"Hey, heroes! Are we up and running?" Chat Noir pauses, looking at the bottom of the screen before nodding. "Okay. We're here at the Place des Héros in the 21st to cover my Lady's press conference. This stream is the behind-the-scenes angle I promised you, but I can't guarantee the audio is going to be worth anything, so if you want to listen to the conference, you should probably have the Ladyblog stream up and running in another tab. They've got better production values, and you won't want to miss a word."
Chat sets the camera down, framing the statue of the heroes of Paris in the background, rising above the podium sufficiently full of microphones to wonder whether it could support all of them. The sound of Ladybug arriving occurs shortly afterward, and Ladybug appears in the frame, a sheaf of papers in her hands, before she sets the papers on the podium. The camera adjusts slightly so that statue-Ladybug is clearly visible as the background for hero-Ladybug's speech.
"Thank you for coming today," she begins, taking a breath before continuing. "For the last several months, there have been several groups calling for the use of the Ladybug Miraculous to fix bigger problems than the damages caused by akuma in the city of Paris. Footage and descriptions of battles with Stormy Weather have fueled speculation that Miraculous Cure could be used to fix larger, more systemic problems with greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Trending hashtags, petitions, and all manner of attempted journalism have speculated about what the capabilities of Miraculous Cure are and how it might be used. Others have urged their heads of state to invite me to a summit or to request that I come and Cure their air, water, and land.
"I would like the world to know that I will be refusing any request for Miraculous Cure to fix their climate, for two very practical reasons. First, there's a really high chance that Miraculous Cure won't fix things enough, or it will fix things too well. I'm sure none of you would be happy if the Cure decided to recreate the entire Earth as it was right before the K-Pg boundary. Until I can be sure that Miraculous Cure would only fix the things I wanted it to, there's no reason for me to attempt it on any large scale.
"Second, and more importantly, I have no interest in fixing a world that refuses to change. My power and time is better spent working on things that I can change, with direct effects for myself and the people around me. Perhaps if Hawkmoth choose to surrender all the Miraculous in his control, I could begin working on bigger and more systemic problems, but for now, I will stick to the things I can change, rather than wasting effort on things that won't. Thank you."
"Ladybug will take a few questions," Chat says, leaning into the microphone bank. "Yes, from the Ladyblog?"
"Thank you," Alya says. "Alya Césaire, Ladyblog. Ladybug, it's clear to everyone that you have the power to fix any disaster that might befall us. It's your responsibility to use that power. Why are you refusing?"
" 'With great power comes great responsibility,' you mean," Ladybug says, smiling. "I agree with this idea. It's why I became Ladybug. One of my friends had been turned into an akuma, and I had the power to stop him from hurting others. I wasn't sure I could, to be honest, but I found a way, and I found a partner, and we've been keeping Paris safe from Hawkmoth since. I'm proud of what we've accomplished so far. We protect you from akumas because we have the power to do it.
"I'm not the only one who has power to change our world for the better, however. Maybe if we all declared every fossil fuel executive a supervillain, I could do something about that. Charles and David Koch could do a lot if they invested their money in renewable energy, instead of fossil fuels. Pony Ma could make his platforms strong and secure so everyone could speak and organize without fear of censorship or reprisal. Gabriel Agreste could demand sustainable practices anywhere that makes goods for his labels and insist that everyone who works for his company, regardless of where they are, makes a real wage, gets time off, and has the opportunity to get an education. In far too many places in the world, necessary and life-saving treatments are being denied to those who need them because men want a few more zeros in their wealth.
"And those are problems that can be solved with money. All around the world, sons, daughters, enbies, basically children of all identities are being left to die on the streets, because of who they love, or who they are. Half the people watching this video wouldn't be able to understand it if we didn't provide captions and transcripts during and after the fact. There are volunteers who translate our words and make sure we are accessible to anyone who wants to read or listen to us and to participate in the discussion. I want to pay them, but I don't have millions of euros sitting around earning interest in a secret Swiss bank account that only come out when I need to buy politicians so they won't do anything to stop me.
"I'm just a teenager with a red and black-spotted suit. I should be studying for my tests with my friends, stressing about my university prospects, because oh, yeah, having to go be a superhero is hell on your ability to study and learn, and worrying about whether the cute boy in my class likes me, and what my girlfriend will think if I ask him to join us. So many other people have more resources and power to make our world a better place. Go ask them why they're not using their powers responsibly."
