It was the supervillains at night that vexed Ladybug the most.
Most of Hawk Moth's supervillains were created during the heat of the day. Ladybug had gotten used to the pattern of finding a supervillain operating in broad daylight, confronting the supervillain, getting into a fight, then destroying the object or the akuma hid. It was a relatively simple process even when the execution had not been easy.
But the ones that came at night seemed to be harder. Sandboy. Glaciator. Dark Owl. For opponents such as these there always seemed to be a complicating emotional component. They were tougher in that they seemed to hit at her heart a little bit more.
This current foe, Hecate, was no exception.
The supervillain was a rarity in more ways than the time of her appearance. Unlike most victims of Hawk Moth, her skin had not changed in color, making the human that she was all too apparent. Her clothes consisted of a black skin-tight catsuit with two curiously large black boots. Her eyes were gold as was her insignia, a pentacle on the center of her chest. The bangs of her red hair were parted to the right, held in place by a pair of black hairpins, allowing her dark mask to be seen. The rest of her hair was carried back in a ponytail.
She also had the power of flight by standing on her broom. And she was carrying an unwitting passenger in midair.
Her prisoner was a middle-aged balding man who was preternaturally short. The man, wearing a black suit and wielding a blue ray gun with a red scope, shot in useless resistance against the bubble that encased him. Supervillains were prone to taking hostages, but this one was more feisty than most captives.
"Put me down instantly," he ordered.
"Ladybug and Cat Noir," she announced. "Relinquish the Miraculouses and I might just let this bureaucrat live."
"We don't make deals with supervillains," Ladybug shouted back into the air. "Release that man safely on the ground."
"I heard you say 'release.'" She let the bubble bobble and wobble. "Are you sure that's what you want?"
"You are in defiance of international creature law!" her prisoner cried, drawing Hecate's attention. "Any human who harboring or otherwise preventing the capture of a monster shall be subject to the same penalty as that monster."
"I guess I have nothing to lose by dropping you."
Ladybug threw her yo-yo at Hecate, but the witch dodged her projectile with ease. As long as she had the advantage of three-dimensional movement, neither Ladybug nor Cat Noir would be able to hit her, and Hecate could make good on her threat to splatter the hostage onto the ground.
In a swiftness without a flash, Ladybug saw something pass overhead. Cat Noir also looked up, meaning either this was a shared delusion or the unusual sight was not confined to their imaginations.
There was a giant, black bird that was flying towards Hecate.
Those on the ground blinked and quickly their vision adjusted. This wasn't a bird. This was a human shaped black jet. Ladybug squinted as the limits of her sight revealed no more but Cat Noir's eyes opened into circles as his night vision clarified what he was processing.
This was a teenager flying unaided. The boy who was nearly a man in size wore a dark cape and a completely fearless expression on his face. He wasn't just flying. He was rocketing.
And he was headed straight towards Hecate.
As he approached her, he dove a little then banked upward. He hovered in the air beside her, but she ignored him as though he were made of the night air from which he had come.
"Clara!" he called. She reacted with an annoyed scowl.
"It's 'Hecate,'" she replied.
"I know you want to protect me, but this isn't the way."
"This isn't about you, but every supernatural person in this city. Should they be unsafe because they are not human?"
"Harming him isn't going to make us any more safe. Just sit him down on the ground gently and we might be able to discuss this over a cup and a meal, since this outfit really does suit you.”
He narrowed his eyes in flirtatious levity and for a moment, her features softened.
"No," she answered, her once pleased face now a mask of rage.
With the word the bubble popped and the human hostage started to fall towards the ground.
The flying interloper was stunned at first, but as the man sped away from him and towards the pavement below, he awoke from the stupor and dived towards the falling man. Cat Noir also instinctively launched himself into the air with his pole, timing his jump to intersect his target with the right arc and vector. The dual efforts the dark-suited teenage males lead to them crashing into each other and both of them tumbling to the ground.
The falling man though, slowed and stopped his descent with the help the red heroine. Ladybug had swung from a nearby building and grabbed the man in mid-air, changing his trajectory from a direct impact to a curved descent guided by her rope. She landed on the ground with him a little harder than she expected. His reaction was equally unforeseen.
"You are in league with a creature," he announced. "That is a violation of--"
"No time," Ladybug replied, cutting him off. "Find somewhere to hide, fast."
