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Guardian of the forest

Chapter Text

/Adrien/

He just loved running through the woods at twilight.

Even though Adrien wasn’t really running himself. His horse Kellas was the one doing most of the work. But they knew each other so well that they felt like one being, racing surrounded by the trees. This was when Adrien Agreste truly felt free.

While many would kill to be born in such a high class as him, he didn’t find satisfaction in his normal life. He descended from a very old and wealthy family, nearly royalty. But since his dad was constantly away, he basically lived alone in the humongous family mansion at the edge of the city. Apart from the staff and his tutors he had nobody to talk to.

His solution had been to buy a cabin in the woods, and whenever he had time to spare he went there. He put on his black cloak and took Kellas from the stables while becoming someone else.

That someone else was Chat Noir.


xxxxxxx

He lost his line of thought when he saw a carriage heading towards the city. The door had the royal symbol on it, painted in gold. The carriage had no windows and was escorted by eight fully armed knights. This was no ordinary transport.

“No way, not another load of taxes!”

King Bourgeois was a very good and rightful king, he wasn’t the problem. This particular part of the country, however, was under the control of his daughter, princess Chloé. Someone who didn’t care for her people at all. How could she, she has never even met them. The only times she was seen by the civilians was when she greeted them from her balcony in the morning. But all she did during this so-called ‘greeting’ was showing off her extravagant dress and jewellery for the day.

Her craving for luxury and her inability to accept no for an answer had driven her to raise the taxes again and again. And the king had no idea of what was happening under his very nose because his daughter could do no wrong in his eyes.

A smug grin appeared on Adrien’s face as he decided to pay the carriage a visit.

xxxxxxx

“Halt!” he screamed while standing in the middle of the path. The coachman disgruntledly obliged.

“How dare you stop a royal transport! Get out of my way!” he shouted back from his seat. “What do you think you are doing?”

“My name is Chat Noir, I am the guardian of this forest. In order to pass through it you need to pay a price. You are taking that money to the princess, but I’m paw-sitive she has plenty. So I will be as chivalrous as to lighten the load you are carrying!” Chat Noir stated while pulling his black hood further over his face.

“We’ll see about that, you thief! GUARDS!”

*cue the fighting*


xxxxxxx

In their defence, they were well-trained knights. But they were only trained in traditional sword fighting. Chat Noir, on the other hand, had some different tricks up his sleeve. He had been taught by his tutor Armand d’Argencourt how to sword fight, just like the knights. He had picked up some less conventional fighting techniques from foreign tutors and had perfected his other weapon skills on his own in the woods.

Currently he fought with what looked like a simple iron stick, yet it was a balanced weapon that had been custom made. And boy, did he know how to use it! Though the fact remained that their sticks were pointy and his wasn’t. So when he finally had knocked out the carriage’s escort, he was badly wounded.

He crawled towards the transport and looked at the enormous load of gold. “I could take it all. Bury it. Spend it. Give it away. Chloe surely doesn’t need it.” But he didn’t because that wasn’t the way Chat Noir worked. It wasn’t his job to rid Paris of all evil, Chat Noir was no hero.

He managed to take a bag of gold without bleeding too much on the rest of the load, mounted Kellas and headed for the cabin.

But he wouldn’t get that far.

Through half-lidded eyes he saw someone walking in the forest. A lone figure with a packed horse had strayed from the path. They were walking towards the shadows that hid Chat from sight. “Two treasures in one day, Fortuna smiles at me.”

He ignored the stinging pain his left shoulder as he sat straight on his horse. He left the cover of the dark, faced his new target and prepared his lines. “Hello wanderer, I am the guardian of this forest. In order to pass through it you will need to pay a price.”

The rest of his words got stuck in his throat while his eyes stopped working and everything faded to black.

Chapter Text

/Marinette/

Marinette just loved to walk through the forest with her horse Adalia. She enjoyed the whistling birds and the grass under her feet as she walked barefoot on the fallen leaves. While being one with nature, Marinette truly felt free.

She had been very excited when her dad gave her the important task of getting new flour from the mill. But it was not just any flour. Her dad was the city’s best baker -and the royal baker- after all. They always bought high quality flour from a befriended miller who lived in the next town over. It took a day to walk there, but Marinette didn’t mind. The weather was amazing and she knew the way.

On the journey home, she got distracted by the beautiful spring flowers and strayed from the path. It was twilight when she realised that she should have already been home and her parents would be worried sick. Because at night, the forest was not a safe place. They had warned her for the bandits who lurked in the dark.

She headed back to the road, determined to get home before the daylight had died completely. Suddenly she found a masked horseman standing in between herself and her goal.

“Hello wanderer, I am the guardian of this forest and in order to pass through it you will have to pay a price!”

She was surprised by his voice, he didn’t sound like an old bandit at all. Instead, he sounded like a boy whose voice hadn’t even dropped yet. But she was even more surprised by what happened next. While she was trying to come up with an answer, the figure started to stagger. He fell forward onto the neck of his horse.


 

/Adrien/

Slowly Chat Noir started to regain his senses. He tasted the cold metallic flavour of blood. My wound must’ve been worse than I had anticipated. He smelled flowers. Well, I am in a forest. He felt pain as something softly touched his wound. That must be Kellas, he is probably worried sick. He heard a voice softly humming. Wait a minute, horses don’t hum! He slightly opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was a colourful crown.

“Princess…” he muttered.

A soft giggle answered him and jerked him fully back to consciousness. “I’m no princess, I’m about as far away from a princess as you can get.”

And indeed, as Chat Noir looked closer, he realised that what he had mistaken for jewels were actually flowers. A crown of flowers rested on a head of raven hair, and that hair framed the face of a teenage girl.

“How did you get here? And who are you?” he shouted as he tried to get up.
“Bad idea! Stay down!” his shoulder screamed back. He looked around and realised he was in his own cabin, lying on the table with a stranger leaning over him.

“Well,” she snapped at him “you are the one who’s wrong here, you know? You threatened me as I was walking home and suddenly you fainted. Your horse neighed and started walking, and I couldn’t stop mine from following. So I came with and when I saw you were hurt, I took a look at your wound. Because I, unlike you, am a decent human.” She looked at him with fire in her otherwise blue eyes. “As for who I am, that doesn’t matter since I don’t want a dirty thief like you coming after my family. Yes I know who you are,” she added as she noticed the surprise in his eyes. “You are Chat Noir, one of the bandits who claim this forest as their territory! You steal from everybody who crosses you, rich and poor alike. Now shut up as I bandage your shoulder and consider this my so-called ‘payment’.”

“I’m not a thief…” Chat Noir objected quietly.

