Chapter 1: Leave for a better life
Marinette was hurt. It wasn’t a physical hurt, but an emotional one. She was tired of how people were treating her. Lila was keeping true to her word and was talking not only her friends away, but now other people like her teachers and her family as well.
Alya still disregarded her feelings about Lila, how Lila was a liar and turning people against her. Alya said she would investigate on who framed Marinette, but the choice should have been obvious. If you ignored the fact that Marinette didn’t like Lila, Lila was the person who made the claim that Marinette stole the test answers, which only the one framing her would have known. But Alya insisted it had to be someone else.
Mlle Bustier knows that Marinette did well in that class, that it was her best class. She wouldn’t need to cheat on the test. When she got her test back, the scores were on par with her other tests in that class. But even then, she still had to take another test.
The principal didn’t care to make things fair. He went straight into the meeting even though Lila had supposedly fallen down the stairs instead of helping with her non-existent injuries, which would have revealed her lies. Plus, he only had Marinette’s parents there and not Lila’s. She doubted Lila’s parents knew about what Lila was doing so it would have kept Lila from continuing her lies. Though if they did, it would explain a lot.
Her parents, even though they had raised her their whole lives still doubted her. The worst she had ever done was her tardiness and they expected all of this? Her mother stood up for her at first, but seeing a single lie she believed Lila. None of the lockers even had locks but it was enough to convince her mother anyway.
Adrien claimed he would stand up for her, but instead he stayed quiet, and even after all of this, he was siding with Lila. Lila finally getting Adrien for herself was likely the only reason she lied to let Marinette back into the school.
Then, the last offense, everyone immediately believed Lila about her illness. She supposedly didn’t mean anything she said, which was true, but it was in terms of an accident she couldn’t stop rather than trying to maliciously hurt Marinette. And even if she hadn’t meant those lies, how had the test answers gotten in Marinette’s bag? How had Lila ended up at the bottom of the stairs? How had the necklace shown up in her locker? No one cared about the answers to the questions, they just accepted what Lila said.
Marinette couldn’t take it. There was no one left she felt she could trust. Everyone had just left her behind and punished for something Lila had done. If no one was going to trust her or stand by her, then why should she both being around anymore.
Her thoughts were cut short as Tikki alerted her of an akuma. It was the second one that night and at least seven in the past two days, but she hadn’t been counting. Tikki had been doing her best to keep Marinette from being akumatized, but with how toxic the environment around Marinette was, it was only a matter of time before she was actually akumatized. At this point, it was safest if she gave the ladybug miraculous back to Master Fu.
Marinette froze. Master Fu. He had entrusted her to be the next guardian, so he must trust her. And Chat Noir. Their work relationship was rocky, but that was better than most everyone else she knew. Marinette may not have anyone to trust, but Ladybug. Ladybug was the person who people trusted. Ladybug was the person people believed. Ladybug was Marinette’s escape from everything.
Tikki cheered up slightly when she saw Marinette suddenly looked happy again, but frowned once more when she read the note Marinette was writing. She tried to dissuade Marinette, but the designer had made up her mind. She right now, she didn’t care if her parents were upset by this, she didn’t care if it made her friends angry, she didn’t care that Lila could twist her sudden disappearance. Marinette had spent so much of her life thinking of others first, she deserved to be selfish once and a while, especially after all this. She told herself that if her parents truly trusted her, they would understand. If her friends truly trusted her, they would be worried but finally open their eyes. If Adrien were truly on her side, he would speak up.
Marinette looked at her clock. It was almost three in the morning. Her parents would definitely be asleep. She snuck down to the bakery and put the note on the counter. She knew her parents would look there before opening the bakery in the morning. The designer looked it over one last time before packing a bag. She added her phone and charger just to be safe, a large amount of cookies for Tikki, a sketchbook and some pencils, and some food just in case she couldn’t find Master Fu.
She snuck back upstairs, where Tikki tried to stop her one last time, but Marinette still wouldn’t listen. Instead, she transformed into Ladybug, went out onto her balcony, and took off onto the rooftops. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice a figure moving towards her home.
On the streets, Lila was walking by. She was upset she couldn’t get rid of Marinette completely after what happened with Adrien, but she had one last trick up her sleeve. She had learned how to lock pick back at her old school, and since she knew where Marinette lived, it would be easy to get in.
