Things were not going as Gabriel Agreste had planned, not at all, and he was quite ticked about it.
He had thought that he would get better at making akuma as time passed. His power was supposed to grow as he used it, right? As he got more accustomed to it, he logically should be able to make more powerful akuma that would pose more of a challenge to Ladybug and Chat Noir, or maybe even more than one akuma at once. It just made sense. If you practice something, you get better at it. And perhaps he had gotten better, at least for a while. But now?
Now, his control seemed to be getting worse, and quickly, at that.
He had had akumas talk back, question his judgement, completely ignore him, and even turn against him (he was never akumatizing any robots again, ever). Maybe he occasionally got one with super-strong powers that stayed relatively under control, but for the most part his akumas weren't any stronger than they had been when he was first starting out.
And the worst part of it? Ladybug and Chat Noir were definitely getting better. They were working more in sync, they seemed to be finding new ways to use their weapons, and they were even coordinating with the police and reporters to make sure that civilians weren't getting in their way during fights and distracting them. It was quite irritating.
It was making Gabriel very, very frustrated.
"There has to be some way for my akumas to be getting better without me losing control over them!" Gabriel complained loudly as he paced in his lair. He was running out of ideas on how to fix the problem- actually, that was sort of a lie, he hadn't had any ideas on how to fix it in the first place- and he had to fix it before he turned into the laughingstock of the city. People were already sniggering about some of his akuma and how ineffective they had been. For someone who was used to being taken seriously, it was infuriating. He spun on Nooroo. "Nooroo! Why aren't my powers working properly? Are you messing with them somehow? I forbid you from messing with my powers!"
"It's not me!" Nooroo squeaked, shooting out of Gabriel's reach. "It's not my fault, I can't control it! It's the magic!"
Gabriel stopped and stared at his kwami. Clearly Nooroo knew something about what was going on. "What do you mean, it's the magic? It is your magic! Fix it!"
"The goals of kwami and wielder are meant to mesh!" Nooroo protested loudly. "If they're in conflict, like they are for us, then the magic will start to rebel. Your connect to the akuma will start to break up, and they won't be under such a deep hold. And the more often the magic clashes, the more the rebellion."
"That sounds like some convoluted excuse to try to get out of transforming so often," Gabriel snapped. "Why don't you align your goals with mine, then? I want to get the Miraculous to help me find my wife. That's an admirable goal, right? Work with it."
Nooroo glared at him. "That's not how it works! I can't just decide to change my goals around like that!" He crossed his arms. "Besides, don't even pretend that finding your wife is your end goal. If that was all you wanted, you would just find someone to be a champion to find her. That's all it would take, and I know you know that."
"And besides, my goals will never include being pitted against other Miraculous!" Nooroo finished, looking rather rebellious. "They never could! I'm supposed to be used for good, not to terrorize a city!"
"SILENCE!" Gabriel thundered, and Nooroo cowered back. He glared at the kwami as he tried to make sense of the storm of thoughts racing through his mind with the new information that Nooroo had let slip. It was possible that the kwami was lying about the magic to try to decrease the number of attacks that he made, but no matter how much Gabriel wished that that was the case, he couldn't shake the feeling that the kwami was probably telling the truth. All of his especially rebellious akumas had, to the best of his recollection, come after he had sent out akumas every day for nearly a week. He tended to take a day off after those especially disastrous attacks- several days off, in some cases- and then when he attacked again, his akumas tended to be more under his control, like they had been at first.
So unfortunately, it appeared that the best way forward was to attack Paris less frequently. Perhaps he should try every other day, or every three days, and see how that affected his attack strength. He didn't want to take it down much further than that, but if he had to choose between making an akuma that was actually strong only once a week and making akumas that ignored him and turned on him, then the choice was simple.
That didn't mean that he was happy about it, though. Sitting around waiting was not his style.
Despite decreasing the number of attacks to a measly two per week, Gabriel was still seeing a downward trend in the amount of control he had over his akuma. It was better than before- just the last week, he had managed to steer his butterfly away from a crying baby when his initial target cheered up enough to not be possessed, and he had managed to keep it loose until he found a suitable candidate- but he had still had one akuma wander away, and another clearly intent on taking the Miraculous to use herself, despite his threats.
It was infuriating.
"Well, you did use the Miraculous on a very regular basis for a very long time," Nooroo pointed out, munching on a grape. He looked rather smug, clearly pleased about Gabriel's lack of success. Gabriel resisted the urge to transform, just so he wouldn't have to hear the kwami for a while.
...except, when the kwami was smug, he was the most likely to let something slip. He wouldn't be guarding his emotions as closely, so Gabriel could look for those little changes in expression to try to figure out how he could fix this infuriating problem.
