Story: A new life (chapter 13)

Authors: Tukuyomi

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Chapter 13

Title: Chapter 13 - A little competition

But her happiness was over all too soon.

“Harle! Wait!...Could ya stop, please?”, Kidd shouted after Harle, who until now still hadn’t looked at her. She eventually came to a stop and turned to Kidd.

“What iz it?”, Harle asked.

“What is it? Well I dunno. Talk ta me, Harle.” Kidd didn’t really know what to say. She just wanted to talk to her instead of running after her.

“Je ne sais pas!”, Harle shouted irritably.

“So... I guess neither of us knows it, eh? Aw, c’mon, let’s search for a hotel. It’s gettin’ dark.” Kidd suggested. She didn’t want to argue with her.

Harle didn’t say anything and just followed Kidd. They walked through the new city, completely without knowing where they were. It was getting dark and even though Porre was huge, it was almost eerily quiet in the thin alleys.

“Ya don’t know where a hotel is, do ya?”, Kidd asked.

Without saying a word Harle pointed at a huge building about one mile away from them.

“There? C’mon then, let’s go!” Kidd took Harle’s hand and tried to pull her with her, but Harle didn’t move. Kidd looked at her with a raised eyebrow. Harle just stood there, looking at the ground.

Kidd turned to her and squeezed her hand gently, causing her to look up.

“I know you’re angry, Harle. Ya might hate me now, I dunno. We have ta talk about this, but can we do that in the hotel? Please, come with me, Harle.”, Kidd pleaded.

Harle couldn’t withstand Kidd’s gentle voice and soon gave in, following her to the hotel. It took them twenty minutes to get there. They didn’t talk at all on the way, they didn’t even look at each other.

What has become of them? They didn’t know. Something was tearing them apart. Was it the fear of the dragons? Doubts about each other?

The hotel was even bigger than the one in Termina, but neither seemed to notice, their minds being somewhere else. They went in, hoping to get a room.

“We need two rooms, please.”, Kidd said to the porter.

“Two rooms? Let’s see...”, the man looked through the lists before him, “I’m very sorry miss, there’s only one double room left.”

“That’s ok, we’ll take that.” Kidd said quickly and took the keys. They went upstairs without another word. Kidd opened the room and Harle was the first to go inside.

The room was quite small and there wasn’t much furniture standing around, aside from the bed. But at least there was a small bathroom. Kidd quietly shut the door and looked at Harle. She went over to the bed and sat down, her hand patting the spot in front of her. Harle did this and both sat in front of each other, looking deep into the other’s eyes.

“What...what are ya thinkin’ of me, Harle?”, Kidd asked softly.

“Je t’aime.”, Harle answered without a moment’s hesitation. She had known it would come down to this, and she wasn’t ashamed to admit that she had utterly fallen in love with the girl opposite her, for reasons she couldn’t quite grasp yet.

“ ya say that?”, Kidd asked, speechless. How could she say something like this, so easily? How could she be so sure? Kidd’s cheeks were flushed but she didn’t notice.

“How? Moi can feel zat.”, Harle answered, entirely serious. She had been this honest in her entire life.

“But...why? Why do ya…”, Kidd asked doubtfully. Why did it seem so easy for Harle, yet was so hard for her? She saw Harle staring at her. Kidd felt uncomfortable.

“Pourquoi? Haz zere always to be a reazon pour love? It juzt...feelz right to be wit’ you.”, Harle responded. She took Kidd’s hands into hers, stroking them softly. They were quivering, with fear or longing. Harle couldn’t tell. “Tell moi, do you love me?”

Kidd hesitated, not knowing what to do. Her hands trembled even more now that Harle touching them. It didn’t feel unpleasant, but it felt so strange and unusual that Kidd could hardly resist the urge to draw her hand back. This was going too fast for her. There was no way she could keep up with the pace Harle was setting. And yet, Harle was so honest, so serious. Revealing her feelings as though it was the easiest thing in the world. Just why couldn’t she do it as well?

“No. I’m sorry I can’t tell ya that. It’s just...” Kidd looked down, now trembling even more. She couldn’t find the right words. She hated herself for being so weak when Harle had gathered up her courage to tell her everything.

Harle shook her head and let go of Kidd’s hands. “...non?” , she whispered, her voice drowning in the tears which ran down her cheeks. She had been so stupid. So naïve to think that Kidd felt the same. She should have known it was impossible. After all, how could she have even thought about Kidd loving her? Wasn’t it obvious that she could never bring herself to love someone like her?

