During a fight with a new villain, Régresser, Chat Noir is transformed into a child. Ladybug, as Marinette, has to then care for the younger Chaton Noir while trying to figure out how to stop Régresser from turning all of Paris into children.
A blue balloon drifted towards wispy clouds, having slipped away from the tethered clusters in the park below. Decorative cloths covered each of the outdoor tables, which was occupied by half-eaten cakes and scattered paper plates. Chatting adults and sweet-craving children sat at these tables. A dark-skinned woman, with shoulder-length hair and a magenta suit, was in the middle of clearing torn, wrapping paper from one of the tables when she heard squealing laughter. A boy resembling her chased several boys taller than him through the open space. The former fired torrents of water at the latter with a squirt gun. The woman called out, “Didier! I told you not to use that water gun here!”
“But we’re trying to cool off!” the youngest called back, and all the boys came to a stop.
The woman responded, “Find some other way! None of you have other clothes to change into!”
Didier Eudon sagged his shoulders and grumbled, “…What’s the point of getting a squirt gun for my birthday if I can’t use it?”
One of his friends with blond hair spoke up to the group, “Hey! Let’s sit in the shade!”
Everyone, including Didier, agreed and hurried over to the trees. They threw themselves onto the cool grass, panting. Once they caught their breath, the boys arranged themselves into a loose circle and started chatting. After a series of jokes, one the boys with dark hair piped up, showing a picture on his phone of a man in a green suit, “Oh, speaking of Friday, did you hear about the premiere for Alien Fighter II?”
“No way! The first one is my favorite movie!” Didier exclaimed excitedly. The group smiled knowingly, as his squirt gun was based off of the hero’s weapon in Alien Fighter.
“I hear that the sequel is gonna go all out, too. More action and even awesomer effects,” the dark-haired boy continued.
“Oh man, we’ve totally gotta see it,” Didier stated, bouncing in his seat. His mother, having overheard, straightened up abruptly.
“Are you talking seeing about that new Alien Fighter movie?” she inquired before stating, “Oh no, you definitely can’t go, Didier.”
He immediately turned in disbelief, “But, Mom, why?”
“It’s too violent, and you’re not old enough,” she simply explained, continuing to pick up trash.
At this, Didier stood, insisting, “Mom! I’m the youngest in my class. I’ll be the only one that doesn’t!”
However, his mother shrugged and replied, “Don’t throw a fit over things you can’t change, Didier.”
The boy scowled as his mother walked off. To his surprise, Didier heard snickering behind him. He turned, seeing his friends trying to suppress their laughter. Didier felt his stomach twinge. The squirt gun shook in his hand, and he stormed off.
He ran to a tree in the back corner of the park, where the chatter was farthest away. The boy threw his back against the tree, exhaling hot air from his nose.
Didier muttered, waving around his squirt gun, “It’s my birthday. I’m another year older, but I still can’t do what I want. Just because someone’s older than me, they get to tell me what to do. Look down on me. It’s not fair. It’s just not-” Didier pressed his fists to his eyes and sat down, finishing in a near-shout, “It’s not fair!”
A deep chuckle echoed as a mechanical, circular shutter opened. The bluish light poured into the round chamber, falling onto a man and a cloud of white butterflies that filled the room with pulse-like wingbeats. As the light reflected off of the butterflies’ white bodies, the sunlight gleamed on his silver cowl and was swallowed by his black-and-purple suit. He sighed with mock-sympathy as he looked to the wrought-iron window, “What a sad display. A young man on his birthday feeling cheated out of his celebration.”
He held out his black gloved hand, allowing a butterfly to land on his palm. The man then put his other hand over it, with a purplish-black aura seeping between his grasp. When he opened his hands, there was now a black butterfly with irradiated veins. As the corrupted creature flew to the window, the man prompted with a grin, “Go comfort the boy, my akuma, and evilize him!”
Didier sat with his legs drawn up and his head resting on his knees. Deep, rapid wingbeats brushed his eardrum, and he looked towards it. There was a dark shape, like a hole in the air, moving towards him.
The young man cried out and backed against the tree. He flailed his squirt gun and pulled the trigger. The torrent of water shot through the air, but the akuma flittered out of the way, circling around the water. Finally, the akuma landed on the squirt gun, and its body sunk into the object, leaving a purple stain. Didier suddenly went quiet, his body going limp.
Almost mechanically, he lifted his head, with shadows around his eyes and a presence in his mind. A man’s voice rung from within, speaking smoothly, “Régresser, I am Hawkmoth. I couldn’t help but notice your predicament. It really isn’t fair, is it? Others lording their will over you just because they’re older. But I can help you change that. Now, you can turn the tables. All that I ask is for Ladybug and Chat Noir’s Miraculous in exchange. What would you say to that?”
A grin spread over the young man’s face, and he answered in a low growl, “I’ll do it.”
Didier got to his feet. A bubbling, glowing black wave spread from his squirt gun, enveloping his body.
Meanwhile, the dark-haired boy from the group walked over to the tree that Didier had hid behind. He paused and called out, “Didier? You there? Listen…sorry about earlier. We weren’t trying to seem mean. But listen, Chauncey’s mom brought over some swimsuits. We can change our clothes and play with your new present now!”
“Okay…” came a low-toned but smiling response. His friend’s smile slowly dropped, a red flag in the back of his mind. The foot of a green jumpsuit stepped into view. The figure had a dark green domino mask and a smirk on his lighter green face. Régresser pointed his green gun towards his friend. He finished and pulled the trigger, “Let’s play.”
