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“It’s a new day at a new school, Marinette! Are you ready? Your dad is making sweets to take for lunch, and you’ll be able to start over!” Tikki says cheerfully, coming out of her bed happily as the alarm chirped. “Marinette?” She looked towards the girl’s bed, and found a lump of quivering blankets. Tikki sighed. “Marinette...” She admonished softly.

“I’m scared, Tikki! Everyone at school— my old school—“ Tikki winced, “They all turned on me without a word! What if the people here don’t even pretend to like me! What if they instantly see what an awful mess I am, and hate me immediately, and—“ Tikki quickly dives under the blankets, holding onto Marinette’s face, to ground her and bring her out of her spiral.

“Do you think Luka will let that happen?” Tikki asked. Marinette’s face went pink, and she looked away.

“No...”

“Exactly! Rosenhart is a much smaller school, anyway. And extremely hard to get into. I doubt someone like Lila could lie her way past those complicated application forms.” Tikki reassured. Marinette groaned.

“Don’t remind me of the application process... I can’t believe I had to get so much verification from Uncle Jagged. Still, he did recommend it... I doubt a school that Jagged recommends is a bad one.” Marinette finally starts to reassure herself. She pushes herself out of bed, giving Tikki as much of a hug as she could without hurting the tiny goddess.

“Thanks, Tikki. You’re my best friend.” She says, smiling fondly at her kwami.

“You’re welcome, Marinette! And I’m sure I won’t be the only one, soon enough!” Marinette smiled shyly.

“You think so?” Her eyes glanced to the clock, and she squeaked. “Oh no! I need to hurry and get ready before I’m late!”

Marinette gazed at the school, feeling dread bubble in her stomach. Luka squeezed her hand reassuringly, next to her. She looked up at him. “Thanks for everything. I’ll see you at lunch, okay?” She said softly.

“Of course. I can’t wait for you to hear this school’s song.” Luka is gentle as ever, squeezing her hand one last time. They part, as Marinette walks through the courtyard to the hall where her class will be. The courtyard, converted into a garden, is lined with rosebushes, true to the school’s name, and the legacy of its founder. Since the school’s focus is in academics and art, rather than athletics, the courtyard reflects it, with spaces around it being designed to be the perfect place to study or create. Flowers and roses create a perfect, soothing environment. If there’s one thing Marinette looks forward to, it’s spending free time in this place. She’s so focused on looking around, she doesn’t know she’s walking right towards someone until they collide and crash.

“Gah!” The person says some words that... Marinette’s pretty sure are Finnish curses, and drops the sketchbook they’re holding.

“Ack! I’m so sorry! I wasn’t looking!” Marinette quickly squats down to help gather the pens dropped, and the person squats as well.

“Ah, no worries. I wasn’t paying any attention either.” Marinette looks up. The person has darker skin, but bleached blonde hair, tied up in a short ponytail, with a headband to keep it back. Their eyes are grey and warm. They crinkle in a smile.

“You’re unfamiliar. First day? I bet the gardens blew you right away!” They gather their book and stand up. They’re wearing white flared jeans and a tight, short-sleeved, green button up. They hold out their hand. “Pens please, Miss?”

Marinette blinked, but handed them back. “Uh, yes! The courtyard is really pretty. And! My name is Marinette. Marinette Dupain-Cheng!” The confidence that this person spoke with caught her a bit off guard. Though maybe, she was a little out of practice with being talked to like what she thought mattered.

They smiled confidently. “Really? Irma will be happy to hear that surname. My name is Aleski Aalto. Please, call me Ale. They and them, if you will. I hope we can get along. I’ve spied your designs in a few magazine articles. As someone concerned with design, I do like to know the up and coming talent. After all, I might one day design the runway that your clothes walk down.” They sent another charming smile to her.

“Oh! You do architecture, then? That’s really interesting, Ale!” The warning bell rung, and Marinette froze. Ale just laughed warmly. “What’s your class? I can get you there.”

“Thank you! It’s classroom seven?” She asks, trying to remember it.

“How lucky! That’s my class.” Ale adjusted their pens and sketchbook, offering a hand. “Come along, then.” Marinette smiled, swept up in their confidence, as she took their hand.

They guided her into the halls, and up the stairs. The outdoor halls on the second floor gave a lovely view of Paris, as Ale led her to a door titled with seven. They opened the door, and gave Marinette another charming smile. Marinette, latching onto their outpour of confidence, smiled back, and let herself be pulled into the classroom.

Chapter Text

Inside, there was a small class of about nine students. Including her and Ale, that was only eleven. Marinette couldn’t but be a bit relieved. Everyone was scattered across the room in groups, except a boy in the back, listening to something on his phone contentedly, and a blonde boy with his nose in a book, sitting a chair away from the other boy. The rows were wide enough for three to a row, in a single column of desks with stairs in either side, instead of the two to a desk in her old school.

In the front desk, several students were gathered around one serious looking raven-haired boy of Asian descent, who was typing quick as lightning on a personal laptop.

“Everyone!” Ale announced. All the students looked up, except for in the back, where the blonde had to gently tap the tanner boy, as he couldn’t hear. Marinette felt her confidence deplete just a bit. Ale  put a steady hand on her shoulder.

“I’m proud to introduce Miss Marinette Dupain-Cheng!”

“Yo, you mean the girl who did Jagged Stone’s shit?!” A boy with black cat-eye glasses, a leather jacket, and a shaved head asked excitedly.

“Language!” A girl with a a braided bun yelled. Her hair was a dark brown, and her glasses were square and pink. She seemed of mixed descent, like Marinette. She walked down the stairs to her, examining her closely. Marinette found herself a little nervous. This wasn’t the Chloé of school, right?

“I’m sorry, but your right pigtail is loose. May I adjust that for you, please?” A little bossy, her hands aching to fix it herself, but polite. Marinette gave a nervous nod, and the girl tightened it for her.

“Thank you very much. Now! Your last name is Dupain-Cheng? Half Chinese?” She asked, still examine her with hawk-like brown silver eyes.

“Ah, yes! My mother is Chinese, and my father French!” Marinette explained.

The girl nodded, and a proud smirk came to her face. She adjusted her deep brown jacket. “I see. We’ll get along nicely then! My grandfather is Italian, and my grandmother is Chinese. So we already have ancestry in common.” She explained, sounding very satisfied. “Apologies for getting ahead of myself. I am Irma Chen.” She extended a hand, laden with a silver watch, to her. “It’s nice to meet someone of a similar talent level.”

Marinette found herself smiling even more. “N-Nice to meet you, Irma!”

“Like, don’t hog her, prez!” A high pitched, airy voice came from from nearby. Marinette turned, and had to look up a little at the tall girl, who had her dark hair in loose, long cornrows. She waved a dark hand playfully. 

“Hiya! I’m Ashli Campbell! Super sweet ta meet you, Mari! Can I call you Mari?” She asked excitedly, giggling.

“Oh, sure!” Marinette smiled. “It’s nice to meet you. All of you!”