Suddenly, he was struck by an idea. If a short break could improve his control so much, what kind of an effect would an actual proper break have on his powers? Would it reset things just a bit, so he could go back to when he could influence his akuma even more and force them to listen to him?
"Well, then perhaps I should take a longer break," Gabriel said. He was pleased to see a flicker of worry in Nooroo's eyes, a clear indication that he was on the right track. "I have lines walking in several Fashion Weeks around the world. I hadn't been planning on attending any but the Paris one in person, but perhaps I should."
"Ah- ah, I 'm sure that wouldn't be necessary," Nooroo squeaked, looking seriously concerned. This time, it was Gabriel's turn to smirk. "I mean, it would take you away for quite a while, and that wouldn't be good-"
"Yes, I think I'll do that," Gabriel decided, ignoring his kwami's protests. "It'll give Ladybug and Chat Noir a chance to get out of practice, too. And I've often been inspired by other lines at Fashion Weeks. Hopefully there are still decent hotels with rooms open near the events. I'll have to tell Nathalie to get on that right away, since the first one is only a week away." He nodded, pleased, and then headed off to track down his assistant, ignoring the kwami drooping on the table behind him.
He had gotten all of the information he needed out of Nooroo for the time being.
While attending Fashion Weeks around the world and constantly being on the go was not exactly what anyone would call relaxing (especially when one was showing a line at all of said fashion weeks and needed to constantly be dealing with small disasters), at least Mr. Agreste could have more control over it than he had had recently over his akumas. He could make visible progress with the runways, instead of being faced with akuma after akuma that failed and left him still stuck on square one. He could take the time to scheme about what kinds of akumas he wanted to make once he got back to Paris.
It left him in quite a good mood- or, rather, in as good of a mood as he ever got. Still, by the time the last show finished up and he was on his way back to Paris, he was quite looking forward to getting home. He had outfits that he wanted to properly sketch out, of course, after being inspired by some of the other things he saw on the runway, but he mostly wanted to see how much his powers had improved after a break. So within an hour of getting back to his house, he was on his way up to his lair.
He could feel that it was going to be a good day. His akuma, judging by how nervous his kwami had been, was going to be powerful, and he should have plenty of control over it. Ladybug and Chat Noir would be caught unaware, and then he would have their Miraculous!
He just had to find the perfect candidate to be his akuma victim. Of course, perfection took a while to find. There had to be a certain combination of motives and possible powers and anger.
Still, it was worth it, Hawkmoth could tell that as soon as his latest akuma was rampaging across the city. The bond between them through the corrupted butterfly was strong, and the akuma only needed a little prompting to stay on track. He grinned in anticipation for the superheroes' appearance. They were bound to be caught off guard after several weeks of no activity.
Suddenly a red-and-black blur barreled into the akuma, sending it staggering before she rolled back, yo-yo hanging from her fingers. Chat Noir pounced into the fight seconds later, baton extended ready to fight as he crouched next to Ladybug. The akuma got its first good look at them, and then Hawkmoth could feel the akuma's shock as clearly as he felt his own as his jaw dropped open.
They had new powers. How did they have new powers? No, no, no, that wasn't supposed to be how this went!
"What happened to their costumes?" the akuma was spluttering. "There's- Ladybug has two yo-yos, and wings, and there's something else on her belt, like little bombs, and- oof!"
"Keep going- and what about Chat Noir?" Hawkmoth demanded, his heat sinking. "Does he have new powers?"
"What are they, then?" he demanded, scowling. God, all of his akuma were so incompetent. This was important information, and this one was too concerned with screwing around to convey it properly.
"Longer claws!" the akuma yelped. "Owtch! It's like a mini-Cataclysm, he can destroy small things without using his power. And there's something- ow!- on his belt, but I- I can't-"
Hawkmoth's brow furrowed at that. "Stay out of their way, then! Figure out what their new powers are first!"
The only response he got was a slightly strangled yelp.
Even with the strong akuma and strong connection, the fight was over faster than most of the comparable fights from before Hawkmoth had started having problems. The quick defeat left Hawkmoth standing stunned in the middle of his lair, staring blankly at his window .
New powers. That was a setback he hadn't planned on. He had rather thought that the civilians behind the mask would take the time off, not use the free time to somehow figure out how to add new powers to their arsenal.
"You may have won this time, but next time, next time, I will be prepared and you won't catch me by surprise!" Hawkmoth finally bellowed at his window, a bit belatedly. "I will figure out how to use your new powers against you, and then I will win!"
A/N: ...why yes, I do enjoy writing Hawkmoth having a bad day/week/month, how did you guess? :D
As with most of my stories, this is a one-shot and therefore complete. Please review, it really makes my day! :)