“Dear?” a man called from the living room, with a concerned tinge. This was enough for Sabine to pause cleaning dishes and look over at her husband.
“What’s wrong, Tom?” she asked, moving over to his side. She followed his worried gaze over to the TV. He then turned up the volume to the urgent news report.
On the screen, Nadja Chamack stated, “Police suspect that a new villain is loose. The villain’s goal and abilities are yet to be known. However, several Parisans have seemingly gone missing.”
“Oh no…” Sabine put her hand on Tom’s shoulder, and murmured, “That’s terrible!”
All the while, their daughter had crept halfway down the stairs, listening to them and the TV.
“It’ll be alright.” Tom put his hand over Sabine’s, assuring, “Ladybug and Chat Noir’ll handle things. Just like they always do.”
Sabine managed a smile and held his hand. Meanwhile, the girl wordlessly moved back up the stairs, disappearing into her room. A moment later, a pink flash slipped through the cracks.
A large, flat screen TV in a broad room, filled with arcade machines and trophies, echoed the same news report. From the bathroom door, where steamy air exited, a young man, freshly clothed, dried off his hair. He paused as he overheard Natasha state, “Police have been unable to stop the new villain, now identified as Régresser. Parisans are heavily advised to stay indoors. For now, all we can do is wait for the arrival of Paris’ vigilantes, Ladybug and Chat Noir.”
As Nadja continued, the young man disappeared back into the restroom. After he shut the door behind him, there was a green flash from inside.
The sun started to lower from its highest point. There was a metallic whir of the yoyo string as it wrapped around a chimney two-stories up. When the string went taut, Ladybug was swiftly pulled up onto the roof, where a group of pigeons immediately scattered. When she landed, her eyes immediately scanned the street below. She caught sight of a white-and-green male figure hopping atop a parked car. From the side, she heard another male shout, “End of the line, Régresser!”
Chat Noir landed on the street, a few meters from the young man, who turned to face him with a growl. The villain looked to be only a little younger than the hero. Régresser pointed his green, orb-like pistol at Chat Noir and fired several glowing beams at him. Chat Noir rapidly spun his metal baton in front of himself, cutting up the shots before they could hit.
All the while, Ladybug retracted her yo-yo back into her hand before stretching it straight overhead, calling out, “Lucky Charm!”
The red-and-black-dotted yoyo spun in the air and emitted a wave of gleaming ladybugs. The swarm swirled back together and collided in a flash of light. A small jar, with a ladybug pattern on the top, materialized and landed in her hands. Ladybug made a confused noise and inspected the item, “A jar of…grape jelly? What am I supposed to do with this?”
Régresser paused shooting, with flashing lights out of the corner of his eye. He saw Ladybug on the roof, looking over the jar. Hurriedly approaching footsteps brought his attention back to Chat Noir, who lunged for Régresser with a yell. Régresser quickly stepped to the side and grabbed a hold of Chat Noir’s rod. Chat Noir felt his weapon get yanked out of his grasp as he sailed past Régresser with a cry.
Régresser then tossed the rod away and turned back to Ladybug, who looked over at the sound of Chat Noir crashing into the sidewalk. He saw her enter a readied stance, spinning her yoyo in one hand and holding the jar in the other. A rumbling engine then caught his attention. A bus was passing in-between them. He smiled victoriously and fired a glowing shot through an opened window.
Ladybug saw a green beam strike the bus driver, who seemed to disappear in his seat. To her horror, the bus continued to move, straight towards oncoming traffic. She dropped down to the street and threw her yoyo in the bus’s path, making a web between two streetlamps. The bus was caught and the wire creaked as it strained under the pressure. Ultimately, the yoyo string won out, and the bus settled to a stop. Ladybug sighed in relief.
“You’re finished, Ladybug!” Régresser shouted, now standing on top of the bus. Before Ladybug could retracted her wire, he fired a glowing blast. A black shape leapt in the way, struck instead.
“Chat Noir!” Ladybug shouted, seeing the light envelope his body as he tumbled behind a bench. She immediately turned her attention back to Régresser, baring her teeth before her eyes popped open with realization. Ladybug then pulled the top off of the jelly jar.
With a laugh, Régresser pointed his gun at Ladybug. She threw the jar straight towards him. There was a sucking squelch as the jar landed directly over the gun, burying the barrel deep in grape jam. Régresser was caught off guard. He attempted to pull the jar off but it wouldn’t budge.
“Give it up! Your gun is jammed!” Ladybug shouted, pulling her yoyo loose.
“Yeah, for now. But you still have to catch me, and your powers are gonna run out!” Régresser confidently shouted back before leaping from the bus to a roof, where he ran from sight.
Ladybug gritted her teeth. She turned to where her partner had fallen and called out, “Chat Noir, are you alright?”
“Uh, yes and…no,” a response in a higher pitch than she expected came from behind the bench.
Ladybug briefly glanced over to the sound of the bus doors opening, where passengers hurried out onto the street. She caught sight of a panicked child dressed like a bus driver and quickly looked back in Chat Noir’s direction. She urged, “Come on out, we need a plan to catch Régresser.”
“That could be…difficult,” was the response as a small boy stepped out from behind the bench. The cat-like eyes in the black mask and his leather suit indicated that this boy was Chat Noir. However, the tips of his cat ears now barely reached past her hips. He gave a smile with the words, “Uh, I hope this doesn’t make things awkward.”
