In the last two hours, I'd been publicly humiliated by my idol, I'd lost all chances at getting together with a cute boy, I'd had my plans thwarted, I'd been defeated in combat, and I'd been forced to question my morals as I spun deceit upon deceit. Overall, I'd say things could have gone better.
But it was certainly an experience. I'm still not exactly sure how it happened—my memories of the whole ordeal are kind of hazy. The way I remember it, after Ladybug mocked me in front of Adrien, I shamefully fled the scene—oh, I regret that so much now. But I wasn't thinking clearly; I was allowing my frustration to control me.
And that's when the voice began to speak. As it spoke, everything appeared shrouded in a purple glow. The voice seemed to well up from inside me, and reverberated through my bones. And then it made me an offer, which I immediately accepted.
I suppose this goes to show just how irrational I was being. I'd heard my fair share of stories where desperate people strike up deals with the devil, only to come to regret it in the end. The devil always comes out on top, and I know that. But I accepted the offer regardless.
Like almost everybody I know, I'd always dreamed about the possibility of having supernatural powers. I always imagined it as a fulfilling experience, where I would have the ability to tackle my personal flaws and shove them behind me. And yet, the actual experience only magnified the parts of myself that I hate the most. I suppose that's the sweet irony in the situation.
You see, I've always been a liar. I can't help it—if I'm not very careful about what I say, I'll reflexively spin fantastic tales with no bearing on reality. And I'm very good at it. I've convinced most of the people I know that I once got to fly to the space station. It was far more interesting then talking about my boring summer in Rouen, and so it's the story that I told. I didn't want to, but I can't exactly take it back now. I try to tell the truth, but the truth will inevitably be overpowered by the fear of not being seen as interesting enough.
And I hoped that the powers I gained would provide an avenue to express myself without resorting to deception. But the powers Hawkmoth gave me only made my lies even more convincing. My dreams of fighting evil alongside Ladybug and Chat Noir were shattered, as I tried desperately to create an image by creating imaginary threats to the city. Without the authenticity, my powers meant nothing.
Fortunately, I'm very good at making plans, and I had a few choice ideas to salvage this situation. The crucial step was to get Hawkmoth to return my powers. I didn't know how to get him to do that, but I knew somebody who might be able to help me out. And that's why I was sitting on a park bench and waiting, as the evening sky faded from orange to pink. I was slowly turning my fox tail necklace over and over in my hand.
"Hey there, Lila."
The voice caught me by surprise, and I spun around quickly, only to see the exact person I'd been waiting to meet.
"Hey there, Alya," I said, relieved.
"I don't know if you saw, but you made the news," Alya said casually. "You certainly embarassred the reporters when they found out you duped them. That look on Nadja Chamack's face was priceless!"
I honestly wasn't sure whether or not she was upset or worried. As far as I could tell, she was completely nonchalant, despite talking to a person who just an hour before had been a supervillain. And to that, I didn't know what to say. Fortunately, it seemed she had plenty on her mind.
"So any chance I might be able to get another interview out of you?" Alya continued, not pausing to let me answer. "That first one was already a hit; just imagine how many views I'd get from a follow-up! Would you be up for that?"
"Maybe later," I answered coolly, "but there's a lot on my mind right now. I was actually hoping to ask some questions of you. Since you run the Ladyblog, you seemed the most informed."
"Oh, of course!" Alya said cheerfully. "Let me guess–you're wondering about how you became a villain, who Hawkmoth is, what the fact that he chose you says about your personal character, whether there's a chance that he'll return you to villainy, and whether the things you did will result in being cast out by your friends."
"Well…yes, that's a good summary," I replied, feeling surprised. "How did you know?"
Alya shrugged. "I've got a knack for asking the right questions, I guess. And that was exactly how I was feeling after my own time as a villain."
Now I was even more surprised. "You became a villain?"
Alya laughed. "You really are new here, aren't you? Yes, I was Lady Wifi."
I'd heard of Lady Wifi. I'd even seen her broadcast; almost everybody in Europe did. I wonder how many of us were hoping she'd be successful in revealing Ladybug's identity. Probably most of us, out of curiosity. But I wasn't—I loved the mystery and intrigue, and I didn't want it to end. I can't say I feel that way anymore…after my first meeting with Ladybug, all admiration I'd felt towards her was lost.
"So," Alya continued, "I can definitely put your worries to rest. Nobody's going to shun you for having been a villain. Heck, most of the people in our school have been villains, including every single person in our class…Antibug was Chloé, Bubbler was Nino, Reflekta was Juleka—heck, even Darkblade was one of the teachers here! So we're pretty used to it by now. Anybody in Paris can become a villain, so there's no shame in Hawkmoth choosing you."
"But why did he choose me in the first place?"
"Well, most of the time he targets negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, and frustration. These emotions drive desperation, and desperation drives desperate actions. So he targets people with these emotions and gives them powers that will increase the impact of those desperate actions. By the way, can you tell me what happened to you to prompt this?"
I firmly shook my head. "Absolutely not. Besides, even if I did, you probably wouldn't believe I was telling the truth."
"Because it's really improbable? Believe me, I've been reporting on villains for six months now. I've seen everything."
"No, that's not why you wouldn't believe me—it's because I haven't had a good track record with truth so far."
Alya nodded. "Fair point."
"By the way," I added, "none of what I've told you is going to go any further than this conversation, or you'll deeply regret it."
Alya chuckled. "Girl, no need to get so defensive! If I ever pass on something you've told me in private, it's because I'll have already talked to you and gotten your permission to pass it on."
I'm not one to trust people, mainly because I'm completely untrustworthy myself. But there was something about this girl that made me feel confident she'd stick to her promise.
But I'd almost forgot my last question. "Oh, Alya, one more thing—is there a chance Hawkmoth will turn me into a villain again?"
Alya frowned. "I don't know much about Hawkmoth, not for lack of trying, so it's hard to say. The only person who got akumatized twice was Stoneheart, and that was certainly an unusual circumstance. Ladybug caught your akuma, right?"
"You mean when the butterfly came out of my necklace and she caught it with her yoyo?"
Alya grinned. "So I was right—it was in the necklace! I thought so…I'm getting good at this!" She paused, seemingly trying to remember my question. "Yeah. If she caught it, you're probably off the hook. As far as I've seen, he's never sent two different akumas to the same person. No need to worry."
"Thanks," I said. "That's all I need to know. I guess I'll see you in class."
Alya looked a bit taken aback. "Wait, you're leaving? But we've just gotten started talking."
"I'm sorry," I replied, picking up my bag. "I think we need to find another time for that interview. I have to go." Before Alya could protest, I turned and briskly walked away.
It was almost dark now. I stood just around the street corner until I made sure Alya was gone, and then I tiptoed back to the park. Hawkmoth had seemed very familiar, and now I was sure I'd seen him in the book. I'd planned very carefully; the park keeper had come by only five minutes before to pick up the trash. There was no way the book would be gone. And then I'd have a potential way of figuring out what makes Hawkmoth tick.
The book was gone. I don't know how. That certainly threw a wrench in my plan.
Oh, yes, I had a plan.
Alya had misunderstood my final question. It was asked out of ambition, not fear. If I wanted to make things right, I had to get Hawkmoth to akumatize me a second time. Yes, his motives weren't exactly in line with mine, but I'm the best liar I know. And as long as I could convince Hawkmoth I was working toward his goals, he'd never have any clue I was working towards a different set of objectives entirely–or at least, not until it was too late. Hawkmoth's clever, but not as clever as me—and certainly not as clever as Volpina.