Marinette yawned as she came into the classroom. An akuma woke her at seven and by the time her and Chat Noir had taken care of that she barely had time to get ready. Ironically though, this racing through her routine to make sure she wasn’t late had made her early, arriving before even Alya. Maybe she could have a quick nap at her desk before class started.
“So, Marinette,” Smiled Lila making every hair on Marinette’s body instantly rise. If she was being sweet, then someone was probably close. In her half-awake state she knew she had to be careful to not fall into another trap. The devil wore her usual outfit, complete with smirk reserved only to bait Marinette. She needed to be calm. Not letter the sugar sweet voice and probable following delusions of grandeur get to her. “I was thinking for the class history trip we should go to the Paris Pantheon in the Latin Quarter. I’ve seen the one in Rome and know the current manger of the Athens Pantheon-“
“Do you mean Parthenon?” Marinette muttered under her breath. She was trying to be better about not calling Lila out per Adrien’s request, but at times they were just too obvious to pass up. This one wasn’t a huge deal, but considering Lila was supposedly Italian she should know the Roman and Greek was not the same. She said it quietly though as the class was starting to trickle in. First Nathaniel sulking to the back, walking up the stairs sketching, it was a miracle he didn’t trip. Then Max and Kim debating the latest superhero movie with Kim focusing on the fighting and Max applying reason.
“And just think it would be a lot more relevant to what we are learning in history,” Finished Lila as if Marinette had never spoken. That smirk was gone, her helpful smile now in place, trying to look innocent. Anyone else it would fool.
“Thanks for your thoughts Lila,” Marinette sighed trying to be nice. It was hard, but she had to be reasonable. Lila actually hadn’t done any direct attacks or anything, just it had been Marinette’s project and the trip was the end of the week. It would be different if Lila had requested the next trip, but this was just too obviously a trap. Alya and Nino had entered, stopping their conversation and slowly stepping towards Lila and Marinette ready to intervene. Just once it would be nice to not be looked at like she was about to start a fight. “But it took two months of working with Madame Bustier just to convinced Damocles to let and fund us to go the Palace of Versailles considering it would have to be a full day. Tour guides, buses, permission slips, and even lunch has already been organised. Maybe next time.”
“Oh…I just thought as class rep, you would represent us and fight for what we want,” Challenged Lila still acting reasonable. Under the table Marinette clenched her fists while trying to think happy thoughts. If she snapped now, then she would be the bully in this and at the current rate of things she would be banned from the excursion she campaigned and fought for. Her first major contribution as class representative, ruined by one girl who attended less than a week of classes total. “Rather than what you want.”
“I understand that Lila, and I appreciate the input. I’ll talk to Damocles about perhaps another excursion, see whether Madame Bustier will advocate for us again as she likes visual learning,” Marinette answered through a forced smile. Mylene, Rose, and Juleka entered, freezing by the door as if sensing the tension that was building. “It was discussed months ago is all and usually students don’t get much say on where excursions are.”
“I understand. I helped organise tree planting event in the Amazon so I know how difficult coordination can be. Just, I’m sorry I won’t be able to go then. I’m allergic to narcissus which bloom this time of year at Versailles,” Lila replied instantly gaining sympathy.
Narcissist allergic to narcissus, she really is trying to be ironic. Don’t mention daffodils are a type of narcissus and the girls gave her some as a welcome. Don’t ask which tree planning event it was. Don’t mention antihistamines or narcissus finished blooming two weeks ago. Marinette thought to herself trying to remain calm. It was so hard though. If it was Chloe saying this everyone would be jumping at the opportunity to call her selfish and supporting Marinette, but because it was Lila suddenly Marinette was a terrible bully. Their eyes watched her just waiting to attack and judge her, “I’m sorry about that, really I am, but most of the tour will be inside. I really wish you had talked to me earlier.”
“As Damocles has already approved, why don’t we delay it a month? By then the flowers will finish blooming, right Lila?” Offered Rose trying to play peace maker.
“Ew, gross, Versailles in Summer. I don’t want to be trapped on a bus with Kim after he walks around in that weather,” Scoffed Chloe bursting past the small crowd with Sabrina close behind. The second she sat in her seat, she was back on her phone. “At least if our excursion is in Paris, daddy can pick me up after.”
“But if it’s a matter of all us going,” Alya refuted, making Marinette tense. Alya knew just how much work Marinette had put into this. Looking ahead in what Bustier had planned to teach, finding the best week for everyone, creating mock-schedules to show her teacher, and then going to Damocles. Being rejected eight times because it wasn’t in the budget, or students don’t decide field trips, or he was busy before he finally caved when Marinette mentioned how the job of a school is to empower students and prepare them for the real world while he was discouraging her learning journey. Alya knew all that and still sided with Lila. “Then a month isn’t that bad.”
“What do you think Marinette?” Challenged Lila as the rest of the class, except for Adrien, were ushered in by Bustier. All eyes were on her. Marinette knew she was right, but they would all paint her as wrong. That was the norm now, and it was breaking her heart. The days where Lila wasn’t at school were bliss as she felt like she had her friends back. No fighting, just talking about Alya’s new article, Nino’s next DJing job, what anime Adrien was into or just general stories from his life, what Kitty Section was planning to do, and joking around. Any day Lila came it was like all that was an illusion. Some days were better than others, but this would probably be one of the bad ones. Marinette wouldn’t have been surprised if the class went straight to Damocles, Lila was akumatised while they did that, and by the end of the day all of her work was thrown out because letting her have a win just wasn’t allowed.