“Seems like you’ll fit right in, Marinette.” Ale smiled. “Unfortunately, the only open seat is in the back. I hope it isn’t a problem? Félix and Hemi are quiet, but they’re not rude.”

“We can do some shuffling around if you want, girly!” Ashli said happily.

The idea of everyone moving seats, combined with the too familiar nickname, made Marinette pause, feeling like someone had dumped ice water on her.

“No!” She said, a bit too loudly. “I mean... no, it’s fine.” Marinette have a forced smile. “I’m sure we’ll get along, if they’re as nice as you guys.” The three seemed concerned, but they all seemed to shrug it off. Except Ashli, who watched her with an unreadable expression.

Then the teacher came in. A woman in dark brown pants, short hair, and boots. “Alright, class! Let’s get to our seats. We gotta get through our general studies fast today. We have a lot to go over!”

The class responded in unison. “Yes, Miss Desrosiers!”

Marinette was a bit surprised at the command with which she spoke. But the teacher smiled at her with kindness.

“First, I’m sure you’ve already been getting to know her, but please meet Miss Dupain-Cheng! She’s transferred to us from Collège François Dupont. Treat her with kindness, is that clear?”

The class responded in unison again. Marinette smiled a bit, feeling shy. Miss Desrosiers, who towered over her, crouched to her level. “If you need anything, you come to me, or Miss Chen, our class representative. We’ll do our very best to accommodate you. Will you be alright in the back?” She asked, concern in her voice. 

“Yes, Miss Desrosiers. Thank you for the concern.” When had it last been that a teacher had checked up on her like this? Marinette couldn’t cry before class started, though. So she quickly made her way to the back of the classroom. 

She took the middle seat, and beamed at her seat-mates. The medium-brown skinned boy gave a small smile and a shaking wave. He started to sign something, and Marinette smiled. 

“Oh, do you sign? Mine’s a little rusty, but I’ll try my best.” She asked. The boy nodded. He wrote something in his notebook. ‘Hemi Tamihana.’ Then pointed to himself. He made the sign for H, and then turned it into the sign for actor. His personal sign, it seemed. Marinette nodded.  

“Marinette.” She made the sign for M, her hand pointed downwards, and then moved her hand under it, like moving fabric under a sewing machine. Hemi nodded eagerly. 

“Félix.” She suddenly heard behind her. She looked to the blonde boy. He looked... familiar somehow. He regarded her a bit coldly. Then, he made the sign for F, and then for ‘ice.’ Hemi laughed soundlessly, and Marinette giggled.

“Nice to meet you. If it helps, you don’t seem that cold.” 

Félix gave a strange, forced smile. Like he wasn’t sure how to, but was giving it his best shot. Marinette found it... kind of endearing.

“Alright class, let’s start!”

This time, with Hemi resounding in sign, Marinette joined in on the unison response. 

“Yes, Miss Desrosiers!”

Chapter Text

It was lunch, and Marinette found herself in the courtyard, looking for Luka. She had her lunch packed for her by her Papa, and she just needed her friend.

“Mari!” She looked to see Ashli waving. “Ya wanna sit with us, girly?!” The cheerful girl called.

“Not today, Ashli! I promise I will sometime this week!” Marinette called. Finally, she saw Luka waving, and she quickly went to sit with him.

“See you later then!” Ashli called back, sitting back down. She opened her phone, scrolling lazily through Instagram. Her eyes widened when she saw a certain post.

Lila made sure to put the most heartfelt innocence into this post. She smiled widely, listening to her class talk as if Marinette was never there. Sure, maybe Alya was confused and angry, maybe Nino, Adrien and Kim were sad and confused, but everyone else went on like nothing happened. Like *she* never happened.

’Omg! My classmate is transferring to #Rosenhart_Academy ! I’m really sad to see her go... I’m sure she didn’t mean to steal my stuff and say those mean things about me... maybe she’ll be better off without me :(‘

And post. Lila might have won, but it never hurt to send someone off, right? Just to make sure Marinette knew how powerless she really was.

“So you’ve enjoyed yourself?” Luka smiled, taking a bite of the pastry Marinette brought for him.

Marinette smiled happily, swallowing her bite of food. “Yeah, actually! Everyone is super nice! Félix and Hemi, the boys who sit next to me, are really great. Félix helped me get caught up with where everyone else is. We’re gonna try and do some studying together tomorrow, to make sure I’ve got everything.”

Luka laughed softly. “I’m glad, Mari. You deserve good friends. I’d help you study if I had any clue where you all were.”

Marinette nodded. “I get it. Don’t worry—“

“Girl!” Marinette turned to see a phone, and Ashli holding it. “This isn’t you, is it?!”

Marinette read the post displayed, and her heart stopped. Lila. Lila posted about her. She tagged the school. She brought it all back over. She was going to turn everyone against her again everyone was going to hate her and think she was awful and petty and jealous and a stalker and—

She didn’t acknowledge the pushing in her pocket of Tikki. She could only do what she did best. Run away. She sobbed and ran off into the halls of the school.

“Marinette!” Twin calls of worry followed her, but she ignored it. She had to get out before they all hated her, before they looked at her so angrily. She just couldn’t handle it, couldn’t handle the looks of anger, of hate, of *loathing.*

Luka was running after her as fast as he could go. Ashli was left behind. She looked behind her, pushing down bile. Ale came up to her. “I fucked up, Ale.” She blurted, trying not to panic herself.

“Language!” Irma yelled, walking over. Ale sighed through their nose. “What do you mean by that? Did you jump to conclusions again?”

“Yes. But I didn’t mean to freak her out! Just— like, look!” She gave them the phone. Irma peeked at the phone as well.

“Who’s Lila Rossi?” Irma asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Apparently a very proud student of François Dupont, if we go by her profile.” Ale noted.

“Yeah, and that’s the school Marinette just transferred from!” Ashli growled, distressed. 

“Wait.” Now Bartek was looking over. He adjusted his black cat-eye glasses, looking confused. “Isn’t François Dupont the akuma school? With like, that one girl who’s caused like half the akumas?” 

“The one whose name has been censored by her parents. According to this Lila’s profile, by the way, ew, orange on orange is something no one should do—“ 

“Get to the point, Irma.” Ale admonished. 

“Okay, okay. But her profile lists her parents are ambassadors. That’s the kind of parents who would censor their daughter’s names if they did something like that.” Irma sleuthed. Bartek nodded. 

“Checks out. We need to make sure the whole class knows this. Something like this could seriously fuck up Marinette’s reputation.” Bartek added. “Hold on, I’ll at everyone in the group chat.” He said, opening up Discord on his phone. 

“I’m going to find Marinette!” Irma says quickly, dashing off. 

“But why would they say something like this?” Ashli questions. “Unless...” 

A scream pierced through the courtyard. 

“AKUMA!” 

A purple butterfly floated into the window of the school, as everyone backed far away from the direction it went. 

Ashli pockets her phone and runs. “Follow that butterfly!” She yells, sprinting after the purple nightmare. 