The tears dropped onto her hands and when she regarded them, she cried even more. Kidd wanted to touch her, but Harle quickly turned around and went towards the door.

“Don’t go Harle. We...we have ta talk about that. Now.”, Kidd called after her, pleading her to stay even though she knew Harle wouldn’t listen.

“Why...iz it so difícile?” ,Harle sobbed, but before Kidd was able to say another word, she had opened the door and left.

Kidd did nothing for a few seconds, thinking of what to do next. Then she jumped up and ran out of the room, looking along the corridors. Harle was already gone.

“Harle! Wait!”, Kidd shouted, even though she knew that Harle was probably too far away already.

Which path should she take? Going right would lead her down, going left probably onto the roof. Kidd ran left, towards the stairs. She followed them, taking two steps at once until she reached the roof. Kidd looked around and found Harle standing on the edge of the roof in front of her, looking down onto the streets with obvious interest.

“Harle! Please, listen!”, Kidd shouted breathlessly. She took a few steps towards Harle, extending her hand to her. Harle didn’t move.

“Turn around...please.”, Kidd begged, fighting against tears. She didn’t want to imagine what Harle was about to do.

Harle turned around, wiping off her tears. “Do you remember ze day when we met á Cape Howl again?”, she asked, smiling sadly.

“...Y...yes.”, Kidd hesitated, not knowing what Harle was up to.

“You wanted moi to jump down, Kidd. Jump down...and die. Mais moi didn’t want zat. Moi wanted to live. Mais now, moi doezn’t know what moi wantz. Tell moi what to do, Kidd.”, Harle begged, the tears freely running across her cheeks. She just wanted Kidd to take her into her arms, to kiss her and say everything was alright. She wanted someone like that, but knew it was too much to ask, after all. But she didn’t want to die either. She knew she couldn’t bring herself to jump off this roof.

Kidd shook her head and quickly grabbed Harle’s hand. She pulled Harle towards her, hugging her tightly.

“Forgive me. Please forgive me, Harle. I won’t say such things ever again, I promise.”, Kidd whispered into Harle’s ears.

Harle cried at Kidd’s shoulder. She cried and sobbed for minutes, crying the tears of having been rejected onto the shoulder of the one who was the cause for her misery. Still, she clung to Kidd and hoped she would never have to let go.

“Now listen, Harle. Don’t run away again, okay?”, Kidd asked, stroking Harle’s hair with an affectionate smile, which Harle immediately fell in love with.

Harle nodded silently, ready to listen to Kidd until the end.

“I said I can’t tell ya I love ya. That’s true. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings for ya. I do…like to be with ya, really. I just think...this is somethin’ ya only say once in yer whole life and truly mean it. It’s…really special and I can’t just say it that easily. I wanna say these words to a person I truly love and wanna share my whole life with.” Kidd stopped, taking a deep breath. This was harder than she had imagined.

“Ya see, I almost said this ta Serge…and look what a mistake that would’ve been. I just... don’t want to make such a mistake. Love takes time, doesn’t it? I want to be with ya now, but I dunno if I want this forever. I mean…do ya understand that, Harle? I’m really sorry...for making things so difficult for us.” Kidd took another deep breath after finishing, awaiting Harle’s reaction.

Harle had listened to every single word of Kidd. It was logical, it made perfect sense. And it still hurt. But she finally stopped crying and nodded.

“Moi...can understand, mon ami. Love growz, izn’t zat what you mean? Take all ze time you need, Kidd. Juzt...let moi know when you are ready.”, she said, her voice perfectly calm now. Kidd’s words had given her more hope than she had expected, and she was grateful that she was granting her a chance.

Harle looked into Kidd’s eyes and smiled. Kidd did the same and leaned her forehead onto Harle’s in relief. She couldn’t express how good she felt. To have these things behind them now, it felt refreshing. She would take her time, thinking about what she wanted. Carefully, making sure that she wasn’t about to make a mistake. If she ever said these three words to Harle, she wanted them to be true forever.

After a few moments of simply standing there on the roof, Kidd took Harle’s hand and led her back to their room. She heard Harle humming softly on the short way back, and the peaceful tune made her smile.

Upon stepping inside their room, Harle closed the door behind them and Kidd lay down on the bed. Harle quickly followed that example and lay down as well, lying close to Kidd. Their arms touched, but Harle made no attempts to touch Kidd any further. She would be waiting.