Lila was extra careful with the lock just in case there were any alarms, which was more likely since it was also a business. Luckily for her, she got in with no problem. She was just going to plant something inside, frame Marinette for it and punish her for good, but the liar was distracted by something different that was out of place in the bakery. On the counter was a note signed by Marinette.
Dear Maman and Papa. I know you’re going to be upset about me disappearing but I’ll be fine. I don’t feel safe at school knowing no one trusts or believes me and I can’t stay here knowing you don’t believe me either. There is someone I still trust so I will be with them until I am feeling better and more confident. I have my phone so I can call you in emergencies and you can contact me. I love you. Marinette.
This was too perfect. Marinette had run away and was finally out of the picture, but if someone saw this note, they might take this seriously. It was unlikely, but better to be safe than sorry. Lila picked the note up and crumpled it up before stuffing it in her pocket. She thought about leaving a fake note, but that would involve staying longer which she didn’t want to risk. Instead, she left, locking the door behind her then throwing the letter away. It would be easy enough to twist things now. After all, of course Marinette was overreacting. She hates Lila so much she’s just running away for attention and pity so people with side with her and start hating Lila too.
This was going to be easy, and all because Marinette had finally given in. The class and Adrien were finally hers.
Chapter 2: She's never *this* late
It's morning at school and Marinette is much later than normal, so people notice.
“Man, where is she? This is late even for her.” Alya leaned forward in her seat, whispering to Adrien and Nino. “Is she sick or something?”
In front of Alya, Nino shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. She might be. Have you gotten any texts from her or texted her yourself?”
Alya shook her head. “Haven’t gotten anything from her, but you’re right, maybe I can find out if I text her.” With that the reporter snuck her phone out of her bag and into her lap. She kept an eye on Mlle Bustier as she typed out her message, then looked at her phone to correct any typos while their teacher was focused on the board she was writing on. ‘Girl this is late even for you! Are you sick or what?’
Alya tried her best to watch the phone while also doing her best not to be caught looking at it. Unfortunately no answer came. The message wasn’t even left on read, which wasn’t too unheard of, but that normally only happened when there were akumas, which was mostly fine since normally Marinette was worried about getting away from the action more than checking her phone.
But there wasn’t an akuma now. Or was there? Making sure Bustier wasn’t looking, she flipped to the akuma news app. Most of Paris had it to know when there was danger or so they could report if there was any themselves. Unfortunately there was nothing. The most recent attack was still from yesterday because of an akuma named Primadonna. They had hypnotized a large number of people to basically worship them, Alya being one of them.
Thinking back on that fight, when Alya finally saw Marinette again after it, she seemed upset. Well, she had been upset for a few days, but it had looked worse. Plus she had talked to Adrien without a single stutter, though it was only a sentence at most. Adrien and Marinette may not have noticed it, but Alya certainly did, which had concerned her. Maybe Marinette had been like that because she was coming down with something, but it hadn’t seemed like it.
Nino shook Alya’s shoulder. Apparently while she was lost in her thoughts, class had ended for lunch. “So, get any response from Marinette?”
Alya shook her head, then showed Nino her phone. “No, she hasn’t even left me on read, which normally doesn’t happen unless there’s an akuma, and I checked already. Since her house is so close I’m going to head over there to check on her or find something out from her parents. I’ll see if I can bring a few treats back from the bakery.”
Nino nodded and went over to tell Adrien before he left for home. Alya left the school and went straight to the bakery. She almost immediately opened to door on instinct, but a sign on the door made her pause. It said the bakery was closed. That only happened when something serious happened.
Looking into the shop, Alya could see Sabine inside. Her back was towards the door, so waving wouldn’t get her attention. Instead, Alya knocked on the door, but Sabine either didn’t notice or ignored it because she didn’t turn. Alya kept knocking on the door anyway, harder this time until finally Sabine turned.
Alya was surprised at first because it looked like Sabine had been crying. It did help explain why the bakery was closed and possibly why Marinette was missing. Maybe someone in their family had passed away, or Marinette was seriously sick and in the hospital. Or maybe it was her dad. But if it were either of those, Sabine likely wouldn’t be there.
“Hello Mme Cheng. I noticed Marinette wasn’t at school, and she wasn’t answering my texts. Do you know why?”
Alya didn’t like the expression that appeared on Sabine’s face from the question. “Marinette is missing. I went to wake her up this morning because it was getting so late. I wondered if she had slipped by when Tom and I weren’t paying attention, so we thought it would be fine until the school called us asking why Marinette hadn’t shown up.”