“Oh no? Then what is that?” She gestured to the bag of gold that he had tied to his belt. “You must be royalty, because why else would you have a bag with the royal emblem embroidered on it?”

The boy stared back at her with a look of guilt on his face.

“It’s not for me, it’s-“

“Spare me your excuses,” she interrupted him. “Tell yourself whatever you want so you can sleep at night.”

She took a wet piece of cloth and started to clean out his wound, a bit rougher than strictly necessary. Chat couldn’t stop watching her, it distracted him from his stinging shoulder. She had shoulder length hair that was black as the night. It was partially braided and in every braid she had put even more flowers. No wonder he could smell them. She seemed about the same age as him. Her soft and pale skin contrasted with her dirty and rough brown dress.

Was she poor? Was that the reason she was so pissed off, that she had nothing to offer him in exchange for safe passage?

“No,” he thought. “A poor girl would not have a packed horse.” The brown monstrosity she wore was probably a travel dress, because looking poor repelled thieves. Or at least the normal kind of thieves. Because Chat Noir didn’t just steal from the rich. Like he said in his introduction lines, everyone he met in the forest had to pay a price.

Though it wasn’t always the same price and it wasn’t always a material one.

“There, all fixed up. I’m leaving now. You are lucky that it’s a superficial wound, no bones were damaged.”

He saw a chance and took it. “No,” Chat Noir said.

Marinette looked at him in confusion. “What do you mean, no? ”

“No I am not accepting your care as a valid payment. Like you said, it is what any decent human would do. It is a charity someone in need shouldn’t have to ask for. You haven’t given me anything of yours and therefore can’t pass through the woods.”

She rolled her eyes. “What would mister thief desire of me?” she ask with a sarcastic tone.

“I already asked you. I desire to know who you are.” He proclaimed confidently.

Chapter Text

/Marinette/

The baker’s daughter was conflicted. Her mother had always taught her to help those in need. Chat Noir, however, was not just any helpless person. Should she aid a bandit, a thief, a villain?

While Marinette pondered about this, Adalia made the decision for her by following Chat’s horse.

When they arrived at the house, Marinette gently carried the boy inside and put him on the table. She could finally get a good look at him. Chat Noir was – hence the name - dressed entirely in black. He wore a basic black pants-tunic combo with a belt. His black mask covered only the upper half of his face and a long black cloak completed his attire. His clothes were simple and functional but Marinette could see that they were high quality clothes. She had a passion for sewing and the seamstress next door had taken the girl under her wing.

And then she saw the ears.

“This boy is unbelievable!” He had sloppily sewn cat ears on top of his hood! He had clearly never held a needle before because the stitches were terribly done and one of the ears was already coming loose. Though she had to give him credit for staying true to his character’s name.

xxxxxxx

“What do you mean, no?”

“No I am not accepting your care as a valid payment. Like you said, it is what any decent human would do. It is a charity someone in need shouldn’t have to ask for. You haven’t given me anything of yours and therefore can’t pass through my woods.”

She rolled her eyes. “What would mister thief desire of me?” she asked with a sarcastic tone.

“I already asked you. I desire to know who you are.” He proclaimed confidently.

“You sneaky bastard! I should’ve known better than to patch you up.” She wouldn’t let him get away with this! If he knew her name he would surely come after her. Her family would not get in trouble because of her misplaced kindness. She started running before he could react, threw the door open and ran into something soft… A horse?

“Nice save Kellas.” Marinette heard behind her. “We can’t let someone walk out before paying their price, now can we? You better tell me soon, because it’s getting dark out.”

“It’s already dark out, you asshole! You’ve been unconscious for a while.”

“Well then, we can’t have a girl walking alone in the forest at night. Princess, you’ll have to stay the night.” She opened her mouth to protest.

“Don’t fight me on this. Even I don’t go out after dark. There are far worse things than me roaming the woods at night,” he said, suddenly serious.

She wanted to disagree, tell him she was different. That she wasn’t a poor defenceless girl and she could handle it. That her best friend Alya had taught her everything she knew about self-defence. But even the bravest of knights were scared by the shadows of the woods. She shivered as she remembered the legends about this place. Maybe spending the night here wasn’t such a bad idea after all? It was, as she saw it, the lesser of two evils.

“Fine, I’ll stay,” she answered reluctantly.

“Really? This is big! I haven’t had guests here in… well, furever.”

He seemed way to excited about her sudden change of heart, she had to tone this boy down. “Just so you know, I’m not sleeping anywhere near you. So don’t get any ideas, pervert.”

“Of course, an unmarried lady should never sleep in the company of a strange man. Certainly not in the woods. That would be absolutely scandalous. That is if you are indeed unmarried.” He said it more like a question than a statement.

She turned her head, ignoring him. “Oh come on, you owe me an identity reveal!”

“Apparently I do, but since I will be here all night, I’d love to postpone that chat. Let’s eat something first.” She noticed the boy’s uncomfortable expression. ”Spit it out, what’s wrong?”

He answered hesitantly: ”I afraid I’m not a great host, princess. I hadn’t expected to stay the night so I don’t have any provision here. All I have is oats for the horses.”

Marinette sighed. “Then it’s a good thing I brought extra.”

She squeezed through the doorway past Kellas while the latter followed her with his big black eyes. She took her dinner - that consisted out of bread and smoked meat strips- out of her saddlebag and proceeded to split it in 2 equal parts.


 

 

/Adrien/

Immediately after the meal, shared in silence, Marinette announced that she’d like to hit the hay. By doing so, she could postpone her ‘payment’ until the next morning.

“Sure, you can sleep in the bed, I usually sleep in the stable with Kellas. I doubt I’m going to get much sleep anyway. It’s through that door.” Chat pointed while sitting up. The girl thanked him, wished him a good night and closed the door behind her.

Not even five minutes later he heard a scream followed by a loud thud. He jumped up and sprinted to the bedroom –which was a bad idea- to find a very angry Marinette sitting on top of what used to be a bed. The fabric had ripped and the hay it contained was spread across the room.

“How old is this hay sack?” She brought out while coughing.

“Well…” he said apologetically “I’m not sure. I’ve never actually slept on that thing. Like I said, I usually sleep with Kellas if I stay the night here. This just came with the cabin. Must’ve been from the previous owner,” he explained as he tried not to laugh. “Seems like you’ll have to sleep next to me in the stable after all, how absolutely clawful!”

xxxxxxx

He had expected it, but Chat was still disappointed when she made sure Adalia slept in between them. He moaned as he lied down, his head resting on Kellas’ side. This was surely going to be a restless night.

