt like hours. After a bit, the pounding on the door ceased, and the rest of the noises the love zombies were making also ended. They did not know if they had gone after someone else, or if they were still at the door, waiting to see if any of them was still inside, hiding. And so, a few more seconds went by, until Alya finally broke the silence.

"I think they're gone." -Alya whispered to the others.

"Do you think they're really gone?" –Nino asked her.

"Maybe they're just really quiet, and are biding their time to get in here." -Chloe said, slightly afraid.

"I don't think they're smart enough to do that, Chloe." -Alya whispered at the blonde.

"Stay here and don't move. I'll go and look." -Trixx whispered, as she and the other kwamis appeared. In all that bustle, the teens had forgotten that they were with them.

Flying silently, the fox kwami went to investigate. Moving the blinders just a little bit, she looked outside and saw that things were not looking alright. More and more students were being attacked and turned into love zombies. And the faculty staff was no exception. Looking down, she saw Miss Bustier on the courtyard and her eyes were pink, as she looked around, giggling and laughing, before starting to kiss an unknown stranger, who had just entered the school. Ignoring that for a moment, she looked to the side and saw that the love zombies that had chased Ivan there, were gone, and there was no one at the door. Telling herself she had seen enough; she closed the blinder. Flying back to where everyone was, she told them what she had seen.

"I've got good news and bad news, guys. The good news is that those love zombies that were chasing Ivan are no longer at the door, so we can all talk without risking them getting in." -Trixx said. –"The bad news is that things out there are getting a little out of hand… oh, and Miss Bustier was caught and is now smooching some unknown guy." -she said.

"Oh, no, poor Miss Bustier." -Rose said, worrying about their teacher.

"Don't worry, she'll be fine, once you guys finish this." -Flint told her, sensing she was feeling guilty of what had happened to Miss Bustier.

"Look on the bright side. At least this way, you guys don't have to worry about getting out and deal with the Akuma." -Muria told them.

Just like the bear kwami had said, that was the bright side of that whole situation, indeed. But it was not bright enough to make them forget that their teacher, who was like a second mother to them all, had once again been caught in their fight against Hawk Moth. It pained them to see that happening to someone, who was so dear to all of them. To tell them that what was happening was not their fault, would be lying. It was their fault hawk Moth sent those Akumas to take their miraculouses. Still, they knew that if they did not stop those Akumas, something much worse would happen to everyone they cared about. And as always, it was Marinette's job to remind them of it.

"Flint and Muria are right. She'll be alright, once we take down this Akuma." -Marinette said. She knew there was no use crying over spilled milk. Right then, they needed to focus on what they could do to deal with that situation.

"Guys, just to let you know, Master Fu must be tired of trying to call us." -Max said, as he checked his cell phone and saw several lost calls and nearly a dozen texts from the old master. –"I think he must have been trying to warn us about the Akuma, since we didn't show up to fight it." -he said, while reading the texts.

"Well, now we know, and he didn't even need to tell us." –Nathaniel sighed.

"Come on, it's not the time to sulk, Nathaniel!" -Mulan told him.

"Your kwami's right. We need to gather as much information as we can, regarding this Akuma, before we go after it." -Alya said, as she went to get her cell phone. –"Let's see what the news are, and check out what has been sent to the Miraculous Blog." -she stated.

In a matter of seconds, she connected online and saw what was going on. Everyone gathered around her to see just how bad the situation was. Like always, the citizens of Paris had photographed and recorded the Akuma and posted the photos and the videos, for the whole world to see what was happening.

"So… it's a girl this time, and her name is Aphrodite." -Alya said, as she checked the video of the Akuma coming out of the Printemps building, surrounded by several people who were under her spell. –"And it looks like she's making people fall in love with one another, their own reflection or merely objects." -she stated, as she read the several comments under the video.

"That explains why things are the way they are outside." -Kim said.

"At least now, we know what we're up against." -Sabrina said.

"So, what are we waiting for? We can't waste time. Let's spring into action and take this Akuma down." -Alix said. As always, she was eager to take down the Akuma.

"Not so fast, Alix. We still need to come up with a plan." -Marinette told her. –"We need to come up with a way to get out of here, without being seen. But more importantly, we need to know where to go, after." -she declared. –"Alya, do you know where Aphrodite was last seen?"

"I'm trying to, but all these photos and videos place her all over the city." -Alya said. –"I'll need a couple of minutes to go over them all, and see where she is right now." -she stated.

"That will give us time to take care of one, very important thing. The school security cameras." -Nino remarked. –"We can't transform with those cameras functioning. If they catch us, we're screwed."

"Do you want us to go and disable them, like we did in the Louvre, two weeks ago?" -Wayzz asked Nino.

"No, Wayzz, that'll take too long. This is not like the Louvre. There are too many cameras." -Nino told him. The idea of having the kwamis disabling the cameras was good, but it would take too long, given the size and the number of cameras.

"Then, we go to the source. Everyone knows that the security cameras are all linked to the security console in the principal's office." -Kim said, which made everyone look at him. –"W-What?! It's common knowledge and I may have seen it, that one time, when I was sent to his office." -he said.

"So, we turn off the system?" -Juleka asked.

"How about we just destroy it? One little touch from my powers, and that thing gets turned into dust." -Plagg said. –"It's faster, and I don't want to lose time pushing several buttons." -he stated.

"You think you can do that, without being spotted?" -Adrien asked him.

"Leave it to me. While I'm gone, don't do anything stupid." -Plagg declared, as he flew upwards and disappeared into the ceiling.

"How can we do anything stupid, it you're taking all the stupidness with you?" -Ari told him, just as Plagg went through the ceiling.

While Plagg went to take care of the security cameras, Alya continued to gather all the information regarding Aphrodite's whereabouts. To help her do that faster, Max and Nino joined her, going over every video and photograph that was online, trying to pinpoint where Aphrodite was right then. At the same time, the rest of the heroes paced back and forth, waiting for Plagg to come back. Marinette herself was worried about what would happen, when they got out of there. That whole situation they were in right then, felt like the plot of one Romero's zombie movies, when the heroes were trapped inside a room, with no way out, no weapons and no chances of survival. Still, she tried to see the bright side of the situation. They were all there, they were safe and they all wanted to save the day. Thinking about it, what else could she want from them? She knew she could count on them all, just like they could count on her. At the same time, she also tried to focus on the idea of what she was going to do, once the Akuma had been taken care of, to give her the strength for the battle ahead of her.

"Have a little patience Marinette... if it took you all this time to tell him you love him, then what's another hour or two?" –Marinette thought to herself.

And she was not the only one thinking about what she was going to do, once the Akuma had been taken care of. Rummaging inside his backpack, Adrien was looking for the pendant he was going to give Marinette, when he asked her to be his girlfriend. He had asked Plagg to keep an eye out on it, but the kwami did not tell him where inside the backpack he had placed it. With so many pockets and hidden pouches inside it, it was head for Adrien to find out. Finally, he found it. Knowing it was safe, the blond then tried to focus on the task ahead of him. This would be one tough Akuma to beat, but he had an extra incentive to deal with him, as quickly as possible.

"Guess this will have to wait until a little bit later." -Adrien thought to himself, as he closed his backpack, placing it on the floor.

Seeing Mylene by the window, peeking through the blinder, Marinette decided to check on her, and see if she was alright.

"How are things outside, Mylene?" -Marinette asked her, as she approached her, placing her left hand on her shoulder.

"Not good. Everyone that gets touched by one of the people that is under the influence of the Akuma, instantly gets under its influence as well." -Mylene said, as she kept looking through the window's blinder, just enough not be spotted.

"If that's true, that's the first time this happens." -Alya pointed out. –"That never happened before. Usually, the only way for something like that to happen, is if the Akuma catches you and puts you under its control." -she said.

"Well, it's like they say. There's always a first time for everything, Alya… including minions under the control of the Akuma, who can make others fall under its control, by just touching them." -Marinette said, realizing that once again, Hawk Moth had upped his game against them.

"Do you think if we get touched by one of those love zombies, as Alya has called them, we'll also fall under Aphrodite's control?" -Rose asked Marinette.

"I don't know… maybe." -Marinette said. –"I want to tell her that that will not happen, but I don't really know. I don't know if our miraculouses will prevent that from happening, whether we're transformed or not." -she thought to herself.

"Our miraculouses prevent us from being akumatized, and they also protect us from taking fatal damage from most magical attacks. But I don't know if they'll protect us from being infected by those people's touch." -Nino stated, not knowing if "infection" was the right word to describe the way people ended up under the Akuma's influence.

"Well, I don't want to find out." -Chloe said. –"I can't even imagine what it will be like, to be under the influence of an Akuma." -she declared.

"I agree with, Chloe. Who knows what could happen if we ended up under the influence of an Akuma?" -Sabrina declared. –"We could be forced to hurt people, or each other… or even worst, we could be forced to reveal our identities." -she said, imagining it. –"I don't even want to think about it…"

"Wait a moment… Tikki, tell us, can we end up under the influence of an Akuma, when were transformed?" -Marinette asked the scarlet kwami. If there was someone who could answer that question, it was her and the remaining kwamis.

"Usually, no… when you transform yourselves, our magic is strong enough to prevent that from happening, most of the times. But from time to time, Hawk Moth creates an Akuma, who might have some kind of persuasion power to it, that is powerful enough to put some of the miraculous holders under its spell; but only temporarily." -Tikki answered her. –"Still, I don't know if this will be the case."

"And what about when we're not transformed?" -Nathaniel asked.

"When you are transformed, the protection that we grant you is a lot more powerful, because that's when our full power is activated. But when you're not transformed, it's a little bit trickier." -Tikki admitted. –"If the Akuma has the power to put people under its spell, then you might be affected. Of course, you won't remain under its spell permanently, but it will take you longer to snap out of it." -she explained.

"Then, I did the right thing running away from those…"

"Yup, you did, big guy." -Muria said, finishing Ivan's sentence.

"So, there's a real chance we can end up under its control, if we're not careful." -Juleka said.

"Real chance or not, we don't have much of a choice. We'll just have to find ways to deal with them, without touching them." -Marinette declared, trying to cheer everyone up.

"That's the spirit! No matter what, you kiddos will defeat that Akuma in no time. I have faith in you… in fact, I think all of us, have faith in you, like always." -Mika said, as he and the rest of the kwamis smiled at the whole team. –"You will defeat him." -he said.

"That is, if Plagg hurries back." -Pollen said. –"He's taking his sweet time in getting rid of the cameras." -she pointed out.

"Did someone call my name?" -Plagg said.

Turning around, they saw the black cat kwami hovering in the air, with a grin from ear to ear. Adrien knew that whenever his kwami had that grin on his face, it was because he had accomplished a task, he had set his mind on.

"Is it done?" -Adrien asked him, as Plagg made his way back to him. –"Are the cameras still a problem?" -he asked.

"Don't worry, I took care of it. There isn't a single security camera working in this school. You should have seen what happened, once I used Cataclysm on that control console. Everything turned to ashes! I may be 5000 years old, but my powers are as powerful as they were on the day I was created.!" -Plagg declared triumphantly. –"But, let me tell you this. Your principal has got a couple of secrets, he clearly doesn't want people to find out about." -he said in a joking voice.

"What are you talking about, Plagg?" -Adrien asked him. –"You know what? Never mind that, now. We've got bigger things to worry about." -he said.

Without the security cameras to catch them on film, Marinette and the rest did not have to worry about their secret identities being discovered and recorded in them. But that did not mean they were out of the woods yet. They still had to find a way to go into battle, without anyone seeing them leave their classroom.

"With no security cameras, we'll be able to go out." -Alix said. –"Let's not waste more time. Let's transform and start cleaning up this mess." -she smirked at Daria, who like her, was ready to lend her his powers.

"Not so fast, speed queen." -Nino said. –"We can't go out through that door, as our superhero selves. Most people outside might be zombified or lovefied, or whatever, but there might still be one or two who have managed to keep themselves from ending up as mindless love zombies. And they might see us getting out." -he pointed out.

"Well, then, let's use one of the windows to go out." -Kim said.

"You and Alix love to see who comes up with the dumbest idea, don't you, Kim?" -Chloe shot at him.

"Hey!" -Alix exclaimed.

"What?!" -Kim said.

"If we go out through one of the windows, we might be spotted as well. People will know we attend this school." -Chloe pointed out. –"We can't be seen, or people might put two and two together, and we kiss our secret identities goodbye." -she said.

"And that's not just our only problem." -Alya said. –"Nino, Max and I haven't been able to pinpoint where Aphrodite is right now. But we did manage to restrict her current location to three different places." -she declared.

"That means, once we manage to get out of here, we'll have to split up into teams, and hope one is able to find and fight Aphrodite." -Max pointed out.

It was not the first time the whole team split into smaller separate groups to deal with an Akuma, but it did not mean it was something they liked to do. Ever since they had been granted their powers that they had figured they were stronger as a whole team, instead of separate groups or individuals. But they also knew that there were times, when the only way to defeat the enemy was to split up.

"I'll be honest, I don't like doing that." -Nathaniel said. –"Remember what happened when we faced Spectrum on Halloween? He sent us on that wild goose chase, just to tire us." -he reminded them.

"Yeah, but this is different." -Alya said. –"Besides, if we don't do this, Aphrodite will continue to move." -she said. –"I know that not knowing her exact location is a problem, but not even the media seem to know where she really is now. We'll have to split up and look for her, whether we like it or not."

Sensing some of his friends were not completely in favour of the plan, Adrien decided to back up Alya, with a little motivational speech.

"Look, the more time we spend in this classroom arguing on what we are going to do or not, the longer it will take us to solve all this." -Adrien said. –"As I see it, we do what we always do. We get out of here, we split into smaller teams and we save the day. It's what we always do." -he added.

"What about the love zombies, or whatever they are really called? What if we get touched or kissed by them?" -Juleka asked.

"It doesn't matter. If we get touched, we get touched and we'll find a way to battle it. Besides, it's like Tikki said, we might be under the Akuma's control for a short period of time, but we'll try to fight it. We'll deal with it, and as always, we got each other's back." -Marinette answered her. –"If one of us gets touched or kissed, another one of us will keep an eye out, and make sure he or she doesn't get into trouble, until they return to normal. Remember, we've got each other's back."

"Okay, then, now that we are all on the same page her, how do we get out, without being seen?" -Kim asked.

"We can use the ceiling. We pierce it, and then get out." -Ivan suggested.

"Or we can go down. If my memory serves me right, beneath the section of our classroom where Miss Bustier's desk usually is, is the broom closet. We can break the floor, go through it, and then access the sewers." –Marinette said.

"The sewers?! Ew! No way, I'm not going into the sewers, forget it!" -Chloe said. –"Just thinking about it, it makes my skin crawl!" -she stated.

"Let's think about this." -Max said. –"If we decide to go through ceiling, it'll be faster, but we might get spotted." –he declared. –"But, if we decide to go through the broom closet, and into the sewers, we can come out of them, a short distance from the school, and if we get spotted exiting the sewers, no one will ever think we came from here."

The idea of going through the sewers was not idyllic, but it was no doubt the safest. As they discussed idea, Tikki went down to see if Marinette was right about what she had said about the broom closet, and to also check if this one was deserted or not. A few seconds later, she came back, saying that indeed there was a broom closet and that it was deserted. Hearing that, Marinette put it up to vote, and almost everyone chose the sewers, much to Chloe's displeasure.

"We'll take the sewers, then." -Marinette said, before turning to Chloe. –"Sorry, Chloe, but sometimes we've got to do things that we don't like." -she told her.

"Ew… I'm going to need a bath after this. No, make that several baths!" -Chloe complained about it, as she imagined herself in the sewers.

"Alright, let's do this. We've got an Akuma to find, a city to save and… and that's about it." -Marinette declared. –"You guys ready?" -she asked the whole team.

"Yes!" -they all answered in chorus, though one could hear Chloe's disapproval in her voice.

"And you, are you guys ready?" -Marinette asked the kwamis.

"You bet!" -the kwamis all said in chorus.

"Just say the magic words, Marinette." -Tikki said.

Chapter Text

The stench in the air, made it practically impossible to breathe through one’s nose, without becoming sick and nauseated, as the heroes moved through the dark tunnel, with only a couple of flashlights that Panda Rouge had created for them, using his powers. Following the plan, they used Grizzly Bear’s strength to punch two separate holes on the floor; one to get them from their classroom and into the broom closet, and a second one to grant them access to the sewers. Though after getting out of the broom closet, they still had to dig a little before hitting the sewer lines. Luckily, Grizzly did not mind using his massive strength to drill their way towards one of the millions of sewer tunnels in Paris. Pounding his fists against all sorts of things that were in his way. And when he finally reached the sewers, he felt a sense of pride, mixed with disgust, as the stench of the sewage filled his nostrils, along with the nostrils of everyone else. Because Queen Bee kept complaining that she was going to get dirty, while walking through the sewer, Panda Rouge decided to give her, and everyone else something to prevent that from happening; Hazmat suits.  

Stepping into the sewers, the heroes could not help but to be amazed by just how disgusting the tunnel they were in was. The wall around them was covered with a thick layer of grime and filth, and there were all sorts of debris floating in the water, as they made their way forward. For more than once, they were forced to give hands, so they could advance, without slipping into whatever was underwater. A lot of thoughts went through their heads, but there was one that was the same to them all; walking in a sewer was one of the most disgusting things, if not the most disgusting thing, they had ever done.  

“This stinks…” -Dragonfly said. Even with the Hazmat suit on, she and the others could still smell the disgusting stench in the air.

“What did you expect? It’s a sewer.” -Rena Rouge told her.

“No, I mean, sure it stinks, but… I’m talking about how we must go through the sewers to save the town. I bet other superheroes don’t have this kind of problem.” -Dragonfly declared.

“Spider-Man has.” -Arachnid said.

“But Spider-Man is the epithet of super-hero who struggles to have a good day in his life. So, he really doesn’t count for that matter.” -Carapace said. Like Dragonfly, he too believed that unlike them, comic book heroes did not have the kind of issue they were having right then. –“Superman and Batman don’t have to go through the sewers.” -he said. –“Okay, maybe Batman has to, because we see him in the sewers, from time to time, but that’s because he wants to go down there.”     

“Then, tell me another super-hero who struggles with this kind of problem.” -Dragonfly demanded.

“Does it have to be superheroes? Can’t it be just literary characters?” -Forest Doe asked her.

“Fine, go ahead, I don’t think it would hurt.” -Dragonfly sighed.

“Okay… then, we have Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Percy Jackson, Valkyrie Cain…” -Forest Doe said, reciting all the literary unlucky heroes she could remember.  

“Don’t forget the Baudelaire Siblings.” -Grizzly Bear remembered her, knowing she had begun reading the A Series of Unfortunate Events saga a few weeks ago.

“Oh, yeah, those too. So, yeah there are a lot of characters who have to deal with things like this.” -Forest Doe said.  

“Alright, alright, maybe there are a lot of fictional characters who have this kind of problem, but I keep saying it, most superheroes don’t have it.” -Antelope stated.

“Well, we’re the only superheroes that this world has ever seen, remember?” -Ladybug reminded her. –“So, we can’t compare ourselves to any others. Whether we like it or not, we don’t have any competition.” -she stated.

“I just remembered one thing… there are superheroes who have to go through the same thing we are going through right now.” -Arachnid said.

“Oh, yeah? And who might those superheroes be, Max? Who are the superheroes who have to go through the sewers to get to where the action is?” -Antelope asked his best friend.

“The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of course.” -Arachnid told him. –“They take the sewers to go to where the action is… in fact, they even live in the sewers.” -he said.

“Okay, I’ll give you that… but, let me just point out that the sewers they walk on, both in the comics and in the television series, they all look a lot cleaner than the real ones.” -Antelope said. –“And they must smell a little better.”

“How do you know if they smell better, or not?” –Flamingo asked him. –“You can’t smell a picture.” -she pointed out.  

“She got you there, Kim.” -Dragonfly told him.

“Alright, I don’t know if they smell better than the one, we’re walking in right now, but I hardly think that matters, because they don’t have noses.” -Antelope declared.

“What?! Of course, they have noses!” -Arachnid exclaimed.

“I don’t see them on the comics, or on the cartoons.” -Antelope said.  

“Then how can they smell the pizza?” -Ladybug asked. She was not as much a fan of TMNT, as she was of manga and anime, but like all of them, she knew the characters and had watched some episodes of the cartoons. –“They must have them, or otherwise they wouldn’t be able to smell it.”

“I don’t want to tell you the same thing, Rose told you a couple of seconds ago, Kim, but Marinette’s got you there.” -Chat Noir told him. –“If they don’t have noses, how can they smell pizza and other things?” -he asked Antelope.

“I don’t know… maybe the same way that Krillin in Dragonball. Did you forget that he doesn’t have a nose?” -Antelope declared.  

“Then, how does he breathe and smell?” -Corbeau Noire asked Arachnid, curious. She had never been a big fan of Dragonball, but her brother was, so she knew the characters and the story.

“According to series creator, he has physical idiosyncrasy that allows him to breathe through his skin.” -Arachnid answered her.

“Excuse me, but is this the Miraculous Team, or some group of nerds and geeks, who love to talk about things, no one really cares about?!” -Queen Bee asked them, clearly annoyed by that whole conversation.

“Chloe…” -Louve Grise reprimanded her.

“What?!” -Queen Bee asked, not understanding why the wolf heroine was reprimanding her.   

“Just because you don’t like to talk about a subject, doesn’t mean, others won’t like to.” -Louve Grise told her. –“I bet you wouldn’t like if one of us told you that, if you were talking about fashion or something else that you like to talk about, now would you?” -she asked her.

Once again, the blonde heiress realized she had screwed the pooch, and she felt awful about it. When she thought that she had finally stopped acting like her old self, she would act or say something that would prove it otherwise. She hated it when that happened, because it was a constant reminder of the horrible girl she used to be.   

“I’m sorry…” -Queen Bee told Louve Grise. –“It’s just that… I’m so stressed and worried, and it bugs me a little that you guys are all talking like that, as if you hadn’t a care in the world.” -she said.

“And who says we aren’t stressed and worried, Chloe?” -Arachnid asked her. –“We all are stressed and worried… at least, I am.” -he admitted.

“We’re just talking about these things, to relax a bit. That’s all.” –Antelope said.

“If you want to, you can also join. You can even choose the subject.” -Forest Doe told her.

“N-No, no, it’s okay… you guys can continue to talk.” -Queen Bee said. She did not say it, but she was grateful for them asking her to join in the conversation. –“Nice going, Chloe… you act like you used to, and instead of being mad at you, they ask you to join them. It’s times like this, that I feel like I don’t deserve the friends I have.” -she thought to herself.  

“Alright. But the offer stands, if you change your mind. And one of these days, we will turn you into a geek or a nerd just like us, you’ll see.” -Antelope said.  

“Whatever you say, Kim… now hurry up, and keep moving. For the guy who calls himself as the fastest hero in our group, you’re taking your time.” -Queen Bee told him.  

“I’m going as fast as I can, Chloe.” -Antelope huffed. –“I’m trying not to slip and fall into this disgusting water.” -he stated.  

“Well, hurry up! There’s a rainbow of stenches down here that I didn’t need to know existed… oh, God there’s a dead rat, floating in the water over there!” -Queen Bee screamed the last part. –“That’s it! Even with this Hazmat suit on, once I get back home, I’m taking the longest bubble bath of my whole life!” -she declared.

Hearing her say that, everyone laughed, including her. They were all nervous, like it happened each time they went into battle. But they had learned that most of the time, the best remedy for a restless heart and soul, is a good dose of laughter. And right then, they needed it, more than ever. They were marching towards a battle that could be their toughest one yet. Still, as leaders, Ladybug and Chat Noir knew they had to keep their minds in the game.

“So, what are the places that Aphrodite was last seen, Alya? Neither you, nor Max, nor Nino told us that information, before we got into the sewer.” -Ladybug asked Rena Rouge.

“Oh, sorry, Marinette. It slipped my mind.” -Rena Rouge said. –“She was last seen in three different places, and those places were Sainte Trinité, Pont Alexandre III and the Champ de Mars.” -she said.

“Well, then, who goes where?” -Corbeau Noire asked.

“Since we don’t know where Aphrodite really is, and what to expect when we find her, maybe we should split up into balanced teams?” -Flamingo suggested them. 

“Good idea, Rose.” -Ladybug said. –“In that case, let’s me think… Adrien, Nathaniel, Nino, Alya and I will take Sainte Trinité. You, Juleka, Chloe and Sabrina can take Pont Alexandre III and the rest goes to Champ de Mars. What do you say?” -she asked them.    

“I see no problem.” -Louve Grise declared. 

“Me neither.” -Grizzly Bear said.

“I think we’re all good.” -Carapace said. 

“Then, it’s settled.” -Ladybug said. –“And as always, the first team to spot the Akuma, notifies the others.” -she declared.   

“By the way, for those of you who are going to Champ de Mars, my dad’s there. He’s attending an exotic animal exhibit there. I know that asking you to see if you can find him and to check if he’s alright is a little too much, but if you could…” -Rena Rouge said.

“If we happen to see him, we’ll make sure to guarantee his safety, Alya, don’t you worry.” -Dragonfly said.   

“Yeah, we’ll do that.” -Forest Doe said.

“Thanks, guys.” -Rena Rouge thanked them.

After walking through the sewers for what seemed to them like the equivalent to the distance of three blocks, they exited the sewers, through a manhole. Opening the manhole cover, just enough to see where they were, they realized they had ended up in a back alley which some of them were familiar with, having used it as a place to transform, without being seen. Once outside, they ditched the hazmat suits and took a moment to breathe the fresh air, just before heading towards the places they had been assigned to.

“Good luck, everyone! Remember, don’t do anything rash or stupid, and always look out for each other.” -Ladybug told her friends.

“You guys be careful as well.” -Corbeau Noire said.

“Remember, first one to spot the Akuma, warns the others, so no one hogs all the glory of taking it down.” -Dragonfly said.

“Let’s do this!” -Carapace exclaimed, as he was the first one to take off.

Heading towards Sainte Trinité, Ladybug, Chat Noir, Rena Rouge, Carapace and Panda Rouge saw just how much of a mess Paris was, because of the Akuma. On the streets, people were running away from those that had been infected by the love zombies. And those that could not flee fast enough, would become the latest victims of the Akuma, and get turned into love zombies themselves. They would then seek other victims. As for those who managed to run fast enough, they would seek refuge anywhere that had four walls and a door they could lock, to prevent them from being touched or kissed by them.

“This doesn’t look good.” -Panda Rouge said.

“You’re right, it really doesn’t look good.” -Rena Rouge agreed.

“Kind of reminds me of what happened during Halloween, last year.” -Chat Noir declared. –“I can’t remember of an Akuma attack where things got this bad, in so little time.” -he said. 

“Well, let’s hope this time it doesn’t take us that long to deal with it.” -Ladybug said.

“Agreed, but I think it’s going to take us a little longer to get to our destination… look!” -Rena Rouge declared, as she pointed.

Up front, on the street, there was a bus that was upside down, and it was surrounded by love zombies. And more importantly, there were several people, stuck inside it, who were panicking. Seeing that, Ladybug had to decide if she should stop and help them or continue towards the church to look for the Akuma. She knew that by helping the people, she would lose a little bit of time, while Aphrodite continued to cause chaos and mayhem. But she also knew that if she did not stop to help those people, then she had no right to call herself a heroine. No matter how important it was for her and the others to stop an Akuma, saving any citizen that would be in danger was just as important. Signalling Chat Noir to follow her lead, they both stopped, as Rena and the others continued to run.   

“You guys go ahead! We’ll take care of it, and catch up to you, in no time!” -Ladybug warned them.  

“Are you sure you don’t need any of us to lend you a hand?” -Carapace asked her and Chat Noir.

“Pretty sure! We’ll catch up to you.” -Ladybug said. –“One of the good things about us being so many, is that a couple of us can spare a couple of minutes to help out, while the rest goes after the main prize.” -she thought to herself.      

“Alright.” -Panda Rouge said.

“Okay, if you say so, we’ll see you two in a bit, girl. And I know you said we shouldn’t do anything rash or stupid, but the same goes for you and the kitty cat over there. Don’t either one of you dare to do anything rash or stupid.” -Rena Rouge warned Ladybug and Chat Noir.

“Deal. Now go! We’ll handle this.” -Ladybug said, as she and Chat Noir saw their friends continue to run, while they stayed behind.

“So, what’s the plan, milady?” -Chat Noir asked the scarlet heroine.

“We’ve got to get those people to somewhere safe,” –Ladybug exclaimed, as she looked down and examined the situation, trying to figure out the best course of action. –“Let’s see… this has got to either be a really bad joke, or a very big coincidence. Either way, I think today the sewer system of Paris will be our silent ally in this battle.” -she thought to herself, as she noticed that the bus had stopped on top of a manhole. –“Okay, I’ve got a plan. I’ll distract them, by using my yo-yo, and keep them at bay, while you use your powers on one of the windows and break in the bus. Once inside, use it once again to open a hole in the bus, right above the manhole cover there. Open it and help the people get into the sewers, using your staff as a pole, so they can slide down safely.”

