Continuing Tales

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A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by DarkReyna16

Part 13 of 37

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Marinette gave a yawn, shivering in the chilly wind. Stupid winter. Why couldn’t it just be spring already?

She clutched the bag of warm pastries closer to her chest, taking comfort from the smell of freshly baked goods. While a part of her was not thrilled to be working at the bakery again, Marinette couldn’t turn down the cash, and she had to admit that it was nice to be able to spend so much time with her parents again, after working at Symone’s boutique had limited her visits to once a month, if she was lucky.

Of course, things were a little more complicated, now that her mother kept hinting at how very lovely it would be to have Adrien join them for Christmas…but Marinette digressed.

She sighed, passing by the Seine and smiling at all the Christmas decorations as she walked. It certainly was festive, wasn’t it? Despite her intense dislike of the cold, Marinette couldn’t not love the feeling Christmas inspired in her, all the joy, the love, the giving spirit, the cheer…it was just a lovely time of year.

It’s lovelier with someone to share it with. And think of poor Adrien, all alone in that big house of his…” Sabine’s voice butted into her mind once again, and Marinette rolled her eyes with a sigh. First her mother, then Alya…was it too much to ask to just let her lack of love life be? It wasn’t like she was looking to be with anyone right now anyway, so what was the big fuss about—?

A sudden roar of rushing water startled Marinette out of her thoughts. She jumped, head snapping towards the Seine, where a large wave was rising inexplicably out of the water—a wave that should not be possible—

At the very top of the wave was an aquatic-looking figure: thick ropes of seashells hung around its neck, its skin rough and covered with dark blue scales, three rounded antennas sprouting at the top of its head, giving it the appearance of a cartoonish sea monkey advertisement. It held a sharp-looking trident in its right webbed hand, the three prongs sharpened to a painful-looking point. It had a distinctly masculine shape, and when it spoke, it was in the deep rumble of a male voice:


Marinette yelped and dived out of the way just as the Seine flooded, splashing water onto the bridges and soaking the transfixed citizens in sludge from the river, said sludge hardening and trapping them in place. Laughing heartily, the akuma sunk back into the Seine, the tip of his trident the only tell-tale sign that he was moving upriver. Marinette ducked into a nearby alley, cursing under her breath. Seriously, an akuma? So close to Christmas?

She looked sadly down at her bag of pastries before dropping them to the ground. As much as she wanted to be able to take them home—hell, as much as she would have liked to have had a peaceful night—the akuma couldn’t wait. And she wasn’t about to let Paris suffer just for her comfort.

“Ladybug time?” Piped up Tikki, popping up from out of Marinette’s muffler.

Marinette sighed, and then nodded.

“Ladybug time. Tikki, transform me!”

One magic transformation scene later, Ladybug was out swinging through the streets, answering cries of her name with an assuring nod and wave. No need to panic, after all…she had this under control…

Swinging to the Pont-Neuf, Ladybug perched herself on the bridge, scanning the water for any sign of the akuma calling himself Poseidon.

The water was still. Too still. As if it were waiting for her to make the first move.

Ladybug scowled. She didn’t want to have to go in there—she couldn’t really fly if she was underwater. And Chat would’ve hated the idea even more…if he were around…

Focus,’ Ladybug reminded herself with a shake of her head. Now was not the time to be worrying about her wayward ex-partner. She had to problem solve her way out of this and get the akuma to show himself…but how…?

He was yelling something about filth, earlier…and dirtying waters…

Was this particular akuma upset about the pollution of the Seine?

Glancing around, Ladybug spotted something that would suit her purposes: an empty plastic bottle. Trash, as it were.

Using her yo-yo, Ladybug snagged the bottle, holding it high over her head and staring into the murky depths below. There was no way she’d even think about doing this under normal circumstances—littering was wrong—but desperate times…

Inwardly arguing with her conscience, insisting that it would draw the akuma out that much faster, Ladybug took a deep breath, and then dropped the bottle into the Seine. It smacked into the surface of the water with a ‘plop!’

Nothing happened.

Just as Ladybug was about to growl in frustration, however, a sudden roaring ripped through the air—another large wave rose from the Seine, manifesting in the shape of a hand.

Ladybug gawked at the sheer power of this akuma, remembering too late that she shouldn’t be standing still—

The aquatic hand seized her. Ladybug yelped and squirmed, but it was like struggling within the grip of a titan—there was no give, and Ladybug could only hold her breath as she was sucked underneath the surface of the Seine.

But even here, the strong grip of the aquatic hand did not relinquish her. Panicking now, Ladybug struggled, fighting with all she had, even trying to use her Lucky Charm, but her yo-yo was smashed against her hip, out of her reach with her arms pinned to her sides. The more she fought, the quicker she lost strength, and her vision was getting blurry…everything was going dark…she was floating, floating away…

It was fucking freezing, suddenly.

Ladybug gasped, rolling over and coughing up a lot of foul-smelling river water. There was a firm pat to her back, helping her expel the disgusting water, and Ladybug felt her heart leap. It was about damn time the stupid stray showed himself again—

“Holy shit,” said a distinctly different voice, making Ladybug freeze up in alarm. “You okay, LB? I thought for a second I wasn’t gonna make it, and, well, having you drown on my first night out would’ve been a big stain on my budding superhero career—”

Ladybug whipped around, wrenching away from the stranger, eyes wide and taking in…taking in…

Green. Lots and lots of varying shades of green: green boots, green gloves, green bodysuit, green hood, green mask, green-rimmed goggles.

And brown, olive, and gold.

Ladybug blinked.

“Who—who the hell are you?” She sputtered, gagging around the taste of Seine in her mouth.

The olive-skinned man in green blinked gold eyes from behind his goggles.

“Oh, I’m, uh…” He paused, rubbing the back of his hood. “You know what, I don’t have a name yet…can you give me a day or two to think about it and I’ll get back to you?”

Ladybug stared. A new Miraculous holder? But, as far as she knew, she had the only two remaining Miraculous, save for the mysterious Peacock Miraculous…so who—?

Her eyes immediately dropped from the mystery hero’s face, searching his person for some sign of a Miraculous—

And she found it there on his left arm: a jade bracelet hooked securely around his wrist.

Master Fu’s bracelet.

Abruptly, Ladybug forgot that she was cold—her rage was enough to warm her into a frenzy.

“THIEF!” She spat at the stranger, ignoring the bewildered look that crossed his features as she snatched at his arm. “You stole this Miraculous!!!”

“What?! No, I didn’t!!” The green stranger protested, clutching his wrist protectively to his chest as Ladybug made a swipe for the bracelet. “It was given to me! I was Chosen, just like you!!”

“Bullshit!!” Ladybug snarled, leaning forward to fight with the stranger, hands scrabbling at him as he did his best to dodge around her, the two of them eventually climbing to their feet, Ladybug quickly advancing on him as the stranger quickly backed away, detaching a heavy-looking green shield from his back, a hexagon of gold in the center, and holding it between him and Ladybug. “That bracelet was stolen from my mentor!!”

“You mean Master Fu?” Asked the stranger, and Ladybug stopped, brought up short by this stranger’s knowledge of Master Fu. “The Guardian of the Miraculous, right? I met him! He said it’s cool! Dude’s pretty chill, for an old guy…”

Ladybug paused, scowling at the stranger.

“…You know Master Fu?”

“Yeah! He’s been training me for the past week! I didn’t steal anything, LB, I swear!”

Hold on: if that was true, then what the hell was going on here? Master Fu’s Miraculous was stolen by an unknown enemy…and yet this green stranger was telling her that he’d been training with Master Fu with his stolen Miraculous? What did he take her for, a chump?