“I-” Ladybug began, until beeping blared in her ears as an unpleasant reminder. She sighed and stated, “I’m going to de-transform soon. I’ll go and feed my kwami. Keep tabs on Régresser’s location, but don’t try fighting him. I’ll then-”
She was interrupted by Chat Noir groaning, “Actually, I need to go eat too.”
“What? But you didn’t use-”
“Not my kwami. Me. I forgot to eat earlier, and I’m really hungry,” he replied, holding his stomach. “I don’t think I’ll be able to chase Régresser like this.”
“I doubt you could’ve chased him as you are anyways,” Ladybug murmured more to herself.
“Could you help me get something to eat?” he asked suddenly.
“Uh-” Her miraculous continued to beep. She started to turn away and replied, “I gotta go. But, I’ll, uh, figure out something. Just– wait here, okay?”
“I trust you, My Lady,” he responded and ducked back behind the bench. The sound of a child using Chat Noir’s nickname for her caused an uneasy twinge her stomach. She tried to shake the feeling and darted around the corner, hiding behind a building. The continual beeping of her miraculous finally gave way to glittering lights. Her normal dark jacket and pink jeans were revealed from under the spotted suit, and a small, pink form materialized beside her head.
“What are you going to do, Marinette? Régresser’s still on the loose!” Tikki squeaked worriedly as the mask-less teen searched through her purse.
“On top of that, I’m all out of food for you.” Marinette made an exasperated groan and leaned against the bricks, “I’ll probably have to run by my house to get more.”
“What about Chat Noir?” the kwami inquired.
Marinette peeked around the corner. A few adults stood around the crying, bus driver-dressed child, with one adult on the phone and the others trying to calm the child. Marinette focused her eyes on the bench where she knew Chat Noir was hiding. She answered, “Well, I can’t just leave him…” Marinette glanced away, eyes flickering. After a moment, she looked to Tikki and finally stated, “I think I have an idea.”
All the while, Chat Noir had the phone feature to his baton activated. He used the camera function to look at his own, youthful face. His large eyes narrowed worriedly.
“Chat Noir?” a girl called, causing his leathery ears to perk up. He put away his baton and peaked past the bench as she continued, “Um, Ladybug sent me. She said you needed help?”
“Ah, I thought I recognized that voice,” Chat Noir responded and stepped out into view, with a bow, “It’s good to see you again, Princess.”
“Oh! Wow,” Marinette acted surprised, though she was still having trouble adjusting. She pointed to him, continuing, “Um, you look- different.”
“Just an effect from the latest villain. Nothing that this cat can’t handle.” He took her hand in his own, and stated, “Despite my appearance, I’m still the damsel-saving hero, Chat Noir.”
He then kissed the back of her hand, and a giggle involuntarily bubbled out of Marinette. She tried to stifle her laughter, replying, “Sorry. You just seem more like a…Chaton Noir right now.”
At this, he let go of her hand and cleared his throat. Chat Noir then tried to change the subject, “S-so, Ladybug explained the situation?”
“Oh, uh, yes. Since my parents run a bakery, I can help you get food,” Marinette answered.
“Sounds good! I’ll get us there in no time,” Chat Noir replied and flashed a grin. He drew out his metal stick and instinctively tried to wrap his arm around Marinette with his other arm. However, Chat Noir quickly realized that, at his size, he was only able to hold her leg. “Uh-” He let go of her and put away his stick, “Or we could just go on foot.”
He added, “We better hurry though” before running down the sidewalk, with Marinette running alongside him. However, Chat Noir notably lagged behind after several minutes. They slowed to a stop, and the child panted, “Yeah, I can’t…move as far like this…really doesn’t help that I’m hungry…”
Marinette bit her lip, glancing at the distance from her house. Finally, she turned to Chat Noir and stated, “Here, I can carry you. We’ll be able to move faster.”
She held him by his sides and hoisted him up, wrapping her arms around him in a practiced motion. Marinette continued down the sidewalk, with Chat Noir’s voice in her ear, “I appurreciate this, Princess. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be carried around like this.”
“Oh, of course not,” Marinette responded, thinking of several separate occasions she’s had to carry him as Ladybug.
He continued to ramble more about heroic escapades, which Marinette mostly tuned out and responded to off-handedly. After a few crosswalks, she heard him pipe up, “Oh hey, that new arcade opened up. Maybe we could go there after we eat.”
“What?” Marinette responded quizzically, “No, you still have a villain to go after.”
“Oh, right, of course. I’m, uh, not sure what I was thinking…” he replied, trailing off in confusion.
The hanging bell jingled as Marinette entered into the bakery, still holding Chaton Noir. Within a few seconds, her father’s large form poked around the corner. A relieved smile spread under his mustache.
“Marinette! We were wondering when you’d get home. There’s a villain loose and you weren’t responding to your mother’s texts,” Tom talked as he walked over to her. He paused, seeing the child in her arms. Tom was met with a pair of unnaturally green eyes. The man blinked and inquired, “Um, who’s this?”
“Uh, this is,” Marinette started unsteadily, eyes darting to the side, as she answered, “…a kid of someone I know! They asked me to watch him for a little bit.”
“Aren’t you already babysitting Manon?” Tom inquired. Marinette set down Chaton all the while.
“It’s, uh, only for today,” Marinette assured with a nervous laugh. Chaton sniffed at the air, a hungry look entering his eyes. He stared longingly at the pastries filling the shelves.
