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rì luò hé kā fēi (unedited)

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Marinette smoothed down her dress as the song “Have It All” by Jason Mraz played softly in the background. The dress didn’t have any folds, but it didn’t hurt to be meticulous. She would have to be if she wanted her internship to become a job. The dress was one of her own designs, of course. Given the miniscule chance that her idol himself would see it, it might give her a little boost in the industry. First impressions were key, especially in a fashion company. Besides, most people already had connections to help them out. Her own humble background in a bakery would not be lending her any head starts.

Her best friend and roommate, Alya, had often sniffed about it to her. Besides the fact that Alya had to deal with similar issues herself, as a journalist with a chef for a mother and a zookeeper for a father, she was adamant that Marinette should not be subject to the commonly faced injustice either. Nepotism was a commonly heard word in conversations with her.

Besides, Marinette had so much talent. She heard that so often from Alya, as well as her maman and papa, that it was beginning to wear on her. That is, until she landed herself an internship after submitting a design in an online contest. She’d come in second place behind a girl named Chloe Bourgeois.

Naturally, her darling Alya complained that Chloe must have won through nepotism. Marinette had seen the design herself, though, and couldn’t find a fault in the work. Though it was harder to know virtually, she could tell that whoever had designed the outfit had real talent. Marinette’s own sundress and jacket combination had been nearly as good, but she knew that it’d been rushed. She’d had to work on it during breaks at her job at the coffeehouse. Little flaws in the pattern had led to a little bit of strange bunching at the waist of the yellow dress that couldn’t quite be passed off as an artistic decision. She and Nathaniel Kurtzberg, the third place winner, were lucky that the top three designers had been admitted as interns instead of only Chloe.

Nevertheless, it was the jacket and sundress combination that she wore to her first day at Agreste. It might help to remind people how she’d got there, as well as being a tried and true design that Gabriel Agreste himself had selected, or at least confirmed, as runner up. The sheer number of people that had entered had given her goosebumps when she’d found out, and a shiver still ran up her spine every time she thought of it again.

After another long moment examining the dress in the long mirror in her room, she pulled on her jacket. It was the same thin, soft, black one that she’d submitted to the contest, but the design of the dress had been slightly altered. For one, the issue with the waist had been mended. The dress was a little longer so as to be more work appropriate, but at the same time short enough to be considered flirtatious and fashionable. She was twenty three, after all. She’d enlarged the pockets and after some deliberation, she’d elected to keep the little capped sleeves so that if she were to take off her jacket, her shoulders would stay covered. It would be so dreadfully awful if the joints connecting her upper arms to her shoulders were visible. She couldn’t bear to face the complete and utter horror. All the men in the workplace would become so distracted. A whole day’s work would be void. Marinette was filled with sheer terror at the thought (thot). Okay, delete that part. Don’t take out your anger at the patriarchy in your fanfiction. Marinette and Alya are the diehard feminists anyway. The color of her dress was a viciously bright red with large, carefully distanced black spots instead of the sweet white floral design of the yellow dress. The color was borderline obnoxious, but paired with her black jacket and her heeled black lace up boots, Marinette felt like a force to be reckoned with. Alya would describe the look as “kickass”. Alya had described the look as kickass. The night before, in a fit of doubt, Marinette had dragged her over to her room to confirm her outfit for the first day of work.

Nothing could bring her down on this day. She was balancing a job at a coffee house with an unpaid internship and was leaning more heavily than usual on her best friend for rent, but she had finally managed to dig her way out of the downward spiral that would surely have only led to her wearing an unflattering collared shirt and a matching hat behind the counter at a fast food restaurant. She wanted a name tag, but not the kind that went on a shirt. Preferably, it would be a name plaque to put on her desk in a big, beautiful building with large windows and personalized work areas, that read “Marinette Dupain-Cheng, CEO of Coccinelle”.