And yet…

A war was waging fiercely within Ladybug: half of her insisting that this stranger was a liar, and to snatch the Miraculous he stole and shove him into the Seine. The other half held her impulsive rage back, insisting that there had to be more to the story here…after all, if the guy was all bad, he wouldn’t have saved her from drowning, would he?

There was a distant scream and the sound of rushing water, and Ladybug cursed. She didn’t have time for this.

“I have an akuma to take care of,” She said shortly, sending out her yo-yo to the nearest roof, about to let herself fly.

“Whoa, wait up, LB!” The stranger in green called, moving closer to her, sliding the straps of his shield back on so that it rested against his back. “I can help!”

Ladybug appraised him with swift eyes. Despite her reservations toward him, she had to admit that he seemed capable—and the turtle theme of his suit would no doubt be helpful against a water-based akuma. And Chat, sadly, was still nowhere in sight…

“Come on,” the green stranger pressed when he seemed to realize that Ladybug was hesitating. “Have I done anything to prove that you can’t trust me?”

Not necessarily, though his thieving was still in question. And Ladybug was wary of new superheroes that came out of nowhere automatically, thanks to her run-in with Volpina…

Thinking quickly, Ladybug retracted her yo-yo, staring at the green, turtle-themed hero. He straightened under her gaze, as if that would be enough to prove himself…and Ladybug huffed.

“Fine. While we’re looking for the akuma, you can explain to me exactly how it is you got hold of the Turtle Miraculous, and exactly when you met Master Fu, and exactly when he became “cool” with this.”

“Then I’ll tell you exactly what happened,” said the green stranger, and Ladybug scowled; being a smartass was not going to get him on her good side. He seemed to realize it, too, for he laughed nervously and suggested they start looking for the akuma as he explained.

“Fine. See if you can keep up, Shell Boy,” Ladybug taunted, taking off immediately, following the swelling of unnatural waves from the Seine.

“Shell Boy?” Questioned the green stranger as he kept pace beside her, frowning at the given nickname. “Nah, if anything, it’d be Shell Man. And that’s a little too kiddish, anyway. I was thinking something more like Michael-Angelo, or Donatello. That way, when we’re fighting akuma, my war cry could be, “Cowabunga, bitches!” Oh man, that’d be so awesome…”

Oh great. Another nerd. As if Ladybug didn’t have to put up with one of those alrea—

…Oh. Right…

Well, since this was his first night out, she supposed she wouldn’t spoil it for the rookie…provided he was as innocent as he claimed…

“Worry about your super name later and start talking about how you became super in the first place,” Ladybug reminded him, sliding a scowl his way. Shell Boy grimaced and finally obliged.

As they searched for Poseidon, Shell Boy spun a tale that Ladybug was very familiar with—he came home one day last week, found a mysterious black box buried within his mail, opened it up, and suddenly, a green talking turtle fairy was calling him ‘Master’.

Naturally, he freaked out.

“I thought I was going crazy,” he admitted sheepishly as Ladybug scanned the waters for any movement before moving on. “I’ve never done drugs before, but I swear that’s what it felt like. Little green dude, talking to me, calling me ‘Master’ and saying I’m Chosen to be a superhero? Shit was like straight out of a comic book. It was nuts.”

Ladybug slid a frown Shell Boy’s way. She was getting the weirdest feeling from him…like he was familiar. But she’d surely recognize the guy if she knew him, right? After all, what were the odds of her running into someone she knew in real life in costume as well? There were thousands of people in Paris; it was more statistically sound that she didn’t know this guy at all…right?

Then what about all the akuma when you first became Ladybug?’ Reasoned a voice in her head, and Ladybug’s frown deepened. True…the akuma did have an odd way of creeping up around her, transforming people she cared about into temporary menaces…

“What’s the name of your kwami?” Ladybug asked, deciding to quiz him to see if he was on the up and up.

Shell Boy grinned.

“Little dude’s name is Wayzz,” he reported, briefly cradling his bracelet. “He’s super chill, too. We’ve been bonding for the past week.”

“So you were Chosen last week?”

“Yeah. After Wayzz did his spiel—half of which I didn’t hear ‘cause I was freaking out too much to calm down—I found a note in the box.”

“A note?” Well, that was more than Ladybug had ever gotten.

“Yeah.” Shell Boy nodded, frowning thoughtfully. Ladybug stared at him, the crease of his brow so very familiar…and those gold eyes, magnified by the goggles he wore… “There wasn’t much to read, though: all it said was, ‘If you have questions, call Master Fu.’ And then there was a number, and that was it. No signature, nothing.”

Ladybug frowned.

“So then, how do you know you were actually speaking to Master Fu?” She asked, her head beginning to spin from this unexpected development. Shell Boy literally popped out from nowhere, saved her life, and then claimed he was the new Turtle Miraculous holder, with Master Fu’s apparent blessing leading him. But he didn’t know Master Fu like Ladybug did…how could she be sure that he had met the real thing?

Maybe…was it possible that this guy was just a victim? That he had been shoved into the Miraculous world by the real thief of Master Fu’s Miraculous? If that were the case…what would Ladybug do? Could she, in good conscience, take the Turtle Miraculous from the poor, scammed bastard, stating that it needed to be returned to its rightful owner, when this guy was already so convinced that he had been Chosen?

And what’s more, was Wayzz a willing participant in all of this? Or was he being bullied to comply, just like the Butterfly Miraculous kwami, Nooroo? Just what was going on here?

“Dude invited me out to meet him,” Shell Boy announced, breaking into Ladybug’s troubled thoughts. “He was all chill, with that ‘wise master’ trope going on. Gave me some tea, and answered most of my questions…for the most part. I dunno, a lot of what he said still doesn’t make sense to me…”

Well, that sounded like Master Fu…but even so…

“Describe him,” Ladybug insisted, stopping again to scan the Seine for any signs of disturbance. Shell Boy paused beside her, glancing up to the sky and gripping his chin in thought.

“Hmm, lessee…short dude, salt and pepper hair, tiny little beard he likes to stroke when he’s being extra-wise, awesome red Hawaiian print shirt.” He glanced over at Ladybug, smiling a little. “Do I pass, LB?”

Ladybug frowned. Okay…there was a good chance that it was indeed Master Fu that Shell Boy was talking about…but if that was so…what did this mean…?

“Why didn’t he tell me?” She burst out loud, stamping her foot in frustration. “I’m Ladybug! I need to know these things, damn it! I’m sick of surprises!”

“Uh, well,” Shell Boy spoke up, looking nervous at her sudden display of temper, “to be fair…Master Fu didn’t know who I was until I called him.”

Ladybug rounded on him.

“What?! But you just said—”

“I know, but it turns out, he wasn’t the one who personally Chose me. It was someone else acting on his orders. Some dude he calls Pavone.”

“Pavone…?” Ladybug scowled into the water, thinking hard. “That sounds Italian…”

“Italian for what?”

Before Ladybug could think of the answer, Shell Boy accidentally kicked a pebble into the Seine when he scuffed his boot against the pavement. The water suddenly began to churn next to them, and Ladybug jumped back, holding out an arm to shove the rookie back as well, not eager to take a second dip in the filthy water of the Seine. She glared as Poseidon emerged from the depths, pointing his sharp trident at them.


“Dude, you are mega-cranky,” Shell Boy remarked idly. “Did you skip dinner or something?”


“I’m more of a land turtle, man,” Shell Boy quipped with a shrug, enraging Poseidon and bringing a begrudging smirk to Ladybug’s lips.


Poseidon spread his arms wide, and a disgusting amount of sludge suddenly rose from underneath him, rearing up, a cobra poised to strike, before, with the direction of his trident, he sent it directly at them at an alarming speed. Ladybug cringed, raising her arms in measly defense—she didn’t want to run the risk of using her yo-yo to deflect the sludge, only to have it gunked up and useless—

“LB, over here!”