Both of them looked up to the plain white ceiling above them, lost in thought. They didn’t say anything for minutes, but neither of them felt the necessity to disrupt the silence, which was so different from the awkward silence between them before. This new silence was peaceful and calming. There was no need to say anything.

“How much do ya think this room will cost?”, Kidd suddenly asked after a while.

“Not too much, moi assumez. Do you have money?”, Harle asked back, even though she had the feeling she already knew the answer.

“No, that’s the problem. How are we gonna pay for this?”, Kidd wondered aloud.

“Moi doezn’t know...maybe we juzt run away like we did in Termina?”, Harle suggested, a small grin playing on her lips at the thought.

“That’s no good. I wanna have at least a few towns where I can return ta. We should pay.”, Kidd disagreed, surprised at her own scrupulousness. She usually didn’t worry about such things. But they already had enough other problems, it was no good to cause even more.

“Mais how wit’out money?”, Harle asked with a raised eyebrow. She turned her head to the side, regarding Kidd’s thoughtful face.

“I’ll steal it.”, Kidd simply answered, causing Harle to chuckle.

“That’z not any better zan running away.”, she said, nudging Kidd’s head.

“Wait, wait! I only steal from rich people. They don’t care if there are a few hundred G less in their pockets. They won’t even notice.”, she announced proudly and Harle couldn’t help but laugh at Kidd, who seemed to think she was the world’s saviour.

“Ok, let’z steal it.”, Harle then agreed. While not thinking about stealing in the same noble sense Kidd seemed to, she figured there wasn’t any other way aside from running away. Not to mention that it would be a nice diversion.

“What? Ya wanna steal too? Think ya can do that? It’s not easy, girl.”, Kidd warned, slightly sceptical of Harle’s potential as a thief.

“Mais oui, moi can do zat. Moi iz parfait at stealing.”, Harle pointed out without a hint of modesty. She had to admit that she had never exactly tried to steal anything, but she couldn’t imagine it to be all that difficult.

”So...what about a little competition? Here’s the deal: Both of us will try ta steal 300 G! Once ya have it, return ta this room. I don’t think you’re faster than me, but if ya say you’re good, prove it!”, Kidd said eagerly and stood up, as did Harle.

Harle went over to the window, watching the city below casually. It was dark and a little chilly outside. Turning to Kidd, she smiled mischievously.

“Bon, let’z do it!”, she called with an unusual fire. She had an idea that this would turn out to be fun indeed.

Kidd stood up as well, walking in direction of the door. She was smiling.

“Ok! Ready? Start!”, Kidd shouted, then quickly grabbed the door handle, ready to push it down and run out.

With one last glance at Kidd, Harle opened the window and jumped out.

“No! Harle!”, Kidd shouted in shock and ran to the window. She looked downward, afraid to find her lying on the ground. Her pulse was racing as her eyes traced the streets. Harle was nowhere to be seen.

However, as she looked up, she saw a thin outline of someone running across the roofs of several buildings. It was her. She made her way quickly and surely, never slipping on the steep roofs. She soon got out of sight.

“That girl’s unbelievable!”, Kidd shouted with raised hands, but laughed at herself. How silly she was, worrying over Harle so much. She had underestimated her. And with Harle’s advantage growing with every second, Kidd left the hotel in a hurry, trying to find her first victim.

While Kidd took the streets, Harle still leapt from roof to roof, laughing to herself. She could only imagine Kidd’s shocked expression the moment she jumped out of the window. Harle decided she should do those things more often from now on.

It was dark despite the various streetlights placed along the streets, which was to her advantage. She could see perfectly in the dark. She stopped for a moment, looking around for any possible targets. Harle didn’t care whether they were rich or not, as long as they were appalling enough for her not to have a guilty conscience about it, which was unlikely in any case. She decided to go to the big restaurant she had seen on their way from the harbour to the hotel. She should find more than enough people there.

Kidd had stopped running by now, instead sneaking from corner to corner stealthily, following a lady with thick diamond rings and clothes made of fur. She was showing off her money so much it was disgusting. Kidd wondered how a woman like her could actually walk the streets at night without being afraid. Rich people were just too ignorant to the real, ugly world.

Thieves were everywhere. Kidd had to giggle at herself, but tried to be quiet. This lady would find out soon enough. Kidd followed her until she was sure there was nobody else around.

Kidd decided to use the simplest trick of all: Distraction. It was absolutely foolproof. Kidd hadn’t met many people in her life who had been clever enough to see through that one.

