Tears rolled over Ladybug's mask as she hugged the box close to her chest. She wrapped her arms around it like it was the most important thing on earth and in many ways it was. Having held it close all morning it was beginning to cut into her arms, but she was too numb to feel anything yet. Chat Noir patted down the earth gently and carefully laid a rose on top. He took a step back to stand with Ladybug. She had a ball in her throat but the tears that rolled down her cheeks were silent and constant. She kept staring at the dirt in disbelief, frozen to her space, protectively clinging the box and trying to clear her mind to figure out what the hell they could do next.
"Who..." Chat gulped as his voice croaked. Soft as his tone was, in the silence of the hilltop graveyard, it seemed to fill the air around them. Other than the rain hitting the ground and Ladybug's snuffling, the silence was aching. Chat cleared his throat and tried again. "Who was he?"
Ladybug closed her eyes and yet another shimmering tear rolled down her cheeks. She took a deep, shaky breath, but her voice was strangled by the ball. Wayzz pressed a fin against her chin gently, to let her know he could handle this. He was used to losing his charges, he'd had hundreds in the centuries he lived, but that didn't make the pain any easier.
"He was my Master. Master Fu. Last guardian of the miraculous... a title that now passes to you Ladybug," Wayzz said, seriously.
She bowed her head and squeezed the box tighter. Chat gulped again. His ears were low against his head, and he had no idea what was going on. When Ladybug had called him in tears he instantly agreed to help her. However burying a body in a secret hilltop graveyard miles south of Paris in the persistent drizzle with no help from Ladybug who was too shaken up to help, was not what he expected to be doing with his day.
"Master Fu? That was his name?" Chat repeated, urgently. He wanted to know why he recognised the man he had just buried. Master Fu wasn't a name he knew, but he wanted to.
"Yes. I believe you only met him once," Wayzz nodded slowly.
"I helped him up when he fell once. A long time ago," Chat said, quietly.
"I helped him cross the road..." Ladybug whispered.
Chat turned to look at her in mild surprise. This was the first thing she'd said in almost three hours, and he wasn't expecting her to say anything. he was used to talking for the two of them at times, when she was too mad or upset to talk. Usually though she shrugged it off and went home without speaking. Now she needed to speak. For herself as well as for him. crossing the road was important.
"And then he gave each of you your miraculous. Without him Paris would have no heroes," Wayzz explained.
"Did he give Rena her miraculous? Rena Rouge?" Chat asked, curiously.
"Her miraculous came from Master Fu, but he didn't give it to her," Wayzz said.
Before Chat could ask who had given Rena her miraculous, Ladybug drew her shoulders back and stared straight ahead of her as she said, "I did."
His eyes widened. "You?"
"We needed help. My lucky charm told me to come to him for help. I wasn't supposed to visit him. It wasn't safe..." Ladybug bowed her head again, aching inside.
"Then why did you visit him today?" Chat asked, eager to keep her from slipping back into silence.
"I asked her to. Hawkmoth will be after Master Fu's body, in case he hid anything on himself before his death. A box of miraculouses for example. This graveyard is full of past heroes hidden away for our safety. A past Ladybug was buried here," Wayzz said, thoughtfully.
Chat's eyebrows shot up with interest, "Really? Who?"
"I believe her name was Joan of Arc," Wayzz said, softly.
"Damn! Nice name drop," Chat grinned. Ladybug and Wayzz turned to look at him like he had punched a baby, and his ears drooped guiltily, "Inappropriate, right, sorry..."
Ladybug rolled her eyes. even at a funeral Chat was hopeless, but at least he was there. at least she wasn't alone. She sniffed, trying to push aside her pain and focus on what had to be done. "What do we do now Wayzz?"
"You become guardian of the miraculouses, and study the book to learn more about them," Wayzz explained.
"But I gave the book back to Mr Agreste," Ladybug reminded him, urgently.
Chat Noir's eyes widened and his heart missed a beat, "Huh?!"
"It's a long story. A friend of mine, Adrien, he had a book of heroes that Lila stole to learn about Volpina - Rena Rouge - and become her. I stole it because Tikki told me to, but now Gabriel Agreste has it again," Ladybug explained.
Chat's heart beat hard and terrified. This was a lot to take in. Ladybug knew Adrien as a civilian. She had stolen the book of heroes that he had stolen from his father and caused Lila to turn into an akuma because of it… and now they needed that book back to learn how to take care of this box of all the different miraculouses, and – oh yeah – this new kwami was telling them they had to take care of all the miraculouses because the man they'd just buried died! It was a lot to take in. a lot.