It was a welcome distraction when Marinette finally started talking to him, unable to sleep as well after such an unusual day. They talked about nothing in particular. Just random things that sprung into their minds. When he happily dozed off a few hours later -comforted by her sweet voice and the faint smell of flowers and vanilla-, his last thought was whether this was what people did on a sleepover.

xxxxxxx

He woke up as something wet touched his face.
“Kellas stop it, let me sleep.” The horse, however, wouldn’t stop licking until he got up.

“Allright buddy, I’m getting up already!” He tried to push himself up but fell down again in agony, reaching for his left shoulder. He sighed as he remembered the night before and how a certain dark haired girl had cared for him.

The girl!

The space next to him was empty, no trace of a girl and her horse. Chat sighed, ears droopy. Of course she had bolted before ‘paying’ him. He should’ve known better. After some time - and pain - he was able to get up. He strolled inside to pack his loot and head to the mansion. It was time to return to his life as Adrien.

He was surprised when he saw a piece of paper lying on the table. He picked it up as he recognized it as a part of his own stationary set, one that rarely left the closet. The words, however, were not his. They were written in the most elegant calligraphy he had ever seen.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng”


 

 

/Marinette/

Marinette woke up before the sun came up. She was used to getting up early to help her father in the bakery. The boy next to her was still vast asleep.

Next to her? She could’ve sworn she fell asleep with at least one horse in between them. She gently removed Chat Noir’s arm from hers and sneaked out before he woke up.

xxxxxxx

Luckily, her parents weren’t angry. They were just happy to see her back in one piece. “Hey Marinette, guess who’s here!” her dad greeted her when she entered the bakery.

The answer came out of the backroom and hugged her with force. “Hey girl, I’m back from my mission! It’s so good to see you!”

“Alya! I didn’t expect you back so soon. Is Nino here too?”

“Since you weren’t home yet he went to greet a friend first. You’ll see him at lunch, your parents offered to feed us.”

Alya, Marinette’s best friend, was a messenger. She handled in top secret information and valuable goods. Because of her job she was a master of disguise and knew a lot about self-defence techniques. Fact remained that travelling as far as she did was dangerous for a woman alone. So she often travelled with her boyfriend Nino, who was a bard. His job also provided a good cover story for her.

“Awesome! Please tell me all about your mission. It’s boring in this town, nothing ever happens.” Except for that one time Marinette spent the night in the house of a dangerous bandit. That one time being the night before.

They had been chatting for some time when Nino returned. Only he wasn’t alone.


 

 

/Adrien/

He didn’t arrive a moment too soon at the Agreste mansion. As he came out of the stables he saw Nino approaching the front door.

“Whoa you’re back soon, I didn’t expect you for another few days!” he said as he greeted his best friend.

“It was an easy mission, but most of the credit goes to Alya. I’ll tell you all about it on the way, dude.”

Adrien looked at him in confusion.

“I’m going to see Alya and you are coming with me. This can’t go on any longer. I can’t believe my best friend and my girlfriend haven’t met yet!”

Adrien tried to come up with a good excuse. He wanted to meet this girl Nino couldn’t shut up about, but he had other plans for the day. He had a princess to find, after all.

As his bad luck would have it, the piece of paper fell out of his pocket at that very moment. Both of the boys dove towards it but Nino was the first to pick it up.

“Marinette Dupain-Cheng,” he read out loud. Adrien snatched the crumbled paper out of Nino’s hands.

“Euhm…” Oh no! Quick, an explanation, something, anything! “I met someone who… euhm… was looking for her and he gave me the note because… euhm… he was mute! Yeah! That’s exactly what happened. Do you know this girl?”

That was close. Why did it have to fall out of his pocket? He held the piece tightly as if to make sure it would never fall again. While holding the paper close to his face he admired the elegant letters like he had done so many times on his way back. Only then he noticed the scent. It smelled like lavender and vanilla, just like her. A soft smile appeared on his lips while he tried not to blush.

“Are for realsies, bro? Marinette is my oldest friend! We’ve known each other since, like, birth or so! She is the friend who introduced me to Alya! In fact, we’re even going to Marinette’s place since her parents invited us over for lunch. Now you really have to come. You can tell her all about this mute guy in person.”

Nino didn’t ask questions when Adrien was suddenly a bit too eager to leave.

xxxxxxx

It was quite a walk from the mansion to the city centre but they didn’t mind. They used the time to catch up, because his friend was -as a bard- often away from home. Not to mention the times he went on missions with Alya. When they passed a bakery, Nino pulled him to the door. “We’re here.”

Adrien was greeted by the warm scent of fresh baked bread . His mouth started to water when he saw the sweet pastries on the table, ready to be sold. An Asian woman with a warm smile was casually chatting with a client while helping her. She giggled when a man covered in flour and twice her size -the baker, he presumed- hugged her from behind, his hands sticky from kneading dough. The atmosphere was cosy and comfortable.

Adrien thought his eyes would fall out of his skull. His father never let him eat stuff like this, he said it was unhealthy food for the poor.

“You must be Adrien! I’m Alya,” a brown haired girl said as she pulled him into a crushing hug.

The boy felt like this bakery was a different world, a tiny realm full of warmth and affection. When he finally freed himself his eyes wandered to the other girl in the backroom. Hair as black as the night, eyes as blue as cornflowers…

“Marinette!” he blurted out. Curse his self-control!

“Y-yeah that’s me, h-how do you know my name?” the girl stammered. He realised how weird that must’ve sounded.

“My apologies, Nino told me about you. It’s nice to meet you at last.” He took her hand in his and softly placed a kiss upon the back. The girl froze under his touch and her cheeks took on a bright crimson shade.

Had he done something wrong? He was only trying to be polite.

“My name is Adrien Agreste.”

 

Chapter Text

/Marinette/

“Okay girl, who are you and what did you do to my sassy best friend?” Alya shook her arm as soon as they were alone. The boys had left and the girls were sitting in Marinette’s bedroom. “You barely spoke a word at lunch, is something wrong?” Her friend only sighed in response.

xxxxxxx

The reason she hadn’t been able to utter a word then was –how cliché- a boy. When Alya was done greeting Nino’s best friend, said boy had turned to her. It was as if time had stopped and the sun had risen a second time when his emerald eyes peered into hers. She had never seen him before, which was weird because almost everyone in town came by the bakery from time to time. He had neatly combed golden hair, soft features and the physique of a boy going into puberty.

The moment shattered when he said her name enthusiastically.

“Y-yeah that’s me, h-how do you know my name?” she asked carefully. How did this stranger know her name?

He took a step back in embarrassment -seemingly realizing how weird that had sounded-, apologized and greeted her properly. Marinette froze when his lips touched her skin, but internally she was screaming. Who was this gorgeous stranger who greeted commoners so formally?