“Even if I wanted to, as a student I can’t,” Marinette reasoned hoping that was diplomatic enough. She was too tired and it was too early in the morning for this. Couldn’t they be reasonable and get a hint? Marinette had even got Bustier to email out permission slips to parents, and nearly everyone had sent the form back signed even Lila’s mum. If that wasn’t proof Lila was telling lies then what was? But no, if she mentioned that then she would be accused of bullying or Lila would have some sob story about her mum being too busy for her, which Adrien would then relate to and they’d grow close and then Marinette would be forced to design Lila’s wedding dress as she was Adrien’s grooms woman and her life would be over. Anyway, Adrien’s advice she dial it back so far had been working at times so maybe just not making it personal was best. “Honestly, I’m sorry.”
“But you could try, couldn’t you?” Mylene interjected. “Just like you tried to get Markov back for Max or tried to help Juleka by delaying the photos.” Oh sure, now you remember the good things I do. Bitterly thought Marinette but decided against saying that aloud.
“That’s different though. That was the issue of one student not reorganising a full day.”
“It’s ok, I know I’m being troublesome. Guess I’ll just stay at school. Alone. Missing out on everything,” Lila sighed slowly walking to her seat in the back row like a kicked puppy. And everyone was lapping it up. Just like when she spontaneously returned, Marinette was receiving glares from the whole class for doing absolutely nothing wrong. They were being unreasonable. “I don’t want to be an inconvenience.”
“Really, Marinette, you couldn’t even just make the request?” Questioned Mylene with disappointment in her eyes. It was easy when they had sacrificed nothing and their reputation wasn’t on the line. If Marinette even tried to change it, then everything could be cancelled because it would be a sign Marinette wasn’t serious or lacked planning. No, their new friend was more important than that, than her. That was just the way things were. She was always the bottom of everyone’s priorities list. Even if logically she knew it was just because of Lila’s manipulations, which did have some skill to them, it still hurt that they fell for it.
“She would do it for Adrien,” Marinette wasn’t even sure who said that as she tried to regain serenity. Why did all her good deeds recently end with her being hurt? Why did Lila always get to win? Just before Mylene was talking about what she had done, but now everyone hated her again as if her friendship meant nothing. She hung her head down, just not able to cope with this. Her body felt cold, not that anyone would care. Tears were forming, not that anyone would notice. Her lip quivered and she could feel her breath become shallow, not that anyone would comfort her. It was going to be last year all over again where she was friendless, bullied, and no one would help her.
“I’m sure Marinette put a lot of work into this trip,” Reasoned Rose becoming Marinette’s best friend in the whole class. All that sadness she was feeling started to disappear just a bit. Somebody was standing up for her. Her feelings were valid. Like magic strength begun returning to her, with fear being replaced with burning righteous anger. She was allowed to advocate for herself and Rose was just reminding her of that. “If she was able to do something she would.”
“Except we all know she hates Lila,” Alix retorted in the same tone she had once dissed Chloe.
“I never understood why though,” Thoughtfully responded Lila, but Marinette knew she was being goaded. They both knew exactly why as Lila had made her declaration of war. As if on cue, Adrien walked into the room as if reminding her to not fall for such an obvious trap. “Seriously, Marinette, all I want is to be friends. Why do you hate me?”
“I-” Marinette started trying to find a truth that wouldn’t end in another fight. She searched the judging eyes in the room for some hope she would be supported. Rose, Juleka, and Nathaniel all looking at her with encouragement and soft smiles. Mylene and Kim nearly glaring at her, just waiting to jump to Lila’s defence. Alya beside her looking conflicted.
“I-” Tried Marinette again as all the worst outcomes rushed through her mind. She looked to Bustier, hoping for an escape, for her to tell everyone class started. Instead she was met with a short nod. Of course, Bustier just wanted peace. It was amazing she hadn’t already pulled them up to compliment each other.
“I-” Marinette struggled to find the words, finally meeting Adrien’s eyes. He was on her side, whatever that meant. Except he didn’t want another Lila akuma or the truth to be revealed. She had agreed to that. It would be wrong to just give up now because it was too hard or being honest was mean. She needed to be better. Meet hostility with kindness and grace in the hopes that would change the world . “I’m sorry for any tensions I contributed to. My intention was not to make you feel unwelcome. I suppose, I just get frustrated at times over your li-life such as how you saying you know Ladybug could lead to you being used to target her, or us being targets to get to her.”
That was true enough. It was maybe a small one percent of what the issue was but at least it didn’t appear like an attack. Nobody could use that to accuse her of being terrible or selfish. Adrien sighed with relief behind her. Some of the class had turned their eyes to Lila now filled with worry, at least she got to be the centre of attention.
“Is that really all it is?” Lila prodded with just a slight tension as if trying to hold back anger. It was hard but Marinette hadn’t reacted. It was nice to see her struggle just a bit. However, Marinette could feel her control slowly slipping. She refused to tell Lila empty praises she didn’t deserve and attacking her was also not an option. All Marinette wanted was to learn at this point. With all the akumas she was already behind and from what Bustier had said yesterday this class should be interesting. “Because so far nothing too bad has happened to me.”
“If that’s so then we can all be friends! Maybe a movie after school!” Enthused Rose bouncing in her seat a little.
