Harle was the first to wake up again. She found Kidd still sleeping in her bed and sighed. Maybe Kidd needed one more day to rest. But that didn't matter, Harle would give her any time she needed to completely recover. They had no time to waste though, Harle wanted nothing more than to be in that safe castle, with Kidd, but Kidd's recovery had top priority. It wouldn't make things easier for them if they proceeded while Kidd wasn't in good shape. Sooner or later, they would reach the safe castle, Harle was sure of that.
While Harle feared the king or some of the soldiers would recognize her, she was sure Kidd would protect her from everything and stay by her side. Kidd...Harle wondered if she was already not able to live without her anymore.
All the dangers from which she had protected her, all those smiles she had brought upon her face and all those "lessons" of being human, Harle felt she needed so much. Her first attempt to act like a human had failed. While on Lynx's side, she had been evil, bringing destruction and sadness upon the humans she secretly adored so much for what they were able tobe. This time, on Kidd's side, she hoped she would do better.
Being with Kidd felt like every single dark corner of her heart was flashed with light. She wouldn't do any more bad things ever again. She had learned that lesson once and for all. Never again did she want to draw all the hatred upon herself. And all this was thanks to that girl. Harle had never thought of being that relying and dependant on someone.
Back when she had been a spy for the dragons, she had preferred working alone, although she had to join forces with Lynx. Now, was it better to be independent, but together with someone you hate, or strongly dependant on someone you love? Harle didn't have to think twice about that. Every little spark of independence didn't matter to her when it came to that girl.
Somehow Harle knew Kidd felt exactly the same. The way Kidd looked at her...Harle could tell she loved her too. But she was afraid of something, something Harle didn't know what it was. And it bothered her terribly.
"Good morning." Disrupted in her thoughts, Harle turned her head towards Kidd's and saw her smiling face.
"Bon matin, mon ami.", Harle answered softly. After a moment of watching her, she stood up and went over to Kidd.
"How are you aujourd'hui?", she asked, but at the same time she thought it was useless to ask. Kidd would always say she was fine, no matter how she felt. Harle wondered why Kidd was like that.
"I'm fine.", Kidd started and tried to get up in her bed. She pressed her hands beside her body onto the bed, trying to push her upper body upwards. Seeing her arms trembling terribly, Harle could tell Kidd used all her strength to do so. But despite the effort, Kidd wasn't able to sit up. So she lay down again, taking a deep breath.
"Aw, forget it. Every part of my body hurts and I can't do anythin'. I'm sorry...that I'm such a burden for ya...Harle.", Kidd said and turned her head away from Harle, not able to look into her eyes. Her voice was filled with disappointment, but also with...shame.
Harle had to smile unwillingly. It was the first time Kidd told her the truth, when Harle asked how she felt. Of course she was worried about Kidd and wished she could cease the pain, but feeling that Kidd became more open to her in situations like these, really made her feel a lot better.
"Non, non, you are no burden, mon ami." Harle touched Kidd's hand and hoped she would look at her again, but that wasn't the case. Harle could imagine Kidd's hurt pride, lying here in bed, not able to do anything. With Kidd saving her all the time, she had felt exactly the same, but now she got kind of used to her "guardian". And in moments like these, where she could repay it to Kidd, Harle felt extremely content. She wasn’t useless.
"Kidd?", she asked kindly.
"Hm?", Kidd answered, but still didn't look at Harle.
"How about moi preparez a nice breakfast? You must be trés hungry, mon ami."
Finally, Kidd turned her head to Harle and smiled shyly.
"Sounds great.", Kidd answered.
"Bon. Moi will go and buy somet'ing to eat." Harle went away from her and headed for the stairs.
"Don't run away, you hear?", Harle said teasingly, waving her hand at Kidd.
"Yeah, like I could." Kidd tried to sound annoyed but she was smiling all over her face at that unusual comment of Harle. "I guess I'll just wait here for ya." She lifted her arm and waved goodbye to Harle, who was already descending the stairs.