“And, ah, what’s that he’s wearing?” Tom asked, scrunching up his face quizzically.
“Oh! That! Well, you see, he’s a…huge fan of Chat Noir! So much that I made a costume for him,” Marinette answered.
Chaton hid his hands behind his back when Tom looked over him again, this time with an impressed nod, “Well, you’ve really outdone yourself then.”
“Haha, thanks, Papa, but we better head upstairs and everything,” Marinette took Chaton’s hand and led him towards the stairs.
Marinette soon pushed up the trap door into her room and entered with a sigh. She turned to Chaton, then surprised at the croissant in his other hand. “Where did you-” Marinette plucked the pastry from him. He made an annoyed noise, but she continued to chastise, “Chat Noir, did you take this?”
“I’m hungry!” he argued, pouting.
“That’s stealing!” she shot back. Concern washed over her face, and she continued, “What’s gotten into you?”
His anger dropped upon hearing her tone. Remorsefully, Chaton murmured, “I’m sorry. I think…I’m just really hungry.”
Marinette responded, sympathetic, “It’s alright. Let me get some food for you. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Marinette swiftly disappeared through the trapdoor. After several minutes, she reappeared with a baguette sandwich. Marinette stiffened, as she came back to see Chaton playing with pens on her desk, but he quickly turned his attention from that and excitedly rushed over to her. She meant to set the food tray on the table, but he took it and simply sat where he stood to eat. He happily bit into a mix of ham and vegetables.
Marinette found herself smiling. Afterwards, she went over to her desk and checked her computer. She scrolled through, noticing repeated links to a news feed from Kids +. When she clicked on one, a video came up with Nadja Chamack nervously staring into the camera.
“W-we have a very important announcement from here at the Kids + Studio…” the newswoman stuttered.
“Hello, Paris!” another voice piped up as a green-suited arm pulled the camera to the side. A light green face grinned into the lens, stating, “I, Régresser, will be celebrating my birthday here at the studio, where I’ll have an exclusive viewing of Alien Fighter II. Everyone is invited, including Paris’ local heroes, and I’ll be here with my good friend-” He backed up, revealing André Bourgeois bound to a chair behind him, “The mayor!”
Régresser added, glaring into the camera, “But if Ladybug and Chat Noir don’t show up at five o’ clock, I’ll turn the mayor into a child.” He smiled and pointed his gun to the side, finishing, “Just like this.”
He pulled the trigger, resulting in a bright, green flash and Nadja let out a surprised yell. When the light dimmed, a little and fuchsia-haired girl stood with a microphone and oversized reporter’s outfit. She glanced down at herself and back up at Régresser’s cruel smile before she started to cry. Régresser then turned to the camera, which started to back away. He fired his gun past the camera. A man’s yell turned into a child’s and the camera fell forward, cutting to black.
The feed cut out. Marinette stared at her screen in disbelief. She then leaned back in her chair and ran a hand through her hair.
“Marinette?” the child called out, voice muffled with food. Chaton gulped and asked, “Are you okay?”
After a moment, she put up a smile and replied, “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m sure Ladybug will take care of everything.”
Chaton nodded in agreement. He responded, “Of course! Ladybug’s smart and strong and pretty.”
Marinette smiled bashfully to herself. Chaton looked to her, adding, “You’re pretty too!”
“Uh-” The girl blushed in surprise. She cleared her throat and replied, “Th-thanks.”
Chaton blinked before realizing what he said. He abruptly continued eating, as if to hide his face with the sandwich. Marinette then got up from her seat and climbed up to her bed, stating, “Uh, wait here. I’m going to, um, get some fresh air on the loft.”
“Okay,” was the food-filled response.
The girl stepped into the open air. The sun was still out, though clouds lingered at its edges. Tikki flew out of her purse and circled to a stop by the girl’s downtrodden face.
Marinette started, “I’m not sure what to do, Tikki. I want to go and stop Régresser, but he’ll be expecting Ladybug at the studio.”
“Maybe you could infiltrate the party as Marinette?” Tikki offered.
“I would, but Régresser would probably just turn me into a kid…” Marinette sighed and leaned against the railing. After a moment, she lifted her head, suggesting, “Wait. What if I took Chaton with me?”
“What?” Tikki exclaimed, “But he can’t fight!”
“But he’s already been turned into a kid, so he’s not at risk from Régresser’s powers,” Marinette responded. “He could distract the villain while I snatch the akuma.”
Tikki made a sideways frown, not entirely convinced. Marinette faltered and added, “Well…I see if I can come up with anything better. For now, let me make sure he’s doing alright.”
When Marinette climbed back down onto her bed, she saw a bare spot on the floor where Chaton was once sitting, with a half-eaten sandwich beside it. Marinette gasped and hurried down next to her desk. She called out, “Chat Noir? Where are you?”
She moved towards the lounge chair across from her and looked behind it. Seeing nothing, she turned around, surveying the rest of her room. Marinette felt a small, clawed hand grab at her ankle. She let out a yelp and jumped away. A giggle came from under the chair. Marinette pursed her lips and ducked down. Glowing green eyes blinked back at her in the dim light. His lower eyelids lifted and his gaze shook as he let out another giggle. He then darted away, climbing on top of the chair. Marinette quickly sat back up, face-to-face with him again. She glared, but he had a terrible time suppressing his laughter.
“Chat Noir!” Marinette stood and put her hands to her hips, continuing, “What are you doing? You still have to go and help Ladybug!”