“Rose, I don’t think you understand, conflicts aren’t solved that quickly,” Juleka whispered, resting a hand on her shoulder. “You can’t force friendship.”
“But if they spend more time together this misunderstanding can be resolved, and we can all be friends.”
“Marinette, are you sure there is nothing more to it? I would hate for you to dislike me,” Lila continued when Marinette refused to give her an answer. “Perhaps, about A…nother friend?”
“Nope. Just you being akumatised three times so threatening Ladybug, I’m worried for both of your safeties,” Explained Marinette through gritted teeth. She needed to move on. She needed to end this. “Sorry if that slight concern was expressed in hostility.”
“So, it’s like how Adrien and you became friends? Starting with a misunderstanding or difference of perspective?” Reasoned Kim. “Or like how I wrongly used to think dating Chloe would be a smart idea.”
“Hey! Chloe isn’t mean! She’s just misunderstood!” Snapped back Sabrina, always to defend the queen of cruel. “At least she didn’t misunderstand a love confession like Mylene did resulting in Ivan being akumatised.”
“Oh, please, don’t blame Mylene for that, we all know Chloe was responsible,” Alix retorted as she rested her head on her hands already bored with everything. “Just like she caused Kim’s, your dad’s, Alya’s-”
“Wait…what do you mean by three akumatisations?” Alya asked interrupting the main fight that was starting, because of course she would analyse every word Marinette said and not that of anyone else’s. Just like how she would ask for sources on what Marinette said but not check her own facts.
“You know, when we first met her, on heroes’ day, then as Chameleon,” Answered Marinette because this was common sense. It wasn’t really outing her as restating facts everyone already knew. Everyone had seen Volpina on those occasions and that waitress had seen Chameleon become Lila.
“No, you’re misunderstanding again because Lila was in Achu,” Corrected Alya. “Remember, we talked about this? Lila explained it was a copy akuma. As for the other times…”
Alya’s words failed her as she tried to search for a reason that was in line with the stories told. There was nothing wrong with being akumatised. Being akumatised when there was no obvious trigger, no apology, and one was a legitimate threat was a different issue. Marinette tried to not feel hopeful that maybe her friend would figure this out.
“I had a fight with Ladybug. We both liked the same boy and I had a moment of weakness. As for Chameleon,” Lila’s eyes fell on Marinette and just for a moment that devil grin was back on her face. Brief enough that she could have imagined it, but long enough that it could have been real. “Marinette and I had a misunderstanding and I saw an akuma headed to where she was. I knew Marinette would hate to cause anyone suffering, so I grabbed the akuma before she was evilised or it could reach her. It was the least I could.”
“See! Just another misunderstanding,” Encouraged Alya as if this explanation was completely plausible. If that had happened, then Lila would more likely grab the akuma just so she could have attention and power. She was probably Hawkmoth’s full time minion by now.
“I guess I just had no idea you did that,” Marinette muttered trying her best to not say anything wrong. To not ask why did she take Adrien’s form and hurt Nino’s feelings. She looked to see Adrien giving her a slight smile. Of course, he wouldn’t defend her or get involved. There was no reason for him to, it’d just be nice if his inaction plan had an action part to it some days. It was so hard to just stay quiet, accept this, while the truth was being lost and she was painted poorly. Lila didn’t deserve the praise. She didn’t deserve to be seen as some martyr. Choosing to akumatise yourself shouldn’t be a good act. If the opposite had happened Marinette would have gone to the victim and tried to talk to them rather than just snatch it herself.
“You should really thank Lila then,” Mylene suggested. Around her the class nodded as if this was the only possible solution. She wouldn’t, Marinette refused to ever thank that witch.
“There’s no need at all to thank me,” Lila smirked, and Marinette felt physically ill. “I just thought it would be the right thing to do.”
“See, Juleka, as I said it’s all a misunderstanding,” Insisted Rose bumping her shoulder into Juleka’s. “If they just understand each other maybe they can be friends. Same with Chloe as well.”
“I don’t want to understand someone with such terrible style,” Chloe retorted.
“Sorry, I just thought-“
“Don’t bother apologising to Chloe, Rose,” Alix comforted turning back to face the blonde. “For her to understand someone she would need to have empathy which requires a heart which she doesn’t have.”
“Seriously, Marinette, just thank her,” Mylene insisted looking down at Marinette as if about to say more.
“Alright class! Enough bickering!” Declared Bustier. Marinette blessed her lucky stars she was fortunate enough to have a conflict avoidant teacher. Though if this was Mendeliev’s class then the problem would never had happened to begin with as she’d silence most talking. It’d probably continue at lunch though and by then Lila would have contingency plans and lies to hurt her. Maybe Marinette should just go home for lunch, avoid all this. It would make sense. Isolate herself because they excluded her because at least that way it was her choice.
“Really, Marinette, would it hurt you to thank her?” Alya whispered, as Bustier begun the role. Was Alya really going to force her to lie? To give up one of her core values just to appease Lila? “I know, there’s probably more, like jealousy about Adrien-”
“I’m not jealous about Adrien!” Snapped Marinette just unable to keep it in. The whole classes’ attention, including Adrien’s, was back on her. Her face flushed bright red as she turned away from them all. “I just…please drop it.”
“I thought we had stopped fighting,” Whispered Rose more to herself than anyone.