The answer came quickly: “My name is Adrien Agreste.”

During lunch, Marinette was constantly spacing out. She didn’t hear it when Alya asked her something and she was clumsier than usual. She almost dropped a jar of jelly on Adrien’s lap but he caught it in mid-air and smiled at her after handing it back to her. She mumbled a thank you and proceeded to eat in silence, her cheeks an uncommonly bright shade of pink.

The only weird moment was when Nino forced Adrien to tell a story about some mute guy he met. The man was supposedly looking for Marinette. She had no idea who they were talking about and made a mental note to barricade her bedroom window that night. Just to be safe.

xxxxxxx

“Don’t just sigh at me! Come on girl, give me something to work with.”

Marinette realized her friend wouldn’t stop asking before she spilled. “Oh Alya, I can’t seem to act normal around that boy Nino brought over! His eyes are so dreamy, and the way his hair moves when he turns his head…” Another round of sighing followed. “And he was so kind to me, even though I was nothing but awkward. Did you see him catch that jar?”

“So my best friend has the hots for my boyfriend’s best friend? That’s just perfect!”

Marinette looked at her with caution. It hardly ever ended well for her when Alya was this enthusiastic about something, that much she knew. “Oh really, what are you cooking up in that big head of yours?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if you guys got together and we could go on double dates with the four of us? I’ll ask Nino to talk to Adrien, you can thank me on your wedding day.” She winked, a devilish smile on her lips.

“Oh no, you’re doing exactly nothing! There is no need to play matchmaker,” Marinette said while throwing a pillow at her friend’s head.

Alya dodged it easily and pouted. “Way to take the fun out of it.”

xxxxxxxx

That evening, after everyone had gone home, Marinette sat in her room with a fresh cup of coffee and her sketchbook as only company. Her day had been a wonderful one, shared with her best friend. She really missed Alya when she was out on missions, and those became only more frequent as Alya’s reputation built up. She was one of the best messengers in town, and word had it that she would even do the opposite and spy on people if it was important enough.

Her trail of thought was interrupted by muffled sounds of screaming and crying. She looked out of her window to see where they came from. In the alleyway a young girl with a basket full of groceries was being pushed against the wall by a middle aged man with ragged clothes. Wait a minute, she knew that girl! Her name was Mylène, and she often came by the bakery.

“What’s a pretty girl like you doing all alone, don’t you need some company?” the attacker said while groping the cornered girl. “I will gladly provide that for you!”

Marinette was suddenly reminded of her conversation with Chat Noir the night before.

 

“Why do you do this?” she suddenly asked him.

“Do what?” he countered.

“Why are you Chat Noir?”

He didn’t even have to think about an answer. “To make a difference,” he simply stated. She raised one eyebrow at him. “I’m not going to reveal all my secrets to you, Princess, but I can assure you my intentions are pure.”

Marinette shook her head, she found that hard to believe.

He ignored her and continued: “I see it like this: if you encounter injustice and you are able to change it, what gives you the right to sit back and do nothing? You should at least try to do something about it, in any way you can. Even if it requires some creativity. Even if it’s not an ideal solution. Because if you’re not going to do something, nobody will.”

The girl snickered. “I still don’t get how running around with a cape and a mask solves injustice, but you do you.”

 

She hated to admit it, but Marinette felt the same way. She looked out of her window again and the scene before her eyes confirmed her thoughts. A royal guard who was patrolling on the main road walked past the alley and pretended not to hear the girl scream. Marinette was the only witness. She had to do something, anything!

“Hey pignut!” she yelled as she threw her wooden cup at his head.

He looked up, surprized to be interrupted in his assault. As the cup hit its target, hot coffee spilled out and soaked the criminal’s face. The targeted girl looked up in gratitude and was able to run away while her attacker screamed in agony.

“You will pay for this, missy, I’m coming after you next! And I won’t be alone when I do!” He waddled away while running into several buildings, still blinded by the boiling liquid.

For the first time, Marinette felt powerful. Maybe she could make a difference. Maybe she could stop counting on others and stand up for what she believed was right. As she laid her head to rest that night, an idea started forming in her half-sleeping mind. A ridiculous idea, inspired by recent events. So ridiculous in fact that it might even work.


 

 

/Nathanaël/

It was a boring day on the job, a day like any other, but the Nathanaël boy didn’t mind.

He was a royal knight, but not by his own choice. His father had insisted on him enlisting for the army because his art wouldn’t pay the bills. However, he never lost the urge to create. He reluctantly went through the harsh training and after a few years in military school the ‘perfect job for him’ became vacant, as his teacher so sarcastically put it. They had to guard one of the city’s less used gates, nicknamed ‘the backdoor’. It wasn’t much more than that, even a small carriage wouldn’t fit. The road the gate led to was poorly maintained and overgrown with weeds.

It was a job for two, but his colleague ditched him every other day for the tavern. Their superiors wouldn’t find out anyway because of the lack of supervision.

Nathanaël was happy to be around nature all day. He had his drawing utensils near and the ever changing landscape was always willing to model for the young artist. At the moment he was trying to capture the cheerful colours of a dandelion that had just been awakened by the early spring sun.

“There you are, I was looking for you!” A sudden voice sliced through the morning and caused the boy to leave a lead tin yellow streak where it didn’t belong. He turned around angrily to see who had startled him but his expression softened when he recognized the owner of the voice. She looked over his shoulder. “Oh no, I ruined your artwork! I really didn’t mean to scare you, I thought you’d heard me coming,” the girl apologized. “Marinette, it’s great to see you again! Don’t worry about the drawing, I was just warming up. What brings you so far from home?”

His childhood friend had been smiling, a smile that could summon the sun on even the darkest of days, but now she looked uneasy. “Well,” she started quietly, “can I ask you a favour?”

Nathanaël laid a hand upon her shoulder. “Of course you can! What is it, do you want another private art class? I just bought some new pigments that you’ll lo-“ She shook her head to cut him off. “I want you to teach me how to fight,” the short girl stated with the confidence of a giant.

He was baffled, not because a girl wanted to learn how to fight, but because she wanted him as a tutor. “Are you sure you want me to teach you? I know the theory but I’m not a great fighter. I think Alya could teach you a lot more. Or maybe I could introduce you to my teachers from military school.”

Marinette shook her head again. “Alya already thought me the basics of self-defence, but it’s not enough. Please, Nath, you are the only one I can trust with this!”