She looked around in search of a little stone, which she soon found at a nearby wall. She quickly picked it up and hid behind a corner, with the stone of in her left hand. She waited for a short moment, then quickly turned around to throw the stone past her.

It worked perfectly. The lady was suddenly interested in the stone, while Kidd ran past her at full speed, snatching the woman’s handbag. When the woman heard the footsteps she turned around again, but simply shrugged as she didn’t find anyone. She didn’t even notice her handbag was gone. Kidd hid behind the next corner to count the money she’d stolen. The handbag was full of make up accessories a various papers, but she soon found the purse, finding 83 G within. She took the money and threw the handbag to the ground.

“Aw, better than nothin’”, Kidd mumbled to herself. She had expected the woman to carry more money with her, considering her expensive diamond rings she obviously hadn’t had any concerns for. Kidd continued along the street, trying to find her next victim, who was hopefully carried a little more money.

Harle used a tactic different from Kidd’s. She walked along the edge of the roof, looking down at a tall man with noble clothes. The roof wasn’t too high and she hoped she could knock him out with one hit. She waited for him to stop to look at something, but she had no such look. He didn’t seem impressed by anything that was going on around him. So Harle simply waited until no one else was nearby, and jumped down.

Much like she had done with Dana, Harle put her fists together and hit him over the head with all her might. She came to stand behind him, but to her surprise the man still stood. Harle needed another swift kick in the back to cause the man to sway and finally collapse. Harle rummaged through his jacket and took out his purse. She quickly ran away with it, not bothering to get the unconscious man off the street. Some people would find him quickly enough. At a safe distance she came to a stop to count the money. She had stolen a total of 156 G, which was more than she had expected, and caused her to smile in satisfaction.

“Not a bad rezult, non?”, she said to herself. At this rate, only one more to go and the victory would be hers.

By the time Harle thought this, Kidd was already following an old woman, who was heading home. She followed her relatively casually, her eyes all the while focusing on her handbag. They always made the easiest targets.

The old lady didn’t seem to notice that someone was following her, which was fine by Kidd. She was just about to open the door when Kidd approached her.

“Excuse me miss, could you tell me where the hotel is?”, she asked in the kindest voice she could muster, trying to smile innocently.

The lady turned around, looking at Kidd with a smile Kidd guessed to be the woman’s usual expression.

“Oh my, you don’t find your way back to the hotel, my girl?”, she asked with genuine pity.

Kidd couldn’t think of a suitable answer, so she simply smiled sadly and nodded. She stood beside the old lady, waiting for her to describe the way.

“Well, listen carefully, my dear. You just have to follow this street, then turn to the left...”, the old woman started to explain, not noticing Kidd’s hand in her handbag.

“...and finally you turn right and see the hotel. I’m glad I could help you, my dear.” Kidd had just withdrawn her hand in time to hear the last instruction. She bowed with a smile.

“Oh, thank you so much! I’ll better leave, then. Goodbye!”, Kidd thanked her before turning around to leave with quick steps. The old lady opened the door, completely unaware that she had just been robbed. When Kidd saw her go inside, she took the money out of the purse and threw the purse away. She had stolen 139 G, which made a total of 222 G after just 20 minutes. She smiled smugly, obviously proud of herself.

Harle had taken to walk along the streets, there were only so many people rich people walking through narrow alleys on their own. She had to try a different approach, one that wasn’t exactly easier, but one that would get her more money with one strike.

She was on her way to the restaurant, going over her plan once more in her mind. She was just about to take a shortcut through a less busy street, which she had seen from the roof earlier, when a little girl ran into her so hurriedly she almost knocked Harle off her feet.

The girl cried at the unexpected impact and stumbled backwards. Harle got down to her knees, looking at the little girl in front of her worriedly. She was crying.

“Mon dieu! Why are you crying, ma petite?”, Harle asked softly.

The girl wiped off her tears, looking at Harle. When she noticed Harle’s red eyes, she gasped and stepped backwards to be out of her reach.

“Don’t be afraid of moi, pleaze.”, Harle said soothingly and extended her hand towards the girl, motioning for her to come closer.

The girl nodded and stepped forward again. Harle regarded the girl’s clothes, her face darkening as she saw that they weren’t much more than rags.

“Where iz your maman?”, Harle asked, smiling sadly. She had a bad feeling, which she was confirmed of as the girl started to cry even harder.

“She...she is...dead.”, the girl sobbed, shaking her head.

“Mon dieu. Zat iz...terrible.”, Harle whispered in shock and embraced the girl to comfort her. She had seen it coming, but she was at a loss. “Izn’t zere any orphanage...?”, she asked but stopped abruptly the moment that word crossed her lips.