“Ashli, wait, don’t! Aaaand she’s gone.” Ale pinches the bridge of their nose. “I need to find Félix.” They decide, before the set off to the library. 

Chapter Text

‘Restarter. I am Hawkmoth. A terrible menace has ruined everything you’ve worked for, but I will give you the power to force everyone to forget it. All I ask for in return for this power is that you bring me Ladybug and Chat Noir’s miraculouses.’

Luka holds Marinette closer. “I understand, Hawkmoth.” He says, and purple washes over him. He stands, letting his beloved girl go, and Marinette gasps as she sees what he’s become. His cellphone, the object akumatized, has become a spotlight on his hand. The rest of him is shades of grey. “Don’t worry, Marinette.” He smiles. “I’ll make everything better.” His smile is kind, and it only makes her stomach sink at its genuineness. He stands, and walks away. Marinette hates to see him go, but she knows she has to hurry. She sees an empty bathroom, and dashes in. “Tikki, spots on!”

Soon, Ladybug is ready to roll. She comes out, and sees Ashli running.

“Ladybug! I’m like, super happy to see you!” Marinette tries not to cringe. She knows it’s not really Ashli’s fault, but—

“This is all my fault. I jumped to conclusions, and was too aggressive, and... wait, where’s Marinette?! Hawkmoth didn’t butterfly her, right?!” She sounds so scared for Marinette, and Ladybug can’t help but smile.

“It’s alright, Marinette is safe. Her friend, Luka Couffaine, is the akuma. He took it for her.” The very fact makes her sad, but she doesn’t let it stop her. She has a job to do.

“Oh jeez... is there a way I can help?” Ashli asks. Ladybug cringes. Oh god, she doesn’t want to think about the temporary miraculouses right now. 

“I’m sorry, Ashli, but I can’t trust anyone new with the miraculouses right now.” Ashli looks confused.

“What? No! I don’t want a miraculous! I’m like, the last person who deserves that right now! I want to help! Like, in any way you need me!”

Marinette blinks. And she smiles. “Follow me. We need to strategize.”

They peek over the railing of the courtyard. In the beautiful flower-spotted plaza, Restarter is blasting away people’s memories.

“The akuma is in the spotlight, but how do we get close enough without him shooting us with it?” Ladybug mumbled.

“It’s attached to his arm, right? If we restrain that arm somehow, like tie something around it and his torso, we could force it down. Of course, someone quick would have to run the rope around him and avoid the blasts. Maybe if someone stood hidden with one end, and someone quick, like you or Chat Noir—“ Marinette started to catch on.

“Ran around him and stood at the other end, it would trap him long enough for a third person to smash the spotlight!” They finished together.

“Good thinking, Ashli!” Marinette grinned, offering her hand for a fist bump. Ashli giggles. “Like, it’s nothin’! Now, we just need a third...”

“Hope you lovely ladies aren’t planning something without me?” A voice said loudly. Marinette growled and yanked Chat down, right before he got blasted by a beam of light.

The cat boy let out a scared ‘eep.’

“Come out, Ladybug! My cause is noble, and I won’t have you ruining things anymore for Marinette!” Restarter yelled.

“Wait, Marinette goes here now?” Chat asks. The two girls slap their hands over his mouth.

“Quiet, fleabag!” Ashli hissed in a whisper. Chat glared.

“Ashli is right, Chat. If he knows where we are, he could get us.”

“We need someone to run around him—“ Ashli started to explain, but Chat got up, with an aggravated, ‘fine, got it!’ And jumped off, starting to yell and distract Restarter. 

“Like, is he always that control-hungry?” Ashli sighs angrily. 

“Yeah, pretty much... only around me, though.” Without another word, Ladybug called out “Lucky charm!” A garden hose came down. 

Ashli dragged her out of the way of a blast, and they squatted down.  

“A garden hose? Let me think...” Ladybug said. Ashli nodded. 

“Right! I’m ready and waiting!” 

Ladybug assessed the situation. What was important... She centered in on Ashli. She looked at hose, peeked over the railing, and looked for more important clues. 

Ashli, hose, rosebush, Restarter, spotlight. “I’ve got it!” She whispered. “We’re going with your idea, Ashli!” She told her. She pulled the taller girl up, held her around the waist, and silently swung them down to the rosebush. She gave one end of the garden hose to Ashli. “Stay hidden.” 

Ashli nodded. “Will do!” 

Ladybug smiled at her, and put a hand on her shoulder. “Thank you for your help. Marinette would be proud of you.” Ashli giggles, looking away. 

“I hope she would. Now get out there, Lady!” She encouraged. 

Marinette smiled, nodded, and took the other end of the hose. She ran out, behind a distracted Restarter, who pointed his beam at a downed Chat. “Now, I’ll finally make you forget everything about this!” 

Ladybug ran around him swiftly, jumping over the overlapping rope. “What?!” Restarter yelled, struggling as she went around again, and then across the courtyard, binding his arms tight against his sides.

 “Chat Noir! The spotlight had the akuma!” Ladybug yelled. To her surprise, Chat Noir huffed. 

“Oh, that’s all you need me for? Why don’t you ask your new partner, Ashlynn, to do it for you?!” He said haughtily, looking away.

 “I’m holding the other end, idiot!” Ashli yelled. 

Marinette groaned. “This isn’t the time! Destroy the spotlight!” 

“I don’t think I should! You completely ignored me today! You didn’t even tell me you made a plan!” 

“Ashli tried to, but you ran off!” Ladybug yelled.

 “And why should I listen to some civilian?!” Chat argued. Then, there was the sound of something smashing against the ground.

Chapter Text

Marinette turned to see Félix standing over the crushed remains of the spotlight, and to see him stomp on it, releasing the butterfly. She felt her heart flutter at the cold look Félix regarded Chat with.

“You should know better than to be so petty during a battle. You’re a waste of a hero.” Félix huffed.

“Tell him, Féli!” Ashli yelled from behind the bush.

“Yeah, he was putting us all in danger!” An older student with a half shaved head, half shielding a girl who Marinette recognized as a drama student, “Just so he could try and make Ladybug feel bad!”

Suddenly, Chat Noir was being booed by the remaining students in the courtyard, who saw everything. Blanching, the cat ‘hero’ quickly jumped and ran off. 

“Ladybug, the akuma.” Félix reminded gently.

Marinette snapped out of her awe. “Right!”

“No more evildoing for you, little akuma! Time to de-evilise!”

And the akuma, nearly gone, was caught. “Bye bye, little butterfly!”

Gathering up the hose with Ashli and Félix’s help, they helped her toss it in the air. “Miraculous Ladybug!”

And suddenly, everything was ok. Ladybug smiled at the two. “Thank you, both of you. You’d make great heroes.” 

Ashli rubbed the back of her neck. “Aww, shucks. Really, it was all for Marinette. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!”

“I feel the same. This act was in Marinette’s name.” Félix said, with a barely-there smile.

Saving her from getting too flustered, her earrings beeped.

“I gotta go! I’ll let Marinette know it’s safe to come out, don’t worry. Bug out!” And Ladybug soared off.