He gave in when he saw how serious the girl was about the matter and resisted the urge to ask why she needed these classes. “If you’re sure about this, I’d love to teach you everything I kno-“

Once again he was cut off, this time by a pair of arms that wrapped themselves around him. He trembled when he realized Marinette was hugging him. He dropped his paintbrush and quickly hugged her back. Her body felt warm against his, as if she had just gotten out of bed, and smelled as sweet as pastry.

“Thank you,” she whispered softly against his chest, “it means a lot to me.”
And then louder: “So let’s get started, shall we?”


 

 

/Marinette/

That evening, she happily looked back to another day spent with a good friend. She had been so happy to see Nathanaël again, and it was only the first visit of many more to come. In a few hours she had learned so much about different weapons and not once did he ask why she wanted to know all of this. He was willing to help her even though she ruined his drawing, which she knew meant a lot to him. She couldn’t have asked for a better friend.

“That’s enough daydreaming for now, time to get back to work,” she thought while taking her sketchbook and her box of pigments. Still smiling, she selected a rich vermillion and some lampblack and started to pour her ideas into a single design.

 

Chapter Text

/Adrien/

With full bellies and sore throats the boys left the Dupain-Cheng bakery.

“So Adrien, what did you think of Alya?” Nino asked.

“She’s super cool, I see why you like her so much. Though I am a bit scared of her. My ribs still hurt from her hugging me.”

Nino laughed. “Sounds about right, I don’t want to make her mad either. And what about Marinette?”

“She is really nice, the way she welcomed me with open arms into her home. She’s just… warm I guess. Can you even say that about a person?”

“You sure can. So… what are you going to do now that you found her?”

He froze. “Wha-what do you mean?”

Nino side-eyed his friend. “Bro, I ain’t stupid. That mute guy story? Saw right through that bullshit. I know running around the forest is a hobby of yours. I’ve also noticed you reaching for your shoulder a lot with a dreamy look in your eyes. Not the usual look of someone in pain. I won’t ask why but I do want to know what business you have with Mari.”

Adrien looked at Nino, eyes wide. “How long have you known?”

“Ever since you stopped me in the forest and asked me for a song. You sang along to a song that was brand new. I mean, I’m a good bard but I’m not that popular.”

“Busted. I knew it was risky to stop you but you had already seen me. And about Marinette… She fixed me up after I got injured. We talked and I felt like I didn’t have to pretend with her. She saw right through my persona. It just felt right, you know? I wanted to feel that again.”

“Yeah, Mari does that to people. She has it from her parents. They just know how to put people at ease. But you still haven’t answered my question. What are you gonna do now?”

Adrien scratched the back of his neck. “I didn’t really think that one through. I owe her my arm but that’s not why I wanted to find her. I guess I want to be her friend. I just want to be there for her when nobody else is.”

Nino nodded. “I think she’d like that a lot.” He made a mental note to tell Alya about the blush that now decorated Adrien’s cheeks.


 

/Marinette/

“Merde!” she cursed while reaching for the stained piece of cloth and pressing it to her finger for the seventh time in the last hour. The embroidery on this dress was giving her a headache. She had to be careful, because this wedding dress was due in a few days and it would be difficult to get a bloodstain out of the light blue fabric in time. The seamstress next door often asked Marinette to embroider the more intricate designs, because her hands were smaller and her eyes saw brighter. The girl agreed every time, it was a great opportunity for her.

“Oh dearie, did you stab yourself again?” the woman asked jokingly. “Just take a break and return to the dress later, I’m sure you can finish it in time. I’m gonna deliver something, would you mind taking over the shop while I’m gone? You know what to do. If a commission comes in just write it down in the book like I usually do.”

Marinette nodded. “You can count on me! See you soon.”

xxxxxxx

Two hours later the seamstress still hadn’t returned. Marinette didn’t mind at all, she had a lot of fun helping customers. A few people came in for repairs, a woman wanted a new headpiece matching her dress, a salesman bought a cloak for travelling and someone came in to pick up their commissioned pantalon. She had just sold a girl some new ribbon when a familiar face entered the shop.

“Alix, it’s been a while! How are you?” Alix was a messenger like Alya, but where Alya went on missions abroad, Alix was best known for her fast short-distance deliveries.

“Always nice to see you, Mari. I can’t really talk now since I’m here for a job. I’ve got a commission for you.” The girl handed her a piece of paper.

“Thanks. Tell them I’ll contact them as soon as it’s finished and that they are always welcome to come by the shop to take a look at the progress.”

“Sure will do! I’ll swing by the bakery as soon as I have a moment,” Alix said while racing out the shop.

“I’m looking forward to it!” Marinette yelled after her.

She looked at the order in her hand and then at the dreaded book. The seamstress had a very specific way of cataloguing the commissions, if Marinette wrote it down in the wrong order she might make a mistake. She sighed. Here goes nothing. She scanned the list of clothes and started writing them down in columns, first the kind of clothing, then the size, fabric, colour and other specifics. The order mostly consisted of basic children’s clothing from sturdy fabrics in a bunch of different sizes. “Someone has a big family,” she laughed.

With that thought she wrote down the last piece. She sighed in relief. Mission accomplished. Now she only needed to mark the date and the name of the client. She looked at the paper again. There it stood, at the bottom of the paper: Adrien Agreste.

Marinette chocked on air when she saw the name staring back at her. Didn’t Adrien have a personal seamstress? Why did he order something in the city? And more importantly, why did he order so many children’s clothes? Did he secretly have an army of siblings? Or worse, did he secretly have an army of kids?

The stream of questions her mind produced got interrupted by the seamstress who returned from her delivery.

xxxxxxx

“How was the delivery?” Marinette asked at the end of the day. The last customer had left and they were closing up.

“It was an absolute nightmare! The order didn’t mention that the dress was for princess Chloé’s chamber maid. And that the princess would be there!” the seamstress ranted.

“Oh god, is she really as insufferable as everybody says?” Marinette had seen Chloé a few times while delivering baked goods to the palace, but they had never talked.

The seamstress put her hand on Marinette’s shoulders. “Forget everything you heard. She’s worse. If she didn’t wear some sort of crown at all times nobody would believe she is royalty! She had something to say about every little detail. Some parts were too ugly, some parts were too pretty… Too pretty, can you believe that? Like she was afraid her chamber maid would wear a dress prettier than hers! She was mocking me the entire time. Never have I been so disrespected!”

Marinette hugged the older woman who was nearly crying by now. “What about the real client, did she like your design?”

She nodded against the girl’s shoulder. “Yeah she loved it. Sweet girl, I think her name was Sabrina. I’m not sure why she keeps working for someone who mistreats people like that.”