“It’s risky… I like it. But are you sure you don’t want me to be the one to keep them at bay? It’ll be easier for me to do it with my staff, rather than you with your yo-yo.” -Chat Noir pointed out.

“Maybe, but you, with your Cataclysm are better suited to open holes in the bus, than me with my yo-yo.” -Ladybug said.

“You got it. I don’t think the passengers will like being dropped inside the sewer, but considering things, I think they’ll prefer the sewers, to being turned into one of those love zombies.” -Chat Noir said. –“Once the passengers are safe in the sewers, I’ll grab you and we’ll try to catch Alya and the others.” -he said, as he placed his arm around Ladybug’s waist. –“Hold on to me, milady. We’re going down.”

Doing as Chat asked her, Ladybug wrapped her arms around him, as he used his staff to get the two of them down. Once they were on the ground, she let go of him, and he used his staff to knock down a good number of love zombies that upon seeing them, tried to attack them. Not wanting to let the feline hero have all the fun, Ladybug quickly used her yo-yo to knock a few of them too.

“Get cracking, kitty cat!” -Ladybug said, as she knocked a love zombie with her yo-yo, sending him flying a couple of meters into the air.

“On it! And remember, don’t do anything rash, bugaboo. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to find out if we can get turned into one of those love zombies, even if temporarily, if they touch us!” -Chat Noir warned her, as he jumped on top of the bus.

“Don’t worry, I can do this.” -Ladybug said as she threw her yo-yo, and then used its string to wrap as many love zombies as she could. –“I may not be able to punch them or kick them, but as long as I have my yo-yo, I can still tie them up and then throw them away.” -she thought, as she spun her yo-yo and used it as a shield against one of the love zombies, who was trying to grab her.

“Gotcha, milady.” –Chat Noir winked at her, as he readied himself to get inside the bus. –“Get out of the way, people! Cataclym!” -he yelled, as he used his special attack to open a hole in the bus. Once his claw touched the metal, this one began to rust, describing a perfect circle.

Smiling at the passengers, he entered the bus and quickly made his way to the back of the bus, where the manhole cover was located. With the bus turned upside down, he was forced to improvise a couple of moves, to reach where he wanted, while also avoiding hitting any of the passengers. Telling them to keep calm, he once again used Cataclysm to create another opening, this one leading to the manhole. Looking out the broken window, he saw Ladybug’s legs, as she continued her efforts to keep every love zombie away from the bus, knowing he had to pick up the pace.   

“Alright, let me ask this. Is everyone okay? Can everyone walk?” -Char Noir asked them, to which they all said yes. –“Okay, you probably aren’t going to like this next part, but there’s only one way out of there, and that’s through the sewers.” -he declared, as he pointed to the manhole.   

As soon as he said those words. Chat noticed the looks on the passengers faces and he knew he was going to have to use some psychology to convince them to go down the manhole.  

“It’s disgusting, I know. I just came from down there. But trust me, you’ll be safer down there, than up here with those love zombies… unless you want to start kissing everyone and everything you see, and chase after people the way they are.” -Chat Noir told them, as he pointed to the love zombie Ladybug had just knocked out cold.  –“Now, come on, one at a time, one at a time.” -he said, as helped out the first passenger, getting down the manhole. –“That’s it, you’re doing great… who’s next?” 

There were two things that always happened near Pont Alexandre III, whenever the weather was nice and the Sun graced Paris with its presence. The first was the astonishing number of tourists that visited it. And the second was the presence of André Glacier and his ice cream vending cart, right in the middle of the bridge. Andre was a short man, with short brown hair and a brown moustache. He wore a short-sleeved white top with dark blue stripes, dark grey pants, and shoes, along with a dark blue beret on his head, a thin red scarf around his neck tied at the front, and a blue apron. But more importantly, he was sort of a celebrity in that part of Paris, due to his jovial personality and due to the way, he sold ice cream. He was known for creating small masterpieces out of ice cream, claiming that each scoop of ice cream, represented a physical trait, or even a personality trait of the person who bought the ice cream. Most of the times, he even challenged his customers to let him guess what would the flavours they would like in their ice creams, based on the first impression of them. And most customers would allow him to do just that, which meant that from all the ice creams he created, there were no two ice creams alike. And when he showed up with his ice cream cart on that Valentine’s Day, he had the feeling it was going to be a good day. He especially liked Valentine’s Day, because not counting summertime, it was the one day of the year, where his ice cream cart would get more clients; all because the countless couples would come to him and ask him to create ice creams that reflected the physical appearance of the couple. He had just finished selling two ice creams to a lovely couple, when a young man stopped in front of his ice cream cart.

“Good afternoon! And what will it be for you, my dear young man?” -Andre asked him

“Well… I… I really don’t know.” -the young man said, a little nervous. –“I was told that you are the closest thing to an ice cream magician, and… well, I’m going to meet my girlfriend in a couple of minutes, and I was wondering, if you could do that trick where you create a unique ice cream, based on a person’s personality, just for her?” -he asked.

“Say no more, my young friend. You have come to right person for the job.” -Andre smiled. –“And I’ll do you more. I will also create an ice cream for you as well. Ice cream is the perfect food to be shared by someone who’s in love. Now, tell me how your girlfriend is, and allow the magic of the numerous ice cream flavours to do its thing.” -he told him.     

Unfortunately, Andre did not expect his day to go the way it was about to go. When Andre first noticed something was wrong, he wondered what could possibly be happening. It did not take him long to see dozens of people running past him and his latest customer, a young man. And then, they appeared… the love zombies. Seeing them, it took Andre and his latest customer to understand that all of that was part of an Akuma attack. And when they did, it was already too late. One of the love zombies tried to grab him, only for him to dodge him. But another love zombie, who attacked the young man he was talking to, managed to grab him. As soon as it touched him, the young man’s eyes turned pink and he fell in love with the first thing his eyes saw, the ice cream Andre was holding in his hand. Trying to get it, he tried to jump over Andre’s cart, only to make it tumble. Falling on the floor, he quickly got up and tried to get the ice cream once again, only for Andre, who was beginning to panic, to throw it at him.    

“I know people like my ice cream, but this is ridiculous…” -Andre said, as he threw his ice cream scoop, trying to defend himself.

Fearing for his well-being, he began running. But it did not take him long to understand that it was not going to be easy to do it. He had gained a few pounds over the last couple of months, and he was incredibly out of shape.

I’m so out… of shape…” -Andre thought to himself, as he tried his best to outrun the love zombies.  

Seeing two more love zombies coming towards him, Andre felt that he had no other option but to try jump into the Seine. Trying to climb on to the parapet, he was nearly grabbed one of the love zombies, who he managed to kick on the face. Already on the parapet, he looked down and had second doubts about jumping. Buy seeing the love zombies trying to get him, gave him an extra reason to jump. Already in mid-air, he was saved by an angel; a yellow and black angel with blonde hair and a kind smile. Queen Bee had arrived just in the nick of time, and saved Andre from hitting the water.   

“Don’t’ worry, I’ve got you!” -Queen Bee smiled at Andre, as she looked for a place, she could drop him, knowing he would be safe from any love zombie. –“I hope you aren’t afraid of heights.” -she said, as she saw the perfect spot. 

Dropping him on top of one of the bridge’s columns, next to one of the Fames’ statues, Queen Bee knew that unless love zombies could fly, Andre would be safe there, until she and the others had dealt with that menace.   

“Thank you so much, miss Queen Bee.” -Andre thanked the bee heroine.

“Just Queen Bee, please.” -Queen Bee told him. –“And it was my pleasure. I just happened to be passing by.” -she said with a modest voice.

“No, no, I am in debt to you. You must allow me to thank you properly.” -Andre told her.

“That’s very kind of you. But it’s not necessary.” -Queen Bee declared, with a smile on her face.  

“But I insist. You saved my life. It is the least I can do.” -Andre told her, insisting on the matter. –“I know! From this day on, you and your hero friends can come to my ice cream cart and eat as many ice creams as you want, whenever you want, free of charge!” -he exclaimed.  

“Thank you so much. It’s very kind of you.” -Queen Bee smiled at Andre. –“We’ll try not to take advantage of your generosity.” -she said, as she took a mental note to remind her to tell the others about this. –“Now, if you’ll excuse me, my friend down there might need a little help from me.”

Dashing towards the ground, Queen Bee was going to help Louve Grise, who had her hands full. Down on the ground, Louve Grise saw that no matter how many people they were able to save from the love zombies, these would continue to infect everyone they touched, if they did not stop them. So, she did what she felt was the best… she began to freeze them to the ground. Using her fans to open two fire hydrants, which sprinkled water all over the bridge’s entrance, she then allowed them to run over the water, just before using her ice breath. In a matter of seconds, the water turned into ice, and every last love zombie that had the unfortunate luck of being there, was caught. Between giggles and laughs, they tried to free themselves, but the layer of ice that was covering their feet was too thick for them to do that. 

“Nice job! Do you need a little help?” -Queen Bee asked Louve Grise, as she praised her plan to deal with the love zombies.

“If you can get me more water so I can stick these guys to the ground, it would be great!” -Louve Grise exclaimed, as she took a brief moment to regain her breath.

“Consider it done!” -Queen Bee told her, as she readied herself to use her trompo to get the water, the wolf heroine needed. –“You keep sticking these guys to the ground, while I try to take as many people as I can to a safe location.” -she said. –“Look up ahead! More of them are coming!”

And while Queen Bee and Louve Grise continued to take care of things at the bridge, nearby, Flamingo and Corbeau Noire were busy dealing with a multitude of love zombies that had concentrated on the gardens surrounding the Petit Palais. They had been attracted by the melody of a Valentine’s Day concert that was taking place there. Because of the sheer amount of love zombies, the girls decided to split up and see if they could take down most of them, before they would turn others. Using her powers, Flamingo multiplied herself, sending her clones to fight the love zombies, while Corbeau Noire sought to gain control of all shadows around her, to help her get everyone that had not been infected into a place where they would be safe.   

While fighting the love zombies, Flamingo found out that her clones were not affected by the love zombies. Some of them were grabbed by the arms or the legs, and others were even kissed. But none of them turned into a love zombie. She figured that because they were not real, they could not end up under the Akuma’s love spell. Still, she knew that she herself could most likely end up turned into a love zombie, if she was not careful.  

“Looks like my copies aren’t affected by the love zombies touch or kiss. That’s a good thing. It means that I can use them to take down as many of these love zombies as I can. The less of them are up on their feet, the better chances we’ll have of end this pandemonium.” -Flamingo thought to herself, as she swung her cane and hit a love zombie on the head.

And she was not the only one who noticed it. Corbeau also noticed it, and decided to take advantage of it, by throwing a couple of love zombies at her girlfriend’s copies, who took them out. Continuing to fight the love zombies, both girls kept an eye out for the Akuma, or any of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants, but neither seemed to be around there. Still, they kept fighting, knowing that what mattered there was the safety of the civilians, who continued to run scared, while trying to find a safe place to hide. Though the love zombies kept showing up from everywhere, neither Flamingo, nor Corbeau Noire showed any sign of exhaustion.

Corbeau Noire had just prevented a couple from being attacked by a love zombie, by grabbing it with a shadow, when she noticed something happening from the corner of her eye. A love zombie had managed to slip through the barrier Flamingo’s clones had created around them, and was making its way towards her. Fearing her girlfriend would only notice it, when it was already too late, Corbeau Noire decided to help her.     

“Get away from her!!!” -Corbeau Noire exclaimed, as she used her hand-mirror to invoke a shadow to snatch the love zombie away from Flamingo.

The raven heroine was fast, but not fast enough. When the shadow wrapped itself around the love zombie, it had already grabbed Flamingo’s left arm from behind. The blonde quickly began to feel herself dizzy, knowing that she had been infected. She tried her hardest to keep her mind from ending up the same way as everyone else who was touched or kissed by a love zombie.

No! Keep your head in the game… you can’t let yourself… be infected! Juleka needs you! Everyone… needs you! Come on, Rose! Fight this!” -Flamingo thought to herself, as she

She resisted for a few seconds. But in the end, whatever it made people turn into love zombies, it got her as well. And when it did, all her copies disappeared, leaving her alone. Not taking any chances, Corbeau Noire used one shadow to snatch her from where she was, before she was attacked. Dropping her in front of her, the raven heroine feared the worse.     

“Rose, are you okay?” -Corbeau Noire whispered at her, as she looked into Flamingo’s eyes, which were now pink instead of blue, as she began to giggle like some of the love zombies.   

“H-Hi, Jules… did I ever tell you that you’re the prettiest girl in the world?” -Flamingo asked Corbeau Noire, giggling, as she tried to plant a kiss on her. –“Give me a kiss, please!” -she giggled, as she launched herself at Corbeau Noire.

Not the time for that, Rose…” -Corbeau Noire thought to herself, as she dodged Flamingo’s attempt to kiss her. –“I’ve got to make her snap back to reality… but how?” -she said, as she jumped over her.

“Come on, give me a kiss, Juleka…” -Flamingo giggled, as she tried to catch Corbeau Noire. –“Just one kiss… one beautiful and sweet kiss…” -she giggled.

“Stop using my real name! Someone might hear you!” -Corbeau Noire warned her in a hushed voice, as Flamingo kept trying to kiss her and hug her. –“I should slap her and see if the shock would stop her from acting that way. But I don’t know if I slap her, I’ll also get infected… come on, Juleka, think, how are you going to make her snap out of this?!” -she thought to herself, as she took into the air.

“You can’t run from me! I’m going to get you… and then I’m going to kiss you, you silly little raven!” -Flamingo giggled as she took into the air, trying to catch her.  

She’s right, I can’t run from her. We both have the same kind of flying abilities…” -Corbeau Noire thought to herself, as she dove into the ground. 

And then it hit her. She did not need to use her hands or feet to attack her. She only had to make use of her shadow powers. Going up once again, she made sure Flamingo was right behind her, before using her hand-mirror. Taking control of the shadow from a nearby water tank on top of a building, she ordered it to quickly wrap itself around Flamingo, who was right on her tail. Once that was done, she ordered the shadow to shake her in the air, hoping the violent moves would make her snap from the trance she was in. Flamingo herself kept giggling and laughing, as if she was aboard an amusement ride. Feeling she was not shaking her enough, Corbeau Noire ordered the shadow to shake her as violently as possible. A few seconds later the giggling and the laughter ceased, and the raven heroine noticed Flamingo looked as she was about to faint. Ordering the shadow to stop, it did, placing her on the building’s rooftop, as she herself landed on it. Looking her in the eyes, she saw these were back to their original colour, meaning that she was probably back to normal.    

“W-What happened?” -Flamingo asked her, while feeling slightly dizzy. –“Jules? What happened? Tell me!” -she asked.

“You got touched by a love zombie, but you’re okay now.” -Corbeau Noire answered her.

“Oh my… did I try to touch you or kiss you?!” -Flamingo asked her, worried.

“Yeah, you did. But don’t worry, I managed to snap you out of it.” -Corbeau Noire assured her.

“How long was I acting like one of them?” -Flamingo asked her.

“For about 30 seconds.” -Corbeau Noire said.   

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” -Flamingo told her girlfriend, feeling awful about it.

“You don’t have to apologize. Just promise me you’ll be a little more careful, okay?” -Corbeau Noire asked her. –“I don’t want to have to fight you or run from you, okay?”

“Alright, I promise.” -Flamingo said, as she hugged her.  

“Hope you don’t break it.” -Corbeau Noire said. –“By the way… I didn’t even have the chance to say it, before all this started, but, I’m glad your mom allowed you to come to Luka’s concert.” -she smiled at her.

“Me too. I can’t wait to go on this Valentine’s date with you tonight.” –Flamingo smiled back at her.

“You took the words out of my mouth, Rose.” -Corbeau Noire smiled, as she caressed her face with her left hand, just before kissing her tenderly on the lips.  –“But before that can happen, we need to find this Akuma and put an end to this mess.” -she said, this time with a more serious voice.   

“You’re right. And there’s no sign of Aphrodite, anywhere.” -Flamingo told her, as she and the raven heroine got back up. –“I wonder if the others have managed to see her or not.” -she said.

“I don’t know, but I do hope they find her and contact us soon to lend them a hand.” -Corbeau Noire said, as she looked down and saw that things were getting worst by the minute. –“We’re giving everything we got, and yet these love zombies just keep coming… I don’t want to say it, but I feel like we’re in a zombie movie. The only difference is that these zombies don’t eat brains.” -she said. 

“I agree. Because when it comes to the chaos and mayhem, it’s pretty much the same thing.” -Flamingo said, as she looked “at the bridge where Queen Bee and Louve Grise were fighting. –“Seems like Choe and Sabrina are managing to keep things in order back at the bridge.” -she pointed out.   

“Yeah. Freezing them is actually a great idea.” -Corbeau Noire said, when she came up with an idea of her own. –“Hey, do you think your clones can help me with something I just came up with?” -she asked her.

“Name it.” -Flamingo said.

“Let’s try and put as many love zombies as we can inside those buses over there.” -Corbeau Noire pointed to the empty buses that were down on the street. Once the love zombies showed up, the bus drivers and everyone aboard the buses decided to run, leaving them behind. –“If we can trap them inside, they won’t be able to turn anyone else.” -she told her.

“Great idea!” -Flamingo said, as she created ten copies of herself. –“What are we waiting for? Let’s trap those zombies!” -she and her copies exclaimed in chorus.

Chapter Text

For Nadja Chamack, the day had started like any other day. She woke up, got ready for work, had breakfast with her little daughter Manon, after which she left her in school, and then made her way to her work place, where her boss assigned her to cover the annual exotic animal exhibition that was taking place in Champ de Mars. It was not the first time she was going to cover that exhibit, and she knew it would not be the last one either. She was always the one chosen for the job, because the reporters that covered it, usually interacted with some of the animals, and the animals were quite fond of Nadja, who would not mind petting and feeding some of them. What she did not know, was that that year’s edition of the exotic animal exhibit would be plagued by an Akuma attack.    

When she first saw the Akuma, she knew things were about to get messy. Just like it happened with exotic animal exhibit, this was not the first time she was in the presence of one of Hawk Moth’s Akumas. After Aphrodite showed up and began to turn everyone, she saw into love zombies, Nadja and her team sought refuge somewhere they thought they would not be seen, and that was beneath the main stage that was located in the middle of the tent. As she saw everything happening in front of her eyes, her mind was trying to process what was going on, by flashbacking everything that happened until that point.   


After gathering as much information on the exhibit and its participants as she could fins online, Nadja made her way to Champ de Mars, where the exotic animal exhibit was taking place. Arriving there, she wasted no time in finding her crew, who was already doing their job, which was to film the exhibit. Like always, that crew was composed by three people. Louis Caron, her cameraman; Jacques D’Ambroise, her sound technician; and Marjorie De la Croix, her assistant and make-up artist. She liked to think that without the three of them by her side, her career as a reporter would have ended a long time ago. She considered them as part of her family, and whenever she was the last one to arrive, she would bring them coffee  

“Good morning, Nadja.” -Marjorie said, as she saw her arriving.  

“Good morning, to you all. I hope you didn’t have any coffee yet, because I brought you some.” -Nadja said, as she showed them the coffee cups and handed one to each.

“Mmm… caffeine, my favourite drug.” -Louis said, as he grabbed a cup and inhaled the delicious aroma.

“How many coffees has he drank today?” -Nadja asked playfully.

“This one will be his fifth, and it’s not even midday. I’ve never seen anyone drink this much coffee without getting sick.” -Marjorie told her

“What can I say? For me, drinking coffee is almost like drinking water.” -Louis declared.

“So, what do we have?” -Nadja asked Jacques, as she handed him his coffee.

“The usual. Parrots, capybaras, snakes, spiders, hedgehogs, tortoises, bearded dragons, Capuchin monkeys, sloths… you know, the usual. Every exotic animal that you can have as a pet, and every other that you might think you can have as a pet, but you really can’t.” -Jacques said, as he sipped his coffee. –“Same old, same old.” -he said. –“I don’t understand why they bother to send us to cover this exhibit anymore. It’s always the same thing.”

“Well it’s not our job to decide which stories should be told. We just have to tell them.” -Nadja said.  –“But are you sure there isn’t anything new this year?” -she asked Jacques. –“I mean, from what I read before coming here, there’s supposed to be something big this year.”

“We covered the whole place, and we saw nothing that has that written on it.” -Louis told her.   

“Not even from the zoo? According to the information I gathered; the zoo was lending a few animals for the show this year. Zebras, wallabies…” -Nadja said.

“Yeah, we saw those over there, but they lent them last year as well.” -Jacques pointed out.

“I hate to say this, Nadja, but I think this is just going to be one of those events…” -Louis told her.

“I don’t believe that. There’s got to be something big happening in this event… I can feel it.” -Nadja said, trusting her instinct for news.

“Well, I don’t see… wait! Not that I think about it, while Louis and Jacques were filming the snakes, I went to the van to get some notes, and I passed by someone who seemed familiar, but I didn’t know where from… but I remember it now. I saw his photo on this report.” -Marjorie said, as she flipped the pages, looking for the photo of the man in question. –“No, no, no… here he is! Otis Cesaire. He works for the zoo as a zookeeper, and he’s also specialist in felines, both large and small.” -she said.

“So, you’re saying they brought a bobcat or a lion with them?” -Louis asked her, in a joking tone.

“I don’t think a lion would be considered an exotic pet, but a bobcat… I wouldn’t put it past them.” -Jacques stated.

“It’s worth investigating.” -Nadja said. –“Come on, finish your coffee and let’s get to work. This might not be the best event ever, but that’s not going to stop us from doing our job, the best way we can.” -she told her crew.  

It did not take long for her and her crew to find Otis, who was on the backstage, and also to find out what he was doing there. At first, he did not want to talk to the media, but Nadja managed to persuade him to tell her about the two panthers and how they were going to be unveiled to the public in about an hour.

With that kind of information, she decided to wait for the unveiling of the large felines to the public, before going live, believing it would be the perfect time to do a live transmission. And while she waited, she decided to interview some of the numerous animal keepers that were attending the exhibit, as well as members of the public, to get reactions. Most of the reactions were positive and the public seemed quite pleased with what they were seeing. When asking them if they had ever seen a panther, some said yes, while others answered no, before announcing that there were two in the exhibit and that they would be shown for the first time in a bit, contributing for the excitement of some of the people, especially the younger ones, who had never seen panthers, other than in books or on the television. So, it was no surprise, when a small crowd gathered to see the unveiling of the cages where the panthers were. And once the unveiling happened, Nadja was ready for her big close-up.      

“This is Nadja Chamack, reporting to you, live from the annual exotic animal exhibit, right here in Champ de Mars. As you can see, once again, our city is graced with the presence of some of the most beautiful exotic animals in the world. Big and small, hairy and scally, four legs or eight legs, or no legs at all, there are animals for everyone’s taste to be seen. And this year’s big attraction are these beautiful black panthers that you can see behind me.” -Nadja said, as Louis got a close up from the large felines, who seemed quite at ease with the audience looking at them. –“The zoo of Paris has lent them, along with some of the other animals, to promote the conservation efforts of these and other magnificent species. And as you can see, the panthers look very relaxed and very at ease with so many of us around them.” -she went on. –“These two animals are just one of the many reasons why you should come and visit this exhibit.”    

She went on for a few more seconds, before once again doing what she liked to do the most, when she was live, and that was to interview the people in the front row. Like always, she began by interviewing the children, and then the adults. It was part of a routine she had, which enabled her to gather different opinions.  

“And we’re off the air.” -Louis said, as he turned off the camera.

“Now this was a great live.” -Nadja said. She was quite happy it had gone without a hitch. 

“I have to admit. You have the talent to turn a simple animal exhibit, into the most incredible event in the world, by just using the right words.” -Louis told her. No matter how many times he saw it happening, he was always surprised on how Nadja managed to do it.

“It’s called being a reporter, Louis. And every single reporter can do it, with enough practice.” -Nadja admitted. –“Even you or Jacques here could do it, if you tried.”

“No, thank you. I rather stay behind the camera.” -Louis told her.

“Me too. We’ll let you be the one in front of the camera.” -Jacques said, playfully.

“Alright, alright, alright, I get it.” -Nadja chuckled. –“Where’s Marjorie?” -she asked them both. She had seen her run outside, while they were on the air.

“She said something about going to the van to get something, she forgot. Probably, her cell phone. You know how she forgets to keep it in her pockets.” -Jacques said,

He had just finished talking, when Marjorie came in, running as fast as she could. When she saw this, Nadja wondered what had happened. Marjorie was not the kind of woman to do that, unless there was a good reason for it. And before they could ask her what was going on, Marjorie told them the reason, why she had come running like that.     

“I just got a call from the network. There’s an Akuma running wild in the city. They want you back in the main office, so you can do the live coverage aboard the news helicopter, immediately.” -Marjorie told her, while trying to catch her breath.  

“A new Akuma? That’s incredible!” -Nadja exclaimed.

“Incredible?!” -Louis asked her. –“You’re probably the only reporter in this town, who loves to cover the Akuma attacks.” -he said. –“A sensible person would run from an Akuma, not towards it.”

“Well, then, it’s a good thing that when it comes to situations like that, I am not a sensible person, and I don’t run from a challenge. Besides, the Miraculous Team will show up and save the day, like they always do.” -Nadja told him, before turning her attention to Marjorie to ask her one thing. –“Did they tell you where the Akuma is? Because if it’s near here, then the helicopter can come and pick me up here.”

“They didn’t say, and… wait, what’s that sound?!” -Marjorie asked, as she turned around and saw people panicking and screaming. And then, entering into the tent, was the Akuma in question, Aphrodite, followed by a retinue of love zombies. –“That can’t be good.” -she said.

“Behold my darlings! Behold the true power of real love!” -Aphrodite said, as she used her powers to turn more people into her obedient slaves.      

(End of Flashback)

Things were not looking good for anyone in the animal exhibit. Not only Aphrodite had managed to turn most people into love zombies, but due to the chaos that was unleashed, most animals were running wild inside the tent. In the air, you could only hear screams and giggles, mixed with animal roars, hisses and squawks. Looking    

“Come on, let’s do this. We’ve got to broadcast this.”

“Are you kidding, Nadja?!” -Louis asked her. –“I’m not going out there, with that Akuma. Who knows what she’s capable of?”

“I don’t think she’s here any longer. I stopped hearing that shrieking voice of hers for nearly five minutes now.” -Nadja told him. She had been hiding, but she had been paying attention at what was happening. She knew she could be wrong, but she was tired of being hidden. –“We need to inform Paris of what’s going on. The Miraculous heroes may not know about this yet. But we can be the ones to tell them, so they can come and help.” -she stated.

“Forget it, I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here, until this all thing is over.” -Louis told her.  

“Stop being a coward and follow me! And the same thing goes for the two of you as well!” -Nadja told her cameraman and the rest of her team, as she grabbed her microphone. –“You told me you would follow me anywhere, and that means coming after me in this madness. Come on, we’ve got to broadcast what’s going on. Grab your things and let’s do this!” -she said.

Nadja would never admit it, especially to herself, but she loved the adrenaline she got during that kind of situations. It was one of the reasons why she became a reporter. And she was about to get another rush of adrenaline, as she and her team stepped out of their hiding spot to broadcast live what was going on. Being careful not to run into any of the love zombies, they kept a low profile, while moving through the tent, while also trying not to bump into any of the animals that were running lose. For more than once, they had to stop and wait until a love zombie who was passing by, got far enough, before continuing to move. Finally, when Nadja felt she had found a place where it would be safe to make a special live broadcast, she told her team to get ready, while keeping an eye out for any danger. With everything set, she gave Louis the order to turn on the camera.   

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Nadja Chamack, and if you just joined us, we are live from the annual exotic animal exhibit in Champ de Mars, where an Akuma attack is taking place.” -Nadja said almost in a whisper, as she looked at the camera. –“As you can see, chaos and mayhem are everywhere. This Akuma, who has called herself Aphrodite seemingly has the power to make people fall in love with each other, as well as the first thing they see in front of them.” -she said, as she saw Louis, Jacques and Marjorie’s face turn white.   

“N-Nadja, b-behind you.” -Jacques told her, as he and the others walked backwards.  

Standing behind Nadja was one of the two black panthers Otis Cesaire and his team had brought from the zoo. When she looked over her shoulder to see what he was talking about, she screamed from the top of her lungs, and by doing it so, the panther roared at her, frightening her ever more.       

“Nice kitty… nice kitty…” -Nadja said, as her heart felt it was about to burst out of her chest.   

She just wanted to run, but just like the blood in her veins, her whole body was frozen solid, as fear took over. Looking the panther in the eyes, Nadja wondered what it would be thinking about. Trying not to panic and do something that might entice the panther to attack her and eat her, she kept looking it in the eyes, hoping that by doing it, the panther would not have any ideas. Unfortunately, a few seconds later, the panther began to growl, as it took a step forward. Nadja’s fear made her take a step back, as her body went into what most people would call survival auto-pilot. But by doing it so, the panther gave another step forward, and another. Nadja believed she was going to be that panther’s afternoon snack, and there was nothing she could do. Fear had taken over her mind, but this was a particular kind of fear. It was not the fear of being eaten. It was the fear of what would happen to Manon, when she found out her mother had been killed, and that she was never going to see her again.      

