“Hawkmoth?” Adrien’s eyes bulge at the sight of the supervillain in the book right before him, sketched on the ancient page with the utmost of care. “What’s this monster doing in a book about superheroes?”
“About…what?” Plagg abandons his Camembert hunt to zip back out of Gabriel’s safe, which he and Adrien had just broken into after spying Gabriel hiding something behind a portrait of Emilie in his atelier. And that something is this book that’s got Plagg looking like he’s been hit over the head by a baseball bat.
“You said a second ago that you’ve seen this book before,” Adrien says. “Is it important?”
“Is it – is it important?” Plagg facepalms. “You know what you’re holding, kid? Pure gold! Something that’s been lost for over a century!” He squints down at the book, as though he’s wrestling with himself.
Okay, what the hell is going on right now?
“I know he said never to take you back,” Plagg mutters. “But he’d change his tune if he knew.” He looks Adrien straight in the eye and, more serious than Adrien’s ever seen him before, says, “There’s someone you gotta meet. He’s been looking for that book for ages.”
Adrien blinks and flips the page to reveal a new hero clad in deep blue, holding a large fan spread wide like a peacock’s tail. “What’s so special about this book? It’s just got pictures of Miraculous heroes. Is there more information or something?”
“You don’t even know, kid,” Plagg says. “That book’s got all the secrets about us. In the wrong hands – wait.” He looks from the peacock hero back at the safe, then back at the book, then darts to the safe and pokes a little brooch in the shape of a peacock’s tail. “Adrien, you gotta take this too.”
“The brooch? But why –”
“Just take it, alright?” Plagg shouts. “But don’t touch it!”
Adrien jumps and, on autopilot, does as he’s told, grabbing a tissue out of his pocket to scoop the brooch into his bag. “Sorry –”
“No, no, I’m sorry.” Plagg slumps in mid-air. “This is just – this is huge, Adrien. That’s the Peacock Miraculous and it was lost when the Butterfly was. And there’s something weird about it. Something damaged. Can’t tell if Duusu’s off too, so just don’t summon her.”
Like some sort of terrible jigsaw puzzle, the pieces start to click together in Adrien’s mind. “Are you saying that –”
The sound of footsteps causes his heart to leap into his throat. With a gasp, he shoves the book into his bag too and closes the safe and painting of Emilie. And not a moment too soon; as soon as he’s darted away from the painting, Nathalie and his bodyguard enter the room.
“Adrien? You’re going to be late,” Nathalie says. Adrien laughs, fumbles out an excuse about looking for his homework, then follows them outside, with the bag slung over his shoulder practically scorching a hole in his side.
Lila. Lila. Lila, Lila, Lila.
That’s the only name on everyone’s lips when Marinette enters the school with Alya that morning, half an hour early for once in her life. Seriously, are they being visited by royalty? Lila knows Prince Ali, Jagged Stone, Steven Spielberg…
“And Ladybug!” Alya thrusts her phone at Marinette to reveal a video on the Ladyblog with this new girl in the thumbnail. “She’s besties with Ladybug and she gave me an exclusive interview!”
“Uh…Alya, I don’t think that’s true…” Marinette says slowly. How is she going to point this out without incriminating herself as Ladybug? She can’t exactly just up and say that she’s never met this Lila Rossi before.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Alya says. “She’s got the most amazing life!”
“But she’s new, right?” Marinette says. “How could she be best friends with Ladybug if she’s new?”
“Ladybug saved her life once.” Alya nudges Marinette with a smirk. “You’d know that if you watched more than two videos on my blog.”
“Ladybug’s saved half of Paris,” Marinette points out. “Lila’s not the only person she’s saved.” She hasn’t even saved Lila before. “If anyone was going to be her best friend, I’d think it’d be someone like you, right? You’re the one she gave that interview to. She wouldn’t even think of agreeing to that interview when I asked until I mentioned that you’d be the one interviewing her. She’s only saved Lila once, but she’s talked to you loads of times.”