Orphanage? She had burned down an orphanage long ago. Harle suddenly remembered the smell of burning wood and flesh, and when she looked at the girl, she saw Kidd. This was how Kidd had probably looked like. All alone, without someone to care for her. With nowhere to go but the dark streets. No parents, no money, no home.

A wave of guilt washed over her, tears forming in her eyes too quickly for Harle to stop them. She had taken away the home and mother of so many children back then. How could she have done such a thing? How could she ever make up for this? Was there even a way to make up for something as despicable as this?

Harle trembled and hugged the girl even tighter. The tears ran freely from her eyes, an unstoppable current of water. Harle didn’t try to wipe them away. She stood up again shakily, digging in her pockets. She took out the 156 G she had stolen shortly before, handing them over to the girl. She looked so small. Harle guessed she was around four, maybe even younger. It was hard to tell.

“Take...zis...”, Harle said with a weak smile and stroked the hair of the little girl. The girl had taken the money, her eyes now wide and incredulous. She was too surprised to speak, but when she saw Harle turn around and leave, she found her voice again.

“Hey! Turn around!”, she called after Harle.

Harle turned around, still smiling despite the tears.

“Thank you so much, miss! What’s your name?”, the girl asked, smiling so broadly it almost broke Harle’s heart. There had to be something more Harle could do for her, but there wasn’t. She sincerely hoped the girl would be alright.

“It’z...Harle...”, Harle answered. She had better leave soon. If a dragon were to attack now…

“My name’s Trisha! Thank you so much! I hope we’ll meet again!”, the girl shouted, beaming all over her face.

It was the sweetest and most grateful smile Harle had ever seen. It touched her deeply. Harle had to cry even more, but tried to smile and waved her hand.

“I hope zat, too. Au revoir, mon ami.”, she called with a trembling voice.

The girl waved as well and then went away. Harle turned around with a sigh, walking towards the restaurant she had previously been headed to.

“It...waz ze least moi could do, wazn’t it?”, she asked herself thoughtfully. It was her first step to make up for what she had done, but there had to follow many more. Harle would have to keep that in mind.

Eventually Harle reached the restaurant. She went inside and sat down at a table near the window. She ordered a cocktail, thinking of how she would be able to pay it, if at all.

Soon a relatively handsome man of about thirty years came entered the restaurant, and the look on his face spoke volumes. He had a look on his face as though he owned the world. Harle hated these kinds of men, but knew there were too many of those around.

However, he looked like he had quite a lot of money with him, so Harle decided not to be picky.

The man looked around, searching for a free table when he saw Harle smiling at him. Her red eyes stared at him, pulling him to her table.

“May I sit down here, miss?”, the man asked, entranced.

“Mais oui, monsieur. S’il vous plaît.” Harle answered, blinking at him. She pointed to the chair opposite of her.

The man sat down, smiling in the same disgusting manner Harle had expected him to. Harle knew exactly what he was thinking about.

He took his jacket off and placed it beside him. With just one short look at the jacket, Harle could tell his purse was in his right pocket. It was easy to tell, but it would be harder to actually get it without him noticing.

The man called the waiter and ordered a drink before turning to her. “So, what is a beautiful lady like you doing here all alone?”, he asked, smiling. Harle had to keep herself from grimacing. If he would just stop smiling like this.

“Maybe...juzt waiting for someone like you to come?”, Harle answered temptingly. The waiter came back and placed the cocktail and another drink Harle didn’t recognize on the table. Harle sipped at her cocktail, obviously enjoying its taste.

“May I ask you what your name is, miss?”, the man asked. To Harle’s surprise, he even seemed a bit nervous.

“Naturellement monsieur, je m’appelle Monique. Et vous?” Harle asked in return.

“My name is John.”, the man said and touched Harle’s hand softly. Harle had the urge to withdraw her hand immediately, but knew that it was out of the question. John. What a dumb name.

“You are very beautiful.”, he proceeded. By now Harle was completely annoyed by his talking but she did her best to smile.

“Merci beaucoup, monsieur.”, Harle said and hoped he wouldn’t go any further. However, the moment that thought crossed her mind the man pulled her towards him and kissed her. Harle was taken aback, which was probably for the better. Otherwise the man would have found himself in pieces by now. Harle forced herself to calm down and think. There was only one way to use this to her advantage.

