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Miraculous... something?

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In the daytime, I'm Marinette,

Just a normal girl with a normal life.

But there's something about me that no one knows yet,

'Cause I have two secrets.

One, I’m not Ladybug.

Two, I’m not really Marinette.

So who am I? I am someone else, who found herself waking up in Marinette’s body.

The first thing I did… was panic. For real! Who wouldn’t? But since that helped me pretend to be sick, I had a day to make some form of a plan.

And then I found her diary. Oh, what a blessing that was! I could practically kiss it. Well, I didn’t exactly find the diary myself. One of my little companions was snooping around the room, when she got caught in a trap designed to protect it. Me and my two other companions managed to help her out and release the poor thing. I read every little detail and memorized it perfectly.

Being a baker’s daughter was exhilarating. It was like a dream come true! Then again, the whole thing was a bit of a dream. If it weren’t for that fact that I didn’t actually have baking experience… but I did have a little green companion who was more than thrilled to help me with that.

And then, I learned Marinette went to a design school. Which was also a dream come true, bearing the exact same complications! That one, however, made my little blue companion scream with glee, even more so than her friend. I knew I would manage there, too.

But… how could this Marinette girl actually be managing all of this, without any outside help?

“Changing one set of complications for an entirely different one. How crazy is that?”

With that, my thoughts turned to Marinette. Did she feel as dizzy as I was? Was she messing up with my own life?  

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At least babysitting was a task that seemed to pose no risk to her guise, a tad mind-numbing but given the circumstances, much relieving.

“I never noticed how good you were with kids all of a sudden!” Alya commented. Marinette never was that good with Manon, she always complained about how she was driven crazy by her.

That’s probably because the real Marinette doesn’t even have a sister, while I do. I wonder how she’d be handling her, assuming she got my place!

That thought made her dizzy. Even dizzier than her life was now, given what had happened.

The bluenette nodded towards Alya.

“Oh, you know, I just got used to it, I guess,” she offered a slight smile, and Alya grinned back at her.

“As long as it’s not your love for Adrien...” she said in a sing-song. “Who, by the way, is currently doing a photoshoot in the park. Wanna go see?”

Just another thing I have to play act… it’s a good thing he’s very easy on the eyes though.

“Let’s go to the park then! Are you coming with us?” The bluenette cooed at Manon and to the surprise of Alya, successfully so. No ‘unicorn from Rispa’ tricks needed today.

“Who are you and what you’ve done to my Marinette?” She laughed at her friend.

The bluenette shuddered inside.

She can’t be on to me already .

“I’m kidding girl, it’s a good thing you got a handle on this.”

They both smiled as they left for the park.

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And so she found herself dragged into the park, where Adrien was having his photoshoot.

So… what do I do now? Wave bashfully? At a guy I don’t even know?

Yep, that was a challenge. But then again, she had an idea to help her out on this.

Imagine he’s your prince… you know who…

They were both blond and pretty, after all. She tried the best she could to imagine the model in front of her as her prince.

“Well, that’s progress. You’re not mumbling gibberish, but you’re still staring at him with a stupid face.” Alya poked her gently in the ribs, laughing. “Who knows, maybe with that kind of progress, you might actually be able to confess your love to him!”

Well, I did pass that one… and he is very nice to look at… and Marinette desperately wants it… or does she, really? I shouldn’t be playing with other people’s lives like that!

Adrien finally spotted Marinette and Alya looking at him and waved back. The bluenette was still embarrassed enough, even if for other reasons, that she averted her looks. That part still worked like a clock.

“But I want a Mirielle balloon!” Manon interrupted their special moment. This interruption was actually most welcome by the bluenette, but certainly not by Alya.

“Girl, you’re making a lot of progress today, I’ll take care of Manon and you go be with Adrien for the photoshoot.”

The bluenette paced very slowly towards the photo shoot scene, one that took place near the park’s fountain. Adrien was posing for the camera in various different angles. It was cute, really.

A whooshing sound of something piercing the air, both Adrien and the bluenette looked upwards. Wearing a two-piece purple and blue dress, that girl hovered above them, sending ice shards towards the mirielle balloons held by the kids in the park.

“Celebrating that thief’s victory? Time to rain on your parade, this party’s over! It’s time for some Stormy Weather!”

Not content with merely blowing off balloons, Stormy Weather summoned a strong gust of wind, carrying away some hapless civilians with it. The merry-go-round seemed to irk her in particular, as she chose to freeze it, trapping Manon and Alya inside.

“Don’t worry Manon… Ladybug will save us… right, Marinette?” Alya asked, her voice muffled by the growing ice wall.

Umm… about that… you see…

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Here’s my challenge… the one thing that I cannot fake.

She quickly found a hidden corner and gulped it. The moment she feared was coming up. Her first real test. The one thing about Marinette she could never, ever duplicate. She wasn’t Ladybug and she knew it. But she was someone else. And that someone else might just prove capable of doing the exact same things Ladybug did.

Or so she hoped.

And then again, she practically was a lucky charm. What kind of a coincidence was that ?

Her pink companion flew by her side, and two more peered out of her purse.

“I guess you're all my Kwamis now, aren't you?” she whispered to them.

The pink-clad miniature humanoid companion smiled back at the bluenette.

“You can do it! You can do it!” She cheered on the bluenette with her pom-poms.

Here goes… no turning back now...

“Can you keep my identity secret, though?” She asked.

“Of course! A little glamour and nobody would recognize you!” Her little companion nodded.

Everything’s set, then.

“I have to save Alya and Manon… and everybody. I can do it.”

...

“My heart, unlock!”

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Amulet Heart like none before
(Amulet Heart like none before!)

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Chat Noir was expecting his Lady. And she wasn't it.

There was something about her that reminded him of his Lady, though. Or was it simply because she was a different miraculous holder?

Then again, was it even a miraculous? She didn't even seem to have the trademarked hexagon-patterned armor he and his lady had. She was flying in the air though, which made it clear that she held superpowers, one way or the other. Deep bluebell eyes, her twin pigtails neatly tied. She wore a pink pleated skirt, a pink top and leg warmers over her shoes, all with heart-shaped accessories. Her looks were completed by a pink ribbon tied around her neck and another one around her skirt. A lock-like necklace shining with pink rested on her chest. One of her hands held a heart rod, presumably her weapon.

Stormy Weather did not seem impressed by the duo at all.

“Where’s Ladybug?” Hawk Moth cried from behind Stormy’s butterfly mask outline. “Whoever this new girl is, get rid of her so we can draw Ladybug out.”

“Sure thing, Hawk Moth!” Stormy Weather replied. “We should be expecting lightning storms, like right now!

A lightning bolt almost struck them, but that girl just held her pom-pom up in a blocking motion, causing it to dissipate harmlessly.

“That was cool!” Chat Noir remarked, drawing a smile in return. Stormy Weather flew off, presumably to cause more havoc at other locations.

“So… what should I call you, Milady?” Chat asked. He really did need a good nickname to get the communication between them going. Nonverbal one like his partner was far from an option yet.

“Call me… Amulet.”

Finally… some chance to remind me who I really am when I’m not the Marinette they all want and unknowingly need me to be.
The only problem is... Amulet isn't exactly me either . It’s only my would be self, the one I am yet to be.

A TV broadcast playing from a nearby window front showed them Stormy Weather declaring it was now winter throughout France.

“Great, just great. Winter and I’m dressed up like this, in short clothes. I’d be lucky if I don’t freeze out here.” Amulet quipped. She flew towards the top of the TV station as Chat Noir jumped behind her, following suit. In a moment, they located Stormy Weather flying above them in what almost looked like a makeshift Arena.

“You two fell right into my trap!” she laughed maniacally, as she started to rain down hailstones at them.

“Okay, Amulet. What do we do now? I’m starting to get cramps!” Chat Noir rotated his baton quickly to deflect them all, giving Amulet the time to try to find a way to win this one.

“... looking… I got it! Chat Noir, on my mark, destroy that sign over there!”

“At your service, Amulet!”

Amulet shot her rod at Stormy Weather, but she just dodged it. That didn’t seem to faze Amulet, though.

“Character transformation: Amulet Clover!”

In a second she changed form entirely, much to the surprise of her partner. She now looked like a maid with a mix of green and white outfit, holding what appeared to be a bubble wand.

“Honey Bubble!” she called her attack, and in a second the entire area was filled with sticky bubbles, much to the discomfort of Stormy Weather.

The large sign started to fall as Chat Noir disintegrated the joints holding it together with the power of his cataclysm. Stormy weather shot a hole through it and laughed at their inability to catch her.

She waded through the bubbles and the hole in the sign out of the area, only for Amulet to smile and call in another effect.

“Remake Honey!”

The command restored the sign immediately and flungall the bubbles back at Stormy Weather, disorienting her  again.

“Now!” she called to Chat Noir, who extended his baton and vaulted through the air upwards towards Stormy Weather, just as Amulet called in a third transformation.

“Character transformation: Amulet Spade!”

She changed form to an artist figure, wearing a light blue blouse with frilly sleeves and a ribbon at the back. She wore brown boots, dark blue shorts, and striped stockings held up by a dark blue garter belt and head covered by a light blue cap with a blue spade.

“Colorful Canvas!” was her last attack, with waves of paint traveling towards Stormy Weather. She evaded those as well, mocking the duo’s inability to harm her, only for the heart rod to come back like a much-delayed boomerang, hitting her umbrella and sending it directly to the hands of Chat Noir, who quickly broke it in half.

In a moment, the Akuma left the umbrella and the sky cleared up. Amulet rushed to grab the falling Aurore. Chat Noir landed right next to her.

“Now what, Milady? What do we do with the Akuma?” Chat Noir looked at her, hoping she could fill in on what was up until now his partner’s sole responsibility.

Amulet looked back at him. The otherwise confident girl looked almost scared now.

“I… I’m not sure if I can do it!”.

It was a moment of truth. If she couldn’t do it, not only would their efforts had been for naught, it would mean they had just made things worse.

“I am sure you can. I don’t know who you are and what your abilities are, and honestly, I’ve been nothing but impressed thus far…”

Her cheeks suddenly reddened as she looked at him. For a second there, she could see another cat figure superimposed on him. One that she wished was on her side. One that captivated her soul and she was still unsure why. She stared back at those green eyes, trying to find comfort in her fear. After all, she knew very well what move she was supposed to try, but she was deathly afraid of what would happen if it failed. Chat Noir went on.

“... But I know one thing. I know I can trust you. I just know it. Whatever you think you can do… now’s the time. And I’m right behind you.”

Her amulet started pulsating with a blue glow.

“There’s one last move, and I’m going to try it now. Wish me luck.”

Chat Noir gently squeezed her hand and then let go. Amulet made one resolute look towards the Akuma fluttering away, and made a heart shape with her two hands over her amulet.

“Negative Heart… Lock on!”

Immediately, a wave of heart shapes traveled towards the Akuma, homing in directly on it.

“Open Heart!” she continued. Darkness slowly began to evaporate from the Akuma, leaving behind a pure white butterfly and one awed Chat Noir.

This girl is awesome... Crazy awesome!

"Bye bye little butterfly." she said, not totally sure why, but feeling it was very appropriate.

Hawk Moth observed Stormy Weather’s defeat in disbelief. Whoever that new girl was, something major had happened. And he had to get down to the bottom of it.

Chapter Text

“Pound it!” he said, motioning his hand for a fistbump. It took Amulet a second to realize what he wanted, but she gladly acknowledged it.

I can purify the Akumas. The thing I feared the most of not being able to do.

That was pretty much the ultimate relief at that moment. This victory tasted oh-so-sweet. She looked at her partner again.

“Hey, Amulet…” Cat Noir inquired cautiously. There was an elephant in the room they had to acknowledge.

“... Do you know what happened to Ladybug?”

Shoot.

“I can only guess, or hope, that whatever happened to me, happened to her too. I suddenly found myself trapped in her body, living her life, but keeping my own powers. Which could mean she’s living my life in my world with her powers.”

She saw the look on Cat Noir’s face and realized she had to do something immediately. She laid her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eye.

“Neko-chan, we’re going to get her back. I promise! I want to return to my world, too! So don’t despair, okay? I’m sure we’ll figure it all out.”

He knew they didn’t have any plan or idea on how to do so, and yet his new partner’s determination helped ease his worry.

“I’m about to transform back… we need to meet for patrol tomorrow. We can talk more later.”

He made to take off, then paused and turned back towards her.

“Neko-chan, huh?” he flashed a grin and ran off.

“Hey! Get back here!” she yelled after him The catboy didn’t heed her call, and Amu turned her head away to mumble, “Stupid cat.”

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Amu let herself fall on Marinette’s bed, or rather, her bed by now.

Still getting used to that...

“Man, that was a tiring day… three transformations! In a single battle! How am I going to keep up with that ? I’m exhausted!”

Her three guardians all nodded.

“That’s our Amu!” Ran cheered. “Go-Go Amu! Even if it’s harder, you can still do it!”

Amu couldn’t help but smile at Ran’s words. But then another thought crossed her mind.

“So… from somehow trying to discover who I want to be… I’m forced to playact as someone else. Again! Somebody out there must be laughing at me…”

Suu looked at her in a worried look, but Miki just smiled.

“Not necessarily.” the little guardian grinned. “There are quite a few places you can find yourself in Marinette’s life.”

That one got Amu confused and contemplative.

“Find myself… in Marinette’s life?”

A slight smile came about her as she realized where this was going. Suu’s expression changed to a wide grin as well.

“You did always dream of becoming a baker, didn’t you? And now you’re in one of Paris’s most sought out bakeries!” Suu didn’t feel the need to hide just how excited she was about this.

“All these cookies are delicious, too…” Amu agreed. “I’ll have to double my exercises this way!”

“And you can sketch and design clothes.” Miki raised her iPad triumphantly. “Could it be any more perfect than this?”

Amu nodded, beginning to share her guardians’ excitement.

They all looked at Ran though. ״Marinette wasn’t much of a sport type, now was she?” Amu asked, hoping her last guardian won’t be upset about it, but Ran remained as cheerful as always.

“What’s with your mystery smile, Ran?” Not that Amu wanted her to be upset, but she was definitely curious about it.

“I think you’ll be doing a lot of parkour over the rooftops of the most romantic city in the world…” Ran giggled.

Amu leaned her head on her palm and smiled with embarrassment. “Right, Marinette is also Ladybug... “

“And speaking of…” Ran exchanged a meaningful smile with Miki and Suu.

“Speaking of what?” Amu looked at them puzzled.

“That girl is as oblivious as ever.” Miki quipped while Suu and Ran nodded vigorously.

They couldn’t be serious…

“Hey! Just because he has cat ears doesn’t mean I’m going to fall for him!” she protested, finally realizing what they were hinting at.

“Even though he was a perfect gentleman...” she muttered as she looked sideways. “... There’s no way I’m changing that in her life!”

Ran wasn’t going to let that one slide, though.

“And fool this Adrien guy? While fooling yourself? We both saw how you looked at that Cat Noir...”

“This would be too cruel!” Suu protested as well. “Having to fake love is impossible...” she donned her sad face.

“Easy for you to say! You’re not the one stuck living someone else’s life!” she snapped at her guardians again, then gave up and reverted to a more contemplative mood.

“Guess it’s not just the battles that are going to be a challenge…”

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Adrien laid back on his bed, too, as Plagg hovered towards him.

“Tough day, eh kid?” he tried to cheer him up.

“Yeah, still trying to get the hang of it. It’s so weird! I have a new partner all of a sudden. And Ladybug is gone… my Ladybug! What am I going to do?”

“You could mope about this forever… or get used to it and do your best. And besides, your new partner needs you more than ever.” Plagg replied. He too found her story very odd and hoped Master Fu could make sense of it, but then again the Akumas waited for nobody and certainly not for Cat Noir and Amulet.

“I think I figured out what I should do about her. That’s the easiest part, isn’t it? She needs me as a partner and she needs me as a friend. I hope that even if it’s just a friend, it will mean something for her during her rough time.” Adrien was relieved that he had a good answer for at least one of his major dilemmas. He felt really good about that part, at least.

“That sounds reasonable, kid.”

Even though life may have other plans occasionally , Plagg thought, better be ready in case things change .

“I mean, I totally understand her. I’m not living the life I want, too! I’m living the life my father designed for me. Maybe it’s not as bad as being totally yanked out of your own life, sure, but at least I can relate somehow.” With that, his mind started to drift towards how his own life has been engineered for him. Plagg snapped him back to the topic at hand.

“Great, so be that for her and we’ll pass through this time. These mishaps happened in the past, and they always got resolved for the better.” Plagg encouraged him, also partially covering the issue of Ladybug.

“And additionally about Ladybug… I am sure that by now, there’s someone that’s going to check up on Ladybug’s civilian identity. Leave that to them and concentrate on what you do best.”

Adrien nodded.

“Thanks, Plagg.” He was still missing his Ladybug but somehow, things sounded a bit better after this talk.

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Back at Master Fu’s house, much deliberation was being done.

“What do you think, Wayzz?” Master Fu contemplated together with his Kwami. “Should I intervene?”

“Shouldn’t you, master? Isn’t it dangerous?” Wayzz looked concerned.

“You sensed how the Akuma was defeated. This is not a chance event. My tendency is to let this play out until we’ve figured out the reason for this to have happened, and not fight it.”

Master Fu’s reasoning sounded good to Wayzz. Indeed, this was a bitter pill for them, knowing that Tikki was unreachable, but the energy spent fighting it was probably better directed towards other goals.

“What if she fails, though?” Wayzz tried. He did have his own preference for his kin, naturally.

“Oh, I’ll be here for her. I will make myself known. But I will offer advice, not try to change the course of events. Soon enough.”

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Amu hurried to school. As much as her diary revealed to her that she’s been chronically late, she figured this part of her new life wasn’t much of a necessity if she could avoid it. Given that she wasn’t Ladybug, a bit of cheating was perfectly fine.

“Ran, can you throw me in for a character change? Jogging to school definitely feels like a ‘me’ now.”

“Hop, step, run!”

Amu suddenly found in herself the speed to make it to class in time. The only problem was that she somehow just breezed past Adrien and Alya, much to the surprise of the latter.

Has this girl finally decided she doesn’t want to be late anymore… or has something really happened to her? Alya thought. Either way, that’s my girl! Love her when she’s running like that. I’ll break her with the good news later in recess.

School was mind-numbing as always, but in a sense, this was a good thing. Same Math, same text reading, same classes. The material may have changed but it was still pretty much the same. Their teacher was a very nice one in her opinion. She had enough with that Nikaidou guy anyway.

And still, school was as school did and everybody was waiting for recess, including Amu.

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“Girl, you will not believe the news today!” Alya made sure she was fully up to date on that hot topic. “One for me and one for you. First things first, the appearance of a new superheroine! Would you believe that?”

Yes, I think I might…

“Is that so? How intriguing.”

Keep a poker face up… good job.

“Yes! She purified the Akuma too. I have no idea what this means for Ladybug… maybe she’s on vacation?”

It then dawned upon her that this could be an issue.

The people of Paris are still expecting a Ladybug! We need to somehow press that vacation story, to avoid the attention.

She decided to leave that for now. There should be plenty of time to think about it after school.

“Makes sense. As long as we’re safe, it should be good, right?”

Yeah, kinda rooting for myself here.

“Sure. Ladybug could use a break if she needed one. Speaking of breaks, you’re getting a lucky break yourself!” Alya sported a devious grin.

“I… am?” She inquired.

“I thought you would have known by now! There’s a hat design competition!”

The bluenette put her hand on her purse to calm down the incessant rattling.

Miki, calm down... Please.

“And Adrien is going to model the winning design!”

“Wow, that’s… nice!” She offered.

“Just ‘nice’? Girl, you better get working. You’re the best designer I know!” Alya practically stared at her by now.

Something is wrong. Mari is not herself. She’s not too down, but she’s not her usual self. I have to  get down to the bottom of this.

“Say, do you wanna come for a sleepover today? We’ll watch a movie, have some popcorn, have a good time!”

Amu nodded and smiled. It did sound like a great option. Little did she know Alya was already planning on prying her secret out of her.

“Girl, stay calm, Adrien is coming over…” she tugged her, as the model approached them.

I can’t do it! I just can’t pretend to be flustered anymore! Marinette would probably kill me if she ever comes back, but I simply can’t!

“Hi there Alya, Marinette.” He smiled at them and they both returned his smile. “I wanted to know what’s up with the Ladyblog, up close and personal. I hear there’s some really interesting news out there.”

“Hmm, someone’s a Ladybug fan aren’t they? Me and Mari here” she stressed, trying to draw his attention towards her friend, “were theorizing that she’s on vacation. That new girl everyone is talking about is probably just covering up for her, or something.”

Adrien sighed.

“On one hand, I hope you’re right. On the other, I’m definitely rooting for that new girl too. I mean, we all depend on her, don’t we? And she was pretty cool too. Perhaps everyone in Paris should just thank their luck. But… if there’s any sign that something bad happened to Ladybug… you’d post an update, wouldn’t you?” he asked.

“Sure thing Adrien. And if you want it, me and Mari...” stressing that one again “... will keep you posted personally for the really good or even raw intel stuff.” she replied.

“You’d do that? Thanks! You’re the best friends I have.” he put on a genuine smile and left.

Alya couldn't have been more anticipating of that particular sleepover.

Chapter Text

“Ok… so, patrol with Cat Noir and sleepover at Alya, sounds like a good plan for the day!” Amu exclaimed.