Landing on the railing of one of the outdoor halls, she detransformed, sighing in relief. She climbed down onto the walkway.

“Marinette!” Irma had just turned the corner. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere! Are you alright? Ah, come here.” Irma started to fix up her ruffled clothes. “Everyone was so worried! That fake post, we all thought you might have been akumatized, or worse!”

“Fake post?” Marinette questioned.

“Yes. After you ran off, we all took a better look at that post. That Lila girl was trying to cause another akuma! You think half of them was enough! Hmph. Come along, Ashli’s probably scared to death that she ruined your friendship.”

Marinette let herself be dragged by the authoritative class representative. “No... in fact, I think we’re going to be even better friends about this.” Marinette smiled. She decided not to correct them. After all, it might be hard to explain her friendship with Chloé if she told them the truth now.

“Ugh, I’m glad that’s over.” Irma huffs, handing out ice cream bowls to everyone. Turns out that her moms owned an ice cream and candy parlor, and were happy to give discounts to the exhausted group. School had ended early, thanks to the attack, and thank goodness for that. Marinette was exhausted. She pressed up more against Luka as they reclined in the booth.

“I’m sorry about what happened, again.” Luka sheepishly said, taking a bite of berry ice cream.

“No fault of yours! All of the fault goes to that awful mothball man!” Irma dismissed, popping a candied cherry in her mouth and chewing, annoyed.

“Pfft. Mothball.” Ashli took a sip of her mint chocolate milkshake, giggling.

“He’s old and musty like one, if the sightings are to be believed.” Félix points out. Hemi laughs breathily, nodding eagerly.

 They talk amongst themselves happily, and Marinette glances down at her phone, texting back her friends currently not present. 

—Marinette Protection Squad— 

Buzz off: Everything ok now? No bee needed? I can get the bee signal going. 

While you were being heterosexual, I studied the blade: Have more faith in Marinette. I trust her to handle herself. 

Buzz off: ok yeah but like, previous akuma to previous akuma, you weren’t scared at all that Dupain-Cheng might be too kind for her own good and try to take a bullet for someone else? 

While you were being heterosexual, I studied the blade: ... 

If lost return to the squad: Guys, I’m fine! Luka and me are chilling out with friends right now. Ladybug handled it. 

While you were being heterosexual I studied the blade: I see. The video was uploaded, too. 

Buzz off: Chat Noir really made a scene in the middle of battle? How utterly ridiculous!!!! 

If lost return to the squad: Yeah... it was bad. 

Your heart’s song is shit: i don’t even remember it but I can still feel the seething rage coming from Restarter when Chat Noir started saying that sort of stuff... what an angry song I had.”

Marinette smiled at Luka, also on his phone. “Thanks for defending me, Luka.” She whispered, hugging him. 

Luka smiled, putting down his ice cream to hug her. “Any time, really. Maybe without being possessed.”

Chapter Text

The day after the akuma attack, Marinette walks to school with Luka and Ashli. Ashli was telling them about her helping Ladybug, looking very proud of herself.

“Like, she was so awesome! She looked around at everything and went ‘we’re doing your idea!’ Like! I about fangirled right then and there!”

“Ladybug really is amazing. Her heart’s song is so heroic. And familiar...”

“Yeah! She’s really great!” Marinette cut in, trying to cut off Luka’s thought process. “I kinda feel bad I couldn’t help...”

“Awww, Mari! You can’t help that you’re not a super cool superhero! Besides, I like you just the way you are! As a super cool fashion designer! Besides, I wanna be your best friend, not Ladybug’s!” Ashli giggled, hugging her tight. Marinette blinked.

“You... want to be my best friend? Even after yesterday?” She asked, awed.

“Totally! Like, you’re so nice! I really wanna get to know you better, especially after I screwed up yesterday.”

“That sounds really great.” Marinette smiled shyly. “Let’s be friends, Ashli.”

Luka chuckled. “I’m glad you two are getting along.” He smiled at the two of them. They got to the school gates, where they were approached by a tall, pale woman with chestnut brown hair, curled into a loose half-bun. It had streaks of grey in it, betraying her age. She wore black suit, with a single white rose in her lapel.

“Principal Achthoven. Good morning.” Luka smiled, looking a bit intimidated. 

The woman, apparently the principal, nodded. Her eyes were on Marinette. “Miss Dupain-Cheng. I apologize for not being able to give you a tour yesterday, as something came up. I’d like to do so now. Not to worry, as I will write you a pass to class when we are done.” 

Marinette swallowed hard. “Um, that sounds fine! Thank you, Principal Achthoven.”

The principal smiled. “Right then. Come along. Mister Couffaine, Miss Campbell, please continue on to class.” The two nodded, and went away to class.

Achthoven started to walk, and Marinette followed dutifully. The principal showed her where everything was, and promised to send her a digital map to help her in her first few weeks. There were many facilities for different talents, and Marinette was delighted to see a sewing room that she could go to during their morning and afternoon free periods. She was also happy to wave to Bartek when she passed the recording studio, who seemed to be packing up from recording a song, ready to get to class.

There was one last stop, in the plaza. The giant mural that stretched across the north wall of the courtyard. 

Principal Achthoven stood in front of the mural, showing a woman with curly black hair offering her hand to a crowd of differently colored hands. On a painted scroll, stretching across the top of the mural, it read ‘Talent ist talent.’ “This is our mural, painted a long time ago by several students. It shows our founder, in which the school was named after: Miss Camilla Rosenhart.” Achthoven explained. 

Marinette can’t help but be incredibly impressed. “She sounds wonderful, Principal Achthoven.” 

“What do you know about our founder, Miss Dupain-Cheng?” The Principal asked, tilting her head. 

“Nothing. Can you tell me about her?” Marinette can’t help but be curious. She feels... connected to Miss Rosenhart, somehow. 

“She was a vigilante during the French Revolution, known as Marienkäfer. She established this school soon after the Revolution ended to help the gifted children of France hone their skills. Many people questioned her, as she recruited people of all ethnicities, homes, and identities, which was a bit of a taboo at the time. Her unshaken response is our motto. ‘Talent ist talent.’” The woman explains. She adjusts the white rose in her lapel. “Sounds familiar, no?” 

Marinette gazes at the mural, thinking hard. “Do you think... Miss Rosenhart is Ladybug?” 

“Was, my dear. I believe she was. And I also believe she would be very proud of you.” 

Marinette jumped, panic rising up. “Wh-what do you mean? I’m just a normal student! A normal girl with a normal life!” 

Achthoven laughed, a gentle and soothing sound. “Don’t panic, dear. I happen to be very good at keeping secrets. In fact, I want to offer you an out. As a previous accessory designer, I can talk to you personally and privately about designs whenever it’s needed. Our private little lessons will be your excuse to carry on the founder’s legacy.” 

The student was blown away by her generosity. “Thank you, Principal Achthoven... But I would like to request one thing.” 

“Yes?” 

“Can I have actual private lessons with you?” She asked hopefully. The principal laughed and pat her shoulder gently. 