Alya was shocked. Marinette was missing? “Do you think she ran away or what?”
“I think she would leave a note or something if she were to run away. I know how much she cares for everyone, so she might have left us one to try and reassure us. Unfortunately I’ve looked all over and haven’t seen any. Still, she had been here last night. I remember her going upstairs after eating supper.”
“That’s really strange.” Alya commented as she thought about it all. “You’re right, Marinette is the kind of person who would leave a note, but she has been changing ever since Lila showed up.”
“Lila is the one who accidentally claimed my daughter had cheated, pushed her and stole her necklace, yes?”
Alya nodded. “Right. Even after we found out about Lila’s illness, she’s been treating Lila badly. Honestly her jealousy is getting out of hand.” Sabine was confused by Alya’s comment and asked her to clarify. “Well Lila seems to really like Adrien and the two of them are together a lot, especially with Lila modeling with Adrien. But I think Marinette is jealous that Lila and Adrien are close since she has her crush on Adrien.”
Sabine looked skeptical. “Marinette is not usually one to be jealous. And when she is, it’s not for long. Have you thought about if Marinette might dislike Lila for some other reason?”
“The only reason she’s mentioned is Lila is a liar, but Marinette doesn’t have any proof that Lila is lying. Well, other than now we know about Lila’s medical condition. But she’s still on Lila’s case for no reason.”
Sabine looked concerned even after the reply and was silent for a moment. Alya almost said goodbye there, but Sabine finally spoke again. “I still can’t see her doing that. Maybe after you are done at school you can explain more to me, but if that’s all there is to it, there must actually be more to the story. Can you please find out more? At least for my own peace of mind?”
Alya nodded. She was a reporter. If Sabine wanted information, she was the one who could find it. After she agreed, Alya gave the baker a hug, was handed a bag of croissants, and headed back to school. The first thing she saw upon returning were some of the students around a crying Lila. Alya immediately ran over to see what the problem was. “What’s going on?”
Alix was the first to speak up in a huff. “Lila was being threatened by Marinette. Apparently it’s been going on for a while. Marinette was apparently upset that we weren’t siding with her in bullying Lila so she ran away for sympathy. She thought we would be sad for her and join her then start hating Lila when she came back.”
Alya was stunned at this. “How do you know all that?”
“Marinette had texted Lila and Lila showed us the texts. Apparently it’s been going on for a while.” Alix handed Alya Lila’s phone to look through and the texts displayed on the phone were shocking. The most recent one had been sent a few minutes ago. ‘They’ll feel bad that I ran away. They’ll come looking for me and love me again. Then I can make them hate you just as much.’
Alya couldn’t believe Marinette would ever do something like this, but the proof was right there. Scrolling up were other messages which were just as bad. It seemed like this had been going on ever since Lila returned to school after her trip. Alya immediately pulled out her phone and texted Marinette. ‘Girl, what the hell is wrong with you? You’ve been threatening and bullying Lila? This is too far, even for you.”
When she found Nino again, he asked what Alya found out. She told Nino Marinette was missing, which seemed to make Nino more upset. “When Lila said Marinette was bullying her, I didn’t want to believe it, but if she said Marinette had run away before you had found out that was the case, then maybe it is true.”
“I know, I didn’t want to believe it at first either, but I guess it’s just the truth.”
Chapter 3: A Meeting with Fu
Marinette meets with Fu, and so does Tikki with worrying news.
“Please wake up Marinette.”
The words made their way into her dream. Marinette wanted to keep sleeping but the words pulled her out. She might be late for class, or there might be an akuma. Reluctantly, she opened her eyes and sat up then looked at the room that was definitely not her bedroom or even a room in her house. She panicked for a few moments before her eyes met with Master Fu.
“It is nice to see you finally awake Marinette,” The only man commented before handing her a sandwich. “You slept through breakfast and it is just past your usual time for lunch.”
Marinette looked at the sandwich and her stomach grumbled. She quickly took the sandwich and stuffed it in her mouth and thanked Fu before she could swallow. “Ank oo astuh.”
Fu nodded and waited for Marinette to finish eating before speaking again. “While you were sleeping, Tikki gave me some details, but I wish to hear the whole story from you.”