“Sabrina Raincomprix?” The seamstress nodded again. “I think I know why she stays there. Her father is the head of the Royal army and an important advisor of king Bourgeois. The girls grew up together, Sabrina has been the princess’ maid since they were children. She’s probably used to it by now.”

“Poor girl. I still think she deserves better.” The woman walked away from Marinette and picked up a broom. “Dearie, please promise me that you’ll never let someone walk over you like that. Always speak up because if you don’t, nobody else will.”

“I promise.” The girl paused. “Madame, could I ask you a favour?”

“Ask away, I’ll see what I can do,” she said while folding some fabric samples.

“I have a design I’d love to make but I don’t have the proper tools. Can I make it here? Of course I’d pay for all the fabric and the tread I need.”

“Of course! You’re becoming a real seamstress, already making originals, I can only applaud that. Use whatever you need. And don’t worry about paying for fabric, it’s the least I can do since you help me out on the daily!” She stopped folding the fabric. “Do you want to start now? I can leave the samples on display if you like.”

Marinette hugged the woman for the second time that evening. “Thank you so much! You can put the samples away, I already know exactly what I’m going to use.”

 

Chapter Text

/Marinette/

“I finally have an eyewitness, Marinette, Mrs. Dujardin told me everything she saw! Do you realise what this means? I’m one step closer finding out who they are,” Alya said when entering the shop of the seamstress next door.

Weeks had gone by since the rumours started about a mysterious figure that lurked in the city. At first the people were afraid, but soon the rumours changed in tone. They did nothing but good deeds, like preventing rapes in dark alleys and helping the farmers save their harvest from a storm. Alya was intrigued from the beginning and had decided to uncover this mystery, much to Marinette’s dismay.

“Are you still going after this person? Don’t you have a mission to prepare for?” Marinette sighed.

“Nope, I’ve got time to spare. And why aren’t you interested? You used to love playing detective with me,” Alya asked while pulling up one eyebrow.

“Yeah I did, but we were children back then. I just respect their privacy. They probably have a good reason to walk around masked.” She tried to concentrate on the pattern pieces in front of her.

“Boo you’re boring, where’s your sense of adventure? I just want to thank them for doing something for the city, we all know the princess’ knights won’t do shit for the people,” Alya threw back.

“I just expected you to be more interested in the disappearance of Mr. Dujardin that’s all,” Marinette shrugged. “Because him not coming home yesterday is the real reason his wife talked to you.”

“Mr. Dujardin probably lost his way after visiting the tavern, he’ll turn up soon with a massive hangover and no memory of what happened. The Ladybug is the real scoop here.”

Marinette laughed. “The Ladybug? It’s that what they are calling them? With a name like that, nobody will take them seriously.”

Alya pushed her friend. “Hey, I came up with that name, it’s great! Ms. Dujardin said they wore a red cape with black splotches, and Chat Noir had already set a precedent by choosing an animal name. I’m sure it will catch on, they’ll be Paris’ lucky charm!”

Before Marinette could respond, the seamstress came out of the backroom. “Alya, I appreciate you coming by but we’ve got a busy day ahead and I really need Marinette’s help. Maybe you girls could talk another time?”

“Oh I’m so sorry, I’ll be on my way. And don’t be afraid Mari, I swear I’m gonna find Ladybug!”

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of,” Marinette muttered as soon as Alya was gone.

xxxxxxxx

The rest of the day went by as usual, there were people to help and clothes to sew. Though she still was nervous because the mystery order was completed. The mysterious Agreste order. She looked at the pile of neatly folded children’s clothes on the table, waiting to be picked up. Which could happen any minute now.

They were already tidying up when the bell finally rang. Marinette turned to the customer expecting to see a servant but instead her eyes met Adrien himself.

“Hi,” she breathed.

“Hi Marinette,” he answered. “I’ve come to pick up my order.”

“S-sure, of course, why else would you be here, not to see me or something, your order the big one was it, right I’ll get it right away don’t mind me,” the girl rambled. She quickly ran to the backroom to stop the words from spilling out. The seamstress had arranged the financial side when Marinette came back with the clothes, wrapped up in two packages for easier transportation.

“Here you go,” she managed to get out.

Adrien thanked her while taking over the packages. He looked at her with gratitude in his eyes. Why are his eyes so green, so kind, so dreamy…

“Thank you, Marinette,” he repeated.

“What for? You’ve already thanked me for the commission which you really shouldn’t thank me for since you paid for it and… I’m sorry, you were saying?”

He laughed. “Thank you for your silence. I know it’s a pretty weird order for someone like me but I do appreciate you discretion.”

“Anytime.” Oh God, he just admitted it is a weird order. Maybe he does have kids that nobody knows about and live in the cellar and have never seen the light of day…

Right then and there, she made a decision. Curse discretion. Alya was right, Marinette did like to play detective. She’d follow him. But not as Marinette.

xxxxxxx

As soon as the shop was closed the girl sprinted home and put on the clothes so many people talked about. The design was simple yet efficient. She had opted for men’s clothing similar to Chat Noir’s.

She wore a black hose –formfitting to allow easier movement-,
a short red tunique with black belt –so nobody could see her bleed-,
sturdy black boots –running around the city takes a toll on one’s feet-,
a hooded cape, burgundy with brown and black splotches –for camouflage-,
and a red mask –to conceal her identity.

Marinette put her hair in pigtails –so it wouldn’t bother her- and became Ladybug.


 

 

/Adrien/

He nervously walked down the streets of Paris, barely able to carry the his packages. Adrien cursed when he noticed the sun going down. This was a bad idea. But he couldn’t have gone earlier since he had classes all day. Natalie might give him some freedom when his dad wasn’t home, she didn’t tolerate him skipping class. 

His fear came true when he noticed a dark figured coming out of an alley and stepping towards him. “Need some help with that?” they asked.

Adrien immediately went into defence mode. He clamped the clothes under his arms to protect them. “I’m perfectly fine, thank you. Why would I need help?” he answered coldly.

“Well, you’re walking alone –one- at sundown –two- through small streets –three- with cargo –four- and you seem unarmed –five,” the figure said while counting on their fingers. “That seems like a recipe for disaster to me.”

The boy hated to admit his stupidity. Like he had noticed before, this had been a bad time. “And what were you gonna do about it?” he challenged.

The figure stepped out of the darkness. “If you’d like I can escort you to wherever you need to be. But if you’re too good for that I’ll be on my way again.” She looked at him with big blue eyes, awaiting his response. Wait a minute… She?

He swallowed when he recognized the hero of so many recent stories. Cape, mask, red and black colour scheme. “Are you… Ladybug?”

The girl smiled brightly. Gosh, what he wouldn’t do to preserve that smile forever. “My reputation proceeds me,” she joked.