“Why are you jealous of me?” Adrien inquired causing Marinette to blush even redder.
“I don’t think she meant it that way,” Joked Chloe finally paying attention to the drama around her.
“Can’t we just all be friends,” Rose quietly begged. “If we just talked-”
“Talking about this won’t help. Can we just move on?” Marinette requested trying her best to avoid this topic. This was not how she planned to confess. If she was rejected in front of the class there would be no coming back.
“Is that why you didn’t want to delay the trip? Because you wanted alone time with…” Lila asked letting her voice slowly trail off as if she had just pieced everything together.
“Really, you put Lila’s allergies below that?” Snapped Sabrina surprising nearly everyone considering her usual non-talking stance. It made sense though considering her own allergies. Marinette just could not get a win with her friends. If she denied it they would just say she was lying, but if she said nothing then they would accept it as truth. No matter what that would be the reason now, not all the other good reasons she had provided.
“It would have been a simple request,” Ivan added shaking his head.
“You are misunderstanding what I said and what I want!” Marinette argued back. She was too angry to say nothing or follow reason. If no one was going to defend her and attack her instead then she would have defend herself. Adrien would surely understand so her implied promise wouldn’t be broken. “I didn’t want to ask because-”
“Everyone please stop fighting!” Bustier insisted clapping her hands to try and get everyone’s attention. Of course, Marinette was always the one never allowed to fight back or apply logic. Always someone would silence her because she didn’t matter or she was just meant to be ok with it.
“Madame Bustier, can we do that trust exercise again, I think if everyone just understands each other then-” Rose pleaded.
“I understand perfectly what is happening,” Mylene started, silencing Rose merely by being louder and more bitter. “I really should have understood sooner, considering all the times we helped with your plans even if we had better things to do and we wouldn’t even have to in the first place if you were honest.”
“But really, that’s not the reason why!” Marinette argued trying desperately to defend herself. It made no sense that they doubted her. Not everything in her life was about Adrien. She had other motivations, goals, and wants. Why wasn’t Alya saying anything? She knew Marinette had supported Adrien in his pursuit of Kagami and that she herself had gotten closer to Luka. Alya knew that, so why was she saying nothing? Weren’t friends meant to defend each other?
“Rose, you tried, but no matter how much they try to understand each other it’s impossible.” Juleka tried to comfort, putting an arm around the distressed girl.
“If everyone just was honest about what was truly wrong and were listened to, then perhaps they wouldn’t fight,” Reasoned Rose with a naïve optimism that was somehow believable and that only a few people were capable of. “It’s like Alya said, it’s all just a misunderstanding.”
As the class continued arguing about real intentions and what to do no one noticed the dark butterfly fly into the room. It had a banquet of choices. Marinette feeling attacked by her friends. Chloe being blamed again for akumas. Lila who would always find a reason to be chosen. Alya disappointed in her friend. Adrien just for his life in general. Instead it floated down to Rose, everyone too distracted by their own arguments to see as that butterfly outline covered her downturn faced, only realising when it was too late to do anything.
Juleka jerked back as Rose’s outfit changed to a white dress with black roses over it and vines appeared around her head, trapping her hair in a bun. Small white wings appeared on her back, not big enough to fly with though, just there for a more angelic appearance. Her face was bare, except for two crystal tears frozen on her face. Rather than meek and timid as she was before, she looked determined.
“Enough!” Shouted Rose gliding towards the door and sealing it closed with vines that appeared from her hands. “Fighting is not the answer. The key to peace is understanding.”
“Great, another akuma, hopefully this one doesn’t stink like Rose’s last one,” Remarked Chloe. “Look, Ladybug and I are besties so she’ll be here to give me my miraculous and save me soon. If you hurt me then she’ll hurt you.”
“Enough lies!” Rose screamed, sending more vines out that wrapped around everyone’s ankles breaking the skin enough to draw a droplet of blood. “I am Veritas of truth, as such no lies will be spoken before me.”
While the class freaked out incredibly loudly, Marinette was screaming inside. She couldn’t escape the room and couldn’t just transform. If she spoke her identity would be revealed but on the other hand Lila was about to get outed. Despite being a person who valued honesty, Marinette realised just how many secrets she had. Her feelings about Adrien, being Ladybug, location of Master Fu, her personal anxieties, resentment over feeling underappreciated, and not to mention Rena Rouge and Carapace’s identities. She couldn’t just stay quiet though. Carefully she reached down and nudged Tikki in her bag. If the little kwami could slip away then Fu could call Chat Noir who could then save them. Unless Chat Noir was in the class…impossible. The chances of all the heroes being in the same class in a city of two million people was pretty much zero. As silently instructed Tikki raced over after giving Marinette’s leg a reassuring hug.
“When I’m alone I listen to 80s pop music!” Declared Nino as Marinette brought her attention back to the catastrophe at hand. “It’s just catchy.”
“It’s ok,” Adrien answered, putting a hand on Nino’s shoulder. “I listen to 90s music in the car with Gorilla on the way to school.”
So, this wasn’t as terrifying as Marinette had thought it maybe. If that confession was anything to go by this could be fun. At least that’s what Marinette imagined until Nino spoke again,
“And you’re not my best friend, Alya is. You’re always so busy that it’s hard to spend time together, and considering your mum is probably dead or she abandoned you, your dad is a jerk, and your life is so busy I feel I can never complain to you as you have it worse. I would say you are my best bro, but that’s Chris. I’m also jealous of how good at music you are and how easily you got the rich and famous life I’m fighting for, then feel guilty over that jealousy because I do love you and because of that guilt I spend more time with Alya and away from you.”