Marinette looked reluctant to share at first, but then she remembered that she came to Fu because he would trust her. If anyone would believe her about everything, it would be him. “There’s someone in my class. She’s a liar who was telling all these amazing stories about people she’s close with and she said she was best friends with Ladybug, but since that’s me and I didn’t know her, it was a lie. I tried telling my friends but they brushed me off as being jealous.
“Even after all this time, no one believes me. Plus the girl threatened she would take all my friends away from me. I wasn’t so sure at first but I guess she has now. She even turned some of the people I have chosen for miraculouses, namely Rena, Carapace and Pegasus. Still, I tried to ignore that and keep trying to stop her, but recently I was temporarily akumatized because of her. I mean, Chloé bullied me for months and I was only nearly akumatized once. This girl did that and nearly did another time in just one month!”
Fu looked at Marinette with concern. “This sounds serious indeed. But if it is just your class-”
He was cut off. “No, my teachers and parents believed her too. I realized I had no one left to trust as Marinette, but as Ladybug I have you and Tikki and Chat.”
Fu reluctantly kept quiet at her mention of Chat. He knew he was really Adrien, and the two were in the same class. He would have been included in the group of people she could not trust. “It is unfortunate to hear this. I will allow you to stay until things improve.”
Marinette couldn’t help but hug Fu. “Thank you master! We could even work on guardian training while I stay here. But speaking of which… where is here? I was so out of it last night, I don’t quite remember getting here. I mean, I know I used my lucky charm to find you. But otherwise…”
“That is actually a good sign. Using the grimoire, I was able to put protection on this place to keep anyone from finding it. It may be difficult to help you circumvent the protective spell, but I am sure it can be done.”
“Master,” Tikki spoke up. “Possibly we can have her meet with the other kwamis and learn what they represent.”
Fu seemed like he was about to reject this suggestion to let Marinette rest more, but then he saw the pleading look in the kwami’s eyes and relented. “Very well.” He then pulled out the box and handed it to Marinette. “Go into the next room. It is better if you learn of them on your own.”
Marinette gave a determined nod and walked away, leaving Master Fu with Tikki. “I believe you know of Chat Noir’s identity?”
“Yes. When fighting one akuma, the two of them needed to transform back but didn’t have anywhere to hide. Instead, they stood nearby with their eyes closed. Since they were in the same class, we recognized each other’s chosen.”
“I see. And he does not trust Marinette as well?”
Tikki hesitated, looking off to the side for a moment. “Well, he knows of the girl’s lying, but refuses to stop her. He believes it is best to keep the peace so she is not akumatized once again.”
“A second time would not be ideal, no. But it is nothing they haven’t handled, even when they have been at a disadvantage with traded miraculouses.”
The look on Tikki’s face did not reassure Fu. “I talked with Plagg recently. We met just after the near akumatization. Apparently this girl has become akumatized twenty or so times with how much energy he could sense. I disagreed because there’s no way we wouldn’t notice that many when we’ve only seen two and signs of two others.”
That worried Fu. “The only way that amount of energy would be left over after so few times is if she were trying to keep it. But since Hawkmoth is known as a threat, that would mean she is working for him willingly.”
Tikki still looked concerned. “Master, there’s something more you should know. Plagg has been checking the energy of everyone he can.”
“Has he finally learned of Hawkmoth’s identity?”
The kwami unfortunately shook her head. “No, either he has hidden well or his intentions for the miraculous are protecting him. The problem is there is another person with the energy we would expect other than this girl, and that is someone else close to Plagg’s chosen. Not his father or his driver.”
“The assistant. I remember seeing recently enough from afar. She seemed to be dangerously ill. That could be side effects from the dark energy within her.”
“She has less than the girl.”
Fu looked up in a panic. “No, that is only supposed to be a legend!”
“I’m sorry master. But it is true. It has happened twice before to those not wielding the cat miraculous.”
Fu looked off into space, worried but planning. “It will be risky, but I must meet with Chat Noir. Imbalanced or not, should this become any worse, we could all be in grave danger.”
“Fluff! No! We need to stay in-” Marinette tripped and fell to the ground after trying to catch Fluff. Fu and Tikki looked and each other and nodded, mentally agreeing to continue this conversation at a later date. Then Master Fu helped Marinette off the ground. “My apologies Marinette. I should have warned you about certain kwamis.”
Marinette brushed herself off and shook her head. “It’s fine Master. You weren’t given the same opportunities. It’s only fair I wasn’t warned.”
“Well, how about we take a break for now. I will put the box back and we can see what we can do about integrating you into the protection spell.”