“I want to see all the romantic sights of Paris!” Ran cheered.

“I want to get inspiration for my drawings!” Miki added.

“I want to see and smell the food and the flowers!” Suu swooned.

“Well, we’re going to have plenty of patrols in the future…” Amu sighed, “Enough for all of you. I can’t switch the character transformations all the time!”

“Why are you sighing, Amu?” Ran demanded.

“It’s not as if you’re not going to enjoy your cat’s companionship!” Suu added sweetly.

That’s not what I’m sighing for… hey wait a minute!

“When did he become my cat ? Jeez! You’re all hopeless!”

Her three guardian characters exchanged understanding smiles between them.

“Listen, we’re going to be totally professional about it, okay? The people of Paris depend on us!”

“Amu, there is no way we’re not going to have fun along the way!” Ran countered her.

“And we’re still going to do the job.” Miki added. “We’re with you in this.”

“We are as caring and reliable as ever,” Suu concluded.

Amu hugged all her guardians at once, a touch of blush on her cheeks. “I’m so glad to you have you with me… really glad!”

“As are we to you, Amu, for bringing us to life.” Miki answered with a grin.

“But he still is your Neko-chan.” Ran reminded.

“Whatever!” she scoffed in protest.

“That girl is in denial again!” Suu sighed.

“I’m not!”

---

Amulet Heart had reached the rendezvous point and was admiring the view. That clearly was the fun part of her work and she had every intention to embrace it. Miki whipped out a drawing pad and Suu breathed in deeply, enjoying herself tremendously.

“Hey, what are you doing out of the purse, anyway?” she began to scold them, but then realized no one should be able to see them anyway because she was the only character bearer around, or possibly in the world.

Chat Noir landed next to her in a stylish pole vault.

“Hello, Milady!” he came over and kissed her hand. “Shall we begin our patrol together?”

“What was that ?” Amulet yanked her hand back and turned beet red.

“Oh… umm… it’s acceptable in France?” he looked at her. “You’re not French then, are you?” It dawned upon him what just happened.

“No… I could somehow speak French when I came over, but…” she fumbled for words, still reeling from what was to him a simple kiss on her hand and to her was way out of social norms.

“Oh crap, that’s my bad, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable or anything.”

“You s-s-should be! That’s no way to treat a lady like that!” Amulet turned away, only slightly less red, crossed her arms and huffed, but just as quickly turned back towards him. “B-b-but I forgive you.”

It’s not like he could have known… and he’s the one apologizing? Why am I so hard on him?

“Good thing that you have such a paw-sitive attitude, Amulet,” he tried to watch his words but a pun still slipped out.

Great going making her comfortable , Cat Noir thought. Indeed, the pun did have an effect on her, though not one he could judge quite yet.

“Was that a pun?” She had to ask, even though she knew it was. Her sudden knowledge of French was enough to pick that one up.

“Yeah, I like making puns occasionally, do you like them though?”

“As if! Puns are so childish and silly. They’re bad influence for a superhero.” she said with a huff, then turned her face sideways and mumbled ”but, I don’t mind one or two of them....”.

They’re very clever and I like them a lot , she wanted to say. Those puns had a very lighthearted air to them, one that captivated her. Not that she was anywhere near admitting that.

“I’ll make an extra effort not to say them, then. I’m sorry.” he said, drooping his head just a tad.

“Y-y-you should! It’s embarrassing.”

Don’t. Please do pun for me again sometime. Maybe when I’m not as embarrassed about the whole thing, though...

It was a long time until redness finally waned from Amulet’s cheeks. The beautiful sights of Paris helped take her away from these thoughts. At least as long as she didn’t consider how romantic these sights were, and perhaps the entire situation itself was romant-

No! I shouldn’t be thinking about that ! This is not good! Marinette will literally kill me!

Perhaps it was high time to call this uneventful patrol off and chill with a good sleepover at her friend’s house.

“Bye, Neko-chan” she said, and he gave her a warm hug.

“Remember Amulet, I’m always here for you.” he said, bearing that same reassuring smile.

The touch of his embrace sent jolts through her body and she felt like she was going to melt at that smile right there and now. There was no way she could deny what was happening anymore.

Miki’s sketch pad was quite full by now, as was Amulet’s own heart.

His gentleman demeanor… and his free spirit.

His cat ears… and those gorgeous green eyes.

How he was understanding towards her situation… trusting her… empowering her…

How he reminded her of Ikuto…

Or maybe just how romantic Paris was.

While she could not tell exactly, it was a mix of many things and the special thing about it being a whole wrapped into one. It was an unstoppable force coming to her at a time of need and there was no way she could do anything about it.

---

For once, Etta and Ella actually were asleep, when Amu and Alya started frying their popcorn and getting ready to watch a movie.

Yeah, this could work nicely after all the excitement at the patrol.

“Which one should we watch, Mari?” Alya asked.

“Not sure, Alya. just pick one yourself.” She sounded tired and unfocused. Then again, Alya’s plan of checking just how unfocused her friend was, mandated that Marinette pick the movie. She handed her friend a stack of 7-8 movies to pick from.

“How about this one?” Amu offered, and Alya shook her head.

“Have you forgotten? We saw this only one a month ago!”

Shoot. That wasn’t a lucky pick. I don’t think I have many tries…

Amu scrambled to pick another one.

“This one!” she pointed at another movie from the stack. “That should do, yes.” she tried to put up a smile of victory, hoping this would throw Alya off-guard, but no such luck was her share today.

“We saw this one two months ago.”

Damn!

“In fact,” Alya continued, “The entire stack is movies which we’ve watched already. You’re so out of it that you can’t even remember. You wouldn’t have fallen for such a trick if you weren’t so distraught.” Alya chided her, then just as quickly switched towards an worried tone. “Listen, Mari… I know you’re going through something . And I am not sure how much I want to press you about it, but I’m here for you, you know?

Dang, she’s smart! Marinette is so lucky to have her as a friend… but can I call her my friend? I really do want her as a friend, don’t I?

“Alya…” Amu began and Alya finally noticed she was being honest with her this time.

“... I’m going through some rough times, I really am. And you’re right, I should have shared it with you, but I was afraid. Because I just can’t tell you what it is, and I want you to be with me and for me. I hope I’m not rambling nonsense…”

Alya hugged her. “No, I get it, girl. I totally do. We all have these periods going on. But there’s just one question I have to ask. Does it relate to Adrien?”

Amu gulped.

“Yes, it does.”

Not being in love with him is one of the major problems of filling in for Marinette, but I can’t tell you that!

Alya poured them both large cups of orange juice.

“Today we’re going to have fun, take your mind off whatever is bothering you. Popcorn’s ready, juice freshly squeezed, got some snack bars, and here’s a stack of movies we haven’t seen—no tricks this time.”

Indeed, it wound up being a very sweet, feel-good movie that made Amu completely forget all the things bothering her.

Except for the memory of the sight and touch of her Neko-chan. Now that memory wasn’t going to leave her so easily, more like leave her sleepless at night.

---

It was another day at school. Amu’s habit of actually arriving on time started to stand out, even to her teachers.

Alya was still contemplating yesterday. Yesterday was yesterday and today was today, which is to say, as most as she’d agree to give Marinette. Alya needed her answers. She deserved her answers. Who could keep secrets from their best friend for so long?

Marinette really should let me help her this once too. She’s clearly having a very rough time. Exactly the kind of rough time these things are meant for!

Recess couldn’t come soon enough.

“So, girl, I know something’s changed. You admitted it to me yourself, even though I didn’t need that to notice. But there’s something I must know first. I’m starting to think you don’t love Adrien anymore, and if that’s the truth then you should say so.”

“What?” She waved her hand dismissively. “No way! I’m still totally… I’m sure…”

“Girl… the truth. Some things I can let slide, but not this one.” Alya crossed her arms and tapped her leg nervously.

There’s no way I can spit this one out anymore. No way! And no way I can’t spit it out! Argh!

Amu! Jeez! I can’t watch you do this anymore! We’ve been through this already!” Ran whined telepathically at her owner from within her egg.

No… Ran… Please don’t. No no no. Once was more than enough!

“Character change: from a girl who can’t express her emotions, to a girl that can!”

Not that again...

Amu’s character change took over. She drew a deep breath and yelled for the whole world to hear:

“Alya! Adrien’s nice and all, but it’s Cat Noir I really love!”

The courtyard was suddenly silent. Very silent. Way too silent. The character transformation dropped, forcing Amu to face the consequences. Everyone stared at her in disbelief. Alya’s jaw dropped to the floor. Not a single person from her class missed this one. Nino removed his earphones. Chloe smirked with satisfaction. Juleka and Rose stopped looking at each other and just stared at her as if she were a ghost. Even Alix stopped her rollerblading and turned to look.

The sound of falling books hitting the ground broke the deafening silence. Adrien looked down at the books he held just a moment ago, now piled up in a mess on the ground.

“M-Marinette?” he cautiously asked.

Then again, Amu already had prior experience with such a situation. This time, she knew exactly what needed to be done in this case. She wasn’t a newbie anymore, now was she? It was the second time already! This time she had a good, solid plan to execute.

Which is precisely why she immediately fled the scene in a total panic, trying to find a place to hide in shame. Exactly like before, just without falling into a construction pit. Although that still didn’t look like such a bad idea, given the circumstances.

---

To say Adrien had been caught by surprise was an understatement.

Marinette has feelings… for my superhero alter ego? Could I have affected her that much since the Evillustrator incident? Also, why was Alya asking her… about me? Everybody knows we’re simply friends, don’t they?

Suddenly, he had something to disrupt his otherwise rather bland school life. He just had to learn what was going on with Marinette and how it all related to him. This was definitely going to change his school days from now on.

 

Chapter Text

There was no way he wasn’t going to notice her now. It was as if she was shouting for attention.

No, wait, she did literally shout for this attention. He watched her return to the courtyard after a few minutes.

She loves me. With a mask, yes, but it still counts… doesn’t it? I never did think about her as… well, in the love sense of things. But now whenever I see her… I can’t help but think about it!

He realized this only highlighted how little he knew about Marinette. Or about love. Was there ever a girl truly in love with him, modelling infatuations not counting? Sure, there was Chloe… but...

If a girl would be in love with me… I might not even know it. Would I?

And back to Marinette.

He found himself watching her all through art class. Her nimble hands working the cloth, cutting and sewing.

Why am I watching her?

And yet he was transfixed. The girl definitely had the talent, he knew he was watching a professional’s work done. How she was outright delighted when she went about it with contagious happiness and optimism.

(Little did he know Miki was helping Amu there, but that did fit with what he knew and remembered about his friend anyway).

Girl’s got natural talent. That’s kinda like cheating.

Nino’s snapping his fingers next to his ears brought him up to the real world again.

“Dude, you ok? You spaced out there.” He was eyeing him suspiciously. It wasn’t quite like Adrien to do these things.

“Uh… yeah. I’m good.”

Either too good or not good at all, I’m having trouble deciding.

And then came P.E. . She was doing very well there too, not to mention her sports clothing made her look real go-

Wait! Don’t think that!

… As if I can control it…

He had just a few minutes after school, and the Dupain-Cheng bakery was just a block away…

And there she was, working the dough with the same professional aire to it. Same grace of movements. Exactly like what happened in art class. Same happiness that makes you feel warm inside when you watch it.

But she’s a baker’s daughter, obviously. That’s kinda like cheating.

Or rather, being Marinette is kinda like cheating. That Girl might just be a real steal. I mean, if-

Preoccupied with his thoughts, he was slow to notice she stopped her work and came to see what he needed.

“Hi Adrien, can I get you something?” Her voice cut his line of thought. He looked at her, kind of dumbfounded.

Say something...

“Uhh… Umm… I wanted the… uhh… Macarons! Yes!”

Well that was smooth.

It wasn’t the macarons he was looking at, though. He was focused on bluebell eyes and little pink lips that-

“Oh, sure! Which taste would you like?”

Yeah, he didn’t consider tastes at all, almost blurting the last thing he thought about.

“Lip- I mean, L-lemon! Yeah, umm.. Lemon”

If you can’t keep your calm, there’s going to be a disaster.

And that thought just made it all worse. Not that she seemed to notice any of that!

“Here you go!” she smiled at him. “It’s so great to have friends around. Do come over, anytime!”

He paid for the cookies and quickly made way back to school for his ride home. Or was it a photoshoot that he had? Or fencing class?

I’m not supposed to forget my schedule like this… what… is happening?

---

He looked up to the sky, only to see a purple smidge of sort.

Akuma!

He quickly found a discreet corner and transformed, jumping upwards to chase the thing, only to belatedly realize it was nothing.

By then it was too late. He looked down and saw Alya picking up his history book and waving at him, while holding her cellphone.

Oh no, I really messed things up this time, haven’t I?

He had to come up with a plan, and quickly. He darted home as quickly as he could and detransformed.

“Plagg, what am I going to do about the book now? This is a disaster!”

“Ask Marinette to bring Alya to the louvre, and make sure she has the book!” Plagg suggested.

“Ok, I’ll see if I can do that… but I’m not sure what your plan is.” Adrien countered.

Couldn’t he at least tell me what he has in mind?

“Trust me on this one Kid. Get them there and it will all resolve itself somehow.”

---

“Nathalie, can I go to the Louvre with friends? Let’s make it part of the classical education quota. Some new exhibitions have been opened.”

There were times Adrien knew exactly which buttons needed pressing, and this was one such instance. He got his father’s approval in no time.

Not to mention it’s going to be more time with Marinette...

He found himself taking extra care when preparing for that specific tour and then he pulled out his cellphone, clicked Marinette’s contact card and texted her.

---

“Amu, we are so going there.” Miki flew around her, all giddy.

“Wait, aren’t I supposed to decide that?” Amu questioned her.

“You should have thought about it before you texted him back ‘Yes, I’d like that’” Miki grinned, exchanging a knowing smile with Suu and Ran.

Wait a moment, I never…

“Miki! This is the last time you are answering texts in my name!” Amu protested, then deflated.

“Oh well, I guess this is a nice idea, and he’s a good friend…”. Miki looked at her triumphantly.

Amu texted Alya, this time herself, quickly receiving a confirmation.

Her cellphone beeped again, indicating another text: “we are still going to talk about school later on.”

Oh yeah, that...

“And now we’re going to pick your clothes.” Miki continued assertively.

“Go Miki, it’s your day!” Ran cheered for her and Suu added: “It must feel so nice to do it.”

“Wait, why are you taking control of the whole thing?” Amu tried to stop her, but it was just another feeble attempt at protesting. Even she had to admit, this was probably a Miki moment as far as they come.

“Does she only wear pink trousers and a white t-shirt? And she’s a designer? Jeez! Somebody ought to get fired for this. My sense of style is offended!” Miki’s eyes flamed, though she eventually did find a light blue blouse and blue jeans and matched them with the blazer.

“We are going shopping with Alya after this.” Amu and all her guardian characters concluded their resolution of the wardrobe situation.

“And if you don’t get going, ‘after this’ will be soon!’ Ran alerted them to the time, and they dashed out.

---

Adrien tapped his leg nervously.

Why’d she have to be late?

But then Alya arrived, surprised to see Adrien there.

“Hey… Mari forgot to mention you joining us…”

Which is quite weird...

“She didn't say anything?” Adrien sounded disappointed.

“Alya, why do you think Marinette-” He stopped short as she came, in stylish blue clothes and a hair clip.

“We'll talk about it later, mister, be sure of it.” Alya concluded their aborted talk as Adrien turned to look at Amu.

She’s not a design student for nothing...

“Well, shall we get going?” she asked them and they both nodded.

...

Miki zipped through the exhibits ecstatic, much like a bee collecting pollen. Amu of course couldn’t say a word to her, not when Alya and Adrien were around. Her buzzing around was starting to be too much. Ran and Suu mostly just floated next to Amu, gaping at the exhibits quietly.

The sound of footsteps behind them made them turn their head, it was Alix hanging about.

“Hey Alix, what are you doing here?” Amu asked.

“Oh, my dad works here. He’s one of the head curators for the museum.” She replied.

All of them couldn’t help but notice she had what appeared to be a new tattoo on her left arm. It looked like a red cross sign with two red arcs in the mid of the upper and lower halves of it. It wasn’t a real tattoo though, it was a transparent patch made to look like one. Something someone would use before going through with the actual thing.

She noticed them eyeing it and replied to a question they were yet to ask.

“What, this? Oh, it’s just something I care about. I don’t think you guys would be interested in it… It’s called a Yaz, I’m just sampling it before doing the real thing.”

As they walked through the exhibition rooms, they’ve reached the Japanese arts hall. Amu couldn’t be more thankful for her luck. If she got to cheat, then why not?

Finally, something good coming out of history class!

 

Alya and Adrien listened with intent and Amu got carried away with it, while Alix tagged alone rather bored but preferring to go with her classmates. They were done with that room though, now what?

 

Amu didn’t even have to ask. Miki did that one out of her own excitement.

“Character change: From an art hobbyist to an art history student!”

Alya listened with intent to the incoming stream of insights and explanations coming from her friend. Adrien outright adored it.

Man, that girl is so smart! How come I never saw that side of hers like this? Maybe I need to spend more time with her.

 

Alix finally interrupted the personal tour they were getting.

“And now we’re going to the new North African display. My father told me not to go there yet, which is exactly why we are all so going there.” Alix grinned at them and they nodded. It would be a nice change to see Alix change her bored look into a more excited one.

“Is it done by your dad?” Adrien asked.

“No, it was brought over from London, he’s still reviewing it or whatever he’s doing with it. Who cares, no time to waste on that.” Alix replied.

 

Apparently, someone did care, but she just wasn’t fully aware of that fact just yet.

No sooner than they’ve reached the displays, Alix’s jubilation at defying her father switched to anger.

“What is this? It’s all lies! And distortions! Why do people think they can do this to my history?!”

Her frustration and anger were welling at the displays retelling Berber history up until contemporary events. Something about these rubbed Alix the wrong way and put her in a very foul mood.

“And you know what? These don’t belong here, too.” She said, pointing to some Berber artifacts. “They belong back where they came from.”

Alix kicked the display, her discontent welling up. The guard began to approach to inspect the commotion, but Alix wasn’t the type to let things offending her slide just like that.

“Calm down Alix… please…” Adrien tried to placate her, to no avail.

“No, they should calm down! I’m not-...” Alix’s words were stopped short as the security guard caught her and tried to pull her off the display.

“We’re going to tell your dad all about this. You’d be getting the punishment of a lifetime.” The guard threatened her.

Alix brushed his hands off her. “I’ll see myself out personally. That display is a punishment to generations, anyway.” She retorted, huffed in exasperation and left.

Suu almost teared up at the sight. “It’s so sad! Poor girl!” she said, as she cupped her hands together and gently flew by following her.

 

Alix gritted her teeth and went to sit next to the Ponte des arts, right at the river bank.

 

Light shone on Hawk Moth’s lair as its window expanded, triggering a fluttering of the numerous butterflies in wait for their turn.

“There’s no anger like the anger that’s been seething for over a millennium. it appears that someone needs a blast from the past. Fly away my evil Akuma, and re-incite the Berber rebellion!”

 

It wasn’t long before the Akuma reached Alix, landing straight on her temporary tattoo.

 

“Kahina, I am Hawk Moth. I can grant you the power to restore your heritage and reclaim your glory from those who seek to bury it. In return, you shall give me the Ladybug and Cat miraculouses.”

“You got it, Hawk Moth” Alix replied.

 

As the black and purple mist engulfed her, Alix took the form of Kahina the Berber queen. Now bearing a black turban and full-body black cape, a traditional Berber flyssa long sword in her hand, a silver royalty ring and coin-string adornments throughout her clothes. The looks were matched by determined red eyes and a vicious threatening grin.

 

Alya, Adrien and Amu continued the tour much more solemnly. There was a heavy air about and suddenly it wasn’t nearly as much fun as before.

“Amu! Big problem! Something bad happened to Alix! An Akuma landed on her tattoo!” Suu’s voice cut through the silence, although only for her to hear. Then again there was no way she’d be talking back to thin air, as much as her friends would have seen the scenario.

In a matter of seconds afterward, Kahina burst into the room again.

 

“A-A-Alix? Is that you?” Amu asked. Adrien shuddered and Alya pulled out her cellphone to take pictures.

“The name’s Kahina now! And I officially declare the Berber rebellion against Paris!”

Kahina looked a the guard that threw her away a few moments ago.

“Not so smug anymore, are you?” She pointed his sword towards him. A few blunt hits from her sword and he collapsed on the ground, unconscious. She turned her eyes to look for her former friends but they were all gone now. Alya took a position to keep filming as both Adrien and Amu picked their own private spots to transform.

“Kid, about this Kahina… she was aaaaaaa-” Plagg failed to finish the sentence as he was whisked into the transformation as Adrien called it, “Claws Out!”

“Character transformation: Amulet spade!” Amu called it, as she assumed the form of Amulet spade.

---

Cat Noir and Kahina exchanged blows, baton to sword. After a few skillful exchanges, Cat Noir managed to throw her sword to the side. She now barely stopped him by clenching her hands to his own baton. But all of a sudden she had a devious grin, one that caught Cat Noir off-guard as she spoke.

“You know, Cat Noir… There’s something that history books don’t write about Kahina. When her sword was gone… she fought with her… CLAWS OUT!”

Kahina transformed even further. Her black cape now clung to her and seemed to grow more fur. Cat ears, a furred tail and claws emerged. Her eyes became yellowish and more cat-like and her speed and reflexes increased tremendously. Worse still, her tattoo was now fully covered, a problem which Cat Noir couldn’t even grasp yet.