When Kidd wasn't able to hear Harle's steps anymore, she let out a sigh. How sweet Harle was. She really cared for her, watching her when she was asleep, making breakfast for her, crying for her when she was down. How did Kidd deserve somebody like her? She suddenly felt stupid for turning away from her, for feeling useless in front of Harle. There was no need to. Kidd knew Harle would never think something like that of her.
When it came to her, Harle was always so innocent, always looking up to Kidd. Maybe it was because of this, that she felt useless lying in bed. But actually, she should be very grateful to have such an "angel" by her side. She should enjoy it as long as she could. Who knew, maybe this would be over soon, and Kidd didn't want to regret anything. Maybe it was time she told Harle. Kidd had been thinking about telling her for a while now, but under these circumstances...they didn't even know if they would survive the next day, with having the dragons on their toes all the time. On the other hand...Kidd would hate it if she died before being able to tell Harle. No. It wasn't time yet. Kidd had to make sure she wouldn't lose her first. She could never bear if Harle just slipped away from her after Kidd told her.
Harle was in an obviously good mood while buying rolls for breakfast. Humming and smiling she walked through the little shop, buying everything necessary for breakfast. Rolls, tea, marmalade and apples found their way into Harle's bag as she approached the check-out.
Harle happily paid and left the shop, enjoying the fresh smell of rolls, mixed with the morning air. Inhaling the beautiful smell deeply, she smiled. She had really started to love this little village. It was so peaceful, she almost forgot they weren't here just for fun. As she entered the inn, she didn't even bother to look at the bored owner, she didn't want her mood spoiled. Not today.
"Already back?", Kidd asked when she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. She couldn't see Harle however, as long as she lay in bed. And she didn't bother to get up either. But as Harle came closer Kidd could see her beaming face, while holding her shopping bag to her chest.
"Oui, oui, mon ami.", she answered and favoured her with an affectionate smile.
Kidd smiled in return, feeling the warmth spread over her whole body. It was so lovely to see that girl smile. When Kidd thought back, the first days after they met, Harle had seldom smiled. Actually, she had often cried or looked sad. Kidd wondered what had changed that. The circumstances were still bad, the threat of the dragons still on their minds. Even worse, Kidd was lying here in bed, unable to do anything if a dragon were to attack them here.
But Kidd dismissed those feelings instantly. With a look at Harle she saw the other girl wasn’t allowing any bad thoughts today, so Kidd didn't want to destroy that mood.
Kidd turned to Harle and wanted to say something, but Harle had gone preparing the breakfast, and while she was humming and smiling while slicing the rolls and preparing the tea, Kidd rather watched her than disturb her with saying something.
It took Harle a few minutes, but after she'd finished she came over to Kidd again, holding a plate with her breakfast in her right hand.
"Bon appetit!", she said cheerfully and handed Kidd the plate.
"Thanks.", Harle answered and smiled as well, though her smile wasn't as bright as Harle's.
They smiled at each other for a short while, then Harle went to get her own plate and came back to Kidd, sitting down on the bed to Kidd's side.
Kidd began to eat and almost lost her good manners while doing that. She hadn't eaten something like that for quite some time, so she didn't waste time with eating like a lady.
Harle regarded her and giggled.
"Don't eat so fast, mon ami, you'll choke!", she said, chuckling.
Kidd flushed in embarrassment and slowed down a bit. Now Harle began to eat as well.
They enjoyed their breakfast in silence, none of them speaking. Harle listened to the birds outside, and sometimes she heard the shouts of those children playing hide and seek again. She smiled when she heard them laughing and shouting at each other playfully, and with a look at Kidd, she knew Kidd heard them too.