“Oh – well, I mean, you’ve got a point there.” Alya practically swells before Marinette’s eyes.
“And even if Lila was Ladybug’s best friend, don’t you think it’s a little irresponsible that she’s bragging about it?” When Marinette’s on a roll, she’s on a damn roll. “What if Hawkmoth sees that interview? If Lila’s telling the truth, he could totally use her against Ladybug!”
The blood drains from Alya’s face. “Shit. Shit. I didn’t even think – shit, I gotta take it down!” She fumbles to unlock her phone and navigate to the Ladyblog, where she swiftly deletes the video with a sigh. “All those views…”
“I’d say the life of a civilian is more important than views, right?” Marinette silently vows to drop by Alya’s place sometime and give her the best damn interview ever to make up for this.
“True…” Alya frowns over at the brunette who’s surrounded by people who are hanging off her every word. Ah. Lila Rossi in the flesh. “You know…it is kinda unbelievable that she knows all those people. Jagged Stone, sure. Prince Ali…well, her mother is a diplomat. But all the Hollywood directors? Do diplomats even talk to directors?”
“Who knows?” Marinette says. She frowns and looks over her shoulder. “Where’s Adrien? He’s usually here way before now.”
“Someone’s a stalker!” Alya sings teasingly, linking arms with Marinette as they walk straight past Lila and her captive audience. On their way, she snags Nino’s arm and hauls him away from Lila.
“Who? Me? Stalker! No way! I’m just concerned! For a friend!” Marinette babbles through flaming cheeks. Can the ground just, like, swallow her right now?
“Dude!” Nino complains. “Lila was just about to tell me about the time she met –”
“Use your brain, you big lug,” Alya says, lacing their fingers together. “You really think one person knows every single director? Especially a diplomat’s kid?”
“If she was the daughter of an actress or director then sure.” Marinette gratefully seizes the change of subject with both hands. “And she also said she was Ladybug’s best friend, but she’s the new kid. Ladybug doesn’t go around being besties with everyone she saves, does she? Otherwise, she’d be besties with Alya or –” She shudders. “Chloé.”
“Aww.” Nino’s shoulders slump. “I thought I was finally gonna meet Spielberg…”
Something black flashes out of the corner of Marinette’s eye. When she whips her head around to get a better look, her eyes widen at the sight of a familiar dark superhero leaping across the rooftops away from the school. Why is Chat Noir out? Is there an akuma somewhere? What kind of akuma could be so insidious that no one else knows about it yet?
“I – uh – bathroom!” Marinette blurts out, yanking her arm away from Alya’s. “That hot chocolate I had for breakfast went right through me!” She bolts before Alya or Nino can call her out on her bullshit excuse and ducks into the first empty classroom she stumbles across.
“Akuma?” Tikki says as soon as she zooms out of Marinette’s purse.
“Why else would Chat Noir be out?” Marinette says. “I have to go and see what’s wrong. Tikki, spots on!”
As soon as she’s outside the school and out on the rooftops, she opens her yo-yo and calls Chat Noir. He picks up on the third ring, greeting her with his usual flirtatious grin.
“Well, milady, I wasn’t expecting someone so stunning to call an alley cat like me,” he says.
“You’re just lucky that I take pity on mangy alley cats,” Ladybug shoots back with an answering smile. “Is everything alright, kitty? Is there an akuma or something?”
“No, there’s no akuma. Actually…” Chat Noir’s grin vanishes. “There’s something important I have to show you. Like, my-kwami-freaked-out important. Can we meet on the school roof?”
“Lucky for you, I’m nearby.” Ladybug angles her yo-yo screen to show him the school behind her. “What exactly do you have to show me?”
“You’ll find out in a few minutes,” Chat Noir says. He pastes his flirty grin back on his face and blows her a kiss. “It’s a date, bugaboo!”
“That cat,” Ladybug sighs when he hangs up. Shaking her head, she jumps back to the school rooftop and sits down to wait for Chat Noir, crossing her legs neatly. Man, what she wouldn’t give to be able to install apps on her yo-yo for times like this. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long before she spots him bounding towards her with something rectangular tucked under his arm.