She… was an owner of the cat miraculous? Because if she did, she’s going to-

“Cataclysm!” she called it, and the all familiar black cloudlike pattern formed in her hand, still gripping at his baton.

Not good.

He saw his baton rust and crumble, with few bits remaining for him to hold with his left hand.

“Cat Noir, hold on to the remains!” Amulet cried as she changed her transformation to Amulet Clover. Kahina was about to hit him again, just as Amulet called it. “Remake honey!”

His staff was instantly restored, giving both Kahina and him major hit in the process. Amulet used the opportunity to drag him to safety before Kahina could recover. As she crawled for her sword, Amulet had an idea came to her. “Stay here and sneak in slowly and stealthily when the time is right. Can you do it?” she said and he nodded.

She changed form back to Amulet spade and emerged to face Kahina as she recovered from the blow she got.

“Kahina, it’s history that you want to fix, right? I am going to help you!” She called to her and that made Kahina stop and listen.

“I’m all ears. Serve me well and you shall be spared.”

Your listening should be good with these cat ears on. But I need them off for what I’m going to do.

“I will use my brush to fix the displays to the rightful narrative!” Amulet offered, and Kahina seemed to agree. “But I shall have to ask you to detransform, so I will get the right historical inspiration”.

Kahina agreed to that. She could always re-transform at a moment’s notice. “Claws in!” she called it, and Amulet faced a no less dangerous though less miraculous Kahina.

A few brush strokes and the text on several of them changed, Kahina nodded with approval.

“... But you know, Kahina didn’t even use the Yaz on her flag.” Amulet ventured. “She used the Star of David symbol, because she was Jewish. Let me fix that right here,” She offered.

Kahina Nodded. “If you fix history, I shall allow this.”

“And there’s one here too”. Amulet added.

“Fix that as well. Don’t wait.” Kahina seemed eager to have her goal fulfilled.

And here comes my bluff...

“And your Tattoo.” She said, trying to sound as natural as ever.

“Ok” Kahina replied, a moment before she realized her mistake. Amulet Spade’s paintbrush managed to smudge her Tattoo before she jerked, right into Cat Noir’s baton. She was enraged by the stunt pulled against her.

“Cataclysm!” Cat Noir called, touching his hand at her ring and causing it to turn into nothing, just as Kahina made her own “Claws out” call, now in vain.

“Turns out ‘stealthy as a cat’ still goes here too! What a shame, I love a good catfight, but I’ll have to skip that one today.” he mocked her.

She charged against him with rage and tried to strike him with her sword, but he parried with his baton. Then he tried to strike her in return and as she parried his blow, her sword broke into pieces.

“The smudging must have weakened her! Now’s our chance!” Amulet cried to him.

Cat Noir pinned her to the ground as Amulet Spade’s brush fully erased the tattoo and the Akuma left it. In a moment, her decorated black turban and black cape dissipated away and the transformation left her, revealing a dazed and confused Alix.

The butterfly was fluttering away as Amulet turned her attention towards it.

“Negative heart… lock on! … Open heart!”

A wave of heart shapes engulfed the butterfly, whisking away its purple and black colors to reveal a pristine white butterfly.

“Bye bye little butterfly” she called as the purified butterfly flew away.

---

“We’re both about to transform back…” she held an adoring look towards Cat Noir, to which he returned an assuring smile.

You were so cool out there...

“You were great out there, Amulet. Paris can count on you.”

He turned away and left, not noticing her slight blush. She turned her attention back to Alix.

“We can still protest this, you know. Just in a bit more effective way. You care about it, it’s understandable, your cause is just, but it’s not the way.”

Alix nodded. “Guess you’re right. If they can’t feel the punch of my fist, they’re going to hear my voice at its loudest.”

Mr. Kubdel clapped his hands slowly three times in approval, making both notice his presence there.

“Alix dear… sometimes patience is a virtue. I’ve been battling for a while now and there will always be work to do. Some just need a more gentle approach. That’s why I wanted you to wait. Besides, we now know a few new things about Kahina, so…” He smiled at that.

“We do? Uh, I can’t remember anything…” Alix said, having a somewhat dazed look to her.

“We’ll watch the video from the security cams together at home.” His smile widened as he said that, and they both left the museum to let all this excitement wind down.

 

Amulet allowed herself a little smile as well as she jumped away to detransform in a hidden spot.

---

All three gathered back together, now fully detransformed.

“So, about that history book…” Alya asked, and Adrien responded. “I think Cat Noir just wanted to check up on how past holders were recorded in history. There’s no way he’d be a high school student now would it?” he said, his book now safely tucked away in his bag.

“The book! It’s gone!” Alya looked exasperated as she started to look after it frantically, leaving Adrien and Amu alone.

---

“M-Marinette… I had a great time today with you. I was wondering if… well… there’s a chance…”

Just be smooth, Adrien...

“Yes?” she asked

“Could we do this some time again?” he lowered his head a bit and fiddled with his fingers.

“Sure! I love hanging out with friends. We can all go together again! I’ll ask Alya and Alix later on what time is good for them.”

I meant… just the two us! He wanted to say, but couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Very smooth, indeed… you missed the biggest point you wanted to make!


Chapter Text

Where am I? This isn’t my bed. This isn’t Me! I’m… in someone else’s body?

Tikki?

Her Kwami looked at her back.

“Marinette? Oh dear…”

Marinette looked at herself and shrieked in horror while Tikki shook her head.

Ok. this is not good.

This wasn’t her body. She had pink hair and wore yellow pajamas. The clock showed 6:50 AM, which meant it was probably a good time to prepare for school. But what to wear? Luckily, she had the insight to pick through the Girl’s cellphone and look through the various pictures. This way, she also learned that she was now Hinamori Amu.

So, at least I have that going for me. A name. What kind of a name is that, anyway?
While she did have a tastefully mixed wardrobe, one set of clothing appeared to be school uniform. Marinette quickly located that one and replicated the look. She went and had a quiet and awkward breakfast with her now-parents and new sister. Much to her surprise, she realized she understood and could speak Japanese fluently. That didn’t help her with what should or shouldn’t be said though.

“I’m out, good day!” she blurted at her family as she exited her home and looked immediately dumbfounded.

I have no idea where her school is!

Whatever the latest Akuma was up to, she just about had it for today.

Forget that school. I’m going Akuma hunting and I’ll be home in no time.

 

She found a discreet alley and called it. “Spots on!”

She felt the familiar rush of transformation as Tikki was sucked into her earrings. A flash of light passed her as her sui-

.

Wait, where's my suit?

Her suit didn't materialize, neither did her mask. She looked at her reflection at one particularly reflective window front. Her earrings were spotted now as if they were powered. She found a small, seemingly normal yo-yo attached to her at pocket's height. Casting it away, it behaved like a totally normal one.

This is not good.

---

Cold sweat covered Marinette. She looked upwards toward the sky, perhaps this was a replication of the sandboy incident of some sorts. But no, this come-nightmare was a real one. She started walking the street aimlessly, unsure where to go. She needed a rescue rope and she needed it as soon as po-

“What are you doing out of school, Little girl?”

The tall, blue-haired boy was about to mock her as he stopped and winced. The pinkette could tell this wasn’t what he planned. It seems like he knew her, or at least he knew Amu, and was seeing right through her.

“Yoru… do you sense her guardian characters?” The boy seemingly talked to nothing and no one in particular, but his eye movements suggested something was supposed to be there.

“Who are you talking to?” She asked, to which he shuddered and paled at once.

“Who are you and what have you done to Amu?” The boy’s exasperated tone left little room to second-guess his feelings, but his anger waned at the fear exhibited by the pinkette.

“I’m… I’m not Amu. I’m in her body, but I’m not Amu.” She faltered, not sure exactly how whatever cover she may have had was blown so easily. “I believe it’s the work of an Akuma, but I can’t find it and can’t fight it!” she began to visibly tremble and shake.

Ikuto gasped. The sight of that otherwise brave and resolute girl looking like this, shook him to his core. Any mischief idea he had in mind was cast aside.

“Ok. please calm down. My name is Ikuto and I’m taking you to the guardians, they can help you.” then he added, in a low muttering voice “No one at easter must know this.”

Ikuto was less than thrilled about having to face them all again, but his concern for Amu prevailed over that.

Tadase… please, if there’s anything you can do for her…

And then another thought crossed his mind.

If anyone at easter learns of this, I am so totally and utterly screwed.

 

---

 

The pinkette suddenly felt Ikuto grabbing on to her. “Trust me, little girl.” he said, bearing a reassuring smile. To her surprise, he now sported a pair of two cat ears and a cat tail. She found herself looking straight into a pair of two deep blue eyes. Marinette’s face flushed at the sudden near-intimacy, but she hasn’t had even the slightest of details helping to orient her on how to respond.

What’s Amu’s relation to Ikuto anyway? And where do I fit in at that?

Much to her relief though, he did know where her school was and even where her friends were, the ones she recognized from Amu’s phone. He took her to what appeared to be a glass pavilion. A bunch of happy kids were situated there, but she immediately saw he was far from welcome there.

 

“Tsukiyomi Ikuto!!” The blond boy cried with rage. “What are you doing to Amu?! Why are you here?”

The pinkette noted the tension and alert Ikuto’s appearance sparked. None of the kids there seemed even the little bit relaxed as soon as they appeared. She’d later learn their names to be Tadase, Nadeshiko, Kukai and Yaya, respectively. For the meanwhile,  she figured telling the truth might just help calm things down.

“He’s helping me. I’m not Amu, I’m Marinette and i’m trapped in her body. And something tells me she’s trapped in mine where I came from. I think it’s the work of an Akuma and it must be hiding somewhere around.”

Everyone’s expression changed from rage to utter and total shock at this.

“Tadase, she’s telling the truth.” Nadeshiko said.

“Marinette, can you even see our guardian characters?” Kukai asked, extremely concerned and clearly anticipating a positive answer, but Marinette just shook her head.

“I have no idea what you’re even talking about. I’m sorry.”

She did have a hunch this answer would not make them happy. She couldn’t tell they would take it this bad though.

“This is a total disaster!” Yaya looked like she was about to burst into crying. “And we don’t even have the Humpty lock!” Nadeshiko added in a sad voice.

“Humpty lock?” Marinette asked, curiously.

“It’s an artifact that powers up Amu to do character transformations with her guardian characters” Nadeshiko explained patiently with the same grave tone. “Without it, we barely have a way to deal with X-eggs.”

“She might actually need it where I came from.” Marinette said and immediately braced herself for the question that was about to inevitably come. Kukai was the first to pick up on the meaning of this.

“If she needs those powers where you came from… it must mean that you had other powers at your disposal, am I right?”

Marinette’s face looked downwards as she was about to disappoint them again, also reminder her of her own sad situation.

“They don’t seem to function correctly here, for whatever reason.”

“We will try and help you restore your powers, Marinette.” Tadase seemed to switch towards optimistic resolve, which really encouraged her. But then again, something else had to fit in as well.

Everybody looked at Ikuto, waiting to hear from him.

“If it’s up to me, I won’t tell anyone at Easter. But I don’t believe the secret can be kept for long.”

Because I know Nikaidou is here, but I cannot tell you that just yet.

“Tsukiyomi Ikuto! ...” Tadase called in a loud voice but his face softened almost immediately.

“ ...Thank you.”

“It’s not for you little prince, it’s for Amu.” his voice had a slight mock to it as he jumped away, leaving the rest to them.

 

---

 

“Here’s Amu dossier from our guardian notes, Marinette”. Tadase handed the notes to her. He looked sad and disappointed, as much as he tried to politely hide it.

So… he really has something going for Amu… he must be in such pain because I’m not her.

Marinette winced at the thought. That was the last thing she wanted to happen… but there was no way she could control it, now was it?

She spent the next 2 hours trying to memorize as many details as she could. By then, they all thought it was time to go back to class.

 

---

 

Kukai walked Marinette through the halls. “It must feel so weird for you, Marinette. I’m going to eventually have to call you Amu lest somebody hears us... even though I really don’t want that.“

Marinette nodded.

“I know Tadase has a hard time getting over it… but I’d be happy to get to know you.”

Marinette stopped almost dead in her tracks, surprised.

“Y-you would? Why?”

“It’s hard to look at you and see anything but Amu, you know...” he chuckled and she giggled too.

“... but giving you your own identity back… somehow! The moment someone thinks of how you feel, that’s almost a given, isn’t it? That’s why I don’t want to call you Amu.”

That’s… the sweetest thing anyone ever told me since I got here. The first moment I can actually feel me myself.

Kukai noticed her spacing out for a moment.

“Are you okay, Marinette?”

Marinette looked up and saw Kukai’s hand offered at her. She felt a slight flutter through her at the figurative and literal rescue gesture, as she grabbed his hand back.

“Yeah, I am…”

“Let’s skip another hour. We should be able to arrange something, as the guardians. Benefits of the job, you know.”

Her gaze met Kukai’s playful eyes as he suggested this little act of rebellion.

“Guardian? But… I mean, technically I am but I don’t have this ‘guardian character’ you do...”

Kukai smiled as Daichi circled around Marinette.

“You should do well, you know. Daichi likes you too.” He offered.

Wait… did I just say he liked her too ?

Marinette felt deflated at not being able to take part in the experience. She thought about letting Tikki out but then she felt like something was telling her Tikki was sleeping and should not be disturbed.

They both went outside and sat on a bench together.

“So, Marinette… tell me about yourself.” he asked with a sincere look on his face.

Marinette poured her heart out, telling Kukai everything she could, Ladybug included. He seemed extremely attentive to every little bit of detail she had to say.

Finally, there’s a little bit of me in here. And there’s someone that cares for me .

“So… Ladybug, huh?” He asked and she blushed slightly out of embarrassment.

“I used to be… not much of a superheroine anymore, am I? But Tikki used to say, ‘you’re ladybug with or without the mask’” she looked downwards, kicking a pebble aside.

“Marinette, do you know why we have guardian characters? And why Amu had three of them?”

His look changed from amused and playful into a somewhat more serious one.

“No… why is that?”

She felt like Kukai was about to give her an important answer, so she listened with anticipation.

“Guardian characters represent our future would be selves. Maybe you’re here to figure out if you really are ladybug without the mask that your friend said you are.”

He looked contemplative and Marinette tried to follow his train of thought to her best of ability as he continued.

“You know, Amu was still figuring out who she was. While everyone saw her as ‘cool and spicy’, her guardian characters were nothing of that sorts.”

Marinette just stared at him, trying to digest that bit of information and what it means to her. As if reading her thoughts, Kukai ventured with his own take.

“If you’re in Amu’s shoes now, you should feel free to explore who you are and who you want to be. Nobody knows the real Amu anyway, besides Amu herself. So you really do get to be as soul-seeking as she was.”

Marinette had a slight smile spreading on her face. Kukai’s affirmation and acceptance were like a breath of fresh air. Like…

What’s that slight tingling feeling on my cheeks?

“Come, we should be getting back to class.” Kukai offered his hand again.

“Y-y-yes…”

 

---

 

The pinkette entered class, hoping not to make a ruckus. Her hopes were dashes as her clumsy teacher bumped into her.

“Himamori-san, sorry!” he offered as he rubbed his forehead. “Are you ok?”

She had a terrified look on her face as she apologized and ran off to her seat. Nikaidou eyed her intently as she did, a mischievous smile spreading on his face.

She does not have her charas anymore. I can sense it. And that means it’s the time to strike.

“Himamori-San, do you know the answer?” Nikaidou-sensei pointed to the question on the board. Luckily for the Pinkette, she knew that one. Math stayed the same everywhere, this wouldn’t be her undoing.

As soon as class ended though, Nikaidou went to the school’s biology lab. He had long considered a possible victim and felt like this was the right opportunity to call upon the hidden potential. A bespectacled girl was sitting there, glossing over her biology books.

“Sayaka-san,” He turned to the girl who was there and very gently tapped her shoulder. “Are you progressing with your project yet?”

The girl looked sideways to avoid looking him in the eye as she answered. “Not yet, Nikaidou-sensei. Biology is too hard for me.”

He made a faux smile at her. It wasn’t the curriculum she found hard and they both knew it.

“But you will succeed, Sayaka-san. There is no way you, an aspiring biologist, would be amongst the 40% who can never overcome their fear of bugs, right?”

Sayaka’s eyes widened. “Forty percent?” she shuddered. “Are my chances really that bad?”

Nikaidou’s eyes gleamed as he looked away. “Take a look at this Hawk Moth and your heart will tell you right away.” he motioned at a particularly large specimen in a very small formaldehyde jar. The girl trembled and shook as Nikaidou left the jar next to her.

“Good luck, Sayaka”. He grinned as his put on his glasses and the overhead lighting reflected in them.

Her eyes dulled and hollowed as her heart’s egg left her, darkening and marked with an X.

“I will never be a biologist. I cannot handle those animals. My dream is worthless!”

The X-egg cracked a little, then split into two as an X-Character was born.

“Bugs! Moths! Flies!” The thing cried in rage. “All shall be afraid!”

---

 Marinette realized something was wrong as everyone besides her suddenly became alert.

“What is it? Kukai? Tadase? Nadeshiko?” she asked them, her voice trembling.

“An X-Character was just born” Nadeshiko replied, her voice trembling as well.

“Quick! Let’s catch it before it causes havoc!” Tadase commanded them, and they all went, following Kiseki with Marinette tagging along the rest.

 They quickly reached the biology lab, looking at an unconscious Sayaka and an X-Character commandeering a swarm of black bug energy silhouettes.

 “Holy crown!” A character-changed Tadase called and a golden sphere of energy forming around the X-Character, but the bugs appeared to just chew through it. In a matter of moments, the bugs circled around him, keeping him immobilized.

Kukai and Nadeshiko both character-changed and tried to swat the bugs, but to no real avail. Her naginata was simply too big to maneuver around class and the X-Character just laughed at her as it shot more bugs towards her. Kukai managed to evade them but Nadeshiko was stung, causing her to fall asleep. Kukai tried to jump as high as he can and lock the X-Character in a bag, but no sooner than he came close, it would just fly higher. It wasn’t long before he, too, was surrounded by bugs keeping him immobilized.

 “Someone! help!” Tadase cried as the X-Character shouted with glee. “Bugs! Moths! Flies!”

Marinette cowered at the door to the lab, clinging to the door frame.

I have to do something… but what? I can't! Not without my powers. But… I am Ladybug, with or without the mask. Isn’t what Tikki always said? And I am transformed! I know it! I feel it!

Or maybe… maybe I do have my powers. Not all of them… just one .

.

“LUCKY CHARM!” she called it and threw the yo-yo in the air.

Is it going to work?

The yo-yo began to shine as it made its way upwards, blinding everyone around.

No object appeared, but Marinette noted something extremely surprising. She suddenly saw little Kwami-like creatures around her friends. Each and every one of them had one.

“I can see your guardian characters now.” she cried with considerable surprise. To which everyone suddenly seemed extremely encouraged.

“This is a great sign! Keep trying, Marinette!” Nadeshiko hollered words of support at her.

“But… Lucky charm was all I had… and I didn’t giv-”

A voice communicated with her telepathically.

“Being as you are right now… could you possibly shine?”

Who… who is this?

“Call me… Bridgette.”

Marinette could feel her handbag being heavier now. She reached her hand into it, feeling a smooth an elliptic object. She removed it from her bag just to find herself looking at a smooth golden egg resting within her palms.

A golden egg? Whatever am I supposed to do with that?

“Open your heart, Marinette. Let your true self shine. I know you’re ready.” The voice urged her.

Her earrings started to shine, radiating a slightly reddish glow all around, causing all the X-character and the other guardians and guardian characters to stop in awe.

 Marinette saw the golden egg hover next to her, positioning itself in front of her chest. Suddenly, Marinette knew exactly what she had to do. She placed her fingers between herself and the egg.

 “My heart, Unlock!” she performed the unlock motion as the egg gently flew inside her.

Marinette felt a mildly familiar surge of power going through her. In some ways, it resembled Tikki’s transformation. In others, it was totally alien to it. Bridgette’s egg was enhancing herself, allowing things to come out of her, in an unexplainable sense. She became enveloped in energy and a transformation took place, one that actively involved her own choices. 

I feel… like a red blouse, with some gold threading, a black vest with a red dice logo…

Marinette felt the call to mentally design her appearance, which she happily complied with, letting her imagination and sense of style run loose on herself.

A black mini skirt with deep crimson thigh-high stockings… waist-length twin black pigtails… and I’d like my blue eyes back, thank you very much!  

“Character transformation: Lady Luck!”

 

“Hey, I’m not afraid of no bugs and certainly not of any Hawk Moth!” she jeered at the X-Character, to which it scowled an “Eh” at her. A stream of bugs started to flow towards her.

“Deck of Destiny!” she called her attack. In a moment, a deck of cards swirled around her, splitting into single cards and swatting the bugs away. A moment after, the cards began flinging themselves at the bugs surrounding Kukai and Tadase, freeing both to run next to Lady Luck’s side.

“Bugs aren’t scary, sometimes they’re just beautiful white butterflies waiting to happen!” she called at the X-Character, leaving it dumbfounded. Sayaka raised her still dulled eyes at her.

“Negative heart, Lock on!” She called her second move, the cards lined up to create a heart outline, then merged with shining red beams, trapping the X-Character and all remaining bug shades inside it.

“Time to De-Evilize!”