I’m sorry, Manon, honey… mommy loves you so much…” -Nadja thought to herself, as she readied herself for the worst, when a miracle happened. 

“Easy there, kitty! You’re not going to have this lovely lady for lunch, you hear me!” -Grizzly Bear exclaimed, as he pulled the panther by the tail, angering it. –“Hey, don’t talk to me like that!” -he told the panther, as if he was actually having a conversation with it, while this one roared angrily at him

“Hurry up and put it back into the cage!” -Antelope said, as he dashed towards the opposite end of the tent.

“Need a little help?” Forest Doe asked him, as she passed by him.   

“Not to worry. I can handle it.” -Grizzly Bear winked at her, as he grabbed the panther from the back, who kept squirming and roar. –“Hey, hold it kitty! I’m just going to put you back into your cage!” -he said, as he slowly and steadily walked towards the cage, with the panther in his arms. –“Now, don’t squirm like that! This is for your own good… and everyone else’s too.”   

The Miraculous heroes… once again, I’m in their debt.” -Nadja thought to herself, relieved to see them. Once more, they had saved her life, and once again, she did not thank them properly.

“Nadja, are you alright?” -Marjorie asked her.

“Y-Yes… I am… I’m a little shaken, but I’m okay.” -Nadja answered her, as her heart beat slowed down a bit.  –“And you? How are you?” -she asked Marjorie.

“I’m fine… but for a moment there, I thought you were going to be panther food.” -Marjorie answered her, relieved.

“So did I.” -Nadja sighed.

“Nadja… Nadja, we’re still live.” –Louis called her out.

“L-Live?! O-Oh, right…” -Nadja said, as she grabbed the microphone and looked at the camera. –“As you might have seen, ladies and gentlemen, some of the members of the Miraculous Team, have showed up to save the day, as well as the life of this very lucky reporter.” -she declared, trying to ignore the fact she was still shaken up from what had happened to her a few moments before.    

While Grizzly Bear took care of the panther, Arachnid was busy wrapping as many love zombies as he could, using his lasso to do so. While doing it, he could not help but to feel a little like a cowboy, which he felt was funny, because he had never been a fan of cowboys or westerns. 

“Four more! And, now let’s put you guys, where you can’t hurt anyone.” -Arachnid said as he pulled the love zombies with his lasso, sticking them to the ground, like he had done with several others he had already caught. Although he had not count them, but he believed that he had caught at least 30 love zombies. He had just finished dealing with them, when he spotted another love zombie, who was about to grab an innocent bystander. Launching his lasso, he grabbed it, just as it was about to attack. –“Hold it right there, mister!” -he said, as he pulled it. –“Sorry, about that! Didn’t see it Are you okay?”

Forest Doe, on the other hand, after helping some of the people escape from the tent, decided that they were not the only ones who needed a little help. The exotic animals also needed it. And because some of them looked incredibly stressed, due to what was happening, she used her power of invisibility to get near them, without scaring them. She knew that a scared animal posed a threat to itself, as well as to anyone near it.  

“Alright, little one, Let’s put you back into your cage with your brothers and sisters.” -Forest Doe said, as she grabbed one of the countless guinea pigs that were running around.  

For her, to help those critters was an amazing pleasure. She had always liked animals, but could never have them, because her mother believed pets should have space to wonder, and an apartment was not ideal for it. Still, even for someone like her, who loved animals, there were a few she was a little reticent to touch or handle. And those were spiders, scorpions and snakes. During the chaos, some of the love zombies had managed to break the protective glass from the cages where those critters were, and some had decided to go for a little walk. In a normal situation, she would not even consider touching them, let alone handle them. But that was a normal situation, with an Akuma attack, and she knew that if one of those animals, bit or stung a person, it would be bad. So, she gathered all the courage she had in her to do that.  

“Alright, you don’t hurt me, and I don’t hurt you, okay?” -Forest Doe whispered to the snake, as she used her bow to grab it. –“Calm down, Mylene, you can do this. The snake is more afraid of you, than you are of it. Have faith in yourself.” -she thought.   

As for Dragonfly and Antelope, the two of them were engaged in a friendly competition to see which one of them managed to take down more love zombies, while also keeping an eye for any sign of Aphrodite. They knew she had been there, but it looked to them like she was not there anymore.    

“Beat that one, Antelope!” -Dragonfly exclaimed, challenging Antelope, as she performed an aerial roll just above his head. She had just used her frisbee to hit ten different love zombies on the head, taking them down, with one swing. A notable feat, worthy of a pinball master, as far as Dragonfly saw it.  

“Just you watch me, Short Round!” -Antelope said as he threw his bat into the air and grabbed it right after, before sprinting out of there. –“So she got ten love zombies in one strike… well, I can get twenty in one strike… and I know just how to do it.” -he thought to himself.

Stopping in front of a stand that was selling all sorts of items for pets, he quickly looked for something rather hard and in large quantity, having found miniaturized resin fish tank decorations. Grabbing the heaviest ones, he then threw several of them into the air, and with his bat, hit them at an incredible speed. These flew through the air, hitting the heads of several love zombies, who quickly fell to the ground like dead flies. Counting them, he believed he had hit at least twenty. With a result like, that he could not help himself, and quickly bragged about it to Dragonfly, who was flying just above him.       

“Ha! Beat that, Dragonfly!” -Antelope exclaimed, with a cocky smile on his face, as Dragonfly stopped near where he was.

“Okay, okay, I’m impressed and… duck!” –Dragonfly yelled at him, as she quickly threw her frisbee.  

Coming form behind a bunch of piled boxes behind him, a love zombie tried to grab Antelope. Luckily, Dragonfly saw it coming and used her frisbee to take him out, while Antelope ducked. Turning around, Antelope still saw the love zombie hit the ground, while at the same time, Dragonfly landed nest to him.

“Okay, I don’t like to say it, but thanks for the saving… Uh-oh… maybe we should have dealt with this one in a different manner, you know?” -Antelope said, as he pointed to the unconscious love zombie on the ground. –“Take a look at who it is.” -he said.  

“Oh, crud, that’s Alya’s dad…” -Dragonfly whispered at Antelope. –“She’s going to kill us for this.” -she declared, already imagining her friend flipping her lid, after knowing that she had put her father unconscious.

“I think it’s best if we don’t tell her that we knocked him out.” -Antelope said, as he kept staring at Otis Cesaire. Like so many others, he too had been turned into a love zombie.

“Agreed… Besides, it’s best for him to stay unconscious. That way he won’t hurt anyone, or hurt himself.” -Dragonfly said, while trying to see the bright side of that situation.  

At Saint Trinité, just like in most places in the centre of Paris, things were anything but good. And the worst part was that there was no sign of the Aphrodite anywhere. Having left Ladybug and Chat Noir behind to deal with another emergency, Rena Rouge, Carapace and Panda Rouge were doing their best to try and help everyone they saw in peril. Still, they knew that at that rhythm, they would not get far, as more and more love zombies showed up.

The square in front of the church was swarming with love zombies, and more continued to pour in from the surrounding streets. Feeling they would stand a better chance at victory, if they did not have so many enemies to deal with, Carapace used his powers to place energy shields, blocking the streets that converged onto the square. By doing it so, he sealed him and his teammates inside the square with a finite number of love zombies. But by doing it so, he also sealed civilians who were not infected. Luckily, Rena Rouge understood what her boyfriend was trying to do, and quickly conjured some illusions to distract the love zombies, allowing the people to get into Saint Trinité, where it was safe and love zombie free. And to make sure that no love zombie would enter the church, Panda Rouge decided to use his powers to create a sort of guardian for the front door. Drawing as fast as he could, he came up with a robot that shot nets from its arms, trapping any love zombies that approached it. He wanted to create a few more, but he feared that if he used most of its strength to create them, then later on, he might not have enough to fight the Akuma.     

“At this rate, half or Paris will be turned into love zombies within the next hour.” -Rena Rouge said, as she used her flute-staff to take down two love zombies.

“Agreed. If we don’t find that Akuma and take care of it, it won’t matter how many of these we can put out of commission. We’ll just be beating on a dead horse.” -Carapace said, as he turned to Panda Rouge. –“Can’t you create some gadget that can pinpoint where Aphrodite is, bro?” -he asked Panda, as he dodged a love zombie, who was about to grab him.

“I could, but I can’t promise it would work.” -Panda Rouge said, as he hit a love zombie with his spear.

“Even if we find Aphrodite, I don’t know if the three of us will be enough to take her down. You’ve seen what she did to these poor people.” -Rena Rouge said, as she leapt over a love zombie. –“I don’t even want to imagine what other powers she might have.”

“Well, whatever other powers she might have…” -Carapace said as he hit a love zombie on the face with his tonfas. –“… we’ll have to survive, getting out of here first… without being touched by one of these!” -he said as he performed a backflip.

“Hold on, I think I’ve got an idea on how to take care of all these love zombies.” -Panda Rouge said, as a smirk appeared on his face. –“But I’m going to need a little time to implement it.” -he said. –“You guys think you can buy me 30 seconds?”

“Only 30 seconds? Sure!” -Carapace exclaimed, knowing that whatever Panda Rouge had up his sleeve, it was something good, like most of his crazy plans. –“But whatever it is, don’t take more than 30 seconds, okay? I’m starting to get tired of jumping all around like a jumping jack!” -he warned him, as he somersaulted over a small group of love zombies, only to land near Rena Rouge. –“Though, landing next to you, has its perks, foxy fox.”

“Always the everlasting, Romeo, aren’t you, turtle boy?” -Rena Rouge asked him, with a smirk on her face, as she grabbed him by the hand a pulled him towards her, preventing him from being grabbed by a love zombie. –“But perhaps, you should leave the romance for later.” -she joked.

“Whatever you say, my Juliet… duck!” -Carapace said, with her doing as he told her, as he threw his tonfa at a love zombie, who by a thread, did not touch Rena.      

While Rena Rouge and Carapace continued to battle the love zombies, up on a street lamp, thinking of his next creative plan to deal with the love zombies in that square. He figured that by trying to put them all unconscious, by beating them, one by one, it was going to take them too long. Thinking about it, he initially pondered on the idea of putting them all to sleep, by drawing some blimps filled with knock-out gas that would release on top of the love zombies, but he feared that they would be immune to it, like it happened with the Akuma scouts. So, instead of trying to knock them out, he decided it would be much easier to contain them, if they were all stuck to the ground.

With that in his mind, he began to draw several canisters of contact glue and place them all over the square. Once they were all in place, he ordered them to pour its content on to the floor, where it quickly spread, trapping every love zombie that stepped on it. It did not take long until there were love zombies trapped by their feet, their arms, their legs and even their hair, all around the square. Seeing that happening, Rena Rouge and Carapace quickly climbed to a tree and waited, while commenting that once again, Panda Rouge had managed to come up with a crazy solution.    

“Well, one thing’s for certain. Nathaniel sure has an active imagination.” -Carapace told Rena Rouge.

“Indeed. And a good thing too. I wouldn’t have remembered to do anything like that to deal with this threat.” -Rena Rouge admitted. –“I have a lot of talents, but an hyperactive imagination is not one of them.” -she chuckled.

As they talked, they saw Ladybug and Chat Noir on top of one of the buildings, arriving at the scene. And just like them, the two heroes were also surprised with what had happened. Going down, they landed in front of the robot guardian Panda Rouge had created, as the others joined them.

“Looks like you guys have things under control.” -Ladybug declared, as she looked around and saw so many love zombies glued to the ground.

“Thank him. He’s the one with the crazy ideas.” -Rena Rouge pointed at Panda Rouge.

“Thanks, but I merely remembered about this film where the hero has the same idea to deal with a bully.” -Panda Rouge admitted. –“And what about you? Did you guys manage to save everyone in the bus?” -he asked Ladybug and Chat Noir.

“Sure did. But they weren’t very happy of being left in the sewers.” -Chat Noir commented.

“A little price to pay for their safety.” -Ladybug said. –“At least down there, the love zombies won’t get them.” -she pointed out.

“Changing the subject, have you guys spotted Aphrodite?” -Carapace asked them.  

“No, that’s a negative.” -Chat Noir said. –“And if you’re asking us, I guess you haven’t either.” -he said.

“Afraid so.” -Rena Rouge told him. –“And I guess the others still haven’t said anything, did they?” -she asked Ladybug.

“Not to us.” -Ladybug said.

“This is getting ridiculous. This is just like Halloween, all over again.” -Carapace sighed, frustrated. –“How can we get ride of her, if we don’t know where she is!” -he declared.

And then, a shrieking laugh was heard. This one was different from all the laughs and giggles that came from the love zombies. It was a maniacal laugh. A laugh that belonged to the person responsible for all that was happening right then. A laugh that belonged to Aphrodite.

“Looks like we got company.” -Chat Noir said it between his teeth.

Chapter Text

Aphrodite’s laugh echoed all over the place, forcing the Ladybug and the rest of the heroes to look around them for her. And they were not the only ones. The people that were inside doors, and had been watching the whole thing through their windows, were also looking to see where the laugh was coming from.  

“Where are you?! Show yourself this instant!” -Ladybug asked, demanding the Akuma to reveal herself.

The laugh increased in volume to the point where the heroes were forced to cover their ears because of just how loud it was. Then, the wind began to blow, and they all saw small trails of pink dust dancing in the air. Slowly, these trails began to converge in the middle of the square. Staring at it, Ladybug and the others saw the Akuma, slowly acquiring form. When it finally stopped, staring at them was a blonde woman with alabaster skin, wearing a pink and fuchsia gown and an impish smile on her face. Looking at her, they all could not help but to feel like she had jumped out of an Ancient Greek drawing.  

“Aphrodite!” -Ladybug exclaimed. 

“You know my name, I am touched.” -Aphrodite said, as she looked at the five heroes.

“Yeah, and that’s not all we know!” -Chat Noir shouted at her. –“We also know that you’re turning this city upside down. That stops here and now!” -he said.

“Really?” -Aphrodite raised an eyebrow at the feline hero, while laughing. –“You think you can stop true love

“True love?! You call this true love?!” -Rena Rouge asked her, as she pointed at the love zombies that were

“And you think that the love that Valentine’s Day keeps advertising is true love?!” -Aphrodite asked the fox heroine in a mocking voice. –“Compared to it, the love that I am spreading everywhere is purer than any other!” -she exclaimed.

“Purer?! You’re making people fall in love with the first person or thing they see in front of them! How is that true love?” -Ladybug shouted at her.

“True love is what you see… no attachments, no worries, no commitments, nothing! Just pure bliss and excitement! That’s what is true about love!” -Aphrodite said.

“That’s not love! That’s lust, not to say something worst!” -Panda Rouge told her. –“True love is when you love someone, more than anything else and you’re willing to sacrifice everything for that someone. True love is when you give part of yourself to a person you care for. True love is when you look into someone’s eyes and you know you can’t bear to not have that person in your life. That’s what true love really is!” -he exclaimed.

Panda Rouge’s speech had been an emotive one, and he truly hoped that he would be able to change Aphrodite’s vision on what she thought true love was, making it easier for him and the remaining heroes to defeat her. But when he finished talking, and he looked her in the eyes, he instantly knew his words had fallen on deaf ears. Once again, an Akuma was not willing to see the light.

“Let’s agree to disagree on that matter, young hero.” -Aphrodite said. –“Besides, you and your friends are but children. What do you truly know about love?!” -she asked Panda Rouge with a disdainful voice.

“More than you, apparently!” -Rena Rouge said. –“We may be young, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat us like little kids!” -she shot at the Akuma.

“Enough chit-chat!” -Carapace said, as he drew his tonfas and placed himself in position, ready for combat. –“We’re going to beat you and stop this madness you created, whether you like it or not. And before you have any ideas of asking it, no, we’re not going to give you our miraculouses.” -he stated.     

Seeing him do that, Ladybug and the others also placed themselves in position, ready to fight. Looking at them, Aphrodite could not help but to laugh. She found it funny to see the Miraculous heroes thinking they could beat her. In her eyes, they were mere insects. Insects who could not grasp the idea of what true love really is. She looked at their miraculouses and knew that Hawk Moth wanted them. Still, she felt like playing with them, before annihilating them.   

“Then, you’ll have to catch me first.” -Aphrodite said, as her body began to slowly began to dissolve into pink dust, as it was then blown by the wind.

Seeing her do that, the heroes, wasted no time in going after her. Chat Noir, Carapace and Rena Rouge quickly made their way towards the buildings’ rooftops, chasing the trail of pink dust that was heading north. As for Ladybug and Panda Rouge, they stayed behind, as the scarlet heroine decided they were going to need reinforcements, and fast.   

“We’ve got to call the others and tell them to get here, on the double.” –Ladybug said, as she looked at Panda Rouge. –“Could you call them and warn them that we’re heading north, up Rue Blanche, while I go ahead and help the others?” -she asked him.

“I’ve got just the thing to warn them to come and meet us. You go ahead, while I do this. Leave it to me!” -Panda Rouge said, as Ladybug dashed towards the action. –“I’ll catch up to you in a moment!” -he said. 

Panda Rouge could call the others and let them know what Ladybug had asked him to tell them, but he had a better idea. It was not the first time he used that trick, and he sincerely hoped it would work, like it did the previous times. Scribbling the message Ladybug had told him, he then drew a firecracker and placed the message inside it. Lighting up the fuse, the firecracker shot upwards into the sky, as he himself hurried and tried to catch up to the others. As for the firecracker, once it reached a predetermined altitude, blew up and a giant message ended up written in the sky: “Sainte Trinite, north, up Rue Blanche. Get over here, now!”

Works every time!” -Panda Rouge thought to himself, as he looked up and admired his handiwork.

And he was not the only one saw the giant message in the sky. The rest of the heroes also saw it, as they continued to pursue Aphrodite, who had not rematerialized herself, and was still a trail of living pink dust, flying through the air. Seeing that, the heroes could not help but to feel a little idiotic, chasing a trail of dust. Never before had they chased an Akuma who could turn in to dust and escape that way. Still, that did not prevent them from continuing to chase Aphrodite. Down on the ground, more love zombies continued to chase after those that had not been infected by whatever it was that was making people turn that way.

“Hate to leave the people downstairs like this, but if we let Aphrodite escape, it’ll be even worse.” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she tried to think of a plan to –“If she’s not stopping, guess, we’ll just have to taunt her, and hope, that like every other Akuma, she has a massive ego and gets ticked if we begin to insult her.” -she thought to herself. –“Hey, Aphrodite! For someone who loves to preach about the true love, you sure love to run as well!”

Understanding what she was trying to do, the others did not waste time in following her lead.    

“Yeah, what’s the deal?! Are you going to continue to run like a chicken, instead of fighting us?!” -Rena Rouge asked us.

“Guess she is. Because if her courage was as big as her ego, she would stop running and would face us!” -Carapace exclaimed. 

“Come on… what did you expect? She’s just a fake goddess of love. You can’t expect much from someone who’s just a cheap knock-off of the real deal.” -Chat Noir joked. 

“Yeah, after all, what is she going to do? Throw us a lot of paper hearts, while preaching about what is love?!” -Panda Rouge asked, which earned a couple of laughs form the

And just like Ladybug had predicted, like all other Akumas, Aphrodite’s ego was also the size of small planet. It was only a matter of time for her to get ticked off by those insults, and when she did, she immediately pulled herself together, appearing in front of the heroes.

“As true love is my witness, you will pay for those insults!” -Aphrodite told them.

“Make us, lady!” -Panda Rouge said, as he threw his spear at her, only for her to go through her body. –“W-What?!” -he yelled, as he tried to understand what had happened.  

“Like I said before, you’ll have to catch me first… but it’s not going to be that easy.” -Aphrodite laughed.

An illusion?!” -Rena Rouge thought to herself. –“No, I don’t think so. I think that because she can turn her body into that pink dust, she also has the ability to make our weapons phase through her.” -she thought. –“If that’s true, then, we’ve got to find a way to get around that little problem.

“Let’s see if you’re as fast as you say you are!” -Carapace exclaimed, as he charged against her.

The Miraculous heroes all tried to attack her, but Aphrodite was not only fast, she also moved with such a grace that it almost looked like she was not walking, but floating. For about thirty seconds, she did not attack them, and merely dodged their attacks. But when she finally went on the attack. Firing what seemed to be pink arrows, made out of the same dust she had turned into before, she tried to attack them.  If she was not an Akuma, and was not trying to kill them all, maybe they would take a moment to appreciate her grace and her pose.

“I thought you would be faster than this, Miraculous heroes.” -Aphrodite commented, as she threw a few more pink arrows at them, with one of them nearly scratched Ladybug’s left leg. 

“You haven’t seen nothing!” -Ladybug said, as she threw her yo-yo against Aphrodite, only for her to dodge to the side. –“How can she move this fast?! It’s like her feet aren’t even touching the ground.” -she thought to herself.  

“It’s time for you to get your heart broken! Cataclysm!” -Chat Noir yelled as he was about to hit Aphrodite on the back, only to go through her and fall over the ledge. –“Whoa… okay, this was not in the program!” -he said, as he pulled his staff and extended it, pinning it against the buildings, preventing it from falling to the ground, where hundreds of love zombies were running wild. –“Oh, no, forget it. This kitty cat has nine lives.”    

Taking balance, Chat launched himself against the building and began to climb it back up, using his claws to dig just deep enough into the concrete. In a matter of seconds, he was back up on the rooftop, where the fight went on. Aphrodite was proving to be a more resourceful enemy than they believed she would be. But she was not the only one with tricks up her sleeve. Using her flute-staff, Rena Rouge wasted no time in using her Mirage power, conjuring a few copies of herself and of her fellow teammates, in hopes that with more of them around, Aphrodite would have a harder time guessing which ones were the real ones, and which ones were the illusions.

“Let’s see if you can find the real ones.” -Rena Rouge thought to herself.

“Oh, you think that just because there are more of you now, that you can stop me?” -Aphrodite laughed maniacally. –“In case you have forgotten, I have an army at my disposal, and they will do anything I order them to.” -she said, as she snapped her fingers.

Down on the street, the love zombies, obeying Aphrodite’s orders, quickly began to pile up on top of each other and to climb the building’s front, in a scene straight out of World War Z. Seeing that happening, the heroes were once again surprised by what Aphrodite could do, and in a matter of seconds, both real heroes and illusions, were up to their necks in love zombies. Seeing that Aphrodite laughed maniacally.

“Take care of them, my darlings. Show them what true love is all about.” -Aphrodite giggled, as her body once more turned into dust. –“I must go and spread more love, elsewhere.” -she said. 

Obeying Aphrodite’s orders, the love zombies wasted no time in attacking the heroes, trying to grab them and kiss them, so as to turn each one of them into a love zombie as well. Carapace quickly used his powers to erect a few shields to protect them from those enemies, but it was a matter of seconds, before he understood that the shields would not be enough to keep them at bay. Because of their incredible speed and agility, as soon as the shields were placed up, they would just crawl over them or jump over them.  

“I don’t know if I said this before, but we’re in a pickle, right now.” -Carapace said, as he swung one of his tonfas and hit a love zombie on the abdomen –“Maybe you can use your special ability to glue these guys to the building, just like you did before?” -he suggested Panda Rouge.  

“No! it will take too long! In fact, we shouldn’t even…. Cataclysm!” -Chat Noir exclaimed, as he used his attack on the rooftop, rusting it and sending a few love zombies down into that building’s attic. –“As I was saying, we’ve got to go after her!” -he declared.  

“Look out!” -Rena Rouge warned him of a love zombie that was just a couple of meters from him, as she herself, somersaulted over another one. –“I’m with him. We’ve got to keep moving!” -she exclaimed. 

“Agreed. Keep following her! We can’t let her get away!” -Ladybug said, as she jumped onto a chimney and resumed the chase. –“Where are the others? They should have been here by now!” -she thought to herself.

And the scarlet heroine was not the only one thinking that. Chat Noir was also wondering where the rest of the team was. 

Where are they? What’s taking them so long to get here?”– Chat Noir thought to himself. –“It’s going to take the strength and skills of the whole team, if we hope to stop this Akuma.”-he thought.

Queen Bee had just finished saving a mother and her two children from being turned into a love zombie, when she saw the message Panda Rouge had placed on the sky, and knew it was time to join the main fight. As much as she liked to save civilians and hear them praising her, the bee heroine knew that there was no time for such thigs, right then. If Aphrodite had been sighted, she needed to go and lend them a hand.

“Okay, it’s time to go.” -Queen Bee said, as she dove into the ground, to grab Louve Grise, who was then throwing gusts of icy wind with her fans, against a small horde of love zombies. –“Grab my arm, Louve!!!” -she shot at the wolf heroine, warning her.

Hearing Queen Bee saying that, Louve Grise looked over her shoulder and extended her arm. Grabbing her, the bee heroine pulled her upwards, as she went back up. Louve Grise did not say it, but she was happy that Queen Bee had picked her up when she did. Using her ice powers, the way she had been for the past half hour, had consumed a lot of her energy, and she needed a little break to rest.   

“I was wondering when that Akuma would show up.” -Louve Grise told the blonde. She too had noticed the message in the sky.  –“It’s just too bad it wasn’t us who found her.” -she added.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure that by the time we get there, Marinette and the others will have left a piece of Aphrodite for us to take care of.” -Queen Bee smiled at her. –“We better find and warn Rose and Juleka to come with us. They might have not noticed the message in the sky.” -she said, as she did not see them.  

“I think they did, look!” -Louve Grise said, as she pointed to their left.

Having seen the message in the sky, Flamingo and Corbeau Noire, wasted no time in wrapping up what they were done to a group of love zombies, and took to the air. They were both a little exhausted from all the fighting, not counting the little scare that Flamingo gave to her girlfriend. But other than that, they were ready for anything. Seeing both Louve Grise and Queen Bee approaching them, they waved at them.  

“I guess you also saw the message, as well.” -Queen Bee said.

“How could we miss it? It’s huge!” -Flamingo giggled. –“Are you two okay?” -she asked them.

“A little out of breath, from playing Snow Day with all those love zombies, but I’m good.” -Louve Grise smiled.

“Me too.” -Queen Bee said. –“I don’t know about you girls, but I lost count of how many persons I saved, after the twentieth.” -she admitted.

“Us too. That Akuma turned this city into a jungle… not literally, but you get my meaning.” -Corbeau Noire said. –“But now it’s time for us to teach it a lesson. Shall we go?” -she asked the girls.

“Lead the way.” -Queen Bee said.   

At the exotic animal exhibit, the chaos caused by Aphrodite and her love zombies settled down a little, as most of the love zombies was either caught by the Miraculous Heroes, or had run away to infect other people. While Grizzly Bear, Forest Doe and Antelope checked to see if every love zombie had been trapped, and if the people who had been lucky enough not to get turned into a love zombie were alright, outside, Dragonfly and Arachnid were looking for any signs of Aphrodite. Things were such a mess when they arrived, that they hardly had the time to see if there were any signs of where Aphrodite had gone to.  

“See anything?” -Arachnid asked her.

“No! And I don’t think we’re going to find anything that can tell us where that Akuma went!” -Dragonfly told Arachnid. The truth was, she did not know what she was supposed to be looking for, in the first place. –“Akumas are not exactly known for leaving a trail of breadcrumbs behind… and things are just too chaotic, for us to pinpoint where that one could have gone to.” -she said.

“Keep looking! Who knows, maybe she has left something for us to… hey, look!” -Arachnid said, as he pointed to the sky.

Up in the sky, was the message Panda Rouge had sent them all, signalling that he and the others needed help. Seeing it, Dragonfly knew that the worst was still to come, though deep down, for her, who loved battle Akumas, as much as she loved to skate, the best was still to come. Just from thinking about it, a smirk appeared on her face, in anticipation. Not wasting time, she dove and went inside the tent to warn the others.

“Move it, everyone! Panda just send us an invitation for the party that’s happening near Sainte Trinite!” -Dragonfly warned the three heroes.

“Sainte Trinite, you say? Race you there!” -Antelope exclaimed, as he sprinted out of there, as fast as his feet allowed him to.

“Hey! You didn’t say “Ready, Set, Go”, you idiot!” -Dragonfly protested, as she dashed out of the tent.

“Let’s go!” -Forest Doe told Grizzly Bear.

“Right behind you!” -Grizzly Bear told her.  

But they were not the only ones who were going after the Akuma. While most reporters fled the scene, when Aphrodite first appeared, Nadja and her team continued to do what they were paid to do. Even though earlier on, she had gone through a most terrifying and traumatic experience with that panther, she was not going to let that stop her from following the Miraculous Heroes and show them triumphing to the whole world.   

“Grab everything, and come on. We’re following them!” -Nadja told her team.

“Following them?!” -Louis asked her.

“Yes! Let’s get the van and follow them!” -Nadja said. –“You heard them. They’re going to Sainte Trinite, and if they’re going there, that’s where the action truly is.” -she said.

“Are you sure about that?” -Jacques asked her. Just like Louis, he was not sure going after the heroes, to see them battling an Akuma was such a good idea.

