I walked to the front of Francois Dupont high school. First day of school. Again. I took a deep breath and began making my way up the steps. Before I could walk through the door though, I heard fast footsteps behind me and heavy breathing. I turned and saw a blue-haired, pretty Asian girl running up the steps. She stopped at the top next to me and bent over, catching her breath.
"Hi," she greeted in a kind, cheerful voice. "I'm Marinette. You must be new here." She held out her hand to shake.
"Yes, I'm Ash." I gestured for her to put her hand down. "I'm sorry, I'm not one for physical contact. It's nothing personal."
She nodded, still smiling. "That's ok. I understand." She held up a box that I hadn't noticed earlier. "Do you have any allergies? I baked some pastries for your first day."
I shook my head and she handed me a croissant. "Thank you so much. That's so nice of you."
"Of course. I make it my job to make sure everyone here feels welcome."
I nodded, taking a bite into the croissant. I let out an involuntary moan of delight as my mouth exploded with flavour. "This is amazing!"
"So," I said as I took another bite. "Anything I should know as a new student?" We began walking and entered the school.
"Oh, well I'm the class representative; I'll sort out anything you need and try and make sure you're happy and well taken care of. If you need any accommodations I can sort that out for you."
I nodded. "That sounds good. I'll keep that in mind. What about our classmates?"
"Well most of them are really nice. Max is the smart one. If you ever need tutoring he will sort it."
"Kim and Alix, they're in a constant rivalry. Always doing dares and challenges. If you challenge one of them to an eating contest, the other will undoubtedly join."
"Alright. Who else?"
"There's Ivan and Myléne. They're always doing some kind of charity work. And don't be intimidated by Ivan, he may look scary but he's got the heart of a puppy. They're dating by the way."
"Charity, heart of a puppy, dating. Got it."
"Nathanial and Marc. Marc isn't in our class but he often works with Nathanial on their comic. Nathanial is the artist and Marc writes. They're also dating."
"Rose and Juleka. Juleka is a bit of an introvert but she is so sweet. And Rose is all about romance. They make an adorable couple. Then there are my closest friends: Nino, Alya and Adrien." I noticed her eyes got a little dreamy when she mentioned Adrien. "Nino and Alya are dating. Nino is a DJ and Alya writes the Ladyblog."
"I think I heard someone talking about that."
Marinette nodded. "Yeah. It's the most official and comprehensive blog about Ladybug and is often used in the local news."
"And Adrien? Is he your partner?" Her face instantly went from a cheerful grin to panic, longing and embarrassment all at once. "Ah. Crush then."
Her mouth opened and closed like a goldfish before she nodded.
"Is that it then? Sounds like a good class. No one I need to worry about?"
"Well, there's Chloe. She's the daughter of the mayor and acts like it. She's so entitled and if you ever try to get her in trouble she'll just threaten to call her father. But she's nothing compared to Lila."
"What's Lila done?" I asked, curious as to who could be worse than this, 'Chloe'. She reminded me of Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter.
"Well, Chloe may be an entitled, arrogant jerk but at least she's honest about it. Lila, well basically every word that leaves her mouth is a lie."
"Really?" I asked. If this was true then Lila was undoubtedly worse than Chloe. "What's she said?"
"She claimed to be Ladybug's friend even though she only arrived in Paris a couple of days before, she claimed to know prince Ali and basically every other celebrity, she claimed to have saved Jagged Stone's non-existent kitten from a plane and got tinnitus from it. She didn't even provide any evidence to back up any of her claims."
"Wow! They are ridiculous. Did she really think anyone would believe that?"
Marinette's face melded into one of exasperation. "That's the thing, they did. Everyone did."
"Except me." She confirmed.
At that moment we entered the class. I felt everyone's eyes on me and shrank into myself.
The teacher at the front saw me and offered a warm, friendly smile. "Hi, you must be Ash. I'm Ms Bustier. Welcome to Dupont, it's lovely to have you here. If you could introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself and we could go around and have everyone else do the same."
I nodded. "Well, I'm Ash, as you heard. I enjoy writing and I do taekwondo. I'm asexual-"
"Ay! Me too!" A girl with pink hair interrupted. The kid next to her nudged her and gave her a disapproving look.
I smiled. "I'm asexual and demiboy and I have also been diagnosed with auditory processing delay. It shouldn't interfere too much but sometimes I can get overwhelmed if there are too many noises at once."
Ms Bustier nodded. "Thanks for that Ash. And now everyone else?"
They all introduced themselves. After what Marinette had told me I could now put names to faces.
The last person to stand up was a girl with orange hair and a red jacket. She smiled in a too-sweet-to-be-real kind of way. "My name is Lila Rossi. I've travelled around the world, I know quite a few celebrities and I've helped prince Ali with many of his Go-Green projects."
Most of the class looked delighted to be hearing this but I was just thinking, 'wow, Marinette wasn't lying.'
I nodded slowly. "Okaaayyy…"
Lila didn't seem satisfied with that. "I once saved Jagged Stone's cat from an airport."
"It's how she got her tinnitus," Alya put in.
I nodded again. "You do realise with the levels of security at airports the chances of the cat getting on the runway are extremely slim. And the chances of you getting on the runway are even slimmer. Normal civilians aren't even supposed to be that close to a plane unless they're getting on it. There was either a severe lapse in airport security or Lila is lying."