“Of course you may. How polite of you to ask. Now, it’s time for you to return to class. I’m sure Miss Campbell is worried that an akuma has come for you again.” The woman chuckled. 

“Yes ma’am! Thank you again for accepting me.” Marinette beamed, before she turned and set off. 

Achthoven watched her go, before looking back to the mural.

“It truly is my pleasure. And my duty.” She said, half to herself.

Chapter Text

“Ah, welcome back, Miss Dupain-Cheng.” Desrosiers greeted her. Ashli waved enthusiastically. “We’re doing a worksheet. Félix has agreed to help you with it, since you were out for the lesson.”

“Thank you, Miss Desrosiers.” Marinette smiles, before she climbs up to her seat in the back. Sliding into the middle seat, she smiles at Félix.

“Hi, Félix.” She greeted, giving a small greeting to a distracted Hemi as well.

“Good morning, Marinette. I hope your meeting with the principal went well. Do you think during afternoon free period you could join me in the library? We discussed it earlier, but I believe it would be best to go over the curriculum for this class and make sure you understand it sooner than later.” Félix’s tone is clipped and businesslike. Then he ends it with an awkward, “Please.” which betrays his care for her feelings.

“I’d be happy to, Félix. Thanks for taking care of me. I was kinda worried I’d be all alone here, but you and everyone else are really nice.” She admitted.

“Illogical. This class has been together for many years. We’re very close knit, and depend on each other for many things. You are very talented and kind, and these are traits we all like in a person. We’d be blind, no, we would be brain-dead to not welcome you into our group.” Félix reassured in his strange, very serious way. It was... pretty endearing, really.

“That’s Félix-ese for ‘you’re cute.’” The cap-wearing girl in front of them, Angelina “Lina” Katsaros, fake-whispered, grinning at the two, craning around to look at them.

“Do your work, Angelina.” Félix scolded darkly, his cheeks barely pink. The Grecian girl snickered and turned around back around, whispering to Bartek, next to her.

“It’s really nice to see everyone so friendly.” Marinette mumbles half to herself, half to Tikki in her pocket.

“It is.” Marinette jumped a little when Félix answered her. He slid their worksheets together. “The sooner we get this done, the sooner we have free time.” The boy explains. Marinette nods eagerly, leaning closer to hear him as he began to explain.

The rest of the day went pretty well. Luka was invited into Ashli’s lunch group, and Bartek was very excited to meet another musician. Especially one that could understand his strange ways of describing sound.

“I’m thinking something kinda like—“ Bartek made the sound like a rocket. “And then—“ A crashing sound.

Luka nodded and played a tune oh his guitar, starting from high and crashing to low. “Like so?”

“Exactly!”

Ashli, Marinette, Irma, and Jay, another boy from their class, watched in amusement.

“I’ll never understand musicians.” Irma sniffed, though a smile played on her face.

“Yeah, but it’s kinda cute.” Jay grinned, blowing his pink hair out of his face as he watched Bartek dreamily. 

“You, like, think everything with Bartek is cute, Jay-Jay.” Ashli teased.

“As if Marinette doesn’t agree. You and Luka are dating, aren’t you? You’ve gotta think this is cute.” He eyed her, and Marinette felt her face heat up.

“We aren’t dating! I mean, Luka is great! It’s just...!” She hides her face. 

“Don’t worry. These sorts of things take time.” Irma soothed. “Feelings are the messiest substance in the universe. I’m a painter, so I can vouch for that.”

“Class prez is totes in the right, Mari! You let it come as it comes. Just remember, that it’s France, and polyamory is, like, very accepted!” Ashli said, patting her back.

Marinette groaned into her hands. 

— 

At the worst possible time, an akuma attacked. She had been studying with Félix during free time, when the assistant principal called her to Principal Achthoven’s office. She panicked, thinking she was in trouble, relaxed because it was likely just the special lessons, and then panicked again because that likely meant there was an akuma lose. And she was right. And it was back at François Dupont. 

Achthoven allowed her to transform in her office, with the good principal turned around. Once she was suited up, she was out the window. 

She wasn’t sure of who the girl currently wrecking the François Dupont courtyard was, but, judging by how Lila was shielded by Marinette’s old class, she could guess whose fault it was. Adrien was strangely gone, though. Ladybug only gave it a moment of thought, though. He could handle himself. 

She was forced to fight with Chat ignoring her, though. Eventually, he was hit by the akuma’s projectiles, sticky dodgeballs, and restrained. And thank goodness for that. Marinette destroyed the object quickly enough, and sent the purified butterfly on its way. She checked on the confused, still sniffling girl.

 “I’m sorry for the trouble, Ladybug... Lila, she...” 

“I understand. Bullies can be hard to deal with. Do you have friends you can talk to about this?” Marinette asked. The girl nodded softly.

 “I’m glad. Friends are your greatest asset.” The hero gave her a smile, and helped her up. The girl smiled back, and ran off. 

Talking to the victims... it was always nice to comfort them. That was usually the thing that helped everyone most. 

“Ladybug!” The named heroine winced. She didn’t have to use her lucky charm on the distraught akuma, so she had no excuse to avoid Alya now. She put on a strained smile, and turned. 

“Hi Alya! What do you need?” 

“You told that girl off, right? She threw a dodgeball at Lila! I’m sure as her best friend you know how dangerous that is, with all her disabilities!” Alya asked. Lila was running up to her.  

“Don’t bother her, Alya! I’m sure she’s really busy!” Lila tried to explain. Ladybug couldn’t stop the venomous words in her throat. 

“We aren’t friends, Lila.” She said, plain and simple. 

She swung away, not wanting to be around to hear the liar’s excuses. 

Most everyone was convinced, of course, but in the edge of the crowd, Kim and Nino exchanged a glance. 

Lila’s pillar of lies cracked, by just a hair.

Chapter Text

Marinette enters the classroom, talking happily with Ashli and Lina about her weekend. This would mark her second week at school, and so far it had been wonderful. Everyone was extremely nice, and all very passionate about what they did. Ashli had declared them best friends, and Marinette decided she was okay with that. It was far past time to move on. Though, she still felt tinges of fear in some situations.

“Did you all miss me?” Came a sudden, haughty voice. Standing in the door, with curly black hair cascading down her back in a loose plait braid, was a tanned girl, in some very fashionable clothes. Her left leg was in a brace, but it didn’t diminish the sassy pose she stood in. Marinette feels a small sinking feeling.

“Bella! Girl, you’re back! How’s the leg?” Ashli rushed to the girl, grinning. Others gathered around her, as the ‘Bella’ girl answered all their questions, in the same haughty, proud tone. She eyed Marinette, and walked to her.

“You’re new. Who are you wearing?” The girl said, plain and simple. Marinette swallowed hard, being reminded harshly of both Chloé, before they made up, and Lila.

“Uh..” She said helplessly. Ashli came to her rescue.

“This is Marinette Dupain-Cheng! She makes most of her own clothes, right, Mari?”

