Chloe Bourgeois closed her eyes and reopened them as Antibug.
Blinking, Antibug turned to survey the room, the final echoes of Hawkmoth’s words still echoing in her mind. The life and personal effects of the girl she’d been surrounded her, trinkets and tokens that had been so coveted in her previous life now glanced over without a second thought. They didn’t matter anymore, not when she had a mission to undertake.
Glancing down, Anitbug raised an arm, lifted a leg. The costume flexed with her effortlessly, the red on black spots stretching to accommodate her movements. Similar enough to Ladybug’s to invoke familiarity, but enough of a difference to create a striking contrast.
At the thought of the miraculous superheroine, Antibug’s previous fury returned with a vengeance.
Clenching her hands into fists, Antibug stomped the ground, gritting her teeth. She’d looked up to Ladybug, practically worshipped her, and how had Paris’s favourite heroine returned her devotion? With condescension and even annoyance, brushing her off as if she’d been nothing, as if she hadn’t been her greatest fan.
Chloe Bourgeois had never let such slights go without a fight. Antibug would be no different.
Growling, Antibug stomped for the opened window, snatching the black yoyo from her hip. She climbed up to the window sill and planned her next moves. The first one was obvious.
She’d only just been in the hotel’s lobby and was being swarmed by reporters;, she couldn’t have gotten very far. Gripping the side of the window frame while balancing precariously on the sill, Antibug glanced down. It was at least a fifty foot drop from the penthouse to the ground below, a height that would have terrified Chloe had she been in the same position. But she wasn’t Chloe anymore, the silly limitations now gone.
Slipping her legs out, Antibug dropped to the balcony below, her enhanced endurance easily absorbing the shock of impact lancing through her legs. She hopped over the wrought iron railing, scaling down the side of Le Grand Paris as easily as if she was rolling out of bed. A smirk curled her lips as she kicked down the next railing rather than climb over it. This was child’s play, she thought, smirk growing wider as the flowers and vines patterned in wrought iron fell to the pavement with a resounding crash.
No longer would she have to struggle through forced gym classes or compulsory sports events. Now, she could leap over roofs, scale buildings, maybe even level them.
She paused as Ladybug finally came into sight, instantly recognisable in her brilliant red costume. A beatific smile on her face, she let Sabrina’s father lead his daughter away as she spoke into half a dozen microphones pointed at her face, Chat Noir watching on. A familiar scene she had observed so many times, gazing at the screen in admiration from the stifling safety of her room.
Ladybug, loved by all. Ladybug, whose heart knew no limit to kindness. Ladybug, who had been everything Chloe wished to be.
Ladybug, who had called her a liar.
“That’s right, Antibug. Ladybug called you a liar. Not as heroic and kind as you thought she was, is she?”
Antibug stiffened as Hawkmoth’s disembodied voice entered her mind, echoing as if from within a cave.
“Teach her a lesson, Antibug. Show her that she is merely living on borrowed splendor, that she is nothing compared to you. Let her see—”
“Quiet!” Antibug hissed out loud, unsure if Hawkmoth could hear her. “I’m going to do this my way! My way! I don’t need you bossing me around.”
As if in retaliation, a stab of pain pulsed in the back of her brain, momentarily disrupting her thoughts.
“Ungrateful child. Don’t forget who gave you this power!”
“That’s right, you’re the one who gave it to me so I’ll decide how I use it!” Antibug declared, glaring at the air in front of her. “You’ll get the Miraculouses, but you better think again if you think I’ll listen to you. I listen to nobody but myself.”
The pain in the back of her head blossomed like she’d been struck by a brick. Antibug gasped, hands flying to her head as if to contain the pain as her foot slipped from her perch on the railing. She yelped, twisting to grab the bars with her hands as she fell past them. Her hip collided with the edge of the railing, sending sparks of pain bursting on her hip bone. She squealed, scrambling to land gracelessly on the next balcony, limbs in a tangled heap.