Red haze formed across the heart form, slowly purifying the X-character. A small sayaka-like figurine in a white lab coat and neatly tied hair emerged.

“Thank you, Lady Luck! I’m off to do some research!” she grinned, as she returned to her egg and re-entered Sayaka’s heart.

The girl woke up, her eyes returning to normal. Marinette’s smile widened at the sight as she surveyed the result of her first victory.

 

Marinette de-transformed and they all walked back to the Guardian’s pavillion. Suddenly she felt a strong pat on her back. It was Kukai.

“Looks to me like we have a new Joker, Marinette.”

Her face turned bright red.

Chapter Text

Marinette returned home, watching the golden egg with intent.

“Bridgette, I know you’re there… you can come out now.”

The egg slowly cracked and opened up. Marinette saw the small figure come out bursting and stretching.

She looked a bit like a miniature copy of the real Marinette, and yet rather different. Blue hair, baby blue frilled dress with spaghetti straps. Just above the frill line, a thin strip of sparse dice pattern adorned it. On her waist, she had a belt with what appeared to be a magician’s stick tucked in it. A black fedora with a blue heart-shaped decor completed the look.

“What a time to be alive, Marinette! It’s good to be born.”

“Can we please talk a bit about you, Bridgette?”

“I am your guardian character, Marinette. I embody your would-be self. Your desire to better control your feelings, to gain self-confidence and to help you spread your magic around.”

Umm…

“And do that with Amu’s life and body?”

Bridgette had a slightly sly smile on her face. “Why not? And we’re going to start… now!”

“Hey wait a minu-”

“Character change: from someone overly reserved to someone who can spread their magic!”

“Wait, that’s not how I-”

Marinette’s hair clip changed to one of a Star.

She found herself quickly scooping up her entire allowance and running to a professional hair care shop, returning home with self-use keratin and black hair dye kits.

And just like that, the character transformation dropped.

“Oh no… I can’t return these now can I? Bridgette, what was that all about?!”

“You know you want to!” she winked at her. “Don’t make me call Nadeshiko on your behalf!”

“Yeah… well… I do, right! But it’s too much! It’s just not… me!”

“It’s all you, my dear. You just haven’t realized it yet.” Bridgette smiled at her.

Marinette grumbled as she called Nadeshiko.

“So… can I come over? I need some help with something Bridgette… talked me … into doing.”

“Your first character change, Marinette! you don’t have to be shy. What is it then?”

She was sure her blush seeped through the phone.

She saw right through me…

“I… better show you in person.”

“Do you want to come for a sleepover?”

“Sleepover? I’m…”

Bridgette flew over her, hands crossed.

I’m not sure about it… but if I said no, I’ll just get another character transformation!

“S-Sure!”

Marinette quickly packed a bag and hurried over to Nadeshiko’s house. A huge traditional Japanese mansion, Marinette couldn’t help but look in awe.

This place is amazing...

Every corner of that large house triggered Marinette’s art senses, during the short tour Nadeshiko gave her.

Must be amazing to live in a house like that. I can understand why it suits them as traditional dancers. So inspiring!

After the short tour ended, Marinette and Nadeshiko found themselves huddled over the kits that she bought.

“Ok, so... you have to do the coloring first. Wait 2-3 hours and then we can do the keratin too. It will make the color last longer this way. You know, That’s really lovely, Marinette!”

Marinette looked down.

“It’s too much though… isn’t it?”

“No, it isn’t. You can loosen up! I’m different when Temari lets out another side of me.”

Temari made a graceful bow gesture. “That’s true!” The little kimono-clad guardian character confirmed Nadeshiko’s words.

Temari then flew away with Bridgette, the two conversing freely amongst themselves, throwing occasional looks at their owners.

They’re plotting something. Marinette thought.

They both sat down for a tea drinking ceremony. Marinette found the taste a bit bitter but palatable nonetheless. After a sandwich as an accompanying snack, it was time for a quick talk.

“So, Marinette, how do you feel as our Joker?”

“Embarrassed? Although, at least I can fill in for Amu, that’s good...”

“Really? You’re your own Joker you know, a deck of cards included!” She laughed. “Not to mention that embarrassed was one of Amu’s second names.”

They both giggled at that.

“And judging by the color and keratin treatment… you’re not even going to look like her, soon enough!”

“Please don’t remind me. Amu would be mad if she ever came back. And what if Tadase didn’t like it?”

“Tadase, hmm… Do you want Tadase to like it?”

“Maybe not Tadase, but…”

“But… ?” Nadeshiko smiled at her.

“N-No one in particular!” She tried to protest unconvincingly.

“Is that so?”

“I… think I’d be happy to get Kukai’s opinion on it.”

“I see. I’m sure he would like it.”

Nadeshiko is so understanding… I have no idea how I’m going to get along here without her… she’s so helpful and nice!

Amu’s lucky to have her as a friend.

Maybe Bridgette did make the right call?

 

They moved to another room, with Nadeshiko dressing Marinette in a bright red traditional kimono. The touch of the fabric at her skin felt weird at first, but she quickly got accustomed to it, appreciating the intricate artwork and excellent craftsmanship.

I never imagined I would wear a real-world kimono… this is so exciting!

 

Nadeshiko’s mom watched as Marinette took joy in trying to follow Nadeshiko’s graceful movements. Not being too successful about it, Marinette found herself nearly falling, only to be caught by Nadeshiko’s arms.

“Be careful, Amu-chan.”

Yes, her mom is nearby, she can’t use my real name.

“I’m sorry, I’m so clumsy!”

“That just means you’re being more yourself than you are Amu!” Nadeshiko whispered back.

Marinette couldn’t help but giggle. Nadeshiko’s mom watched the exchange, an amused look on her face.

“These two are having so much fun together.” She told her elderly servant lady, who nodded back.

 

After Marinette took off her kimono, it was time for the coloring treatment. The color was picked up quite well by her hair. She appreciated the results, but couldn’t wait for the next phase too. The touch of the chemical at her hair felt funny and tingling at first, but it soon passed.

Marinette looked at herself in the mirror and could not believe just how good the results were. She gently brushed through her hair, appreciating the silky touch.

This thing really is amazing. Smooth and black hair, it’s a start!

“This feels so good. I feel like a part of me is back. I wouldn’t have dared do this myself, but…”

Bridgette hovered around her. “Here’s to an old-new Marinette!” She chuckled.

Should I go with blue contacts? No, too much, even for Bridgette.

 

With that, she lay down at her futon, gently falling asleep, Bridgette’s egg besides her.

 

---

 

Nadeshiko and Marinette both woke up and prepared for school. Their day was due to start at the guardian’s pavillion. Kukai and Yaya were both there but Tadase has yet to come.

“Hi there, Kukai! Good day!”

“Hello Marinette, you seem happy today. Has anything happened?”

No… he really couldn’t… could he? Oh geez !

“Don’t you see anything different?”

“Hmm? I did say you looked happier today.” He said, scratching his chin and concentrating as if he was trying hard to think about it.

Boys can be so… so…!

Nadeshiko giggled as she noticed the developing situation.

“Don’t worry, Marinette.” She whispered. “Sometimes guys need a fresh perspective to notice things they wouldn’t otherwise.”

“That’s sound advice, Nadeshiko.” Marinette whispered back. “I guess it’s up to me to help me out with that perspective, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. But don’t worry, he’ll notice, eventually.” Nadeshiko grinned.

Marinette mulled the situation over for a moment.

Eventually is not good enough. I’ve had enough obliviousness by now...

“Kukai, take a good look.”

“Oh?”

She noted Yaya elbowing him. “Come on, you can do this…”

Well, obviously the girls notice…

“New shirt?” He tried.

“No!” Yaya chided him.

“New pants? New shoes?”

Marinette nervously tapped her leg, then she finally noticed Kukai was examining her for a bit longer than she anticipated, missing the relevant area.

“Did you get a new necklace?

Umm… uhh…

She shook her head.

Wait, where is he looking at exactly?

“Did you change bra size?”

Did… he… just…

Marinette went fully red, Nadeshiko giggled again and Yaya stood there, her mouth open and looking dumbfounded.

“Turns out Kukai can be a pervert too.” Bridgette quipped, staring at Daichi.

“Wait, no, I mean… I thought… I ran out of options...” Kukai blushed as he realized his mistake, fumbling for words.

“It’s her hair!” Daichi noted and Bridgette applauded him. “At least your would-be-self shows promise. There’s hope for you, Kukai!”

“You, Couldn’t you tell me that a moment ago?” A red-cheeked Kukai ranted at his Guardian character, but Daichi just shrugged. “I think someone tested you , not me.”

Marinette turned a shade darker and mumbled “E-excuse me, T-taking Bridgette, private girl talk!”

As soon as they were sufficiently away from the rest of the group, Marinette eyed her guardian character, her blush finally mostly gone, making a way to mild anger.

“Is that your idea of me spreading my magic? The only thing that got spread around is embarrassment!”

“Baby steps, Marinette. Baby steps. Besides, he likes your personality, it was about time he took a good look at your body too.”

“Bridgette!!!”

With that her blush came back, more intense than before.

“I’m out for a walk! Finish the meeting without me!”

Marinette walked through the yard, Bridgette and her thoughts accompanying her.

Bridgette did have a point there. I did want him to… Oh, what am I thinking! But… that’s something I could never say next to someone I like! Up until… today?

Marinette was almost day-dreaming as she bumped into someone.

“Amu-chan!”

“Oh, Sorry! Naomi-chan! Are you okay?”

“All’s well, let’s go. I was heading towards the football court.”

“Oh, sure. I’ll come with you!”

They both sat down, watching the soccer game. Kukai was playing with one of the teams.

Right, he did say he wanted to leave the meeting early.

“Look at Kukai-Sama, he’s so great, isn’t he?”

“Yeah… Wait, what?”

“Let’s go at it together, help each other! I noticed you’re liking him too!”

“It’s… uhh… he’s… just a friend! A fellow guardian!”

“Amu-chan so lucky to have Kukai-sama as a friend! I am so envious. But it doesn’t mean I’ll lose to you!”

Marinette smiled at the thought as Naomi went on.

Yeah, well...

“I am not really a sports girl, unlike you Amu-Chan. I’m more into books and drawing.”

“Nothing wrong with that, Naomi… the difference is what makes things interesting!”

Both girls smiled at each other.

All the while, Kukai and the rest of the boys were playing intensively, as the ball found its way towards Naomi.

“Here’s your chance! Take the ball and throw it back to Kukai!” Marinette encouraged her.

“Okay, Amu-chan! I’ll do my best!”

She lifted the ball and tried to throw it far, but it was a feeble throw and the ball didn’t even make it halfway.

“Is that all you could do? You’re such a weakling.” A boy unrecognized to Marinette laughed at Naomi.

What… the… hell?

Marinette rose up and ran up to the ball, giving it a decent kick, straight to Kukai’s hands. She stared at the boy making the offensive comment.

“It’s miss cool-and-spicy…”

He cowered in fear and backed off, trying not to look at her face.

Marinette turned back, only to see Naomi gone.

Nikaidou watched the offended girl sitting on a bench, tears welling up her eyes.

“Kukai will never love me for who I truly am. He could never like a girl as weak as me!”

Her eyes dulled up as the thought took control over her, an X mark appearing over her heart’s egg as it left her. In a short moment, the egg cracked, giving birth to an X-character.

“Books and notes, Brushes and paint. I hate sports! I hate balls! Hate, hate, hate!”

Marinette quickly caught chase of Naomi, to find her slumped figure with the X-character flying high above.

Could I have caused this? Is it my fault too? Sure, this kid was nasty, but…

… This is not fair. I’m going to save her!

“I… hate… sports!” The X-character shouted at Marinette.

The X-character sent ghost-like shades flying at her, which she dodged at the last moment.

Time to transform!

“My heart, open up!”

Bridgette happily jumped into her egg, the shell closing around her. Marinette reached out and drew the egg close to her heart, the two melding together.

This time she found herself with a crimson hat, a crimson vest over a black undershirt, black pants and black step shoes.

I look like… a magician?

“Character transformation: Lady Magique!”

Her trusty deck of cards was still with her, as was a magician’s wand.

“Bridgette, what is this supposed to mean?”

“You should be working on spreading your magic a little…” Bridgette telepathically communicated with her.

“Sleight of hand!” she called her attack as she waved the wand. A cloud of magical dust appeared, blocking the X-Character’s attack. But it couldn’t purify it, no matter how hard she concentrated, wanting to happen.

“Bridgette… I can’t cleanse her heart!”

“Is yours open enough to handle it? Are you able to truly spread your magic, being as you are?”

“What is that supposed to mean, Bridgette?”

“If you aren’t honest about your own feelings, your inhibitions will always win over them. Set them free before you try cleansing her heart!”

“Naomi-chan, you’re wrong! People are more than the sum of their hobbies. People can look past that!”

Naomi barely raised her head as the X-character scowled.

“No…”

“Naomi-chan… You need to believe in your true self! When I didn’t, I couldn’t do anything. But people will love you for who you really are, or they don’t deserve you!”

Another wave of her wand and all the ghost-like shades disappeared.

Naomi raised her head.

“Could he still love me?” she whispered.

The thought is getting to her. Good!

“Negative heart… lock on!”

The golden dust formed a hollowed, non-solid heart shape around the X-character, locking it inside, barely visible to the eye.

“Time to de-evilize!”

The dust clung back to the x-character, reverting it to an x-egg. It then whitened until it got purified, then hatched to a miniature form of Naomi, carrying a book.

“Thank you, Lady Magique!”, Naomi’s tiny character said before enclosing herself in her egg again and merging with Naomi.

Marinette came to tend to Naomi. “Let’s be the best selves we can, from one uncertain person to another!”

“You’re right, Amu-Chan. Differences make us interesting, we’ll just have to see what Kukai finds interesting!”

They both exchanged a laugh, stopping only when Tadase approached them. Naomi quickly parted, leaving the two to themselves.

“Marinette… this was amazing. Your character transformations are amazing.”

“You really think so, Tadase?”

“Of course. Almost makes me think it’s no coincidence you came to become our Joker.”

Such a compliment from the King’s chair...

… is that all it is, though?

She wasn’t so sure, anymore.

Chapter Text

Back in Paris, A gust of wind carried off a few leaves, disturbing an otherwise very serene morning scene, as the school was before any students came about. That is, excluding Adrien.

Adrien scanned the courtyard with his eyes until he saw Alya, breathing in relief.

She made it on time too. Finally I could get to talk with her about all that’s been going on, after our aborted talk at the louvre.

He looked at Alya, sitting there and twirling a curl with her fingers, then playing a bit with her phone, stifling a yawn.

Thanks for coming in so early. I really need your help, Alya, so please don’t let me down.

Alya lifted her eyes from her phone and motioned for him to come.

“Come now, I don’t bite.”

Very funny.

“Hey, Alya. So… yeah, we have a lot to talk about, I guess.”

He took a seat next to her as she tucked her phone in her pocket and gave him an examining look.

“Yes, you promised, that day in the louvre. Now, you go first. Spill the beans, mister.”

No arguing with her. Yes ma’am.

“Ok… I… don’t know how to say this, really. It’s kinda awkward, but…”

Alya smiled knowingly as he fidgeted with his fingers.

“Well?”

He looked at her as if asking to be spared of his embarrassment.

“I think…”

He took a deep breath as he paused.

“no, I don’t think. I… I have feelings for Marinette.”

There, I let it out, finally.

He looked at Alya with anticipation, unable to truly read her emotions. It seemed like she was going slightly red, as if she was trying to suppress something.

In a moment though, it became obviously and painfully clear what it was that she tried to suppress. A giggle escaped, quickly followed by another one, then a burst into hearty laughter as she failed to keep a straight face anymore.

Oh no...

“Alya… please!”

Please don’t laugh at me. This is hard enough for me as it is!

She noticed his distress too and seemed to be going through a genuine effort to stop it.

“No, this is… I’m sorry. I really am-”

She finally managed to keep up a straight face, with little more than a giggle bursting here and there.

“-It’s just that… oh my god. You two... are so endearing.”

His embarrassment made its way to a puzzled look.

“What do you mean by that?”

He wished he was better at reading people’s emotions from their faces, but he had nowhere near the skill needed to pry this one out of Alya.

“Listen here mister. You two are made for each other.”

Adrien’s heart almost skipped a beat at those words.

Her best friend thinks we’re made for each other. At this point that’s more than I could ever wish for!

… She’s not laughing at me, is she?

“Y-you think so?” He blurted as hope got mixed with a good chunk of confusion.

Alya nodded gently.

“Sure am. Even if for the moment, it does look like your chances were better if you were secretly Chat Noir…”

She laughed and he frowned.

“Sorry, I just…” She managed to don a more serious face again.

“Ok, seriously. If I were you, I wouldn't give up just yet.”

“Are you-” he began, but she cut his question short.

“Just… trust me on this one.”

Well, I can’t argue with that and I doubt I want to.

“Umm, okay… what do you think I should do?” he pleaded.

“Easy! Go talk to her! It shouldn’t be so hard for you.” She smiled again, then added. “Or so I hope.”

The bell ring cut their conversation short, reminding him just how quickly time flew by as they were having their conversation. He walked slowly towards class, his hand subconsciously already reaching for his pen and twirling it in his hand.

I have a plan.

 

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

 

Adrien spent most of the lesson working on his valentine’s letter, writing and erasing and writing again fervently, almost disregarding Mme Bustier’s voice.

This… this has to be perfect. Nothing short of perfect would do!

“In most fairy tales, the prince breaks the spell by kissing the princess. Can anyone tell us why? Yes, Rose?”

“Because only true love conquers hate!” Rose answered, swooning.

“That’s correct. Adrien, have you been listening?” Mme Bustier took to his apparent lack of concentration.

“Only love’s true kiss can conquer hate. Yep, listening all the time.”

Right now, love is all I can think of, anyway.

She smiled.

“Very good. You’d still do well if you stopped scribbling, though.”

The bell’s ring saved him from further chiding.

“Don’t forget your assignments!” She called as everyone but Adrien ran off for recess.

Adrien looked with intent at his note, finally a bit more content with his latest draft. His eyes quickly scrolled through the text.

Your hair is dark as night, your pretty bluebell eyes,

I wonder if you’d still love me, beneath all that disguise,

Every day we see each other, and I hope that you’d be mine

Together our love can be so true, please will you be my valentine?

“No, it’s… no use. I just can’t do it. But damned if I don’t try.”

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

He left the classroom in search of Marinette, eventually finding her at the courtyard near the stairs, idly looking at her phone.

God, she is just so sweet. How on earth am I supposed to do this?

“Umm… Hi, M-marinette! L-l-lovely day, isn’t it?”

Amu took her eyes off the phone and smiled at him. Adrien found himself yet again unable to stop looking at those bluebell eyes, distracting his thought and causing him to lose focus.

It’s so lovely because of that smile that you-

“Hi Adrien! Yes, the weather is great today. So, what’s on your mind?”

“Y-You! I mean… would you… umm… would you-”

Hold yourself...

“Oh, let me guess. The assignment?” She cut him short, to his partial relief.

“Yes, the assignment. Of course.” He let out an almost artificial, nervous giggle. “Definitely the assignment, I mean, what else could it be, other than the assignment?”

Well, it could have been me confessing my feelings… if only!

“Of course we can do it together! We’re friends, right? Hey, want to come over today?”

Wait, are you serious? Me, alone with you in your room? I’d die of embarrassment!

“Me? Come over?” he squeaked, blushing. “I… no, uhh, have a… something. Fencing… shoot!

“Wait, is it fencing, or is it a shoot?” she asked.

“Uhh… It’s… a... fencing shoot! new fashion, for fencers! Who are... into fashion!”

No, you idiot! What the hell is a fencing shoot anyway? Why do you have to blurt stupid things out?

He felt his embarrassment would be his undoing if he didn’t leave immediately.

“Hey, look at the time gottagoseeyoubye!”

...

“He really is nice, a good friend.” She called to Alya who was nearby, just as soon as he left.

“Which reminds me, how did he become just ‘nice’ all of a sudden?”

Amu turned slightly pink at Alya’s words.

“Come on, Alya…” She whispered. “It’s no longer a secret that I have a crush on Chat Noir...”

“Yes, I know-” she replied, slowly. “-but i’m not sure why exactly. How come it happened all of a sudden.”

“Is it so hard to see how wonderful he is? He’s brave, he’s smart, he’s very good looking, he’s-”

“-A superhero.” Alya completed her sentence, likely not the way she intended. “And you’re not. Come on, girl...”

Alya looked at her starry-eyed friend, figuring none of her words were really getting through.

“That’s… not going to stop you though, is it?”

Amu nodded, smiling.

“Girl, you are crazy.” She stressed every word of it. “Lovably crazy, but still.” She gently patted her friend’s back and they both shared a laugh.

...

Alya quickly parted with her, to check up on Adrien.

“Well then, pretty boy...“ She teased.

“Alya, I can’t do this!” He sighed. “I have no idea how to confess my feelings to her!”

“Why?” she gave him an inquiring look.

“Why, you ask? She’s Marinette! She’s so talented, she’s smart, she’s pretty… she’s perfect! She probably has boys fawning all over her.”

He threw his hands up in frustration.

“Seriously, Agreste. If only you had known…”

“Wait, known what? Am I… missing something?”

“You’re missing… a lot of something.” She chuckled.

“Anyway, looks like you two will never get it done without some help. But I’m with you on this.” He looked at her and smiled in relief.

Yeah… having her best friend on my side is so very helpful.

