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that heavenly garden

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Sabine smiles at the class, thin-lipped, from her place behind Madame Bustier’s podium. From her spot in front of the students, she can clearly see how Lila Rossi looks unnerved at her presence. No one else looks quite as apprehensive; but then again, Sabine is sure that none of Miss Rossi’s followers know just how badly they’ve fucked up. A shame she doesn’t know for certain who still believes Miss Rossi over her daughter, aside from Nino and Adrien. Although, considering the names attached to the worst papers, she has an inkling.

   “As most of you know,” she starts, tilting her head, “every year, College Francois Dupont has a cultural week, where the students must submit a report or a paper on the country, region, or town a different student is from. This year, your class collectively picked the town Tiān ― or, as you know it, Eden, where Marinette and I were born.” Alya sits up straighter in her chair, turning to give Marinette an incredulous look. Marinette meets her gaze with a level stare as Sabine pretends not to see; it isn’t her daughter’s fault Alya wasn’t paying attention whenever she or Marinette talked about their hometown. Not knowing about Tiān is all on Alya. Eventually, Alya turns back to the front with a scowl.

   It’s sad, but Marinette and Alya’s friendship is officially over now. “You know,” Marinette told her earlier, thoughtful as she patched up a hole in the couch, “I’m almost grateful to Lila. In a weird, twisty sort of way. I mean, if she hadn’t shown up, I might have learned how flimsy their loyalties are some other way ― maybe a worse way.” Sabine has to admit that Marinette’s logic makes sense; in forming a rift between the class, Lila has shown Marinette who her real friends are ― and who wasn’t willing to see past all the glitter. It just so happened that Alya was one of them. (She only wishes that it had been over something more believable than a napkin. Mercy.)

   “Now,” Sabine says, tapping the desk, “I’m sure that you all did your best, given how limited information on Tiān is.” She eyes Lila and her followers. “Unfortunately, for many of you, your best was lacking.” Lila flinches minutely, but doesn’t react otherwise. There’s a flurry of protests, Alya’s the loudest. “I wasn’t finished,” Sabine says coolly, using her best no-nonsense voice that she reserves for particularly uncooperative customers. The class settles down, though not without some grumbling from the rowdier ones. Sabine nods and continues. “For Nino, Rose, Juleka, Ivan, Adrien, and Nathanael; it could be better formatted, perhaps, some parts expanded on, but overall you did a good job.” She smiles at them. They smile back. Sabine’s smile becomes brittle as she looks over everyone else. “For Mister Le Chien, Miss Kubdel, Miss Haprele, Mister Kante, and Miss Cesaire; I expected better.”

   “Oh, come on!” Alya explodes, throwing her hands up. “We got all our information from someone who’s been there first-hand, how could we do any better than that?”

   Sabine fixes Alya with a glare that makes the girl flinch and slowly sink back into her seat. Sabine stares a little longer, then says “Miss Cesaire, you want to be a reporter, don’t you?”

   Alya blinks. “Of course I do.”

   “And how proud are you of this paper?”

   Alya blinks again, clearly confused, but shrugs. “I mean, it’s not gonna win any prizes, but it’s definitely way better than most any of my previous work. Why?”

   Sabine sighs. “Miss Cesaire, if this was some of your better work, I don’t think you’re fit to be a journalist of any sort.”

   “What?! Why?”

   “There are no credible sources,” Sabine says, tapping Alya’s paper, which is poking out of the pile a little. “The only citation is to Lila Rossi, which is not nearly enough. There are no credible footnotes, no credible websites or books or authors. I’m no expert, but I imagine this would not fly at all in the world of professional journalism.” Alya stares at her, clearly struggling for a retort, but eventually looks away without saying anything.

   “Why isn’t Lila a credible source?” Mister Le Chien asks, sounding legitimately confused as he waves his hand in the air.

   Sabine looks him straight in the eye. “Because she was lying to you.”

   “Oh, not this again,” Miss Kubdel mutters, rolling her eyes and leaning back in her chair. “Madame Cheng, with all due respect, just because Marinette doesn’t like Lila, that’s no reason to accuse her of lying to us.”