Thankfully he complied with a minimum of grumbling and was out of her sight. Her eyes were focused on the pile of limbs and torsos the ground that were thankfully still attached to their owners. Cat Noir recovered first and disentangled himself as stood up, then bent over the teenager on the ground. Cat Noir reached down toward the teenager who responded by lifting one of his own arms and taking the outstretched glove to pull himself up.
It was on the ground under the streetlights that both Ladybug and Cat Noir saw the true nature of this third party. He was dressed in a black suit with a black cape that matched his hair, with the collar of his white shirt peeking out from his neck. Behind his neck was the top of his black cape upturned, revealing the crimson underside that stretched from there all the way down to the edge. His dress was unusual for a superhero.
His fangs, on the other hand, made him even more unusual, and paired with his red eyes, pointed ears, slicked back hair, and gray skin, neither Ladybug and Cat Noir had to spend time figuring out what he was.
"I know you were trying to help but leave the rescuing to us," she admonished.
The dark-haired boy made the motion of a sigh without the breath, and both Ladybug and Cat Noir recognized the relief he expressed. He had been prepared for antagonism and their nonchalance threw him off guard. For an instant, the briefest hint of sadness clouded his face, but it dissolved into a mask of bravado and confidence.
"I know her," he said. "I could talk her out of it."
"It's good that you want to help," Ladybug replied, "but Hawk Moth has a hold on her. She's not going to quit until we defeat her."
"Would it help if I told you the akuma's in her hairpin?"
"Stop talking to him," Hecate ordered from the sky. "Hand over your Miraculous!"
Ladybug pitched her yo-yo into the air again, not as an attack, but to summon her special skill.
"Lucky Charm!" she cried.
Her yo-yo vanished and was substituted with a thick red ring with black spots. It fell in her hands, and she lifted it and examined it, pulling a tab on the ring.
"A roll of tape?" she asked.
"Do you have any idea what you're going to do with that?" Cat Noir asked.
Ladybug stared at the tape and then looked at their new ally.
"Actually," she answered as she faced the vampire. "I have a very simple idea. How good of a flyer are you?
"The best," he boasted with a smile. She groaned in her head. Dealing with one cocky partner was enough, but from what little she had seen of him, Ladybug felt as if she were dealing with a second Cat Noir.
He vaulted to the air with a wink and full understanding of his role.
"Oh, Clara," he called as he reached the flying supervillain.
"Hecate!" she corrected. She turned her head away from him. "Fine, I will admit I'm doing this for us."
"Yes, but wouldn't be better for us to go on the ground?" he said from the other side. "That's where Raymond is."
"I'm not playing games, Drack." She ignored him and fired another bolt of magic at the two heroes, so he orbited her again in mid-air. "We can get rid of all of these so-called heroes and The Bureau for the Interception of Creatures. Then any supernaturals can finally be free without worrying about being hunted. Why wouldn't you want that?" She didn't follow him as he orbited her again.
"Because this isn't the way to go about it."
"And just sitting and waiting around like you and your family is? At least Hawk Moth did something about it and gave me real powers." She looked down at the two superheroes with bitter disdain. "They're just humans fighting for humans."
"So they're fighting for you," Drack answered, and slicked his hair back even more, "and me." He leaned in playfully and extending his hand, and her gold eyes became less resistant to his red ones.
"Maybe some other time," she replied as she stretched her hand out towards him, her palm now touching his. Panic struck her she felt a sudden paralysis. She looked down at herself and song that red and black tape had been draped all over her broom and her right arm.
In the conversation he had circled her and entangled her with the tape, his left arm now attached to her right arm. He brought the tape roll to his mouth then bit it and tore it, dropping it. Hecate rocked in a vain attempt to get free, but Drack reached over to Hecate's hair pins and swiftly plucked each of them out then threw them onto the ground.
The pair of pins landed on the asphalt intact. Ladybug and Cat Noir each picked up hairpin and snapped it. The twin clicks manifested a black butterfly from the broken hairpin in Ladybug’s hand. It sent itself aloft into the lightening night sky hoping to be concealed in the remains of darkness.
"No more evildoing for you, little akuma," she called.
Ladybug twirled her yo-yo and captured the butterfly in the yo-yo, then pulled it back into her palm. She tapped the yo-yo and the butterfly now rose with white wings. She then picked up the spotted tape then tossed it into to the air.
"Miraculous Ladybug!" she shouted.