Those innocent children...Harle had never been one of them. She had never had a real childhood in the first place. She had been trained to fulfil her purpose, no more, no less. She had never experienced what love was, and even at that moment she wasn't wholly sure what love really was like. It was so hard to grasp. Her love for Serge wasn't real, no matter how real it had seemed to her some time ago. So how could she be sure it was real this time? Maybe she had done a mistake by telling Kidd about it. Could it be that Kidd thought that? That this was the reason Kidd didn't tell her she loved her? Maybe she wasn't sure if Harle really loved her, so she said nothing until she knew for sure?
Harle didn't know why she was thinking things like that right in that moment, but she felt she had to talk about it. Now.
"...Kidd?" Harle spoke so softly, Kidd could hardly hear it.
"Yeah? What is it?" Finishing her breakfast and putting the plate aside, Kidd was ready to listen to whatever Harle wanted to tell her.
"Moi...wantz to know..." Harle began, but wasn't able to finish the sentence just yet.
Kidd noticed Harle's hands trembling slightly, showing clearly how uncomfortable Harle felt. Kidd wondered what topic it could be to cause such nervousness to Harle. She thought of a way to make that nervousness go away, so she ended up laying her hand onto Harle's left shoulder.
"What is it ya wanna tell me?", she asked equally softly as Harle had before.
Harle stayed silent for a moment, in her mind debating whether or not to tell Kidd about her thoughts.
"Do...do you t'ink moi iz real? Zat zis...iz ze real Harle in front of you? Not...ze one who destroyed your future, not ze one who you saw on ze journey wit' Serge? Can you tell zat zis iz ze real me now, wit' real feelingz?" Harle's voice was shaking.
But just after finishing, Harle suddenly felt stupid for saying such things. Kidd probably didn't know what she was talking about, Harle didn't even know herself.
Why, just why did it have to be so difficult? Harle really wished it wasn't like that. But then again, if she felt so desperate, wasn't that enough proof that her love was real? Harle was so confused. Maybe it wasn't exactly a good idea to tell Kidd, after all.
Kidd's voice broke her train of thought. "Of course I know you're real, Harle.", Kidd stroked Harle's shoulder, leading her into an embrace, "Ya know, back then, I really tought ya were actin' all the time, never showin' yer real self, ta anyone. But when I see ya smile now, I know it's real. Ya don't smile to pretend anymore, ya smile cuz ya like it. At least I like ta think that.", Kidd finished with a chuckle.
Harle tightened the hug unconsciously. She wondered how Kidd managed to let the world seem all right again with such ease. She always did that. She could always calm her and dismiss the bad thoughts from her mind...and Harle was so grateful for that.
"Merci...merci beaucoup...", Harle whispered, resting her head onto Kidd's shoulder. Now she was sure Kidd didn't think that Harle didn't really love her...but then, what could be the reason?
Harle suddenly smiled and her mood brightened again. There was no need to question that anymore. Sooner or later Kidd would tell her, Harle was sure of that. After all, Harle couldn't force her to say those three words Harle ached to hear. Patience was a virtue, wasn't it?
Smiling contently, Harle let go of Kidd. Kidd smiled in return and her hand made its way up to Harle's face, stroking her cheek slightly. Harle enjoyed that touch for a moment, never breaking the gaze at Kidd. Then she took Kidd's hand into her hands, looking down at them.
"I feel a lot better now. Just lemme rest a little more and we can leave.", Kidd said, breaking the silence between them. Also, she hoped to cheer up Harle a little more. She wanted to see Harle's best smile today.
"Are you sure, mon ami? You still look trés weak.", Harle asked worriedly, pressing Kidd's hand a little more.
"Aw, the way ain't that long. I'll make it. No problem." Kidd sounded like she wouldn't take no for an answer, so Harle gave in.
"I'm juzt worried.", Harle said with finality, then stood up to get the elements she had bought the day before. She returned with a smile, and a handful of new elements for both of them.
Harle carefully laid two BlackHole elements, one Thundastorm and one Earthquake on the table beside Kidd. The other Thundastorm and Earthquake elements were for herself.