   Sabine snaps her gaze to the pink haired girl, who doesn’t look up until she realizes that there’s silence. When she meets Sabine’s eyes, she inhales, closes her mouth, and looks away, shame-faced. “Speaking of Miss Rossi,” Sabine says, her voice deceptively sweet. She looks at the girl in question, who has a smile on her face that looks very strained. “I had little expectations for you, and I was still disappointed. Not only that, I was appalled. Your paper ― if it could be called that ― was riddled with inaccuracies, mistakes, and outright racist falsehoods.” Miss Rossi, paling rapidly, opens her mouth to defend herself, but Sabine isn’t done. “Not only that, it reads as if it were written by a three year old. I have lived in Tiān my entire life,” she says, still in that sweet voice, “and not once have we ever had a program for outsider volunteers, even if they are the daughters of foreign diplomats.” Sabine drops her smile and tone, her voice going flat. “You are incredibly lucky, Miss Rossi, that you are a child. If you were older ― if this had been published in an official newspaper ― I have little doubt that your diplomatic immunity would be revoked immediately.” She taps Miss Rossi’s paper, the one on top of the pile. Miss Rossi pales further. “You implied that the Tiān dialect is a bastardized, barely recognizable form of Mandarin, and that you were lucky you pick up languages so quickly. I cannot say anything concrete about your claim to being a quick study, but I can certainly argue your first point. While the dialect is quite different from mainstream Mandarin, it is still recognizable ― not only that, it is considered one of the easier dialects to decipher once you’ve learned Mandarin. You claimed that the citizens of Tiān have been sitting on plentiful resources for centuries, but it was only because of your visit that we could properly utilize them. You claimed that the citizens of Tiān were so enamored with you that we built a temple in your name. You claimed that until you arrived, we lived in hovels and decay and muck. You claimed that without your help, we would have never learned how to herd cattle, grow rice, or even the basic concept of washing our hands.” Sabine bares her teeth. The class and Madame Bustier are staring at her and Miss Rossi, their mouths dropping and their expressions slowly turning horrified as they realize just how incorrect their only ― their only ― source was. Madame Bustier looks like she’s just swallowed a cactus. “Miss Rossi, this is not a paper, this is a white savior fantasy, and I dread to know what possessed you to make you think this would be acceptable, even if information on my hometown wasn’t mostly hearsay.” Sabine surveys the class; those who had gone to Lila instead of her look like they want to sink into the ground. Marinette’s friends had been told that the other papers were bad, but neither she nor Sabine had gone into too much detail. Rose looks horrified, a hand over her mouth, while Juleka avoids looking at anyone. Nino looks ashamed of his friends. (For a moment, Sabine wonders how Chloe and Sabrina would have fared. They aren’t here ― Chloe was invited on a fancy vacation somewhere and took Sabrina with her, but Sabine still wonders.) Marinette just looks back at her, her hands curled in front of her on the desk.

   They had read the papers together, and when they got to Lila’s ― well. If it hadn’t been for Tom, Sabine has little doubt that one or both of them would have been Akumatized. As it was, Tom had dragged out his old box of broken ceramics for them to beat up and get the aggression out.

   She turns her attention back to Miss Rossi. “As I see it,” she says clearly, “you really only have two options, Miss Rossi. Your first is to apologize and write an actual paper, not that pile of drivel―” Miss Rossi flinches at the venom in Sabine’s tone. “―while I call your mother and we will decide whether this is serious enough to revoke your diplomatic immunity. Your second is to do nothing while I call your mother and read your paper to her. Which will it be, Miss Rossi?”

   Lila gapes at Sabine, her mouth opening and closing like a fish. Alya edges away from her on the bench. “I―” Lila says, her voice barely audible. She clears her throat. “I―”

   “Akuma!” Someone yelps, cutting her off.

Chapter Text

hello! i am not dead!

as the chapter title may imply, i'm here to explain some things. first of which being ― guys. i . . . wasn't asking you which direction you wanted me to go, i was saying that those were the two directions that i am going to go in. there will be a chapter (or more) about the aftermath of lila being akumatized for the umpteenth time, and there will be a chapter (or more) about sabine being akumatized. the first lila aftermath chapter is done as of this placeholder! it ends on another cliffhanger because i'm an asshole and i enjoy suffering that isn't my own. :)

speaking of the first chapter being done, i plan on not uploading anything else until this whole goshdarn thing is complete, so that i can upload the rest of the chapters on a schedule (twice a week or something, probably). because i write in bursts between pretty long bits of not-writing(-for-lack-of-a-better-phrase), i cannot promise when this whole goshdarn thing will be complete ― but i can promise that i! am! going! to! finish! this! story! *pounds table in time with each word*

the third thing is a bit of backstory; i've decided that adrien and marinette are good friends ― marinette still has an enormous crush on him, but it isn't quite so . . . debilitating. she's decided that she'd rather just be friends with him for now. he still has no idea she likes him in any sense other than friendship because he's an idiot, but he's glad that she's let go of whatever it was that made her so reluctant to be alone with him! originally, i was going to have this story take place sometime before the episode ladybug but sometime after chameleon (obviously). then i decided that it takes place in a full-blown AU, where the episode ladybug never happens but lila still manages to turn a whole bunch of the class against marinette ― mainly alya, who lila targeted because of the ladyblog (thinking that she'd have a bigger audience if she coddled up to someone with a blog/internet reach like alya does).

uh . . . . what else. next chapter's done, there'll be a schedule, bit of backstory ― that looks like it! coolio ― i'm going back to being dead now. bye!

P.S. i'm going back to moderating comments because the lila anon is back! *sarcasm* yay . . . .

P.P.S. would anyone be interested in listening to a playlist for this? i haven't made it yet, but considering how many other playlists i've made it's safe to assume that it'll happen at some point. (in fact, i already have some songs in mind for it.) so if i can figure out/ask someone how to link things here, would anyone want a link to it?