Laying her right arm around his neck, she pulled him even closer while her left hand reached over to his jacket, trying to get a her hand inside the right pocket.

She knew she didn’t have much time, but the pocket was still too far away. The man was about to stop, but Harle pressed her lips even harder against his. The man was surprised and now even more distracted from his jacket than before.

Harle finally reached the pocket and took the purse out carefully. She put it in one of her pockets and then let go of the man.

“What a…pleasant surprise.”, the man said with a dirty smile. Harle was just about ready to kill him.

She was disgusted, but suppressed her hand from rubbing over her mouth. She stood up and laid her hand onto his shoulder, favouring him with one last gentle smile.

“Excusez- moi. Moi will be back in one minute...John. Moi needz some make- up.”, she said and giggled.

“Of course. Take all the time you need.”, the man answered, touching Harle’s hand as she left.

By the time Harle reached the restroom she felt ready to vomit. She quickly went over to the washbasin, cleaning her hands before rubbing them forcefully across her mouth. She couldn’t believe the man who had done this to her was still alive, but there was nothing she could do about that right now.

Instead. she looked around and found a little window at the end of the room, just big enough for Harle to climb through. She waited for a moment until the last woman was out, then climbed through it.

Cold wind blew into her face as she reached the street outside. She shivered at the thought of that man and rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand once again. Then she went away as inconspicuously as possible. She reached a corner and stopped to count the money. Harle smiled when she saw she had stolen 245 G. She had been right, after all.

“Not really wort’ ze kiss, mais better zan not’ing at all.”, she said to herself, intent on forgetting about this as quickly as possible. She put the money into her pockets and looked up the wall of the building beside her. She saw an iron ladder leading to the top of the building. Harle used it and reached the roof.

In the meantime, Kidd had reached a bar with particularly loud music and whole crowds of people dancing, although it was almost morning. It was the perfect place in every way.

Kidd went inside and made her way through the huge crowd, dancing along. She fully integrated nobody looked at her strangely even though her worn-out clothing didn’t really fit with the others. The people didn’t notice Kidd, which was exactly what she wanted. Kidd danced and moved from one end to the other, and by the time she reached it she had already stolen three purses. Guessing that would be enough, she turned to leave when she bumped into a man. She quickly shoved the purses inside her pockets.

“Oh, sorry miss, I didn’t see you.”, the man said, raising his arms apologetically.

“No problem.”, Kidd answered and took the man’s money without him noticing. She had to smile at his unawareness, but tried not to look suspicious.

Kidd walked past him, heading towards the exit.

“Hey! Stop for a moment!”, somebody called after her.

Kidd jerked and turned around slowly, looking into the eyes of the man she had just stolen the money from.

“What...what is it?”, Kidd asked hesitantly.

“Do you want to dance with me?”, the man asked with a gentle smile, catching Kidd off guard.

“Oh, err...”, Kidd scratched the back of her head, thinking hard. “Alright, let’s dance!”, she answered, smiling back.

The man took her hand and led her back to the crowd. Kidd just hoped she could get out of here as soon as possible. She didn’t want to lose to Harle because of such a stupid thing.

The man obviously enjoyed dancing with Kidd, coming uncomfortably close to her occasionally. Kidd often glanced over to the exit, thinking of how she could get there.

To Kidd it seemed like an eternity until the song was finally over.

“Well, I have ta go, see ya!”, Kidd said hastily. She quickly gave him a kiss on the cheek and went out of the bar, inhaling deeply. That had been a close one.

She didn’t want to waste time, so she ran back to the hotel, counting the stolen money on the way. She found 97 G within the four purses, which made a total of 319 G.

“Bloody poor those teenagers nowadays. But enough ta win, anyway. I better hurry.”, she said to herself, hoping she would be there first. Kidd guessed the way back to the hotel would only take about fifteen minutes.

Harle ran across the roofs, knowing there wasn’t too much time left to get the money and win. She hoped Kidd wasn’t already back at the hotel. She wanted to show her she was worth something, not just standing in the way. She wanted to make things easier for Kidd, because she got in so much trouble all the time just because of her. Harle couldn’t think of a way how she could ever thank her for everything. She ran out of fingers when she wanted to count all the times when Kidd had helped her, but she didn’t need a single one to know how often she had helped her in return: never. Well, she had helped defeating the Water Dragon God, but that was a problem Kidd wouldn’t have had in the first place, if she hadn’t saved Harle.