“Yes!!! Come on, go and get the van! We’ve got a story to cover.” -Nadja declared, as she quickened her pace.  

Having left Ladybug and the other heroes to fend against her love zombies, Aphrodite continued to spread love, where she was going. She knew that she had been given those powers by Hawk Moth, to kill the Miraculous Team and bringing him their miraculouses, but in her mind, she believed that she could kill them later, after causing a little more chaos. Seeing a few people entering a shop and blocking the doors, she felt that like everyone else, they needed to know what true love was all about. Rematerializing herself in front of it, she was about to break through the door, when something else caught her eye… or rather, someone.

Clinging to a branch of a nearby tree, there was a young man wearing a purple shirt, a black jacket and jeans. He looked terrified, as he looked down and saw three or four love zombies trying to get to him. He had tried to run from them, but in the chaos, the only thing that occurred to him was to climb to a tree, hoping to escape his pursuers. Looking at him, Aphrodite immediately recognized him. He was Rene, the guy who stood her up the night before. When Aphrodite got her powers from Hawk Moth, one of her first thoughts was to seek Rene and teach him a lesson. And now, it seemed like she would not have to wait to do just that. Smirking evilly, she hovered to the tree where Rene was clinging to and confronted him.     

“Well, well, look who we have here.” -Aphrodite smirked evilly at the young man, who nearly dropped from the branch, upon seeing her. –“And here I thought I would have to look for you, when you just happen to be nearby.” -she said, as she grabbed him by the collar, pulling him from the tree he was clinging to. –“No doubt looking for another innocent victim.”

“W-What a-are you talking about?! What do you want from me?!” -Rene asked Aphrodite, absolutely terrified and not understanding what she was talking about. He never thought that one day he would be face to face with an Akuma.

“Don’t you remember me? The girl you stood up yesterday?” Aphrodite asked him, with a malevolent smile on her face.

“Y-You? You’re her?!” -Rene asked her, terrified.

“Oh, yes, I am… or I used to be.” -Aphrodite told him. –“And guess what… you broke my heart… well, kind of. This stupid holiday did the rest, but you were the one who started it all.” -she said, looking him in the eyes, the same way a tiger looks at a prey.

Holding him tightly by the collar, Aphrodite made her way up to the rooftops, where she had a plan to get even with Rene. He had hurt her, and now she was going to hurt him back. As for Rene, he was terrified and had begun to beg her to let him go and to show mercy, while telling her that it was not his fault, he stood her up. But no matter what he told her Aphrodite’s mind was made up. She was going to have her revenge, and the whole thing was going to hurt him more, than it was going to hurt her.  

“Please… Please, I beg you! Look, I don’t know what happened, but my cell phone was robbed, and I couldn’t text you that I was not going Let me go!” -Rene begged, as tears kept running down his face.

“Oh, stop it! Stop lying about it! Not only you’re a pretentious idiot, you also think that that lame excuse will save you?! Do you think I was born yesterday?!” -Aphrodite snapped at him. –“Plus, you think all that crying is going to make me change my mind? Think again… for what you texted me, you deserve no mercy from me.” -she practically spat at him.

“I told you! I didn’t text you… I was forced to stay at work, and my cell phone got stollen! Whoever texted you that mean text, it wasn’t me!” -Rene exclaimed, while telling her the truth, as they stopped at the edge of the roof. –“W-What are you going to do to me?!” -he asked her, though he had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen next.

“What am I going to do to you?! I’m going to do to you, what you did to me… the only difference is that when I break your heart, I’m also going to break everything else in you.” -Aphrodite told him in a cold, almost cynical voice. –“For what you did to me, I should throw you from the top of the Eiffel Tower, but a fall from a five-stories building will have to do.” -she said, when something went past through her eyes. Looking right it was a green and pink frisbee… Dragonfly’s frisbee, which quickly returned to her owner’s hands.  

“Let him go, Aphrodite!!!” -Dragonfly ordered her, as she and Antelope arrived at the same time. Once again, their speed allowed them to arrive before the rest.

“Oh, more heroes… and here I thought I would only have to deal with a few of you.” -Aphrodite said.

“I won’t repeat myself again… let him go!” -Dragonfly ordered her.

“You heard her! If you don’t, you’re going to be sorry!” -Antelope warned her.

“Very well, if you insist…” -Aphrodite said.

Dropping him, Rene yelled, as he felt gravity doing its work. And just like it happened with some people, when they got shot, he felt everything around him slow down, as bits of his life flashed in front of his eyes. He knew that he was going to die, so he closed his eyes, so as to not see the moment when he would hit the ground.  

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you!” -Dragonfly exclaimed, as she flew upwards and saw the young man’s expression of gratitude in his face.

“T-Thank you, thank you.” -Rene thanked her.

“Just doing my job.” -Dragonfly told him. –“Do you want me to let you somewhere specific?” -she asked him.

“Anywhere, but near that witch! She thinks I stood her up last night, but the truth is, it wasn’t my fault. My boss forced me to stay at work until late, and to make matters worse, my cell phone was somehow stolen, while I was at work, and she thinks I texted her something she did not like!” -Rene answered Dragonfly. –“Whoever stole my phone, thought it would probably be funny to play a prank like that one with her, I don’t know!” -he said in a desperate voice. –“Just get me away from her!”

“Alright, don’t won’t worry, I’ll get you out of here. But if I were you, once she’s back to normal, I would go talk to her straighten things with her.” -Dragonfly told him. –“Can’t believe this… Me, giving romantic advices to someone!” -she thought to herself. –“In the meantime, let’s get you somewhere safe, while my partner dances the Tango with her.”

As Dragonfly made sure to take Rene out of there, Antelope did his best to hit Aphrodite, which was proving to be quite the challenge, even with his super speed. At the same time, Ladybug and the rest of her group arrived to lend him a hand.  

“Nice of you to finally show up.” -Antelope said.

“Look who’s talking! Panda sent you the message almost five minutes ago.” -Chat Noir shot at him

“Yeah, well, I had to slow down a bit, because otherwise Dragonfly wouldn’t be able to catch up with me and… whoa, that was a close one!” -Antelope exclaimed, as he nearly dodged a swing from Aphrodite. –“Careful, lady, I know I’m handsome, but I’m not looking for any kind of commitment.” -he joked.   

“Oh, really? Then, let’s see if you like this!” -Aphrodite smirked, as she blew some of her love powder into his face. She had not used that power against one of the heroes, because she was having too much fun fighting them, but figured that the time was right to use it and see what happened.

Hitting Antelope on the face, he began to cough violently, as the love powder slowly and steadily began to cloud his judgement. Knowing that he was about to turn into a love zombie and do something stupid, like attacking one of his friends, he closed his eyes and jumped out of there.

“What did you do to him?!” -Panda Rouge asked her.

“I simply showed him what true love really is, that’s all.” -Aphrodite smiled maliciously at her. –“Like everyone else, he too, will learn what true love really is.” -she said.   

“Turn him back to normal, right now!” -Ladybug told her.

“Sorry, but I don’t think so. But here, allow me to do the same to you and your friends, Ladybug.” –Aphrodite said, as she once again used her love powder.

Spinning her yo-yo as fast as she could, Ladybug used it as both a shield and a fan, to send the powder back to Aphrodite, as the rest of the heroes engaged her in battle. And while they did that, Dragonfly was making her way back to help them. After dropping Rene on a safe spot, she hurried back, knowing just how dangerous Aphrodite was. If she was more than willing to kill Rene, because she believed he had stood her up, then she would be more than willing to kill her friends and steal their miraculouses, so she could give them to Hawk Moth. Flying as fast as she could, she noticed someone jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Closing in, she saw it was Antelope who was doing it.  

What’s going on, with Kim?!” -Dragonfly asked herself, as she saw him acting weird. Worried about him, she dashed towards him.

The others, who saw her, tried to warn her, while battling Aphrodite, who was trying to do the same to them, as she did to Antelope. But they were too far, and Dragonfly was too focused on trying to catch Antelope, who by then was already a love zombie, and kept jumping from rooftop to rooftop, perching on the edge of the rooftops. She called him, but he did not answer her back. With her gut telling her that something was wrong, she dove and did her best to catch Antelope, so she could ask him what was wrong. Because he continued to jump, she missed on her first attempt, only to catch him on the second attempt.  

“What’s the big idea, you idiot?! Are you trying to get yourself killed or did you drink something that’s making you act like a crazy idiot ?!” -Dragonfly asked him, not realizing Antelope was under Aphrodite’s spell. –“Come on, talk to me, you idiot.” -she demanded him.

“Hey there, Alix.” -Antelope chuckled like a crazy man, as he looked her in the eyes, and she saw that his pupils were now pink, just like the pupils of every love zombie.  

Before she could react, Antelope kissed her on the cheek. He was trying to kiss her on the lips, but failed. Still, a kiss on the cheek had the same result, as Dragonfly began to feel dizzy and her mind clouded. She tried to fight it, but it was no use. In a matter of seconds, she was turned into a love zombie, and she only had eyes for one thing and one thing only, Antelope.    

“How’s it hanging, handsome?!” -Dragonfly giggled, as she kissed him. –“Have I ever told you, just how cute you look, when you try so hard to beat me?” -she giggled.

“No… but, maybe a couple of kisses, will make me not forget you said it.” -Antelope chuckled, as he kissed her. 

Seeing that happen, the heroes, who were joined by Forest Doe, Grizzly Bear and Arachnid, as they arrived at the scene and helped them fight Aphrodite, knew they were two players short. And it could not have happened at a worse time, because Antelope and Dragonfly were the only ones whose speed matched Aphrodite. She had showed she was fast, but now, she was moving with a speed only matched by the two fastest members in the Miraculous Team, alternating between her physical form and the form where she turned into spiralling dust. This forced the heroes to defend themselves, though some of them continued to attack her head-on. One of them was Forest Doe, who used her invisibility to attack her.

“Nice work, little girl, but your arrows won’t be enough to stop me!” -Aphrodite said.    

“Yeah, but she’s not alone in this!” -Arachnid said, as he tried to lasso Aphrodite, only to miss. –“Crud!” -he cursed his luck.

“You witch! Turn Antelope and Dragonfly back to normal!” -Rena Rouge shot at her, as she tried to hit her with her flute-staff.   

“I don’t think so, but don’t worry.” -Aphrodite said, as she turned herself into dust once more, only to reappear a couple of moments later behind Rena Rouge. –“You’re about to join them.” -she said, when she was hit by one of Carapace’s tonfas, before turning into dust again.

“Keep dreaming, lady!” -Carapace exclaimed, as he attacked her again. –“Nobody touches my girlfriend and gets away with it!” -he said, as he dodged Aphrodite’s attack.  

Seeing the battling unfolding, Ladybug knew that they needed Antelope and Dragonfly’s speed, if they were to gain the upper hand on it. Aphrodite was too fast and too powerful to be taken head-on, without a trump card, or at the very least, a laid out plan.   

No matter how many of us are fighting her, she’s just too fast; and she’s not even using her power over the love zombies. We Kim and Alix, if we’re to pin her down.” -Ladybug thought to herself, as she did a backflip, dodging one more attack from Aphrodite.   

As the battle raged on, Aphrodite heard Hawk Moth’s voice inside her head, demanding her to get the miraculouses from the two members of the Miraculous Team that were now under her spell. When he saw what happened after she attacked Antelope, he could not help but to feel like he was a step closer to absolute victory.

Dragonfly and Antelope are under your control. This is your chance. Use that to your advantage! Tell them to take their miraculouses and give them to you, now!” -Hawk Moth ordered her.

In a moment. First, I’m going to take down two or three more heroes.” -Aphrodite told the villain.  

I said, now! Tell them that, and then kill them!” –Hawk Moth roared at her, in an angry voice.

Fine! You don’t have to be a spoilsport! I’ll do that, right away!” -Aphrodite said, as she ended the telepathic conversation.  

Chapter Text

As she tried to come up with a solution for that problem of theirs, the scarlet heroine spotted Queen Bee and her part of the team approaching. The four heroines, who were forced to make a small detour to prevent a major disaster involving one of the bateaux mooches, when love zombies boarded it and the captain and the pilot ended up being turned. Luckily, they managed to solve it, before the ship crashed against a bridge, and a disaster was avoided. And to make sure the love zombies aboard it would not go anywhere, Louve Grise used her ice breath to create an ice barrier around the ship, preventing them from exiting it.

Deep down, Queen Bee believed that when they arrived at the scene, the others would have had Aphrodite against the ropes. But what she and the other heroines saw, upon arriving, was the exact opposite. If there was someone against the ropes, it was not the Akuma. But what surprised her more was the display of affection that was happening between Dragonfly and Antelope. Everyone knew that the two of them had a crush on each other, though neither wanted to admit it. So, she immediately knew something was wrong with that whole picture.

Upon arriving, Aphrodite saw them, and the four of them were forced to seek shelter, either behind one of Carapace’s energy shields, or one of the chimneys.      

“Okay, what’s going on with those two up there?” -Queen Bee asked Grizzly Bear, as she dropped Louve Grise next to him.  

“Those two fell in love with one another.” -Grizzly Bear answered her. –“Courtesy of the fake goddess of love over there.” -he said.

“That’s not good… but at least it explains why they’re kissing.” -Louve Grise said, as she looked up and saw the two smooching.  

“We need to get them out of that trance.” -Ladybug said.

At the same time, Aphrodite was hearing Hawk Moth in her head, telling her to get Dragonfly and Antelope’s miraculouses and to kill them, once their miraculouses were in her possession. She did not want to waste her time with that right then, especially since she now had the entire Miraculous Team at her mercy. But after hearing Hawk Moth angrily ordering her to do so, she decided not to

Come to me, my dears… I know that you are finally feeling what true love is, but you must come to me and give me your miraculouses.” -Aphrodite ordered both Dragonfly and Antelope, by making use of telepathy.

Hearing her say that, Dragonfly, carrying Antelope in her arms, flew towards Aphrodite. Noticing what was going on with the two of them, Chat Noir understood something was wrong, and even not knowing what was exactly happening 

“I don’t like the way those two are coming down.” -Chat Noir said. –“We’ve got to snap them out of it, before that witch forces them to fight us, or worst.” -he told Ladybug.

“Agreed. But how?” -Ladybug asked him.

“I can take care of it. Rose was touched by a love zombie and I managed to bring her back to normal with one of my shadow attacks. But I’m going to need a distraction.” -Corbeau Noire declared. She knew just how to bring them back to reality.

“Leave that one to me.” -Flamingo said. –“My clones and I will take on her with everything we’ve got.” -she said. 

“Okay, but you won’t be alone.” -Ladybug declared, as she looked at the rest of the team. –“Once she goes, we all attack Aphrodite at the same time and force her to focus on us, while you stop the lovebirds. With some luck, we might take her down, or at the very least force her to use a sizable amount of her strength, rendering her weaker.” -she said, as she looked at Carapace. –“You know the drill, Carapace.”

“Shields coming out, I know. Just say the word.” -Carapace smiled.

Once Flamingo created numerous copies of herself, and everyone readied themselves for what they hoped would be the moment they turned the tables on Aphrodite, Ladybug signalled Carapace by winking at him, and the shields were down. Letting a battle cry, Ladybug lead them all, as they charged against Aphrodite. Right then, they did not care if they were not as fast as she was, or if she could just avoid their attacks. All they wanted was to keep her busy, so Corbeau Noire could help their friends, who had fell under her spell.

At the same time, flying upwards, Corbeau Noire used her powers once again to do what she did to free her girlfriend from the influence of Aphrodite’s spell. This would usually be an easy task, but because they were in the air, she was forced to use Dragonfly and Antelope’s shadows against themselves, hoping they would suffice. Feeling being split, Dragonfly and Antelope tried to jump into each other’s arms, but Corbeau Noire prevented it from happening. Ordering their shadows to shake them, they did just that, though they did not do it with the same strength the ones she had used to help Flamingo. Thinking about it, she figured she needed more shadows, or at the very least larger shadows, if she hoped to help her friends.   

“It won’t work… I need another plan.” -Corbeau Noire thought to herself, as she tried to figure what to do. Not being able to come up with another alternative, she figured the only way to get more shadows was to get the two of them to one of the rooftops. –“Forgive me guys.”

Focusing, she ordered the shadows to follow her, as she made her way to one of the nearby rooftops. Dragonfly and Antelope kept giggling and exchanging looks, not realizing what was really going on. Once on the rooftop, the raven heroine focused on controlling every single shadow there were around, ordering them to unite to those that were wrapped around the two heroes. And while this took place, the heroes continued to giggle carefree, without even realizing what was really going on.

“Oh, Juleka, don’t be like that… give me a kiss!” -Dragonfly giggled, as she called the raven heroine by her real name. 

“No, give me a kiss…” -Antelope exclaimed, between chuckles. –“I kiss a lot better than Alix!” -he said.

“No, I’m the better kisser!” -Dragonfly giggled.  

“Sorry, guys, but this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you… I hope.” -Corbeau Noire said.

Commanding the shadows, Corbeau Noire ordered them to shake the two of them in the air, hoping they snap from the trance they were in. Because in Flamingo’s case, she had to be shaken quite violently to snap back to normal, the raven heroine figured the best thing to do was shake them as violently was possible. As they were shaken in the air, the two of them felt like they were inside the world’s worst rollercoaster, and it was only when they stopped giggling and chuckling that Corbeau Noire ordered the shadows to stop. Slowly, she ordered the shadows to put them on the ground, as she went to check on them.  

“Are you two alright?” -Corbeau Noire asked them, as the two sat on the ground, trying not to vomit.  

“O-Ow… c-can somebody ask the world to stop spinning around?” -Antelope said, as he felt his head spinning. –“I think I’m going to throw up.” -he said, as he tried his best not to do it.

“D-Don’t you d-dare do that in front of me, or while puke as well.” -Dragonfly warned him, as she tried not to think about vomiting. 

“What happened? The last thing I remember was getting hit by that pink dust or powder or whatever and then…” -Antelope said.  

“Well, you were turned into a love zombie, and then you turned her into one as well.” -Corbeau Noire said.

“Wait, what?! Did you kiss me?!” -Antelope asked Dragonfly. His head was in a bit of a mess, and he could not remember what had happened.  

“Kissed you? You were the one who kissed me, remember?!” -Dragonfly shot back at him, as she began to remember what happened. –“I can’t believe it… my very first kiss was with you! You stole it from me, you big jerk!” -she yelled at him. Right then, she did not care if he had been turned  

“I stole it from you? Then, what about you? You also stole my first kiss!” -Antelope yelled back at Dragonfly.

“Your first kiss?! You kept telling us that you had kissed a lot of girls!” -Dragonfly shot at him, still upset at him.  

“Well, maybe I exaggerated a little, okay?! I didn’t want people to know that I never kissed a girl! Do you know what that would do to my reputation?” -Antelope asked her.  

“What reputation? The reputation of not even being able to beat a girl, namely me?!” -Dragonfly asked him, not caring if she had hurt him with that comment. –“Because if you’re worried about that reputation, don’t worry. Knowing that you lied about having kissed lots of girls, won’t affect it, trust me!” -she shot at him.    

Hearing them arguing like that, Corbeau Noire decided she needed to stop them. She had seen them arguing and bickering like that more times than she could remember, and just like everyone else, she did not tell them a thing, or took sides. But right then, that was not the place or the time for them to do that. She needed them… the team needed them.  

“Uh, guys?! Guys! Sorry to interrupt you, but could you two finish this conversation a little later, please?” -Corbeau Noire asked them. –“The rest of the team needs us.” -she pointed out.

“Fine… we’ll discuss this later.” -Antelope agreed, still a little annoyed with the whole thing.

“Agreed. And just so you know, you’re a lousy kisser, Kim” -Dragonfly shot at him.  

“Well, it takes one to know one, Alix!” -Antelope shot back at her, as he tried to get up on his feet, only to fail. –“Whoa… the world’s still spinning a little.” -he said, as he sat down again.    

“Maybe you should stay here for a bit and rest.” -Corbeau Noire suggested him, while looking at Dragonfly, who did not look very good either.   

“Not going to happen.” -Antelope said, as he tried to ignore the dizziness. –“For doing what she did to me, I’m going to show that Akuma a world of pain, with my bat.” -he pointed out.

“You won’t be the only one… I’m going to punch her so hard, she’s going to need a doctor, after I finish with her.” -Dragonfly stated, as she too tried to ignore the dizziness she had, while trying to get on her feet.

Tired of being forced to dodge everything that was thrown at her, and after Aphrodite managed to throw one of Flamingo’s clones at her, making her fall on her butt, Queen Bee decided it was time to get serious. Pissed, she focused her energy on her trompo and upon launching it, she created a small tornado which began to grow larger and larger by the minute. Her plan was simple, to suck Aphrodite in and hope that whatever the tornado sucked inside it, along with her, would hit her, over and over, until she passed out. Unfortunately, and like it happened whenever she allowed her emotions to get the better of her in battle, the tornado got out of control. When this happened, most of the heroes were pulled inside it, as Queen Bee tried to stop it. When she finally did, the tornado spat out each one of them in a different direction, with almost all of them hitting the rooftop or one of the heroes that had managed to escape it. The bee heroine herself was knocked to the ground by Forest Doe, who landed on top of her. 

“C-Chloe…” -Forest Doe whispered to her.

“I know, I know… it was a really bad idea, I know…” -Queen Bee admitted, completing Doe’s sentence. –“I’ve let my emotions get the best of me again… I’ll have to talk to Master Fu, about coming up with a trick to prevent this from happening. Though with him, I’m sure he’s going to say that the best trick is to practice meditation, and I hate meditation. I fall asleep while doing it!” -she thought to herself   

Seeing them all down, Aphrodite decided that if Hawk Moth wanted her to take the miraculouses from the heroes, she would begin with the team’s leader. For some reason, she could not see neither Dragonfly nor Antelope, who, unknown to her, were no longer under her spell. Still, she ignored that and proceeded to get Ladybug’s miraculous first. She had been knocked to the ground, when Carapace fell on top of her. The scarlet heroine was trying to get up, when Aphrodite stopped right in front of her, knelt and grabbed her by the neck, squeezing it lightly, while looking at her earrings.    

“Pretty earrings… do you think they will match my eyes?” -Aphrodite asked her. –“I guess I’ll find out in a moment. I’ll wear them, just before giving them to Hawk Moth. And the same thing will happen to your friends’ miraculouses.” -she declared. –“But don’t worry, before I remove them from your ears, and kill you, I will give you a taste of what true love really is…”

She was about to use her love powder attack on Ladybug, when she was hit on the head by Dragonfly’s frisbee, which forced her to back off, letting go of Ladybug’s neck. She, along with Antelope and Corbeau Noire arrived just in time to prevent a tragedy, and to help the rest of the team.

“Keep your paws to yourself.” -Dragonfly said as she ordered her frisbee to come back to her. –“Are you okay, Ladybug?” -she asked her.

“I’m okay, thanks.” -Ladybug said, as she massaged her throat. –“If Aphrodite had squeezed my neck a little tighter, I was going to end up with a sour throat. Guess I should consider myself lucky.” -she thought to herself, as she saw Antelope and Corbeau Noire helping the others getting back on their feet.    

“I thought you and Antelope were under my control… no matter, I’ll just use my love powder on you again.” -Aphrodite declared.

“Then, you’ll have to be extra fast, because I’m not falling for that trick again!” -Antelope said.

She was about to attack the heroes, when the wind blew something onto her face. That something was a pamphlet. Grabbing it, she was going to throw it away, when she noticed what was on it; an image of a heart-shaped covered palmier, with a message.  

“What’s this? Dupain-Cheng Bakery’s Love Palmiers? Sweetest Valentine pastry in Paris? Share one with your loved one and see for yourself what true love is in a single bite? The audacity! How can a pastry, created for a holiday as hollow as Valentine’s Day do that?!” -Aphrodite shrieked, absolutely mad about what she had read. –“I’ll show whoever owns that bakery what true love really is, and how a mere pastry can provide you with it!”

Hearing her say that, Ladybug’s first thought was that was one of the advertising pamphlets her parents had distributed to advertise their Valentine’s specialty, while the second one, was that her parents were in mortal danger. If they had not been turned into love zombies, like it happened with at least half the people in Paris, then, when Aphrodite got her hand of them, she would make sure they would be, if she did not decide to kill them instead. Just thinking about it, Ladybug’s heart trembled with fear.

“I’ll deal with you all, after I make sure that no one will ever taste one of these palmiers.” -Aphrodite said, throwing the pamphlet away, as her body began to turn into dust. –“Don’t worry, I won’t be long. The bakery seems to near here. But in the meantime, I’ll let my warriors of true love to deal with you.” -she laughed maniacally, as her body finished turning into dust and was blown away by the wind, with her right hand being the last to do so, as she snapped her fingers.

As Aphrodite disappeared, Ladybug began to think that she needed to stop her. She tried to remain calm, but both her brain and her heart were working against her. Both were telling her that if she and the others did not go after Aphrodite, her parents could end up dead, and that scared her more than Hawk Moth or a thousand Akumas put together.  

“Alix…” -Ladybug whispered to Dragonfly, who asserted with her head.

“I know. We won’t let her harm them.” -Dragonfly whispered back at her, knowing her friend’s parents were in danger. –“Come on, you slowpokes, what are you doing? Waiting for the love zombies to get up here?! We’ve got catch that Akuma!” -she said, as she and the others heard the sounds’ of the love zombies getting closer to them.

“They’re coming up!” -Flamingo said.

“Let’s roll, everyone!” -Ladybug said, determined to save her parents.

But as they were about to get out of that rooftop and start chasing Aphrodite, someone else decided to show up. Popping out of nowhere, shrouded in flames, was one of their biggest enemies, Hawk Moth’s lieutenant, Madame Romani. The gypsy witch had been watching everything unfolding from the shadows, believing Aphrodite could handle things on her own. But Romani was not the kind of person who liked to stay on the sidelines, at least, not the whole time. She figured that Aphrodite had tired the heroes enough to make them easier prey, and was going to take advantage of that.     

“You’re not going anywhere, you brats!” -Madame Romani said, as she made the flames around her disappear. –“Since that Aphrodite thinks destroying bakeries is more important than taking your miraculouses, I’ll just have to do her work for her.” -she said.   

“You go and stop Aphrodite, before she hurts your parents. We’ll handle Romani and the love zombies, then join you.” -Rena Rouge whispered at Ladybug’s ear. –“I was wondering when one of Hawk Moth’s minions would show up, crawling from the gutter.”

“You’re going to eat those words, little fox.” -Madame Romani host at her, as she used her powers to summon a couple of illusions to help her.

Running her fingers over her crystal ball, Madame Romani summoned countless cherubs. But these were not your typical cherubs. They were stone cherubs with red glowing eyes and holding flaming spears or bows and arrows. And the gypsy witch had created a whole army of them, to battle the heroes.    

“Cherubs, really? What is it with everyone and Valentine’s Day themed enemies today?” -Dragonfly asked sarcastically, as she noticed the arrival of the love zombies, who had climbed the building to get to them. –“Oh, crud… we’ve got company!”  

“Go, my pretties, fly and kill them!” -Madame Romani cackled maniacally, as the cherubs charged against the heroes, firing their spears and arrows at them.

Doing what their mistress and creator ordered them, the flying creatures attacked the Miraculous Team, along with the love zombies, who continued to crawl from the streets, up the building to catch them. Taking advantage of the mayhem, Ladybug went after Aphrodite, hoping to get to her parents’ bakery before it was too late. But she was not the only one who was going after Aphrodite, instead of facing Madame Romani. Believing the gypsy witch was not worth the trouble, Antelope and Dragonfly quickly followed Ladybug to lend her a hand. As she swung from building to building, using her yo-yo, she noticed her friends running and flying by her side.  

“Don’t wait up for me! Go!” -Ladybug told them, knowing that with their speed, the two could get to the bakery a lot faster than she did.

“Okay! Don’t worry. If your parents haven’t been turned into love zombies, I’ll protect them.” -Antelope said, as he dashed towards the bakery, leaving Ladybug behind. 

“Yeah, don’t worry. He and I will make sure that witch doesn’t touch them.” -Dragonfly said, as she too dashed out of there.  

Mom… dad… don’t worry, I’m coming!” -Ladybug thought to herself.

As Ladybug, Dragonfly and Antelope chased after Aphrodite, the rest of the heroes continued to battle the love zombies, Madame Romani and her small army of stone Cherubs. Usually a fight with Madame Romani was piece of cake for the heroes. But that was when she fought alongside an Akuma, and the heroes were not yet exhausted. This time, the only one who was not exhausted was Romani herself, and she was putting every bit of her strength into the illusions she was creating and throwing at them To make matters worse, the love zombies were becoming more aggressive, forcing the whole team to back up, until they were gathered in a circle.    

“We don’t have time to deal with this witch. We need to go after the other witch.” -Queen Bee said, as she swung her trompo and used it as a shield against the countless love zombies that just kept coming, while also dodging the attack of one of the stone cherubs.

“On your left!” -Louve Grise exclaimed, as she threw one of her fans, hitting one of the stone cherubs.  

“Thanks!” -Queen Bee thanked the wolf heroine.