A hand yanked her down to the ground, and she yelped, her eyes flying open just as something large and green was thrust in between her and the incoming foulness. She stared as the shield in front of her expanded to twice the size it had been while it was hanging on Shell Boy’s back, completely protecting them from the deluge of filth spewing at them. Shell Boy grit his teeth—it looked to be a bit of a struggle, keeping the shield steady with the pressure of the garbage spray being pressed upon it, not to mention that it growing twice as big could not be easy on Shell Boy’s arm—but eventually, the torrent of trash halted. Ladybug relaxed, her shoulders slumping…only to have them seize up once again once a loud ‘CLANG’ reverberated through the air. Shell Boy’s eyes widened behind his goggles, staring at Ladybug in just as much surprise as she was aiming at him. Together, they carefully peeked over the edge of the shield…

Apparently, Poseidon had believed his trident would be enough to pierce the protection of Shell Boy’s shield. He was so very wrong—not only had the trident failed to pierce the hard casing of the shield…but the prongs had broken, shattering, it seemed, upon impact. Poseidon now stared at his shattered weapon, nothing but shock registering on his face. Shell Boy stared at him a moment…and then glanced over at Ladybug…who merely shrugged. Well…might as well take advantage of the situation, right?

Since she hadn’t spotted an akuma flitting around when Poseidon’s trident broke, it could only mean that the shell necklace he wore housed the akuma. Ladybug carefully reached over, snatching the necklace from the frozen akumatized victim. He did not so much as react as she started breaking shell by shell, searching for the akuma. As she worked, she heard the sound of metal withdrawing, and glanced over to find Shell Boy retracting his shield, sliding it back onto his back. His held was tilted, inspecting the akumatized victim…

Finally, he knelt down to look into Poseidon’s face.

“Hey, uh, dude? You okay?”

“…My trident has failed me,” Poseidon muttered. “My birthright…without my trident, I’m no king of the sea.”

“Well, the Seine can’t really be considered the sea either, man,” Shell Boy pointed out, not unkindly. “And you gotta admit…this isn’t exactly the way to go about shaming people into cleaning up the river.”

“How, then?” Poseidon grumbled, gripping his broken trident harder than ever. “I’ve already tried everything—protests, rallies, scheduled events…my voice is never heard. I just thought, if I became king of the sea, no one would be able to ignore me…but what is a king of the sea without his trident…? Just an angry man shouting from the water.”

Poseidon sighed, his head bowed.

“It’s hopeless. The Seine will remain polluted forever. This is not something even The Butterfly can fix.”

Ladybug’s head snapped up again, her hand on the last shell. There it was again: ‘The Butterfly’. But who…?

“Who is The Butterfly?” She asked, wanting answers to this riddle. But Poseidon shook his head sadly.

“I don’t know. And it matters not. I have failed. My beloved Seine…I have failed her.”

“Hey,” Shell Boy said softly, daring to pat the akumatized victim’s shoulder. “Just because you couldn’t bully people into cleaning up the Seine doesn’t mean action still can’t be taken.”

Poseidon snorted.

“I alone have screamed the loudest and fought the hardest. And even that wasn’t enough. What action will be taken after I’m gone?”

Shell Boy frowned. He glanced briefly at Ladybug, who just looked at him. Rare were the times when she could just sit down and talk about whatever it was these akumatized victims got bent out of shape about, without them fighting tooth and nail for their cause. The shattering of his trident seemed to really demoralize Poseidon, however…and she was just as at a loss for how to handle it as Shell Boy was, still clutching the last shell to her.

After a moment, a determined look crossed Shell Boy's features, and he clapped Poseidon on the shoulder.

“We’ll help,” he volunteered them both. He seemed to realize it, for he cringed and backtracked. “Uh…I mean, LB can do what she wants, but, I don’t mind helping. How about that? A superhero spokesperson for the Seine?”

Poseidon lifted his head, blinking owlishly at Shell Boy.

“You…would do that…?”

“Of course,” Shell Boy gave an easy-going smile that was…oddly familiar… “That’s what heroes do, right? We make the world a better place. And I may be a land turtle…but taking care of our water environment is important, too, right?”

Poseidon stared at Shell Boy some more. Ladybug watched as his lips began to curve upwards, threatening a smile—

He gave a sudden, shuddering gasp. Abruptly, his transformation broke, and he became a regular man—a man who apparently couldn’t swim. Ladybug lunged forward, trying to grab at one of his thrashing limbs, but it was like something sucked him under—his head disappeared underneath the surface of the Seine. Ladybug nearly dove in after him, but something dark flitting by caught her attention—the akuma. It must have broken free of its possessed object without her notice! But she didn’t even break the remaining shell she was holding…what was going on?!

“Capture the akuma!” Shell Boy shouted at her. Ladybug felt a faint sting of annoyance of being told what to do by a rookie, but it was overridden almost immediately by panic.

“What about—”

“I’m on it, just get the akuma!” And, without hesitation, Shell Boy dove into the Seine. Her heart pounding in her throat, Ladybug captured and purified the akuma, the action taking little time because she had done it so many times before, which left her to fight to keep her composure as she waited at the edge of the Seine, wondering if she shouldn’t have attached her yo-yo to Shell Boy’s shield so she could reel him back in—

The surface of the Seine churned, and Shell Boy’s head broke the surface, letting out a puff of air, as if he had only gone under for a moment. The limp body under his arm made Ladybug’s panic meter ratchet up to eleven, and she sent out her yo-yo to him.

“Catch, Shell!”

Shell Boy grabbed the yo-yo, holding firmly as Ladybug helped reel him in. Once he was close enough, she helped haul him and the akumatized victim out of the Seine, the both of them hovering over said victim.

“Is he breathing?” Ladybug asked, and Shell Boy lowered his ear to the victim’s mouth. Something in his expression tightened, and he glanced up at Ladybug.

“No.” His tone was dark.

“CPR,” Ladybug announced, but even as she moved forward, Shell Boy was already on it—he lowered his mouth to the victim's, blowing in two puffs of air before locking his fingers together and starting chest compressions. Ladybug jittered, anxious, wishing there was something else that could be done—when on the tenth compression, the victim jerked, coughing up river water. Ladybug helped Shell Boy turn the victim onto his side, and he retched up a good part of the Seine before his breathing returned, ragged though it was. Ladybug helped him as he struggled to sit up, pushing sopping dark hair out of his face and blinking dark blue eyes.

“W-what…? What happened? Where—Ladybug?!”

“You’re all right,” Ladybug assured him, squeezing his shoulder. “Everything’s all right.”

The man grew paler the longer he looked at her.

“I…I was akumatized, wasn’t I? But I…I’m against them! Why would I be—”

“Hawk Moth—The Butterfly—whoever they are,” Ladybug huffed, “they don’t care about your alignment, whether you’re for protecting akumatized victims, or against protecting them. The only thing they seem to want…is to spread chaos.”

Her eyes burned into the man, the man who was apparently a Chat Noir supporter.

“Do you understand now? Do you think any of this—you becoming akumatized and terrorizing the city—do you think this was a choice? Do you want your protester buddies to see you like this? Are you prepared for them to turn their back on you? Prepared for them to attack you, even, for something you had no control over?”

The man’s lips were white, and Shell Boy nudged Ladybug.

“Harsh, LB,” he muttered.

“Well, it’s true,” Ladybug defended herself, getting to her feet and frowning down at the man. “People who think like him need to learn—no one is safe with a supervillain like The Butterfly on the loose, so the last thing we should be doing is turning on each other.”

The man lowered his gaze, apparently unable to look at Ladybug. Shame rolled off him in waves, something she took satisfaction from. Tossing her yo-yo into the air, Ladybug called on her restorative powers to return Paris to its normal state before hooking an arm under the victim’s to help him to his feet.

