Ladybug was swinging across the city, making her way to tonight’s meet up spot for patrol with Chat Noir. Her arms moved of their own accord and her eyes stared sightlessly into the horizon. Thoughts swirled in her head as she got lost in memories that hadn’t yet been dulled by time.
Funny how quickly things could change. How they could catch you off guard, even when you were preparing for them. After all, what had all those lessons about the kwamis— - their names, their personalities, their tastes - been about, if not for her to replace herthe old master when the years caught up to him.
Then again, it hadn’t been the years that caught him, but Hawkmoth. Nothing like an unexpected attack to move the time tables along. In all the uncertainty that had followed her since that battle, there was one thing that was unshakably true.
Master Fu was gone and the duty of protecting the miracle box had fallen to Marinette.
It was a fact that ran through her head at least a few times every day, but no matter how many times it happened, it never failed to knock the wind out of her. Even now, weeks later, she’d be hit with a sudden wave of sadness in the middle of class that she wouldn’t be able to explain to anyone.
Even her partner, Chat Noir, couldn’t really understand the full weight of what she had to deal with now. As much as she wanted to share with him, she had inherited more than just magical artifacts and responsibility from Master Fu - she’d inherited some of his caution, his paranoia. As far as she was concerned, she could bring Chat Noir into the fold slowly. However, she could never go back once she did,and she wasn’t ready to open up. Not yet.
Which was good for safety. Though not so great for her feelings of loneliness.
Nonetheless, her heart felt lighter when she saw the silhouette of her partner outlined against the setting sun, sitting on the roof’s edge. Secrets or not, they were still a team. One day, she knew she would be willing to share everything with him. Yet that day was not today.
She landed on the rooftop with a grace that she only had in the spots, and although she was sure she hadn’t made noise, his cat ears twitched and he turned toward her. The moment his eyes landed on her, he grinned.
“And just when I was starting to think you’d fur-gotten me.”
“With jokes that bad, I almost wish I had.” She raised an eyebrow, a smirk tugging at her lips. “But what can I say? I’m a glutton for pun-ishment.”
Chat let out a tender sigh, putting his hands over his heart and laying on his back. “I love it when you pun with me, m’lady.”
“Don’t turn into a kitten puddle just yet, chaton.” She stood over him and nudged him in the shoulder with her foot. Their eyes locked as she leaned over him, her hands on her hips. “We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover before this patrol is over.”
“It is admirable that you adhere to something so strict a routine as a patrol.”
Ladybug tensed up, her hand on her yoyo as she whirled toward the voice. A man was standing on the other side of the roof. He wouldn’t have looked out of place in one of her mother’s Chinese period dramas - from the archaic yellow robes to the shaved head - and he looked every bit the part of one of those Buddhist monks. Unlike them, however, he clutched a sturdy staff in one hand. From the iron caps on the ends and the fact he wasn’t leaning on it, she assumed it was more a weapon than a walking stick.
“That bodes well for the discipline that may have been instilled in you.”
The stranger frowned as Chat Noir sprung to his feet and pulled out his baton in one swift motion, crouching as he extended it into a full staff.
“Although, clearly, there is still room for improvement.”
Spinning her yoyo into a shield, she watched the stranger carefully. “Who are you?”
“And why are you so interested in ‘discipline’?” The hostility in Chat’s voice surprised her, but she pushed it aside for later.
“My apologies.” He raised one hand to his chest, palm pointing to the side and bowed his head. “I am Master Namdak of the Guardian oOrder.”
“The Guardian oOrder…?” Chat Noir said slowly, his stance relaxing as his eyes widened. “You mean Master Fu wasn’t the last one?”
“‘Master’ Fu?” Confusion tinged Namdak’s voice. “I know of no master by that name. Although…” He cupped his chin with one hand, eyes narrowed as they stared past the heroes. “I do recall a young acolyte by that name. And he had been the one in charge of your miracle box.”
“I heard that your monastery had returned, but I didn’t expect to see you here in Paris.” Ladybug caught her yoyo in the palm of her hand and settled into a more casual pose. “I was pretty sure it would have taken you longer to react to suddenly returning after like almost two hundred years.”
Namdak smiled, the indulgent smirk of a grandfather. “When you are custodians of artifacts that are strange and powerful - such as the miraculous - things like this become the new mundane.”
“That’s great!” Chat slammed his fist into his palm, a wild grin on his face. “Does that mean you’re here to help us?”
“In time, most likely.” Namdak nodded. “But for now, we are simply taking stock - establishing new contacts and retrieving lost artifacts.”
Unbidden, suspicion welled inside her.