"Moi bought zose...moi iz sure we will need zem."
Kidd regarded them curiously. She took one of the BlackHole elements between her fingers, turning and inspecting them with an arched brow. Her eyes wandered between the element and Harle, obviously asking for an explanation.
"So...why did ya gimme those? Ya should take 'em, I suck with black spells. As for the others...ya really think we'll need 'em?", Kidd asked with a doubting look.
Harle wasn't really prepared for such a question, she had hoped Kidd would just thank her for them and take them. However, she tried to hide her disappointment and started for an answer, leaning forward to look at Kidd.
"Trust moi, mon ami. Zere are ze Green Dragon and ze Sky Dragon left, wit'out zose elementz we...won't win. Zey can uze magic, and so do we have to. Your red elementz won't be trés useful, mon ami."
"Yeah, guess you're right. But...I mean...black elements?", Kidd thought back to her last try to use black elements. The result had been poor, to say the least. She had then decided that black elements just weren't for her to use. It was the element she disliked the most. "C'mon Harle, ya take 'em. You're black innate after all. You'll put 'em ta better use than me.", Kidd said almost pleadingly.
Harle was surprised at Kidd's childish behaviour, and it kind of upset her. She sighed and looked at Kidd, slightly annoyed at Kidd's antics.
"Non! Juzt take zem!", she answered a bit harsher than she intended. Kidd watched Harle for a moment, trying to find out why Harle was so upset. She was about to answer when she saw Harle's face grow worried.
"But...don't ya understand Harle? If ya use those elements, they'll be strong enough to actually do some damage, but with me they're bloody wasted.", Kidd didn't know if this was the best way to express it in her situation, but she left it at that.
"Don't you understand?", Harle shouted suddenly, tears welling up in her eyes. "It'z always moi! Moi can uze zose elements, c'est ça. Mais, ze Sky Dragon iz dangerouz, what if...what if moi izn't there! What if you have to fight him seule? What zen?" A few tears ran down Harle's cheek as she tried desperately to explain the danger of the situation they were in. She couldn't understand why Kidd could act like a child, when Harle only tried to save Kidd's life.
Kidd looked at Harle in shock. She was right. Damn right. Kidd had to admit she had never really thought about fighting the dragons alone, Harle was the reason she fought them to begin with. Kidd had always banished any thoughts of losing Harle to the dragons instantly.
She scolded herself inwardly for relying so much on Harle. Apparently Harle could still think clearly, preparing for anything that was about to happen, but Kidd...what did she do? Sitting around with her mind on anything but the dragons, she did nothing.
"I...I'm sorry, Harle. Now I understand...", Kidd looked at those BlackHole elements in her hand and clenched her fist around it, "okay, I'll take 'em. But trust me Harle, I won't need 'em." Harle sighed and looked at Kidd sharply, she didn't want this discussion again.
"I won't need 'em, cuz I won't lose ya, Harle.", Kidd looked at Harle hopefully, trying her best to offer a little smile. But Harle didn't smile, she turned her head away from Kidd.
"How...how can you be sure? Ze dragonz want moi, zey won't give up...and zey are so strong...moi iz afraid..."
"I'm sure, cuz those bloody dragons will only get ya over my dead body. But let's not think 'bout such things. We've come too far ta lose, Harle. As long as I'm with ya, don't be afraid.", Kidd said without looking at Harle.
Kidd stood up and tried to walk, Harle's eyes following her curiously. Kidd swayed a bit and took one cautious step after another. It seemed difficult for Kidd, so Harle stood up to help. She wanted to take Kidd's arm to brace her, but Kidd pulled her arm away stubbornly.
"I...can walk...alone.", Kidd said while walking towards the stairs, "Let's go. Maybe we'll make it till afternoon."
Harle quickly fetched her elements and cards, then rushed after Kidd, who was already on her way downstairs.