“Yeah,” he answered, suddenly nervous. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Only good things of course. Aren’t you needed somewhere though? No good deeds to be done?”

“I’m trying to.”

“What? Oh,” Adrien said, remembering her offer. “I’d like some help.”

As if on cue, one of the packages slipped from his grip and fell before Ladybug’s boots. She picked it up and walked up to him. “Lead the way,” she commanded.

xxxxxxx

They didn’t talk much, but the silence wasn’t unpleasant. Ladybug was mostly minding their surroundings and Adrien’s tongue felt like a stone so it was a win-win situation.

They were both startled when a young girl ran towards them. “Adrien! You came to see me!” she screeched as she hugged him.

He hugged her back while trying not to drop the clothes. “Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” he scolded.

She looked guilty. “Please don’t tell Madame Bustier! A messenger came by today and I heard her say your name so I stayed up to see you.”

“Don’t worry, these lips are sealed. I’ve missed you too, Manon.”

She let go of him and looked at the other girl. “Are you his girlfriend?”

Ladybug took a step back. “Wha-  euhm no, we just met how could we…” She turned to Adrien and whispered: “Help me!”

He put his hand on Manon’s head, smoothing her hair down. “You can’t just go around asking people personal questions, that’s not polite.”

She looked up at him. “But Adrien, you need someone to protect you from the monsters and make you smile now that I can’t be there for you.”


 

*flashback*

Gabriel looked at his wife, happier than he had ever been. Their union had started as a business transaction between two noble families. She came from a family of bankers and he had taken over his father’s job as a cloth merchant, together they would build an international fabric imperium.

But in the process of courting her he fell for her, and hard. He loved her sincere smile and her long blonde hair. Whenever she wore it down, he could swear it was made of rays of sunshine. She warmed his heart, giving him the warmth he had missed from his own family. His happiness was complete when he found out she felt the same way.

He loved her. He loved her on their wedding day and in the night that followed. He loved her when she came with him on business trips. He loved her when she got pregnant with his child. They named him Adrien, after the Adriatic sea where she went into labour. He loved her when she handed him the baby boy for the first time. He had inherited her golden hair and her bright green eyes. He loved them.

 

“Why can’t I come with you?” the little boy cried while clamping his mother’s skirt.

“Because we’re away for business, sweetie, you know that. I promise you can come with us when you’re older,” she comforted him. “For now, Nathalie will look after you. Now say goodbye to daddy so we can board the ship. Because the sooner we leave…”

“The sooner you’ll come back!” Adrien wiped his tears away with his sleeve and skipped towards Gabriel, who was checking the cargo. “Daddy, please come back soon.”

His heart stung when he saw his son, clearly fighting back tears to be strong for his dad. He looked forward to a time when he could take Adrien with him. “Don’t worry, sunshine, it’s only a short trip. We’ll be back before you know it.”

But that’s not what happened.

xxxxxxxx

Six months later, Gabriel arrived back at the mansion. Alone. He went straight to his room, didn’t even bother to greet Adrien. He locked the door, not allowing anybody but Nathalie inside.

In the meantime, Adrien heard people talk. How the ship had been caught in an unexpected storm. How they had lost some of the cargo. How many people jumped in the water to save what they could. How after everything, the boss’ wife was nowhere to be found. How Gabriel hadn’t uttered a single word since that night.

It took him another six months to come home for real.

xxxxxxx

Gabriel tried to pick up life where he left off. Natalie had kept his business alive but there was still a lot of work to be done. He drowned himself in his work to distract him from grieving. Adrien still barely saw his father.

Until one day when Adrien had enough. He didn’t want to be ignored any longer. He missed mom too and Gabriel didn’t seem to notice it. He knocked on the door of his father’s office.

“Who is it?”

Adrien pushed the door open. “Père? C’est moi,” he answered.

Gabriel sighed. “I’m busy, sunsh-… son.”

The boy started to lose his temper. “You’re always busy!” he sneered. “I haven’t seen you in a year, you haven’t talked to me at all. What happened to mom? Nobody tells me anything but I deserve to know!” He now stood in front of his father.

Gabriel was at a loss for words. He knew his son was right but he wasn’t ready. He lifted his hand and struck him in the face. “That is no way to talk to your father.”

Adrien touched his burning cheek. “Père…” he whispered before running back to his room.

That was the first time Gabriel would hit his son. He didn’t do it because he had disturbed him. The moment he saw Adrien, something inside him broke. This child dared to look at him with her eyes, walked around with her hair and he just couldn’t look at him. Gabriel had lost his wife, suddenly and without explanation. He didn’t know how to have a family without her.

xxxxxxx

“Adrien pack your bags,” Nathalie commanded as she woke him up.

“Where are we going?” the boy asked while rubbing his eyes.

“You’re going away for a while.” She paused, carefully picking her words. “Your dad misses your mom a lot and he wants to be alone. He has a lot of work to do and doesn’t have much time to spare. So you’re going to people who can care for you instead. It’s only for a little while.”

A few hours later, Adrien was dropped off at the orphanage.

xxxxxxx

Adrien was a lonely child. He had his own bedroom, as requested by Gabriel. He didn’t talk to the other children, preferred to play alone and sat by the gate whenever he could. Nathalie would surely come to pick him up soon because it was only for a little while. When he realised nobody was coming for him, the nightmares started.

One day when he walked towards his signature spot by the gates he heard someone crying. Someone had left a baby behind. He went to get Madame.

The girl was an orphan since her parents died in a fire. Her name was Manon, the letter in her basket explained. The writer already had more children than they could handle and they begged Madame to take her in.

She turned to the boy. “Thank you for getting me Adrien, but I can’t help her.” She sighed dramatically.

“Bu-but you have to! She has no family left!” Adrien cried out.

“Alas, I have to many kids here already and not enough hands to care for all,” she played. “If only someone could help me.”

Adrien’s expression brightened. “I can help! I’ll take care of her!”

“Would you do that for me? Oh I can’t thank you enough!” She handed him the basket containing the girl. Maybe taking care of someone else would distract the boy from the monsters plaguing his dreams.

 

 

Chapter Text

/Marinette/

"Left… right… up… right…"

Marinette desperately tried to concentrate on her hand-to-hand training. Usually she could lose herself in Nathanaël's voice telling her where to charge at him, but today nothing could stop her mind from wandering.

She just couldn't stop thinking about the day before.

Madame Bustier was very thankful for the clothes Adrien had commissioned and they had talked for a little while. Apparently Adrien had stayed in the orphanage for a few years until Nathalie came to get him. In the meantime, he had become Madame's unofficial assistant. He helped out where he could and Manon was his top priority. He didn't forget his responsibility after he left and came by to help on a regular basis. And a little while ago, he had started donating stuff to the orphanage.