“Come on,” she said in a much softer tone. “Let’s get you home—”

“Ladybug! Ladybug, wait up!”

“Oh boy,” Ladybug muttered as Alya came tearing up the street, her phone at the ready, as always. She drew up short, however, once she noticed the figure in green.

“Who’s this?” She wanted to know, aiming her phone's camera at Shell Boy. “A new superhero? What’s your name? Are you Ladybug’s new partner? What happened to Chat Noir? Is he gone for good?”

“Uhhhh,” Shell Boy stammered, regarding Alya with wide eyes. Ladybug sighed. Once again, she did not have time for this.

“How fast can you run?” She asked Shell Boy in an undertone as she slipped the victim’s arm across her shoulders, holding him securely as she sent out her yo-yo. Shell Boy blinked at her.

“Er, not very…” He gestured to his shield. “But I can fly.”

A turtle that could fly? Huh. That was pretty miraculous, in Ladybug’s book.

“Then do that,” she muttered to him, yanking on her yo-yo, the wire sending her skyward. Alya yelped, and Ladybug glanced back to see that Shell Boy had hopped onto his shield, which hovered, rather than flew, but it was good enough to speed him away from Alya, despite her attempts to chase after him.

“Wait! I never got your name! What’s your Miraculous? Who are you???”

“Just consider me the Guardian of the Seine! Don’t pollute!” Shell Boy called back to her with a salute, and Ladybug was forcibly reminded of Chat Noir and his flirting. She sighed before remembering she was currently responsible for a civilian, who was clinging to her for dear life, plainly terrified of heights.

“Where do you live?” She asked the man, and he fearfully whispered his address. Within a few minutes, Ladybug and Shell Boy were able to see him home safely, and Ladybug was satisfied to see his family hug him, grateful for his return. The way he looked back at her as he was ushered inside by his family made her hope that he, at least, had changed his mind about akumatized victims and whether or not they should be persecuted…

“So,” Said a sudden voice next to her, and Ladybug jumped; she had almost forgotten Shell Boy was there. “How’d I do for my first night out, LB?”

Ladybug gave him an appraising look.

“Not bad. For a rookie,” she acknowledged, turning to him with a smirk. “We still need something to call you, though…unless you decided to rip off the name of a ninja turtle after all?”

“I was thinking about that, actually…” Shell Boy smiled. “And I like Shell.”

Ladybug peered curiously at him.

“That’s it? Just…Shell? Not even Shell Man?”

“Nah. Shell’s cool.”

“How about Shelly?” Ladybug suggested innocently, only to have Shell Boy scowl at her.

“That’s a girl’s name.” He thought about it a little longer, idly fingering his bracelet for a moment…and then he snapped, pointing a finger gun at her. “Emerald Shell.”

“That’s jade,” Ladybug pointed out, tapping his bracelet. Shell shrugged.

“So what? Besides you and me, who’s gonna know the difference?” Shell struck a heroic pose, grinning cheekily. “The adventures of Ladybug, Chat Noir, and Emerald Shell. I like it.”

Chat Noir, huh…

Ladybug frowned as her Miraculous gave a beep.

“We should have a quick talk,” she said, searching out a suitable space. There was a high rooftop nearby that they could park themselves for a moment without drawing too much attention. It wasn’t the Eiffel Tower, but it would have to do. Besides, Ladybug would feel funny bringing Emerald Shell there…that was her and Chat Noir’s spot.

...Well, it used to be, anyway...

“Come on,” she said to Shell, swinging her way over to the rooftop, unable to help her glance back to make sure that he was following. And follow he did, all the way up to the roof. Ladybug sat down, inspecting the Seine from their vantage point. It really was a lovely river…that man had every right to be upset about its pollution. They should really do something…

Well, Shell had gotten the ball rolling, hadn’t he, with his announcement to Alya? No doubt that broadcast would be uploaded to the Ladyblog before the night was up.

“Nice night,” said Shell as he hopped off his shield/hover board, taking in the scenery around them. He sat down beside Ladybug with a grunt. “Can’t believe it’s almost Christmas, I’ve been so busy lately. Was kind of surprised to see an akuma pop up so close to the holidays, too—”

“I want you to know,” Ladybug began, cutting across his chatter, “that I’ll be getting in touch with Master Fu to verify everything you told me. If I find out you’ve been lying to me this whole time, I will hunt you down, Shell.”

Shell raised his hands in surrender.

“Damn, LB, you’re scary,” he commented. “You’re almost as bad as my girlfriend.”

Ladybug frowned.

“I have to be careful,” she said, turning her gaze from him, onto the Seine once again. She was no longer soaked, thanks to her restorative powers, but it would be a miracle if Tikki didn’t get sick from their impromptu mid-winter river dip. “I’ve already gone through too much when it comes to other superheroes.”

“Oh…yeah, I guess so, huh…” Shell rubbed the back of his head, ruffling the green hood he wore. “What is the deal with Chat Noir, anyway? He’s a bad guy now, right?”

“No,” Ladybug said forcefully, and hating herself for the immediate defense of her ex-partner. “He’s not…right, right now. But he’s not a bad guy. He’s just…” She closed her eyes. “I don’t know. Just let me worry about him, all right?”

“If you say so,” Shell replied. Ladybug only let the quiet last up until her second beep from her Miraculous.

“This Pavone you mentioned earlier…have you met him?”

“Nah. Dude’s way private. I’ve only gotten, like, text messages from him. Which is weird, 'cause I never even gave him my number...but Master Fu said the number was legit when I showed him, so..." Shell shrugged. "Usually they're just reminders for me to lay low—I wasn’t supposed to reveal myself until it was absolutely necessary.” Shell grinned. “Kinda like an ace in the hole, or something. But Pavone said you needed help tonight, so…here I am.”

The grin faded, replaced by confusion.

“I’ve never seen an akuma just go back to normal like that before, though…what happened?”

Ladybug gave a shrug, though her frown was anything but easy-going.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve never seen that happen before. The only thing I can guess is that The Butterfly or whoever dispelled the transformation because Poseidon wasn’t doing what he was supposed to be doing…whatever that was…”

“Can The Butterfly dude do that?”

“I don’t know. It’s only a guess.”

Ladybug’s gaze went to the horizon once again, frowning in the distance. What the hell had happened with the akumatized victim tonight? Was it indeed The Butterfly’s doing? Or…was it possible that Shell’s offer to help Poseidon—causing the erasure of negative feelings within the victim—was enough to expel the akuma on its own?

And what about this ‘Pavone’? Was he an ally? It would seem so, if he was actually working with Master Fu like Shell claimed…but who was Pavone? And more importantly, who was The Butterfly? Who were all these people working behind the scenes, and why was Ladybug only finding out about them just now? What the hell was going on??

“Uh…LB?” Shell asked, intruding upon her thoughts once again. “Can you…keep a secret?”

Ladybug turned to give him a dry look.

“Well, I should hope so,” she said flatly, and Shell laughed in a nervous sort of way.

“Right, right. Well, uh, I just want some advice.” He fiddled with his bracelet, abruptly nervous. “That reporter girl from before…the truth is…she’s my girlfriend.”


Shell was dating Alya?

No, that was impossible, Alya was with…with…

Ladybug froze. One more time, her mind cataloged the familiar things: the speech pattern, the characteristic gestures...those gold eyes that seemed so much wiser than the last time she'd seen them...

Well, damn. So much for statistics…

“……I see,” she made herself say through sheer force of will, though inside, her mind was rioting.

Nino?! Shell is NINO?! Are you kidding me, Master Fu?! What the hell?!?