"Yes, from TVi?" Chat says, pointing to the third row.
"Nadja Chamack, TVi. Thank you," Nadja says, standing. "Ladybug, is this a permanent refusal to use your power to help the climate?"
"No," Ladybug replies. "It's a refusal to be the only person using my power to make the world better. It's not fair to ask me to fix all the world's problems without the world putting in some effort to ensure we don't end up back in this situation again. If the world begins to really support and fund renewable energy, phase out fossil fuels entirely, elect politicians with clean and green policies and allow them to enact and enforce those policies, then I will put in the effort to see if Miraculous Cure can undo the damage that has already been done. If there's no demonstrated progress toward change, then there's no reason for me to believe that a cured world will stay cured. I refuse to be seen as someone who will fix everything so no other person has to take responsibility for anything."
"Yes, in the back. Wearing the Chat Noir green shirt," Chat laughs. "Flattery occasionally works, what can I say?"
"Hans Rousseau, Miraculous Channel. Thank you. Ladybug, you just said 'my girlfriend' and talked about a 'cute boy.' Are you confirming for us the rumors that you are bisexual?"
Ladybug hides a smile that threatens to escape. "Well, I know where your priorities are, then," she says, and the assembled reporters laugh. "Yes," she adds, "I'm bisexual. I haven't confirmed anything before because I thought it would be a distraction from the more important work of keeping Paris safe, but since it clearly already has caused a distraction, there's no more reason for me to deny it."
"Next," Chat says firmly, as Hans tries to ask a follow-up. "In the front row, yes, you, in the red."
"Bill Gallows, Associated Press. Thank you. Ladybug, since you are refusing to use your powers in this instance, shouldn't someone else use the Miraculous Cure to fix the planet?"
Before Ladybug can open her mouth, Chat cuts in front of her. "Actually, I'll answer that one, thank you. Bill, is it?" Chat pauses, staring in the direction of where the question came from. "Bill, if I were you, I'd demand more money from Hawkmoth before you agree to being his shill."
Ladybug steps around Chat to retake her place at the podium. "Bill Gallows of the Associated Press asked whether it was appropriate to take my Miraculous and have someone else use it because I didn't immediately agree to fix our collective problems. If you think that's an appropriate solution to when a young woman says no, then go fuck Hawkmoth, because then you'll at least be in bed with someone who thinks the same way you do."
"That's all for questions," Chat says, scooping the camera up. A warp in space-time appears in the background of the shot. "And there's our ride. Good night everybody!" The camera shakes slightly as the warp gets closer. Ladybug jumps in and vanishes through the warp.
"Catch you on the flip side, heroes. Stay tuned for some exciting bonus content!" Chat says, before the video feed goes black. A second later, the stream ends.
"Hey, heroes. It's Chat again, in an undisclosed location for everyone's safety and security," Chat says. "This one's not live, sorry, because we have to edit in just a little bit of file footage to make a point. But I'm recording this really soon after the livestream of Ladybug's press conference, so if you haven't watched that yet, you should do that. It's probably been mirrored to the Ladyblog at this point.
"All caught up? Good. You saw how much that last question affected us, and you probably want to know why. Remember this?"
The head of Hawkmoth appears as a cavalcade of butterflies, demanding Ladybug and Chat Noir give up their Miraculous, so that no more destruction happens to Paris. Ladybug points out the obvious—if it weren't for Hawkmoth's decision to akumatize someone, none of the destruction would have happened in the first place. Ladybug then proceeds to collect and purify the entire head's worth of purple butterflies.
"I'll admit," Chat says as the clip finishes, "it's kind of a sore spot for both of us for someone to blithely assume we're not doing something because we're not heroic enough, not concerned enough, or not willing to sacrifice ourselves enough for everyone else. But you know? Hawkmoth has tried to paint us as villains before. Not just when we started, but on Heroes' Day, too. He used Volpina to create an illusion that was meant to make everyone despair. Content warning. If you want to avoid remembering it and the feelings that came with it, you can skip ahead a minute."
A second piece of footage plays. A black-and-red spotted Ladybug has Chat Noir by the wrists and is forcing his Cataclysm-powered hand back toward him until the black orb touches. With a surprised look on his face, Chat disintegrates into ash and blows away on the wind.