Marinette liked Adrien from the first time they met, she really did. But now she realized she had placed him on a pedestal. She had liked him for his name, his face and his kindness toward her. He was the image of perfection. Now she saw it was just that, an image.

While he was playing with Manon she had caught a glimpse of the real Adrien. A broken boy who had mended himself for someone else. And she liked this version of him even better.

She wondered if Gabriel knew about Adrien's donations, since the boy had asked her not to tell anybody about it. Maybe she should donate some stuff as well. She had old toys lying around and could easily sew some dolls for the younger kids.

"…earth to Mari…"

"Huh?" She looked up at Nathanaël. He held his hand up defensively where she was supposed to strike. She had failed to do so, too distracted by thinking about Adrien. Which was becoming a bit of a habbit. "Oh yeah, sorry Nath."

He sighed. "You're a bit out of it today. Maybe we should take a break. Here, drink some," he said while handing her his flask.

She accepted thankfully, only now realizing her thirst. They walked back to the 'backdoor' –that Nathanaël was supposed to guard– and sat down against the city wall.

"You're really getting the hang of this, you're probably a better fighter than I am at this point," he complimented her.

Marinette shoved his shoulder playfully. "Don't say that, there is always more to learn. I'm not really handy with weapons for example. And it's good to keep training anyway."

"That's true. Talking about weapons, do you still feel the same way about swords and daggers and such?"

She nodded. "I just don't like any kind of knives. I have no problem with archery and I love my sling, but knives are… dirty weapons, I guess. I can't really explain it."

"I won't push you," he shrugged. "Tell me if you change your mind."

"Thanks Nath." She rested her head on his shoulder, exhausted from the sparring session. "I owe you big time for this."

"Don't sweat it, you're helping me too. You're keeping me company on this terribly useless job. Though I might come by for some pastries from time to time."

Marinette giggled. "The bakery's door is always open. Literally. Otherwise people can't come in." She looked up at him, head still on his shoulder. "Seriously Nath, thank you for this. It means a lot to me."

"Anything for you, Mari," he whispered.


 

/Adrien/

"Zut alors!" he cursed when the third arrow in a row missed its target. He walked past the tree he had aimed for to retrieve the arrows. Meanwhile Kellas neighed, judging him from a distance. "As if you could do it any better!" Adrien threw back. Which was –in retrospect– a stupid comment since horses don't have opposable thumbs. Kellas still seemed offended and walked out of Adrien's sight.

He could blame the wind all he wanted, he knew that it was his own fault this training session went like shit so far. His mind was filled with the happenings of the day before. Filled with Ladybug.

He had opened up to her, a complete stranger. He had told her things he hadn't told anyone before. She made him feel at ease, protected, accepted. She had talked to Madame while he played with Manon and he knew they were talking about him. About how his mother vanished into thin air, how he had stayed in an orphanage for years while his mind kept feeding him darker and darker theories about what might have happened.

Afterwards she came to him and he expected one of the reactions people usually had to his story.
"You poor child, growing up without a mother must be so hard." They cooed. Obviously, but I'm not a basket case.
"Don't worry," they would say, "she'll come back some day." Fat chance.
Or: "I've lost someone too, I know what it's like." No you don't, everybody's loss is different.
"Tell me about her." If I wanted to talk about her I would've done so already.
Or the most disgusting reaction of all: "I can be your new mommy." How. About. No.

Ladybug, however, didn't pick a standard reaction out of the catalogue. She said nothing, just hugged him. She acknowledged his loss but knew she couldn't do anything about it. She didn't push him to spill, didn't tell her own story about some dead great-uncle she had seen only once, didn't offer any advice. It was refreshing not to be seen as a lost cause for once.

Before meeting her, he admired the hero from the town's stories. Back then he didn't know Ladybug was a girl –she did wear men's clothing like his own alter ego's– but the sentiment remained the same. After talking to her he realized that she was exactly that. A girl. A person who dared to speak up for what they believed in. and he admired her all the more for that.

When she didn't try to comfort him in his loss, he caught a glimpse of what Ladybug truly stood for. And he liked that version of her even more.

He wondered who this masked girl was during the day. Maybe he'd swap his usual territory as Chat Noir for the city to see her again.

xxxxxxx

"I am Chat Noir, the guardian of this forest and order to be here you need to pay a price!" a voice echoed through the forest.

Adrien looked up in confusion. Those were his signature lines! He quickly turned around, aiming his crossbow at where the sound came from. A figure came closer…

"Nino? You stole my entrance, not cool!" Adrien complained.

"I had to get your attention somehow. Dude you look really different in those clothes, I wouldn't recognize you if I didn't know my man was under there."

Adrien laughed. "Yeah, that's the whole idea of wearing a mask. About things that should be hidden, how did you find this place? The previous owner assured me it was hidden with magic or something."

"I didn't see any magic on my way here. I was looking for you and suddenly I met this guy," Nino gestured to Kellas. "He's one conveniently smart horse, you know that?"

"I know, but he has to stop bringing people to my secret hideout. It's called 'secret' for a reason. And don't act like you didn't hear me," he tuned to the horse. Kellas only neighed in response.

"Actually I didn't come here to talk about your telepathic horse. You're in deep trouble." He pulled a poster out of his bag and handed it to Adrien. "I snatched this off an announcement board in the city. I went to your house but Nathalie said you went out for a ride and I suspected that was code for playing in the forest with a mask."

It was a wanted poster. It didn't have a drawing or a description, it only said: "By royal order, from this day the thief Chat Noir is a wanted man. Dead or alive. Reward to be discussed."

"What did you do? Did you rob Chloé or something?"

"Or something," Adrien replied. "I might have knocked down some knights and then I might have stolen some tax money. Apparently they are really sour about getting their asses kicked. I don't regret it. I had a good reason to take it."

"This is serious stuff, man. Taking from Chloe's treasure chest is a death wish! It's not the same as asking passengers for their cloak or something."

He held his stance. "I still don't regret it. That money helped a lot of people. "

"I know," Nino sighed, "but there is something like doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. And could you take of that mask when I talk to you? It's really weird."

Adrien grinned. "Sorry, no can do. Adrien is not here, Chat Noir will have to do. Now that you're here anyway, wanna help me train?"

Nino put his fists up defensively. "Only if you're ready to get your ass kicked. But this poster is serious, you have to lay low for at least a while. I don't want to see my best friend in jail."

"Sure, whatever you say. Now get ready for the beating of a lifetime." Adrien said with a smirk.