Marinette Dupain-Cheng was done. Lila Rossi had held up on her promise to steal Marinette’s friends, and now the French girl was all alone. No one would talk to her anymore, and why would they? The pathological liar and convinced them all that Marinette was just a jealous, self-absorbed bully. Lila was bad for lying, but no one could deny that she was good at it.
It hadn’t even taken that long for her friends to turn on her. Adrien, surprisingly, was the first one to go by hopping aboard the train bound for the high road. Then went Chloé and Sabrina, being fooled by Lila’s manipulations that once again revolves around her connections to Ladybug. Of course, Ivan and Mylène weren’t far behind, what, with Lila bragging about all the charities she participated in. Max and Kim and even Alix were more subtle with multiple things persuading them to side with Lila. Rose was swayed with talk of Prince Ali, and Juleka would follow Rose to the ends of the Earth if it meant getting to see her smile. Nathaniel was convinced by Alix, though it took a difficult amount of time to turn him against Marinette. But, what struck the raven-haired girl the most was the betrayal of Alya and, subsequently, Nino. She had been blinded by her unjustified faith in her supposed best friend, and thus didn’t allow herself to realize until it was too late that Lila had convinced the reporter that Marinette was useless and the brunette could do so much more for her. Nino automatically agreed with Alya, turning his back on Marinette without Lila even having to say anything to him.
They exiled her to the back of the room, no one talking to her and some even glaring, as if she were worse than Hawkmoth. Had she not done everything for them? Had she not done so many things that they wholeheartedly took advantage of with grins? Had they not just been referring to her as their everyday-Ladybug? Where was that love and appreciation now? It was as if her years of hard work and selfless dedication to helping and supporting her friends were nothing more than a mirage created by the wicked Volpina herself.
Marinette didn’t know what hurt more: that her friends were so quick to replace her or that Lila could have been easily debunked had they just looked it up. But they didn’t look it up. They didn’t look any of it up. Because they didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Marinette was filled without doubt that they had actually jumped at the opportunity to ditch her and that they had all been itching for a reason to do so.
Tikki solemnly helped Marinette take the pictures of her ex-friends down off the walls of the teen’s room, but she refused to go up and watch as Marinette placed the small trash bin on the floor of her balcony and dropped a lit match into the open metal container, lighting the pictures aflame as she grimaced at the flickers. She let the smoke choke her until her eyes were watering, though she didn’t know if it was from the carbon monoxide or from emotional pain. She didn’t snuff out the fire, instead leaving it to burn as she went back inside.
She was mad, and it felt good to be mad after suppressing her feelings for the sake of people who she now knew wouldn’t do the same. After the numbness of isolation, the fire in her chest burned brighter than the memories. After her pillow going weeks without being dry, it felt good to lay alone with her thoughts and not feel the need to dampen it once again. When her hands balled into fists, she loved the feeling of her nails digging into her palms, teasing at the skin and threatening to tear it. And, oh how she loved it when she got to glare back at her classmates, to be able to not have to worry about being nice and instead displaying exactly how she felt. It felt amazing. The feeling was just plain miraculous.
Now, there’s something that very, very few people know about Marinette Dupain-Cheng: if she so chooses, then she can be pettier than a conservative office worker. If she wants, she can pull out all the stops to fill people with regret. Marinette Dupain-Cheng stews, she listens and observers, and she never forgets. One who has tread paths with her never dares to do so again. Her classmates would come to understand this with impeccable clarity very, very soon.
“Hey Alya! Can I interest you in an interview-“
“Get lost, Marinette. You’re no better than Chloé,” Alya said plainly, her lips curling down slightly as she crossed her arms.
“Oh…okay,” Marinette said before clicking her tongue and walking away.
“Hey Nino! I was wondering if-“
“Sorry, dudette. I’m not sure I really want to talk to you anymore.”
Marinette grimaced before leaving school, lessons already finished, making way for new ones to be learned. At home, she took the Miracle Box out of its hiding place under a fake bottom that was then concealed under the floorboard. She ignored Tikki’s insistence that miraculouses aren’t supposed to be used for personal gain and took out the Fox pendant.
“Trixx, let’s pounce!”
Marinette transformed, wearing a fox-themed outfit rather than that of a ladybug. Jumping up onto her balcony, she takes her phone out before curling her flute under her lip and playing a short melody.
Before her, a fake Ladybug appeared. Silently, she conducted the illusion’s movements, sending it away for a moment. Pressing the record button on her phone, she brings the puppet back swinging.
The mirage stopped in surprise, looking over at Marinette. Looping back around and landing on the balcony, it straightened up and smiled.
“Marinette, right? I’ve run into you a couple times before. What’s with the camera?” it asked, gesturing at the phone.
“Oh! Uh, I was just wondering if you had a minute to talk!”
“Yeah! I’m just on patrol right now, so I can stop for a little bit.”