They said goodbye to the owner of the inn and left. Greeted by the warm sun, Kidd let out a sigh and smiled. Harle caught up to Kidd and both went alongside each other. Kidd wasn't able to walk at her usual speed, but Harle didn't mind that, she was glad Kidd could walk at all.
"Isn't it a nice village?", Kidd asked.
"Hmm, trés chouette.", Harle answered and looked around, watching children playing or people talking to each other. It was such a nice village, with nice people. She remembered when she went shopping for breakfast. The woman at the counter had seemed to notice Harle's red eyes, but unlike other people, she hadn’t looked shocked or something similar. She had just smiled at Harle, like she had to every other "human".
"Ya know, I really could imagine myself livin' here. It's pretty near ta the castle, the people are great and all my memories are here. The orphanage I lived in was near this village...", Kidd looked sadly over to Harle, "but I guess...ya know that."
Harle didn't respond and she was glad when they had left the village. Harle liked the village as well, but her memories weren't as nice as Kidd's.
Soon they entered the forest, which lead to the castle. It was pleasantly cool in there, the big branches of the trees covering the ground in shadows. Harle could only imagine how dark it was in here at night. She was grateful for Kidd's decision to go through here by day.
They encountered a few monsters, but nothing they couldn't handle easily. One throw of Harle's cards and they were finished. Kidd didn't even bother to look out for them, she knew Harle would take care of them immediately. Kidd did her own part with looking for the way to the castle. She remembered all too well how she got lost in here so many years ago, but she still wasn't wholly sure which the right way was. She didn't bother though, they had enough time to reach the castle, the sun wasn't about to go down anytime soon.
Harle threw two cards towards a pair of glowing eyes in a near bush and as soon as she had seen them, they were gone again. Harle still had enough cards left, they could walk through that forest and fight monsters all day. Harle sighed. It was getting boring. She wanted to talk to Kidd, but couldn't think of any topic worth interrupting her in finding the way. So she kept quiet and waited for new monsters to come. Almost sadly, there weren't any. After fifteen minutes Harle began to wonder. Where did they go?
"Kidd?", Harle asked, hoping not to disturb Kidd too much.
"Hmm? What is it?", Kidd didn't look at Harle, she concentrated on the split path ahead of them.
"Somet'ing iz not right. Ze monsterz are gone."
"What's wrong with that? Ya should be happy.", Kidd answered without thinking about it. She still focused on the path.
Not too far away they heard a growl. Kidd instantly turned to Harle.
"Wait...no monsters ya said? Bloody hell, this'll be funny.", Kidd said sarcastically, reminding herself of her current state. She wasn't really in shape to fight one of the dragons right now. But she had to kill it, for Harle.
Soon they could see the slick green dragon emerging from the bushes which had hidden his presence so far. He wasn't clearly too be seen though, for it was rather shadowy and the green skin colour of the dragon didn't help matters.
"Harle, be careful. He can easily hide in the bushes.", Kidd said without turning to her, she tried not to let the dragon get out of sight.
"Dammit, if it wouldn't be that bloody dark in here.", Kidd cursed quietly.
Harle could see far better in the dark, so she didn't worry as much about the darkness as Kidd, but she was terribly afraid nonetheless.
"There you are, our precious Harle.", the dragon said in a deep voice, causing Harle to shudder. She tried to say something, but she couldn't bring herself to open her mouth.
"Geez, don't ya ever give up? What do ya dragons want from us anyway?" Kidd managed to sound bold and fearless as she used to, but she was a little nervous. The fact that she could hardly see the dragon worried her more than she liked to admit.
"We want Harle. You foolish human are only involved because you tried to save Harle from certain death. You could have lived a long and happy life if you hadn't decided to interfere with things that are no concern of yours.", the dragon answered spitefully.
"If one of ya bloody dragons dare ta touch Harle, I bet it is!", Kidd shouted fiercely.