“You know, N—Shell, you shouldn’t go shouting about that. Admitting that to anyone could put Alya in danger,” Ladybug warned him severely. Shell ducked his head, nodding.

“I know, I know, just…I need some advice. You know how she is…” Ladybug froze again—holy shit, had she given herself away as well?! “…She’s your biggest fan,” Shell ended up finishing, and Ladybug breathed easier again. “She tries to follow you everywhere.”

“Yes, I know.” Ladybug frowned, her Miraculous beeping once again. She didn’t have much time left here… “What do you need advice about?”

“Well, basically…I’m afraid I’m gonna fuck up somehow and she’s gonna find out who I am.” Shell gave a long, loud sigh. “And I don’t want her to be in that kind of position. It’s bad enough that she flings herself into danger at the first whiff of a story, taking off years of my life, by the way, but if she found out she was dating an actual superhero? A superhero that knows Ladybug, of all things?” Shell shook his head. “She will lose her mind.

Ladybug could see, in her mind’s eye, the feverish gleam in Alya’s gaze if she ever found out she had an in to Ladybug herself through Nino. Truly, she would stop at nothing until she managed to unmask Paris’ superhero—it was her biggest dream in life. And Ladybug would know, since said dream had been confessed to her over a late night in a bar, when exams were killing them both last year.

“Then just be careful, Shell,” she cautioned the man—her best friend’s boyfriend!!!—sitting beside her. “Make sure she never finds out.”

“But how? I hate having to lie to her—I’ve been training this whole time with Master Fu, but I’ve been saying I’ve been working, so I’ve barely seen her at all this week…what if she pops by unannounced—she has a key to my place—and Wayzz is just chilling on the coffee table or something? Or what if I’m in the middle of transforming, and she walks in? Or—”

“Shelly,” Ladybug interrupted him, smothering a giggle at the scowl he threw her for the girlish nickname. “You’re overthinking, panicking about things that have, maybe, a fifty percent chance of happening.”

“More like eighty percent.” Shell huffed, his head in his hands. “You don’t know Alya like I know her.”

Ladybug almost made a bet with him…but then changed her mind at the last minute. Best not to tease him just now.

“I know it’s tough,” she assured him, resting a consoling hand on his shoulder. “Believe me, I know—I’ve been doing this for years. You’ve just got to find the balance between your personal life, and your superhero one. It’s tough to maintain at first…and I can’t promise you won’t be under some strain because of it, and I’m sorry for that. But this Pavone—” Whoever he was... “—must have seen something in you that made him Choose you. So it’ll be hard…but you’ll manage. You’re part of the team now.”

Shell blinked at her.

“The team, huh? Not a minute ago, you were at my throat about lies I haven’t told.” He gave her a searching glance. “You know, you kind of remind me of a friend of mine…spitfire, just like you. I wouldn’t wanna piss her off any more than I’d wanna piss off Alya.”

Ladybug smiled.

“She sounds like an awesome friend,” she said, getting to her feet. “Well, time’s about up for me. I better head home before my transformation breaks. You too. Make sure no one follows you, all right? Especially not certain reporter girls.”

Shell sighed, tugging off his shield to use it as a hover board once again.

“I’ll do my best…god, I hope my best is good enough…”

“You’ll be fine,” Ladybug assured him with another pat to his shoulder and a wink. “I’ll be in touch.”

With those parting words, she swung away, her mind buzzing, as if there were ladybugs trapped in her skull as well.



“…caught on film, the new superhero, who has yet to be named, only calling himself ‘the Guardian of the Seine’, parted with a PSA about anti-pollution. Alya Cesaire, amateur reporter and moderator of the Ladyblog—”

“‘Amateur’? Alya’s not going to like that!” Tikki exclaimed around a mouthful of cookie. Marinette giggled, hugging one of her pillows to her as they watched the late night news broadcast.

“Yeah, well, Alya’s not gonna be happy about a lot of stuff for a while.” Marinette shook her head, staring at the video still of Emerald Shell saluting. “I still can’t believe that it’s Nino! Nino! If I had to choose someone from my friend group to bring into the chaos that is my superhero life…I would’ve chosen Alya. She handles chaos like it’s nothing.”

Tikki giggled.

“Still…it’s not a bad thing that it’s Nino, right? Now you have another friendly face to watch your back!”

“Yeah, I suppose that’s a comfort…considering Chat Noir seems like he’s MIA again.” Marinette huffed, clutching her pillow tighter. “Stupid, unreliable stray. First he disappears on me for seven years, then he comes back all wild, like he’d spent those years living in a jungle, and just when I think there’s hope for him after all—”

“Marinette,” Tikki cut through her Chosen’s ranting, a tiny hand touching Marinette’s knee as she turned towards her balcony doors. “Do you hear that?”

Marinette paused, frowning in confusion. Did she hear what?

She was just about to ask when, suddenly, she did hear it: a soft, plinking sound. Like a tapping at her doors.

Marinette stared at the curtains pulled shut over her balcony doors.

That wasn’t what she thought it was, was it…?

Cautiously, because she wasn’t sure what to expect and wanted to be ready, Marinette edged her way over to the balcony doors, slipping a hand in between the curtains to peek out into the night.

Just as she peeked, a pebble came at her face. She yelped, but it plunked harmlessly against the glass, followed by another a second later…and then another…

Who the hell was throwing rocks at her window like she was in some teenage romance movie?

Perplexed, Marinette unlocked the doors, waiting until another rock flew before she dared to open them.

“Hold your fire, I’m coming out!” She called to whoever was down there tossing the rocks.

“Ah, the princess is in her tower after all,” answered a drawling voice, and Marinette felt her heart leap into her throat. She rushed forward to the balcony railing, finally spying the current bane of her existence down in the garden below. His cat eyes gleamed in the moonlight, and he sunk into a ridiculous bow once she laid eyes on him.

“C-Chat Noir?” Marinette stuttered, blinking down at the stray. “What’re you—”

“Hold on, I’ve been practicing this bit for ages,” he forestalled her, clearing his throat. “Give me a minute…ahem. ‘Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!’”

Marinette deadpanned him a look.

“No?” Chat questioned, pouting a tad. “No dark raven locks for me to climb up to visit you in your tower?”

“You know, that’s how she got pregnant,” Marinette quipped with a raise of her eyebrows. Chat grinned wildly.

“Not in the Disney version. Besides, I assure you that my intentions are pure, Princess,” he called up to her.

“Uh-huh,” Marinette drawled, parking her chin in a hand as she leaned an elbow on her balcony railing. “And what kind of cat with ‘pure intentions’ would be out skulking around a lady’s bedroom at night?”

“The kind of cat that knocks first instead of just inviting himself in?” He suggested. Marinette pursed her lips. Well…she supposed he did have a point…and it wasn’t like she couldn’t just toss him if he tried anything…

“…All right,” she allowed, straightening. “Come on up.”

His grin flashing once again, Chat Noir extended his staff, striking a pose before he slid off and perched himself on the railing of Marinette’s balcony. Glancing around, he abruptly pouted.

“You know…I really should’ve gone with the balcony dialogue from Romeo and Juliet instead,” he said, frowning his displeasure. “It would’ve been more fitting.”

Marinette put all the implications of such a dialogue to the side, fixing Chat with a searching stare.

“Where have you been?” She demanded point blank, drawing Chat’s eyes to her. “Ladybug’s been having to deal with akuma attacks all on her own, you know.”

“Ah…” Chat glanced away, rubbing the back of his head. “Well…yeah. I’m, uh…taking a break from crime fighting, for right now.”

This made Marinette scowl.

“Nice of you to tell m—her,” she corrected herself at the last minute, inwardly cringing. He didn’t hear that, right…?

Luckily for her, Chat was too busy looking guilty to notice her slip…or so she thought, at least, until he turned his attention back to her, a curious gleam in his eyes.