Marinette nodded nervously. “Y-yeah!” She messes with the sleeves of her new, long sleeve shirt. “I didn’t make the shirt, but I embroidered it. I made the skirt and leggings, though!”

Bella eyes her. Then she smiles sharply. “Bella Allegri, of the Trash or Treasure online fashion column. I get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of each other...” She said, walking away.

Marinette didn’t know her hands were shaking until Ashli took them gently, stilling her. “Hey. It’s okay. Bella’s a bit intense, but she’s nice to people she likes. And she seems to like you so far!”

Marinette was only able to nod.

Throughout class, though, she realized things about Bella. That she seemed to pay extreme attention to everything. Marinette also noticed a clicking sound, almost always after Bella said something. And when Bella heard it, she smiled. When she didn’t, it was after she said something that Lila might say; something mean. And Bella would quickly correct herself at that time, until she heard the click again.

Marinette started to think that maybe Bella wasn’t the Lila of the class, just like Irma wasn’t like Chloé used to be. She started to think that maybe Rosenhart didn’t have a pre-Queen-Bee Chloé, or a Lila. And what a wonderful thought that was. She was able to relax halfway through class, and lean over her assignment with Hemi and Félix, so they could puzzle out the horrors of algebra together.

It was after class that Marinette asked Miss Desrosiers what the clicking sound was. The tall woman looked conflicted.

“I’m not sure that’s my place to tell.”

Then, Marinette jumped as Bella suddenly joined them.

“No, it’s fine, Miss Desrosiers. Everyone else knows! It’s not fair to Marinette if she doesn’t.” Bella smiles awkwardly. She was looking to the teacher almost for approval. She gets it, as Desrosiers gives her a silent nod.

“She’s right. So I’ll tell you. In the... best terms I can offer, that being crude medical, Miss Allegri is a sociopath. She does not feel sympathy. When others feel bad, she does not. However, she is attached to certain people, particularly this class, and wants them to be happy. So I And a few others, including her therapist, are teaching her to recognize when it is time to be harsh, and when it is time to be reassuring.”

 Marinette started to understand. “You click when she does something correctly. If she doesn’t hear the click, she knows she needs to reword what she said.” 

“Yep. It was kinda weird at first, because I kinda felt like a dog, but it’s actually really helpful. I get to be closer to the class, and it helps me avoid public backlash on my column. By the way, I did a review of those super cute rocker costumes you did for Kitty Section. Nothing bad, pinky promise!” She laughs, flipping her braid. “Really, I admire your style. Everyone’s so focused on being grown up these days, so it’s super to get an up and coming designer who’s willing to put some youth in her stuff.”

 Marinette’s heart fluttered at the kind words. For just a second, she allowed herself to pretend that Bella was Lila, and that she was achieving her far-away dream of getting along with Lila, of Lila putting away her lies, and being a better person. 

Because as much as she disliked Lila, Marinette still couldn’t help but want to help everyone she met. Even people who hurt her. And that might be impossible for Lila, but... she could dream. She let herself come back to reality, and smiled at Bella. 

“That means a lot to me, Bella. Thank you... Sorry if I seemed scared of you, I just...” 

“The Rossi girl, right? Ash filled me in over the weekend, while I was getting ready to go back to school. I’m... well. It sucks that that happened to you. I know if it happened to me, I’d be really upset...” Bella was obviously struggling, but Marinette was more happy to see her effort. “But listen. We’re all super close in this class, and we’re gonna do our best to make you feel at home. Ashli, she... was my first friend in this class. So I trust her to make you forget that dumb school.” Bells gave her a sheepish, lopsided smile, and Marinette returned it. 

“Thanks, Bella. Maybe we can talk fashion at lunch, then? I’ve never actually met a fashion columnist who’s my age.” Marinette suggested eagerly. 

“Sounds super! I’ll see you then, kay? Thanks for taking a chance on me, Marinette. It... means a lot to me.” 

They walked out of class together, and Marinette just laughed lightly. 

“You haven’t given me a reason not to! I’ll see you then, Bella.” 

The two parted ways, a bond established between them.

Chapter Text

School went well, but Marinette was more excited for what came afterwords.

“Mari, you ready to go shopping?” Chloé’s haughty voice called as Marinette exited the school’s gate. Marinette smiled, rushing to her friend. 

It was... surreal to call Chloé a friend again. After the first year of public school, Chloé became... horrible. Marinette could recognize why now, but as a little kid, she was only confused and saddened as her best friend suddenly began calling her a commoner. Suddenly being awful to her. She felt a little foolish for not connecting the dots to Chloé’s mother leaving for the first time.

But now... things were better. Chloé was more like the girl that lifted her up in her first year of public school than the girl who brought her down. Chloé could be a bit awkward, of course. It was obvious that she wasn’t quite sure how affection worked. After all, her mother was almost never around, and her father was always too busy for her.

It was mostly up to Marinette to show her, after everything with Sabrina. For now, the bluenette let the blonde use her own love language to show affection. That was, gifts and outings. Marinette appreciated it, though she liked words better than just gifts. Still, she wouldn’t say no to fancy fabric, tea, and food.

“Hi Chloé! I’m definitely ready. Going to the mall this time, right?” Marinette said, climbing into the limo with Chloé. Chloé gave a haughty smirk. “Of course. Besides, *someone*,” She aimed a playful glare at Marinette, “won’t let us go out of country until break.”

Marinette laughed. “I’m just saying that if we’re going to go somewhere out of country, we should make the most of it, and do a trip bigger than an afternoon shopping trip!”

“Fine. Have it your way.” She crosses her arms. “I just...” She looks away, frowning. Marinette gives her space as she flounders. “You’re the most tolerable person I know, and I’m trying to make sure you know how much you mean to me.” She spit out in one breath. Marinette giggles, and lays a hand on hers. 

“I care about you too, Chloé. You were my best friend a long time ago, and you’re my best friend again, now. Besides, you’ve been getting so much better! You’re doing amazing, and I’m proud of you. I’m sure Ladybug would be proud of you, too!”

Chloé’s eyes light up at the name. “You think so?!” She says excitedly. Then her cheeks go pink. “I mean, of course she is. Someone as amazing as her can always recognize other amazing people. That’s why she trusted both of us with Miraculous! Speaking of, I’m going to vouch for you next time I see her! You deserve a miraculous more than anyone!” 

Marinette laughed nervously. Oh boy. “Really, I’m too busy for that kind of responsibility! I wasn’t a very good match for the Mouse Miraculous anyway!”

“Ridiculous. If anything, that Kwami wasn’t a good match for you. And besides, Multimouse was almost as perfect as Ladybug! And her design wasn’t absolutely horrendous. You were a sight for sore eyes after seeing Chat Noir’s horrendously bulky leather for so long. How does that boy move without squeaking?!”

Marinette laughed, a real laugh, at the image that came to mind, of Chat trying to flirt with her while the leather squeaked the whole time.