“If we keep fighting her, we’re sure to use most of our strength just to get rid of her.” -Forest Doe said.

“There must be a way for us…” Grizzly Bear said as he dodged one of the love zombies. –“… to get rid of her, and go after Aphrodite.” -he said.

“And I think I have an idea to take care of Romani. We just need to use the “Silence of the Lambs” tactic on her.” -Chat Noir declared.

“No offense, bro, but I don’t think that’s not going to work. To do that, we would need to get behind her, and none of us is in exactly in any condition to do that…” -Carapace said, as he raised an energy bubble around the whole team.

Unfortunately, he failed to raise the energy bubble in time of preventing Rena Rouge from being hit by one of the stone cherubs flaming arrows. Upon hitting her, the fox heroine screamed. The flaming arrow had hit her on her left upper arm, slashing both her suit and her skin.

“Are you okay?” -Carapace asked her.

“I-I’ll be fine. It’s just a flesh wound.” -Rena Rouge said, as she looked at her injured arm. She was bleeding a little, but it was nothing serious. –“I just hope I don’t need stitches.” -she playfully told Carapace, knowing that he was going to cure her.

“You won’t, trust me. I won’t allow your beautiful skin to have any scars.” -Carapace smiled, as he placed his left hand over her wound and quickly healed her.

“You really have a way with words, Romeo.” -Rena Rouge smiled at him. Once he was finished, there was not a single trace of her even having been wounded, while the suit repaired itself.

“Uh, excuse me… I love romance as much as the next person, but we were talking about taking acre of that witch!” -Queen Bee exclaimed. –“Adrikins, you were saying…” -she told Chat Noir.    

“I was saying that we can use the “Silence of the Lambs” tactic on her, and that I have a plan to use it. I just need you to keep Romani distracted and leave everything to me and Nathaniel.” -Chat told him, as he looked at Panda Rouge. –“You are up for his?” -he asked him.

“Lead the way.” -Panda Rouge said.

Chat Noir’s plan was quite simple. While the rest of the team found a way to keep Madame Romani distracted, while seemingly keeping the love zombies at bay, he and Panda Rouge were going to sneak up on her and use the tactic that was first devised by Chat and Carapace himself, during one of the team’s training sessions. The tactic was named like that, because the enemy would end up strapped into a straitjacket, gagged and cuffed just like it happened with Hannibal Lecter, upon being transferred from his quarters, courtesy of Panda Rouge, who would use his powers to do so. The only problem with that tactic, was that it needed to be done, while the enemy was not looking, and that meant, getting behind it.

Using Cataclysm, Chat Noir opened a hole on the rooftop, allowing him and Panda Rouge to go down. After that, the feline hero kept using Cataclysm on each wall they found in front of them, opening passages for them to pass to the following room. As he did this, he hoped not to run into a love zombie that might have sneaked in the building. Luckily, that did not happen. Once he felt that they had passed the point where Madame Romani was standing, he opened another hole on the rooftop and the two of them went through it. Again, on the outside, they took out three love zombies that were nearby, with their respective weapons, without taking their eyes away from their main target. Romani was so focused on taking out the rest of the team, who had mounted a small counteroffensive against her and the love zombies, thus distracting her, that she had noticed Panda Rouge and Chat Noir were not fighting her.

Same old gypsy witch… by now, she should know that she shouldn’t count her chickens before they hatch.” -Chat Noir thought to himself, as he signalled Panda Rouge to get ready. –“Cataclysm!” -he yelled, as he jumped into the air and pounced Madame Romani, digging his claws on her back.

Screaming in pain, Madame Romani lost control of the stone cherubs, which disappeared in puffs of smoke, giving the heroes less a problem to worry about. Hitting the ground, Chat Noir kicked her crystal ball away, so she could not use it to conjure any illusions. Furious, Romani tried to kick him, only for the feline hero to perform a stunning backflip and evading her. Seeing him out of the way, Panda Rouge quickly drew a straitjacket which wrapped itself around Madame Romani, in the same way that Doctor Strange’s Cloak of Levitation did, when attacking a foe. Romani tried to fight it, but it was no use. After it, he gave her a Hannibal Lecter mask, and to make sure she would not get away, he placed her inside a bubble, knowing that now she had the power to turn into mist and escape. With her out of the way, the rest of the heroes wasted no time. Ignoring the love zombies that kept coming towards them, they all made tracks in the direction Aphrodite went, already knowing where she was going. Seeing them leaving, Madame Romani cursed herself for being so careless. And to make her even madder about herself, Chat Noir, did not waste his opportunity to mock her.        

“They say black cats are harbingers of bad luck… well, if that’s really the case, I guess you can blame me for you bad luck, because I crossed your path.” -Chat Noir told her.

“All your nine lives won’t be enough to save you, when I get my hands on you. And the same thing goes for your friends!” -Madame Romani warned him. If looks could kill, hers would have smitten him right then.  

“Sorry, but I’ve got to go.” -Chat Noir smirked at Madame Romani. –“See you later, Hannibal Lecter!” -he laughed, as he tried to catch up to the rest of the team.

“Get me out of here, you brats! Let me out!” -Madame Romani growled at the heroes, as they all left her behind. –“When I get out of here, I swear to God, that I’m going to plunge your minds so deep into nightmares, you won’t be able to tell what’s real from what’s not, you brats!” -she promised them, as she kept trying to break free from the straitjacket. She wanted to turn into mist and escape form it, but to do so, she had to snap her fingers, and right then, she could not move them, thanks to the straitjacket.   

Outside the Dupain-Cheng Bakery, things were chaotic. On the street, love zombies continued to go after everyone that was still on the streets, looking for a place to hide. Those who had been lucky enough to find a hiding place, just wished that the Akuma attack would end shortly. When they saw what was going on the streets, Tom quickly closed the door and barricaded it, while Sabine pulled down the blinds, so no one could see inside the bakery.

Sitting behind the counter, Tom tried to keep Sabine calm. It was not the first time they were caught in an Akuma attack, but that did not make it any easier. They were both worried about what could happen to them. But more importantly, they were worried about their daughter. Sabine had called Marinette dozens of times, and she did not answer any of them.  

“Don’t worry, Sabine. I-I’m sure she’s fine. You know how she is. She’s a resourceful girl. There’s nothing Marinette can’t handle.” -Tom told his wife, trying to calm her down.

“I know, but what if she was caught by one of those… people out there?” -Sabine asked her husband, as she looked at her cell phone and saw all the attempted calls she did to Marinette.

“She’s a smart girl. You don’t need to worry about it. Plus, I’m sure that once the Miraculous Team takes care of the Akuma, everything will turn back to normal, and Marinette will call you back, to tell us she’s alright.” -Tom smiled at her. –“And then, when she does that, we’ll just laugh about all this.” -he said. –“Today, the only thing I want you to be worried about is just you will wear tonight, and where do you want to go after our Valentine’s Day dinner.”  

Like every other Valentine’s Day, Tom had made a reservation in Sabine’s favourite restaurant, where they would have dinner, and then take a walk wherever their feet would take them to. And like every other Valentine’s Day, Tom was anxious to see just how beautiful she would look like in the dress she had bought for the occasion. It was those small things that made her love even more than in the day they got married. He was about to tell her that, when suddenly the windows in the bakery burst, sending broken glass everywhere. Because they were behind the counter, they were not hit by any of the shards. Still, it caused their hearts to skip a couple of beats. Silently signalling Sabine to stay low, Tom slowly got up to see what was going on. The first thing he saw was just how the whole bakery looked like a war zone. All the windows were broken, and the same thing had happened with the front door. What was left of cakes and pastries was splattered all over the floor, walls and ceiling. Still a little shaken by what he was seeing, Tom saw various trails of pink dust coming from the outside, conversing in the centre of the bakery. In a matter of seconds, the pink dust began to take a more human form. Seeing it, Tom knew that he was most likely looking at the Akuma that was causing all that mess, or one of its creations. Sabine, who could not stand being seated behind the counter, without doing anything, quickly got up, just in time to see Aphrodite staring at her.   

“Stay behind me, Sabine.” -Tom told his wife, as he placed in front of her. –“W-What is it that you want?” -he asked Aphrodite, as she looked around and saw she was in the right place. On the floor near her, was what had once been a Love Palmier.

“What is it that I want? I’ll tell you what is it that I want… I want everyone to know what true love really is, while also making sure that everything that glorifies this hollow holiday gets destroyed.” -Aphrodite said. –“And one of those things is those palmiers that were being advertised in that pamphlet.” -she declared.   

“Is she for real? She’s here, attacking us because she doesn’t like one of our pastries?” -Sabine thought to herself, as kept staring at Aphrodite.

“Those disgusting palmiers that you created… how can you say that if you share one with someone, you will find true love?!” -Aphrodite said, as she stepped on what was left of the Love Palmier in front of her feet. –“Just like everyone else, you don’t know the first thing about what true love is.” -she spat at Tom and Sabine.

“Now, see here… I don’t know what your problem is with us or with our pastries, but what was on the pamphlet is just advertising.” -Sabine told her. She did not why she had idea of talking to an Akuma like that, but she did. –“It’s supposed to exaggerate a little.” -she said.

“Exactly! It’s fake! Fake, like everything else! Valentine’s Day is a hollow holiday, where everyone says they are selling true love!” -Aphrodite shouted at her and Tom in a voice which made the whole place shake. –“And you two… you two are just like everyone else. You claim to spread love with your pastries, but it’s all a lie. You have no idea what true love really is!” -she continued with the same  

Hearing Aphrodite say those words, both Tom and Sabine just wanted to slap her on the face and give her a piece of their mind about the whole matter. But they knew that angering an Akuma was one of the worst things a person could do.

“But fear not… you are about to know what true love really is.” -Aphrodite said, this time with a calmer, and more melodious voice, while looking at both Tom and Sabine. –“You two should consider yourselves lucky…” -she said, when she felt someone hitting on the back.

“Get them out of here!” -Antelope exclaimed to Dragonfly, as he turned around and prepared to strike Aphrodite again.

Dragonfly, who was right behind him, quickly did as he told her. Having used their superspeed, the two heroes arrived at the Dupain-Cheng bakery just in time to stop Aphrodite from turning Tom and Sabine into a couple of love zombies. With the Dupain-Chengs, she quickly made her exit out of there, looking for a place where they would be safe. The whole street was crawling with love zombies, and she knew that Antelope was going to need her help dealing with Aphrodite, until Ladybug and the rest of the team arrived.     

“Gotcha you!”  -Dragonfly said, as she carried Tom and Sabine, holding each of them by the right arm. –“That was a close one, wouldn’t you say?” -she joked, trying to relax them. She could tell by their faces that they were still a little bit shocked from everything that happened to them.  

“Y-Yes…” -Sabine said, while trying not to look down, as heights gave her nausea.  

“Don’t worry, I won’t let that witch or any love zombie hurt you. You have my word.” -Dragonfly told them.

“Is that what you call them?” -Tom asked her.

“Yeah, well… I wasn’t the one who came up with the name.” -Dragonfly joked.

Chapter Text

In his hideout, Hawk Moth was boiling with anger, as he saw what was happening. First Aphrodite ignored his orders and decided to go on a wild goose chase, just because it suited her, instead of taking the miraculouses from the young heroes. And then, Madame Romani finally decided to fight the heroes, only to end up trapped by one of the heroes. If things continued like that, he was sure to be defeated once more, and he knew that. But he was not going to allow that to happen; not while he had at least a couple of more tricks up his sleeve. He was not going to allow the Miraculous Team to get away with another victory.

"Brutus." -Hawk Moth called for his lieutenant.

"Yes, master." -Brutus said, as he approached Hawk Moth. He had been watching what had been happening, telling to himself that if he had been the one ahead of that plan, instead of Madame Romani, he would have done things quite differently.

"Ladybug and her friends have the upper hand for the moment, but that cannot continue." -Hawk Moth told him. –"They must be stopped at all cost." -he declared with a calculating voice.

"Whatever your orders are, I will obey them without questioning them, master." -Brutus said.

"I'll have to deal with Aphrodite and her disobedience. As for you, I have a job for you." -Hawk Moth told Brutus. –"I want you to go and release Madame Romani from that bubble Panda Rouge has placed her in, and once that is done, you two are to go where Aphrodite is and help her destroy the heroes, once and for all." -he ordered him.

"Yes, master." -Brutus said, bowing his head in reverence.

"Remember, failure is not an option." -Hawk Moth warned him.

"It never was, master. I will not disappoint you." -Brutus declared, as Hawk Moth raised his cane, the tip of which had begun to glow, and teleported him to where Madame Romani

As he watched Brutus disappear, Reptile, who was leaning back against a wall, hidden by the hideout's shadows, the lizard man could not help but to see a pattern in what was going on. But more importantly, he was feeling glad on not being part of that same pattern right then.

"That Romani is sure to fail again… the second time in a week. Master Hawk Moth warned her that he would punish her harshly, if she failed him again." -Reptile thought to himself. –"As much as I wish the master to become the new ruler of this world, I wish even more for that witch to fail, so I can see him punishing her for her failures. Because whenever she fails, it gives me another shot to succeed where she has failed." -he thought, truly believing that Aphrodite was going to be defeated by the Miraculous Team.

Aphrodite could not believe she had once again been interrupted by the Miraculous Heroes. She had believed that the love zombies would have been able to keep them from following her, as she continued to spread what she saw as true love, but the heroes were proving to be a bothersome. Antelope had just hit her, while Dragonfly flew in and grabbed the bakers that had created that pastry, which she saw as yet another attempt of Valentine's Day to promote the opposite of true love, before she could punish them, the same way they had prevented her from killing the guy she believed had stood her up. She had not forgotten about him, and she had plans to go look for him again and kill him. But before she could do it, she would have to make sure the Miraculous Heroes, at the very least, Antelope and Dragonfly, would not come after her and interrupt her again.

"You are beginning to unnerve me." -Aphrodite told Antelope.

"That's what I do lady. I'm a pain in the neck for all of you Akumas." -Antelope joked, as he readied himself to attack her again. –"And I can do this all day." -he smirked at her.

"Good, because I can also do… aaaaaargh!" -Aphrodite screamed from the top of her lungs, letting out a high-pitched scream.

An enormous pain coursed through Aphrodite's forcing her to her knees. Never in her life had she felt so much pain. Breathing heavily, she hoped the pain would go away, while at the same time, asking herself on why she was feeling that kind of pain. But before she could think of an explanation for it, she heard Hawk Moth talking to her.

"You have disobeyed my direct orders for the last time, Aphrodite." -Hawk Moth declared, his cold voice echoing inside Aphrodite's head. –"You failed to get the miraculouses from Dragonfly and Antelope, when they were under your control, and then you left the heroes to fight your love zombies, while you came after two people, because of some stupid pastry that offended you? I did not give you your powers, so you could go around and do as you please. I gave them to you to do a job… a job which you have failed to do so, until now. Do I have to hurt you a little more, to make you understand why you're being hurt?" -he asked her. He had ignored the part where she stopped to deal with the guy who had stood her up the night before, because by doing that, she had managed to get the attention of the heroes.

"I-It won't happen again, Hawk Moth, you have my word." -Aphrodite said, as she felt her body aching in pain. Breathing heavily, she tried to ignore it, but it was not easy.

"For your own sake, it better not happen again, or I will strip you from your powers and give them to someone else I see more fit to show Paris what true love really is about." -Hawk Moth threatened her. As always, fear was the best incentive for that sort of situation.

"No! Please, don't do it! I will get you the miraculouses, right now." -Aphrodite begged, as the pain inside her began to weaken.

Antelope, who was just standing there, watching the whole scene, figured Aphrodite was talking to Hawk Moth, after her punished her for something she did. Not wishing to give her the time to get back up, he charged against her kicking her across the bakery, sending her outside. Believing he still had the upper hand, he did not waste time and attacked her. Only this time, she dodged his attack and ordered the surrounding love zombies to attack him. At the same time, Ladybug was arriving. Worried about her parents, her eyes scouted both the streets and the rooftops, hoping to see them, safe and sound. Each second that went by, without her seeing them, felt like an eternity, and she began to worry that neither Antelope nor Dragonfly, with their superspeed, had managed to arrive in time to save them from Aphrodite, or worst, that they had been turned into love zombies earlier. But then, on top of one of the nearby rooftops, she spotted both Tom and Sabine seemingly alright, talking to Dragonfly.

"They're okay!" -Ladybug thought to herself, feeling relieved that her friends had managed to get to the bakery on time and saved her parents. –"I shouldn't waste time checking on them, especially because Alix is already doing that… but my heart won't rest if I don't ask them myself." -she thought to herself, as she turned right to go and meet them.

On the rooftop, Dragonfly was making sure that both Tom and Sabine were alright. Sabine, who was not a fan of heights, was still a bit shaken from being caught by Dragonfly and then flown by her to that rooftop. As for Tom, he was still feeling a little nervous about everything that happened to him and to his wife, but other than that he was feeling okay, and he was trying his best to assure Dragonfly that she did not need to worry about him or Sabine.

"You don't have to worry about us. We'll be fine." -Tom told Dragonfly. –"You should go back down there and help your friend. He might need your help." -he said.

"Don't need to worry about it. Antelope's got a very thick noggin. But, if you're saying that you're well, I'll take your word for it… oh, here comes the boss-lady." -Dragonfly commented, as she noticed Ladybug swinging in their direction. –"Took you a little to get here." -she said.

"You know I'm not as fast as you are." -Ladybug said, as she landed on the rooftop, trying to sound casual. Looking at her parents, she could not help but to feel a little her stomach filled with butterflies. Not counting the previous Halloween, this was the first time she was near them as Ladybug, and she was a little afraid they would recognize her. –"S-So, what happened?" -she asked her, as if she did not know what had happened.

"Oh, this couple here was attacked by Aphrodite, but Antelope and I saved them." -Dragonfly said, winking an eye at her. –"And from the looks of it, they're out of the bakery."

"Bakery? What bakery?" -Ladybug asked, continuing to pretend she was oblivious to what had happened.

"Oh, that would be our bakery." -Tom told her. –"She just showed up out of nowhere and attacked us." -he said.

"Yeah, Aphrodite did quite the number inside it." -Dragonfly waved her head.

"She was talking crazy about Valentine's Day being a hollow holiday and that our Love Palmiers were helping to promote that very same hollowness." -Sabine explained, as she remembered the words that came out of Aphrodite's mouth, and not understanding what she was talking about.

"How could she say that?! They're totally delicious!" -Ladybug commented, without wanting to. For a second she forgot she was talking to her parents as Ladybug, and not as Marinette.

"Oh, so you know our Love Palmiers? I must say, it's an honour to know that one of the biggest heroines in Paris is secretly our customer." -Tom smiled, which made Dragonfly have the blood drained from her face upon hearing that. She feared that Ladybug's parents would somehow make the connection and find out that it was actually Marinette under the mask.

"A-Actually, no… I'm not a big fan of sweets." -Ladybug lied. –"I hate lying to you, dad, but I can't risk you or mom finding out it's me under this mask." -she thought to herself. –"But, I've got a friend of mine who's got a sweet tooth, and who keeps telling me that your pastries are the best in Paris."

"Oh, I see." -Tom said, a little sad after hearing Ladybug say that. –"Still, if you ever change your mind, our bakery will have its door open for you and everyone else in your team." -he said.

"I might take you on that offer, if I happen to be patrolling in the neighbourhood." -Ladybug said.

All of a sudden, they all heard a loud bang, which made them all go to the edge of the rooftop to see what was going on. Looking down, they saw that Antelope had been thrown against a car, where it ricocheted and was then propelled against a nearby tree. Upon hitting it, Antelope let out of scream. He did not break anything, but from the stinging pain he had on his back, he knew he was going to be sore the next day. To make matters worse, Aphrodite was ordering her love zombies to surround him.

"Uh, Ladybug… I think that Antelope has bitten more than he can chew." -Dragonfly warned the scarlet heroine.

"Excuse us, but we've got to go." -Ladybug smiled at Tom and Sabine, before turning to Dragonfly with a serious look on her face. –"Let's go and help him out, before he ends up turned into a love zombie again." -she said, as she climbed to the edge of the rooftop and launched herself from it.

"Yeah, let's go before he gets himself dead." -Dragonfly agreed, as she followed Ladybug.

Having been left behind by the Miraculous Team, Madame Romani kept trying to release herself, so she could go after them. Unfortunately for her, the straitjacket she had been placed in, had made it impossible for her to move. On top of it, the bubble she had been place in, seemed quite sturdy. It was the second time in a week she ended up in a similar predicament, and she did not like it. Once more, she underestimated the heroes of Paris and that act alone, placed her in a delicate position. She knew that if she failed Hawk Moth once more, he would punish her severely. And she did not want to feel her master's wrath, knowing he would not be merciful with her.

"Curse those heroes." -Madame Romani thought to herself, as she looked through the bubble she was trapped in, and saw her crystal ball, a couple of meters from her. –"If I had my crystal ball, I could conjure up something to help me out of this bubble… but before I could do it, I would have to get rid of this dang straitjacket!" -she thought, as she continued to try and take off the straitjacket, just to realize something. –"It's no use… I'll dislocate a shoulder, before I can take this off."

A few seconds went by, when in a puff of purple smoke, Brutus showed up. Upon seeing him, Romani knew that Hawk Moth had sent him to free her. But more importantly, she knew that if he was there, it was because her master that did not trust her to get out of the jam, she was in. Looking at him, Madame Romani could not help but to feel disgusted by his presence. She was not Brutus' biggest fan, and after that situation, she was certain she would get a further reason to dislike him.

"Do not fret, I've come to help you." -Brutus warned her, as he pulled a battle axe from his chest. –"Now hold still, while I break this bubble." -he said, as he examined the bubble in question., It looked similar to the one the two of them ended up in, earlier that week.

"Hold still?! Is that a joke, you imbecile?! In case you're blind, I can't move thanks to this blasted straitjacket!" -Madame Romani yelled at him. –"I'm going to murder those kids for this humiliation…" -she thought to herself.

"There's no need for language." -Brutus warned her, as he prepared to swing the battle axe and break the bubble.

"Screw my language and get me out of here, right now! I've got a bunch of kids whose brains I want to turn to mush, from all the nightmares I'm going to plant on their heads!" -Madame Romani yelled at Brutus, as he hit the bubble with the axe, cracking its surface, while at the same time, making her fall on her butt. –"Watch it! I'm inside here, you brute!" –she yelled at him, feeling a little like a hamster inside a hamster ball that was constantly being bounced against a wall.

"You want to get out, or not?" -Brutus asked her.

"Just hurry it up!" -Madame Romani yelled at him, while giving him a disdainful look.

When Brutus finally cracked the bubble open, this one shattered into pieces, leaving Madame Romani free. Next, he released her from both the Hannibal Lecter mask and the straitjacket she was wearing. Once freed, the gypsy witch, instead of thanking him, went to get her crystal ball, and wasted no time in conjuring hundreds of stone cherubs. She planned to use them all to kill the Miraculous Team, or at the very least, kill one or two of them, leaving the rest for Aphrodite. With each cherub that she conjured, she felt a little weaker, but she did not care about it. She did not mind to use most of her power in creating those creatures, if they made the difference between the heroes' deaths and her defeat. Finishing conjuring the last of those cherubs, she noted Brutus was still standing where she had left him a couple of minutes earlier. Since he apparently was not going to say a word, she was forced to ask him what he was still doing there.

"Well, what are you waiting for?! Go back to the hideout. You already freed me." -Madame Romani said, not understanding why he was still there.

"Master Hawk Moth has instructed me to go with you. Together we will stand a better chance against the heroes." -Brutus told her. –"If you allow me to say it, I do believe that if we combine forces, we stand a better chance against the heroes." -he declared.

"I don't need you patronizing me! If our master told you to come with me, then come. But don't expect me to act like Reptile acts around you. I work alone. So, don't get in my way and make me waste my time! I've got a bone to pick with those kids." -Madame Romani told him. –"This time, they will know what means messing with me." -she thought to herself.

"Her judgement is clouded by anger and resentment. A true warrior should not have that kind of thoughts clouding its mind before a battle." -Brutus mused to himself. –"I must remain vigilante and make sure she doesn't do anything that could compromise the result of this offensive." -he thought.

In front of the Dupain-Cheng Bakery, the fight against Aphrodite had taken a turn for the worse. After being threatened by Hawk Moth, Aphrodite was determined to get the miraculouses of the whole team, who was now fighting against her. And to do so, she summoned every love zombie that was nearby to help her out. But in the process of doing it, she ended up unlocking another power of hers; a power which the heroes quickly saw was going to give them lots of problems. Somehow, someway, Aphrodite found a way to fire bursts of love dust, which quickly assumed her appearance, and tried to turn the heroes into love zombies. Seeing this, they quickly did the best to evade them, while also trying to come up with ways to counteract it. Carapace wasted no time in creating a wall of energy shields, hoping to prevent them from hitting him and the other members in the team that were with him. Unfortunately, these copies of Aphrodite quickly passed through the cracks between the energy shields, exposing the flaw in the defensive strategy of the turtle hero.

"Guess we're going to need another plan." -Arachnid told Carapace. –"Maybe you should try and capture them inside one of your energy spheres." -he suggested, as he roped several love zombies with his lasso, and then launching them to where they could not cause them any trouble.

"It's not a bad idea!" -Grizzly Bear exclaimed, as he used his massive strength to kick an automobile to the side, trying to get some space to move. –"They can pass through the cracks, but I doubt they'll be able to do that, when inside an energy bubble. Maybe you should so that!" -he said.

"Okay. You two keep those love zombies at bay, and I'll try it." -Carapace said, as he dodged an attack from one of Aphrodite's copies, and proceeded to try and capture it in one of his energy bubbles.

Not far from them, Flamingo, Forest Doe and Rena Rouge were doing their best to prevent the incredible number of love zombies to enter the square, as they continued to pour into it, coming from more than one direction. The fox heroine was using her illusions to try and force them out of the square, with a little help from Doe, who was using her arrows to pin down all the love zombies by their clothes, making it impossible for them to move. And while they did that, Flamingo did her best to continuously create copies of herself to help fight the love zombies, as well as help defend some of the heroes, who had their hands full with one or more adversaries. Looking at her, Rena Rouge could not help but to feel that Flamingo was beginning to show signs of exhaustion.

"Are you okay?" -Rena Rouge asked her friend.

"I… I… I'll manage myself." -Flamingo answered her, as she focused on creating more copies of herself.

"You don't look okay. Tell me, how many copies of yourself have you created?" -Rena Rouge asked her. She knew she had created several, but did not know an exact number.

"I've already lost count of it." -Flamingo sighed, as she created one more copy. –"But, they're probably 40 or 50 of me, right now." -she said, as she looked and saw copies of herself everywhere, fighting the love zombies or defending her friends.

"That's a lot of copies." -Forest Doe told her.

"I think you shouldn't create more. If you continue, you're going to run out of strength." -Rena Rouge told her. –"Look, just stay close to us and try to only move or attack if it's really necessary. Take a break from it, and just watch our backs, okay?" -she told her, believing the pink heroine needed to rest for a bit.

"She's right. You earned a couple of minutes to rest." -Forest Doe declared, as she shot another arrow with her bow.

"Alright." -Flamingo agreed. –"I don't want to admit, but I really need to rest for a bit… I think I've never created so many copies of myself." -she thought to herself.

On the opposite side of the square, Corbeau Noire was also busy using her power over the shadows, to use them against any love zombie that came near her. But she was not alone. Louve Grise was also trying her best to contain that seemingly invasion, by using her ice powers to freeze them in place. The problem was, just like it was happening with Flamingo, the two of them were beginning to show signs of fatigue. Still, they pressed on, believing that it would not be long until all that was solved.

But it was in the sky that the fight was the harshest. Aphrodite had taken to the rooftops, forcing Queen Bee and Dragonfly to go after her. Dragonfly was doing her best to try and hit her with her frisbee, but every time she thought she had her where she wanted, Aphrodite would just dodge it.

"Would you stand still for a moment?!" –Dragonfly asked her.

"Only if you give me your miraculous." -Aphrodite told her.

"Keep dreaming! You're not going to get your filthy hands on my miraculous." -Dragonfly shot at her.

"Leave this one to me." -Queen Bee exclaimed. –"You may have managed to get away from one of my tornados earlier… but let's see you do that a second time." -she said, as she readied herself to create one, when she heard a familiar sound behind her.

It was the sound of a helicopter rotor and the helicopter that was making it was one the heroes of Paris had already gotten used to show up during their fights against Hawk Moth's Akumas. It was the news helicopter from TVi, and aboard was none other than Nadja Chamack and part of her production team. After seeing the heroes leaving the exotic animal exhibit to fight Aphrodite, Nadja decided to follow them, dragging her production team along with her. Initially, they followed them in the news van, hoping to get to where the action was. But it was only a matter of time, before they all realized it would impossible to do so in the van, thanks to the pandemonium that was reigning on the streets. Not wanting to miss the story of the month, Nadja called the office and told them that she needed the helicopter to pick her up; and after doing the nearly impossible feat of climbing a whole building, to get to the rooftop, where the helicopter had landed, without being touched or kissed by one of the love zombies, she was ready to report what was going on.