“Please, please, no need to stand on occasion,” Chat Noir says when he lands on the rooftop and Ladybug jumps to her feet.
“Silly kitty,” Ladybug says. “What’s so important that your kwami freaked out?”
In response, Chat Noir holds out the rectangular thing he’d been carrying. It’s…a book. An extremely old-looking book, sure, but still a book. When she flips it open to a picture of a Chinese woman in ladybug-patterned clothing, however, she immediately understands just why Chat Noir’s kwami might have freaked out.
“Plagg said that it’s full of secrets about us,” Chat Noir says as an open-mouthed Ladybug thumbs through the pages of strange writing and animal-themed superheroes. Is that a dragon? “And he said there’s someone who needs to see it. I was on my way there when you called.”
“This is incredible!” Ladybug says in a hushed voice. She gasps when she turns the page and is greeted with a man dressed in purple, with a silvery mask covering his head. “Hawkmoth?”
“That’s what I said!” Chat Noir’s literally bouncing on the balls of his feet. “That’s why akumas are butterflies. Hawkmoth’s using the Butterfly Miraculous for evil!”
“I would’ve thought that was obvious, silly kitty.”
“But there’s more. Give me a second.” Chat Noir ducks behind one of the massive metal HVAC fans, so Ladybug dutifully turns her back to allow him to detransform. When he emerges as Chat Noir once more, he’s holding something small in his hands, resting on a little white tissue.
“A peacock brooch?” Ladybug frowns down at the little blue and green peacock tail. But then she gasps and flips through the book until she comes across a hero dressed in deep, vivid blue. “Is that a Miraculous?”
“A damaged one,” Chat Noir says. “Plagg sensed that there was something wrong with it. He told me not to touch it in case there was something wrong with the kwami too. But yeah! It was lost when the Butterfly one was as well!”
“Where on earth did you find this?” Ladybug closes the book and hands it back to Chat Noir. “Do you know what this means? If the Peacock was lost with the Butterfly –”
“– then whoever had it could be Hawkmoth?” Chat Noir grimaces. “Yeah. I know.”
“Who had these? Where did you get them?”
Adrien? Ladybug’s heart screeches to a halt in her chest. No! Adrien can’t be Hawkmoth! He’s such a sweet, amazing person – but he’s never around when akumas attack – but he can’t be –
“No way can Adrien be Hawkmoth!” she snaps. Chat Noir blinks at her.
“I didn’t think that,” he says in an odd voice. He grins. “But I’m sure he appreciates your defence, milady. No, Adrien went snooping in his father’s office and found these in a safe. He gave them to me when he looked through the book and realised what it was about.”
Phew. Thank god. Ladybug’s heart resumes its normal rhythm. “Does that mean that Adrien’s father could be Hawkmoth?” she says.
“That’s what I’m thinking. I don’t want it to be true, for his sake, but…” Chat Noir shrugs. “I’ve gotta get these to whoever Plagg was talking about before school starts. Care to join me for a morning stroll, milady?”
Ladybug smirks when Chat Noir bows and holds his hand out. She takes it, then twists his wrist gently when he tries to kiss the back of her hand.
“The only reason you’ll be taking the lead on this one is because your kwami told you where to go, kitty,” she teases, taking the Peacock Miraculous and tucking it into her yo-yo for safekeeping. “Otherwise, you’d be joining me.”
“I’d follow you anywhere, bugaboo,” Chat Noir sighs. Ladybug just smiles and flicks the side of his head.
“Focus, Chat. Where did Plagg say to go?”
With a destination now in mind, Ladybug bounds through Paris after Chat Noir, towards an arrondissement that looks to be full of small, old shops. When they land in front of a familiar building, Ladybug can't help but gasp at the words “Fu’s Massage Parlour” written in fading letters above the door.
“Milady?” Chat Noir says.