“I’m not a big fan of Chat Noir in the first place... I personally thought you were great as Queen Bee. You were my favorite.” Marinette threaded her fingers with Chloé’s, smiling. And it was true. After everything that’s happened, she can’t help but think highly of Chloé and her betterment of herself. Chloé was looking at her in awe and shock, a red blush covering her face up to her ears. Marinette quickly pulled away, embarrassed.

“I mean! Ryuko and Viperion are super awesome too! I really like their designs, I mean, they’re really neat looking and they seem to take battles seriously...” She rambled, and trailed off as Chloé took her hand again.  

The two enemies-turned-confidants shared a shy smile. 

 “Miss Bourgeois, Miss Dupain-Cheng? We’ve arrived.” The driver said. The two girls climbed out of the limo. “We’ll call you when we’re ready, but we should be done by seven, if nothing interrupts us.” Chloé told the driver. “...Thank you for bringing us. Have a nice day.” She added, a bit awkwardly. The driver smiled and thanked her, before driving off.

The two girls continued holding hands at they walked inside. “That was really nice of you, Chloé.” Marinette said sweetly, squeezing the blonde’s hand. 

Chloé gave a proud smile. “I know. Let’s go.” With that, they set off to their first destination

Chapter Text

It was an hour later that something truly did happen. They’d been walking out of a fabric store, bags on their arms, when a store burst open. A blur shot past the two girls, dragging them back into the store despite their protests, and into the dark storage room.

“Hey, what are you?!—“ Chloé started to protest.

“Shh! Look, I’m trying to save Marinette’s ass here, and you’re her friend, so I have to save you too. Tee-el-dee-arr, there’s an akuma, it can mind control people, and it may or may not be my fault.” A familiar voice said. 

“Oh, understandable.” Chloé added. Marinette shook her head in exasperation, but then blinked at the familiar girl who dragged them in.

“Bella?” The barely visible figure’s shoulders ducked. 

“Surprise? Look, right now I’m super frustrated and I didn’t realize some people were so... delusional!” The girl huffed. “She asked for my honest opinion! She should have known if she read my blog that I don’t hold back on anything! If she wanted to be coddled for her horrendous outfit choices, she should go search out that Agreste kid. He seems the kind to sugar coat things. I, however, am not. I drink my coffee black!”

“I like this girl, is she in your class?” Chloé asks.

“Yeah, I am. I’m Bella Allegri, wish we could have met in a better situation.”

“Girls, let’s save the small talk for later.” Marinette urged. “I’m going to go see if there’s any way we can get out. You two stay here!”

“What?! No way! You could be hurt! I’m going with you. Bella, you stay here, because if the akuma catches tail of you. Trust me, I’ve caused my fair share of them.” Marinette felt Chloé link arms with her, and suppressed a sigh. The one disadvantage of having Chloé truly care about you is having Chloé be overprotective. This was way too much like first year. Still, she relented.

“Okay. You going to be okay, Bella?” Marinette asked.

“Yeah, just leave me in the dark musty closet.” She snapped, then paused. “Sorry, that was out of line. I’ll stay here, I know it’s for the best. Plus, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of experience being in the closet...” She joked weakly.

Marinette giggled a bit. “Right. Come on, Chloé.” They emerged from the closet, and blinked in the bright light. Marinette shut it behind her. Most of the people roaming the mall were wearing neon, clashing colors. Controlled by the akuma, though they didn’t seem to have a very good line of sight. Marinette pulled Chloé through the mall, trying to think of how to separate them while keeping her friend safe. They reached the entrance, and suddenly, a horde of controlled people were closing the entrance up, trapping everyone inside. The two ran faster, and Marinette knew this was her opportunity. Right before the gates closed, Marinette grabbed Chloe’s wrist with both hands and through her through the gate.

“Marinette!” She yelled, reaching for her, right before the gate closed, and cut off their view of each other. Marinette shook the guilt from her chest, and ran into an abandoned bathroom, away from the poor-sighted cronies.

“Tikki, spots on!”

But what to do? She didn’t know anything about the akuma, or how to beat it without getting hot herself. Then she got an idea. She snuck back to the shop where Bella hid. Opening the door, she found her on her phone, looking nervous. She lit up as she saw her.

“Ladybug! Thank god you’re here! Wait. Where’s Marinette and her blonde girlfriend? Did they get out okay?” She asked, browns furrowing.

“Chloé is safe. I’m not sure where Marinette is. But I need you to tell me how the akuma controls people, and anything else you know about it.”

“Right. From what I can tell, it’s in those atrocious shutter shades of hers. She shoots beams from them that turn people into... those fashion monstrosities.” Bella told her.

“Hm... I think I’ll need a distraction.” Then she got an idea. “Stay here. Everything will be over soon.” Ladybug told the Italian.

“Thank you. Please make sure Marinette is okay. I don’t want her to get hurt because I opened my damn mouth a bit too wide.” Bella requested. Ladybug smiled.  

“I’m sure she’ll be fine. Worry about staying safe, yourself.” 

Ladybug shut the door. Then, she yoyo’d herself out of the mall, through the skylight. It was time to pay Fu a visit. 

She detransformed nearby, and ran in. “Master Fu, I need the Fox.” She told the old man, her voice serious, with only a bit of the underlying panic she felt. The old man, understanding the situation, took out the box. 

“Will you be using Rena Rogue?” He asked. 

Marinette paused. “I... can’t trust Rena Rouge anymore. I plan to give the Fox to Chloé, on the condition that she does not give away her identity, and makes an effort to not be associated with her past persona. She’s really grown, Master Fu. She deserves a second chance at being a hero.”

 Fu watched her for doubt, and sighed. “I think you’re right. However, before you go. I must inform you of a decision I have made. Chat Noir is abusing his powers of the Miraculous, and I will soon take it from him. I’m still considering who will replace him, but... this must stop.” 

Marinette let out a huge breath of relief. “Oh thank goodness. He was really hindering me in fights but I didn’t want to go against your judgement!” 

“Marinette. You are a true match for the Ladybug. I am... a weak match for the turtle. Your judgement will always be better than mine.”

 The bluenette was shellshocked, before bowing. “Thank you, Master Fu.” She took the Fox, and made her way out of the shop.

Chapter Text

Chloé had been ruthlessly trying to find a way back inside for at least ten minutes. This was her worst nightmare. To have someone she loved in danger. All she could think of was how to get Marinette out of there. Because the stupid, amazing, selfless pigtailed-girl had sacrificed herself for someone like herself. A brat. The sound of feet on concrete came behind her, and Ladybug stood before her, a box in her hand. 

“Chloé Bourgeois, I present you with the Miraculous of the Fox. You will use it for the power of good, and will return it to me when the battle is over. However, you must not reveal yourself, *and* you must take on a persona as the Fox Holder so that no one can connect you with Queen Bee. Can I trust you?”

Chloé’s eyes filled with tears. “Thank you! I promise, you won’t regret this. I’ll be the best Fox I can be.”

“Then Chloé was last spotted here. Whenever you’re ready.” Ladybug gave her a kind smile.

Chloé opened the box, and put on the necklace. The tiny Fox Kwami came out of it.