Thinking about this made Harle sad and angry at the same time. She didn’t want to be worthless, she wanted to do good things, which made people happy. But as the dark moon dragon she probably wasn’t meant to do good things. Bringing hate and destruction upon humans was the only purpose of a dragon. Harle wished she could feel like a real human just for one day in her life. She would give everything for it.

A loud scream broke her train of thought. It was the scream of a woman, not too far away from her. Harle stopped and looked down from the roof. She saw a young woman pushed against the wall by an obviously drunken man. The woman cried for help and the man just laughed and touched her everywhere with his dirty hands.

Too many of those people around, indeed. Harle didn’t waste any time, she jumped down onto a lower roof and then onto the ground, not far away from the man.

“Take your filt’y handz off zat femme, maintenant!“, Harle yelled at the man, who jerked back in surprise. He slowly turned to her, but when he saw it was just a small girl, he laughed.

He let go of the woman for a moment to take a closer look at Harle.

“Hahaha, what does...what does a little girl like you want from me?”, the man slowly walked towards Harle, swaying slightly.

Harle glanced at the woman, indicating for her to hide somwhere. The woman nodded and slowly went away from the man. He was too busy with Harle just now, so he didn’t notice. The man wasn’t exactly small and Harle wondered if she could deal with him quickly enough. Her cards weren’t particularly useful against humans, especially not from such a short distance.

While going backwards, the woman stepped into a puddle. The man heard that and turned to her, attempting to run over to her.

“Stop!”, Harle shouted and when the man looked behind him, Harle hit his face with her right fist. The man swayed and Harle hit another time and then kicked him to the ground. Harle jumped upon him and kept on punching him until he lost consciousness. Her red eyes flashed bright red and Harle shouted at him. After she noticed he was unconscious she stood up, breathing hard.

It all went so fast she didn’t really know how she had managed to hit him that hard. It was her anger, she told herself. The anger of envying humans like this, when they weren’t worth of this kind of sentiment. She knew that she didn’t envy humans because of their worth, but just for the acceptance that came with it. It was ridiculous.

Harle heard the woman behind her coming closer, and turned around abruptly. The woman cried and took a few steps back in fear. She stared into Harle’s eyes and didn’t know whether to stay or run away. These eyes…so bright and angry. They looked eerie.

Harle trembled all over her body and tried to calm down to regain control. It was over now. Her eyes went back to normal and Harle extended her hand to the woman.

“Are you okay?”, she asked kindly. The woman nodded and took her hand with both of her hands.

“Thank you so much, I don’t know what I would have done without your help.”, she answered, smiling.

Harle enjoyed seeing her smile, it made her happy to be the one to have brought up this smile.

“How can I thank you?”, the woman asked, now more fascinated with the girl in front of her than scared.

“It waz not’ing.”, Harle answered and took the man’s money out of his pockets.

“Zis will be enough.”, Harle said and grinned, then ran away.

Now she had a total of 312 G and was ready to return to the hotel. Harle ran as fast as she could and hoped she would reach it in time. She took the shortest way and jumped from roof to roof.

When she finally reached the hotel she ran upstairs, not minding the curious glances the staff gave her. She burst into the room and looked around. She took a deep breath when she saw Kidd wasn’t there.

“Oi! Already here?”, Kidd asked, smiling widely.

Harle turned around and saw Kidd coming out of the bathroom, only with a towel around her body. Water from her hair dropped onto the floor.

“ were here before moi, oui?”, Harle asked, a hint of disappointment in her voice.

“Yeah, but I just came in and took a shower, ya came just ten minutes later than me.” Kidd went over to her clothes and took 319 G out of her pocket.

“Guess I won, right?”, Kidd asked, smirking.

“Oui, you won, mon ami.”, Harle answered, showing Kidd her 312 G. She tried to smile, but Kidd could see she had really hoped to win, and was understandably down now.

“Oi! You’re not bad, mate. Ya see, I’ve stolen money from people nearly all my life, it’s not easy ta beat me. But it’s amazing how fast ya were, anyway.”, Kidd said, trying to encourage Harle a bit, tapping her shoulder.

Harle thought of the little girl and the woman she had helped out, and a smile crossed her face. She hadn’t lost in every way.

“C’est la vie! Moi will beat you ze next time, mon ami.”, she said daringly.

“We’ll see ‘bout that.”, Kidd answered. “Ya should take a shower, mate. And after that we should at least sleep a few hours, it’s almost mornin’.”

Harle nodded and went to the bathroom. Kidd got dressed again and lay down onto the bed. She was glad she had won, but she wouldn’t have cared if Harle had been the one winning. Maybe it would have been better even, after all Kidd had just suggested a competition to cheer Harle up a bit. But that in itself seemed to have worked well enough.

