At first, everything was dark and muted. The feeling of falling was constant and unnerving. She could neither move, nor get a grasp of what was happening. All she could do was feel – feel the uncomfortable flip of her stomach, which she would usually associate with a descending elevator – feel the fear that made everything around her spin. Then all of that was suddenly replaced by a thundering pain.
This pain was unlike anything she had ever felt before. It started deep in her chest and quickly surfaced to the front. From there it radiated outward, beginning to suffocate her. Still, she subconsciously tried to hold onto whatever was being ripped away from her.
In the end, she was too weak for that.
The moment it was taken was the moment when the world stilled. There was no pain.
Darkness returned, yet it was different from the kind before. This one was comforting.
She felt a pleasant warmth hugging her body and little tickles on her arms and neck, the specific scent of grass… it all reminded her of the park located next to her parents’ bakery. But then a shiver ran through her as a gentle and cold wind caressed her skin, startling her mind into the process of waking up.
And if there’s one thing that most people close to Marinette know, it’s that waking up has never been her strong suit.
At first, the girl was out of it. Exhausted and confused, she couldn’t even open her eyes without putting a significant effort into it. The sun was especially unforgiving, and it didn’t seem likely to hide behind the clouds anytime soon. Finally she lifted her hand, which felt heavier than usual, and blocked the annoying disturbance. She stayed like that for a while before her mind finally rebooted itself and made her sit up to look around.
Her confusion didn’t dwindle even for a moment, because all she could see was grass. Everywhere. It was tall enough to hide her when she lay down but short enough to look over when she sat up fully.
Where was she? How did she get here?
Those two questions brought her quite a headache – literally. The pain was faint at first, but it grew more and more as Marinette’s mind tried to grasp onto whatever happened before her blackout. In a vain attempt to reduce it, she put her hands on the sides of her head and curled a bit in on herself. Just when the pain became unbearable, the memory came back to her in a flash.
“No!” was all Ladybug could scream as she watched black and green magical particles cover her partner.
When he disappeared soon after, her voice was barely a whisper. “Chaton…”
In his place, a dark gem appeared and dropped to the tiled floor with a high pitched clang. Their opponent, a woman dressed in a dark goth coat, smiled, looking very satisfied with herself.
“Don’t worry, Ladybug~ You’ll join him soon. Don’t know if you’ll meet with him, though.”
The villainess giggled and crouched to collect the gemstone, but the heroine was having none of it. She snatched the valuable stone right from under the nose of the akumatised person with her yo-yo, bringing the gem close to her chest.
“That’s... if you can catch me first!” the red clad hero claimed, while the other woman sent her a deadpan look.
Ladybug threw her yo-yo above her, but as she did, what felt like a freezing arrow struck her side. It sent her sprawling to the ground. Her yo-yo dropped to the side along with the lucky charm item, but she didn’t have time to process what it was. Instead she looked down to see golden light in the shape of a spear’s head had struck her in the hip. From it, red and black particles rose to cover the heroine’s body.
“Save your luck for later. You’ll need it,” said the smug looking akuma. As the particles spread, she stood there and watched. Soon Ladybug was swallowed by the particles and the world turned black.
And just like that, all of Marinette’s pain was replaced by panic.
Marinette frantically checked her pockets in search of the gemstone. When it wasn’t in any of them, she looked around herself on the ground. Thankfully, after a while, she found it. Against the green of the grass, it had been hard to distinguish the gem’s dark color.
She hugged the valuable stone to her chest and sighed in relief. The girl inspected it all over for any damage, but it was fine. Finally she relaxed.
Which was short-lived anyway as she registered a very important detail:
Marinette wasn’t transformed.
And just like that, another wave of panic washed over her.
Where was Tikki? Did they take her earrings?
Her hand shot toward her earlobe. Left earring – still there. Right earring – there. And just like that, Marinette slumped in emotional exhaustion. If that akuma’s goal was to make her go crazy, then she was on the road to achieving that.
“Tikki?” she called out, believing that her kwami was somewhere near and would show up. She waited a minute, then two – nothing happened.
“Tikki, please, this isn’t time for jokes!” she called again, a bit more panicked, but all she got in return was another silence.
She looked at the gem in her hand and became frustrated. Then the frustration changed into fear. The ladybug kwami wasn’t one for jokes in this kind of situation. She knew that better than anyone. The silence became more and more unsettling, and Marinette’s thoughts started spiraling.
What happened to her little friend? Was she captured? Was she safe?
The sudden green shine of the gem brought her back from whatever nightmarish scenario her mind had created. Her focus turned to the stone in her hands. She started to play with it a bit, and in a certain light, the nearly black gem turned into a beautiful emerald one. Marinette smiled.
Because those were the colors of her partner. Even if he wasn’t by her side physically, he still was able to ground her, whether he knew it or not. Although she sincerely hoped he knew it.
Marinette took a deep breath and stood up. Only now was she able to properly look around, not that it helped much.
Surrounding her was an empty grass field, the only exception being a tree on a hill. It was a simple landscape, but it was also beautiful. The gentle wind that passed through the fields created shimmering waves, making it feel alive. If Marinette hadn’t found herself in this place due to an akuma attack, leaving her vulnerable, and if she’d had her sketchbook, she would have designed a new summer dress with frills imitating the movement of this field.
But those were the “what if’s”, which weren’t known for happening.
Holding onto what she believed were the remnants of her partner, she started to walk through the sea of plants and headed towards the tree. It was a win-win destination: firstly, the tree was on a hill so she could hopefully see a bit more from up there; and second, the tree itself could protect her from the sun and wind.
… Not that there was much sun to hide from in the first place. Since her awakening to this moment, quite some time had passed and the early sunset had turned into dusk. It got darker and darker with every passing moment. After walking for a while, she finally made it under the tree.
Exhausted and sleepy, she looked around, but the vantage point didn’t really change much. Not to mention that incoming darkness didn’t help her one bit.
Marinette sat under the tree and leaned on its trunk. She played with the gemstone in her hand and closed her eyes while taking calming breaths.
She was able to take two of them, when suddenly something small hit the top of her head. The girl opened her eyes instantly and looked at what hit her. It was an acorn. She looked up and saw something she would have never suspected to see in real life, if this place could be claimed as “real life” in the first place.
There on the branch sat a creature. It was too dark to see what exactly it was, but the shape of it reminded Marinette of a lizard. Or at least, it seemed like a lizard, but she also noticed some feathery appendages on it. It was so strange.
Suddenly it moved and hid somewhere in the crown of the tree. Marinette stared after it, really hoping that this something wasn’t anything hostile. She didn’t have the necessary energy to run for her life right now, or do anything, really.
The girl sighed and turned her focus to the stone in her hand. It was so small it fit perfectly in her palm. She brushed it with her thumb.
It was so quiet here. Only the rustling of the grass and leaves disrupted the calming yet uneasy silence. She wasn’t used to the quiet, that’s for sure. Paris was a city full of life. There were always the sounds of cars and people around. Here it was… peaceful. Too peaceful, even.
And with that thought she felt lonely. There was no one around. Only her and the imagined, reassuring presence of her usually playful partner.
Marinette pressed the gemstone to her chest and closed her eyes, clinging onto what she had, and allowed the exhaustion to take her into the realm of strange dreams.
Who knows? Maybe this whole thing is just a bad nightmare?