“How did you know that I haven’t told her?”

Think fast, think fast!

You just told me,” she replied, smirking in a superior fashion when Chat cringed, his shoulders hunching. “Bad Chat. You’re lucky I don’t have a spray bottle in my hand right now.”

Chat gave a soft hiss, and Marinette, despite her annoyance with him, giggled. A moment later, however, she sobered.

“So why are you coming to see me when you should be telling Ladybug what’s up?”

Chat gave a shrug, not quite meeting her eyes.

“I wanted to see you,” he said simply. Marinette blinked at him.

“O…kay…?” She tilted her head at him. “About what, exactly?”

Chat smiled a smile that was smaller than usual. It was…soft, on him. Charming.

Marinette felt rather warm all of a sudden.

“Nothing in purrticular,” he punned, and Marinette had to resist the urge to slam her face into her palm. This punny cat bastard…

“So! I hear tell through the grapevine that you’re still a Chat fan,” Chat Noir drawled as Marinette leaned her crossed arms on her balcony railing, gazing up at the moon. Though warmth was just a few steps away in her room, it was chilly out here, and she shivered. From the corner of her eye, she saw Chat’s ears droop slightly.

“I don’t know who you’ve been talking to,” Marinette said loftily, sliding him a glance. “After all, I can’t be a fan of a hero who leaves his partner in the lurch.”

Chat glanced away from her, looking ashamed. Good.

“I don’t think she really needs me, Princess,” he said, letting a leg dangle as he crossed his ankle over his knee, clawed hands resting on the railing. “She’s been handling things just fine on her own.”

Marinette scowled at him.

“If it weren’t for that turtle-themed hero tonight, she would have drowned,” she snapped at him, unconcerned for the widening of his eyes as surprise crossed his features. “She could’ve died, Chat! You think just because she can do it by herself that she wants to? Open your eyes, you damn—”

‘—Stray!’ Marinette finished in her head, abruptly aware of the fact that she was letting her anger carry her away. She huffed instead of finishing her sentence out loud, crossing her arms and looking resolutely away from Chat, as if she needed to express, through both words and actions, that she was most unhappy with him right now. The silence of the night settled in, and Marinette closed her eyes, focused on getting her breathing under control. The chilly night helped her cool down fast, and she let out a sigh, gazing up into the beautiful night sky, where the moon shone brightly, stealing the show from the stars. Was that selfish of the moon, to shine as brightly as she could while obscuring those who shared the night with her? Or would it be more selfish to keep her glow to herself, hidden away from the world?

But maybe it was a moot point, Marinette supposed: the light was borrowed, anyway. Without the generosity of the sun…where would the moon be?

“…She doesn’t have to do it alone anymore,” came Chat’s soft voice after a moment. Marinette glanced over, finding his gaze focused on the television in her room, where the newscast was still showing images of Emerald Shell. “Seems like another Miraculous holder has sprung into action. As long as there’s someone there to watch her back when she jumps into danger…she’ll be fine, right?”

That was so not the point. Marinette huffed again, her arms tightly crossed as she turned to glare fully at Chat Noir.

“And what about you?”

Chat lifted and dropped a shoulder, his gaze still on the T.V.

“Like I said, as long as she has someone, she’ll be fine without me. And I suppose I’ll…retire again.” Chat slid a smile Marinette’s way that didn’t reach his eyes. It was strange on him, he who was usually so free with his feelings… “After all, what’s Chat Noir without Ladybug?”

Déjà vu.

“You have that backwards,” Marinette said firmly, though her voice was soft. Chat’s smile became a bit more genuine.

“You think so?”

“I do,” Marinette insisted, turning to rest her back against her balcony railing. “Ladybug is amazing, don’t get me wrong. But she’s also impulsive—she rushes into decisions without thinking them through first, and her feelings get in the way on occasion. She needs a partner to keep her in check, and watch her back when she inevitably gets herself into trouble…”

Marinette looked up, meeting Chat Noir’s eyes with a serious look.

“…Without Chat Noir, Ladybug is unbalanced.”

Chat stared at her for a long moment. Marinette held his gaze, watching his pupils—they were being weird, growing larger for no reason at all. Marinette, having spent zero time around actual cats, was flummoxed. What was with his eyes?

Finally, Chat looked away first, letting out a laugh.

“I can’t decide if you’re underestimating Ladybug…or overestimating me,” he said, chuckling under his breath. Marinette rolled her eyes with a shrug.

“Neither. I’m right,” she insisted, bumping his shoulder with hers before she moved away from the railing, turning to stand in front of him. “And since you have so much free time to come visit me in the dead of night—and I’m not encouraging this behavior, by the way—you certainly have enough time to let Ladybug know that you’re taking a break. She deserves to know, even if you’re not partners anymore.”

“I suppose…” With a sigh, Chat stood up, drawing himself up to his full height as he stood on her balcony railing. He was much too tall, Marinette noted, and she scowled up at him as he dared to give her a cheeky grin. “Well, I suppose I should leave now, too. God knows what your neighbors would think if they saw me slinking away into the night at a later hour…”

“Oh, just go,” Marinette huffed, resisting the urge to just shove him off the railing herself. He called upon the powers of his baton once again, extending it so that it reached the ground before he climbed onto it, still grinning at Marinette.

“See you again, Princess,” he bade. Marinette moved forward, still scowling at him.

“You’d better not make a habit of this,” she warned him, reaching out to poke his nose. He wrinkled and rubbed at it, giving her an odd look. “I’m not that kind of girl, Chat.”

“But of course, Princess. I’ll never be anything but a perfect gentleman towards you. Cat’s honor,” he promised, lifting the clawed hand with his ring on it in a salute. Marinette rolled her eyes again…but she smiled.

“Good night, Chat,” she bade him. He paused for a second…and then reached out to her, a question in his eyes. Recognizing it, Marinette let her hand slip into his, and she caught his grin before he pressed a kiss to her knuckles.

“Good night, Princess,” he returned, giving a wink before he descended down to the ground. Marinette watched as he bounded into the darkness, and then stood staring at the spot where he’d disappeared for a while before she remembered she was cold, and hurried back inside.

Tikki popped out from her hiding place as Marinette shut and locked the doors, drawing the curtains closed.

“A hero hiatus, huh?” She questioned, and Marinette huffed as she flopped down on her bed. “Good thing he came to visit you, or else we might not have known otherwise.”

“Stupid, lazy cat,” Marinette grumbled, staring down at the hand that Chat had kissed. He was complicating so many things in Marinette’s life…why couldn’t working with him be easy, like it used to be?

Her phone gave a sudden chime. Marinette glanced over, grabbing the device and spotting Alya’s name.

“Probably texting to brag about her footage,” Marinette reasoned out loud, unlocking her phone and opening the text.

Alya’s text, however, turned out to have nothing to do with her new scoop whatsoever.

Alya: Hey, girl! So since your “not” boyfriend is picking you up for your “not” date tomorrow at six, I thought I’d swing by around four, help you primp and get ready? It may not be a date, but I will not rest until you look absolutely fabulous. What do you say?

Marinette gave a sigh. Looked like her day tomorrow was going to be a little bit busier than she’d originally planned…

Oh well. Such was life when you led two of them at the same time.

Marinette: Sure, sounds great~ Thanks in advance; best friend ever. :)

Alya: Damn right. I’ll be seeing you off as well, of course…making sure Mr. Agreste knows that I know all the vital points of a person’s veins, including the knowledge of which particular veins would be the most painful to bleed out from…

Marinette: Alya…

Alya: I’m just saying! ;D I’ll try and rope Nino into a ‘father with a shotgun’ shtick…assuming he doesn’t have to WORK tomorrow…

Oh, right.