“ Listen to me very closely, ” crooned Hawkmoth, his previous anger evaporating as if it had never been there. “ With the power I have given you, you can achieve so much more than little Miss Ladybug could have ever dreamed. Paris could have a new favourite, a new heroine to love, one who doesn’t call other people liars. ”
Antibug straightened on trembling legs, clutching the railing for support, staring at Ladybug continuing to field the reporters’ unending stream of questions.
“ All that attention, all that public adoration, it could all be yours. All you have to do is get me both Miraculouses. Ladybug and Chat Noir will be out of your hair, and you will be left to be loved by the whole of Paris for as long as you wish. ”
Somewhere in the deepest recesses of her mind, the part of it that was not quite Antibug yet, Antibug recognised the honeyed words for what they were; empty promises of grandeur, serving only to mollify her for the current moment. To paint flimsy props in a fabricated garden, just for her to play in.
“ Don’t you want what Ladybug has? All that love and admiration, denied to you for so long, finally all for yourself? ”
Just like that, all her doubts vanished, and the little dissenting voice was pushed further back and muffled into incoherency.
“I will do as you wish, Hawkmoth,” said Antibug, legs tensing to leap from the railing onto the pergola above the hotel’s entrance. She straightened with a flourish, smug satisfaction curling her lips into a smirk as her appearance stopped Ladybug dead in her tracks.
Blue eyes widened almost comically huge and Ladybug’s mouth fell open in surprise. An unrestrained cackle burst forth from Antibug.
She would be as powerful as Ladybug—no, more powerful than Ladybug could ever hope to be. And there was little that the arrogant little bug could do to stop her now.
Antibug tried not to let her frustration show as Chat Noir dodged her yoyo for what felt like the twentieth time in half as many minutes, his languid form a black blur each time he moved. He fought back only to defend himself, never to attack despite the numerous false openings she offered. Either he was afraid of hurting her, or he knew her tricks.
She pursed her lips, recalling the yoyo back to her hand and watching. When all else failed, provoke and unsettle the enemy.
“Where did Ladybug go?” taunted Antibug, hands on her hips in a mock chiding gesture. “Running from me like the coward she is?”
“Oh, My Lady just had to take care of a house call and will attend to you shortly,” Chat Noir sniped back, twirling the baton in his hands. “She’s very busy, after all. I’m sure you understand.”
“So you’re waiting for her? Can’t deal with me without her?” sneered Antibug, tossing her yoyo up and down in a show of casualness. “Or are you just too much of a scaredy cat to take me on yourself?”
“Neither. I’m pretty sure My Lady wouldn’t want to miss out on the show, it would be ungentlemanly of me to start without her,” said Chat with a wink.
He wasn’t easily rattled. That was fine, it was just a matter of finding the right buttons.
“The show?” drawled Antibug. “If you mean giving her the chance to completely humiliate Chloe Bourgeois all over again, I suppose you might be right.”
That sparked a reaction.
“Look, Chloe,” said Chat, a strangely gentle tone overtaking his usual playful one, “Ladybug was angry, she didn’t mean what she said. Well, not, completely, exactly, but…. Ladybug would never want to intentionally humiliate you just for fun! What she said to you was wrong, but—”
“So you’re just going to defend her, of course,” said Antibug, tossing her head. The whole time, she kept her right hand curled around her yoyo by her side, at the ready. “Of course no one cares about the girl whose feelings got trampled over because it’s Ladybug . No one cares about the girl who just wanted her dumb efforts to be appreciated just for once! No one cares because no one believed her!”
A stricken look crossed Chat’s face as if she’d just thrown ice cold water at him. “Chloe,” he starts, one hand reaching out to her, “I—”
The instant his hand left his staff, she struck. Hand flicking lightning fast, the yoyo shot forward to wind expertly around the gleaming silver baton. Chat let out an indignant yelp as it was wrenched from his grasp, making a wild grab for it that ended with him falling flat on his face.