“I’ve been here before!” Ladybug says. “My kwami brought me here when – wait…no way…”
“Ladybug?” Chat Noir says. But Ladybug’s already pushing the door open, so he just shrugs and follows her. She’ll explain in due time. She always does. There’s another door inside, a little further down, and Ladybug knocks on that one and waits a moment before pushing it open.
“Hello, Ladybug and Chat Noir,” says an old man with a ring of grey hair and a grey moustache and goatee, along with a bright red Hawaiian shirt and brown pants, who’s sitting cross-legged on the floor inside the room. Judging by the acupuncture poster above a large phonograph, along with the letters that are on the small tapestries on the wall and the elegant screen in the corner – which Chat Noir can just understand if he stops and focuses – this man is most likely Chinese. He’s familiar – so familiar – why can’t Chat Noir figure out where he’s seen this man before?
“You’re the healer that cured Tikki when she was sick!” Ladybug gasps. “Back when Rose was akumatised!”
“Wait, so that’s why you were late to the battle?” Chat Noir says. Ladybug nods.
“I’m guessing you’re not really a vet, then?” she says to the man.
“Wait.” Chat Noir grins at Ladybug teasingly. “You brought a tiny flying ladybug thing to someone she said could heal her and you didn’t stop and think –”
“If you finish that sentence, I’ll throw you out that window,” Ladybug threatens, but the corner of her mouth twitches faintly. Chat Noir wisely shuts up and raises his hands in surrender.
“And your first day of school wasn’t a chance meeting either,” the old man says, watching their banter with an amused sparkle in his eyes. “For either of you.”
Ladybug and Chat Noir gasp at the same time.
“You’re the man I helped when you fell over!” Chat Noir exclaims.
“And the man I helped across the road!” Ladybug adds. “Those were tests?”
The man smiles and nods. “Ladybug, you’re always ready to help others, even if you are inconvenienced in return. And Chat Noir, you’re always willing to put others before yourself. Though I do wish I could have further tested you to be absolutely certain, I knew that day that you would make a fantastic team.”
“Okay, but who are you?” Ladybug says.
“What Ladybug said,” Chat Noir says. In response, the man stands up and leads the two of them over to the massive phonograph on a chest of drawers at the back of the room, where he opens the tiny plate engraved with Chinese letters by pressing the eyes of the two dragons on either side of it and then punching a code in with the buttons that are revealed. Before their eyes, the top of the phonograph rotates and springs open to reveal a large octagonal box made of dark wood, with scarlet patterns on the top exactly like the ones on the box that had come with Chat Noir’s ring.
“Master Fu is the last known member of the Order of the Guardians!” says a small green flying thing that’s darted out of the horn of the phonograph. Ladybug and Chat Noir instinctively jump back. “They’ve cared for the Miraculouses for millennia!”
It’s a turtle. A flying turtle. The small green thing is a turtle kwami! His yellow eyes are piercing, like they can see straight through the mask on Chat Noir’s face, not that Chat Noir would be surprised if this kwami knew their identities as Master Fu does.
“I’m Wayzz, Master Fu’s kwami,” the turtle kwami continues. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ladybug and Chat Noir.”
“Uh…you too!” Ladybug says with a nervous little laugh. Purely by instinct, Chat Noir offers her his hand, but although she smiles and rolls her eyes and bats it away, she does step closer to him. Hey, he’ll call it a win either way.
“We Guardians are responsible for protecting and distributing the Miraculouses, for the good of all humanity,” Master Fu says, opening the box to reveal a rainbow ring of five slots from orange to purple around a yin and yang symbol. The orange slot contains a necklace with a fox tail, while the yellow slot holds a golden hair comb with a bee on it; every other slot is empty. “We are chosen in childhood and trained for many years especially for this mission. When we were much, much younger, we –” He sighs. “I made a mistake. The Guardians’ Temple was destroyed, all because of me! Two Miraculouses were lost that day: the Butterfly and the Peacock. Also gone forever was the ancient spellbook.”