Harle was impressed, to say the least. She stood behind Kidd, watching the scene, completely speechless. She dared not to move or say anything.
"Who do we have here? The brave prince in shining armour, fighting the evil dragon to save the princess. How noble.", the dragon said with a scornful grunt.
"Ya finished?", Kidd shouted and readied her dagger, charging the dragon. She felt weary but pushed herself forward. She didn’t have much of a choice at any rate.
The dragon raised his paw, but Kidd leapt aside, dodging his attack easily. Kidd rushed towards the dragon. However, when she was just about to ram her dagger into his side, the dragon's thorny tail hit her with full force, ripping big holes into Kidd's clothes as well as leaving one large scratch on her left side. Kidd was thrown back a few metres, landing harshly on the ground. Breathing heavily, she tried to stand up again, trying not to mind the wound too much.
In the meanwhile a handful of cards made their way to the dragon's right paw, succeeding in tearing the skin and damaging it badly. The dragon howled in anger and cast a Carnivore summon. Harle tried to evade but it hit her nonetheless. Fortunately it didn't do much damage on her as she had been prepared, so she was back on her feet pretty quickly.
Kidd used the distraction to her advantage and cast two MagmaBombs. However, she didn't aim them at the dragon, but on the trees surrounding the area. Soon seven trees around the dragon were on fire, forcing the dragon to step back. Now surrounded with fire the dragon howled again, obviously not sure of how to react. He couldn't stand the heat and smoke too well, it weakened him visibly.
Now with the place alight, Kidd was able to see the dragon perfectly. She leapt through the fire and charged him several times, hitting her mark with each attack. Harle added a powerful Thundasnake element and the dragon quickly sank to the ground, panting for breath.
"Humans...you bring about your own end...you'll never learn...the Sky Dragon will...kill...you...", the dragon croaked.
"Aw, nothin's worse than a sore loser.", Kidd said and threw her dagger straight between his eyes.
Harle slowly approached Kidd, regarding the fading dragon until he vanished.
"Ya okay?", Kidd asked, turning to Harle.
Harle simply nodded and regarded Kidd with a worried expression.
"I'm glad he didn't harm you. C'mon then, let's go.", Kidd said and smiled. She turned and began to walk away and Harle did the same.
"Are...you okay, mon ami?", Harle asked, looking at Kidd's left side. Her top and vest was stained with blood.
"It's just a little scratch. Nothin' ta worry 'bout.", Kidd answered, and in all honesty, the wound was worrying her the least. She had more trouble to stay on her feet due to her exhaustion.
Harle nodded, but despite Kidd's words cast a Heal element on her.
"Thanks.", Kidd said and chuckled.
Within half an hour, they made their way to the castle. Harle had forgotten that it was really huge, even compared to the newer buildings in Porre. She was more than a little impressed at the sight ahead of her. With a look at the stunned Harle, Kidd started to laugh.
"Bloody nice castle eh?", she asked with a grin.
Again, Harle only nodded. She followed Kidd, who had already started to ascend the stairs, which seemed endless to Harle.
It took them quite some time to reach the huge gate. Looking at the two guards in front of the gate, Harle began to tremble. What if they recognized her? Harle had been to the castle once before, accompanying Lynx. It had been shortly after she burned down the orphanage. Lynx had had some business with the former king and Harle hadn’t really paid attention to the castle or anything else. But she remembered a few curious looks from the soldiers. She just hoped they won't recognize her with those different clothes and without Lynx. The whole world knew about Lynx's sins and almost as many knew of the harlequin at his side. They would surely kill her if they found out.
Harle took a deep breath and caught up to Kidd, hesitantly taking Kidd's hand in hers. Kidd smiled at that gesture, but didn't look at Harle. She feared Harle would pull her hand away if Kidd looked at her.
Somehow, Kidd was really glad that Harle felt safe with her by her side. Now hand in hand, they walked towards the guards in front of the entrance.