"This is Nadja Chamack, live from the air, as we come to you with more updates on the battle between the Miraculous Team and the Akuma Hawk Moth has released into the city." -Nadja declared, while looking outside the window. –"As you can see, the number of people that have been hypnotized by the Akuma keeps growing, as the heroes try their best to fight them, while also fighting the Akuma, who is seemingly fighting Queen Bee and Dragonfly as we speak, in this battle which will certainly be remembered as the Battle of Valentine's Day." -she added, -"Let's try and get a closer look."

Seeing the helicopter approaching, Queen Bee quickly thought that was a bad idea. They already enough to deal with, and having to worry about the safety of those aboard the helicopter, when the Akuma was so close, was something they did not need.

"These guys never learn…" -Queen Bee sighed, as she flew in close to the helicopter. –"Get out of here! Now! It's not safe!" -she told the pilot, signalling him with her arms and hands.

"We better get out of here, like she says." -the pilot told Nadja. He could not hear what Queen Bee was saying, but he understood the signals she was making with both her arms and hands.

But before Nadja could tell him otherwise, Aphrodite fired a few blasts of love dust at the helicopter's window shield, making it impossible to see through it. She was trying to put everyone inside it under her control, but failed. Queen Bee herself was almost hit, but luck was one thing she had on her side. As for the helicopter, the pilot tried to remain calm, but not being able to see anything, was making it hard for him to keep the aircraft steady. Using her trompo, Queen Bee created a tiny tornado that she used to clean the window shield, hoping that would help the pilot.

"I think you should really get out of here. It's not safe." -Queen Bee said, as she grabbed one of the helicopter's landing skids and used it to swiftly, yet gently, send the helicopter in the opposite direction. –"I just hope I don't get anyone killed." -she said, as she saw the helicopter twirl in the air for a couple of seconds, before stabilizing and fly in the opposite direction. –"Not bad… and now, back to deal with that creep."

After Aphrodite attacked the news helicopter, Dragonfly took the opportunity to attack her from behind. Hitting her on the back, the Akuma fell on her face. Feeling confident, Dragonfly was about to strike her again, but Aphrodite was ready for her, and as she got close enough to her, she fired a blast of love dust at her. Luckily, Dragonfly was too fast for her, and was able to dodge it. Furious with that, Aphrodite was through with playing games with those two, and decided it was time to take the miraculouses from them.

"Very well… no more jokes. Your miraculouses are mine." -Aphrodite told the two heroines, as she looked them in the eyes.

Snapping her fingers, several trails of love dust burst from her body, hitting the rooftop and quickly assuming Aphrodite's shape.

"More of those…" -Queen Bee said, after seeing Aphrodite creating love dust copies of herself.

"Just when you think it just can't get any worse." -Dragonfly thought to herself.

But if they believed they had problems, then that was because they did not know the kind of problem Ladybug and Chat Noir were in. The duo was battling a foe that was far more dangerous than any Akuma or any creature created by it. They were battling Panda Rouge, who was attacked by a love zombie and turned himself into one. Knowing that if he touched them or kissed them, they too would switch teams, they did their best to evade every attempt of his to do so. And though the whole thing was serious, as they fought their friend, they could not help but to laugh or even fund some of the things he did or said funny.

"Come on, just one kiss!" -Panda Rouge said, as he tried to kiss Chat Noir, who dodged him.

"No, thank you, man. I'm not into guys." -Chat Noir said, joking with his friend, as Panda used his spear to try and get him. –"Whoa, that was close! Milady?! If you don't mind, a little assistance." -he exclaimed, as he saw Ladybug's yo-yo wrapped itself around Panda Rouge's spear.

"Sorry, Panda, but you can't kiss him!" -Ladybug said, as she pulled the spear from his hands.

"Then, I'll kiss you!" -Panda Rouge laughed, as he jumped over Chat Noir and charged against Ladybug, who saw him coming.

"Hold him for a bit, milady. I'll be right back!" -Chat Noir said, as he went to get some reinforcements to help them.

"Hurry up, then, kitty!" -Ladybug told him, as she dodged Panda Rouge, who upon hitting the ground, quickly got back up and grabbed his spear, which Ladybug had dropped.

"Just one kiss… please, Marinette… I would rather kiss Adrien, but…" –Panda Rouge chuckled, as he tried to kiss her.

"The only good thing about this, is that at least he's not using his special abilities. If he was, we would be in big trouble." -Ladybug thought to herself, as she dodged Panda's spear. –"Hey, watch where you point that thing! You're going to poke someone's eye with it! And don't use my real name, someone might hear you!" -she said, trying to make conversation with Panda Rouge, in hopes of buying herself some time, while waiting for Chat Noir to come back.

"Don't worry…" -Panda Rouge chuckled. –"I won't poke one of your lovely eyes… has anyone told you that you have really beautiful eyes?" -he asked her, as he charged against Ladybug, only for her to dodge out of the way.

"And has anyone told you that you talk too much when you're under Aphrodite's control?" -Ladybug asked him, as she used her yo-yo to strike him on the head, but failing. –"Crud! He's fast!" -she thought to herself.

"I-I'm not under anyone's control… I'm just feeling true love for the first time ever…" -Panda Rouge laughed. –"And I'm going to show it to you… once I kiss you!" -he kept laughing, while trying to find a way to kiss the scarlet heroine.

This kept going for what looked like an eternity between the two, as Ladybug felt like she was in some kind of macabre dance, where if she failed a single step, she would get turned into a love zombie; something she did not wish to happen. But it was not just Panda Rouge she had to worry about. She also had to worry about some love zombies that had managed to sneak past the barricades her friends were defending. One of such love zombies tried to grab her by the legs, but luckily, one of Flamingo's copies showed up in the nick of time and took him out. Believing she had an ally to help her out against Panda Rouge, Ladybug saw this small joy of hers go up in smoke, when Panda Rouge whacked Flamingo's copy on the head, taking her down, after which it disappeared. Following that, Panda Rouge jumped over Ladybug, and made her trip. Falling on her back, Panda wasted no time in trying to kiss her, by leaning on top of her, forcing her to use the string from her yo-yo to prevent him from getting too close to her face.

"Sorry, Nathaniel… forgive me for what I'm about to do, but you leave me no other choice." -Ladybug thought to herself, as she was about to kick him between the legs.

But just as she was about to do it, Carapace showed up and whacked Panda Rouge on the side, after which he wasted no time in placing him inside one of his energy bubbles. A few seconds later, Chat Noir, accompanied by Arachnid and Grizzly Bear, showed up. Seeing her on the ground, he helped her up.

"That was too close. Are you okay?" -Chat Noir asked Ladybug.

"Y-Yeah… and yeah, it was too close really." -Ladybug sighed, a little relieved. –"Hope you didn't knock him too hard." -she told Carapace.

"Don't worry, I didn't hit him too hard." -Carapace said, as he looked at Panda Rouge inside the energy bubble. –"Sorry, man, but we really can't have you around, behaving like that." -he apologized to his friend, as Panda Rouge tried to get out of the energy bubble, begging for a kiss or a hug. –"Hate to do this, but right now you're like a loose cannon."

"Are you sure he won't just use his special ability to get himself out of there?" -Grizzly Bear asked them, fearing that could happen.

"I don't think so. He could have used them to take us down and plant a huge kiss on us, but he didn't." -Ladybug said. –"Plus, the same thing happened with Alix and Kim. They could have used their special abilities, but they didn't. I'm thinking that when one of us ends up under Aphrodite's control, our brain becomes too clouded for us to remember to use our special abilities." -she hypothesized.

"That makes sense." -Arachnid admitted. –"And it explains why we… watch out!" -he yelled, as he pushed Chat Noir, making him fall on his back.

The others did not understand why Arachnid did what he did. But a second later, when a flaming arrow hit the ground in front of them, they understood why he did it.

"Whoa! Where did that come from?!" -Grizzly Bear asked.

"From up there!" -Chat Noir pointed up, as he got up.

Up on one of the rooftops, they all saw Madame Romani and Brutus looking down at them. But more importantly, they saw the army of stone cherubs that was behind them. Just from looking at it, they knew that had got out of the frying pan and into the fire.

"Great… more trouble." -Ladybug sighed. –"As if we didn't have enough trouble as it is." -she added.

"Shall we attack them, or wait for one of them to deliver one of those idiotic speeches, where they say they will kill us this time?" -Carapace asked sarcastically.

"No, thank you. I'm not even going to allow them to breathe." -Chat Noir said as he readied himself to go up against them.

"I'll take care of the big brute." -Grizzly Bear said as he looked at Brutus. –"I've been training a couple of moves and I want to test them on that bozo." -he admitted.

"You can have him. We'll handle those cherubs and Romani." -Carapace said, as he looked at Arachnid. –"In the meantime, you two go up there and help Bee and Dragonfly get rid of Aphrodite." -he told Chat Noir and Ladybug.

"I thought we were the leaders, you know?" -Ladybug joked.

"Yeah, well, it's like you're always saying… don't be afraid to talk." -Carapace joked back.

"You heard the man, let's go, milady." -Chat Noir said.

They had not finished talking, when Madame Romani's stone cherubs began descending on them, firing flaming arrows at them. Sticking to the plan, Ladybug and Chat Noir ran in the opposite direction, so they could lend a hand to Dragonfly and Aphrodite, while the rest went toe to toe with Hawk Moth's lieutenants. Using his energy shields, Carapace built a small barrier to keep him and Arachnid safe from the flaming arrows, as Arachnid made use of his lasso to rope cherubs and then smash them against one another.

As for Brutus, instead of letting others do his work for him, he decided to face the heroes head on. But unlike Madame Romani, who was trying to get them all with her stone cherubs, Brutus was focusing on one hero, Grizzly Bear. Ever since they fought for the first time, Brutus had seen a worthy adversary in him. And since he was standing down there, he decided he would be the first one he would fight against, in hopes of getting his miraculous for his master. Jumping from the rooftop, he landed on the ground, about 10 meters from where Grizzly Bear was standing.

"So, we meet again." -Brutus told Grizzly Bear.

"Yeah, we do. Are we going to rumble or not? Because if not, I've got better things to do, like stopping an Akuma." -Grizzly Bear told him.

"If by rumble, you mean fight, then, yes, we are." -Brutus said, as he pulled a large war-hammer from his chest, after which he hit the ground with it, making the ground shake lightly. –"I hope you have practiced your moves, since our last encounter, Grizzly Bear." -he told the bear hero.

"I have, and you're about to get your butt kicked with those same moves." -Grizzly Bear said, as he charged against him. –"I'm going to make him think that I'm just going to use brute force on him, and getting him into a false sense of security, before taking him head on." -he thought to himself.

They were still on their way to meet Queen Bee and Dragonfly, when a few stone cherubs attacked them from behind. Using their weapons as shields, both Chat Noir and Ladybug were counting on getting them together, wo they could destroy them in one quick swing. But what they did not know, was that the cherubs were not trying to hit them, but the cars that were around them, trying to blow them up. Madame Romani had instructed them to attack both the heroes, as well as their surroundings. One of the cherubs targeted a particular car that was behind the two heroes, hitting its gas tank, which made the car explode.

When the car exploded, Ladybug and Chat Noir were propelled forward, after which they ended up inside Dupain-Cheng Bakery. The explosion was so strong, that they both went through the wall between the bakery and its kitchen, with this last one ending up looking like World War III broke inside it. Chat Noir went against one of the ovens, while Ladybug landed on the work bench, where her dad usually tended the dough. Covered in flour, dough and several other ingredients, the scarlet heroine considered herself lucky she did not break anything; or at least, she believed she had not broken anything or was burned. One of the perks of the magic of their super suits was that it made them able to withstand flames to a certain degree, preventing them from ending up charcoaled. With her hears still buzzing from the explosion, she tried to get up, hoping the buzzing would go away.

"Are you okay, milady?" -Chat Noir said, as he got up. His right elbow was stinging a lot, but he tried to ignore it. –"Milady? Can you hear me?" -he called her out, after she did not answer him.

"I-I think so… but my hears are buzzing like Hell. Plus, I feel like one of my dad's loaves of bread." -Ladybug said, as she dusted the flour from her hair and face. –"Thank God we can use the Ampulla Amulet to straight things up. Otherwise, it would be hard for mom and dad to have the money to rebuild the bakery. This place's a mess." -she thought to herself.

Looking around, she saw the hole in the wall the two of them made, when they were practically shot inside the bakery. It was a large hole. Just thinking about how they did it, and were still in one piece, made Ladybug thank for their powers allowing them to come out alive after such feat. It was then that she heard a chuckling, turning her left to the left, she saw Chat Noir chuckling.

"What's so funny?" -Ladybug asked Chat, who kept chuckling, while looking at her.

"N-Nothing… it's just that I imagined you as a loaf of bread in my head, and the idea of it is really funny." -Chat Noir said, as he continued to imagine Ladybug like a loaf of bread. The thought alone was helping him not think about the pain coming form his elbow.

"Very funny… achoo!" -Ladybug said in a sarcastic tone, before sneezing, as she continued to dust the flour from her hair. –"I'm even afraid of looking myself in the mirror right now. I bet I look like a ghost." -she told Chat Noir.

"Well, if it's any consolation, you would look like a really cute ghost." -Chat Noir told her, as he closed in on her and removed a piece of bread dough she had on her hair. –"Hold on… there. We can't have the cutest superheroine in Paris to go around covered in bread dough, now can we?" -he smiled at her.

"Thanks, I…" -Ladybug said, as she caught eye of something, which triggered her brain to remind her of a memory.

Chapter Text

Outside, Madame Romani’s army of stone cherubs were shooting flaming arrows everywhere, trying to hit the heroes, who continued to deal with the love zombies and Aphrodite herself, who which seemed to get stronger, with each passing minute, while they looked and grew weaker and more tired. Some of them were even forced to seek a place to hide for a few minutes, just to get a little bit of their strength back. With Panda Rouge turned into a love zombie, and Ladybug and Chat Noir nowhere in sight, they were down to just 11 members. Usually, that number alone would be more than enough for them to deal with an Akuma and one of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants. Only this time, instead of just battling them, they also had to be careful not to be touched by the love zombies, while at the same time, not hurt them. They were just innocent people who were put under the Akuma’s spell, and forced to behave like that. All that, was just making things even more complicated for them, and they knew it.  

“At this rate, will be sitting ducks.” -Corbeau Noire said, as she and one of Flamingo’s copies, hid beneath an overturned car. Because of the stone cherubs, they had been forced to see shelter, at least, until the raven heroine was able to regain part of her strength. Even though that was not the real Flamingo, she was happy to have her there with her.   

“I know. Things aren’t good.” -Flamingo’s copy told her.  

“You’re not going to disappear, are you?” -Corbeau Noire asked her girlfriend’s copy.

“No, not yet… but I won’t last much longer. I’m starting to feel a little dizzy.” -Flamingo’s copy told her. The raven heroine was told by Flamingo, that when her copies began to feel a little dizzy, it was because she herself was beginning to show signs of exhaustion, making it harder for her to maintain the copies.    

“Don’t think about it.” -Corbeau Noire told her, knowing what she was thinking about. –“It’ll all be alright.”

“You don’t have to talk to me like I’m the real Flamingo. I know I’m not her. I’m just a copy of her. When I disappear, no one will even remember me.” -she told her with a sad voice.

“I will, remember, and so will Flamingo. Copy or not, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about you, or my girlfriend’s other copies. I care about you all, just like she does. She knows that without you or the other copies she creates of herself, she would not be able to pull out some of the stunts she does. That’s why I tell you that she does care about you.” -Corbeau Noire smiled at her, as she caressed her face. –“And the same thing goes for me. I also care about you all. Because in more than one way, you and all the other copies of her, are her. That’s why, until you disappear, I’m going to protect you, just like I protect Rose, whenever she’s next to me. And when you do disappear, I will thank the fact that you were here to help us fight.” -she declared.

“She’s really lucky to have you.” -Flamingo’s copy told her, when she was interrupted by a loud thud, coming from above them.

“Uh-oh, this is bad…” -Corbeau Noire said, as the noise continued.  

They had been listening to several different sounds. The sound of the flaming arrows being shot or the incessant giggling and chuckling of every love zombie that was still roaming around. But this sound was different. It sounded like someone, or something was pounding onto the car, and it kept repeating itself. Not knowing what was happening, the two of them prepared for the worst. And then, they saw the car around them being ripped apart, the same way one opens a can of sardines. The whole scene made them both wonder what was doing that. Corbeau Noire was about to use her powers to attack whatever was doing that, when she was surprised by two faces she knew quite well.    

“Need a hand?” -Rena Rouge asked her in casual tone, as she and another of Flamingo’s copies looked at them. But looking her in the eyes, she saw in her eyes that it was not one of Flamingo’s copies, but the real Flamingo. And around their feet, were numerous broken pieces of stone, scattered all over the place.

“Were you the ones doing that sound?” -Corbeau Noire asked Rena, as Flamingo helped her up. 

“Yes, and no. That was us breaking and shattering stone cherubs.” -Rena Rouge told her, as she pointed at the rubble at their feet. –“What you heard, was what was left of them hitting the car, after we broke them.” -she said.

“She noticed that you had crawled beneath the car, and we were worried that you might be hurt.” -Flamingo said, as she hugged her.

“No, I’m okay, and I had someone to keep me company.” -Corbeau Noire said, as she looked at Flamingo’s copy.

“Hate to break up this cute moment between you, but that gypsy witch has dispatched more of these things and they don’t look like they’re here to play with us.” -Rena Rouge warned Flamingo and Corbeau Noire, while pointing at the small group of flying stone cherubs that was flying towards them. –“It’s time to play baseball with these guys.” -she said, as she held her flute-staff like it was a baseball bat. 

“You’re feeling strong enough to fight?” -Flamingo smiled at her girlfriend.

“As long as I’m around you… and your copies, I’ll be alright.” -Corbeau Noire said, as she winked at Flamingo’s copy, who showed her a little smile. –“Let’s bash these idiots and turn them into rubble.” -she said. She was not feeling especially filled with energy, just like the rest of the heroes, but she was not just going to stand-by and let them do all the work.

And Grizzly Bear was no exception to the exhaustion that was taking over the bodies and minds of the heroes. As he battled Brutus, he felt his strength diminishing little by little. And he was not the only who saw that. Brutus also noticed that his moves were getting slower, and every time he managed to land a punch or a kick on him, these were consistently weaker.    

“Feeling tired?” -Brutus asked Grizzly Bear.

“Not really. What about you? Are you getting tired?” -Grizzly Bear asked him in a mocking tone, trying to hide the fact that he was beginning to feel exhausted.

"Of course, not. When in battle, a true warrior manages to get the energy he needs to keep going, from every single blow he lands on its enemies! Every drop of sweat and blood that your body secretes, is proof that as long as there's a fighting spirit within you, you can continue to fight!" -Brutus said, as he swung his war-hammer against Grizzly Bear, missing his body by mere centimetres, as the bear hero performed a backflip.

"This guy has seen Spartacus and Gladiator one too many times." -Grizzly Bear thought to himself. –"If that's so, then why is it that it feels like you're not even trying to hit me with that giant mallet?!" -he taunted him

"You talk big, but let's see if you can handle my strength, when combined with my speed. And it's not a mallet, it's a war-hammer." -Brutus said as he threw the war-hammer against Grizzly Bear, before jumping into the air. Once Grizzly dodged it, the war-hammer turned to dust, as Brutus pulled from his upper arms twin cinquedas and tried to hit Grizzly with them, only for him to escape. –"Looks like you've been training your dodging moves as well." -he said.

 “Yeah, guess I’m faster than I look.” -Grizzly Bear spoke in a cocky voice. –“I barely managed to dodge that attack of his. I’ve got to be careful.” -he thought to himself.

“We’ll see about that. This fight is just beginning.” -Brutus declared, as he brandished both cinquedas and prepared himself to attack once again. –“Come at me, if you dare!” -he said.

And while the heroes tried their best to stay alive, the team leaders were inside the bakery, where Ladybug seemed to be having a sort of seizure, as she was standing, without moving an inch, and her eyes seemed devoided of life. All this was making Chat Noir nervous, as he did not understand what was going on, and was worried that Ladybug had bumped her head and was seriously injured.

“Ladybug? Milady? Bugaboo? Marinette? Say something, please!” -Chat Noir said, as he grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her lightly.  


Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, and Tom Dupain was trying his best to come up with a specialty to be sold during the week before that date, and on the date itself. He had been trying numerous kinds of recipes, trying to find the one that would perfect, but until that moment, he had failed to do so. Still, this new one looked promising. He had decided to take an old favourite of everyone in France, palmiers, and give it a twist. And to help him with it was his daughter, Marinette. With only five years old, Tom’s little princess already insisted in helping him out.    

“Do you have my strawberries ready, my little princess?” -Tom asked Marinette, who was trying to crush an entire bowl of strawberries into purée.   

“Almost, daddy.” -Marinette said, as she did her best to crush the strawberries in the bowl.

“Here, let me help you with this.” -Tom said, as he gently took the wooden spoon from Marinette’s hand. –“Now, place your hand on top of mine, and try to keep up, Marinette.” -he told her.

Tom’s hand looked enormous compared to Marinette’s little hand. Looking at it, Tom could not help but to think of his little girl as the most delicate thing in the world. Still, even thinking about it, he focused on what he was doing. Marinette had done most of the work, but those strawberries still needed to be crushed a little further. Once he felt that the delicious red fruits had been crushed enough, he looked at Marinette and smiled, telling her that she had done a terrific job, after which she giggled. Grabbing the bowl, he went to the stove and gently poured the crushed strawberries into a pan filled with refined sugar. Stirring it gently, soon the strawberries mixed with the sugar, creating a delicious red syrup, which kept bubbling, as Tom stirred it. He wanted the syrup to get the perfect consistency, for when he poured it on top of the palmiers, which would be ready quite soon. 

“It smells so good, dad.” -Marinette giggled, as she inhaled the sweet aroma of the strawberry syrup.

“It does, doesn’t it?” -Tom smiled at her. –“Do you want to see it bubbling?” -he asked her, as she waved her head.

Grabbing her, he carefully allowed her to look inside the pan and see the syrup inside it. Seeing it, little Marinette could not help but to feel like she was looking inside a magical cauldron, and imagining that the syrup Tom and her had been making, was actually a magical potion, which smelled divinely.    

“What’s so funny?” -Tom asked Marinette, who was giggling.

“It’s making bubbles!” -Marinette giggled.

“Oh, you think that’s funny?” -Tom chuckled.

“Yes!” -Marinette giggled.

“Well, how about we let it bubble a little more, while we check on the palmiers, to see if they are all done, or not?” -Tom joyfully asked Marinette, who smiled at him.

Putting her on the ground, Tom lowered the stove, after which he placed his oven mitts. Opening the oven, he pulled the tray out, where several beautifully heart-shaped golden palmiers were resting. Smiling at the result, he placed the tray on the table, before closing the oven’s door. Taking off the oven mitts, he was going to wait for the palmiers to cool down a little, before proceeding to the next part of making. He was about to check on the strawberry syrup, when he noticed Marinette was about to touch the stull warm tray, and quickly stopped her.   

“No, no, no, hold on, honey.” -Tom said, as he stopped Marinette from touching the still hot tray. –“You must always be careful, Marinette. The tray’s still really hot. And we don’t’ want you to get burn, do you?” -he smiled at her.

“But you’re always burning yourself.” -Marinette told him.

“Yes, I am always burning myself. But I burn myself while cooking, so you don’t have to, especially when you help me.” -Tom said. –“And besides, we don’t want mom to get angry, now do we? If she knew that you got yourself burned, she would never let you help me in the kitchen again, you know?” -he told her, as he pinched her cheek, making her giggle. –“Now, how about we finish delicious sweets?”

“Can I lick the spoon?” -Marinette asked.

“But of course, honey. But only when they syrup is already cold.” -Tom told her, with a smile.

While waiting for the syrup to cool down, Tom arranged the palmiers on another tray, with Marinette giving him a hand. They all looked perfect, and they would look even better when they were finished. And once the syrup had cooled enough, Tom proceeded to finish them, while giving the wooden spoon that he had been using to stir it, to Marinette, who proceeded to lick it. When they were finished, Tom felt happy with the result. Unlike it happened with his previous attempts, Tom believed that those were palmiers would be the perfect treat to sell on Valentine’s Day. He had a good feeling about them, and that feeling became even stronger, every time he looked at them.       

“They look so pretty. They look like real hearts.” -Marinette said, as she looked at the red syrup covered palmiers.

“They sure do.” -Tom agreed with her. –“And you know, they’re going to need a name.” -he told Marinette.

“And what name will that be, daddy?” -Marinette asked him.

“Well… I was thinking, Heart Palmiers. Do you like the name, honey?” -Tom asked Marinette who waved her head, as not liking the name. –“No? You don’t like it? Well… how about Love Palmiers? Do you like that name better, Marinette?” -he asked her, and she nodded. –“Okay, then, we’ll call them Love Palmiers.”

(End of Flashback)

“Milady?” -Chat Noir asked her. –“Marinette, what’s going on?! Answer me, please!” -Chat Noir called her out, trying not to panic.

“Uh... what?” -Ladybug said, as she herself back to reality.

“Marinette, what happened?” -Chat Noir asked her, slightly relieved to see her talking.

“I… I… I don’t really know…” -Ladybug told him. –“But this is… this is starting to become a habit.” –she said.

“What’s starting to become a habit?” -Chat Noir asked her.

“These memories.” -Ladybug declared.

“What memories?” -Chat asked her, not understanding what she was talking about. –“What are you talking about?” -he asked her.

“Well, the first time it happened, was when the others and I were battling Origami. I had this memory of the first time my mom taught me how to make an origami butterfly, and that gave me an idea for a plan.” -Ladybug told him. –“And now, I had another one, where I’m with my dad and he was creating the Love Palmiers for the very first time and I was helping him, and he asked me to taste the strawberry syrup he uses on them… wait a moment…” -she said.

And it was then that Ladybug had an epiphany. She did not know how she did not see it before, but she was seeing it now. What happened to her, was perhaps not as random as she initially thought.  

“I’m thinking my special power, you know, my 6th sense, is somehow evolving, and it’s manifesting this way now.” -Ladybug told Chat Noir. –“I mean, the power itself still works the same way it did before, but now…”

“But now it’s like it’s been upgraded, and when necessary, it works like that, by showing you memories, which might help you solve a problem you have.” –Chat Noir said.

“When you say it like that, it’s almost like we’re talking about a cell phone app, but yeah. I couldn’t have put it better myself.” -Ladybug declared. –“One thing’s for certain, I’ll have to talk about this with Tikki and with Master Fu, to know if there have been other Ladybugs who’s 6th sense suffered an upgrade.” -she said.

“But what triggered that memory?” -Chat asked her, curious.

“That over there.” -Ladybug said, as she pointed to the stove. On top of it was a pan, from where a delicious smell emanated. -“My dad’s strawberry syrup. The smell alone was more than enough to trigger that memory… he must have set it on low, and forgot about it when all this began.” -she said, as she approached the stove, surprised that with the whole ruckus she and Chat did, that the pan did not fall from the stove. –“He overdid on the vanilla and the ginger again… like he always does. No wonder dad’s pastries always come out perfect. He always puts a little bit more of each ingredient in them, just to make them taste even better.

“But how does that help you?”” -Chat asked her.

Ladybug did not answer immediately. Instead, she thought about the memory and what this one had showed her. After a couple of seconds, a plan had formed inside her mind, and she believed that it would work, if they were able to pull it out.   

“I think I know how we can stop Aphrodite” -Ladybug said. –“But we’re going to need the fastest members in our team, as well as our flying members, and this batch of my dad’s strawberry syrup.” -she smiled at Chat Noir.

“What exactly do you have in mind, milady?” -Chat Noir asked her, curious about what her plan would be.

“Listen carefully…” -Ladybug said.

Up in the air, Dragonfly and Queen Bee continued to battle Aphrodite. They were trying their best to keep up with her, as she continued to throw all kinds of attacks at them, but they were beginning to run on fumes.

“Just give me your miraculouses, and I’ll save you the trouble of having to take it from you, once you’re dead. I’ll promise that I’ll even use my love dust on you, and that way you two can go on and experience what true love really is.”   

“You can forget about it!” -Queen Bee declared.

“And as far as true love, I think I’ll take my chances with another kind of love that isn’t the one you’re continually advertising.” -Dragonfly shot at Aphrodite.

Hearing her that, Aphrodite attacked them again, trying to get them under her control. As she did that, Hawk Moth’s words kept echoing in her head. After the last conversation she had with him, she knew that if she failed, the consequences would not be good for her. And so, she increased the speed of her attacks, hoping to catch either Queen Bee or Dragonfly, or the two of them. Suddenly, she felt something piercing her left shoulder. Gritting her teeth, she took her right hand to where she was feeling pain and felt what had hit her, an arrow. Looking down, she saw Forest Doe, with another arrow on her bow, ready to be shot at her.

“Sneaky little doe! Attacking me from behind…” -Aphrodite smiled wickedly at Forest Doe.