At the same time a dark wave enveloped Hecate's body before fading, revealing a teenager with red hair and a dark, bodycon dress with a purple sash. The tape around her vanished, revealing her arms covered with detached sleeves. The broom disappeared as well and soon she started to drop. Her descendant immediately slowed as her body was cradled in Drack's arms, and he lowered himself to the ground as if riding an invisible lift. Only her shadow cast on the ground in the descent, a shadow that faded with the brightening sky.
"Pound it!" Ladybug and Cat Noir said to each other as they bumped fists.
"What happened?" Clara asked, her eyes now purple. "And why is it almost morning?"
A laser of light sped toward Clara. Drack stepped in front of her, but before even he could act the light was reflected off Ladybugs yo-yo, while Cat Noir twirled his baton as a countermeasure.
The former human hostage, Raymond, defiantly stared at Ladybug as wisps of smoke ascended from his ray gun.
"We just saved your life and you're going to shoot an innocent girl?" Cat Noir asked incredulously.
"She's not a threat any more," Ladybug explained.
"I know that!" Raymond shouted. "That's why I shot at her. All three of you are harboring monsters. You are under arrest.”
"This is why everybody loathes Raymond." Drack replied as he rose into the air. "Why don't you catch me if you can before the sun's up? See you later, Clara!"
The vampire flew and Raymond followed, forgetting all about the humans. After a few blocks the Drack had ducked behind a building, out of both the reach of Raymond’s sight and the coming rays of the sun. Raymond kicked a nearby garbage can in frustration, then smiled with the dawning of an idea.
"All right, can you tell us what's going on?" Cat Noir asked.
"The guy in the suit is Raymond," Clara answered. "He's always like that. He's been going after Drack and his family for years because they're 'creatures,' but they're people just like we are. Last night I just had enough of him, and the next thing I know I was hearing a voice in my head and now I'm here." Her cheeks and jaw dropped as the impact of what happened hit her. "I got akumatized. How could I be so careless?"
"Don’t worry," Ladybug counseled, "It can happen to anyone, especially when someone means a lot to you." Clara nodded in confirmation.
"I liked that someone ever since I laid eyes on him." She sighed and her face took a dramatic quality that reminded Cat Noir of Marinette. "He was so death-defying, I thought he was out of my league. Back then he was so withdrawn, I just knew he had a secret."
"Him?" Cat Noir asked. "Withdrawn?"
"It's like he's a whole different person the daytime. I see it in your eyes you both know how that feels."
A few beeps preceded the red swallowing a black spot on Ladybug's earring.
"I have to transform back," Ladybug said as she stared to leave, "but thanks for the advice." Clara grabbed her and Ladybug let the girl stop her as Clara held her head to Ladybug's ear.
"I know what it's like to have a crush on a dreamy guy," she whispered. "Tell him."
Ladybug nodded and Clara released her. Soon she was nothing more than a red and black bouncing streak.
"My partner had to leave," Cat Noir offered with a bow and an extended hand, "but I could see you home if you would prefer an escort that is not allergic to the sun."
A dark-haired teenager stood at the corner of street, almost appearing out of nowhere. His hair was pushed forward, partially covering his bright blue eyes and exposing round ears, although Cat Noir wondered why he thought those ears would be any other shape. The new arrival's shoulders hung low and slightly forward. His pale skin contrasted a dark button down shirt with a purple undershirt, black skinny jeans and black tennis shoes. Cat Noir was all too familiar with the clothes; they were from the Agreste line, only in black. Either he was another Adrien fan or his parents had money. Cat Noir surmised it was the latter as a circular pendant dangled from the teenager's neck with a bluish-purple hue. Cat Noir knew all too well what it was like to try to pretend to be normal, although this teenager lacked the energy to even approach that.
"I've already got company," Clara said her eyes sparkling with endearment, "but thanks."
Clara ran over to the other teenager and wrapped her arms around him. He responded to her hug with a sweet, slight tug. She walked down the street with him, the suffering from the night now a distant memory. As they sauntered, the youth opened his palm and a little spider tumbled to the sidewalk, attacked to his finger by a single string. The eight-legged creature kept up with the four legs of those who walked with it.
Neither she nor her companion noticed the rattling of a garbage can across the street from them. Raymond’s hateful eyes peeked from under the lid of the trash can. He aimed his ray gun at the couple and watched them through the scope.
"Cataclysm," Cat Noir said as he pounced on top of the garbage can. He touched the ray gun with his right hand and the weapon crumbled into black dust.
Raymond seethed and snorted as Cat Noir bounced away in a leap and twirled his staff, fading into the day as an ever shrinking speck in the sky.