“Valentine's your opportunity. Let’s go, I’ll walk with you to your car.”

“Thanks, Alya. I really appreciate your help on this.”

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

Not a moment too soon after leaving school, they bumped into Kim and Max, the former holding a ring box.

“Hey Kim, what are you up to?” Adrien asked.

“Me? I’m gonna confess to the one I love today… if I can gather the courage!”

“See, Adrien? Maybe you should take notes!” Alya whispered to him.

“Of course you can do it. I’m sure this will work for you. Go for it!” He encouraged Kim.

“Practice what you preach, Mr. Agreste,” Alya said as soon as the two left. “And maybe good things will come to you.” She grinned.

“Oh, please, Alya. I couldn’t even talk straight with her today.”

“Actually, I did see you writing something in class...”

She’s perceptive!

“That was my plan B, and looks like I’m down to that, then.” He eyed his letter with mixed feelings. “At least I won’t fumble for words there.”

He was suddenly thrust forward by a strong pat on the back from Alya.

“What are you waiting for then? Go for it!” She chuckled and he smiled.

“Alya, you are enjoying this far too much.”

“I know, I earned that one fair and square!”

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC--- 

Back at home, Amu had deliberations of her own. Ran flew about her, trying to learn what was on her mind.

“So, are you going to tell him, Amu?”

“Come on Ran, how exactly am I supposed to do that?”

“Valentine is the best time!” Suu contended as she joined the conversation. “Maybe you can bake him some macarons!”

“Or design a love letter.” Miki suggested as she joined as well, a dreamy look on her face as she waved her paintbrush back and forth.

“Or both!” Ran grinned triumphantly.

“Thanks, everyone… I’ll get down to work!”

Amu quickly took to her table, designing and writing an ornate note.

Your hair shines like the sun, your eyes are gorgeous green, 

I look at you and wonder your innermost thoughts and dreams.

I want to be your valentine, our love will be so true,

together for eternity, my heart belongs to you.

She quickly took down to the kitchen, preparing black truffle macarons. She then sprayed them with edible gold glitter at their top, adding two dots made of edible green glitter, giving it the rough look of a face.

“Amu, these are perfect! They even look a bit like him!” Suu complimented her work, even without needing to throw in a character change.

“That was my intention. Glad it shows!”

Amu had a content look as she placed them in a paper bag and wrapped it with a green string.

“Maybe this time, you’d need to open up your heart in more than one way, Amu.” Ran giggled and Amu smiled back at her.

“Let’s do this, everyone! My heart, unlock!”

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

As Kim was to learn, there was something very wrong with his plan. Namely, his intended recipient.

“Kim, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen! My heart is reserved for Adrien and you’re not nearly as worthy… in fact, you’re not worthy at all!”

Chloé laughed at his face as she snapped a photo of him in a compromised position, a stray snack bag over his face, looking miserable as she rebuffed him.

It wasn’t long before Hawk Moth’s butterfly reached him. The purple mist engulfed him as Dark Cupid emerged.

“Chloé, you will pay for this. And Adrien… you gave me this advice, now I know why. I will take vengeance!” Dark cupid roared.

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC--- 

Adrien was still being driven home, when he mulled over the idea of the note. Before they could get too far from the bakery, he stopped his driver.

“Can you please stop the car? There’s something I need to do here.”

Gorilla stopped the car at his request.

“It won’t be more than a minute, I promise!”

Adrien took cautious steps towards the bakery, his sights set on the mailbox.

“I can do this… it’s just sending a note…”

He then noticed how Juleka and Rose were arguing and yelling at each other, their lips blackened.

What on earth just happened here?

A black arrow flying and getting stuck in the post box suggested a possible reason.

“Adrien! You bastard, you will pay for this!”

“What? Who are you?” Adrien cowered a bit as he eyed Dark Cupid.

“You dare ask? You and Chloé, you planned this together!”

Oh no… Chloé, what have you done? Could this be...

“K-Kim? Is that you?”

“The name’s Dark Cupid now! And I will not rest until hate spreads through Paris!”

Adrien quickly ran off, evading a volley of arrows from dark cupid and finding shelter in an alley.

“This… this is a problem. I think we’re needed as soon as possible! Plagg, Claws out!”

Chat Noir quickly hopped upwards, only to find himself at a platform with Amulet Heart.

“Amulet? What are you doing here?”

“Shh… I swore to myself, I’d tell you as soon as I saw you. Chat Noir… I… look out!”

She quickly swayed him from Dark Cupid’s arrow, taking the hit herself.

“Amulet?”

Her lips turned black.

“I… I Loathe you!”

Miki and Suu shuddered as the image of Ran appeared to them. Her eyes shone in crimson and her lips took a very dark wine color. She was now wearing a black leather mini-skirt and a black spandex body suit. Gone was her pink hat and her heart brooch replaced by a black one with a big X marked over it.

“Character transformation: Dark Heart!”

Amulet changed her form again now, almost a copy of her X marked guardian character. Black mini-skirt and spandex body suit, armed with a blackened heart rod.

“Amulet, What happened to you?”

Her answer was an attempt to strike him with her blackened heart rod, parried at the last moment by his staff. He jumped upwards to evade her.

“Amulet, please talk to me, what’s wrong?”

“Amulet, what’s wrong?” She replied with a mocking imitation, then switching to a menacing tone. “You are. You are everything that is wrong.”

The black rod shot at him like a boomerang, which he parried yet again before taking a hit.

Dark amulet landed herself next to Dark cupid.

“Together, we can spread the hate wherever we go. By the power of the dark heart!” she proclaimed, bumping fists with him.

“Please, stop! I don’t want to fight you!” Chat Noir called at her.

Amulet stared at him for a moment, then cackled.

“Look at you. You care about me. So weak. So pathetic.”

“I…” he hesitated to respond.

“Unfortunately for you, it’s an opening that I can use.”

“What do you mean?”

She pointed the black heart rod at him.

“Positive heart… lock on!”

And then it hit him… an unavoidable pain, coming in from the inside, searing and tormenting him.

“Please don’t! I don’t… I... argh!” Chat Noir twirled in pain. He barely managed to jump and take cover behind a wall on a rooftop, panting heavily.

The pain stopped. Apparently, this was enough to shield him from her attack. He heard her voice from below.

“Stay where you are, Dark Cupid. This one… this one’s mine. And I will bring you his ring in no time.”

“Where are you, mangy cat? You cannot escape me!”

Dark cupid has done this to her. With her heart darkened, she can’t be amulet heart anymore… only dark heart. But... what can I do?

She was still flying about, looking for him.

“So, you want to play hide and seek, kitty? Come on, kitty.”

I need a plan.

“Found you! You’d be kitty kibble before you know it.”

The only cure for hate is love’s true kiss.

A memory flashed back through his mind.

Yes, that’s it!

He jumped at her, pinning her to the ground. Just as quickly, she flung him aside and managed to invert their position, his hand pinned to the ground.

“Now I’ll get to know who you really are, who’s that stray behind that stupid mask of yours.”

She reached with her other arm, just as he grabbed hers back.

“Oh, no you won’t.”

She gritted her teeth trying to force him down, and then he just raised his head and quickly pressed his lips to hers before she could further react.

At first she just froze totally, but then her lips slowly were restored, following by her guardian character. In a moment, her dark transformation whisked away, revealing Amulet Heart.

“What… where am I?”

“You got hit by an arrow from Dark Cupid…”

An arrow flying next to them reminded them they were not alone. Dark Cupid flew upwards to watch, not content with how things wound up.

“We need to figure out where his Akuma is and break his item!” Chat cried.

“No. We don’t.” She said quietly, giving him an assuring look and a slight smile, only to be returned with a puzzled look.

“My special powers were made to deal with this. Ran, are you ready?”

She looked at Dark Cupid with intent. He managed to shoot another arrow at her, which she cast aside with her heart rod.

“Negative heart… lock on! … Open heart!”

The wave of heart shapes flooded Dark Cupid and engulfed him. It appeared like he was trying to resist, gritting his teeth and rejecting the sensation, but to no avail.

Amulet shuddered and winced as she tried hard to keep the stream of hearts flowing. Slowly and surely, Dark Cupid’s transformation whisked away, bit by bit, revealing a dazed and confused Kim. a purified white butterfly was all that was left behind from Dark Cupid’s weapon and outfit.

“Amulet! That was amazing! You did it! Your powers managed to purify him directly!”

The hand he motioned for a fistbump remained free in the air. There was no answer, only eerie, unexpected silence.

“... Amulet?”

She lay there on the floor, collapsed and unconscious.

“Oh no. no no no! Stay with me!”

Chat Noir cradled her in his arms and quickly hopped down. He snatched off a blanket from a nearby store and jumped to a more secluded rooftop. Covering her with the blanket, he sat by her, holding her arm tight but turning his look away.

“Please… Amulet, hang in there, okay? You can do this. Please don't let anything happen to you.”

I have to keep her safe. I have to keep her identity safe. I have to make sure nothing bad happens to her.

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

Amu moaned gently as she finally regained consciousness. She found herself de-transformed and wrapped in the blanket. Chat Noir gently let her hand go and took a few steps distancing himself while still looking away. Her guardian characters quickly floated by her.

“Amu, thank goodness… you were knocked unconscious for a whole hour! Chat was here guarding your safety. He just sat there all the time, holding your hand and not peeking even for a second.” Ran whispered to her.

“I need to transform so he won’t know who I am… My heart, Unlock!”

Amu quickly transformed back to Amulet Heart, before anyone sees her or Chat Noir recognize her voice.

“It’s okay, you can turn around now.”

“Amulet! Thank goodness, you’re better!” He looked at her with considerable relief.

“Chat… I just wanted to say-”

I can’t do this! I… I want to say it but I just can’t!

“-Thank you… thank you so much for taking care of me.”

That’s not how I imagined this valentine.

“You know… your dark counterpart was right. I do have feelings for you.”

“Y-y-you d-do?” she stuttered and blushed furiously, her brain trying to process his words with little success.

“You’re my partner now. And even when Ladybug comes back… I’ll always remember how brave you were when filling in for her. I’ll make sure she knows that. I’m... happy to have you as a friend.”

Amulet tried her best not to cry.

Chat… that’s… so, so kind of you. And to think my dark persona hurt you because you were so sweet and caring. I’m… terrible.  

“I’m so sorry! I must have hurt you so much…”

She felt warm wetness at her cheeks as she failed to hold it in anymore.

So much for not crying.

Chat Noir approached her with slow steps, then embraced her.

“Look at me. Look into my eyes.” He gently lifted her face with a finger to her chin. “I know it wasn’t really you. So don’t you worry about it, okay?”

She swallowed some of her tears and nodded gently.

“O-Okay…” was all she managed in return.

“I… I have to go now. Promise me you’ll take care.” Chat said.

“I’ll be fine, promise.”

Oh, Chat… There's an angel behind that mask, I swear!

Just as Chat Noir left off, Amulet looked at her valentine’s bag with cookies and the love note she prepared.

How on earth could I ever give these to you now.

Amulet watched his figure jumping downwards as she blew a kiss his way. She then noticed a note that dropped out of his pocket. Suu caught it and brought it for her to read.

Your hair is dark as night, your pretty bluebell eyes, 

I wonder if you’d still love me, beneath all that disguise, 

Every day we see each other, and I hope that you’d be mine 

Together our love can be so true, please will you be my valentine?

“Aww… and he’s so romantic, too! If only… if only I could have gotten such a letter. But, a girl can only dream, now can she.”

“Well, you have dark hair and blue eyes… you can at least pretend it’s you! After all you did get this letter!” Suu quipped and Amulet laughed.

“Thanks for trying to cheer me up, it was really funny! One day, it will really be meant for me. I promise.”

Suu and Miki grinned at her reply.

Amulet went downstairs. As she opened the door, she saw Adrien right there at the street.

“Hey, Adrien…”

I really need to talk to someone… I just hope you won’t mind that I’m doing it with my transformation on!

“Hello, Amulet. Paris’s new hero, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yeah, That’s me, I guess. So, how was… your valentine?”

“Not a great success. I… wanted to confess to my love today, but I just couldn’t do it.”

He looked down, kicking a stray pebble aside.

“If it’s any comfort, that’s exactly how my Valentine’s went.” she let out a slight chuckle, then looked down herself.

“It… did?” he sounded surprised.

“Yeah, superheroes don’t get any benefits in the love department, you know.”

She looked at her cookie bag and love note yet again.

“I even baked some cookies… You know what, here, take some. This way they won’t go to waste.”

He reached out his arm and she dropped a few out of the bag and he quickly popped one in his mouth.

“Thanks, these are real good! You know, I really do hope that your next valentine would be better.”

He offered a hesitant smile and for a moment, something about him reminded her of Tadase, bringing a smile to her face too.

“Yours too, Adrien. Yours too. Be seeing you around!”

As Amulet jumped over to the rooftops of Paris, Plagg peeked out cautiously.

“She really is something special, Plagg.”

With that, he took a good look at the black macarons, with the blond and green glitter pattern.

“Say, do these remind you of something?”

“Of course. It’s food, so it reminds me of camembert, my one and true love.”

“You’re hopeless, Plagg…” He laughed. “I guess it’s nothing. Come, let’s go home.”

 

Chapter Text

Amulet zipped through the Paris skyline on her way back home, when she suddenly saw an old man at the park down below. He was fervently looking at the ground, as if searching for something lost. It was getting somewhat late, no more than a handful of kids were at the park, the merry-go-round shut its operations already for the day.

“well, one more good deed to do this Valentine's, I guess I could land just a bit further from home and help him.”

She de-transformed at a discreet corner and went to the park to help the old man, now found sitting on one of the benches.

“Oh, hello there Marinette.” He raised his head to look at her.

“Oh? Do we… do we know each other?” she looked at him, slightly alarmed.

I don’t remember anything about this man in the diary...

“It depends on whether you’re Marinette Dupain-Cheng or not.” He chuckled.

“Of course it’s me.” She huffed.

“Hmm… are you sure of that, young lady?” He smiled.

Oh. 

Oh!

Slight shivers passed through her body, now more alarmed than before.

“Calm down, please. I’m on your side. What is your name, young lady?”

“It’s… Marine-…”

He looked at her intently, still smiling.

“Hmm…”

“Okay.” she sighed. “My real name… it’s been a while since I used it. Amu. Hinamori Amu.”

“Very well then, Amu. You can call me Master Fu. I’d like you to walk me home, there’s something I have to show you.”

As soon as they entered Master Fu’s shop, Wayzz came out of his pocket. Ran, Miki and Suu all watched him closely, as he suddenly called ‘boo’ and they all nearly fainted in shock.

“So, it appears that Wayzz can see your little friends, even though I can’t.”

She laughed.

“Yeah, my guardian characters. Ran, Miki and Suu.”

Wayzz hi-five’d Miki and they all started to buzz around the room playing chase.

“Now, what can you tell me about what happened to you?”

“I… I just woke up in Marinette’s bed one day.”

“Hmm… and nothing else. I see. Well, you have no idea how lucky we got. The ladybug miraculous was the only one that could purify Hawk Moth’s Akumas. but apparently, you have this ability too, somehow.”

She nodded.

“Yes, open heart… I was so afraid it wouldn’t work when I read about it in the diary… it was such a relief to find that out. And Chat Noir has been very supportive.”

“Yes, he really is a nice young man, don’t you think?”

“I-…”

She felt the heat in her face. it was that support that made her fall for him, amongst others.

He chuckled.

“If you ever need further assistance… there are more miraculouses and kwamis here, to serve as your backup. Just like Plagg, the one powering Chat Noir’s transformation.”

He opened the miracle box, showing it to her. Ran, Miki and Suu all stopped and examined it thoroughly.

“These are the fox miraculous, the turtle miraculous and the bee miraculous. Wayzz is the turtle Kwami, and they have their own matching Kwamis too.”

“Master… I have a question for you. I am concerned with upsetting Marinette’s life. Can you help me?”

He slid his hand over his beard, thinking over her question.

“Hmm. I believe so much has happened, so my advice to you is to live life the only way you know it. Anything else would likely lead to nothing but failure.”

“Thank you, Master Fu. That.. helps.”

He held a knowing smile yet again.

“Remember, child, if you ever feel lost… I should be able to help with some advice and a cup of tea.”

Amu bid him farewell as she walked home.

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

Adrien was back in his room, but the day was far from over yet. The idea was haunting him. He glanced nervously at his computer desktop, now having a picture of Marinette. His room somehow felt more lonely than usual, even if nothing was materially different about it. He looked at his foosball table and DDR machine in their quiet standstill.

No, trying to avoid my feelings is not going to work this time.

“Plagg, I can’t do this!”

“Can’t do what?”

“I can’t go visit her, as Chat Noir.”

“Why not?”

“Why not, Plagg? This whole idea is crazy!”

He shot another yearning look at his computer.

“But why? She loves you. She yelled it in front of the entire school!”

“Which is something I’m not supposed to know of as Chat Noir, for one!”

He sighed, almost exasperated at his Kwami. “Might as well put up a sign ‘I am Adrien’ on my back. That girl is brilliant, she’d be on to me in a second.”

“Yeah, that might not be the smartest of actions. Which means, it suits you perfectly.” he answered casually, popping another piece of camembert in his mouth. Adrien let the implied insult slide.

“See, that drives me even more crazy.” He threw his hands up in the air. “Knowing that she loves me but I can’t do anything about it. What am I supposed to do, casually hop over to her balcony, hoping she’d let a stray in? I’d be lucky if she doesn’t shoo me off with a broom.”

“You’re right. Then don’t.”

“Plagg? Are you even listening! I have to do this!”

“Oh god, will you make up your mind?”

“I’m crazy in love with her. It’s so bad, that I go all blah-blah-blah at her presence!”

“Ok, You’re right, go do it!”

“Plagg…”

“What?”

“You’re not helping.”

“Everything that will get you to stop moaning. So what would it be?”

Adrien paused, then a slight smile started to spread on his face, as it seemed his self-confidence returned just enough for him to come up with something.

“I finally have a plan. Plagg, claws out!”

“I knew it!” he managed, before getting sucked into the miraculous.

 ---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

In stark contrast to his quiet room, Paris seemed surprisingly lively, even for a valentine’s evening. Couples walking about, sounds of music or instruments playing about softly, all accompanied his leaps from one roof to another. The smell of various sweets soon joined them, only a slight aroma of it in the cool breeze, but quite enough for him to pick up.

Valentine’s really is a special day, isn’t it.

 

He finally saw her leave for her balcony, his heart beating faster.

Here goes… I just hope she noticed the rose…

Indeed, she had. She gently lifted it, examining it and wondering.

“Who could have sent me this?” she asked, as if to herself, before her eyes found Chat sitting on a nearby roof.

“Chat Noir? W-w-what are you doing here?”

“Pardon. I was… I just...”

He flipped to land at her balcony and looked at her face blushing like he’d never seen her before.

A flood of conflicting emotions hit him at her sight.

This strong, smart girl, suddenly looking flustered at my sight…

But oh how irresistibly cute it makes her look! I swear, I could drown in those eyes.

He felt blood and heat rushing to his face, too.

Plan. You had a plan. A plan that didn’t include looking like a dork, fumbling for words!

“Umm…”

“Uhh… Hi… there.” She managed, waving her hand at him.

“Marinette… I… I brought you… that rose.”

“F-f-for me?” She squeaked in a high pitch, looking at the red rose again.

Okay. Deep breaths. You didn’t want to freak her out, you just want to bring up evillustrator again. Gently this time, but without any lies.

“I… listen, I… we haven’t met since the evillustrator incident-”

At least not in costume… technically a lie, but it doesn’t count.

“-and I had some time to think about it.”

And see everything in a totally different light now.

“I… I took your bravery almost for granted.”

Because back then, I saw you as a friend. But now...

“Oh, really… it was nothing...” she waved her hand dismissively, trying to downplay the entire thing. “B-but I really do appreciate it.”. She looked aside and downwards, bashfully.

“No! It’s… it’s high time I saw you for what you are. You deserve this, Marinette!”

“I… I do?”

“And that’s… why I brought you this rose... if you would accept it.”

Because you’re amazing and I have no idea how to say any of that without getting my tongue tied and without exposing my identity!

“Of course I would! I… you may not know this… but… well, everyone at school does already. I…”

She took a long, deep breath, then stopped and gasped mid-air.

“Wait. you know already, don’t you? You’re from my school! Oh my god, this is terrible!”

She flushed red and started babbling like mad.

“You heard my love confession you must think I’m crazy-”

“No, no!”

He wasn’t getting her to stop, in any way.

“-that was obviously a crazy thing to do and now I can’t explain myself because you’re here and I-”

“Calm down, please!”

“-am so embarrassed I can’t even say anything for-”

He hugged her, to make her stop.

Or at least, that’s what he planned to do. Because he quickly found himself stumbling, grabbing onto her and both falling to the ground. She was now holding herself above him, just inches away, blinking.

She’s irresistibly cute even when she’s blinking.

She quickly rose up and so did he. They both started to giggle at the impossible situation, almost at the same time.

“So… I may put up a show of a flirt, but in truth… no girl has ever confessed to me. I never had a girlfriend, either.”

“Oh…”

“And I really should have said something sooner, but I was…”

He sighed.

“I just didn’t know what to do, Marinette! Much less with me having a mask on! Our lives… how could they ever align?”

“But you said you were from my school…”

He lowered his head, waiting for her to complete the inevitable conclusion.

“... and you could never, ever make anything else about yourself known. Even that might be too much.”