“It’s nice to meet you! I’m Trixx. My phrase is ‘Trixx, pounce on!’ My power is Mirage, and will let you create an illusion. You understand, right?”

“Of course. I’ve seen Rena enough to mimic her. But... why isn’t she here?”

“Rena Rouge has... been permanently retired.” Ladybug answered, looking away. It hurt to say it, but it was true.

Chloé looked away as well, considering that. Comparing it to the reason that Queen Bee was permanently retired. Her eyes narrowed in determination to be better.

“Trixx, pounce on!”

She exploded in light. An white bodysuit covered her, with an golden-orange coat covering her arms and hands, connecting at the neck in a turtleneck collar, and then curving off to the side, giving the illusion of a fox’s white belly. At the waist, the coat exploded out into skirts, split into sections at the bottom, that hung behind her and at her sides, giving the impression of several golden tails. The skirts were tipped with white. Chloé pulled out her ponytail holder, and shook her hair free, the magic catching it and weaving it into a white curly bun, the rest of her hair changing to white to match her new regal style. Two golden-orange fox ears sprouted from her head, and a golden crown curved around her ears and curved on her head, held tight to her head, like an empress going into battle. Her white bodysuit-covered feet turned into white, pointed boots. 

The new Fox hero beamed at Ladybug. “I’m ready for anything, Miss Ladybug. You can call me... Imperatrix.” Her voice was regal, turning her bratty haughtiness into true grace and command. She seemed much older than she looked. It was perfect.

“Very well. Let’s hurry!” And the two heroes jumped in sync, soaring towards the skylight that would let them in the mall.

Ladybug swung onto upper floor railing from the skylight. Imperatrix followed, landing delicately and gracefully on the balcony. Ladybug examined the lower floor that she could see. A crowd of hypnotized civilians was gathered around a store directly below them. And in opposite stores, she saw a few people hiding. One, in the direct opposite store, was peeking around the window, holding up a phone at the store where the minions gathered.

Ladybug suppressed a groan. Alya was here. Of course she was. Now Ladybug would have to keep an eye on her so she wouldn’t get akumatized, once she saw Imperatrix.

Ladybug called out her lucky charm, and stared at the handheld mirror, the case around it red and spotted with black dots. She looked to Imperatrix, and things started coming together.

“Make an illusion of Bella on my signal.” She instructed, and Imperatrix gave a nod. 

Ladybug yo’yo’d onto a hanging banner, and pointed to a place not far away from the shop where Passionista has set up, then to right in front of it. The fox showed a thumbs up and took out her flute. Suddenly, an illusion of Bella was running across the way. It was a rushed illusion, but Passionista certainly didn’t mind, as she started running at Bella. Ladybug hopped down, and opened the mirror, and as a beam went through the illusion, it hit the mirror, knocked back the spotted hero, and bounced right back into Passionista’s sunglasses. They flew into the air, and Ladybug watched them, dazed. 

The angry akuma, dressed in a smorgasbord of clashing colors and with glowing white eyes, was rushing for the glasses, jumping high into the air. But a blur of gold caught them, and landed next to Ladybug, supporting the dizzy girl with an arm around her waist, them offering one side of the sunglasses to her. Ladybug shook her head to clear it of the remaining fuzziness and took the side. In sync, they snapped the glasses in half. 

“No more evil-doing for you, little akuma! Miraculous Ladybug!” 

A white butterfly was released, and a girl was left in Passionista’s place, in a equally bad outfit. She looked around, confused, and then horrified. Bella came out of the shop, and the once-akuma looked ashamed. 

“I’m sorry for being harsh. It’s kinda my thing, but...” Bella started but Imperatrix held up a hand. 

“Oh no you don’t. This wasn’t your fault. She asked for criticism, and you gave it to her.” The fox hero pointed to the less than fashionable girl. “You’re a fan of her, aren’t you?” 

“Y-Yeah. Trash or Treasure is my favorite column... and I should’ve known you would’ve been blunt. I’m sorry for taking it out on you.” The girl looked away, face red from embarrassment.

Bella sighed, and squatted next to her. “You have potential. The bright colors are nice, but you need to go more towards colors that match, and less complementary. Instead of orange and blue, try red and blue. They go together a lot better and aren’t so hard on the eyes. Try to keep it to just three main colors, too.” The Italian advised. 

“Oh...” She broke into a bright smile. “Thank you, Miss Allegri!! I... I promise I’ll do better!” The girl said happily, nodding rapidly. She got up and ran off, presumedly to a store to follow the advice. 

“You both did good. I’m proud of you.” Ladybug said softly. Bella’s face went pink. 

“Yeah, I know. I can be amazing when I want to! Wait... Marinette! I gotta find out where she went!” Bella ran off in a hurry, and Marinette surprised a sigh. She better hurry this up. Especially with her earrings beeping. 

Alya timidly walked up to the two. “Where’s... Rena Rogue?” Her voice was small. Shaking.

“Rena Rogue has been retired, per my new requirements for temporary heroes. In order to hold a Miraculous, you can’t do bad things in your civilian life. That’s why Queen Bee is retired, as well.” Ladybug explained.  

“I am Imperatrix. It is nice to meet you, Miss Ladyblog.” The fox empress bowed, smiling calmly at Alya. 

“Imperatrix is someone who has worked hard to become a hero in her civilian life, despite difficulties at home. As long as she continues improving, I will keep calling her into battle.” The earrings beeped more insistently, and Ladybug jumped. “Ah! It’s time for me to go. You too, Imperatrix! Bug out!” Looping an arm around the fox’s waist, Ladybug yoyo’d away. 

In an abandoned corner of the mall, Chloé started to take off the fox necklace. Ladybug put a gentle hand on hers. “As long as you improve, you may keep it. But I want you to promise that you will allow me to take it back if needed, AND that you will meet me on the Eiffel Tower on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to patrol. Let’s just say... I’ll need more help soon. And remember. You can’t tell anyone your identity, even indirectly. No hints, no outright reveals, nothing. Not even to your friends. If anything changes, I’ll let you know. But you remember what happened on Hero’s Day.” 

Imperatrix nodded, and the necklace beeped one last time. Chloé held out her hand for Trixx to sit in, face solemn. “I promise I’ll do better this time.” She said. “Now... I know Pollen liked honey, but what do you like?” 

Ladybug smiled as they started to talk, and swung away. Later, Marinette ran towards Chloé, pretending not to see her talking to herself. “Chloé! Are you okay?!” A blur shot into Chloe’s purse. Chloé ran to her, and they collided in a tight hug. 

“I should be asking you that! You sacrificed yourself for me! You’re so riciculous! Utterly ridiculous!” She worried over Marinette.  

“It’s fine. I don’t really remember what happened after I got you out. I think Passionista got me... I saw the new fox, though! She’s so cool! Do you think she might be an older teenager?” She asks. 

“Ah. Maybe.” Chloé smiled tightly. “But before we think about that, we need to find your friend.” 

Marinette agreed, and took her hand. Seems like things would work out.