“Maybe… go ahead, try your tricks on me.” -Forest Doe said, as she disappeared again, only to reappear seconds later on the other side of the rooftop. –“Come on! I think you’ve already had your fun with those two. Why don’t you try the same thing with me? I bet you’re not even capable of hitting me!” -she challenged, never taking her eyes of her.  

Even though she was focused on Dragonfly and Queen Bee, Aphrodite changed targets, deciding to take down Forest Doe first, after she challenged her. What she did not noticed was that before she attacked her, Forest Doe had left a message on a wall of one of the surrounding buildings, using her arrows. This message was a drawing of a bird with its wings open, accompanied by the representation of the wind blowing. And that message was a warning. It was one of many warnings that the team had conceived to communicate amongst themselves, when they found themselves unable to speak face to face And that one was addressed to all the fliers and speedsters in the Miraculous Team, warning them that Ladybug or Chat Noir needed to talk to them, urgently. Seeing it, Dragonfly and Queen Bee left Forest Doe to deal with Aphrodite, who had clearly lost her interest in them, and wasted no time in finding the scarlet heroine and the feline hero.    

At the same time, Madame Romani was controlling her stone cherubs, from the top of a building. She had created an enormous army of them, but when seeing the Miraculous heroes taking them down, she continued to create more to replace the ones that went down, even if that meant wasting some of her precious energy. She wanted to kill the heroes with her bare hands, but she was not foolish to face them without some advantage that would benefit her. So, by continuing to create stone cherubs, she planned on exhausting them, before going for the kill.

They destroyed five more… no matter, five new ones, coming up.” -Madame Romani mused to herself, as she used her crystal ball to create five new stone cherubs. –“No matter how many of these they destroy, I’ll replace them with new ones… and I’ll give them some more powerful weapons. These new ones, instead of just flaming arrows, they will have exploding arrows as well. It’s going to take more of my energy to do it, but it will be worth it.” -she thought, while laughing manically.

She was just finishing conjuring those last stone cherubs, when suddenly, one of the heroes stopped right in front of her. And who would be bold enough to do that, but Antelope, who kept showing her a cocky smile, as if he was challenging her.

“You’ve got a lot of guts of showing up here, without your dragonfly girlfriend.” -Madame Romani said, as she ordered one of the stone cherubs to attack Antelope.    

“She’s not my girlfriend, and I don’t need to be incredibly brave to come here and challenge you… after all, you’re just a one-trick pony.” -Antelope mocked her, as he dodged the cherub’s attempt to kill him. 

“You’re going to eat those words!” -Madame Romani yelled at him.

“Yeah, right… I bet you can’t catch me!” -Antelope shot at her, as he used his bat to whack the cherub that was chasing him. –“I bet that I can literally run laps around you and what’s left of your stone cherubs.” -he said. –“I’ll tell you what! If you or one of your stone cherubs is able to touch me, I’ll give you my miraculous. You can even send all the cherubs after me, I don’t care.”

“You think I’m stupid enough to fall for something like that?” -Madame Romani raised an eyebrow at him.

“Who knows? I mean, you’re not exactly very smart to begin with… if you were, you, and probably the rest of your partners in crime would have been able to kill at least one of us, and you haven’t, so…” -Antelope continued to mock her.

“You’ll eat those words, kid, right after I skin you alive!” -Madame Romani exclaimed, as she ordered every stone cherub to stop doing what they were doing and to begin chasing Antelope. –“If he wants a challenge, I’m going to give it to him!” -she thought.   

“She and her massive ego… works every time.” -Antelope thought to himself, as Madame Romani deployed every last of her stone cherubs to chase him. What Madame Romani did not know was that all that was part of the plan Ladybug had come up with. Because Chat Noir was able to find him, as soon as he left the bakery, he told him what Ladybug wanted him to do, and Antelope wasted no time in putting her plan into motion. –“Oh, come on! You’re sending your stone pigeons to get me, but you’re too good to try and catch me yourself?!” -he said, as he saw the stone cherubs in the sky approaching him.

“You’re going to regret mocking me, when I catch you myself, Antelope!” -Madame Romani growled at him, as she too began to chase after him.   

And you’re going to be sorry you ever tried to come after me, witch.” -Antelope thought to himself.    

Enraged by what Antelope had told her, Madame Romani was now determined to kill him with her own hands. As for the antelope hero, he knew just what to do. But for things to proceed as scheduled, he needed to be sure that all, or most of the stone cherubs were chasing him, along with the gypsy witch. To make sure that happened, he wasted a little time, performing numerous stunts, just to make sure every last stone cherub came after him. Once he felt that Romani had dispatched most of the cherubs after him, he sprinted as fast as he could, avoiding the occasional love zombie that was still roaming, towards where the next part of the plan was going to take place.  

Grizzly Bear and Brutus continued fight, and were so caught up in their struggle, they did not even notice Antelope and Madame Romani coming towards them. Grizzly Bear had just managed to dodge Brutus’ latest attack, when he saw Antelope approaching, followed by Madame Romani and a massive army of stone cherubs, and knew from the expression on his face that there was something up with him. Not sure if Brutus had seen his friend or not, he decided to keep him looking at him, by attacking him again. 

“Come on! My grandmother punches harder than you, man! Don’t tell me you can’t punch harder?!” -Grizzly Bear taunted Brutus.

Hearing him say that, Brutus’ temper got the better of him, something that did not happen often, but the fight was beginning to tire him. And so, he charged against Grizzly, with both fists closed, determined to punch him. But like it happened so many times to those who attack in rage, he failed, tripping and falling on the ground. By then, Antelope was pretty much on top of them, and he kept sprinting. Understanding, what he was about to do, Grizzly jumped forwards, getting out of the way, as Antelope passed in front of Brutus, just before Madame Romani, blinded by rage as well, hit him. When this happened, a loud thud was heard, creating a small blast wave, as they hit each other, sending each of them flying a couple of meters in opposite directions, before falling on the ground. When all this happened, every stone cherub that Romani had created disappeared into thin air. Both Brutus and Romani were heaving, as they tried to get up. What happened to them had left them in a pretty bad shape, but neither one, nor the other was ready to throw in the towel. They both knew what would happen if they dared to give up. And as they tried to get up, the heroes were already getting ready to take them down again.     

“Nice dodging man… but it’s time we finish this. Hadouken Shoryuken Combo!” -Antelope told him, as he performed a backflip, celebrating the stunt he had just pulled. –“I’ll take her, you take him, and then we exchange!” -he said. 

“Got it!” -Grizzly Bear nodded to him, knowing just what to do.

Antelope and Grizzly Bear did not have many attacks where they combined their abilities, but that one was perhaps the one they liked the most. The attack consisted in the two of them mimicking the iconic attacks from their favourite Street Fighter characters, Ryu and Ken, while giving them a little twist of their own. Going for their respective target, they attacked them, mimicking Ryu and Ken’s attacks respectively, before changing targets and applying the same combo. The result was two of Hawk Moth’s lieutenants on the ground, knocked out cold.   

“Man… we don’t get to use this attack often, but when we do, we rock!” -Antelope exclaimed, as he high fived Grizzly Bear.

“You got that right.” -Grizzly Bear smiled, as he looked down and saw Brutus and Madame Romani passed out on the floor. –“These two won’t be waking up anytime soon. Not after the pounding they just had.” -he added. 

“And a good thing too, because we needed them out of the picture for the plan to work.” -Antelope declared.

“What plan?” -Grizzly Bear asked him, not understanding what he was talking about.

“I’ll tell you as we go. Believe me, it’s a doozy, and we might just get there in time to be part of the action.” -Antelope told him.

Forest Doe continued to keep Aphrodite busy, as the blonde Akuma tried to hit her with everything she had. She had become so obsessed with catching her, she did not notice that the remaining heroes had all positioned themselves around the rooftop where she was battling Doe. And it was this obsession that would soon dictate her defeat.

Doe herself was keeping an eye out for what was going around her, knowing that at any moment, the next part of Ladybug’s plan would kick into action. Still, she hoped it would not take too long, because she was beginning to feel exhausted, and Aphrodite could tell that just from looking at her.

“Feeling tired, little doe?” -Aphrodite asked the doe heroine.

“Not really.” –Forest Doe lied, as she tried to get her breath back.

“Don’t lie to me. I can see it in your eyes. You’re beginning to feel exhausted. Why don’t you just give up? While you, with each passing minute, get weaker, I only get stronger.” -Aphrodite told her, as she attacked her again. –“Just give up, and everything will be alright… true love will make everything alright.” -she smiled evilly at her.      

“Hey, you!” -a voice called Aphrodite, who turned around and saw to who it belonged to, Queen Bee, who was standing on the rooftop. –“Don’t tell me you forgot about me?!” -she asked her with an annoyed voice, pretending she was mad at her.

“Oh, I didn’t forget about you. I’m just focused on your friend here. If you are a little patient, I’ll take care of you, little bee.” -Aphrodite told her.

“Hey, no one calls me little bee! It’s Queen Bee, and you get down from there and face me!” -Queen Bee declared. –“Or are you afraid to lose to someone prettier than you are?” -she called her out.  

 “Prettier than me?! Have you looked yourself in the mirror?!” -Aphrodite asked her, believing she was mocking her.

“Yes, I have, and while I rock with this beautiful blond hair, you look like something out of a cartoon!” -Queen Bee told her.

“A cartoon?!” -Aphrodite shouted at her, enraged, as she came down and landed on the rooftop, right in front of Queen Bee. –“How dare you call me that? I am beauty incarnated! I am the one who will show Paris and the world what love really is! I am the goddess of love!” -she shouted at her.

“Goddess of love? Please, if you’re the goddess of love, then, I’m Selena Gomez, and I’m not!” -Queen Bee shot at her in a sarcastic voice, further annoying irritating Aphrodite, who could not see that that whole match of insults, was just a way to keep her distracted. –“You’re a poser! I mean, have you looked at yourself in the mirror?! Those rags that you’re wearing, they totally do not match your hair style, which like I said, it looks like something out of a cartoon… a cheesy cartoon, by the way.” -she continued throwing insults at the Akuma. –“From all the Akumas Hawk Moth has created so far, you’re probably the one with less style, and you’re definitely the ugliest… and calling you ugly, is more than you deserve, a lot more.”

“I’m going to force you to eat every single word you just told me… and then, I’m going to spray so much love dust on you, that you will fall in love even with the lowest bacteria on this planet.” -Aphrodite told her. You could see the anger in her eyes and her face; a first, since she only showed them and everyone else a sweet and tender side, which now the bee heroine could see was nothing but a mask.

And with Aphrodite distracted, Ladybug, who was hidden, like the other heroes, knew the time was right. Exiting from her hiding spot, she was carrying the pan with her dad’s boiling strawberry syrup on her hands, and she was going to use it to end the madness Aphrodite had started. Reaching her, she threw the content of the pan directly at Aphrodite’s face. What followed next, was a scene worthy of a horror movie.  

“Aaaargh!!! My eyes!!! It hurts!” -Aphrodite screamed, as the boiling syrup burned her face and her eyes.

It’s now or never!” -Ladybug thought to herself, as the last part of her plan was about to begin.

Aphrodite continued to scream in pain, as the boiling syrup ran down her face, burning it. Knowing they would not get another chance like that, the heroes went ahead and used their last trump card, the Merry Go-Round attack. With hit, they were all going to use the last of their strength to take her down. Using her trompo, Queen Bee created a small tornado around Aphrodite. This one was not as strong as the ones she was used to create. But it was supposed to be smaller and less strong than her usual tornados, so the heroes could go inside it and use their powers against the Akuma, and then exit it. They had come up with that attack, when Queen Bee accidentally created a weaker tornado, and upon examining it, she was sucked inside it, but was able to get out of it. With that in mind, the whole team came up with the idea of the whole Merry Go Round routine, but they had never attempted it in battle before. Still, they were about to see if it worked as well as they had practiced it.  

Chat Noir was the first one to enter the tornado, and he wasted no time in using Cataclysm on Aphrodite. As soon as he was finished, Rena Rouge went ahead, and so forth. Every last one of the heroes went ahead and used one last attack on Aphrodite, who due to the excruciating pain she was in, as well as being blind, was unable to defend herself. And every time she was hit, she became weaker. To make sure the tornado would not lose too much strength, the flying members of the team, gave it a small boost, while inside it, so Queen Bee would not use all of her energy sustaining it. Even with the pain she was in, Aphrodite still tried her best to defend herself, but in the state, she was in, it was useless. Antelope and Grizzly Bear arrived a little late, but they were still able to contribute to her final demise.       

After the last one of them entered the tornado and attacked Aphrodite, Queen Bee ordered her trombo to stop spinning, allowing the tornado died, Aphrodite’s unconscious body feel to the ground. They had defeated her, and as soon as her body hit the ground, everyone that had been turned into a love zombie returned to normal, as the Akuma Butterfly exited Aphrodite’s body and tried to run away. 

“No more evil doings for you, you blasted Akuma Butterfly. I relinquish you from evil!” -Ladybug exclaimed, as she used her yo-yo to destroy the dark creature, obliterating it.  

Chapter Text


With the Akuma Butterfly destroyed, the team could all breathe easy again. The only thing that was left to do was using the Ampulla Amulet to put everything back the way it was, before Aphrodite showed up. Still, none of them used it right away, taking the time to appreciate the fact that there were no more giggles or chuckles coming from any love zombie in the air, while also taking the time to congratulate themselves on a job well done.

"Nice job with those insults." -Chat Noir said, praising Queen Bee.

"Thanks. I guess this is one of the few times that I thank the fact that I was once the nastiest bitch ever. Because if I hadn't been, I would probably not have been able to say all those nasty things." -Queen Bee sighed, not feeling really proud of herself right then.

"Well, it's a good thing you were a nasty bitch once, because like you said, if you hadn't been one, we wouldn't have been able to beat Aphrodite." -Antelope told her. –"It was your insults that kept her distracted for the boss lady to do her thing." -he declared.

"He's right. It was thanks to you and your insults that the plan did work." -Ladybug told her, which made the blonde smile.

"Well, it was not just thanks to her, but let's face it, she did play a very important part." – Dragonfly smiled at her. –"I guess congratulations are in order for us all."

"I agree. We all made this happen, again." -Carapace smiled.

Ladybug was about to say something, when she and the others heard a grunt, mixed with a lot of moaning. Looking down, they saw the girl who had been Aphrodite until a few moments ago, was beginning to wake up, and she had a nasty headache, like it happened with most

"Uh… my head… w-what happened?" -Madison asked, when she looked up and saw the heroes of Paris staring at her. –"Oh, no, I was akumatized, wasn't I?" -she asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yes, you were. But it's okay now. You're back to normal and the nightmare is over." -Louve Grise told her.

"I… I can't remember anything." -Madison confessed. Her mind was a little dizzy, and pretty much all that happened while she was under Hawk Moth's influence was a blur.

"It's standard procedure. Most people who get akumatized, don't remember anything, or very little of what happened, after they're infected by one of Hawk Moth's Akuma Butterflies." -Louve Grise explained to her.

"It was all because of that guy, Rene, who stood me up…" -Madison said, as she remembered the cause of her akumatization.

"Actually, he didn't stand you." -Dragonfly told her. –"You probably don't remember this, but you attacked him and I saved him, and while I was taking him to a safe location, he told me that his boss made him work late last night and that his cell phone got stolen

"Really?" -Madison said. –"Oh, God… now I really feel awful about it." -she sighed.

"Don't be. It's not your fault. Besides, I told him that when this was all over, that he should look for you and try to explain everything. He's not such a bad guy." -Dragonfly declared.

"But first, we've got to put everything back the way it was." -Forest Doe said. –"Who wants to do the honours?"

"I'll do it. It's been some time since I used it." -Rena Rouge said, as she made the Ampulla Amulet appear out of thin air. –"Okay, let's use it so the 14 of us can go and do something else, other than fighting Akumas." -she joked.

"Yeah, all 14… wait a moment, there's only 13 of us up here." -Flamingo said. –"Where's Panda Rouge?" -she asked.

"Oh, my gosh! We forgot about Panda Rouge inside one of the energy bubbles!" -Ladybug exclaimed, remembering that Carapace was forced to put him inside one, after he was turned into a love zombie.

"No sweat, I'll release him, right away, while you put things back the way they were." -Carapace winked at Rena Rouge, who winked back at him, as he snapped his fingers.

And as soon as Carapace snapped his fingers, every energy construct he had created disappeared, releasing those that ended up in them, including Panda Rouge. The holder of the red panda miraculous had returned to normal a few moments before, and figured that if he had ended up inside one of Carapace's energy bubbles, was because he had ended up under Aphrodite's control, and they had been forced to lock him up. He could have used his powers to escape it, but decided to wait for the turtle hero to release him. Once out of it, he could not help but to stretch himself, as he looked around and saw they still had not used the Ampulla Amulet. And then, in a blink of an eye, everything went back the way it was, as a magic wave spread all over the place.

"Well, that's that." -Panda Rouge smiled, as he looked around. –"Things are back to normal, and… look who we have here." -he said, as he spotted two very unique individuals, lying on the sidewalk.

Madame Romani and Brutus were both lying on the sidewalk, still unconscious. Grizzly Bear and Antelope had done a remarkable job dealing with them, though part of the reason why they were on the ground, had been Romani's doing, who accidentally went against Brutus. Looking at them, Panda Rouge felt that that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. For months, he and the rest of the team had been trying to get their hands on at least one of Hawk Moth's lieutenants, so they could force them to reveal where was their hideout. But they always managed to get away in the ensuing chaos. But as luck would have it, on that day, they were right there, and all he had to do was make sure they would not go anywhere. Turning his spear back into its pencil-form, he was going to trap them, before waking them up and interrogating them. But as he was about to begin drawing, the two of them disappeared in a cloud of smoke. No doubt Hawk Moth did not want him to interrogate them.

"And there they go… why am I not surprised that their boss teleported them, before one of us could get to them?" -Panda Rouge sighed. –"I wonder what kind of punishment Hawk Moth has in store for the two of them? One thing's for sure, I'm glad I'm not in their shoes, right now." -he thought to himself, slightly amused, as he went to meet the rest of the heroes.

Already on the ground, the heroes were applauded by their efforts, as people praised them with kind words and requests of selfies. The one who was not comfortable with all that was Madison. She was not used to have so many people staring at her, and one of the first thoughts that came to her mind, was wondering if they knew that she had been the one who turned them all into mindless zombies. To make matters worse, Nadja Chamack and her team had arrived to be the first ones to get the exclusive details of that battle from the mouth of the Miraculous Heroes. After being dropped by the helicopter, they literally ran there to interview them.

"Uh, look, it's not that I'm not thankful for helping me, but I don't really want to end up in the news." -Madison commented. –"It's bad enough knowing I did what I did while I was an Akuma. I don't need to be reminded of it, as they interviewed me for the 8 o'clock news." -she admitted.

"If that's so, then here's a tip to get out of sight in a jiffy. Go through that street over there, then turn left and go through the alleyway, all the way to the end." -Ladybug suggested, as Madison looked at her puzzled, as if wondering how she knew that. –"I patrol this neighbourhood a lot, so, I pretty much know all the shortcuts." -she smiled at her.

Thanking Ladybug, Madison decided to get out of there, while saying she was going to find Rene and straight things with him, before disappearing. It was not the first time a victim of akumatization did not want to be interviewed by the media, and it would not be the last. And who could blame for such decision? Most people wish to appear on television, but never for the wrong kind of reasons, and being akumatized and placing most of Paris under its control, is never a good one. Seeing Nadja approaching them, as they continued to taking selfies with everyone who asked them for one, they tried to figure who would be giving Nadja the interview she was going to ask them.

"So, who's going to sacrifice himself or herself and give Nadja an interview?" -Chat Noir asked, as he knelt to take a selfie with a little girl. –"Say cheese, honey!" -he said, as he smiled to the camera.

"What about you? You always look good on camera." -Louve Grise told Queen Bee, as she posed for a selfie.

"Not today, sorry. I'm not really in the mood to get in the spotlight." -Queen Bee declared, as a young woman asked her for a selfie, and she instantly posed for it.

"I'll take care of it. After all, I kind of owe it to her. I did save her from being eaten by a panther anyways." -Grizzly Bear told the team.

"A panther? Oh, my, I forgot to ask, what about my dad? Did you happen to see him?" -Rena whispered to Antelope, who was standing next to her.

"Uh, y-yes… he was alright, when we left him." -Antelope whispered to her ear, without revealing that he and Dragonfly had knocked him cold, when he showed up as a love zombie. They both believed that if they told Rena the truth, that she would strangle them, even after telling her that he had been placed under Aphrodite's spell.

"Make us proud, bro." -Arachnid told Grizzly Bear, while giving him a thumbs up.

As Nadja and her team arrived, Grizzly greeted her with a smile, while thinking about he was going to tell her. This was not the first time Nadja interviewed him, and he knew just how much she liked to ask him questions. Still, he told himself that he would try and answer only a handful of them. He and the others could not stay for too long, given they still had to go back to school.

"Oh, hello again. I didn't even have the chance to thank you earlier for saving me from that panther." -Nadja told Grizzly. –"So, allow me to thank you. Because of you, I will be able to go home today, and hug my little daughter." -she said.

"It was my pleasure." -Grizzly told her. –"I'm sure Manon is going to be happy to see you too." -he thought to himself. –"Since the rest of the team is busy over there, I hope you don't mind only interviewing me today."

"Oh, that's quite alright." -Nadja smiled, as she turned her attention to her cameraman. –"Tell me, how much time until we go live?"

"Give me thirty seconds." -he told her.

It was not easy for the heroes to get out of there, especially when people continued to ask them for selfies. Still, they managed to do so, and after finding a secluded place, they changed back into their civilian selves. And once they did, they all felt even sorer than when they were transformed. They had taken a beating that would put a normal person in a coma for years. If one would ask them how they were feeling, they would say they felt like they had been run over by a bus. And because of that, while walking back to school, they took their time, without rushing. That gave them enough time to come up with a plausible excuse on what happened to them, though they believed that being turned into a love zombie would instantly work with everyone. Strangers things had happened, and a whole class ended up under the influence of an Akuma, was not one of them. It also gave them the opportunity to talk or text their parents, who had tried to contact them, to see if they were alright; at least those who did not end up under Aphrodite's spell. And to make sure they would not get in trouble for not answering the calls, they all came up with excuses.

"Yes, mom, I'm sorry I didn't answer, but I just couldn't answer you, while I was hiding." -Marinette said. –"Don't worry, I'm okay, and you can tell dad the same… mom, you're not letting me talk… I was going to ask you, if you two are alright, or not… are you?" -she asked them. –"What?! You were saved by the Miraculous Team? No way! Who saved you? Was it Ladybug?!"

"Yes, mom, I'm alright. I'm sorry I didn't answer you, but I turned off the cell phone by accident." -Kim told his mother. –"I'm alright, don't worry about it… I'm also happy to hear that you and dad are okay." -he said.

"No, daddy, there's no need for that. You don't need to send Jean to come and pick me up. I'm quite alright. I was with my friends, and Sabrina was always by my side. You know she's knows martial arts, so, if things got a little crazy, she would have protected me." -Chloe told her dad over the phone.

"I'm glad to hear you're also alright, Nora." -Alya said, as she talked to her older sister. –"Yeah, I bet you did manage to take down one or two of them. After all, you're a natural champion." -she chuckled.

You'll have to forgive me, Nathalie. During the chaos, I left my cell phone on the cafeteria… Yes, I know I shouldn't have done that, but it was an accident." -Adrien made it up, as he talked to Nathalie, who had tried to contact him more than thirty times. –"You can tell my father I'm okay, and no, there's no need to send the car to pick me up. I'll walk home." -he told her.

"I'm alright, Luka. Yes, I was with Rose when everything happened. She's alright as well, and she's calling her parents, as I speak." -Juleka told her brother. –"Yes, I wasn't turned into one of those creatures, I remained indoors." -she assured him.

When they arrived at school, they saw that things were still a bit hectic inside. It was clear to them that they had not been the only ones who among the chaos and mayhem, had decided to leave school. As soon as they saw themselves in the courtyard, they immediately found Miss Bustier, who was worried sick about them. After hugging them, one by one, and asking them if they were alright, she asked where they had been. They all told her they were been turned into love zombies and ended up leaving the school, in search of new victims, while pretending they were still dizzy from all that happened. After that, and given it was passed class time, Miss Bustier told them to go to the classroom to get their things, before heading home.

Going upstairs, they saw that their classroom was spotless. If they did not know they had used Miss Bustier's desk to barricade the door, and then, dug a hole on the pavement, to access the lower floor, they would have never believed that the room looked like a field of war when they left, even if someone had told them. Grabbing their backpacks and the boxes of chocolates, they took a couple of seconds to give their kwamis a little treat. Just like them, their kwamis were exhausted, and after eating their snack, all of them decided to take a nap, telling them not wake them up.

"They deserve it." –Ivan told Mylene, as Muria slipped into his backpack.

"Yeah. By pushing ourselves today, we made them use their own powers one too many times." -Mylene agreed with her boyfriend. –"For once, I'm a little jealous of them, because they can take a nap, without having to wait to get home to do it." -she giggled.

"You guys are coming, or not?" -Nino asked the two of them.

"We'll be right there." -Ivan said, after noticing he and Mylene were the last ones in class.

Already on their way out, they saw Miss Bustier climbing the stairs, where she wished them a rest of a good Valentine's Day.

"See you all tomorrow, class." -Miss Bustier smiled at them, as they all left.

But they did not go home right away. Even though they were exhausted and bushed, they felt like they needed to hang out a little time together, just to unwind and enjoy each other's company. Looking for a spot to do that, they found one in the park that was near the school. Lying on the lawn, they all stretched themselves, trying to not think about the soreness that had already installed in their muscles. But soreness was not the only thing they were feeling. They were also hungry, and to fight that hunger, they opted to eat their chocolates. Their bodies were craving something with lots of sugary calories. Taking the boxes from their backpacks, they placed them in the middle of them, having decided to share the sweet treats with each other.

"This was one of our biggest challenges ever." -Adrien said, as he stretched his arms. Right then, he knew he was going to be sore in the morning, but he did not complain about it.

"Tell me about it." -Nino said, as he ate one of the chocolates from the box, he had offered Alya. –"I'm bushed." -he admitted.

"We all are." -Alya said, as she rested her head on Nino's lap. –"It's a shame tomorrow isn't Saturday, because I feel I could sleep for a whole week after this." -she admitted.

"We're in need of a hot shower and a warm bed." -Sabrina sighed, as she lied down and closed her eyes for a bit, feeling the warm grass underneath her.

"Which reminds me, are you still going to take that bath you said you were going to take?" -Kim asked Chloe.

"What do you think? Of course, I am going to. I feel absolutely filthy, stinky and sweaty from walking in the sewers, and fighting bad guys." -Chloe declared. –"And even if I wasn't feeling like that, I would take one, just to give my sore muscles the relaxing treatment they need." -she arched her back, feeling all her muscles stretching. –"Ouch… I'm going to be sore in the morning."

"We all will." -Nathaniel said. –"It's a good thing that we don't have Physical Education tomorrow, because if we had, I think I wouldn't be able to do it." -he admitted, feeling his arms were made out of putty.

Minutes passed and some of them had to force themselves to stay awake. The warm rays from the Sun, combined with their tiredness, were making them sleepy.

"Now, now, no sleeping, foxy fox." -Nino said, as he gently shook Alya, trying to keep her awake. –"You can't sleep. You can only sleep after our romantic dinner tonight."

"Can't we postpone it to another day?" -Alya asked them, with her eyes still shut.

"Sorry, but no. I told you I would cook the dinner for you tonight, and I'm going to do just that. But you need to keep yourself awake." -Nino answered her, as the brunette opened her eyes and smiled at him.

"Alright, alright, I'll try my best to stay awake, you romantic turtle." -Alya giggled.

"Uh… Speaking of romance… uh… Mylene and I, we have something to tell you all." -Ivan said, as he looked Mylene in the eyes. They had both agreed to tell their friends about them starting to date one another, and now seemed like the right time to tell them.

"Really? What is it?" -Rose asked him.

"W-Well… you see…" -Ivan said, hesitating a little.

"Ivan and I are officially dating!" -Mylene exclaimed. –"He asked me a few days ago, but we both decided to keep it a secret for a little longer… so, there you have it." -she said, this time with a shier voice.

Hearing her say that, everyone cheered them, saying things like "It was about time!" or "Took you long enough to make it official.". They were all happy for both Mylene and Ivan, who had been an unofficial for more time than they could remember, finally starting to date one another.

"Congratulations, man. It took you a little longer to ask her." -Nino told him.

"More than a little, you mean." -Kim joked. –"But it's great to see you finally had the courage to do it." -he told him.

"You're going to have to tell us how everything went, later." -Marinette said, as Mylene showed her and the rest of the girls the ring in the chain she had been wearing under her shirt.

"Now, all we need is for Kim and Alix to start dating as well." -Alya joked.

"Indeed." -Sabrina laughed, as she imagined the two of them in each other's arms, only to begin throwing insults at one another.

"Sorry, but that's never going to happen." -Alix told them.

"You bet it won't happen." -Kim shot at Alix. –"Who would want to date a Squirt like you?"