“I never actually loved Adrien!” Declared Chloe as if the words were being pulled from her. All eyes turned to hers, including Adrien’s shocked face as if the thought he had never considered before. “He was the only person that was nice to me when I was young, he’s handsome, has status, is famous, but I’ve never actually loved anyone before. I just say I do and want to date him because that way he can’t leave me. When I found out he was coming to this school I thought it would be like the old days, but we hardly talk, he gives me dirty looks, and would rather hang out with my enemies than me.”
“Chloe…I never loved you.” Adrien responded, physically fighting the words. Even with hands clasped over his mouth, the words came out as Chloe begun crying. “I consider you a friend but compared to everyone else you’re far down on that list, and I’m fairly sure if it wasn’t for our past then I wouldn’t care about you at all and in five years we’ll have forgotten the other one. The only thing I like about you is our memories together and you being queen bee.”
“I know it’s Chloe, but harsh,” Kim commented. “Sure, I blame her for my akumatisation, think we’d all be better off if we never saw her again, and looking back I don’t know how I liked her because there’s nothing good in her but…I’m not sorry…Chloe you deserve that. I wanted to say you don’t deserve this.”
“This is why I am mean to everyone because that way I’m not supposed to care about people because I’m not close to anyone. If they hate me then it’s because of my act not because of who I actually am. People can’t leave me if I never had them,” Chloe snapped through her tears. “I think if I’m like this, like mum, then she’ll notice me, but she never does. I think she hates me or never wanted me, and neither did dad because all he does is spoil me rather than listen to me, care about me, or try to help me be a better person and I think I’m the reason they hate each other, and I never see them. Me stealing the miraculous only made it worse, and I don’t think I’m worthy of it. I deliberately got Aurore akumatised to try and prove I could be a hero, but Ladybug didn’t even come and last time sent Chat Noir as if she didn’t want to see me.”
“I only hang out with you because I fear if I don’t then you’ll bully me as well and at least this way I won’t be tossed aside and I get free things. When I get afraid of you leaving me or giving more attention to Ladybug that’s just because I fear you’ll ruin me like you do everything else. It’s why I didn’t complain when you got my dad akumatised and he was the reason I originally talked to you, because he heard from your dad you had no friends so I was ordered to talk to you. Even if we’re friends now it didn’t start off as a choice,” Sabrina blurted out as tears ran down her face. Chloe slapped her hard enough to leave a red mark. In her seat she moved as if about to run to someone, then merely hugged her legs to her chest as she realised she had no one.
Marinette’s vision was blurry from her own tears. She didn’t want to hear this. Everyone was hurting each other with the truth, or at least one version of it. She didn’t want to hear any more or anyone talk about her. Especially because of Lila what if they called her a bully? She looked across at Rose to see how reasonable of an akuma she was. If it was like Evilustrator then she could be talked down, but if she was more like Antibug then physical force would be needed. Was it worth trying to talk to her? To talk her down and discuss this? When was Tikki coming back?
Wait, those roses used to be black, now they were a dark crimson. With each new truth they were lightening. If that was the case, then maybe truth was the way to defeat this akuma. Marinette just needed to find the least detrimental way to do it. Truths that were unsaid but just because they were unimportant. All she could hope was people would get the hint. It seemed the truth was contagious, with the topic following a single thread or target, so if Marinette could disrupt that then the severity of the truth could also be changed.
“Alya,” Marinette started watching her best friend tense up. They looked at each other, having a level of understanding where not everything needed to be said. Marinette gave a small smile that was soon mirrored by Alya. “My favourite article on the Ladyblog is your post on post-akuma support services.”
“And my favourite design of yours is the Pigeon hat,” Alya grinned, Marinette giving her a quick smile just happy she figured it out and didn’t say something that would rip her heart out.
“I’m allergic to the feathers, but that is still my favourite hat ever made for me,” Adrien smiled also managing to catch on to the game. “Because it was made by someone I value in my life.”
“I’m still sorry over the misunderstanding with the gum incident but I’m happy we are now friends,” Responded Marinette trying to map out the flow. The roses were still dark red, but the tips were just a touch paler. “Kim, I admire your athleticism and think you could maybe outrun an old panther one day.”
“Thanks Marinette, I fear one day that I will lose that ability and badly injure myself losing my career because I’m not good at much else and to deal with that get addicted to the pain medicine,” Everyone looked at Kim with concern. He spoke about it as if he was discussing how many kids he would one day have, completely relaxed about it all. As if he had already accepted there was a high possibility that could happen, so it meant nothing. “I also don’t think I could outrun a panther. Maybe a lion. And Alya, I’m sorry if my comments back then got your dad akumatised.”
“It’s fine, if it wasn’t for that Nino and I probably wouldn’t be dating or one day maybe getting married. I know it sounds stupid, but I can’t imagine my life without him,” Alya smiled back at Nino who was blushing redder than Nathaniel’s hair.
“I’m glad Marinette misunderstood because I can’t imagine dating anyone else but you,” Nino smiled back at her. “Though I’m glad after all her years of introversion and shyness Marinette was able to find friends like Rose.”
“See? Juleka I told you, if we cleared misunderstandings then-” Veritas started with her wings flapping slightly and vines receding.