“Like taking candy from a baby,” said Antibug in a sing-song voice, freeing the baton to toss it in the air and catch it in her hand. “Almost too easy.”
A snarl burst forth from Chat as he lunged at her in a tackle. She sidestepped him with a bounce to her feet, extending the staff to strike it down right along his spine. He gave another, strangled yelped as he collapsed onto the ground, shouting his protests as her yoyo line zipped around to bind him to his own weapon.
He wasn’t Ladybug, she mused, but he would do for now.
Antibug balanced herself delicately on the extended bo staff, using her weight to counteract the trussed form of Chat Noir dangling from the other end. His struggles were entertaining, but there was no way he was going to escape those bonds. She fluctuated her weight on the balls of her feet and bounced, giggling when Chat Noir let out small mewls of fear.
“Doesn’t it bother you to always let Ladybug play the hero?” Antibug asked, part of her genuinely curious and the other part trying to dig under Chat Noir’s skin.
He didn’t take the bait. “And you, doesn’t it bother you that you’re a mere imitation of Ladybug?”
The fact that Chat Noir would suggest that Ladybug was on par with her made her gasp in rage, lip curled and eyebrows furrowed.
Keep going, Antibug, whispered Hawkmoth in her mind. “Chat Noir makes good bait.”
Antibug knew that a part of Chat Noir was right. She could never be Ladybug. At least, not until she had Chat Noir as her sidekick. Where was Ladybug without him by her side, even if he did all the work and Ladybug got the credit? Antibug relished the thought of stealing Ladybug’s sidekick right out from under her tiny little nose.
“Team up with me, Chat Noir,” Antibug coaxed.
“Not with some pale copy!” Chat Noir retorted. “Ladybug and I are a team!”
That wasn’t the answer Antibug was looking for. She gave the staff a few hard rocks as punishment, Chat Noir’s nervous cries like music to her ears.
It seemed that recruiting Chat Noir as her sidekick was a lost cause. “I know you can hear me, Ladychicken!” Antibug called loudly, giving the staff a few more hard bounces. “Where are you hiding?” She leaned over the railing, throwing her voice to the open city. “You’re going to have to choose! If you want me to spare Chat Noir, you’re going to come here and give me your Miraculous! If you refuse…”
Antibug took advantage of her preteen years in gymnastics, balancing delicately on the staff. “Take a good look at Chat Noir because it’ll be the last time you ever see him!”
She jumped off the staff, the sudden disproportionate balance making Chat Noir tip forward dangerously. She snatched the pole with her hands to establish the equal weight. “I’m going to count to ten!”
Vaulting back onto the pole, she imitated a tightrope walker, with both hands flung out to either wise. “One… two… three… four…”
“Chat Noir and I make a good team.”
Antibug turned toward the sound of Ladybug’s voice like a moth to flame. Antibug hated that voice. Hated what it had said to her, hated everything about the person it belonged to .
Unfortunately, that voice was only a poorly laid trap, a decoy to draw her away. Antibug snorted. Ladybug thought she was so smart, didn’t she?. What a coward.
“Come out, come out, Ladycoward!” called Antibug, twirling her own magical yo-yoy in a deadly arc.
“Ready for round two?” said a voice, and Antibug grit her teeth at the - now freed from his bonds - cat that was pointing his bo staff at her with a fierce look in his eyes. With her leverage gone, Antibug decided she would not let herself be fooled again, and reengaged her battle with Chat Noir. It took them across the layers of the Grand Hotel until they separated harshly, on either side of the rooftop pool.
“Bad kitty,” Antibug cooed, twirling her yo-yo casually. “Stay put so I can catch you!”
Chat Noir was a stubborn one; she’d give him that. “I don’t take orders from anyone, especially not from a copycat!”
It seemed that it was Chat Noir’s mission in life to make her angry. Antibug lashed out at him again and again, but before her yo-yo made contact, it was shoved to the side by a distinctive and easily recognizable yo-yo of Antibug’s inverted colors.