“So what brings you here, then?” Ladybug’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “What’s your mission here? Contact or retrieval?”
Master Namdak continued smiling, but there was a hollowness to it, as if he took no joy in this conversation any longer.
“Retrieval.” Both hands settled on his staff - non-threateningly for now, though Ladybug didn’t fail to notice the tension in the air. “We know that you are in possession of the miracle box, chosen of Creation. All miraculous must be returned to the fold.”
Chat Noir backed up, closing his hand over his ring and shooting glares at Namdak. “No way are we letting you takesteal our miraculous! We were chosen for this!”
“Chosen by a renegade who never completed his training and yet deigned to call himself by the highest rank of our order.” Anger and frustration had seeped into the master’s voice and he calmed himself after taking a deep and soothing breath. “I realize this comes as a great surprise to you, but this is for the greater good, I promise.”
“If the greater good means sacrificing all of Paris to Hawkmoth,” Ladybug snapped, hands on her hips and glaring down the old monk, “then it isn’t a good that I want to be a part of!”
There was a long pause as they stared at each other.
“Did you seriously come to Paris without even trying to find out why two miraculous users were activated by your order?” Chat crossed his arms and snorted. “Talk about making a monk-ey out of yourself.”
“We can sense the presence of the miracle box, not all that is inside it.” Namdak frowned disapprovingly at Chat Noir. “How could we have known?”
“You knew enough to find out where we start patrols,” Chat countered. “Looks like you just got lazy after stalking us for a while.”
“Hawkmoth - and his henchman, Mayura - are two villains terrorizing this city,” Ladybug said, stepping forward just when it seemed Namdak was about to respond to Chat. “They are the holders of the Butterfly and Peacock miraculous, respectively. From what Master Fu told me,” she said, placing extra emphasis on the title, “they were the ones who found those miraculous long after the fall of the Guardian oOrder.”
Namdak stared at them for a long moment before turning away, his hand rising to his chin once again.
“This… changes things.”
“Good.” Ladybug smiled. “Maybe now that you understand what we’re going through, you can-”
“The Guardians will leave you with two miraculous, while returning the others to the custody of the Order. Two miraculous to fight two miraculous - this is fitting.”
“No!” Ladybug threw her hands in the air. “No, this is not ‘fitting’! Do you not know what abilities their miraculous hold? We’ve needed support from other miraculous from time to time and taking that option away from us will just make it all the harder to beat them.”
“All the more reason for my next suggestion.” Master Namdak pointed his staff at Chat. “He will need to surrender his miraculous.
Chat Noir paled as Ladybug put herself between him and the Guardian.
“That is not happening. Chat Noir is my partner and—”
Namdak shook his head. “You misunderstand me. He may have another from the miracle box, but it is the height of foolishness to allow the two miraculous of reality to be within arm’s reach of such a villain.”
Ladybug put her arms on her hips. “So, what? Now you’re banking on us failing to stop Hawkmoth? If he wins, then you’re just going to have a greater problem on your hands.”
“A problem that would be much lessened without him having the ability to make wishes come true and a small army of miraculous champions,” Namdak replied, a distant quality to his eyes that made it seem like he was staring at another time entirely. “If you are as skilled as you seem to believe, then you will be able to hold your own until the Guardians can return to aid you.”
“No deal. I’m not about to let your paranoia doom my entire city.” She pulled out her yoyo and spun it into a shield. Behind her, she heard Chat Noir take his baton in his hands. “Now go back and tell the Guardians that we don’t want them here.”
“I will leave, but I will return.” Master Namdak took a couple steps back, all without taking his eyes off of them. “You can count on that.”
She noticed too late that he had reached behind his back and tossed down a few clay pellets. When they hit the ground, a thick smoke blotted out all the meager light and both of them were wracked by coughing fits. By the time the smoke cleared a few moments later, he was gone.
“Well,” Chat said, between the last few coughing fits. “That wasn’t ominous at all.”
“Yeah… Think we did the right thing?”
“No doubt about it, LB. Why should we tie one hand behind our backs just ‘cause some old geezers want to do inventory?”
“Well, the miraculous are technically theirs.”
“So are the butterfly and peacock, but you didn’t see him hitting up Hawkmoth for donations first, did you?”
“You’ve got a point there.” Ladybug sighed. “And for a minute, I was hoping we were about to have a new friend in this war.”
Chat Noir pulled her into a half-hug. “Don’t worry, m’lady. At least I’m always here for you.”
“At least there’s that,” Ladybug said with a smile. “Still want to do our patrol?”
“Nothing I want to do more. Lead the way, bugaboo!”