"Master Fu took photos. They're on his tablet. When we return to Paris you can take it. He has no more need for it..." Wayzz said.
His voice was becoming heavy now. heavy and quiet. Wayzz was so tiny that Adrien wondered how on earth he could manage to keep in all that pain. Chat stepped forward and lowered his voice to the kwami that was hanging low in the air, too sad to hover any higher.
"Wayzz, do you want a minute alone to say goodbye?"
Wayzz closed his eyes and shook his head. "He cannot hear me…"
"Sometimes just hearing yourself is enough," Chat whispered.
Wayzz gulped hard. He'd been alive for millennia. Seen empires rise and fall, people learn to sail and fly, forests grow where swamps once stood, forests chopped aside for cities of cement, civilisations that spoke in long dead tongues, and the death of a thousand species at least. Humanity were still babies to him. a single human life time was but a blink of an eye to him. Nothing. like a fly. And yet Master Fu was the longest to stick around. Over a century of stubborn wilfulness and desire to speak in riddles just to confuse people. Long enough for Wayzz to fool himself into thinking this one was going to stick around... Wayzz had known Mater Fu for a minute of his lifetime, but he felt the loss so heavily that his entire body became his shell. Hard and impenetrable.
at least he wished it would.
because he had never felt so fragile and breakable inside.
"Please... if you'd be so kind... just a minute or two," Wayzz muttered.
Chat bowed his head respectfully and stepped back to place a hand on Ladybug's shoulder. "We'll be over here."
Chat guided Ladybug towards the base of a large, leafless old oak that looked more like a skeleton of what once had been a tree than an actual tree. Ladybug's arms moved away from the edges of the box. If she were transformed this would have revealed deep pink gouges in her arms where the edges of the box dug in.
"This is a lot to take in. I knew you and I had miraculouses, and Hawkmoth I guess, and Rena, sure, but, like, how many actually are there?!" Chat asked gently.
"Err I dunno," Ladybug's voice choked a little, "Master Fu said there were hundreds, but this box only has about twenty or so. Even then some are missing."
She was sniffing still, and he felt his heart go out to her. He didn't know who this guy was or why he mattered so much to Ladybug, but he hated to see her hurt. "Are you ok?"
"There wasn't... enough time... " Ladybug's voice held out since she couldn't bring herself to let it all sink in yet, but it was getting weaker, "there was so much I still had to learn... so much he still had to teach me..."
"I'm sorry Ladybug," he whispered.
"It's more than that though Chat," she said. She turned to face him and his heart broke a little more. He'd never seen her so lost and afraid. Not even when they'd first met. It was daunting. "Kwamis live forever... Tikki's been around almost as long as the universe... she must have lost so many different Ladybug's and she's so sweet and so lovely I bet she still feels the loss of every single one of them... and I'm doing to die too Chat... one day, sooner or later, I'm going to die too. I'm going to die and she's going to be alone and she's going to be hurt... I don't want to hurt her," Ladybug's voice finally broke down into a desperate cry as she said, "I don't want her to be alone!"
Ladybug was always so strong that seeing her like this was like the first time you see your parents break down. He was chasing her so long that she'd become an icon. Now he was facing what she was. A person. Scared and fragile and in desperate need of a hug. Chat Noir immediately gathered her up into his arms. She buried her face into his shoulder, sobbing so hard at the idea of leaving Tikki that it racked through her entire body. One arm was wrapped around her waist pulling her closer against him, and the other tangled in her hair to stroke her head gently. He pressed his face against her head, holding her up like he had the very first day they met. The box ended up pinned between them.
Chat hadn't thought about Plagg's past much. Between his father, his school, his work and Ladybug, he took Plagg for granted. But he'd been around since the dawn of time. The things he must have seen, the people he must have known, the things he must have done, and Adrien paid it no mind. Every time he looked at his kwami he saw his friend. His grumpy sarcastic cheese loving kitty kwami friend. Maybe he was always grumpy because he was trying to keep himself detached. If he loved too much and still lost him, like he would, maybe it'd hurt that much more. Maybe it always did...
"She won't be alone Ladybug. I promise you I won't let her be alone," Chat promised, softly.
He was do desperate to calm her and ensure that she stopped breathing like there was something tacky fluttering in her throat, that he didn't bother with his usual puns. This was too important.
"Kitty, I love you, but you're just a boy. You can't make that promise," Ladybug sniffed.
Chat winced, and he was grateful that his face was over her shoulder and out of view right now. She didn't need to worry about hurting him right now, because that was too much. She didn't need a kid with a crush. She needed her partner. A friend. He pushed all Romance out of him.