"Are you saying that if I was tall you would date me, String Bean?!" -Alix shot back at Kim, not enjoying being called Squirt.

"As if! I wouldn't date you, if you were the last girl on the planet!" -Kim declared.

"Good! Because I wouldn't date you either, even if you were the last guy on the planet!" -Alix told him, with a repulsed voice.

"You guys do realize that there's bound to have some images, or even videos of you two kissing, already online right?" -Adrien asked them, reminding of what happened. –"I wouldn't be surprised if people would begin to ship the two of you online, before the day is over… if they haven't began just yet." -he joked about it. –"As I see it, you should just begin dating for real."

Upon hearing both Alix and Kim grabbed their cell phones and went online to see if Adrien was right about that. And it did not take them more than a couple of seconds to find out. Some people, had filmed the two of them kissing, right after Alix grabbed Kim in mid-air. There were already some photos of the moment online as well, and just like Adrien had predicted, the fans began to ship them for real, by arguing about it on the online forums.

"Great… now everyone's thinking we're actually dating." -Alix sighed. –"We'll have to record a video, and post it on the Miraculous Blog, telling everyone that we're not dating." -she said.

"I think that won't work. It's already out there. Whether you like it or not, you're being shipped." -Max told her. –"If I were you, I would start dating each other, and just go with the flow." -he joked.

"Great friend you turned out to be, Max." -Kim told him in a sarcastic tone. –"Well, screw it! Let everyone think that Antelope and Dragonfly are now a thing. What matters is that in real life, Alix and I aren't dating. And before anyone here has any ideas of shipping us together, or comes up with a joke regarding this, let me just point out that the kiss she and I shared meant nothing! I was under Aphrodite's spell." –he stated.

"Indeed. It meant nothing… and I think I speak for us both, when I say that I don't ever want to talk about it again." -Alix said.

"Me neither… besides, you're a lousy kisser!" -Kim shot at her.

"Well, you're also a lousy one." -Alix shot back at him.

But they were both lying. The truth was, that kiss between them, as well as the following ones, meant something to both of them. It was their first kiss, and even though they were under Aphrodite's spell, the kisses they shared were kisses of love for one another. Unlike it happened with civilians, who were attracted by everyone and everything, including their own reflection, the heroes that temporarily fell under the influence of Aphrodite, unknown to them, were only attracted to those they had some kind of feelings for. And that meant, the two really had feelings for one another. They were just not ready to reveal them.

"He's such an idiot… but he's a good kisser." -Alix thought to herself. –"Not bad for my first kiss. I could have ended up kissing a dog, or someone with bad breath." -she thought.

"That shrimp… I won't admit it, but I kinda liked to kiss her, and she's not a bad kisser." -Kim thought to himself. –"She's still a shrimp, but she's kind of a cute one, and I wouldn't mind kissing her again." -he thought.

Those last comments from Kim and Alix, made everyone laugh a little. They could all see the two of them were in love, but were not going to admit it. And with everyone talking about relationships, Rose and Juleka both felt it was the right time to also tell everyone about them. Just thinking about it, it made them feel like they had a swarm of butterflies flying inside their stomach. Looking each other in the eyes, they silently agreed it was time to tell them.

"Alright, we won't ship the two of you, then. But, Mylene and Ivan aren't the only ones who have something to tell you." -Rose admitted, as she looked at Juleka, who continued to silently nod at her. –"Juleka and I…" -she said, with a hesitant voice.

"We're dating." -Juleka ended Rose's sentence. She believed that the best way to deal with that, was to do it the same way one with ripping a band-aid, swiftly.

"Already knew it." -Alix said.

"So did I." -Kim admitted.

"I told you they were dating." -Chloe told Sabrina.

"What?!" -Rose exclaimed, surprised.

"Come on, Rose. You and Juleka are going to forgive me for being this blunt, but you really are lousy actresses. You're always seen together, you are always holding hands together, you're always whispering secrets to one another… during training, you always want to be paired up together, Juleka is always picking you up from ballet, whenever she cans, you're always exchanging gifts… there are only two kinds of people who do that. Those who are besties, and those who are dating, and in your case, you're both." –Chloe told them. –"Did you really think we wouldn't figure it out sooner or later?" -she asked them.

Hearing her say that, both Rose and Juleka's minds assumed the worst case scenario with the blonde. The way she spoke to them, made them believe she was against them. But she was not the only one who thought that. Chloe herself realized that she might have spoken with the wrong kind of tone, and quickly apologized to them. The last thing she did want was for either Juleka or Rose to feel like she was against their relationship.

"Girls, I'm not against it… on the contrary, I'm happy for you." -Chloe said, this time with a softer voice. –"I just meant that… well, you girls didn't do a very good job at hiding your true feelings for one another, when you were among us." -she smiled.

"I have to agree with Chloe on that one." -Alix sighed. –"You girls didn't do a very good job with it." -she declared.

The girls had not done a very good job keeping their relationship a secret from the rest of the gang, but they believed they had not a bad one either, because until then, no one had told them they suspected a thing.

"Why didn't you tell us sooner? I mean, it wasn't as evident as Chloe's saying, but… why didn't you girls tell us?" -Mylene asked them.

"I guess we were a little afraid." -Juleka admitted. –"We were afraid of what you guys might think of us, two girls, dating each other." -she sighed, as she placed her arm around Rose's waist, pulling her closer. –"I mean… every day, somewhere, when people say to those they love that they are gay, or lesbian, or pansexual, or whatever, there are those who don't react the way they thought they would, and… I guess, we were afraid that you… that you wouldn't want to be our friends anymore."

"We were afraid that… that you would fell disgusted just to be around us. We were afraid that you might start to hate us, because we're different." -Rose said, as she tried not to shed a tear. –"I know, it sounds really stupid, especially after everything we went through, but…" -she said, as she tried her best not to start weeping.

They all heard the sadness in Juleka and Rose's voices. but more importantly they heard the fear in them. All of them knew that in the world there were people who are homophobes; people who don't respect those who are different from them. Still, they did not want them to feel that way, when they were around them.

"Fear and hate are powerful emotions, we know that." -Marinette said. –"And that's how Hawk Moth manages to akumatize so many people. You said it was stupid of you to fear that we would feel disgusted of you girls, and that we might begin to hate you, but I don't think it was stupid… it was human. Fear and hate tend to go hand in hand, because people fear what they don't know or what they don't understand, but so do love and friendship. And you have nothing to fear from us, girls. I want you to know that I will never hate you for being yourselves, never." -she smiled. –"I'm here for you both, no matter what. And I know that everyone else here will also be here for you, girls."

"I don't see anything wrong with you dating. You two love each other, so, who am I to pass on judgement?" -Alya said. –"In fact, who are we to do so?" -she asked.

"She's right. I don't see anything wrong in you two dating." -Ivan declared.

"Ivan's right. This isn't the Middle Ages, and if you girls love each other, as much as Ivan and I do, there's no reason for you not to admit it to everyone." -Mylene smiled at them.

"Yeah, we came a long road since the times of the Spanish Inquisition." -Max smiled at them.

"So, what if you're dating? You girls are still the same to me, as you were before you told us that." -Sabrina smiled at them. –"There are lots of people out there who would not support you, or even respect your decision of dating each other, but I'm not one of them. And I bet everyone here isn't one of those people either." -she continued to smile at them.

"You two are our friends, and I think I speak for me, and the rest of us, when I tell you that we thank you for revealing us your secret. I'm sure this wasn't something you girls decided lightly." -Adrien smiled –"I'm proud to be your friend." -he told them both

"So am I." -Chloe smiled at them. For a long time, neither Rose nor Juleka even considered the possibility of Chloe being a true friend to them. But now, they were happy she was one of their best friends, and that she supported them.

"Me too." -Nathaniel said, as he thought about Marc. Having not seen him in school, he was wondering where he could be, he told himself that he would ask him his number the next time he talked to him. 

"Make that three." -Kim said

"Four, you mean." -Alix said.

"I guess what we're all saying is that the lives of everyone in this crazy group would be less filled with joy and happiness, if you girls weren't a part of it." -Marinette told them. –"And there's no way we're going to allow you two to not be a part of such a crazy group, just because of some stupid prejudice." -she smiled at them.

"You girls make the cutest couple ever, right after Alya and me, of course." -Nino said, which earned him a couple of laughs from everyone, including Rose and Juleka.

"Yeah, you're always bragging about it." -Alya winked at him. –"Still, you do make a cute couple, and if you're happy together, I'll be happy for you as well." -she smiled.

Hearing their friends telling them all those nice things, it did not take long for both Rose and Juleka to start crying in a way they never had before. Tears quickly started to roll down their eyes. But unlike the first few tears they both did their best not to shed, these were tears they did not mind shedding. They were tears of happiness and joy. It filled their hearts to know their friends were happy for them and that not only they respected their decision, but also, that they supported it and wanted to continue to be a part of their lives. Once more, they thanked the fact of having the best friends in the world. Friends that were not just friends, but a sort of family.

"Come on, girls, don't cry, or else you're going to make me cry as well." -Mylene told them.

"S-Sorry, but it's stronger than me." -Rose told her, trying her best to stop crying

"Me too." -Juleka said. –"You guys… you are the best."

"I don't know about you, but I think you telling us this, deserves one big group hug." -Rose told them, as she tried her best to stop crying.

"Let's give them a huge bear hug, everyone." -Ivan told everyone.

And with those words, everyone gathered around Rose and Juleka, and hugged them as tight as they could, forgetting about the pain and the soreness in their bodies for just a moment. This made the girls laugh and giggle. When they broke the hug, Rose and Juleka had the biggest and brightest smile one could ever think of, on their faces.

"Thanks, everyone." -Rose smiled, as she wiped the last of her tears.

"You say you're the one who are lucky in having us in your lives, but we're the ones who are really lucky to have you in our lives." -Juleka smiled tearfully.

"Have you told your parents about this?" -Marinette asked them.

"No." -Rose and Juleka said

"You didn't?" -Alix asked them.

"The only one who knows about us is my brother Luka." -Juleka said. –"He caught us kissing one time, and well, he add two plus two." -she admitted.

"We're afraid to tell our parents the truth. And from the two of us, I'm the one who's a bit more afraid." -Rose admitted. –"My parents aren't homophobic or anything. In fact, my mom's a big supporter of gay rights… but, I don't know how she, or my dad, will react if I tell her that I'm dating Jules." -she said.

"What about you, Juleka?" -Mylene asked her.

"You guys have met my parents. They aren't the kind of people who would kick me out into the street just because I'm a lesbian, but… this isn't something easy to tell anyone." -Juleka admitted.

"Well, when you're ready, I'm sure everything will turn out fine." -Sabrina told them. –"And in the meantime, you've got us on your corner. You don't have to hide your relationship from us." -she said.

Emotions were on the edge, the good kind of edge, right then, and both Marinette and Adrien, separately felt that just like it happened with Mylene, Ivan, Rose and Juleka, it was also time for them to tell the other what really went on in their heart. In Marinette's mind, she tried to find the right way to tell Adrien how she really felt about him, while Adrien, on the other hand, tried to remember the speech he had come up with Nathalie's help for that occasion.

"This is Marinette. There's no going back." -Marinette thought to herself, determined to take it to the end. –"You're going to tell Adrien that you love him more than anything in the world, and that you don't mind fighting against that other girl you saw him with the other day, for his heart." -she thought.

"Alright, Adrien. You're going to tell Marinette just how you feel about her. And after that, you're going to give her the brooch you bought for her, with Kagami's help." -Adrien thought to himself. –"And let's hope the speech Nathalie and I came up with works. I really want to say the right words to her… I usually don't say this, but right now, I wouldn't mind having Plagg awake and telling me to stop stressing about this and that everything is going to be alright." -he thought.

But before either one could say anything, the whole gang had an unexpected visitor showing up. A visitor who was and old Chinese man wearing a red Hawaiian shirt with a white flower pattern, tan Capri pants and dark brown shoes.

"I knew I would find you all here." -Master Fu told them, as he approached them.

"Don't tell us you used one of your Jedi master tricks to find us, master?" -Kim asked him.

"Nope, I simply deduced that on a beautiful day as this one, after the battle you fought, you would find a place to rest for a bit and just enjoy each other's company." -Master Fu said. –"Which is my way to say, that I checked a couple of nearby spots, where you would probably be, before coming here." -he said in an amused tone, which earned a couple of laughs from the youngsters. –"I just wanted to tell you that you did a magnificent job today."

Chapter Text

Marinette kept cursing herself on not having been able to tell Adrien what she truly felt about him, as she walked home. It was bad enough she was feeling like she had been run over by a truck, but knowing that she had failed to reveal Adrien her true feelings for him, was making her feel even worst. Because Master Fu showed up when he did, she lost her courage and did not went ahead with her plan. Alya, who was waking by her side, continued to hear her, without saying a word. She knew her friend was already suffering enough. But after cursing herself over and over, she told Alya that she was not going to let that stop her from telling Adrien how she felt about him, that day.   

“Never seen you this determined before, girl.” -Alya told her.

“Well, I don’t like to admit it, but Chloe did really open my eyes to what is going on, Alya.” -Marinette said. –“If I don’t tell Adrien how I really feel about him, someone else will end up steal him, and… well, I love him! I need to tell him that.” -she declared. 

“You know, as your best-friend, I should be incredibly jealous over the fact that it was your former bully, turned one of our best friends, who did open up your eyes to that matter, but I’m actually happy she did that.” -Alya admitted. –“It’s about time that happens. You’ve been drooling over him for more than two years.” -she said.

“I know that. And that’s why I need to do this. I’m not going to let that girl he was with him the other day, to steal him. I’m not going to let her steal my kitty cat from me.” -Marinette said.

“Your kitty cat? Is that your new nickname for Adrien?”

“N-No… it’s just…” -Marinette hesitated. She did not even know why she had called him that name. –“I don’t’ even know why I called him that.” -she admitted.

“I’m just kidding, girl.” -Alya chuckled. –“You can call him whatever you want.” -she kept chuckling. –“Just promise me one thing.”

“What?” -Marinette asked her.

“When you and Adrien become a couple, if you become a couple, that is, you let me know, so you two can go on a double date with Nino and I.” -Alya told her, already knowing that they would become a couple. –“Wait, not a double date, a quadruple date. We could even ask Rose and Juleka to come with us, and Ivan and Mylene too. All the couples in our classroom, going to the movies.” -she said.

“That’s not a bad idea, I’ll give you that. But before that might happen, like you said, Adiren and I have to become a couple… which will happen tonight, hopefully.” -Marinette sighed.

“Hopefully? Girl, what are you talking about?” -Alya asked Marinette, sensing doubt in her voice.  

“Well, what if he doesn’t like me? What if he likes the other girl?” -Marinette asked Alya.

“Marinette, stop thinking those things, okay? If you start thinking about that, you’re bound to go crazy.” -Alya told her. –“You’re going to tell him you like him, and I’m sure he’ll say he likes you as well. Just think positive.” -she said, already knowing what Adrien’s response would be.

“You’re right, as always, Alya.” -Marinette declared. –“I can’t let those negative thoughts cloud my head. I’m going to tell him my real feels for him, and that’s that.” -she said with a determined voice.  

And that was what she intended to do. After her parents went out that night, she began to summon up the courage to do what she knew had to be done.  She herself was surprised to see them going out that night, especially after everything that happened to them. You would expect them to be traumatized after being attacked by an Akuma. But when she asked them what had happened, they told her that though they were still recovering from the scare, that that had been a unique experience, and that everything had turned alright. Tikki herself could not believe just how casually Marinette’s parents were handling it. After a good nap, she was feeling slightly refreshed and ready for anything, anyone would throw at her, as long as it was nothing big.      

“I can’t believe your parents actually went out to dinner after everything that happened to them today.” -Tikki said, as she ate another cookie. Marinette had brought her a whole plate of them.  

“Stranger things have happened, Tikki. Besides, it’s already a tradition of theirs to go out on Valentine’s Day.” -Marinette said, as she continued to pace around her bedroom. She was nervous she did not even touch the dinner her mom had left her. –“Still, I’m glad they didn’t come out traumatized from everything that happened. I just wish I had been the one to save them… I know this sounds super selfish on my part, but…”

“You were just worried about them, there’s nothing wrong or selfish about that. You just wanted them to be safe.” -Tikki told her. –“Besides, Kim and Alix got here just in time to save them.” -she smiled.  

“It’s true. Once again, their speed allowed them to do the impossible.” -Marinette said, as she continued pacing around the bedroom. She was still sore from the battle against Aphrodite, but she was trying to ignore it.  

“Marinette, would you please stop pacing around like that?” -Tikki asked her. She could see the blue-haired girl was even more nervous than usual, and it bother her to see her like that. –“I know you’re nervous about Adrien, but if you keep pacing around like that, you’re bound to make hole on the floor.” -she said.   

“Sorry, but I’m having second doubts here.” -Marinette sighed.

“Again? Marinette, after what you told me, you told Alya this afternoon, I really thought that any shred of doubt would have left your mind and your heart by now.” -Tikki declared.

“So did I, Tikki, so did I.” -Marinette admitted, as she sat down on her chaise-longue. –“But the more I think about it… crud! Why do I have to be one of those girls who overthink everything?” -she cursed herself. –“Why did Hawk Moth decided to throw that Akuma at us today?! If he hadn’t, I would’ve told Adrien the truth about my feelings… and it didn’t help when Master Fu showed up. Which reminds me, I need to talk to him about the way my 6th sense power is working now, like I told you earlier. I completely forgot about it.”

“Well, I hate to say it, but this day just hasn’t been your day, when it comes to your love life.” -Tikki admitted.

“By the way, regarding the way my 6th sense is working now… did any other Ladybugs had it working like this?” -Marinette asked her. If there was one person who could tell her that, was Tikki.

“Now that I think about it, there was only one other Ladybug whose 6th sense power evolved like that. It was Hippolyta, the Amazonian Ladybug.” -Tikki told her. –“But, it took years for her 6th sense to evolve like that. I didn’t tell you about it the first time it happened, a few days ago, because I thought it was a one-time thing. But now, I’m sure that you have unlocked that ability… you are evolving faster than any other Ladybug before.” -she declared.

“And what could that mean?” -Marinette asked. She had not even questioned herself about it.

“I don’t know. It never happened before. In fact, you and the rest of your friends are all evolving faster than what any of us kwamis could have anticipated.” -Tikki told her  -“I don’t know if it’s because you all have something the other miraculous holders didn’t have, or if it’s because your bond to us is stronger…” -she said, throwing away guesses.

“In other words, the reason why this is happening is a mystery, even to you.” -Marinette sighed. She’d hoped for Tikki to have a straight answer for that matter.

“Afraid so.” -Tikki said. –“But, it’s like they say, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth”. Whatever the reason this is happening with you and the rest of the gang, it’s a good thing it’s happening, because it has allowed you to stand up to stronger Akumas. And believe me, Hawk Moth’s Akumas will continue to grow in power. As time passes, his powers also become stronger.” -she declared. –“But let’s not think about that now. You and the others stopped Aphrodite and something tells me that we won’t be hearing from Hawk Moth for at least a couple of days. Right now, we need to think about what you’re going to tell Adrien.”

Once more, Tikki was right. Whatever the real reason why her powers and the others were evolving that fast, was something they could think about later. Right then, she had to focus on telling Adrien about her feelings. She needed to focus on that matter.

“You’re right… but it’s easier said, than done, Tikki.” -Marinette said. –“I’m feeling like my heart pounding in my chest, like if I was having a panic attack… in fact, I think I’m having one right now.” -she said, while taking deep breaths, trying to slow down her heart beat.

“You’re not having a panic attack, Marinette. It’s all in your head.” -Tikki told Marinette, as she flew in her direction and stopped in front her face. –“Just breathe in and out, and empty your head. You’ll see that… whoa, I’m feeling… a little dizzy…” -she said, as her body began to slowly descend.    

“Tikki!” -Marinette exclaimed, as she grabbed the little kwami in mid-air, with both hands. –“Are you okay?” -she asked her

“I’m fine… I guess I’m not as rested as I thought I was.” -Tikki told her, as she felt her head a little dizzy. –“But don’t worry, I’m fine.” -she assured her.

“Maybe I should…” -Marinette said. She was hesitating once again.

“Don’t you dare postpone what needs to be done, Marinette. If you don’t tell Adrien you love him, tonight, you’re going to keep postponing it, until it might be too late.” -Tikki told her with a serious voice. –“I know that your heart is trembling with fear, and that you are afraid of getting hurt, but the more you delay it, the worst it will be. Just go and tell him what you feel. Even if he says that he doesn’t love you, the same way you love him, you’ll feel much better, trust me.” -she smiled at Marinette.

Wise as always, Tikki knew just what words to say to Marinette and to make her do what needed to be done.

“Tikki, I know this is a bit selfish, considering you’re not fully rested, but I’m going to ask you to lend me your powers one more time today.” -Marinette told the scarlet kwami. –“Lend them to me, so I can go to Adrien’s house and tell him I love him.” -she smiled at her.

“Say the magic words… and good luck, Marinette.” -Tikki smiled at her. –“Not that you’ll need it, of course.” -she thought to herself.

“Tikki, transforme-moi!” -Marinette exclaimed.   

Adrien had just finished eating dinner in his bedroom, and was trying to relax. Even after a shower and a brief nap, his body still ached from the battle with Aphrodite. Upon arriving home, Nathalie did two things. First, she told him how happy she was that he was alright and that nothing had happened to him, during the Akuma attack. And second, she once more, scolded him for supposedly leaving his cell phone at the cafeteria, making it impossible for her to contact him. He knew she was just worried about him, so he did not even try to argue with her. It was best for her to think that he merely forgot his cell at the cafeteria, instead of knowing what really happened to him. If Nathalie or his father, ever found out what he really did, whenever an Akuma showed up, they would forbid him from leaving the house, and would lock him up in his bedroom, just to make sure he would not get hurt.    

Sighing, he tried to relax both his body and his mind. But although his body was getting the well-deserved rest it needed, his brain was a whole different story. He kept replaying in his mind the moment when he was about to tell Marinette, what he truly felt about her, only to see it ruined by Master Fu, who showed up, just as he was about to pop up the speech he and Nathalie had been working on. All that made him also remember that Nathalie had not asked him if everything between him and Marinette had turned out alright or not. But he quickly tossed that matter aside, believing she did not say a thing, because it slipped her mind, given just how worried she was about his well-being. What he could not toss aside was just how close he was to tell Marinette he loved her, and how much he wanted her to be his girlfriend.   

“If you keep thinking about that, your brain is going to burst!” -Plagg told him, as Adrien looked at him. –“And no, you don’t have to tell me you’re thinking about Marinette. I can see it in your face.” -he said, as he hovered above Adrien’s head. –“And like I said, you keep thinking about her and how things did not go according to plan, and your brain is going to burst.”

“I know, I know, Plagg… but I can’t stop thinking about it.” -Adrien sighed. –“I can’t stop thinking about how I lost the courage to tell Marinette I love her!” -he said. –“Why did Master Fu showed up, just as I was about to tell her everything?!”

“Not that I’m defending him or anything, but in his defense, Master Fu did not know you were going to tell Marinette you loved her.” -Plagg said.

Adrien hated to admit it, but Plagg was right. How could have Master Fu know what he planned to do? Sighing, he realized that what happened was just bad luck and bad timing, and that he should have just told her how he felt. Once again, he allowed his shyness to prevent him from doing what he wanted to do.

“You’re right. How can I blame the master for what happened?” -Adrien asked, as he sat on his bed. –“I should have told Marinette that I loved her… Plagg, tell me something. Why am I this shy?! Why can’t I be more like Chat Noir, when I’m not wearing the suit and the mask?” -he asked him. –“I don’t know where I inherited this shyness from.”

“I don’t know… your dad’s not the shy kind of person, and as for your mother, I never met her, so I don’t know how she was.” -Plagg said. –“But, given that she was an actress, she probably wasn’t very shy. Actors don’t tend to be very shy, most of the times… unless you count Mylene. That girl is incredibly shy for someone who loves to go up on the stage.” -he said.  

“I should have told Marinette how I feel about her… instead, my shyness got the best of me, and now I’m here, complaining about it.” -Adrien sighed.  

“Then, go to her place and tell her you love her. Or you can just hang out here with me, the rest of the night, while I devour this wheel of Camembert.” -Plagg said, as he looked at the cheese and imagined how delicious it was. –“But it would be a shame to not give her that beautiful pendant you bought for her.” -he said, teasing him.

In his own way, Plagg was trying to make Adrien to act up. He knew he was shy, and knowing that, he knew that he would need an incentive, to persuade him to do what needed to be done. And by making that comment, regarding the pendant, he hoped to force him to get out of his bed and go after Marinette. 

“In the best case scenario, we end up dating, I offer her the brooch as a symbol of my love for her, and everything will be alright. As for the worst case scenario, we remain good friends and the pendant will be a symbol of our friendship… though I really wish the first option is the one that happens.” -Adrien thought to himself. –“Do you think she’s still awake? I mean, it was a really tough day for all of us.” -he asked his kwami, as he looked out the window. –“She’s probably already asleep.”

“Stop trying to come up with excuses to not go, and go!” -Plagg told him. -Grab the pendant and go see her. And before you say anything about it, no, I don’t think Nathalie will come and check on you. When she brought you your dinner, she said that she had lots of work to do before bedtime, and asked you nicely to only call her if it was an emergency.” -he reminded him, as he swallowed a large chunk of Camembert cheese, before burping loudly. –“Pardon me… now, say the usual words and go tell her you love her more than the Joker loves joy-buzzers, acid spitting flowers and bad jokes… or more than I love Camembert, whatever you think works better for you.”

“Alright.” -Adrien got up from his bed and went to his desk, where he had left his backpack. –“Where is it? Where is it? It’s got to be around here, somewhere.” -he said, as he looked for the box where the pendant was in, finding it. –“Found it! Okay, let’s go, Plagg.”

“Say the words, Adrien.” -Plagg smirked at him.

“Plagg, transforme-moi!” -Adrien exclaimed.  

And while both Marinette and Adrien raced to each other’s respective homes, Rose and Juleka were arriving at the bar where Luka was going to play, for a Valentine’s Day date. At first, the girls were not too sure about attending the concert, because of what happened that afternoon. They were both exhausted from their battle against the Akuma, and just wanted to go to bed. But at the same time, they wanted to spend a little time together. And on that day, they had plenty to celebrate. It was their first Valentine’s Day together, they had saved Paris from another Akuma, and they had revealed their relationship to their friends, who were incredibly supportive of it. Plus, Juleka knew that if they did not go, Luka would nag her about it, during the next month. So, they made an effort and went to the concert.

They had decided to wear something that was both beautiful and comfortable for that date of theirs. Juleka decided to wear a black tank top from one of her favourite bands, along with a black leather jacket with metal studs on the lapels, a black mini-skirt, purple leggings with skulls stamped on them and a pair of army boots. Rose, on the other hand, decided to wear a pink long-sleeved shirt with a magenta skirt, a pink faux fur jacket with numerous badges, and a pair of pink pumps with bunny ears. They were dropped by Juleka’s mom, who told them, she would pick them up, along with Luka when the concert was over in two hours.

“Now, girls, remember. If something happens, just call me and I’ll come and pick you up. Don’t talk to strangers, don’t drink any alcohol and tell Luka that I’ll be rooting for him, in spirit.” -Anarka told her daughter.

“Alright, mom, don’t worry. I’ll tell him that. See you in two hours.” -Juleka told Anarka, as she closed the car’s door behind her.

“I’m glad we decided to come.” -Rose said, as Juleka’s mom drove off.

“Same with me.” -Juleka smiled at her. –“I couldn’t say this before, because of my mom, but you look really pretty tonight.” -she said, making Rose blush lightly.   

“T-Thanks. You also look super pretty tonight.” -Rose told her, as they held hands. They both wanted to kiss each other, but decided not to. They did not feel comfortable to do that in public. –“Shall we go in?”

“Yes. I can’t wait to see Luka playing.” -Juleka said.

Already inside, the girls saw the place was packing. A lot people had come to see Luka playing that night. The bar was not the biggest one the girls had ever been, but it was not the smallest one either. Its décor reminded them of most bars they had seen to. They had left Flint and Tamara at home, so they could sleep all they wanted. They feared that the noise would not allow them to rest properly, and they did not regret doing it, because the concert had not yet begun, and there was already enough noise in the air to wake up the dead. Looking for an empty table, they found one near the stage. Taking a seat, a waitress showed up shortly after, and asked them what would they have, and they asked for a couple of sodas. While waiting for their drinks to come and for the concert to start, Juleka left Rose alone for a minute, and went to check on Luka on the backstage, to give him Anarka’s message and to also warn him they had already arrived. 

“So?” -Rose asked Juleka, as she sat down. Their drinks had arrived a few seconds before.

“He’s just finishing tuning his guitar. And he promised me that the first song is for the two of us.” -Juleka smiled. –“Hmm… I know that face. You’re thinking about something good, aren’t you?” -she told Rose.   

“Yeah, I am. I was thinking about how glad I am we told our friends about us.” -Rose declared.

“You and me.