Antibug retrieved her yo-yo and glared as Ladybug reentered the scene, a hand on her hip and a smirk on that face that Antibug wanted to punch. Just seeing Ladybug again fueled all the anger that had welled up inside of her, frothing in her stomach and chest until she thought she would burst.
“Nice yo-yo, but mine’s better,” Ladybug taunted.
Antibug was going to throw back a response when Ladybug just up and ignored her completely, going to exchange quick words with Chat Noir. Antibug fumed. Was she just going to acknowledge her and then completely forget she was there? It was rude, quite frankly, and Antibug was having none of that.
She broke off their little chitchat with a well-aimed yo-yo attack, dispersing the two like the little scaredy-cats they were. Antibug wasted no time going on the offensive, throwing everything she had as Ladybug was forced into defense. Antibug had waited long enough for this fight, and she was going to prove, once and for all, that she was the superior Ladybug!
Ladybug fought like she spoke; fluid and deadly. Her strokes spoke of her practice and training, time that, and Antibug was loath to admit it-, put Antibug at a disadvantage. Even so, it seemed they were evenly matched.
In a brief moment of reprise, Ladybug summoned her Lucky Charm. Antibug couldn’t help but laugh. Ladybug thought of her as so much of a threat that she needed to summon her magical power! And that was the ticking time bomb. Five minutes, and Ladybug would be finished.
In spite, Antibug summoned her own Anti Charm.
“A bag of marbles? What am I supposed to do with this!?”
Antibug hefted her Anti Charm over her shoulder, a heavy dual blade with jagged edges, the perfect thing to symbolize the sharp and jagged hate that Antibug felt for “Paris’s hero.” She let out a cackle, her entire body shaking with the force of it.
“You intend on defeating me with little marbles, is that it!? You’re so pathetic!”
“See, that’s your problem!” Ladybug shouted back. Her voice betrayed no fear of her impending defeat, which only made Antibug shake with anger. “You only trust appearances!”
Ladybug and Antibug ran at each other, each with their own determined focus. Antibug waved her Anti Charm in a huge arc, aiming for Ladybug’s head but she dodged, sliding beneath the swipe before continuing her run at Chat Noir, who was raising his bo staff like a baseball bat.
Oh no no no, none of that! Antibug adjusted her momentum and flipped around, running after Ladybug. A shout, a crack, and then dozens of red and black marbles were casing her to misstep. She instinctively released her Anti Charm to catch herself as she fell, and Chat Noir took advantage of that to fling it away.
Antibug was struggling to regain her pride. “Look at that!” sShe sneered from where she lay. “You can’t do anything without your Chat Noir!”
“Chat Noir and I are a team,” Ladybug said, coming to stand beside her sidekick. “If you want to fight me, you have to fight him, too. It’s not my fault you don’t have any friends!”
Antibug lurched to her feet just as both her and Ladybug’s earrings let off the first warning beeps.
Take her Miraculous before it’s too late! whispered Hawkmoth.
In hindsight, Antibug mused, Hawkmoth talked too much. His distraction had deflected Antibug’s attention for long enough that Chat Noir could summon his own ability and crack the glass pool cover beneath her feet. She fell right through the crack, her feet entirely submerged in the chilly pool water.
It all happened so fast that Antibug didn’t have time to cover her ears before Ladybug was flying towards her, hands extended. Antibug barely felt it as the earrings were unclipped with deft fingers and pulled from her ears.
Ladybug crushed her precious earrings underfoot, and the black butterfly escaped its confines. Antibug stopped fighting. This was the end for her, she knew. In the end, she wasn’t stronger than Ladybug. She had failed to recruit Chat Noir to her side. And even her Anti Charm was no match against the simplicity of Ladybug’s true power. Antibug wanted to cry, but then she remembered that she was a villain. Villains weren’t allowed to cry.
Antibug may have lost, she mused as a hoard of Ladybug’s Miraculous Cure ladybugs swarmed towards her, but she would never ever forgive Ladybug. Of that, she could be sure.