"Now, Hawkmoth had to make sure he got this on camera, because, as you saw, when I use that power, there's no evidence left behind. Nobody would have known what happened to your favorite hero, or the person behind his mask, and nobody would have found anything out, either. So, you know, it might be worth mentioning explicitly, for the people who aren't our regular heroes, like the heads of state or the wealthy people who could do something, but insist, instead, that it's the responsibility of a teenage girl to fix everything: Ladybug refuses to use the Miraculous Cure because she likes you enough not to send the world back to the K-Pg boundary. And I think highly enough of your ability to turn this planet around that I don't ask someone else to warp me in to your houses at night. I'm a kid. I have the rest of my life before me and I don't want to waste it convincing all of you personally to do better. And I really don't want to prove Hawkmoth right about being a villain. He already did enough damage with Miracle Queen, and I'm sure he would love to have the embodiment of destruction as his akuma.
"I know my Lady won't like this, if she ever sees it. But she's the one who gets to give speeches about how people can change because they want to and because they see change as a rational good that anyone with enlightened self-interest would follow in a heartbeat. She's a hero.
"Me? I'm the cat that stalks in the shadows. I'm here to remind you that another reason people decide to change is because there's something bigger, stronger, and scarier out there, and they don't want to meet it. So unless you like the prospect of the cataclysm that's coming turning very personal, now might be a good time to seriously consider change."
Chat leans out of frame, but keeps his right hand perfectly still, a black orb hovering and sparking with concentrated destructive energy for a few seconds before the video ends.
"What were you doing?" Marinette asked Adrien as he entered the apartment.
"Fighting with Nathalie about coming here," Adrien said, sighing. "This study session has been on my calendar for weeks, but she wants me to do an extra tutoring session with Mr. Wu to make sure I'm still on track after Mr. Chan abruptly left."
"Cào nǐ mā," Alya said from the table, flipping through one of the texts.
Adrien frowned at Alya. Marinette raised her eyebrows.
"Sorry," Alya apologized after looking at them and realizing what was wrong. "Cào nǐ surrogate mā."
Adrien thought about it for a moment, then shrugged and took a seat at the table.
"Ugh, economics is the worst," Marinette snapped. "Why do I have to learn about all the ways a small privileged few try to fuck everyone else over?"
"Well, until Ladybug ushers in the great socialist revolution, it's what we're stuck with," Alya said, grinning. "Did you catch the press conference, Adrien?"
"I saw the livestream," Adrien replied. "I thought Ladybug really made an impact today."
"We'll see, but she's fighting neck-and-neck with Chat's after-party ultimatum. I think he threatened to personally Cataclysm people who don't sign on to Ladybug's plans for change."
"What?" Marinette said. "Are we sure it's him?"
"As sure as anyone can be on video," Alya said. "And it was from his official account, so it's either him or a very good deepfake."
"If I see him soon," Marinette said thoughtfully, turning to stare at Adrien, "I'll be sure to ask."
Adrien flashed his best model smile, knowing full well it wouldn't fool Marinette, but also knowing that Marinette wasn't who needed fooling.
"Hah! Take that, Miraculous Channel!" Alya said, cheering. Adrien and Marinette looked at her expectantly. "I'm first to one million hits on the press conference, because everyone wants the unedited whole!" Alya turned and kissed Marinette, who wobbled from the suddenness of it, turning scarlet.
"That looks like a good idea to me," Adrien said, catching the still-unbalanced Marinette in a kiss of his own as Alya let her go.
"Right, economics," Marinette said far too enthusiastically when they were finished.
"It's not that hard," Alya said, one eye still on the traffic numbers for the Ladyblog. "Most of the time, it ends up being about supply and demand. Adrien and I can supply you with kisses—"
"—as you demand them," Adrien finished. "And eventually, we find a Nash equilibrium where we're getting enough for our kisses that we're willing to supply them and you get kisses for the price you're willing to pay for them."
"This feels a lot more like a prisoner's dilemma," Marinette said, "except I know neither of you wants to have me all to yourself."
Alya beamed. "See, girl, you get it. We just have to frame it in terms you understand."
"And stop you from blanking out when you think about kissing us," Adrien added.
"Practice makes it easier," Alya said, grinning. "You quiz Marinette and I'll provide the rewards. Deal?"
"Only if we get to switch every concept," Adrien replied.
"You drive a hard bargain, Agreste. Deal."
Marinette buried her head in her hands. It was embarrassing to admit it, but after the day Ladybug had just gone through, trying to learn economics through kissing wasn't the worst idea in the world. And knowing Alya and Adrien, they would provide more than enough incentive for her to understand.