"If you go before me, I'll look after Tikki. Just like if I go before you, you'll look after Plagg," he promised.
"What if we both die at the same time? If you hold both miraculouses you can change the universe Chat... what if Hawkmoth kills us and takes them, and she's still and forced to work for him?" Ladybug sniffed.
"She won't be alone. She'll have Plagg. Just like you have me and I have you. Two sides of the same coin remember? No matter what happens, Plagg and Tikki will always have each other," Chat promised.
Ladybug pulled back for a moment, surprised this thought hadn't come to her before. "You think?"
"I hope so. Someone needs to keep that cat in check!" Chat smiled.
Ladybug forced a smile back. She laid her head back against his chest and wrapped her arms under his to squeeze him back. Chat's hand ran down her hair gently. The fact that she could trust him enough to be this vulnerable around him would later make him proud. Now though, he was busy aching at her pain. Wayzz cleared his throat to draw their attention. He had never seemed so small and yet so wise before.
He closed his eyed and said, solemnly, "I'm ready."
"Ok..." ladybug's arms slipped away from Chat as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve and turned to face him. "Ready for what?"
"I shall return to my bracelet within this box until I am needed again."
Chat hadn't noticed the jade bracelet the kwami was clinging to yet. I guess carrying a corpse across Paris before the break of dawn is a little distracting. Now though he noticed that, and the way Ladybug choked in protest.
"I need you! You're the only one who knows anything anymore!"
Wayzz chuckled softly. His yellow eyes were tinged orange and puffed from tears. No matter what she tried to argue, he knew he had to return to his miraculous, and wait for his next charge to need him.
"You have a miraculous. You cannot hold two. It's not safe," He explained, calmly.
"See, how will I know that if you're not there?! I'm super clumsy, what if I leave my window open, trip with the box and it goes out the window?! Then it smashes on the street and one of them falls down the gutter and- what's so funny?!"
Ladybug huffed in frustration as the little turtle continued to chuckle as if he was amused by the desperation in her tone.
"After all you have done, all the people you have saved, you still don't have much confidence of yourself," Wayzz said, smiling.
Ladybug's shoulders sagged. "I know my civilian self. I can't have this responsibility, something will go wrong!"
"I can't either. My house is not secure," Chat chimed in before anyone asked. A thought had occurred to him that made him consider against that though. "Wayzz, if you know Master Fu gave us our miraculous, do you know who we are behind the mask?"
Ladybug turned her head to raise an eyebrow at him. He knew they couldn't know who one another was. Interrogating a grieving kwami was not a path she wanted followed.
"I do," Wayzz nodded.
"Then you understand why I can't take the box," Chat said.
Ladybug silently sighed, relieved that Chat hadn't been trying to fish for information, and a little ashamed that she had automatically assumed the worst.
"I do. Ladybug, someone responsible and wise needs to take this. Someone we can trust beyond all else. The girl you chose to become Rena, can she do it?" Wayzz asked.
Ladybug was hardly listening when she said "No..." simply out of fear of the miraculous box ended up (accidentally or otherwise) on the Lady blog. Marinette had a sneaking suspicion that Hawkmoth made use of the blog. After all, if there was a constantly updated live-streaming blog dedicated to him and his actions and finding out his identity, they'd use it to track him down. If Alya ended up in danger, one miraculous would save her, but twenty could doom her. Although it sounded more than a little selfish to her that she was worrying about one person when the whole of Paris was in danger at the moment, so that wasn't the reason Ladybug used.
"No she has little sisters who get into everything and they'll find them," she said.
"Is there anyone you can trust?" Wayzz asked, a little desperate too now.
Chat tapped his chin with his claw as all of them thought hard to think of someone - anyone in Paris, that they could trust with this secret. Alya was out, Adrien decided, because she too had naughty little sisters who would probably find the box and investigate and release every single kwami into the streets of Paris. Not something worth risking. His house had the book and to be perfectly honest, he wasn't willing to talk to his father about where the book came from and how he got his hands on it, so he didn't want him to ask where the box came from or how he got his hands on that.
There was only one person he could think of who seemed perfect for this kind of responsibility. Although he didn't want to put the weight of this much responsibility on his shoulders, no one else even came close.
"Well..." Chat cleared his throat slightly, "I might know someone..."
Nino pulled his headphones down from his head when that distant thumping wouldn't stop. He turned towards the source of the interruption and blinked in surprise as Ladybug and Chat Noir dangling at his window, with a box and a tablet. Something big was going to happen now, and he had an awful feeling he wasn't going to be allowed to tell Alya about it.