However, he didn’t appear to be paying attention. Marinette pouted and moved from the longue chair, continuing, “At any rate, if you’re done eating, I’m gonna put this food away.”
Chaton gasped and immediately darted for the tray, protectively snatching up the rest of the sandwich. He hunched over it and declared, “No! I’m not done!”
“Then finish your meal,” Marinette stated, sharply pointing to the tray. Begrudgingly, Chaton resumed eating, green eyes staring at her moodily. Marinette sat at her desk, watching Chaton sternly. However, a bit of uncertainty swam in her gut, and concern colored her glare.
After a few minutes, it became apparent that Chaton couldn’t finish the whole sandwich. He let out a yawn and he muttered, “I’m tired…”’
“Tired? Really?” Marinette moved from her seat to pick up the tray and abandoned sandwich. She got a closer look at the child, and then replied, “…You do look really sleepy.”
Marinette straightened up and added, “Well, why don’t you take a nap then? The chair over there should be a good spot. Let me know if you need anything, like more pillows.”
“Okay,” Chaton responded and shuffled across the room, where he hopped onto the longue chair. Marinette then exited with the tray. When she returned, Chaton was gone.
“Chaton?” Marinette called out, before correcting herself, “I mean, Chat Noir? Where are you?”
A giddy snort sounded overhead. Marinette looked up towards her bed. She caught a pair of black cat ears disappear behind the ledge. Marinette pouted and climbed the stairs. By the time she reached the bed, the area was seemingly empty. However, the pillows were higher up from the bed than they usually were. She pulled the pillows off, and Chaton looked up in surprise. He let out a squeal and started for the edge of the bed. Marinette caught him, however, and set him back on the bed.
“Now’s not the time for games!” she berated, quieting him briefly. Marinette went on, “If you’re not tired, then go help Ladybug!”
“I wanna help Ladybug!” he argued back. He then muttered, “And I am tired. I just can’t sleep.”
Marinette calmed slightly and sighed, “Well…if you’re going to get any rest, you’ll need to lie down first. Go on, get comfortable.”
Chaton was prompted into scuttling over to the pillows. Marinette sat on the edge of the bed beside him. After he shuffled onto his side, she gingerly reached over and began petting him. Chaton visibly relaxed and made an approving sigh.
Marinette paused as the boy turned his head towards her. He then asked, “Marinette, could you tell me a story?”
“A-a story?” she responded, taken aback. She glanced around searchingly, “A-ah, um. I’m not very good at stories…” She trailed off, seeing a heart-melting plea enter his shining green gaze, and she went on, “But I guess I could try. How’s about, uh, a story about a girl who…has a crush on a boy, but, um, he doesn’t know it?”
Chaton blinked, and Marinette continued nervously, “The reason is that, you see, she’s very shy. I mean, really shy. She has trouble even saying hello to him. It’s like her tongue ties itself into knots.”
The child giggled at this. Marinette paused, glancing around for ideas. She noticed one of her shoes on the floor and continued, “So…there’s a big event coming up, like a dance. She loves to sew and gets the idea to make her own dress. As part of the outfit, she wears a mask, hoping that it can help her talk to the boy better. As it turns out, her plan works! The girl is more confident with her face hidden and talks to him no problem. What’s more, the boy is fun and nice to talk to, and he, well, feels the same way talking to her. They spend most of the dance enjoying each other’s company. Towards the end of the dance, the boy finally asks to see her face. However, the girl is still very shy and can’t imagine revealing herself. So she makes an excuse to leave as soon as possible, unknowingly leaving behind part of her dress. Despite her decision, she’s sad about not going through with it, but believes that she doesn’t have the courage to confess. What she doesn’t expect is the boy’s determination to find her again, using the cloth she left behind. And he—”
Marinette paused, feeling a tiny hand against her leg. Chaton was fast asleep and had reached out to her. She smiled and gently ran her hand over his head. Her own eyelids started to feel heavy.
Régresser tapped his foot as he looked over to a clock on the Kids + stage. It was ten minutes past four. He stamped his foot and caused the mayor to flinch beside him. The boy growled in annoyance, “Where are they? It’s almost time!”
“Patience, Régresser,” Hawkmoth’s voice filled his head, causing him to pause. The man assured, “You know how these hero-types are about arriving the last minute.”
After a moment, the boy grinned and stated, “I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces.”
A squeaking voice steadily filled her head, calling, “Marinette…Marinette!”
The girl opened her eyes with a start, seeing Tikki floating over her head. The kwami urged, “You have get up! It’s almost five!”
Marinette gasped and began to sit up, but her arm felt weighed down. Chaton was hugging her limb, still fast asleep. She looked back to Tikki and whispered, “Okay, I’ll get ready.”
Once the kwami zipped back into her purse, Marinette took hold of Chaton’s shoulder and shook gently, calling, “Chaton? Chaton, it’s time to wake up.”
The child shifted and groaned, cracking open one, glowing green eye. Marinette continued, “You have to go stop Régresser.”
“I don’t wanna,” Chaton muttered and rolled over.
“But you’re one of Paris’ heroes!” Marinette insisted, shocked at his response.
“I don’t wanna,” the boy simply repeated, now muffled by the pillow.
Marinette huffed. She glanced to the side before stating purposefully, “Don’t you want to help out Ladybug?”
Chaton’s head snapped up from the pillow. He immediately insisted, “I want to help Ladybug!”