“Thank you!” Marinette said, still not letting herself be seen on camera, “I just wanted to ask you a few questions.”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“I just wanted to talk to you about the recent akuma attacks, especially the ones concerning Lila Rossi.”
“Ew,” the fake Ladybug said, curling her nose before recovering, looking embarrassed.
“Um…have you known Lila for very long?”
“Not really. I mean, I had never even interacted with her until I called her out for lying about me to Adrien Agreste. Something about saying that we were like this,” the fake Ladybug explained, crossing its index and middle fingers.
“Lying…” Marinette repeats, causing the mirage to cock its head to the side.
“I’m sorry. I thought Adrien had told you since you two shared classes together! I thought that he would have tried to protect you from a liar! I mean-! Ugh!”
The mirage sighed heavily in frustration, covering its face with its hand.
“Yes! I hate liars! It would be so obvious to prove her wrong with just a quick internet search! Why does no one do that? I mean, I heard that she saved Jagged Stone’s kitten! Come on! That’s so false that it’d be laughable! I used to love the Ladyblog, but it posts so many debunkable lies that it gives ‘tabloid’ a new meaning!”
“I…I understand what you mean…” Marinette replies, trying to sound as solemn as possible without using her face to help sell the point.
“I’m sorry, I’m just…having a bad day. I shouldn’t have said any of that stuff.”
“It’s alright. Even the best of people can’t be expected to always be a model character,” Marinette added, thinking about Ms. Bustier.
“Yes, well, it was still immature and unprofessional of me to bring along emotions when I put on the mask,” the fake Ladybug threw in, a discreet jab at Chat Noir.
The mirage still looked distracted, and Marinette decided that enough had been said.
“Thank you for your time. I’ll let you get back to your patrol now.”
The illusion swung out of frame of the camera, and Marinette ended the video. Taking off the pendant, she returns inside, happy that her plan was coming together.
“Marinette, I have a really bad feeling about this,” Tikki warned nervously.
“It’ll be fine, Tikki. This video will also help protect my identity since Marinette couldn’t have been in the same place as Ladybug unless they were two different people.”
“It’s still not nice to trick your friends,” the kwami said, crossing her arms.
“They’re not my friends.”
“They hurt me first! Am I just supposed to stand by and let them?”
“You’re supposed to guide them to the right path. That’s what a hero does!”
“I can’t save them if they don’t want to be saved! They won’t listen to me, so that’s a non-starter.”
Tikki frowned, her eyes furrowed.
“What are you going to do with that video anyways? Send it to Alya?”
“No, no. Lila could spin it that Ladybug was just having a bad day or was trying to protect her. What I need to do is make it irrefutable. Make it undeniably clear that they were all wrong.”
“And what good will come of this?”
“They won’t mess with me again.”
The next day, the school was alive with news from an interview between Nadja and Jagged. Marinette, through her connections via babysitting Manon, was able to share the video with the reporter, and then the teen was able to then use her connections with Jagged Stone himself to secure the interview. She then got to watch it live in the studio as it all went down. A smirk was worn the entire night as she had her arms crossed over her chest. Something about impending revenge just made her so giddy.
And, oh, was it worth it the next day to see her class wearing different ranges of shock and anger on their faces.
“Marinette, we’re so sorry for not believing you,” Rose exclaimed, tears in her eyes.
“Yeah, we should’ve trusted you, dudette,” Nino adds, looking betrayed.
A sea of “I’m sorry”’s flooded the courtyard, and Marinette just smiled through it all.
“I’m sorry, Marinette,” Adrien said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“I accept your apologies.”
“Really? That’s awesome! We should hang out after school to make up for lost time!” Alya exclaimed, embracing Marinette.
However, the hug is not reciprocated. It took a moment for Alya to realize this, and she stood back to look Marinette in the eye.
“I said that I accepted your apologies, nothing else. Why would I hang out with people that didn’t want to be my friends?”
“It’s not our faults! Lila lied to us!” Mylène exclaimed, her eyebrows furrowed.
“Marinette, they said they were sorry. Shouldn’t you be a good friend and forgive them?” Adrien asked, putting his hand on Marinette’s shoulder.
“I am being a good friend, to those who are actually my friends.”
“You guys ditched me and treated me like I was a villain when a simple search would have proved my innocence. You just didn’t try.”
“We didn’t know! We’re sorry, okay?” Alix grumbled, not appreciating being made a fool of.
“I hadn’t know before I met Lila, but I knew better than to blindly throw away years of friendship for some pretty promise.”
“Wow, Marinette, I didn’t know that even you could be so heartless,” Chloé sneered.
“I deserve to be heartless. I’d be even more of a fool than all of you if I chose to trust you guys again.”
“This isn’t fair!” Alya grunted, frustrated that things weren’t going the way she imagined after watching the video.
“No, no it isn’t. Isn’t that such a shame, friend ?”