Marinette pursed her lips, glancing over at her drawing tablet. There was a thing she was thinking about doing to let Nino know he wasn’t alone in this…but she still wasn’t sure how wise it was to reveal herself, despite knowing that Emerald Shell was a friend in more ways than one. But wasn’t it unfair, to hold all the cards and leave Nino in the dark?

“What do you think, Tikki?” Marinette asked, crossing her legs as she glanced down at her kwami. “Should I reveal myself to Nino?”

Tikki stared up at her for a moment, her big, indigo eyes thoughtful.

“Normally, I’d advise you to ask Master Fu, first,” she admitted, and then her tiny features slipped into a pout. “But since it seems like we’ve been left out of several loops lately—”

“We can make this decision on our own,” Marinette finished for her kwami, nodding her head determinedly. “All right, then it’s settled. Scooch over a second, I need my drawing tablet…”



“Oh! Marinette, hi!”

Marinette glanced up, grinning automatically at the sight of Kira as she came bounding forward, bundled up in preparation for the cold outside, sparkly pink eyepatch still in place.

“Hi, Kira,” she greeted, gently rubbing the child’s back as Kira flung her arms around Marinette’s legs. “Going out?”

“Yeah! Shopping with Baa-chan,” Kira announced, gesturing to the elderly woman behind her, who smiled and nodded at Marinette. “We’re gonna go get groceries!”

“Sounds like fun,” Marinette enthused, sidestepping around the neighbors. “Don’t let me hold you up—I’ve got to see Nino about something.”

“Oh, okay.”

Marinette became confused as Kira moved to the door with her, and then amused when the child pounded on said door with her small, energetic fists.


There was the sound of something clattering inside, and a startled yelp.

“Jeez, kid, all right! No need to shout it to the world…”

Marinette giggled, and Kira gave her a toothy smile before leaving with her grandmother for the grocery store. Marinette waited patiently outside the door, hearing a lot of shuffling happening within Nino’s apartment. What was he doing?

“Nino?” She called, and Nino gave another yelp. “Everything okay in there?”

“Fine!” He called back, his voice a little too high to be his natural pitch. “J-just a sec, ‘Nette! …Ouch! Damn it…”

Marinette raised an eyebrow.

“Is this a bad time?”

“No, no! Just give me…one sec…aha!”

There was the sudden sound of something sliding open, then closed, and then a rattling just beyond the door. Finally, Nino was revealed, looking harried underneath that too-bright smile he wore, his hair disheveled, face unshaven. He looked a hot mess.

Marinette looked down, and then bit back a snort: he was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirt with matching pajama bottoms.

He wasn’t bothering to try and hide much, was he?

“Hi,” she greeted him with a grin. “Can I come in?”

“Oh, uh, sure,” Nino replied, glancing around her for some reason as he stepped back, allowing her entrance. “Sorry, my place is kind of a mess right now…uh, Alya’s not with you…?”

“No,” Marinette answered, quick eyes scanning the messy living room as she spoke. Hmm…no sign of Wayzz. Was all that clattering around Nino was doing an attempt to hide the kwami from prying eyes…? “It’s just me.” She turned on her heel to face Nino as he closed the door, returning his curious look with a quirked brow. “Is that okay?”

“Uh, I guess?” Nino leaned back against the door, giving Marinette a searching look. He clearly didn’t understand why she had come to see him without Alya in tow…Marinette bit her lip to keep from smirking at the shock he was about to receive. “So…what’s up?”

“I finished a mock-up for your CD,” Marinette announced proudly, and Nino straightened up in surprise.

“You-you did? Wow! Thanks, ‘Nette! But, I, uh…I didn’t give you anything to work with…”

“I know,” Marinette assured him, reaching into her bag for her creation, “but I just got hit with a jolt of inspiration last night, and I wanted to show you before I got busy today…”

With a smile, she whipped out the mock-up CD cover, smiling at the image of Emerald Shell, striking a heroic pose, his shield gleaming in the sunlight. It was probably one of her better CD creations, second place only to the one she’d designed for Jagged Stone…it was too bad this one would never see the light of day. Oh well.

“Here,” she said, presenting the CD case for Nino to take with a flourish. “What do you think?”

Nino took the case, got a good look at the cover…and froze. Marinette waited for him to thaw, pressing her lips together to keep from outright laughing, though she could practically see the gears in Nino’s mind whirring, trying to figure out whether he should panic or play it cool.

After a moment, he seemed to settle for a happy medium.

“This is…this is, uh…” Nino glanced up over his glasses at Marinette, searching her face. “T-this is that new…new superhero. That guy that showed up last night, uh…what’s his name…?”

“Emerald Shell,” Marinette supplied, allowing herself to smirk just a little as Nino visibly began to sweat. “Cool, huh?”

“Y-yeah, c-cool,” he stuttered, rubbing the back of his head and ruffling his dark hair. “B-but I don’t really know why…you chose him for my CD cover…heh heh…”

Oh, this was really too funny. Marinette felt a little bad for being so mean, though, so she decided to throw him a bone—

“Wait,” Nino began suddenly, holding a hand up and staring at Marinette. “…The guy just made his superhero debut last night, and no reporter knows his name, yet…” His golden eyes began to narrow behind his glasses. “…How do you know his name, Marinette…?”

Slowly, Marinette allowed herself to smile.

“Well, he told me,” she said casually, giving a wink. “I helped him out with it, actually—‘Shell Boy’ was apparently too juvenile for him…but the ‘shell’ part seemed to stick after a while.”

Nino stared, his mouth gaping open. He tried to close it a couple times, only for it to open again a moment later, lifting a trembling finger and pointing at her, apparently speechless.

“I thought you were a turtle, not a fish,” Marinette teased him, her grin widening.

“You’re…you’re…” Nino stammered, still staring at her as if he couldn’t quite believe his eyes. “You’re…you’re not. You can’t be…can you? Are you? Are you, Marinette?!”

“Am I what?” Marinette teased him, grinning wider than ever. Nino threw up his hands in frustration.

“You know what I mean! You, you’re…you’re—!!”

It was at that moment that Tikki chose to reveal herself: she popped out of Marinette’s muffler, smiling sweetly.

“Ladybug?” She suggested innocently.

“WAUGH!!” Nino screamed, jumping so violently that he rammed himself into the door behind him, immediately wincing and cursing vehemently. “Shit, ow, what the fuck, Marinette?!”

“Sorry!” Marinette apologized, moving closer as Nino rubbed the back of his head, drawing his hand forward to inspect the damage. No blood. That was good. “You okay? Need some ice?”

“I’ll live,” Nino grunted, still wincing and rubbing the back of his head. “That’ll probably be a lump within a couple hours, though…”

“I’m sorry, Nino,” Tikki apologized, flitting out of Marinette’s muffler to greet him properly. “I didn’t mean for you to get hurt.”

Marinette wasn’t sure if Nino had taken in anything Tikki said—he was too busy staring down at her kwami in shock. Tikki, however, merely took it in stride. Not that Marinette was surprised—she had tried to trap the kwami in a glass the first time she met her…

“Nino, this is Tikki,” Marinette introduced them, smiling as Tikki flew back to her, snuggling against her cheek. “She’s my kwami.”

“…Yeah, I see that,” Nino finally replied, still wide-eyed and staring at Tikki for a moment, before his gaze abruptly switched to Marinette. “…So it’s true. You’re…you’re Ladybug.

Marinette smiled. Well, Nino wasn’t the first person she would have imagined discovering her secret—in fact, she had bet it all on Alya, and she now owed Tikki a large box of gourmet cookies—but a part of her had to admit that it felt good to be able to share this part of her life with someone else who was in the same position as her, a close friend, no less.