“You’re as smart as you are pretty, princess.” He said and they both looked sidewise, embarrassed.

“At least… at least we have this valentine.”

Bluebell met emerald green as both looked at each other, then hugged. But in a minute, the spell broke.

“Marinette… I don’t want to hurt you. A princess such as yourself deserves a happy ending. One that this stray just can’t guarantee.”

“Silly kitty… you could never ever hurt me.”

“Even if we could only see each other on few, rare occasions? Even if it puts us both at risk?”

“Even so, Kitty. Even so.” she beamed at him.

He drew close to her and kissed her on the cheek.

“You better go now, before my parents come checking on what’s happening.”

She waved goodbye and he blew a kiss her way before hopping away further and further.

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

“Disaster, disaster, disaster!!”

Amu lay in her bed, as three concerned guardian characters flew by her.

“Amu, what’s wrong?” Ran asked, a worried look on her face.

“Didn’t you just have the most amazing moment with your Chat?”

“I did!” she cried as she stuffed her face into her pillow, sinking into the softness but finding little comfort in it, then slowly turned her look back at her miniature friends.

“He might never hurt me… but I can only hurt him! I am not who he thinks I am! And worse still… when the real Marinette gets back… he is going to be hurt so bad . She is going to reject him! And it will all be my fault! Why can’t I get anything right?”

“There is something you can do though, Amu!” Suu said and Amu paused for a moment.

“Yes,” Miki added. “You can write her a note in the diary! She’ll know what to do.”

“You’re right… after all… I can only live life the way I know it.”

She picked up her pen and started writing a note in the diary.

“Dear Marinette,

One day, you’re going to read this. I want you to know just how much of a sweetheart your partner has been. I can’t ask anything of you, but to be gentle with him. I’m very much in love with him and he knows it, too.”

She paused for a moment, then continued to write.

“As much as I tried to keep your life the way you would have wanted… I just couldn’t do this. The only thing I can offer in return is absolution of whatever you’ve done with my life.
You must be going through what I am. I know it’s a big think I ask of you, but I’m sure you’ll understand me.”

 With that, she let her pen down on the table, looking at the diary

“There. I just hope it’s enough… it’s the only thing I could do.”

“Feeling any better, Amu?” Suu asked in concern.

“Yeah, that helped… mostly.”

She let out a slight smile and a breath of relief.

“The best was if I could be sure if it was me he liked.”

With that, an image found itself to Amu’s mind. One where Chat Noir stood in front of her, against the snowy backdrop of Paris.

“it was the first time I had met someone so bright, cheerful and strong, someone like you, Amulet!”

Her little dream disappeared as quickly as it came.

A girl can only dream, now can she. As if something like that could ever happen.

“So… this has been… the most active valentine’s I had in awhile. But I guess that overall… I am making progress, that’s what counts. And to know that there’s a chance that it’s me whom he loves... “

“One more step to discovering who you want to be, Amu.” Miki quipped.

“Because I think we all know who you want to be with.” Ran added

Amu didn’t even bother protesting as she smiled and lay in her bed.

“Good night, all…”

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

Adrien de-transformed at his room and took a moment to gather his breath.

“Plagg, this Valentine’s… was nothing like the one I had before. If she really likes me that much with my cat ears on, then maybe, just maybe… there’s a chance she can love me without them, too. Don’t you think?”

“Didn’t that girl from school say you’re meant for each other? I’d listen to her.”

“You’re right, Plagg.”

“I’d still work on that tongue-tied thing though. Better get that act fixed.”

“Slow and steady, it will come.”

Adrien snuck another glance at his monitor, staring at the wallpaper for a moment.

“Good night, sweet princess. See you tomorrow at school.”

Chapter Text

Marinette had just finished with her homework as she tossed aside the pencil in relief.

Some things never change, do they?

She looked around at her room as if searching for something specific.

“Hey, Marinette, whatcha looking for?” Bridgette asked her.

“No, it’s…well...” Marinette looked at her chara.

Valetine’s is coming up, and I better have a plan… and as much as I have some reservations about Bridgette’s ideas… though, in a sense, those reservations are exactly what she wants me to let go of!

“... looking for inspiration on what to do for valentine’s. What do you think, Bridgette?”

“I say, the way to a guy’s heart is through his stomach,” Bridgette cut straight to the point, “Isn’t food a good way to spread your magic?”

“You’re making a lot of sense this time. But I only know how to bake, I’m not much of a cook...”

“Looks like it’s your lucky day, because you don’t need to make him a bowl of ramen. You’re going for the sweets, sweetheart.”

Again that silly smile of hers. But she isn’t wrong.

“Well, baking is definitely a good way to further reclaim some more of my Marinette self…” Marinette was drawn almost at once back to the bakery in her mind. She still knew the recipes well enough, even if her dad wasn’t there to help her. She could even imagine the scents and tastes, allowing herself just a bit of enjoyment before they’d turn into sad longings.

This is the only place I can be right now and I should do just fine, I know I would.

 

---

 

Marinette went downstairs to the kitchen, giving the oven a more professional evaluation.

It’s a good model, it would definitely do!

“Hey, mom, you wouldn’t mind if I borrowed the oven, would you?”

I’ll get used to going about this way...

Midori’s eyes shone with excitement and pride.

“Mind? My girl is going to cook? This deserves a magazine article! Let’s do this together!”

Ha, didn’t take that in mind… perhaps we do need some not-my-mother and not-really-your-daughter bonding time, though.

Marinette surprisingly found that thought more joyous than she had imagined. With that, she started to collect the ingredients.

“So, powdered sugar, almond flour…” she went about, reciting from memory. It did feel somewhat odd, as there was never a need to do that in her own home. In a moment though, her trained hands took over as she and Midori worked together on creating the mixture.

“No, you need it just slightly thicker. Here, like this. Now continue to beat it. wonderful! If it’s not viscous enough, you just add some more of the almond flour...”

After not too long, the batter was ready and set to dry. Midori and Marinette both looked at their handiwork.

“Amu-chan, those macarons… they are amazing!”

Marinette blushed ever so slightly.

“You think?”

“They look so good! Seriously! You have to share this recipe! Where’d you get it from?”

“Uhh, it’s from… a French pastry chef. I found it on the internet.”

Dad’s going to kill me.

“I bet they’re going to taste just as great, then.” she smiled. “You really are something, Amu-chan.”

I just hope I’m not setting Amu up for a bar she can’t measure up to… that could be a problem! The errant thought drifted through her mind and she quickly brushed it off.

“And now, to the oven!”

After a brief visit to the oven and some more time to cool, it was time to sandwich the macarons together with the filling.

“Wonderful. So, Who are all these macarons for?”

“Oh, My fellow guardians in school, of course.”

Well, one of them in particular…

“Marinette. Those macarons lack flair. They’re only a little of you.” Another voice interjected, one that Midori couldn’t hear.

Oh shoot. Now what?

“Character change… from a girl who won’t spread her magic, to a girl that does!”

Not that again…

“And now, we must decorate them!” Marinette said with a gleam in her eyes. Pouring a helping of edible glitter, drawing letters and little flowers. As the character transformation dropped, she looked at the result of her actions, and in particular six well-decorated ones with the letter ‘K’ on them.

Hey, that’s actually not half bad. Phew.

“Wow, Amu-chan. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more impressed. These look more like Valentine’s cookies now!”

Then she paused and smiled.

“That’s an interesting coincidence, isn’t it?”

God, do all parents have to be so annoying? Do they have this kind of underground network where they coordinate this?

“Mooooooom!”

 

---

 

The guardian pavillion was brightly and cheerfully decorated with ribbons of all colors. Remnants of confetti were strewn around and a soft tune came out of the speakers.

“Hey everyone, I made some macarons for you all!”

“That girl needs to learn to spread her magic, and today’s magic comes in the form of cookies!” Bridgette exclaimed to the rest of the guardian characters. She also had a platter of her own, with miniature chara-sized macarons.

“I want cookies too!” Pepe responded. “Give me some!”

“Now now, there’s enough for everyone!” Bridgette smirked. “Here you go.”

Pepe quickly sucked the cookie and rubbed her stomach. “This is so tasty!”

“Have you prepared some for me?” Daichi inquired.

“Sure did, But let’s make sure to have some fun along the way!, Daichi, close your eyes and open your mouth!” Bridgette said, preparing her arm to toss one at his direction.

“Oh no, she isn’t going to do something so silly, is she?” Temari said worriedly.

Daichi closed his eyes and opened his mouth. At that moment though, instead of tossing it, Bridgette quickly flew by and smacked the cookie against Daichi’s forehead and smeared it all over his face.

“Hey, whatcha do that for?” Daichi protested, then both started to laugh, the rest of the charas joining them. Daichi licked some of the cookie remains off his face.

“Yep, this tastes good! And the texture is perfect!”

In the meanwhile, their owners were apparently behaving themselves a bit better, as Tadase smiled at her.

“That’s so sweet of you, Marinette.” Nadeshiko smiled at her and Marinette nodded back, smiling as well.

“They seem to be decorated in patterns,” Tadase exclaimed, “Did you make specific ones for specific people?”

“Of course she did. Look, there’s a ‘K’ on some of them.” Kukai noted as he picked one up.

Yes! Here it comes!

“It stands for ‘King’, right?’

“It must!” Kiseki interjected, “Such an offering might be worthy of a king indeed!”

No, no! It stands for… argh, just don’t give it to Tadase!

“Hmm… or does it?” he examined it, pondering aloud.

Do not give it to…

“Oh well, there you go, king.”

Marinette watched almost in horror as Tadase popped a few in his mouth.

“Hey, those are really good!”

Oh no, he’s going to eat them all!

With that, Marinette snatched three of the macarons before Tadase could eat those.

“Marinette? Why did you… ?” Kukai looked at her, puzzled.

No, I can’t answer that…

“Too many m-macarons are b-bad for your health! S-so you shouldn’t eat them all!”

Great, I saved some… does obliviousness come in boy genes, or what?

 

---

 

Meanwhile, at easter headquarters, valentine’s was far from being observed. A dreary building like this would possibly be able to quench all happiness out such an event, should one was to take place there. Kazoumi sat at the head of the table, with the three scientists looking at their charts and sharing their reports.

“Boss, we have an interesting report from Nikaidou at that school. He has observed a very unique egg, one that can transform its owner into more than one transformation. We would very much like to research this egg.” The head scientist reported.

“We believe it could lead us to the embryo.” the other scientist added.

“Very well. Ikuto. This looks like a mission for a playboy like you.”

Kazoumi eyed the blue-haired boy who stood almost as far as he could from the rest of them, almost unseen in the shadows. Ikuto barely looked back as Kazoumi cleared his throat and continued.

“You are to befriend her under a guise, then collect as much information as you can. Next, you will steal her egg when her guard is down.”

“I understand.” Ikuto passionlessly acknowledged the task.

“Dismissed, everyone.”

A certain blond eavesdropper quickly shut the door lest she be noticed by any of the attendants. She gritted her teeth at the thought of the premise that was to transpire and paced away with a determined look on her face.

Ikuto went out to the building’s roof and surveyed the town below.

“Hey, Ikuto, what are you going to do-nya?” Yoru flew over Ikuto, trying to glean his owner’s plans.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, Yoru.” he smiled, then whispered something in his ear. It was trivial to see how approving Yoru was of the idea.

 

---

 

Back at the Hinamori residence, a slightly tired Marinette examined the few cookies she managed to salvage and pondered what to do with them, or rather, how to achieve her original plans.

“I’m going to give these to Kukai and I’m going to tell him they’re meant for him. Definitely!”

But how?

As much as she thought about the subject, she didn’t have an idea which she found satisfying. In fact, the only thing she could think of was that Kukai needed to be hit with a cluebat, a thought which manifested all too literally in her head.

With that, her eyes drifted to the bottle of chocolate shake lying on the table, leftover from the party at the guardian gazebo.

She mulled it over then picked up the bottle and went out to her balcony, hoping to further process some more of her thoughts and banish that image off her head.

“Well, it’s not Paris, I preferred my own balcony… but it’s nice here too.”

With that, she took a sip of her bottle.

“Milk is good for your body” a mostly unfamiliar voice called to her and she spurted her entire drink, as an upside-down face popped right in front of her.

“You again!”

“Oh my, she remembers me. Feeling comfortable already, little one?”

“Are all cat-boys so brash and annoying?” Marinette retorted, ranting.

Ikuto’s eyes lit as a mischievous smile spread on his face.

“So, there’s another cat-boy, huh?”

She blushed ever so slightly.

“Y-yes! And he’s… well…”

“Now that I have to know.” he said, still upside down.

“I’m not telling you anything. Hmpf!”

She turned her back at him and crossed her arms, but then turned her head back at him.

As Bridgette came over to see what the ruckus was all about, two paws grabbed her fedora off her, as a chuckling Yoru started to fleet away. Bridgette quickly caught chase, to his surprise, and he yelped as she yanked him by the tail, reclaiming her hat.

“Nuh uh!” she called at him, then just as quickly dodged another attempt at her hat, blowing a raspberry his way. At the next pass, she just motioned at him to stop and he did.

“I want to get a good look at you, mister.” she said, a slight smile to her face.

“Do you like what you see?” he teased.

“Pretty fly for a stray.” she replied, grinning. “You might not be entirely hopeless, after all.”

Before Yoru could answer, both found themselves looking at their owners exchanging words.

“Ikuto, I don’t know what was your relationship with Amu that you’d allow yourself to pop up at her balcony uninvited like that…”

She looked at him, trying to gauge his response, but could discern nothing out of his grin.

“... but you have to respect that I’m not her.”

Ikuto dropped quietly at her balcony’s railings, now standing a bit more properly.

He laughed. “Ah, but I knew that already. Still would have come.”

“Hey, I know I still owe you for taking me to the right place, but...”

Ikuto cut her short, seemingly irked at her words.

“You owe me nothing.” he snubbed her as he turned to leave, then turned his head back.

“But I'll collect the favor soon anyway.” he grinned and jumped away.

“Hey, come back here! Stupid cat. I’m not done talking to you!”

Ikuto quickly disappeared into the shadows, leaving Marinette and Bridgette out on the balcony again. Suddenly, the serenity and quiet seemed out of place. Marinette found herself wondering about Ikuto more than she should have, in particular about his audacious behavior and his motives. Then again, the thought of someone allowing himself unfettered access to her balcony was not something she was keen on accepting uncontested.

“Bridgette, did you see that?”

She turned to her guardian character to discuss it all.

“Oh yes I did !” Bridgette responded, adding a lip-licking motion to emphasize her point.

“Bad-boy chic, great body, I’d give him a nine out of ten, personally. He’s definitely-”

“Wait, what? Are you serious?” Marinette protested.

“Nine and a half?” she offered, a wide mischievous grin plastered on her face.

No ! I meant…”

Whatever thoughts she had about discussing Ikuto’s behavior with Bridgette had to be cast aside now.

“Oh geez, Bridgette. Please tell me my future self isn’t so-”

“Is too.”

“B-r-i-d-g-e-t-t-e!”

“Is everything alright there?” Midori’s voice came from down below.

Ah shoot. This balcony isn’t as removed from the house as the one I had in Paris!

“Yes, perfectly fine, mom!”

Marinette sighed and gave Bridgette a stern look, but she just shrugged and smiled.

Chapter Text

For one reason or another, Marinette just couldn’t fall asleep quite like she had hoped she would. Was it that cat-boy, reminding her of the world she had left? Was it how the event at the royal garden transpired?

 

Waking up mildly disoriented, Marinette grabbed a quick breakfast. Slowly sipping through her cup of tea and playing with her food for a bit before taking a bite from her omelet.

“Something on your mind, dear?” Tsumugu asked, leaning over her shoulder.

“No… it’s nothing, really.”

“Ehh… big sister got something on her mind!” Ami called, grinning. “You can’t fool Ami!”

“Oh, leave her be, you two.” Midori smiled knowingly.

Thanks for the save… but I better get my act straight sooner than later!

 

Marinette quickly left home and walked to school, when a familiar call came from across the street.

“Hello, Amu-Chi!” Yaya waved from across the street.

Marinette stopped and waited patiently for Yaya to cross the street.

“So, what are you up to today, Marinette?” she asked, no longer as concerned about being overheard.

“Um, well… I don’t know?”

“You don’t know?” Yaya looked at her, surprised. “Don’t you have anything you feel like doing?”

Now, there’s a thought I haven’t given much time to.

Seeing Marinette being as undecided, Yaya went for the initiative.

“How about some shopping?” she suggested.

“Well…” Marinette scratched her head, “The keratin and hair color set me back on the entire allowance…”

“Awww… no fair! But maybe you could do something to get some money? There’s a fair coming up, maybe sell some things?”

“That’s a nice idea actually… but, buy what with it? I mean, I can’t buy a ticket back home… I still haven’t figured that one out…”

“Oh, but you will, Marinette. Don’t worry!”

Both suddenly found themselves at the school gates, noting their conversation has gone long enough for them to reach their destination.

“Catch you after school!”

Marinette smiled as she watched Yaya dash onwards.

It’s nice to have so many supportive friends .

 

Marinette slumped tardily towards class, looking outside the window for most of the lesson. The thought of the upcoming fair mixed with the dreary lesson and A certain feeling of weariness began to engulf her. It was as if she was slowly being lulled to sleep, or perhaps she already even w-

“Himamori-San!”

Huh… what?

Marinette quickly straightened her posture in her chair as laughs were heard around the classroom.

Oh no… I did fall asleep!

“Please make sure to stay awake during class.” Nikadiou chided as Marinette sighed.

“Yes, sensei.”

She settled herself back, embarrassed.

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

Marinette thought taking a quick stroll through the school’s gardens would help ease her mind and perhaps help wake her up a bit.

The flora around her slowly changed form, from well-kempt and groomed, to wilder and richer. There seemed to be more trees around her and the paths slowly turned from being paved to clear ground. She stopped to appreciate one particular pink lilac bush, inhaling some of its sweet smell.

That was real fun, actually. Time to go ba-

She looked to her left, then to her right and did not recognize any of her surroundings.

Okay, I might be lost… now what?

She leaned against a tree, as an idea popped into her mind. She opened up her carry bag and tapped Bridgette’s egg.

“Hey, you, wake up!”

The egg cracked open and Bridgette sprang out. “Sunny day! Time to have some fun!”

“Wait a moment, you. I’m lost. Can you fly up and let me know the way?”

“No problem!” Bridgette zipped up merrily, then quickly returned. “That way!” she said, pointing towards one of the paths. Marinette picked up pace only to find herself at the entrance to a large round building with a purple dome. The building felt somewhat out of place to her. Strands of Ivy climbed up towards the dome, though none reached it, and moss was growing on some of the greyish bricks. Squinting her eyes, she could see golden sun and moon symbols at the dome’s top.

“Huh? Bridgette, what’s this place?”

“No idea, but it looked more interesting than class, so I led you here.”

Marinette grumbled as she cautiously approached the building.

What’s that doing here anyway?

She knocked on the door, a few timid knocks at first followed by more proper ones. There was nothing but an echo. She gently opened it, to reveal a large, seemingly empty planetarium inside. The dark ambiance wasn’t a hostile one, dimly lit by the star-patterend dome. A large telescope was located in the middle of the room, as did some other random devices she could not yet identify. Chair rows were laid out in a circular pattern around the center.

“Is there anyone here?” She asked, just as the pleasant smell of a herbal concoction of sorts found its way towards her.

Something here smells quite pleasant… this place isn’t deserted, after all.

“It’s rare for me to have guests.” A voice called to her. She looked at the voice’s direction and saw A seemingly young adult, somewhat reminiscent of Tadase, holding a teapot.

“Hello there! Are you… this planetarium’s caretaker?”

“Yes, even though it’s no more than a side job, for me. It’s a very special place, forgotten by almost everyone. And yet, anybody who is lost or has doubts seems capable of finding it. Perhaps I’m even lost a bit myself.”

“Well…”

Should I tell him?

“My name is Tsukasa, by the way. Would you like some tea, Marinette?”

“Sure, I’d… wait, how did you... ?”

Tsukasa smiled in return.

“I may not know a lot, but I can tell a lost soul when I see one. You’re concerned, aren’t you?”

She nodded, wordlessly.

“Do you think school trips help students, Marinette?”

What’s with that change of subject?

“I… guess? They’re fun alright, but they’re a test of responsibility, too.”

“I see.” Tsukasa laid down his cup of tea on its matching platter.

“What would you say to a school trip that takes one abroad, far away from home?”

Marinette quickly realized where this was going.

“That’s not your average school trip,” she remarked, a hint of cynicism to her voice.

“... but… it does seem a bit like one, in a sense.”

She found herself marveling at the relief that thought gave her, unexpectedly.

“When is that trip going to end, though?”

“That I do not know, but I can suggest that you enjoy the sights, sounds and experiences along the way..”

Tsukasa looked at Bridgette and exchanged a knowing smile with her.

So… he can see guardian characters, too! But he doesn’t have one?

“Thank you, Tsukasa.” Marinette gently nodded.

“I shall go fetch some more tea, please wait here, Marinette.”

Marinette sat there for a while, mulling over Tsukasa’s words, as a creaking sound drew her attention to the door opening again.

“Well, if it isn’t oblivious guy.” Bridgette quipped at the sight of Kukai.

“Bridgette, won’t you be nice to him, please?” Marinette implored her, then turned towards Kukai.

“Hey, Kukai! What brings you here?”

“Oh, I was looking for you, Marinette.”

