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Vengeance

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It had been a week since they'd buried the empty casket, but Kagami's anger had yet to cool.

While it was true that she and Marinette hadn't gotten off on the best foot, they had grown steadily closer in the months since the scavenger hunt. Nods and hellos had turned into lunch, baking together, and banners at fencing tournaments.

Now, Marinette's bright grin had been snuffed out, and Kagami had never felt so alone in the world.

Her only other friend was Adrien, and he was probably dead, too.

When she had tried asking her mother, all Tomoe had said was that the Agreste family was no longer associated with them.

Hawkmoth and Chat had stolen everything from her. And now, Kagami wanted vengeance. As wrong as she knew it was, she couldn’t help the desire to run them through with a sword and make sure they knew it was revenge.

Marinette would never approve. Kagami knew that much.

Her mother had been busy with meetings since Ladybug's death, so sneaking out was hardly a challenge. The whole city was in shock, and everything had been thrown upside down. Fear permeated the air, knowing that Ladybug's killer was still loose. Knowing that this time, there wouldn’t be a cloud of magic to mend the broken city and broken hearts.

Graffiti murals of their lost heroine popped up on every street corner and in every alleyway. Candlelit shrines sprouted at their bases.

Kagami had never been devout to her Shinto roots, but that first night, when everyone had marched through the streets, she had found herself kneeling before the shrine outside of College Francois Dupont. There, she prayed for both pigtailed girls that the city had lost.

Now, as the dawn sun began to poke through the densely clustered buildings, Kagami relished the slight nip in the air. She made her way down the cobblestone street and away from the prison she called home.

She had no destination in mind, which is how her feet lead her to the Dupain-Cheng bakery.

Her hand hesitated over the door. As much as she wanted to, she knew she couldn't and shouldn't go into Marinette's room anymore. Not without her.

Still, Kagami couldn't stay away entirely, and so she pushed the door open, forcing herself not to shrink as the bell chimed.

A hunched old man stood behind the counter. Hid square glasses accented his glare, which softened when he recognized her.

"Bonjour, Monsieur Dupain," Kagami greeted as she crossed the tiles to the counter.

She felt like she was suffocating. Marinette's presence was everywhere, still. From the store logo, to the aprons. The bakery even smelled like her warmth.

The lump in her throat grew.

Ten minutes, and the purchase of one croissant, later, Kagami sat by the riverside with tears dripping down her freckled cheeks.

How could it be better to have loved and lost, she wondered. How could this ache in her heart possibly be better than the solitude she’d know her whole life?

She never heard the flutter of those dark wings as the butterfly sank into her bracelet.

Black magic roiled around the beads, eagerly waiting for her to give in to the alluring power.

"Kagami," came a familiar voice. She almost thought it was Adrien's, but then she recognized the cruel playfulness.

"You!" she snarled.

The purple halo formed around her eyes.

"Now, now," he purred. "Hawkmoth took something from us. I can sense the vengeance in your soul. Such sweet sorrow. I want her back, too, and you can help me."

"Marinette?" Kagami breathed, eyes widening.

"That's right,” he praised. “Find Ladybug's earrings for me, and I will bring Marinette back. I swear it."

"How can I trust you? You're the reason they’re both dead!" Kagami barked. “Marinette’s blood is on your claws!”

She felt him stifling a growl. "She was never meant to die." There was a pause before the halo grew brighter. He was trying to sway her. She could feel his suggestion seeping into her mind. "I can give you the power to find the earrings."

"You're going to akumatize me. Just like Hawkmoth."

"Yes."

Her eyes widened as the pieces of this morbid puzzle clicked together. "You killed him, too. Didn't you?"

"He deserved it."

"You're a monster," she snarled.

Kagami lifted her chin, defying him despite not being able to see him. "I refuse. I won't be another madman's tool." Calmly, she slipped the bracelet off her wrist and set it down on the ledge beside her.

"If you truly loved Marinette," Kagami choked, feeling his will pushing against hers still, "you would know that she wouldn't want this. She wouldn’t want vengeance." She glanced at the bracelet and its handmade beads. "So, get out of my bracelet now, or I will hunt you down and run you through with my foil."

His anger was instant and violent. He could feel him thrashing against her mind as though he was trying to split her head. But, as quickly as his temper had rushed in, it ebbed.

"Fine," he snapped. "I don't need you! I’ll save her myself. But I won't forget this."

"Good," she sighed, watching the white butterfly withdraw from her bracelet and flutter into the morning sky.

As soon as it was out of sight, her shoulders began to shake with repressed sobs.

It didn't take long for the sobs to break loose as she cradled the bracelet to her cheek.

"Forgive me," she said over and over, rocking herself. "Forgive me, Marinette."

She might have stayed there longer if not for the sudden feeling of a hand on her shoulder. She stiffened, her sobs halting on a breath.

Her fist punched through the air, barely allowing her target to escape.

"Who dares in-" Kagami cut herself off when her eyes landed on red and black dots. "Ladybug? No, who are you?"

The boy's eyes tired eyes did their best approximation of a smile. "Kagami Tsurugi, my name is Crimson, and I need your help."