No one doubted that Marinette had her life together. Even when things were looking down after a long day at the coffee shop, she still managed to keep her head up. She had hopes and dreams, which when paired with her low expectations, led to a rather positive outlook on life. Marinette knew what she wanted, and she worked at getting her dream to come true. She aspired to run her own fashion company, called Coccinelle after her favorite animal and lucky charm, and an internship at the biggest fashion company in the world was a step in the right direction.

Marinette had a massive smile painted across her face. At this point, her cheeks were beginning to hurt, but the smile hadn’t gone away even as she’d tossed and turned with nerves the night before. It honestly felt slightly plastic, but as her papa had always said, positivity was key. That, and a full stomach. She raced towards the kitchen, teetering slightly on her heels. Marinette was clumsy even on two inch, wide heeled booties as opposed to the terrifying platform shoes Alya wore to fancy events.

“Marinette! Slow down and take a breath, please,” Alya laughed, “You’ll do great, girl. You’re so talented, and you’re the best new intern there. We both know that that Bourgeois girl got there through nepotism.”

“Can’t! What time is it? Oh, I’m running late.”

“Again, girl?”

“Yes! Again! Can you pass me that croissant?”

Alya sighed, sliding a croissant across the counter. She knew better than to toss it, aware that Marinette would likely drop it. As the frantic girl began to lace up her boots, Alya called, “Don’t eat too fast and choke. Let me know how your day went! Don’t be afraid to text me if you need to pretend to be busy, be careful of the creepy guy in the workplace, and if you need to stay late, absolutely do not walk outside alone! Call me if that happens. I love you, Mari!”

Halfway out the door, Marinette gave her a nod of approval before hitting the doorframe. She released a little yelp before rushing away as Alya smiled. “Silly girl.”


Marinette put on a burst of speed. The imminent rain seemed so unexpected. The day before had been perfectly blue and sunny, only one or two puffy white clouds in sight. If she didn’t make it to the office within three minutes, she was sure to be soaked. Arriving to the first day of work looking like a wet dog was most certainly not on her to do list.

The glassy windows of the Agreste building were reflective. Fortunately, the foreboding storm clouds blocked any sunlight that could shine into her eyes. The building itself was a modern shape, asymmetrical and slightly narrower at the top. The name AGRESTE was written along the top in chunky white letters. Gabriel certainly had style. Haha no i do i wrote this part.

Marinette composed herself for the last ten meters, slowing to a brisk walk and smoothing her dress again. Her hands gripped her pink purse so tightly that her knuckles were turning white, but that was all that portrayed her nerves. To anyone that didn’t know Marinette, all they would be able to see was a facade of calm. Of course, a facade is only superficial. Her insides were screaming bloody murder from the deadly combination of anxiety, joy, and absolute terror. She pasted on a smile, as it had magically faltered at the first glance she’d given the heavy, grey clouds blanketing the sky, worrying over how fake it seemed. Was it too stiff? Was she showing too many teeth? Too few? Was there a slim chance that she was grinning like Pennywise and looked like a sociopath? Her face felt like it was melting away from her body, like it was a galaxy away from her brain. There was definitely a certain sense of disconnect as a result from the panic she was experiencing.

She reached forward to push open the glass paneled door. To her surprise, the doors slid apart silently. Automatic. Not a surprise, given that Agreste was a multimillion euro company, but it was enough to send a near panicked Marinette Dupain Cheng off balance and tumbling into the reception.

Funnily enough, Marinette didn’t think that her first view of the inside of the building she’d latched her hopes and dreams upon to be of the carpet. Or rather, the lack of one. Her cheek was pressed against the cold marbled grey of the stone tiles. It really was a nice quality marble to have her face smashed (smushed?) against. Despite the chill, her cheeks were flushed bright red as she picked herself up off the floor. She walked towards the counter, desperately hoping to regain the cool semblance of confidence she had displayed only moments before. Her hands clasped awkwardly in front of her body.