“So, you noticed her absence. Not a lost cause aft-”

Bridgette could only make muffled sounds as Marinette cupped her chara’s mouth before she could spit out more of that.

“Uhh, yeah, I was kinda lost…”

“Come, we need to get back to the royal garden.” Kukai offered his hand.

Three slow hand claps were heard from the far top row seats.

“If it isn’t the knight and the damsel in distress.” a by-now-familiar voice called.

“That bad guy is nothing but trouble,” Kukai called out to Marinette, then turned towards Ikuto.

“Hey, Ikuto! leave the lady alone.”

“Lady, huh? What kind of lady would she be, exactly?” Ikuto replied, a slight smirk to his face.

“It’s Ladybug for you!” Kukai replied, slightly more irate now, an observation not lost on Marinette. She quickly held him back.

“Don’t worry Kukai, no silly kitten is going to bother me, I am experienced with such antics.”

Bridgette clenched her fists. “That’s my girl!”

“Really? After last night, I would have never guessed.” Ikuto’s smirk grew wider.

“Well then,” Kukai said as he unrolled his shirt’s sleeves, smirking as well, “it’s time to teach you some manners.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way, little one.”

Kukai slowly paced up the seat rows just as Ikuto paced downwards.

...

“Marinette… they are going to beat each other, over you!” Bridgette cried to her owner. “You have to do something!”

No. There will be no fighting today. I’m gonna put my foot down.

The thought of stopping them sent jolts of adrenaline through her body.

“Bridgette, we’re going to stop them. My heart, unlock!”

Kukai and Ikuto both stopped to look at Marinette.

Bridgette happily jumped into her egg and melded with Marinette’s chest.

So… a third transformation? I see...

 

This time, however, she did not seem to have much control over her look. Her eyes turned shining blue and her hair let down and loose.

 

A red and black pleated skirt, black knee-high stockings with red threading, a black-spotted red t-shirt, red shoes and a heart-shaped hairpin completed her new look.

 

“Character transformation: Lady du Coeur.”

 

Marinette examined her new attire and appreciated her trusty deck of cards. Warming up on her powers, the cards swirled around her in circles, much to the awe of both boys. At her mental command, the cards stopped mid-air, ready for the upcoming order. For Marinette, this wasn’t a moment too soon.

 

“You-” She said, pointing a finger towards Kukai.

Three cards quickly obliged with her mental command, flinging themselves towards Kukai’s shirt and carrying him over towards the wall, embedding into his shirt and pinning him against the wall, holding him suspended.

“-Are not-” She now turned and pointed towards Ikuto.

Another trio of the cards found their way towards him. In a moment, Ikuto was pinned to the wall as well, held suspended by the cards embedded into his clothes.

“-Going to throw fists at each other over me. This is my story. Now you two are going to stop and listen.”

The two guys looked at her confused and shocked.

“Great going, Marinette!” Bridgette communicated with her telepathically. “You got this!”

“In my story, there will be no fighting. In my story Ikuto’s no longer going to be a bad guy.”

With that, Marinette pulled the bag of cookies she had prepared earlier and tossed it towards Ikuto, accurately enough for him to grab it.

“Come to the bright side, we have cookies. That’s not a request, it’s an order!”

Marinette crossed her arms and nodded with content.

“Girl, I am so proud of you!” Bridgette added telepathically, mirroring her owner’s posture.

“So, what do you two have to say for yourselves?”

The two guys continued to look at her entirely dumbfounded. Kukai was the first to come to his senses.

“Fight? Over you?”

Marinette’s transformation immediately dropped, leaving both her and Bridgette wide-eyed and mouths slightly open.

“Wait… y-y-you weren’t…” Marinette started to stutter.

“I thought of a one on one football match.” Kukai remarked.

“I had arm wrestling in mind.” Ikuto added.

They both pulled their respective cards from their clothes and took a good look at them.

“Hmm, looks like I got a queen of hearts.”

“And I got myself a joker.”

Marinette squinted her eyes at Bridgette.

“But you told me…”

“Oops, guess I was wrong?” Bridgette admitted sheepishly. “But you still did great...”

“Oh my god, I’m so going to-”

Before Marinette could settle the issue with her chara, her attention turned back to the two boys looking at her. Now it was her own turn to look at them dumbfounded and blush furiously. Ikuto slowly stepped forwards until he came face to face with Marinette.

“Bright side, huh?”

He moved his hand towards her face, then somehow drew a card out as if it was present behind her ear, not unlike a classic sleight of hand stage magic act.

“Let’s see if your magic can withstand copious bad luck, the black cat kind.” he said as he handed her the card.

Marinette examined it with intent. It had nothing but a single black cat drawn over it. Before Marinette could say anything, Ikuto popped all the cookies remaining in the bag into his mouth and leaped upwards and out of sight.

Kukai walked towards Marinette and laid a hand over her shoulder.

“Well, that was weird. That guy’s weird.”

“Is he really a bad guy?” Marinette asked.

“In truth, I don’t know much about him, but Tadase seems to think so.” Kukai shrugged.

Both took a few paces wordlessly, then Kukai spoke again.

“Well, now that he couldn’t resist taking your cookies, he should be changing to the bright side in no time, right?” He laughed.

“Ha-ha, yeah, that was a good one… I think? Wait, oh no, the cookies! I had meant to…”

Those were actually meant for you!

“Meant to do what?” he asked.

Uhh… umm…

“N-n-nothing! I thought…”

She sighed.

“Nevermind, let’s just go back.” She let out a weary smile as they both left the planetarium.

 

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

 

Tsukasa came back with a still-simmering teapot.

“Well then, in that case…” He looked around, not seeing either Marinette, Ikuto or Kukai, “... Why won’t you come out and have a cup yourself?”

The blond girl slowly rose from the row seats where she was hiding and brushed off her hair with her hand.

“Thanks, but that won’t be necessary. My time here is done.”

Tsukasa smiled at her. “While you clearly see your goal, Utau, you might still be just as lost as everyone else.”

Her red-clad chara immediately flared up at that. The notion that Utau might be lost was certainly not welcome by her.

“Shut up, old man!” Il replied, “Utau knows what’s best for her. She doesn’t need anyone else.”

Utau sat on the chair, her chin leaning on her palms, looking downwards.

“Ikuto…” she whispered softly.

“... The only solution would be for me to take her egg, for you. Before you get too close to her.”

Chapter Text

Adrien couldn’t get the memory of that Valentine’s out of his head. He stood in waiting next to the school’s entrance, waiting for Marinette to come by.

But… what am I going to say to her, exactly? What can I do… to make her see the Chat Noir in me? Can I really act the same without the suit?

I can barely manage even with my suit on… but god knows I have to try.

“Well dude, if you have something you want to say to Marinette, now’s the time because she’s coming.” Nino’s voice broke his thoughts.

“Oh, right…”

Guess cat’s out of the bag on this one…

“Hi, Marine-” He waved, just before someone grabbed his hand and swept him away.

“Adrikins!” Chloe cried as she grabbed him. “I was going to-” she ventured, then stopped and turned towards Amu.

"Sabrina, What's that smell? Did someone roll herself in Catnip?"

Chloe waved her hand by her nose as if to drive away an unpleasant smell.

Sabrina laughed at Chloe's joke, but Amu just smiled back.

She is so cool, she doesn’t even flinch. Adrien thought.

"What are you smiling for?” Chloe snorted, “You’re so out of your league, Dupain-Cheng . The moment Ladybug’s coming back, that cat will be running straight to her arms.”

The smile was wiped off Amu’s face almost immediately. That was enough to help Adrien to finally gather the courage and respond.

“Chloe, that was a very mean thing to say!” Adrien interjected, protesting.

“What’s it to you, Adrikins? She’s way below your league either.”
He snuck a quick look at her direction, seeing her holding her face in her hands, sniffling. But then she stopped and looked back at him and he seemed to lose some of that confidence, knowing she was watching him.

“Y-you… just... no r-right to-” He tried to challenge Chloe but faltered for words. She didn’t seem to take quite the right message.

“And now you spoiled the entire moment. But for you, Adrikins… I’m willing to let this one go. Not everyone is Ladybug’s biggest fan, after all.”

Adrien breathed in relief. He turned around and started to walk away, only to nearly bump into…

“M-m-marinette?!”

“Thanks for standing up for me, Adrien. That was really sweet of you.” She wiped away her remaining tears.

“Oh, I was nothing! I mean I did nothing! Something! Which was nothing…”

Why am I like this?

“You’re a good friend, Adrien.” For a moment, her hand caressed his shoulder, then she let go.

If it gets you to smile like that, I’m going to do this over and over again.

“Thanks.” She waved, then parted towards class.

 

---

 

Throughout class, Adrien was busy with his thoughts. He thought about the bad influence Chloe was, and how she nearly destroyed his relationship with Marinette, during that gum incident. She did forgive him for that one, yes, but perhaps it was the kind of a first impression that would ruin his chances with her?

And now this, too. Someone had to stand up against her… but was he supposed to be that someone? He barely had friends, after all. And even Marinette, who counted him as a good friend… he wanted more of her.

Deadlocked. As Adrien… or as Chat.

And to make things worse, Chloe did have a point, one which was his duty to fix, as Chat. Parisians needed answers about Ladybug.

 

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

 

It was a lukewarm and rather dry evening for patrol, not that duty had any plans of coordinating itself with good weather. Amulet heart skated through their planned route, with Chat baton-coptering nearby. After they’ve run their course, both sat perched at the Eiffel tower’s balcony, watching the view from above. Amulet rocked her legs back and forth rather nervously.

 

“Hey, Amulet… People are asking about Ladybug.”

Chat Noir sounded like he didn’t want to bring this one up, but was rather forced to do so.

“Ladybug? What about… Ladybug?”

“We have to make some statement to the press, let them know things are under control.”

He paused, twitching his fingers.

“Maybe that would help reduce some tension and negativity, the very things that can play into Hawkmoth’s hands.”

Amulet blinked, then looked at him.

“S-s-so… we’re going to be on TV together?”

“Yeah… Oh, don’t worry, you’ll ace it.”

“You sure?”

“I’m sure, what’s not to like about you? You’re also very photogenic.” He added, making a camera frame motion with his fingers and winking.

She quickly averted her face, before he could see just how red it suddenly became.

“S-so, when is this due?”

“Even today, if you can make it.”

“Okay, yeah, let’s do this.”

 

 

Amulet hurried back to her balcony and detransformed.

“I’m going to be on TV with Chat Noir! What on earth am I going to wear?”

She quickly ruffled through her closet, nothing but pink trousers and that same t-shirt and jacket.

“Why didn’t we go shopping already?” she ranted, then sighed.

“Actually, you have exactly three outfits to choose from, Amu.” Miki quipped.

Amu breathed in relief then eyed her three guardian characters.

“Well… they usually freeze those studios… Suu, you’re on this time! My heart, unlock!”

Suu grinned as she jumped into her egg and melded with Amu’s body.

“Character transformation: Amulet Clover”

 

...

 

A few hops off the balcony and Amulet was already at her destination, TVi’s studio entrance. Amulet looked at the now-imposing entrance. Every other day this would have been nothing but a bland corporate-styled studio entrance, but not today. She came forth towards one of the two security guards.

“Umm… excuse me… is this…”

“Oh, there you are! finally! You’re almost late!” A young woman emerged from the entrance, her face lighting up at the sight of Amulet. She made a quick nod towards one of the security guards then swiftly caught Amulet’s hand and both rushed towards one of the doors in the hallway.

“Come, we have no time to lose!”

Amulet’s heart raced as she entered the set.

I just hope I won’t botch it somehow… prime time TV… am I really ready for this?

“I’m proud to present our guest... An-”

Valerie looked quizzically at Amulet entering her kitchen and quickly corrected herself.

“-Amulet, Paris’s newest superheroine! Just one commercial, don’t go anywhere!”

Amulet gathered herself and examined her surroundings. A spotless white kitchen, well stocked with various utensils and surrounded by cameras. Amongst the ingredients on the table, she could count eggs, cream cheese, almonds and cookies.

While eye-pleasing, this looked nothing like a news set.

Oh no.

“Wait, isn’t this… you’re not Nadja!”

“We’re back in ten… nine…” a countdown was heard.

“Well, that’s unexpected…” Valerie looked at her guest, bewildered. “I really hope you know how to bake, because…”

“Flaky and fluffy, leave it to me!” She winked.

“Two, one… we’re on-air!”

“Thank you for staying with us, at chef Valerie’s kitchen show! Today, we’re going to make mascarpone cheese cream cake. Over to you, Amulet!”

 

“We’ll start by preheating the oven.”  Amulet waved her whisk at the oven’s direction, causing it to magically heat up. She then eyed Ran and Miki. “Now, foiled pan and crust ingredients!”

“Suu’s really taking over this!” Miki moaned as she carried over the almonds.

“This is a Suu a moment as they come…” Ran added, carrying over the pan and foil.

“Now now, no slacking!” Amulet chided them.

Valerie watched in amazement as the ingredients and utensils flew by, as if by themselves, and Amulet talking to them as if they were living creatures.

“Home viewers, you need to do this with a food processor, we apologize for having to take shortcuts in the show!” Amulet announced to the cameras, as she was mixing the ingredients with her whisk.

“Since when can a whisk chop alm-” Valerie peeked into the bowl, curious. “Ooh, ummm...”

Amulet quickly pressed the mixture to the bottom of the pan and put it inside the oven.

“Ordinarily, this would take 12 minutes to bake.”

“Which is why we prepared-” Valerie began, just as the oven interrupted her with a loud “Ding!” sound.

“Huh?” Valerie opened it and inhaled the fragrance of freshly baked crust.

“Amulet, that’s wonder-” she turned to Amulet, only to watch her already working the mixture with her whisk while explaining the proper, non-magical way to do so.

“... and don’t forget to add just two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, to balance the taste!”

Amulet quickly poured the now-ready mixture over the crust and over to the oven again. “Chip, syrup, whip!” She waved her whisk at the oven and it went “Ding!” again.

“And that’s how it would look like, after an hour of baking and a cool down over the rack. Would you like to taste it, Valerie?”

Valerie took a moment to recover from her dizziness over the magical cooking scene.

“Y-y-yes…” she mumbled, as Amulet served her with a slice. She took a gentle bite and her countenance changed to one of pure bliss.

“This… is heavenly!” Valerie turned to Amulet, but by now she was gone, having packed the cake in a box and taken it with her.

“S-s-so… this concludes… our… ummm… wow. C-c-commericals, please!”

 

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

 

Out in his room, Adrien zapped between channels, as a familiar face caught his attention in between. He quickly found himself watching that cooking show.

“What’s she doing there? Plagg, why is she baking a cheesecake?”

“Cheesecake?” Plagg inquired, then licked his lips. “And not just any cheesecake! That girl is a keeper, I tell you. You should totally marry her!”

“Plagg!” Adrien chided him. “She’s my partner, it’s unprofessional to have such-”

“You were saying?” Plagg smirked.

“Oh, very funny , Plagg. Quit pulling me like that! She’s just a friend and you’re just a glutton. Besides, we better get going.”

 

 

Now finally at the correct set, Amulet was sitting nervously at the interviewee chair, holding her cake box with both of her hands.

“Do you think he’ll be late? I can’t do this alone!” She whispered to her guardians.

“Don’t worry Amu! Everything will be just fine!”

Amulet smiled sheepishly as Nadja caught her seemingly talking to nothing but thin air.

“Ten… Nine… Eight...”

Chat Noir somersaulted in with a stylish pole vault, almost at the last second.

 

“Don’t be bemused, it’s just the news! And tonight, a statement from Chat Noir and his new partner, Amulet! Now, a lot of people have been concerned about Ladybug’s disappearance. What would you like to tell them?”

Chat Noir held Amulet’s hand in his.

“I want everyone in Paris to know that they’re in good hands. As safe as they had ever been. Ladybug will come back as soon as the time is right.”

“That’s good to hear, Chat Noir.” Nadja replied, then turned towards his partner.

“What about you, Amulet? Do you really think you have what it takes?”

“I…”

Amulet hesitated for but a moment, but then Chat gently squeezed her arm.

“... Yes, I do.”

“Does that display of bravado convince Parisians? Let’s find out! We’re ready to take some video calls from the people of Paris. Who’s on the line?”

“It’s me, Chloe Bourgeouis, Ladybug’s biggest fan, daughter of the mayor, the owner-”

“Yes, Chloe, we get it… what’s your question, please?”

“Oh, I just wanted to let you know you’re a poor replacement for the real thing. So my question is, when are we getting Ladybug back?”

Chat Noir’s eyes burned with rage.

“You take that back, right now!”

“You bring back Ladybug, right now! How am I supposed to root for a superheroine who is a maid ?” Chloe countered.

"I don't like her!" Ran cried, blowing a raspberry towards the monitor. "Amu is a great superheroine!"

Miki clenched her fists, but quickly turned to her sketch pad. In a moment, she produced an illustration of a deformed Chloe bearing devil horns.

“Relax. She’s not worth it.” Amulet held Chat back. “As long as you’re with me, I…”

She then realized what she was insinuating, and blush crept to her cheeks.

Meanwhile, on Nadja’s earpiece, a conversation was taking place.

“Nadja, Now’s the time to hit them up with our scoop.”

“No, Antoine, I’m not doing this!”

“You are, or you’re fired!”

Nadja looked at Chat Noir worriedly, and let out a small, near-inaudible sigh.

“It seems like Parisians aren’t convinced, Chat Noir.”

“I fully stand by my statement and by my partner, Nadja.” he replied, his voice unwavering.

“But, Chat, don’t you think your judgement might be impaired, when it comes to the public’s worries?”

“Impaired? What’s that supposed to mean? She’s my partner, we’re entirely prof-”

Chat’s words escaped him as soon as the display was showing scenes from their last fight against Dark Cupid. Starting with the scene of Chat Noir kissing Amulet.

Amulet couldn’t remember if she had ever been as red as she felt she was at that moment.

“W-w-when d-d-did that happen?”

“I had to save you from Dark Cupid’s brainwashing!” he pleaded.

Amulet pointed to the screen in shock, only for her cake box to lose balance and fall. She and her guardians managed to grab it just a few centimeters off the floor.

More pictures rolled on the screen from their patrols, including the one where Chat was holding Amulet in his arms on the platform.

“These are just a bunch of photos taken out of context!" Chat protested, "We're only doing our job. We save the city, we're professionals! Right, Amulet?”

Amulet barely managed to reseat herself, still confused and blushing furiously.

“Now look what you’ve done!” he fumed at Nadja. “This interview is so over.”

He turned to his partner.

“I’m sorry, Amulet. You deserve better than this. Come, let’s go.”

She picked up her cake box and walked together with Chat to one of the guest dressing rooms.

“Well then. Nadja. Looks like you’re getting fired after all.” Antoine’s voice came out of the earpiece.

“What? But I did what you asked me to!”

“You’ve offended Paris’s champions on prime time! The viewers are livid. We’re getting complaints all across social media. We can’t have that, now can we?”

Within moments, TVi’s social media accounts broadcast a notice of termination of Nadja’s employment and an apology. The lights in the studio shut down. Nadja turned off her earpiece and went to the staff dressing room, sobbing.

 

...

 

Light shone upon Hawk Moth’s lair, upsetting the white butterflies that roamed within it.

“No news means very good news, for me. Go forth, my akuma, and evilize her!”

The black and purple butterfly quickly took off. Within a few minutes, the mental link was formed.

Prime queen, I am Hawk Moth. Boy, have I got a miraculous scoop for you. Will you bide your airtime?”

“With pleasure, Hawk Moth.”

 

 

Chat and Amulet sat together at the almost featureless, white dressing room, looking listlessly at the TV screen affixed to it, showing the commercial break.

Chat was the first to speak up.

“This was a bad idea. I should have foreseen that. It’s all my fault.”

“No… it’s…” Amulet began, only for the TV screen to show them with a shining blue face, reminiscent of Nadja but evidently not quite it.

“Oh no! She got akumatized!” Chat cried.

Prime queen reached out through Chloe’s TV screen, the scene being broadcast across Paris. She grabbed her arm, then jumped into the TV screen once again, this time appearing inside a subway train.

“Subway? This is worse than death. Won’t someone save me already?” Chloe ranted.

The train stopped, passengers scurrying and fleeing as fast as they can.

“Welcome to tonight’s episode of Speed III. Will our superheroes manage to save Chloe in time?”

Chat and Amulet quickly hopped through the TV screen, finding themselves on the subway train, just one car behind Prime queen and Chloe.

“Chat, now what?”

Chat tried the door only to find out it was locked shut and wouldn’t budge to either kicks or his baton.

“We’re here! Let her go, Prime queen!” Chat yelled in frustration.

“Not until I get my scoop!” Prime queen replied. “If you want to save her, admit you’re a couple!”

“Okay! We’re… we’re a couple. As coupled together as it gets. Head over heels for each other.” Chat responded.

“Somehow I don’t believe you. A few minutes ago you were adamant on the opposite being true.”

“If you’re so in love with each other… then prove it! A picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s see a kiss!”

Amulet gulped and looked at Chat.

“You know, Chat… if we have no choice… then I… I agree.”

Amulet’s cheeks reddened as she put the cake box on a seat and slowly closed her eyes.

“Just… be gentle with me, okay?”

Prime queen looked at them with anticipation, decelerating the train to fulfil her part of the bargain.

Amulet felt Chat's hands holding on to hers, felt his breath close by, and in a moment she felt the touch of his lips… at her cheek, giving her the slightest of pecks.