“I still blame you for Nora’s akumatisation!” Interrupted Alya, instantly clasping her hands over her mouth. The words were like a slap to Marinette’s face. This had all been going perfectly. What changed? Was it hawkmoth’s fault?
“Even though we dedicated the first issue to you, I still think you deserve some punishment for akumatising Marc,” Nathaniel added as he tried to cover both eyes with his hair, unable to look at her. “Though that maybe because otherwise I would have to blame myself.”
“I blame you for my akumatisation, and only apologised because I felt forced to,” Admitted Max. “You didn’t care about the tournament and acted like a show off. It’s unfair you are good at everything and got to compete on a whim. If I was partnered with Adrien then we would have won. But honestly, I was glad we lost because it meant for once this year you failed and the whole world could see it.”
“Max, I am-” Marinette attempted to apologise despite feeling winded and like pieces of her were slowly being taken away. The first two she agreed with. It hurt to hear, but she understood and still had some guilt about it herself. Max’s one she couldn’t fully understand as she was better and based on purely skill she deserved that spot. Really if her and Adrien had competed as planned then they would have won as Max was just mediocre. She was glad when someone spoke over her, because saying any of that with out the clarification she admired his tech skills would be unnecessarily cruel.
“And I don’t consider you our everyday Ladybug,” Sabrina interrupted glaring at Marinette like she never imagined was possible. “If you were, then Chloe would leave me for you, but more importantly you wouldn’t deserve your miraculous because you never saved me from what Chloe did, you failed to give me friendship ditching me at the first opportunity, and you are too insecure to be a hero. You should have been akumatised a long time ago, and I hate the fact you haven’t been. It makes it looks like you’re better than all of us because it’s like a sign you are too strong to be manipulated by Hawkmoth, so us being akumatised means we are bad people.”
“I nearly was akumatised the day Lila became Chameleon. I was upset over not being trusted or believed despite all our time together and being exiled to the back row. It was really hard to have everyone glare at me when I did nothing wrong and it made me question my friendships. Lila had come into the bathroom, offered friendship and when I called her out on her lies she told me I was either with her or against her. I managed to fight the akuma off and soon Chameleon happened,” Marinette explained. It was nice to say it aloud, but her throat burned. When she had attempted to fight it, it felt like a hand had reached down her throat and pulled each syllable out. Around her the class looked horrified before turning their eyes to Lila for an explanation. Of course, they would always give her an opportunity to lie. Even with the power of the akuma she would still find an opportunity to lie if given it. “After Adrien chose to sat next to me she told me she would make everyone hate me, and I now believe she could do it. I’m afraid that everyday I’m going to lose you all and you’ll forget the good I have done all because of what Lila says.”
“I lied on my first day here because everyone had such amazing lives and mine was boring in comparison. At first it was meant to be a joke but people took me seriously. At my last school, I was bullied for being the boring kid and the other girls used to spread lies about me. I thought if I was in that position of power then I could never be hurt,” Confessed Lila seeming to be going through the same struggle as everyone else. Marinette couldn’t help but notice how she was dodging some topics, or being non-specific about lies as if that would somehow help her. It was nearly amazing that she was trying to lie, and soon could probably figure out a way to do so. “Until Ladybug called me out on it. Later Marinette kept challenging me and I saw her as a risk so deliberately manipulated everything and lied so you would hate her. I took the akuma because I was angry and wanted to hurt Adrien after he told me to be honest. I hate Marinette because for every lie I tell she’s done something incredible, and before I even met her, when I lied about Jagged Stone I was already hearing about how great she was or knew everyone I did.”
“I understand exactly what you mean,” Mylene mumbled, a sentiment that many in the class nodded in agreement with. People she had cherished thought she was annoying. They hated her accomplishments. They had just being faking happiness. Why didn’t they say something so she could have stopped being a pain?
“I want to be happy for Marinette’s successes, but I keep feeling jealousy. Even when I am happy or go to events that are important to her, I always leave feeling slightly resentful despite enjoying being Marinette’s friend the rest of the time. I claim to be Ladybug’s biggest fan, but got akumatised and tried to reveal her identity which would put her in danger, meanwhile Marinette is able to fight akumas. I want to be a journalist, but she’s the one who talks to Nadja weekly and could get an internship with a phone call. Chat Noir has a nickname for her, despite the akumas she’s caused, and I do blame her for some of them, as if she’s more special than the rest of us, but she isn’t. She can get me an interview with Ladybug in a day, which I can’t manage on my own despite being the number one source for ladybug information. When she bails on me I feel happy because for a moment I get to feel superior, and then feel guilt because she’s my best friend and I wouldn’t trade her for anyone. I used to able to be happy for her. When Manon was photographed with Adrien instead of Marinette I felt bad, but just after everything she’s done, after Clara chose her to be Ladybug just because Marinette caught her from falling, it’s hard to not be even slightly bitter. Marinette was chosen to be Clara’s ladybug because she was a good person, and all I could think was I deserve to be Ladybug because I would have helped her up. But I didn’t. If I can’t even be chosen to imitate a hero then I can never be a real one. So when I listen to Lila…I fear one day I will end up as a gossip columnist rather than a real journalist, so I listen to Lila because she could give me real stories.”