“You mean this thing?” Chat Noir holds out the book under his arm, and Master Fu takes it and starts to page through it. “You can read it? All it’s got are a bunch of weird symbols and pictures of superheroes.”
“They’re not weird to a Guardian,” Master Fu says, closing the Miraculous Box and returning it to the phonograph. “Back in the day, I was never given the opportunity to even have a look at it. But I’ve been taught enough to be able to partially decipher the code. These pages are the only source of information about the Miraculouses in the world. Obviously, this book is invaluable.”
“Chat Noir also found this.” Ladybug retrieves the Peacock Miraculous from her yo-yo and holds it out. Master Fu’s touch is light, almost reverent, as he accepts the brooch and cradles it in its protective tissue bed.
“Plagg said it’s damaged, but I don’t know how,” Chat Noir says. “All he said was that I shouldn’t touch it in case the kwami was damaged as well.”
“Not much can damage a Miraculous. A rogue Cataclysm, perhaps,” Master Fu sighs, gently resting the brooch on the chest of drawers. “Not easily fixed, but certainly doable. I would need the help of Tikki to reverse the damage.”
Chat Noir swallows and rests his free hand over his active ring. Master Fu notices the gesture, of course.
“So long as you’re careful, there shouldn’t be a problem,” he says. “I’m confident that I chose well for the holders of the Ladybug and Black Cat.”
“Why us?” Ladybug says. “Why not a pair of adults? We’re just teenagers…”
“Which means that you aren’t as set in your ways as adults are,” Master Fu says. “I wanted a pair who were flexible and still learning about the world. A pair who still possessed the idealism needed to step up and become heroes. Adults are capable, yes, but many are cynical and focused on their own lives.” He sighs. “The trade-off, of course, is that Hawkmoth possesses greater raw power. We don’t know why, but adults aren’t held to the same limitations when wielding a Miraculous as a child or teenager. But with the bond that you two possess, I know you can defeat Hawkmoth.”
“Of course we can!” Chat Noir nudges Ladybug. “Bugaboo and I are just too ameowzing to let a grumpy old butterfly man beat us.”
“Chat!” Ladybug complains, though she does let a giggle slip. But Master Fu pops the atmosphere with his next words.
“I've always believed that whoever possessed this spellbook must also have the Peacock…and the Butterfly.”
“So, you were right.” Ladybug gives Chat Noir a sad little pout that makes his heart jitter in his chest, and what he wouldn’t do to wipe that look off her face so that she could smile forever. “Adrien’s dad could be Hawkmoth!”
“Adrien’s father?” Master Fu says.
“Adrien Agreste.” Chat Noir’s mouth curves in a bitter line. “He’s the one who gave me the spellbook and Peacock Miraculous. Said he found them in his father’s hidden safe.”
Master Fu gives him a piercing look that, just like Wayzz’s gaze, bypasses the mask entirely. “I see. We could very well be close to Hawkmoth’s identity…”
“We should investigate,” Ladybug says. “You know, to make sure we’re not accusing someone without proof. We wouldn’t want to put Adrien through that if it turns out his father’s innocent.”
She’s so considerate! So caring! Is it any wonder that Chat Noir loves her? “And of course, I’ll be right there with you, bugaboo,” he says, and she smiles at him in response with that breathtaking smile of hers.
“You must be very careful,” Master Fu warns. “Both of you. If you succeed, you may well find yourselves face to face with Hawkmoth.”
“We promise we’ll be super careful,” Ladybug says. She gasps and starts scrambling for the door. “Oh, no! I’m gonna be late to school! And I was early today!”
“Allow me to escort you back, milady,” Chat Noir says when she trips over and faceplants. With a groan, she accepts his helping hand up, and they say their goodbyes to Master Fu and Wayzz before heading back to school.
But when they get there, they discover that no one’s out looking for them after all. They may be late but since there’s a tall man with lilac skin in the courtyard, surrounded by screaming students, no one really seems to have a single thought to spare for two tardy students.