“Then you need to go to the Kids + studio. She came by when you were asleep wanted you to meet her at the studio,” Marinette responded.
The boy nodded as he yawned. Chaton rubbed his eyes before hopping off of the bed. Marinette followed him down the ladder, and he crawled under the lounge chair. She curiously watched his belt-tail flick until he drew out his metal baton. When they went to the trapdoor, Marinette felt Chaton’s little fingers wrap around her own. She smiled, and they started down the stairs together.
Tom and Sabine sat in the living room, where the TV channel fuzzed incoherently. The adults worriedly talked amongst themselves until they heard footsteps.
Marinette and Chaton were halfway to the door when Tom called, “Marinette? Where are you going?”
The girl froze. After a brief pause, she began to stutter, “Well, you see, I have to, um-”
Chaton piped up, “She has to catch me!”
“…catch you?” Marinette repeated slowly.
Chaton suddenly broke away from Marinette and bolted out of the door. Marinette grabbed her head and shouted, “To catch him!”
She hurried through the door, cramming a rapid farewell over her shoulder, “GottagoI’llbesafeIpromisebye!”
Sabine and Tom hardly had the chance to leave their seats before the pair disappeared through the doorway.
It wasn’t long before the bakery was long behind them as they ran along a sunset flooded street. Chaton laughed breathlessly as he ran, barely hearing Marinette calling his name repeatedly. Finally, the girl caught up to him and pulled him off of his feet, which he responded with a yell of exuberance.
She exclaimed, “What are you doing? The Kids + studio is the other way!”
“Oh,” Chaton responded, as if remembering, “Right.”
Marinette sighed and hurried down the sidewalk, still holding the child. Pigeons cooed in the distance, but the streets were empty. Everyone must’ve moved indoors, Marinette thought. Good, maybe that’ll lessen the number of Régresser’s victims.
She broke from her thoughts as Chaton batted at her pigtail ribbons, giggling to himself. Her stomach sunk. Is he really going to be okay? Marinette strengthened her grip around him and gritted her teeth behind her lips. I don’t have any other options. I need his help to stop Régresser. Chaton returned what he thought was a hug.
The Kids + Studio finally came into view, and it was a bright orange pillar from the sun reflecting off the windows. Silent police cars and barricades sat around the doors. Some lights still flashed, but all the vehicles were empty. Marinette finally set down Chaton and held his hand as she led him towards the barricades.
“Alright, Ladybug said for you to go to lobby to find her. She said she’d give you the rundown of the plan then,” Marinette explained.
“Mm,” Chaton grunted half-mindedly.
“Just follow what Ladybug says and you’ll be fine,” Marinette assured. She then moved to separate from Chaton, but he didn’t let go of her hand. The girl inquired, “Chaton? What’s wrong?”
“Will you…” the boy murmured, striking her with its seeping sadness, “…still be here after I go? I don’t wanna…be alone.”
His words tugged at her heart. Marinette knelt down, trying to reassure him, “You won’t be. I promise that Ladybug will meet you inside.” The boy’s eyes were still downcast, causing her to pause. After a moment, Marinette gently turned his chin towards her and added softly, “Listen…just because you can’t see me doesn’t me that I won’t be around. I’ll just be cheering you on from the sidelines. Isn’t that right, Chaton?”
She smiled. His face brightened, and he answered confidently, “Right!”
“Are you ready to go?” she asked.
He nodded, his eyes gleaming with excited energy. Marinette then helped Chaton over the barricade. He drew out his baton, sucked in a breath and scurried to the building. The boy paused halfway through the door, looking back at her. She gave him a pair of thumbs-up. Chaton smiled and slipped inside.
Marinette bolted for an alley the moment the child disappeared from view. She muttered hurriedly, “Come-on-spots-on-spots-on!”
Chaton carefully picked his way through the empty lobby. His leather ears twitched, mostly at the sound of his own, tiny footsteps. He noticed a green figure out of the corner of his eye and immediately turned with a cry. Chaton pointed his baton at a cardboard cut-out of a man in a green-full body suit with a green, ray gun in his hand. He stood on the title, ALIEN FIGHTER II.
“Would you call that a cat scare or a kitten scare?” Ladybug joked. Chaton perked up and rushed over to her by the door. She tried to keep her breathing even and panted discreetly. Ladybug then asked, “Ready to go?”
“Yeah! We’re gonna beat Régresser!” Chaton cheered.
She smiled and responded, “We’ll need to find him first.” Ladybug continued as she started across the lobby, “Come on, I’ll explain the plan along the way.”
André Bourgeois jumped in his restraints when Régresser slammed a foot in front of him. The boy pointed the gun in his face, stating, “It’s five o’clock, and Ladybug hasn’t shown yet. I don’t want to wait to start my premiere of Alien Fighter II so I’m gonna go ahead and regress you.”
“B-but how can I run for mayor as a child?” André stuttered, shaking eyes focused on the spout-like barrel of the gun.
“You’re right,” Régresser responded with a widened smile. He put the gun closer, “Maybe I can be mayor when I’m the oldest person in Paris.”
“Didier!” a woman cried out.
Régresser turned with a glower. His mother stood in the doorway, panting heavily. She stumbled across the room, moving past hiding children, many of which wore police uniforms. Her voice bounced breathlessly off of the walls, “Didier, please, whatever reason you’re doing this, it’s not worth all this trouble-”
“I’m not Didier!” Régresser snapped. He then snarled, stepping towards the woman, “I am Régresser!”