“Open your eyes, Amulet. I’ll never ask that of you. You already sacrifice so much for Paris. The least this city can do for you… the least I can do for you as a partner… is not force you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“You tricked me!” Prime queen grunted and gritted her teeth. “Such insolence… requires an appropriate measure.

Prime queen immediately hopped through her TV screen, taking Chloe with her.

“Obviously, second-rate heroes couldn't even save me properly. Ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous!” Chloe commented, just before prime queen stuffed her into a sarcophagus.

“So, what’s your next move?”

Amulet and Chat both watched the television feed from the louvre, horrified.

“Chat, we have to do something!”

They both looked cautiously at the TV screen in front of them, the one Nadja just fled through.

“We don’t have a choice, do we?”

“Don’t forget your cake!” Suu commanded telepathically

Amulet picked her cake up and they both jumped in, only to find themselves locked up in a bleak, dimly-lit store room full of groceries.

“Now you’re trapped! Tick-Tock, showtime is nearly over… the suspense is at its highest… will they or won’t they?”

“A trap… can work both ways.” Amulet whispered to Chat.

“Honey bubble!” She waved her whisk.

Within a moment, sticky bubbles covered the entire area, obstructing the view of anything happening inside the room.

“We’re about to kiss and reveal our identities!” Chat called.

“Prime queen, you’re missing everything! Such a shame, your ratings…” Amulet added.

“Wow! I didn’t know it was you all along! My love!”

The sounds of kissing were too much for Prime queen to ignore.

“Don’t do it, it’s a trap!” Hawk moth cried in despair, all in vain. Prime queen let her hand through the screen, only for Chat Noir to yank her inside their room, the mass of bubbles clinging to her and sticking her to the ground.

Yet, this wasn’t enough to overpower her. In a moment, she managed to flip Chat over.

“Cataclysm!” he invoked his power, but Prime queen quickly forced his hand towards one of the food boxes, causing it to crumble.

“Seems like you still lose! Any final words?” she snickered.

“Hey, miss prime time, ever considered a gag show? Say ‘cheese’!”

“Wha-?” Prime queen turned her head towards Amulet and barely caught a glimpse before the cheesecake met her face. Chat quickly seized the opportunity, caught her earpiece and broke it in two, releasing the Akuma.

“Looks like I just broke the news , prime queen.”

“Negative heart - lock on!” Amulet pointed her finger towards the butterfly. “Open heart!”

A green heart shape enveloped the butterfly and within a moment, a purified white butterfly emerged.

“Bye bye, little butterfly!” she called, then motioned her hand for a fistbump.

“Pound it!”

Both bumped fists, then looked at the remains of the cake.

“So, A cake to the face, huh? that gag is so cheesy .”

Amulet wrinkled her nose.

“Seriously, Chat… you need to work on your puns. Some are pretty bad, but this one takes-”

She stopped talking abruptly as she realized it, but Chat was already on to her, a smug look on his face.

“You were saying?”

“T-Takes a lot of... patience! To… stoma -... no! I meant it’s hard to face …” She stuttered, trying to avoid making a pun, to no real avail.

“Come on… do it!”

He stood there waiting with his cheshire cat grin on.

“This one takes the cake. ” She relented.

The silence was finally broken by a few muffled giggles which in turn quickly made way to both of them laughing their hearts out.

Chat paused for a moment, looking at his partner laughing. So carefree and happy, as if she needed that laugh so much. He felt a flutter through his heart. There was something about it that made him want to see her laugh like that more often. As often as he could make it happen.

 

Nadja moaned as she finally woke up, breaking Chat’s thoughts. He quickly lent his hand and helped Nadja up.

“What… where am I?”

“You got akumatized, Nadja.” Chat answered.

“Right… my producer had me fired… over his idea! I never wanted this. I’m so sorry!”

Nadja grabbed her head in despair and left the room sobbing, with Chat and Amulet quickly following.

“So… you never wanted to this?” Amulet inquired.

“It was wrong. But it’s okay, I’m going to pay the price for it, won’t I?”

Chat and Amulet exchanged looks between them. “No, that’s not right... Here’s what you should do...”

 

...

 

Nadja knocked gently on her former boss’s room.

“Come in! Oh, it’s you, Nadja. A disgraced reporter, what would you be asking?”

“I want you to tell the truth to the world, Antoine.”

“Are we on-record or off-the-record?” Antoine flashed an evil, toothy grin.

Nadja dropped her cellular on the table, revealing that it’s powered off.

“Here’s a life lesson for you, Nadja. Truth? The truth doesn’t matter. Nobody will ever know I ordered you to roast them, and now, no one would ever believe you, either.”

He laughed maniacally.

“Me, tell the truth publically? Is this the start of your comedy career? Out you go, Nadja.”

Nadja turned around, lowered her head and left the room.

“I couldn’t record it, Amulet, I’m so-… what?”

A cellular phone seemingly flew of its own volition, dropping itself in Amulet’s hands.

Amulet grinned as she pressed the play button, listening to the damning quote.

“Like music to my ears.” Chat quipped.

 

---MLBSCMLBSCMLBSC---

 

A good few hours later, Amu was already in her room, tuning in to the live feed from TVi.

“Amu, can you please get a lighter phone next time?” Ran whined, “It took both Miki and I and it was still almost too heavy!”

“Oh shush, you two. Let’s watch the results of your work!”

“TVi offers an apology over the irresponsible behaviour of Antoine d’Ardenne, former head of news programming. Mr. d’Ardenne’s resignation was formally accepted by the CEO today and Ms Chamak will fill the position in the interim. Again, we are committed to high journalistic standards-...”

Amu turned off the computer.

“So, do I need to think of more creative puns now?” Miki chuckled.

“That cat is a bad influence on you!” Suu chided.

“Yeah… the best kind of bad influence there is.” Amu answered, dreamily staring into the room.

A “TH-BMMP” sound from her balcony interrupted her thoughts and she quickly pulled herself up the hatch.

“Chat Noir? W-what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be home after your show?”

“Oh! So, you watched the show then…” Chat Noir chuckled nervously, “Well… about that… those photographs of me and Amulet… It’s… it’s not what you think.”

He paused to breath.

“You see, I’m really-”

Amu’s hug caught him by surprise.

“Shh… kitty, don't say another word.” She whispered, “I never doubted you even for a second.”

He quickly realized he didn’t have any further need for words, just having her hugging him, feel her head lightly leaning against him… his expression turned into a smile of relief.

“I’m so glad you think so highly of me,” he whispered as well, “so glad.”

“It’s already getting late, Chat, you ought to go now.”

Amu kissed him on his cheek as she parted, and let out a slight giggle at the sight of a blushing Chat.

“Good night, Chaton!”

“Good night, sweet Marinette!” He made a theatrical bow as he leapt away.

Chapter Text

Amu and Alya were sitting at the park next to school when Alya stood up suddenly.

“Hey, are you coming to the fencing class today? They’re running tests for the team.”

Little did Alya know that right behind her, a pink little guardian character hovered, bent on reinforcing her case.

“Please, Amu!”

Ran’s pleading face was impossible to ignore and Amu smiled at her.

“Sure, why not? Sounds like fun!”

Alya nodded, then typed an instant message on her phone.

“Hey, what are you writing there?”

“Oh, nothing…”

“Hey, give me that!” Amu giggled as she reached for Alya’s phone.

“No way, girl!” Alya refused, making sure the other girl couldn’t get her hands on the phone.

“What’s the big secret?”

 

 

Adrien faced the newcomer assigned to him, still clad in white mask and a fencing suit.

“Here, like this…” He gently fixed the newcomer’s starting position, setting them straight with his hands. “Bend your knees just a little… and your foil, hold it straight. Great! Now we can start.”

The three little guardian characters floating next the newcomer he was facing nodded in approval. Miki was sketching Amu’s fencing attire and Suu pulled out a miniature glass of juice. 

“It’s important to stay hydrated during sports!”

Ran, however, was busy checking out the attire and foil.

“Perfect! Now one last touch needed. To a sporty fencing girl! Character… change!”

Amu suddenly felt light as a feather with heightened instincts, as she exchanged a few attacks and ripostes with Adrien. Neither seemed to be able to score a point, up until when Adrien managed to get past her defenses.

He raised his mask to address her.

“Wow, you’re pretty good! You may have a chance to make the team!”

Amu raised her mask. 

“You think? Thanks!”

“M-M-Marinette!” Adrien yelped. “But… Alya… I didn’t... “

Amu smiled.

“Umm... surprise?”

Oh my god… so that’s the… and I touched her! I was right next to her I was fixing her position and I touched her!

“Another round, let’s go!” D’Argencourt’s voice announced.

Amu replaced her helmet and Adrien followed suit.

All of a sudden, Adrien’s attacks seemed far less accurate and nowhere as focused as before. Amu quickly scored a point against him, then another. He was somewhat relieved when a mysterious figure entered the hall, clad in a red fencing suit and hailed D’Argencourt loudly enough so that everyone stopped and listened.

“I want to be on your team. I heard only the best of the best are admitted,” the stranger declared.

D’Argencourt frowned.

“You heard correctly, but you’re late. However, should you defeat my best student, I’ll give you another chance.”

“And who would that temporarily-best be, swordmaster, before I take on the position?”

“The whippersnapper has nerve!” D’Argencourt exclaimed, “Adrien right here would show you,” he added, motioning towards Adrien.

Umm… maybe right now is not the best of timings for this...

Everyone on Adrien’s team looked at him to defend the school’s prestigious name, but there were also the newcomers. And amongst them one particular newcomer he cared about.

“First to get three points, wins! If you win, you may join my team. If you don’t… then you’re not to be admitted.”

Adrien tried his best to parry his opponent’s attacks and made little in the way of his own. He drew out a clumsy defense but eventually the newcomer scored their first point against him.

“Can we pause for a moment?”

“Fine, if you need it.”

Adrien paused and recollected his breath, just as he noticed Amu looking at him with a worried face and he clenched his fists.

No… I can’t let her down. She has to see me at my best!

Adrien seemed rejuvenated after the pause, striking with ferocity unseen before. He quickly got a point, then another. Flexing his skills, he dodged the challenger’s blow in a high jump to score the last point in a most extravagant way, much to the cheering of his team. Adrien raised his mask and looked back at the onlookers but in particular at Amu with a triumphant smile.

Kagami removed her mask and squinted towards Adrien, slowly clapping her hands as she spoke, drawing his attention from the cheers.

“Congratulations, well played. As underhanded as your tactic may have been, hiding your true skill to catch me off guard was very efficient. A victory is a victory after all, looks like I still have a lot to learn.”

She threw off her foil and it made a clacking sound as it hit the ground, then rolled about.

Adrien’s smile was wiped off his face almost immediately.

It’s… I know this girl! It’s Kagami, she comes from a famous fencing family! This is bad… 

“Wait! I mean…”

Kagami turned her head.

“Thank you for the lesson, I will never forget it. Adrien, wasn’t it?”

“How about a decisive match?” he offered, to no avail. Kagami paced slowly towards the dressing rooms, not heeding his call.

“What a poor girl!” Suu quipped, then flew to follow her into the dressing room.

 

---

 

A single ray of light intruded upon Hawk Moth’s lair, soon accompanied by more as the window expanded, the sound of the mechanical gears powering it further intruding on the scene’s serenity.

“Win if you can, lose if you must. One’s loss is my gain. Go forth, precious Akuma, and evilize her!”

In a few minutes, the mental link was formed.

“Riposte… I am Hawk Moth. You should have won this battle. Squarely, fairly and honorably. Your opponent taught you a lesson, wouldn’t you teach him one of your own?”

“On my honor, Hawk Moth, I shall teach him.”

 

 

Kagami sat at the dressing room, gritting her teeth. Mad at herself for losing yet just as mad about the events leading to her loss, as the butterfly landed upon her ring.

“Oh no!” Suu shuddered and quickly flew back to Amu. “Big trouble! That fencer girl just got akumatized!”

Amu quickly took to the upstairs floor, with Adrien looking at her swift departure.

I guess she’s also unhappy with this un-sportsman-like conduct. I really blew it, didn’t I?

Adrien reached out with a hand, as if considering to follow her upstairs, but then let it fall as he dropped the idea. 

“Maybe… Maybe we should just call it a day, Mr. D’Argencourt.” he mumbled, then left through the front gate, going down the front stairs step by step. Before he could reach his car, though, a large silvery blade blocked his way, making a sharp ‘woosh’ sound as it hacked a part of the pavement in two.

“Not so fast, Adrien. It’s time for your lesson. How about I teach you some respect !” Riposte cried, as her blade swung towards him. It was mere centimeters from his head, when two pom-pom clad hands caught the blade, blocking the attack.

“Go! Run away!” Amulet called. “I can’t hold her for much longer!”

Amulet drew her heart rod, only for Riposte’s sword to fling it away from her almost in an instant.

“It’s too short! What do I do?”

Amulet ducked and leaned to avoid Riposte’s blows, but she clearly needed a better strategy.

“Amu! Substitute with me, let me help you out on this one!” Miki called.

Amu leaped onto a nearby pole.

“Character transformation, Amulet Spade!” she called out and changed form, but this time she found herself bearing a large sewing needle.

“Miki? Is that a powerup?”

“You needed one! What did you expect me to give you, a white flag? Now go and fight Riposte!” Miki answered telepathically.

“En garde!” Amulet pointed her needle much like a sword, exchanging attacks and parries with Riposte. Not a moment later though, a forceful attack from Riposte threw her off-guard.

“No!” Adrien cried, as he lunged forward and pushed Amulet out of harm’s way. Both rolled on the ground, Adrien finding himself on top of her.

“Cut it out, you two, or I'll cut you out!” Riposte cried.

“Amu! You’re doing it wrong, It’s more than just a sword! like I would give you something as unrefined!” Miki ranted.

“What do I do with it?”

Amulet threw her needle forward and in a split second, a thread followed, wrapping itself around Riposte.

“Aha! Now that’s useful!” she commented, then quickly turned towards Adrien. “Let’s get you out of here until reinforcements arrive.”

“But how exactly?” Adrien asked, then both looked at the needle and thread.

“Um… you’ve done this before, haven’t you?” he asked.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do that… uh-oh.

“Well…”

Amulet quickly shot the needle far away, grabbing Adrien and the thread following the needle, getting carried out of Riposte’s sight, towards the Louvre.

 

---

 

Amu panted and sighed. "That was something… At least we got you away. We have to stall somehow until Chat arrives."

They entered the Louvre and stopped at the Egyptian display. The more time passed, the more anxious Amulet became.

“Where’s Chat Noir? How am I going to do this without him? I really should get his phone number for emergencies…"

“I’m sure he’ll come. He always does, doesn’t he?” he replied calmly, but that didn’t do much to reassure Amulet.

“Yes… and since he hasn’t yet, I’m worried! What if something’s happened to him? What if he tried to fight riposte alone? Oh no! What am I going to do?"

“You really do care about him, don’t you?”

She blushed profusely.

“I… he’s…”

“Your partner.”

“Y-Yeah, my partner, that. I trust him… more than I trust myself.”

“I’m sure he trusts you too and would have wanted you to have faith in your skills too.”

She could have sworn she saw sparkles when he smiled.

“T-thanks, for the vote of confidence…”

"Have faith. I'm sure he's fine and will come as soon as he can."

I can see why Marinette fell in love with this guy. He really is nice when you get to know him… I’m glad to have him as a friend. Maybe… maybe if it wasn’t for Chat, or the circumstances around us meeting, I would…

Amu quickly shook her head at the thought, as if trying to shake it off.

"Tell you what, I'll go hide here,” he said, motioning towards an empty sarcophagus, “and you try looking for Chat. He might need your help after all."

Amulet nodded and left for the Louvre’s entrance. Before she could exit the museum though, a silvery sword blocked her way. Amulet quickly had Riposte wrapped in thread again, but this time the akuma cut through the thread like a hot knife through butter.

Boy, is she unhappy…

Amu fended off Riposte's blows one by one, but her attack frequency and ferocity only seemed to increase as they went.

Another blow later and Amulet's needle was flung aside.

"Any final words, Amulet?"

"It's not time for the final round yet!" 

A baton parried Riposte's sword away.

“Chat! You came after all!” her face lit up.

“Well, this cat isn’t up for sitting on the fence.”

Riposte wrinkled her nose.

“The art of fencing is too noble to be mocked by a stray such as you!”

“Hey! I mastered all the monkey island fencing fights!” Chat protested.

Riposte darted backwards, drawing them both towards her only to jump high above them and past them, rushing towards the alarm button and smacking it hard, separating Chat from Amulet with lockdown bars blocking the passageway between the halls.

Amulet tried to hold her off, but she couldn’t stop her from reaching the sarcophagus.

A second later, the sarcophagus was sliced in half, revealing it was now empty.

Where did Adrien go to?

Meanwhile, Chat decided he’s had it with the bars. “Cataclysm!” he called it, rusting them into nothingness. This time, he took the initiative in pressing the alarm button, preventing Riposte from going about the same drill further as all were locked into the same hall.

Riposte lunged forwards and attacked ferociously, driving them both back, not too far from the wall.

“What do we do about her?” Chat asked as he parried yet another blow.

“I have an idea, but it’s not going to be easy.” Amulet answered.

“Guess we’ll have to thread the needle .”

“Precisely.” She grinned.

Chat Noir blocked Riposte’s sword with yet again his baton, just as Amulet flipped her needle in her hands, holding it upside down and threading Riposte’s blade with the eye of her needle. A twist to the side and Riposte’s blade broke, releasing the Akuma.

“Negative heart… lock on!” Amulet placed her hands in a heart shape motion, the stream of hearts accelerating towards the Akuma.

“Open heart!”

A white butterfly flew away towards the sky.

“Bye bye little butterfly!”

“Looks like you have the right eye for the job.” Chat complimented her.

“I couldn’t have done it without you, Chat.”

“Always at your disposal, partner. Pound it?”

“Pound it!”

Chat’s ring beeped yet again.

“You go tend to the girl. I’d stick around, but then you’d see me without my mask… and you wouldn’t be able to resist me.”

He flashed a grin as he disappeared further down the hall, before he could see Amulet’s red face. She quickly came to tend to Kagami in an attempt to clear her mind off that.

“Hey… you got akumatized, but you’re okay now.” she said.

“I see. How shameful of me, being played into a tool of destruction and a menace to Paris. That is unbecoming.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re a human being. You have feelings, it’s impossible to keep them in check all the time.”

Kagami looked at herself, then back at Amulet.

“That Adrien guy sure managed to hit a soft spot.”

“You’re wrong about him. Give him another chance, please?” she pleaded, but Kagami just shook her head.

“I seriously doubt that.”

And with that, she slowly began walking away.

Amulet sighed as she went about looking for Adrien.

---

Chat quickly found a hidden corner and de-transformed.

“Well Plagg, that sure was a mess… and I caused it! I have to apologize to Amulet somehow.”

Before he could answer, Plagg hid himself.

Amulet rushed to the area of the now-cleaved sarcophagus and breathed in relief as she spotted Adrien there.

“Thank goodness you’re fine. Chat did come after all! And he saved the day, just as I told you.”

She said, more than a hint of pride in her voice.

Before you praise me further… You can’t really credit me for solving a problem I was responsible for!

“Amulet… About today’s Akuma, it was all my fault.”

“Why are you blaming yourself? How could you have caused it?”

“I... never did want to do this to Kagami. She thinks I tricked her, but the truth is…”

He paused, blushing.

“Well… there’s this girl...”

“Oh?”

“She makes my heart beat and my head spin. And when I finally gathered myself to try and impress her, Kagami thought it was just an underhanded tactic.”

“You’re a great guy, Adrien. You’re brave and honest. I’m sure Kagami would figure that out.” she replied.

“And as for that other girl, say, is it the same one from Valentine’s?”

He nodded silently and looked downwards as Amulet continued.

“Whoever she may be… I promise you, once she gets to know you, she’ll see that, too. Just like I see it.”

He smiled just a bit.

“Thanks, I really hope you’re right about that… and I certainly don’t want to cause any further Akumas for you and Chat…”

“Oh, leave the handling of Akumas to us, no worries. And now I really have to go.”

 

Amulet cast her needle onwards and pulled herself using threads towards home, carrying her thoughts with her.

well, Adrien, I might not be able to help you much as Amulet… but there’s something about me that you don’t know, `cause I have a secret. Without the mask, I’m your close friend. And I’m going to help you win that girl. Whoever she may be.

 

 

Kagami quickly hid behind the column, before either Amulet or Adrien could see her eavesdropping, with her own thoughts about the conversation forming as well.

So… he was genuine after all. How gallant, someone caring about their loved one so much as to lose their fighting ability… and regain it, redoubled.

He really is something special.

 

---

 

Amu sat at her desk in her room, Her three guardian characters hovering about.

“Well, that was a confusing day. Would you believe it, about Adrien?”

“Yeah, how surprising!” Ran answered. “You wouldn’t think someone like him would have issues with girls… right? He’s so sporty and fit!”

“And he’s not a model for nothing!” Miki added, as she quickly sketched him with his standard outfit.

“That’s why I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very easy.” Amu smiled, as she tucked herself into bed.

Only Suu remained awake, floating next to the window, a troubling thought to her.

What if… what if none of this is a coincidence?

Could he have wanted to impress Amu?

And that would mean that the letter I found during the Dark Cupid incident…

No, I must be dreaming.

But what if…

What if the letter I found during the dark cupid incident… really was meant for Amu?