“I’m Ladybug,” she admitted, out of costume, for the very first time. Nino stared at her a moment longer…and then his breath left him in a whoosh, and he sank forward, his hands on his knees.

“I’m a superhero,” he muttered to himself, “and I’m friends with Ladybug. Alya is going to kill me.”

Marinette laughed out loud at this.

“Not if we don’t tell her,” she reminded him with a shake of her head. “I know such a task seems daunting—believe me, I know. But I’ve been doing it for years.”

“That’s right!” Nino abruptly realized, straightening up to resume his gawking at Marinette. “You’ve been doing this since you were fourteen! Oh god, Marinette, you gotta help me, I’m so afraid of screwing this up, and if Alya finds out on her own and finds out that I’ve been keeping such a big secret from her, she’s gonna—”

“Whoa,” Marinette said; it was her turn to hold up a hand, halting Nino’s babble. “First of all, Nino, you have to calm down. Like I told you last night, it’s all about being careful.”

“Oh my god, it was you snarling at me last night!” Nino yelped, his eyes growing impossibly wider. “Did you have to be all…” To illustrate his point, he warped his hands into claws and flexed them, baring his teeth. Marinette laughed, feeling just a shade guilty.

“Again, like I told you last night—I’ve had it rough with other superheroes before.”

“Oh, right.” Nino frowned. “Does this mean you know who Chat Noir is?”

“No.” Marinette frowned at the memory of the unreliable rogue cat. “You’re the one of the only two people who knows my secret identity, Nino, Master Fu being the other. And it has to stay that way, you understand? We can trust each other, but to tell other people—”

“I know, I know, bad idea, Wayzz told me,” Nino said, turning to the direction of his kitchen area. “You can come out now, dude!”

To Marinette’s immense relief, the green turtle kwami whizzed out of one of the kitchen drawers, smiling serenely at her.

“Hello again, Marinette,” he greeted, and Marinette sighed, reaching over to stroke his head.

“Wayzz, thank goodness, I’ve been so worried,” she sighed, letting him and Tikki rest in between her cupped hands. “Where have you been?

“Safe,” Wayzz replied in that cryptic way that reminded Marinette irresistibly of Master Fu. “No need to worry anymore—my new master has been taking very good care of me.”

Nino’s face grew ruddy, and he rubbed the back of his head.

“Told you, just ‘Nino’ is fine, dude,” he reminded the kwami. “I don’t know about this whole ‘Master’ business…”

“Apologies, Master,” Wayzz replied, and Nino sighed.

“We’re working on it,” he told Marinette sheepishly, and she grinned.

“All right, pull on a coat, we’ve got to go,” she announced, ushering both kwamis into her muffler. Nino blinked at her, nonplussed.


“I’ve arranged a meeting with Master Fu,” Marinette informed him, making sure her snow hat was on straight. “I don’t want to be in the dark about anything anymore. I’m Ladybug, for god’s sake—a new superhero is something I should know about. So we’re gonna have a chat with him.”

“It’s Christmas Eve, ‘Nette,” Nino pointed out, moving to the side as Marinette shooed him away from the door, throwing it open. “Can’t we let the old man rest…?”

“All he’s been doing is resting,” Marinette asserted, turning to frown at Nino. “Too much has been happening for me to put off a visit with him any longer. We all have a lot to discuss, so let’s go.”

Nino took one look at the stubborn set of her jaw before he sighed.

“All right…but let me change out of my pjs first.”

“Hurry up,” Marinette said, and she waited out in the hall of the second floor of Nino’s apartment, tapping her foot impatiently until he reappeared, tying a black scarf closed around his neck and pulling an old baseball cap over his head.

“That can’t be warm.”

“No, but it’s comfortable. Makes me feel a bit more like myself,” Nino explained. As he locked up and they trooped down the staircase, he lowered his voice. “Running around in a turtle suit all night kind of threw me off-balance. It’s stupid, but wearing something that’s…well, me…makes me feel a little more grounded. Like I’m not going crazy or dreaming, you know?”

…Huh. Actually, that made a lot of sense. Back when Marinette first became Ladybug, she would spend an hour after every mission in front of the mirror, inspecting her face. Same bright blue eyes, same pointed nose, same pink lips, same freckles dusted across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.

It was still her…but it wasn’t her at the same time.

She was something else.

Something more.

And it took her a while to get used to that fact…so she knew exactly how Nino felt.

“I get it,” she assured him with a smile as they stepped out into the winter sunlight. “This superhero thing takes some getting used to.”

“No kidding.” Nino shook his head, following after Marinette as she set off at a brisk walk, her car parked a ways down the street. “Still can’t believe you’ve been doing this since you were fourteen…suddenly, all your random disappearances make a lot more sense.”

“So do yours,” Marinette replied with a grin. “Alya’s been irritated by your absence this week.”

“I know…” Nino huffed, rubbing the back of his head. “I hate having to lie to her.”

Marinette reached over, patting his arm.

“I know it’s hard. But it’s better than her knowing what’s happening. She may be pissed and in the dark…but at least she’s safe.”

“Relatively speaking,” Nino grumbled with a frown. “She’ll stop at nothing to be in the thick of things when Ladybug’s out and about…hey, you know, I can blame you for all this, now!”

“Look, no one’s more upset than I am when Alya’s in danger,” Marinette told Nino point blank, scowling up at him. “If I could, I’d tie her to a tree until the fight’s over, just so I know she’s safe.”

“You mean like how you tied up Chat Noir when you were fighting Trinket?”

“Well, maybe I wouldn’t use my yo-yo…that kind of put me in a tight spot afterwards—”

“Yeah, which was why I untied him and sent him after you. God, you’re worse than Alya, ‘Nette!”

Marinette skidded to a halt, her hands on her hips as she glared at Nino in shock and outrage.

“Wait a minute! You untied Chat Noir?!”

“I had to!” Nino protested, looking equal parts guilty and defiant, his hands clenching at his sides. “Kira was Trinket! There was nothing I could do for her, but I knew you could help her, but not without your yo-yo!”

Marinette scowled. As much as she wanted to be annoyed with Nino right now…if it weren’t for him, Marinette would have been transformed into an actual lucky charm…if it weren’t for him, Chat Noir, and one other person…another mystery…

“You know what, we don’t have time for this,” she huffed, turning and resuming her walk, pressing a button on her car keychain to unlock it; it chirped at her, lights flashing. “There’s a lot I have to ask Master Fu before Alya comes over to help me get ready for tonight, the first question being who the hell Pavone is supposed to be—”

“Oh, well I actually learned something on that front,” Nino suddenly announced, sliding into the passenger side of Marinette’s car. She blinked at him with wide eyes.

“You did?”

“Yeah. I was out shopping this morning with Adrien—he was looking for a corsage for you before I talked him out of it, reminding him that he wasn’t taking you to fucking prom.” Nino rolled his eyes. “Dude’s so cheesy. Why the hell did I decide to rekindle our friendship?”

Marinette carefully filed that information away for now so she could tease Adrien about it later that night.

“Go on,” she pressed Nino.

“Oh, right. Anyway, I remembered the name as we were leaving, and since Adrien lived in Italy for seven years, I figured he had to have picked up some Italian, right? So I asked him, and he told me.”

Marinette carefully backed into the road, easing into traffic. As she drove, she threw a brief glance Nino’s way.

“So? What does ‘Pavone’ mean?”

Abruptly, Marinette was struck with the oddest feeling that she already knew the answer…

Nino’s voice confirmed the sudden suspicion:

“According to Adrien, it means ‘peacock’.”


The mysterious ‘Pavone’, Master Fu’s supposed confidant and the person who Chose Nino, creating Emerald Shell…was named ‘Peacock’ in Italian.

The plot thickened.

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A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir Story
by DarkReyna16

Part 13 of 37

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