Chapter 2: Ribbons
Rena Rouge returned to the meeting point and told the others about the grocery-store spawning point. Everyone was recharged and ready to go.
Rena said, "We have to do something. In a place like that store, they can just keep doubling over and over."
"Expinotional growth," said Ladybug.
"Exponential," corrected Chat Noir and Rena Rouge together.
"So I'm not good at book math – I know what you mean. We can't let them keep reproducing," said Ladybug. "Let's make a plan."
"I think we should get on the news and make an announcement that all the citizens need to help. If everyone knocked off a Sapoti hat and broke it..." said Chat Noir.
"We've told people over and over to let the superheroes handle it," said Ladybug. "That's why they have akuma alarms. We can't encourage vigilantes now."
"I have an idea," said Rena Rouge. "Whoever gave you the Miraculous to turn me into Rena Rouge could give out more to other people. With enough of us supers we could defeat anything."
"There's a guy who gives out Miraculouses?" asked Chat Noir. "Ladybug, you know him and you never told me? I'm hurt you didn't trust me."
"I'm sorry, Chaton. I'm pledged to secrecy. He was already worried about me finding someone to trust to give the Fox Miraculous. He's not going to give us more just like that. It's too risky to go to him now. There are Sapotis all over, watching, and Hawk Moth can see through their eyes. We can't lead him to M-m... the man with the Miraculouses."
"We need to talk more about this later," said Chat Noir, frowning.
"One way to get them to stop eating is to call attention to ourselves," said Ladybug. "Hawk Moth will tell them to get our Miraculouses and they'll come swarming."
"Then what? We get defeated," said Rena Rouge.
"Not if I can call on more luck," said Ladybug. "Come on, let's try it. I still have the traffic cone megaphones."
Ladybug and Chat Noir picked up the cones and shouted into them.
"Hey Sapotis, we're over here!" shouted Chat Noir.
"Want to try to pay us back for tricking your friends with Sapotiland?" asked Ladybug. "Come and get us!"
A few Sapotis looked their way. Lines of light shaped like butterflies formed around their faces. With a roar they rushed toward the building. More and more Sapotis poured out from grocery stores, markets, and shops. They headed to the building with the heroes on top, intent on climbing up and getting them.
"Lucky Charm!" said Ladybug after enough of the Sapotis had gathered. She got a large spool of red ribbon with black spots.
"How am I supposed to use this?" asked Ladybug.
"I know," said Rena Rouge. "Ella and Etta always fight when one has something and the other doesn't. If we can scatter these ribbons they'll fight over them and break their hats for us. Divide and conquer."
"How do you know who the original akuma victims are, and what they're like?" asked Chat Noir.
"They're Alya's sisters," said Rena Rouge. "Alya told Ladybug, and Ladybug told me."
"Okay, I'm going to try a controlled destruction that will scatter ribbons exactly like we want," said Chat Noir. "Cataclysm!"
Chat Noir touched the spool. The destructive power exploded the spool, cutting the ribbons into small pieces that were all the same size. They blew into the air and scattered down among the Sapotis. They even wound themselves around the propellers of the little gremlin's hats.
Sapotis that didn't have ribbons saw the ribbons on the others. They began to fight to get ribbons for themselves. Propellers were pulled off the hats when the ribbons were tugged, causing their opponent to vanish in a puff of smoke. The victorious Sapotis tied the ribbons to their own hats, and the process repeated over and over.
Hawk Moth tried in vain to get them back in order by sending commands and warning that this was another trick.
It was no use. These weren't illusions, but real things they wanted. They kept fighting.
"My hero instincts tell me that I can do a bunch of smaller illusions, as long as they are all of the same thing," said Rena Rouge. "I'm going to try it."
She blew on her flute and invoked, "Mirage!"
Rena added illusionary ribbons to the locations where the action was slowing down. When all the Sapotis near each other had one ribbon, she would add another to one Sapoti in the middle, encouraging them all to fight to have two.
Luck was on their side – after a substantial fraction of the Sapoti hats had been destroyed, the real one got broken. Then all the Sapotis vanished and only the two original girls were left. They were sitting on the ground on opposite sides of the building, stunned.
Chat Noir's sharp eyes spotted where the akuma was flying away. "There's the butterfly! Get it, Ladybug!"
Ladybug she swung down, captured the akuma, and purified it.
"Bye-bye, little butterfly," she said as the ritual phrase of cleaning.
The next moment, the spool of ribbon was in her hand, magically whole again. She threw it into the air.
The long ordeal was over. The magic ladybugs swarmed out and restored the city, including all the food the Sapotis had helped themselves to.
The three bumped fists to the call of "Pound it!".
Rena Rouge pointed to her necklace. The timer was counting down faster than usual. "Maybe it was all the illusions I did. I'm out of time."
Chat Noir saw the same thing was happening to his. "I did an extra-difficult destruction."
"I'll take Rena to somewhere she can hide and detransform," said Ladybug. "I already know who she is."
But as Ladybug reached the ground holding Rena Rouge, her Miraculous timed out as well. Marinette and Alya landed in a heap together on the ground.
"Marinette? You've been Ladybug all this time?" asked Alya.
"I'll tell you more about it later. Let's get out of sight before Chat sees us in his civilian identity."
They ducked together into an alley. (Chat was busy detransforming and he didn't see them.)
Marinette said, "Okay, Alya. You need to give me back the Fox Miraculous so I can return it. You can collect your little sisters and get them home while I do that."
Alya seemed reluctant. "You know, if I held onto it, I could help you again."
"You made a promise."
"Oh please, Ladybug. We'd make a great team! I could help Cat Noir and you every day!"
Trixx said, "You're absolutely right, Alya. I'm sure the three of you would make quite the team! You have all the makings of a true superhero. You're strong, brave; but most of all, you're trustworthy."
"I was about to say I could blackmail you for it, since I know your secret identity," said Alya. "But I can't be a hero and do something like that. Here..."
Alya put the Fox necklace into the box, and Trixx zipped into it, temporarily renounced.
"You did the right thing, Alya," said Marinette. "I'm sure there will be other times when we'll need help."
"There had better be," said Alya.
The two hugged and parted ways, Alya to find her sisters and Marinette to return the Miraculous.
Marinette thought about how different things were going to be between her and Alya now. Marinette trusted her BFF, and she was sure there would be no spilling of her secret. But there would so many questions to answer...