“Hello, how can I help you?” asked the man behind the counter. He wore a black name tag bearing the name ‘MAX KANTE’, along with a plastic white card dangling from his hip. The card showed an image of the man with a wide grin alongside a barcode and his name, again. Though slightly tacky, he was still dressed fashionably in a nicely fitted navy button up and black jeans. He had several sleek, modern looking screens and devices before him as he paused his tapping and swiping to look up at her. Sure that her cheeks were burning, Marinette had to actively remind herself to resist the urge to look away, choosing instead to stare blankly at her reflection in his glasses.

“I’m the new intern, Marinette Dupain Cheng. I received second place in the novice fashion design contest?”

Max Kante’s face gave away nothing, seemingly disregarding her heated cheeks and high pitched, slightly breathy voice. Maybe he watched too much porn. Please remind me to delete that line. He resumed his tapping and swiping, occasionally pausing to type something into an equally high tech keyboard. Finally, he leaned back slightly into his chair, seeming to have completed his work. “May I ask your mother’s maiden name as confirmation of your identity?”
“Sabine Cheng.”

“Excellent. Please stand here to take a photograph for your ID.” He pointed towards a location half a foot to her left. Marinette shuffled over. “On three. One, two, three.” A bright light flashed in her face as the camera immortalized her blush and plasticine smile. “Perfect.”

Behind the counter, a little machine buzzed before spitting out a white card like Max Kante’s. He attached it to a cord with a little clasp before passing it to her. “You’ll need that to actually enter this building. Scan it by one of these black devices. You can also scan your card for free meals at lunch and for entrance to warehouses. As an intern, your card does not allow you to enter every area, but you have enough access to the things you’ll need for work. Any questions?”

“No. Thank you!” Marinette grinned again. This time, it was slightly less fake. Unfortunately for her, it was most likely bordering on maniacal or hysterical. Overly enthusiastic. It really depended on who you asked. She knew her parents would prefer the term eager.

“You’re all set then! All you need now is your name tag.” Max Kante handed her two identical pins similar to his own. They were a gorgeous glossy black, with ‘MARINETTE DUPAIN’ written across them in white font. “I apologize for the shortening of your last name. We do this so that your name can fit on the tags without having to lower the font size. If you would prefer your full name, I can get that set up for you right now.”

“This one’s perfect. Don’t worry about it.” Marinette’s name was often shortened during her school years for convenience. Having a hyphenated last name was definitely neat, but often cumbersome.

“Great. Pin that on to your shirt whenever. It’s not required every day but definitely recommended. Name tags help people learn names without worrying as coming off as aloof by forgetting them. Again, they’re optional, but at the very least, do your best to wear it to meetings or when you think you may need to meet with the boss. Honestly, Miss Dupain Cheng, I would just suggest that you wear it every day. You received two so that you can keep one on your desk in the event that you forget to bring the other. If you lose your name tags, just come right back over and I’ll process another for you. Now, the procedure for if you lose your card is a little more tedious. Those are important because they can grant access to important or secret locations. If you lose a card, again, you’ll need to come to this front desk again. The lost card will be inputted into the system as cancelled before you can receive another. Sound fair?”

Marinette was struggling slightly to process what he said, but she delivered a fairly confident, “Absolutely.”

“Alright then,” said Max Kante. “The elevators are to your left.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the large doored silver elevators.

“Thank you!” Marinette grinned, discreetly wiping her sweaty palms on her skirt. She marched herself towards the little room of sorts that the elevators occupied. After pressing the button, Marinette was surprised to find that the elevator arrived almost immediately. Fiddling with the edge of her jacket, her head was down as she moved to enter the elevator.

“Ooh!” Marinette let out a squeal. She’d run headfirst into a man. “I’m so sorry!”

“Hey, don’t worry about it. You know, I actually haven’t seen you around before. What’s your name?”

“I’m, uh, I’m Marinade, er, Marinette! Yeah! I’m Marinette!” As usual, when Marinette became flustered, such as around attractive people, her tendency to stutter and ramble became apparent. “I’m one of the new interns.”