“But, you have the Ladyblog. That is an absolutely incredible accomplishment especially considering your age!” Enthused Marinette because even if her own ego was being bruised what Alya was saying was ridiculous. They each had their own accomplishments so it made no sense to be jealous when they could support each other. Sure, if Alya made a dress and won some fashion awards Marinette would be jealous, but this was illogical. “What are you up to? Quarter of a million daily visits? You even got sponsored last week, and as you said you are the number one source on hero information! I wish I could write as well as you do.”
“I don’t punish Chloe and I knew Lila was lying but I do nothing because when I was your age I was bullied, and I don’t ever want to feel that way again. I know Chloe could call her dad and get me fired, and Lila could just accuse me of harassment to get me blacklisted, but I’m more concerned about them bullying me than that. I never want to feel that worthless again,” Admitted Bustier, backing up closer to the whiteboard. “So, I tell Marinette to be a better person because it’s better she hurts than me, I know she can survive it, and she’s already gone through it so a few more words won’t hurt her. I know if I told her this she would want to be a good person and offer to help me, so I just didn’t bother asking.”
“And I listened to you because I respected you and thought you knew what was best. After so many years of having no one and Chloe telling me I was worthless, I don’t trust my own judgement or know what my value is, so I just assumed everyone knew better than me,” Marinette admitted, not sure how this could be made worse. Her favourite teacher had just called her a sacrificial lamb, how could it get worse? Did Rose hate her? “Even when I thought it was wrong or more needed to be done I just trusted everyone. Like when Alya accused me of just being jealous, Adrien told me to not expose Lila, or you told me to be nicer to Chloe.”
“I think despite espousing honesty and even if impacted by this akuma, you still lied,” Alya said fighting back tears, struggling to silence herself. “Because you act like you know or are better than everyone else. Like you are this great pinnacle of morality or if you do wrong an apology will fix it all. You just go through life smiling all the time even while the rest of us has issues, as if you’re above it all or you don’t feel more base emotions like anger or sadness. It’s like this world was made for you, giving you everything you want while the rest of us have to fight hard for any small accomplishment, knowing if you are competing as well then we’ll lost because you win at everything. I doubted Lila, but pushed that aside because it was nice seeing her drag you down to our level. To see you not being perfect.”
“I’m not perfect though,” Insisted Marinette knowing about three essays worth of her flaws. Every minor to major character flaws she knew and had obsessed over for years. Someone thinking she acted superior went against everything Marinette valued and her own self-image.
“Clumsiness, being late, being forgetful, barely tarnishes you,” Alix commented. “It’s so frustrating that you can do all art. All I can is street art, but you – you can make fashion, sketch fashion, do album covers, and who knows what else.”
“Create elaborate lock boxes,” Added Sabrina followed by taking turns talk about how great she was. Under other circumstances she would be touched. Now her talents felt like something to feel guilty about.
“Get good grades,”
“Be good at gaming,”
“Instantly get chosen and defended by world class fashion designers,”
“Be class representative achieving what no rep has done before. I wanted the Pantheon because then you would lose something, we wouldn’t spend a whole day reminded of how great you are, and then I wouldn’t feel guilty about how I’m not good enough.”
“And that’s just the start,” Finished Alya. She was still trying to fight back those words, as tears rolled down her face. Marinette wanted to cry but with what everyone was saying felt like she couldn’t. She wasn’t the victim in this, or at least that’s how it sounded, so she wasn’t entitled to tears and doing so would just be victimising herself. It hurt so much though. She knew this was all fleeting thoughts or second to their friendship and Alya was trying her best to be quiet, but it was agony to listen to. “Chloe we are supposed to hate because she’s mean to all of us. If she attacks you then we have to defend you. Lila was harming no one so choosing to ignore our doubts to see you humbled I thought was fine. As she seemed like a good person then we didn’t have to say anything. Now the truth is revealed about who she really is, you’ve robbed us of that and now it’s like an obligation that we side with you.”
“Lila through her lies and lip service makes me feel like a good person that could meet directors, even when I doubt she can do introductions,” Nino argued. He also appeared to be struggling as he bit on his headphones, but the akuma’s power could not be stopped. “It’s not malicious on your part but that humbleness, and never name dropping but seeing your face on magazine covers, your list of achievements and connections, and just everything. You don’t make us want to be better because you don’t need us. You can do everything alone. You make me feel like a failure even when I get gigs, because I’m not you or I’m just the soundtrack to your life. Like that fashion show was the best opportunity I have had, yet I was just the part of the environment to make your hat look good. And I could lie to say the music was to help make Adrien shine but we all know models are hired to make the clothes look good so it’s still about you. Even if the hat was just an accessory to the outfit, we all know that day was about you. You got an offer to fly to New York from that and the whole class congratulating you. Not one person complimented me. You make me feel like I should have made better choices, should have done more, should have been better. You make me feel lazy or not good enough. Lila, even if it’s just to give her attention, makes us feel needed.”
“Please stop,” Marinette whispered closing her eyes and trying to block out the world. “You’re meant to be my friends.”
“Understanding each other was meant to bring you together,” Veritas explained, the roses dark pink. The tears were now real rather than just crystals. “Why are you hurting each other?”