She halted, as if struck. He continued, his voice boiling, “And I’m sick of being told what to do by people older than me! It’s not fair! It’s never fair!”
Régresser then grinned cruelly, adding, “That’s why I’m gonna give everyone a taste of their own medicine. Then, I’ll get to tell everyone else what to do.”
The mother stared in shock. She called out, “Didier, this isn’t like you! Please, stop!”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do anymore!” he shouted and fired his gun. The beam hit the woman, shrinking her down. The little girl then stared between herself and him in fear and confusion. Her eyes watered and sobs bubbled from her quivering lips.
A young boy yelled, “Hey! Quit making kids cry, you…you big meanie!”
Régresser grinned at the sight of Chaton in the doorway. The former taunted the child, “Well, well, look who showed up. How do you enjoy reliving your kittenhood, Chat Noir?”
Chaton answered with a glare and charged with his baton. Régresser laughed, “You think that’s going to work?”
He fired his gun, forcing Chaton break his sprint and jump out of the blast’s way. The child stumbled but had to scramble away again as Régresser fired another shot. The villain laughed when Chaton tripped and fell onto his stomach, “You don’t stand a chance, kitten! Where’s Ladybug to help you? Was she too scared to come? Or is she…behind me?”
Régresser turned around, catching sight of Ladybug on top of catwalk with her yoyo upraised. He shouted as he fired beams, “An ambush? Please. It’s like you took a page from Alien Fighter!”
Ladybug spun her yoyo to deflect the first shot, jumped back from the second and moved back again from the third. However, she slipped from the ledge, barely managing to catch herself on the metal bars. Unfortunately, it left her open for another attack.
“Leave Ladybug alone!” Chaton cried and threw his baton. The metal stick whistled through the air before it struck Régresser’s shoulder, forcing him to draw back in pain.
There’s not enough time to climb up and hit him, Ladybug realized as Régresser started to recover. She swung her legs back and forth before letting go of the catwalk. Ladybug tumbled across the ground, onto her feet. Régresser fired a blast at her, but she hurried behind a large speaker. He growled and then fire another round at Chaton, who turned to run too late.
The child’s cry froze Ladybug. Her gaze snapped over, seeing Chaton tightened into a ball on the ground. He shakily unfurled, and tears streamed over his face, which twisted with pain. Ladybug’s shoulders dropped as the realization tumbled from her lips, “No, I thought…I let this happen. I thought I could handle it on my own but…”
The child pushed himself up and turned his watery gaze to her. Ladybug gritted her teeth and darted from the speaker, protectively spinning her yoyo beside her. Régresser immediately shot at her, though his beams were deflected by her yoyo. Ladybug quickly scooped up Chaton and escaped back behind the speaker.
“Are you alright?” she breathlessly asked.
The child held his chest and answered in a murmur, “It hurts but…I’m okay…”
“I’m sorry that this happened,” Ladybug apologized, eyes downcast.
Surprised at seeing her unhappy, Chaton insisted and smeared his tears in an attempt to wipe them off, “I’m okay! Really!” He grabbed her hand, adding, “Please don’t be sad.”
Ladybug blinked. Finally, she patted his head, answering with a smile, “How could I be when I’m with you?”
He brightened. She then glanced in the direction of Régresser, murmuring, “We can’t let our guard down yet. We still have an akuma to catch.”
“How are we gonna get it?” Chaton asked.
“That’s what I’m going to figure out,” Ladybug answered. She flung her yoyo upward, proclaiming, “Lucky Charm!”
Waves of ladybugs poured from her twirling yoyo. The flittering streams then swirled together, creating a large flash. In place of the light, there was a red-and-black-spotted, cone-shaped horn with a handle. It landed in her hand, only as big as her palm. She looked over it quizzically and wondered aloud, “A mini-megaphone? What do I do with this?”
Ladybug’s gaze darted around. Through a grey lens, she focused past recording equipment towards clusters of hiding children, who flashed red-and-black. Her eyes then went to Chaton and finally the little megaphone. She smiled in understanding, “I got it!”
Ladybug handed the megaphone to Chaton, who scrunched his face as he held it up to his face. He wondered, “What’s this for?”
She dropped to one knee and put a hand to his shoulder, explaining, “You can rally the other kids. They’ll listen to you.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll be the distraction this time, and I won’t let you get hurt,” she responded confidently. Chaton’s eyes lit up in that moment.
“I’m not gonna let you get hurt either!” he responded with equal self-assurance.
Régresser stood readily beside the mayor, his eyes shifting around for any red or black figures. Ladybug suddenly leapt on top of the speaker. He quickly fired several shots at her, though her yoyo already spun in front of her, blocking the beams. Ladybug hit one blast back towards Régresser, who jumped out of the way. The mayor yelped as it struck the ground beside him. All the while, Ladybug took the chance to leapt onto a different speaker and resume spinning her yoyo. Régresser continued to bear down on her with a volley of green beams. A black shape moved out of the corner of his eye.
The high-pitch whine of a megaphone rippled through the air, followed by Chaton’s reinforced call, “Everyone listen! Régresser’s just some bully! But there’s only one of him and a bunch of us!”
A single blast slipped past Ladybug’s yoyo, nearly grazing her ear. She gasped and forced her burning arm to twirl the string more.
Large and curious gazes steadily emerged from their hiding places as Chaton continued, “It doesn’t matter how old or big he is, he can’t beat all of us at once! We can win if we stop him together! Come on!”