“Silly girl.”, Kidd said to herself.

She looked to the side. Kidd still felt a little uncomfortable about things. She had thought things would be easier if they talked about it, but that wasn’t the case at all. It even was more difficult now. Kidd started to wonder what she would do right now if she hadn’t meet Harle. Would she still be jealous about Leena? Or would she travel all around El Nido, all alone? All the possibilities she could imagine were nothing compared to her situation now.

Thinking that, Kidd decided to be more grateful for what she had. Even though there were some problems, she didn’t want to change it. Sooner or later it would turn out just fine. At least she liked to imagine that.

When Harle came out of the bathroom, Kidd already was asleep. Harle smiled and pulled a blanket over her, then dressed herself. She still marvelled at her new clothes. They fit perfectly, as if someone had taken her measurements and tailored it just for her. She didn’t particularly enjoy the thought of sleeping in her clothes, but with only one bed for the both of them, Harle couldn’t imagine herself sleeping without. Just remembering the night in Termina caused her to blush fiercely.

She lay down on the bed, watching Kidd sleep. She thought Kidd looked unbelievably cute and innocent when sleeping, so unlike her rude and bratty self when awake. Harle thought she could watch her all night long, but after half an hour she fell asleep.

The night was dark and cold. While sleeping, Harle came closer to Kidd unconsciously, reaching out for her in her dreams. It was the first night for a long time, in which she didn’t have any nightmares. Kidd didn’t notice a thing and slept like a stone.

It was about noon when Harle woke up again. She stretched her arms and yawned. She looked beside her to find Kidd still sleeping. Harle looked into Kidd’s face and thought about kissing her to wake her up. She tried to get rid of the thought, but it was too tempting for Harle to ignore it for long. Her face got closer to Kidd’s, but when she was just about to kiss her, Kidd opened her eyes. Harle wanted to move back, but Kidd wrapped her arms around Harle’s neck and kissed her on the cheek.

“Good morning, Harle.”, she said, smiling widely.

Harle smiled back but then stood up. She opened the window, letting a soft breeze stroke her face. Kidd stood up as well and walked towards Harle. She laid her arms around her and looked outside.

“So...are ya ready ta leave, Harle? It’s a long way.”, she asked in a whisper, not sure why she felt so inclined to hug Harle all the time. She just did it without thinking, and Harle didn’t seem to mind.

“Do you t’ink we will reach Guardia Castle aujourd’hui?”, Harle asked, quivering slightly at the sensation of Kidd’s breath on her neck.

“No. If we’re lucky, we’ll reach Truce Village before nightfall. I really don’t wanna go through that creepy forest in front the castle at night! When I was a child, I played there once and got lost. I was there, all alone in that dark forest. Monsters came up and I was lucky Lucca found me in the last minute.”, Kidd told Harle, not sure why she had to think of that particular event right now. She still knew how scared she had been.

“ are scared of une petite forezt?”, Harle asked, turning her head to the side. She was smiling knowingly.

“Guess ya could say that. Trust me, it’s more than enough when we’re able ta reach Truce today.”, Kidd answered, blushing slightly. It sure was weird for her to be afraid of something like this. But Kidd knew by now that everyone was afraid of one thing or the other. Just a few weeks ago, Kidd wouldn’t have believed Harle to be so scared, either. Fear was only natural.

Harle nodded and turned around. Kidd leaned her forehead onto Harle’s. Harle took a deep breath, sneaking her arms around Kidd’s waist. She could do this so easily, she told herself. Despite Kidd having told her that she needed time to think, she could do this, and Kidd welcomed it. It gave her hope. And hope was what she needed right now.

“Are ya worried ‘bout somethin’?”, Kidd asked softly.

“Oui, moi iz a little worried. Mais moi hopez zis will be a fine day.”, Harle answered.

“Don’t worry. It will.”, Kidd whispered.

They stood there for a minute, until Harle let go of Kidd and walked to the door.

“Come on, mon ami. Let’z go.”, she said, trying her best to look forward to this new day.

Kidd followed her and they walked down the stairs. They had to pay 180 G for the room and then left.

Outside, the sun stood high above them and they peacefully made their way through the city. The streets were full of people. Kidd went into a shop to buy something to eat. After that, they left the city.

“Au revoir, Porre.”, Harle said as she walked through the gate.

“I really hope we’ll see it again.”

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