“Because despite how much I love them I suppose it wasn’t as mutual as I thought,” Marinette cried, her shoulders shaking and no one trying to comfort her. “Because even when I try to be a good person it’s not enough. I’ll never be enough. I will always disappoint mum by not speaking Mandarin and every time I mention a goal other the bakery I can see dad have a moment of disappointment before he supports me. I will always fight back against Lila so disappoint Adrien. I don’t know how to babysit Chris so disappoint Nino. No matter what I do, it will never be enough. I used to know that as no one defended or helped me when Chloe was bullying me. I was fine with that because we weren’t friends. But now I find out that every time I helped you, you resented me for it?”
“Not resented you, felt guilty about being jealous,” Explained Alya. “You really going to pretend that you don’t feel jealous over our accomplishments?”
“I don’t think Chloe deserves anything she gets, but that’s because she didn’t work for it and is a bad person so good things shouldn’t happen to her. Kagami, maybe a little but that’s complicated. But everyone else, your accomplishments are your own that I have nothing to do with, except feel proud. Alya when you get scoops I’m happy because you’re happy and I don’t want to be a journalist so why should I be upset? Same with Nino and all the DJ work.” Marinette answered not having that burning sensation this time as she chose her truth to reveal. “Those are things I want in my life so just celebrate you because you earned it. I just wanted to be a good friend to you.”
“I think I understand both sides,” Adrien interrupted finally saying something and defending her. “I’m happy I get to have friends and Marinette is one of them. It’s an honour. Her smile, her laugh, her everything just makes me feel happy talking to her. She and Nino have taught me what friendship is. At times though, I look at her happy family and feel jealous because that’s the one thing I can’t have. Then I feel superior because I am already in the fashion industry and could probably model her clothes if I fought hard enough for it which I know is her dream. So I feel jealous of the love she has, but it disappears because I remember all that I have. I realise we could just work together and both succeed. I feel guilty over that jealousy, but I know she wouldn’t care, and I’d rather build her up than ruin that happiness for her. So, I do my best to focus on the good rather than dwell in the bad.”
“Thanks, Adrien, love you,” Marinette answered taking a deep breather. She straightened her shoulders looking at Rose now in a white and pink dress. If she couldn’t be Ladybug the least she could do was make the akuma go away for now. Which reminded her Chat Noir still hadn’t come, that slacker. “See Rose, sometimes understanding is more about self-reflection than forcing truth. I know even if Alya said those absolutely terrible things, that she still values me as a friend, and I hope that moments of hatred are fleeting. Truth about feelings isn’t always constant. By making her say that it’s just hurting our friendship. I’m sure there’s heaps of things you would never want said aloud or be forced to say. I know you were trying to do good, but at times selective truth is best.”
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone but Hawkmoth said he could help me,” Rose answered. Her voice sounded weak and full of remorseful. It was a good thing akumas removed memories of the akumatisation or Rose would likely feel guilty for a long time. “Help us all be friends.”
“I bet he didn’t tell you the truth,” Marinette smiled realising the opportunity before her. Slowly she stood up and walked towards Rose.
“I just wanted everyone to get along and stop fighting.”
“How did you fight him off?”
“I just forced myself to be less angry and more positive. It’s hard, but I didn’t want to hurt anyone just because we were having a bad day.”
“The fact you are the only one who has been able to fight off an akuma makes me dislike you even more,” Contributed Kim, Marinette could not wait for the honesty to be over. “More proof you are better than us and a reminder of our own failures.”
“I just want to make this better.” Rose replied completely ignored Kim. Marinette refocused on the conversation at hand, trying to avoid the feeling of being stabbed in the back. She probably wouldn’t forgive them. Jealousy was human, but it would just take one bad day before sabotage or Lila happened. Was it foolish to consider forgiveness, despite still feeling pain?
“Judging by the roses you still need one more truth before your dress is pure white,” Marinette grinned. “So, Hawkmoth, tell me as we’re under oath-”
“That won’t work as the vines spread truth,” Rose sighed dashing most of Marinette’s hope.
“Do you know what the akuma object is?” Marinette asked as Rose shook her head. Even without a costume or powers she was Ladybug and would help people, be a hero. If she had to reveal a truth so be it. But she was still upset and it wasn’t fair Chloe and her were the main ones suffering. “In that case, one final truth I guess, and we’ll see what happens when you become true virtue. Considering what everyone has said I think it’d be best if I changed classes if not schools. I always thought that through all of Chloe’s bullying and everything this year, I did something to deserve it. That everything bad that happened to me was a result of my own actions. I suspect that no matter what I did people in my life would find fault with it. Even now I understand all of your perspectives, but I know once Rose is de-evilised that I am going home to cry for hours and tell anyone that asks they aren’t at fault even if they are, and all the time be trying to turn off my feelings, because I’d rather feel nothing than be akumatised. But you won’t see that because if I made you see me cry then I’d feel bad about making you comfort me. I guess, I have to thank you Rose, for showing me why I need to stop wasting my time trying to convince people who make my success, my happiness, my life about them. Maybe one day I’ll forgive you all, but right now I’m just hurt and any thought of forgiveness makes this about you rather than my healing.”
All the roses on Veritas’ dress were now solid white, blending in with the main fabric. Like the defeat of weredad, this was enough to for the akuma to leave Rose’s bracelet and flutter away. Later Marinette would have to find it. Now she just had to deal with apologies or clarifications on what they really meant.
“Thank you, Marinette,” Rose laughed hugging Marinette tight. How that tiny girl had so much strength would always be a mystery. “I’m going to dedicate the next Kitty Section song to you.”
“So,” Adrien started. “You love me?”