Chaton watched the clusters tensely until a boy in an oversized, police uniform ran over to his side. Like a growing tide, other children gradually followed, and they soon ran after Chaton as a rushing herd.
Régresser paused from firing at Ladybug, hearing a sound like tiny thunder. He made a horrified choke at seeing the oncoming swarm of children. He fruitlessly took a step back, stuttering, “Why are you—I-I’m bigger than you! You can’t—y-you-”
The children, all yelling in unison, charged into him with their arms upraised. Régresser attempted to fire his gun more, but he was pulled down into the crowd with a cry. Ladybug jumped down from the speaker, hardly able to see Régresser through the waving arms and children dog-piling on top of him. Chaton broke away from the group, carrying Régresser’s gun above his head. Excitedly, he held out the weapon to Ladybug. She accepted it and patted his head, smiling back, “Thank you, Chaton.”
He smiled proudly, eyes gleaming.
Ladybug then turned and snapped the gun in half across her knee. She tossed both pieces to the ground, shouting, “Get out here, you nasty bug!”
A purple-stained akuma slipped from the cracked halves and started to flutter away. Ladybug swiped her finger across her yoyo, so it opened like a beetle’s back and glowed pink. She swung her yoyo, spinning it behind her before lunging it forward as she shouted, “Time to de-evilize!”
The glowing yoyo snatched up akuma. She snapped the yoyo back into her hand and declared, “Gotcha!”
Ladybug then tapped the yoyo to open it. A white butterfly floated out, with Ladybug calling after it, “Bye-bye, little butterfly.”
After getting the megaphone from Chaton, she tossed it upward, shouting, “Miraculous Ladybugs!”
The megaphone exploded into a waves of glittering ladybugs. They rushed over the crowd of children, who each returned to their adult states. The ladybugs swirled over Chaton, leaving behind Chat Noir, who looked over his hands in joy. Régresser, no longer pinned by children, was on his hands and knees. A purple aura receded down his body, returning the young man to his normal state. Didier sat up and murmured as he looked around, “What happened?”
His mother ran over and pulled him into a hug. He blinked before returning the gesture.
Chat Noir, all the while, had approached Ladybug. They connected their fists, celebrating, “Pound it!”
The restored policemen, aside from one who found that his helmet was backwards, soon set to work in escorting out the citizens, unbinding the mayor and checking Didier. At the same time, Chat Noir inquired playfully, “So, I’m pretty cute as a kid, right? Of course, it’s nothing compared to how I look now, wouldn’t you agree?” He flexed as he finished his sentence.
“Maybe I’ll answer that when you’re older,” Ladybug responded jokingly.
“Aw, come on. Is that all you have to say after all this?” Chat Noir persisted.
“Well, I’d say you weren’t half bad, Chaton,” she answered, lightly poking his nose. He blinked before a smile spread over his face.
Ladybug’s earrings made blinking beeps. She put a hand to her ear, and stated, “I have to get going. Do you mind sorting out things here?”
Chat Noir dipped into a regal bow, answering, “As you wish, My Lady.”
Ladybug waved her hand in farewell before bolting off, disappearing into the hall.
Papery wingbeats barely drowned out the man’s growl and his glove’s strain from his clenched fist. Hawkmoth snarled, “I was so close, so close!”
His hands shook and his body trembled. However, his shoulders begrudgingly straightened, and he leered at the window, just as the shutters steadily blocked out the light. Hawkmoth’s voice tolled like a heavy bell, “But any celebration of theirs is premature. I’ll strike again, and I will only get closer to finally claiming their Miraculous.”
Marinette peered from alleyway, over at the Kids + Studio. Tikki’s pink head poked out from behind her pigtail, and she inquired, “What’s going on, Marinette? Aren’t you going to head home?”
“I will, I just want to tie up one last loose end,” Marinette answered, watching the building’s entrance. When a black figure finally slipped out, she made her way towards the barricades.
“Thanks again for your help,” Officer Roger stated, adjusting his cap.
“Oh, no trouble at all,” Chat Noir responded. His eyes flickered over when he noticed the dark-haired girl standing patiently at the sidewalk. She waved in acknowledgment. He looked back to the head officer, continuing to say, “But, the life of a hero is a busy one, so I must be on my way. Good work today!”
With that, Chat Noir finally slid out of the conversation and leapt over the barricade, landing in front of Marinette.
“Why, hello, Princess. Were you waiting for me?” he greeted inquiringly.
“Well, yes, actually.” She answered, “I was thinking about what you said earlier and thought it’d be best if I stuck around.”
“I…” Chat Noir faltered with surprise. After a moment, he finished in a significantly softer tone, “really appreciate that.”
He continued, steadily regaining his energy, “I mean, I hope I didn’t worry you. I think that was all a part of being turned into a kid. Oh! Just don’t let Ladybug know, alright? I’d rather if she didn’t hear about all my childish escapades.”
Marinette giggled and playfully poked his nose, responding, “It’ll be our little secret, Chaton.”
Chat Noir blinked and smiled. He drew his metal stick from his belt and stated, “I hate to cut our chat short but there’s work to be done and I’m not getting any younger. This time.” He winked, “Farewell for now, Princess!”
With a click of a side button, the rod extended into a pole, pushing him onto a rooftop. When he retracted the staff, Chat Noir then leapt onto the next roof, fading into a silhouette on the orange-bathed rooftops. Marinette watched him go with a smile. She turned and started back home, glancing at Tikki’s proud face poking out of her purse.