The reaction was immediate. Marinette almost smirked but the look on her face told me she knew exactly what was coming next. The class shouted with angry protests and some looked expectantly at Lila. Her face turned from sickly sweet to sobbing in seconds. Far too quickly for it to be real but it had the rest of the class convinced.
"Are you *hic* accusing me of- of lying? Has Marinette got to you already?"
I shook my head, keeping my face neutral. "Not at all. Marinette just raised suspicions, you confirmed them. And I am merely outlining the probability and stating the alternative conclusion. I have no reason to believe what you say. You have not earned my trust yet and thus have no credibility." I turned to Alya. "Surely you, as a reporter, can understand the importance of credibility."
Alya looked conflicted.
"Go on then!" Nino shouted angrily. "Prove she's lying."
"I don't need to," I stated in a flat voice. I was met with angry shouts from the class but I held up my hand. "According to Hitchen's razor, a principle devised by Christopher Hitchens, claims made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Lila has yet to provide such evidence and as such, I am under no obligation to believe her. As soon as she provides her evidence, you have my word that you shall receive a full apology and anything else you require to make reconciliation." I told them all.
The class, while disgruntled at me calling out Lila, looked satisfied with my answer. Max looked downright joyful at how I'd justified myself and gave me a thumbs up. Marinette looked shocked by the way the class was receiving this.
Lila, on the other hand, looked like she was about to explode. She was trying to school her expression, keep the 'kicked puppy' face but I could see right through it.
The class looked expectantly at Lila. "Well, I can't provide by evidence-"
"Looks like we're done here then," I said. "No evidence, no case, no trial."
"Wait!" Rose cried. "Didn't Jagged write you a song for saving his kitten? If we can find that then it should be enough evidence to convince Ash. Right?" She asked, turning to me.
I smiled and nodded. "Oh, of course. If Jagged wrote a song about Lila then I would take that as sufficient evidence. What's this song called?"
Lila's mouth opened as she desperately tried to think of an answer. "I forgot," she finally managed.
I nodded. "That's ok. Max, do you think you could search the internet?"
"I can have Markov do it," Max confirmed and a little drone flew out of his bag.
I nodded and turned to ms Bustier who seemed to be watching the exchange with interest.
After a tense few seconds, Markov said, "I'm sorry but I was unable to find any song written by Jagged that was written for, about, named after or even referencing Lila."
I nodded. "So, if it's fine by all of you, I'm going to assume that Lila was lying and I have every right to do so without opposition." I looked to Ms Bustier. "Where do I sit?" She directed me to a seat at the back before rounding on Lila.
"You lied about having tinnitus? This is a very serious matter, Lila."
"If she lied about this, what else could she have lied about?" Alya asked.
"You would believe a stranger over me?" She cried. She began to cry again but this time no one came to her defence.
"We're not. We're believing the facts, Lila," Max said. He pushed his glasses up. "I'm sorry but the evidence is not in your favour."
Then Marinette piped up, finally. "She hasn't provided any evidence for any of her other claims either." Everyone nodded in agreement.
Ms Bustier picked up the phone and had a quick conversation with Mr Damocles. She put the phone down and rounded on Lila. "We're going to be calling your mother about this. And we're bringing her in for a parent-teacher conference."
But no sooner had she finished her sentence than a phone started ringing. It was coming from Lila's bag. Ms Bustier took it out and glared at it. She clicked answer and put it on speaker.
"Hello?" Mr Damocles's voice came through. "Am I speaking to Mrs Rossi? Mother of Lila Rossi?"
"No," Ms Bustier answered. "I believe I now understand why we haven't been able to get in contact with Lila's mother."
After a moment's shocked silence, Mr Damocles said, "Very well. I shall call the embassy and request to be forwarded to Mrs Rossi. Bye." The phone beeped and Mr Damocles hung up.
All eyes were on Lila now.
"I must have accidentally picked up my mum's phone on the way out." Lila tried to laugh it off but no one looked convinced.
"Ms Rossi, please take a seat at the back of the classroom and remain silent. We will continue with our lesson plan and if you don't have anything to contribute to the lesson, you will keep silent."
Lila tried to argue but Mrs Bustier was having none of it. She stalked off and slumped in her seat.
The rest of the students were all glaring at her but, with some prompting from Mrs Bustier, they all took their seats.
By the time the day was up, Mrs Rossi had already come to the school and had the conference. To say she was mad would be an understatement. She stormed into the classroom, despite Mr Damocles' protests, and dragged Lila out, screaming at her about lying.
Lila didn't come back to school the next day. Or the day after. It took almost a week for any of them to even hear about her at all. Apparently, she'd been shipped off back to Italy after some of her more serious lies came out. She was banned from entering Paris ever again after CCTV footage caught her trying to grab an Akuma and put it in her necklace. And Mrs Rossi was more than happy to pay compensation to the Dupain-Chengs to try and help with some of the emotional abuse Marinette had undergone and the class vowed to never doubt their class president again and also to never stop apologising, even though Marinette had assured them that they were forgiven.
Adrien had also pulled Marinette aside to apologise to her for not supporting her properly. He hadn't realised how bad Lila was and he was a terrible friend because of it. Marinette tried to argue but Adrien said he'd forever be trying to make it up to her and there was nothing she could do. He started by helping her with her homework and spent pretty much every evening at the bakery.
And, while Ash was still new, they were welcomed quickly into the class once they ate a whole chilli in one bite to outdo Kim and Alex.