Serge felt like he'd been rushing for months, barreling from place to place at a nearly unsustainable pace ever since the moment he'd fallen through the thin space between worlds. Most people in El Nido never traveled further than the waters around the island they were born on, but Serge was quickly coming to learn every last corner of the archipelago twice over. Half the time he didn't even feel like he understood what he was rushing towards; now there was trying to find a way to get his own body back, of course, but it wouldn't even have been an issue if he'd just stopped when he'd first learned how to get back to his own world.
Well, after a quick side trip to Water Dragon Island. The others would have had too much trouble getting a boat without him, and he wasn't just going to leave them to slog through lava.
But after that it wasn't like they'd needed him. Kid, Nikki, and Glenn were the only ones with any real reason to go to Fort Dragonia, chasing after Lynx and Marcy and General Viper, and if they'd gone through without him it probably would have turned out better for all of them; the Dragon Tear hadn't seemed to react to anyone except him so with any luck Lynx would have been taken down without complications.
All the others, the ones who'd only wanted to travel for the sake of traveling, needed him even less. He'd already taken them as far as they could go in Korcha's little boat. If they wanted to go on they needed to either find a ship large enough to fight against the currents cutting the archipelago off from the mainland, or wait until the seasons changed and those currants weakened enough to allow them through.
He could have stopped, but he hadn't. And now he wouldn't have another chance until he finally got his own body back, not unless he gave up on it forever. But at least he could take a short break.
He knew that Harle wasn't really happy with him for wasting time. Or maybe she was just annoyed with the spot he'd chosen for rest. But where would have been better than Arni?
He sat on the dock, watching Leena who steadfastly both ignored him and pretended not to noticed the occasional insults her brothers shouted at him from the safety of the ocean. She was the wrong Leena, of course, though it seemed more than a little cruel to think of the girl he'd grown up beside that way; the Leena who'd fought by his side through so many battles would surely attack him on sight in his current body. But he also thought that if the body he'd switched into hadn't belonged to their greatest enemy she would have believed him when he told her who he was, where her counterpart wouldn't no matter how many shared memories he brought up. After accepting that he was a dead boy come back to life it shouldn't be that difficult to believe.
But it didn't really matter if she were the Leena he'd always known or the one who'd only recently entered his life, either way it was comforting to look at her even if she acted like he didn't exist. One Leena or the other had always been near him, and would be again as soon as he'd made things right.
He heard someone cluck their tongue disapprovingly behind him, and a moment later learned who it was when Harle said, "You really must let go of this delusion, Monsieur Lynx, it is becoming stale. Regardez, she will not even look at you, let alone believe the things you tell her. And she is hardly even worth your attention."
Leena shot her a dirty look, making it clear that she was paying attention to them even if she pretended otherwise, and in return Harle fluttered her fingers at her in a coy wave. Even as she did so she leaned forward and murmured into Serge's ear, "Besides which, it is rather tasteless to hover around a fille whose father you've just killed, non?"
He couldn't get upset with her words, not when they were true. He just sighed and turned towards her, dragging his mind back to the quest at hand. And maybe the train of thought he'd been following before that made him more contemplative than usual, because instead of insisting yet again that he wasn't deluded he found himself asking, "And if I did 'let go'? What would I do then?"
She looked at him with wide eyes, her lips slightly parted, as if in spite of all the times she'd tried to make him accept his role as Lynx she'd never really thought her might contemplate it, but she regained her composure so quickly that he almost could have believed that he'd imagined her surprise. "There are many options. You could remain here, if you can stand to face these ignorant villagers' fear of you every day. You could help Norris with his work in Termina. But if you would like my recommendation, Monsieur Lynx, I would say that you should return to Porre. You are a powerful man there, and I shall be at you side to remind you of any duties which you have forgotten. You could even bring Madam Marge, if you wish." She hesitated, her eyes flickering towards the horizon, then added quietly, "I should not say it, but you will be happier away from the land of the dragons."
"How would I be happier like this, Harle?" he asked, stretching out his hands in front of him to look at their sharp claws and the fur covering them. "This isn't just any body, this is Lynx. If there's one face in the world that I don't want to see in the mirror..."
"You would have your faithful harlequin by your side à jamais, which will not be true if you become Serge," she said sharply, cutting into his self-pity, but she softened the effect of her tone by sliding her fingers down the back of his collar to burying them in the thick fur at his neck, toying if it as if he really was just an overgrown cat. "Can that not make you happy?"
He looked at her, frowning as well as he could with a muzzle. "Harle... you know, I'd still be happy to let you travel with me when I'm Serge. If any of the others tried to bother you about the past I'd talk to them about it."
"Non," she said, shaking her head. "There are still things about réalité that you do not know, Monsieur Lynx, things which I can not tell you. If you become Serge it will not be wrong before réalité takes me from your side, though if it were my choice to make I would remain with you regardless; you can have that body, or you can have me, never both." She laughed suddenly, a quiet airy noise as if she were chuckling to herself over some private joke, and added, "If you would only choose me, I would give you the moon Monsieur Lynx. No other fille would offer you so much."
He heard how serious she was being in her voice, and just for once, for the first time, he actually paused and gave the idea real thought. Could he be happy living his life with Harle? Yes, he thought he could. And, though his friendship with Norris was the closest he wanted to get to allying with Porre, after seeing all of El Nido it could be fun to move onto the mainland and from there onwards to explore the rest of the world without ever needing to hurry through it.
But could he be happy as Lynx? Not only being him, but knowing that somewhere out there that monster was wearing his own original body and doing who knew what type of carnage under his name? There was really only one answer that he could give.
"I can't give up my world to get the moon. I'm sorry, Harle."
She sighed, her hand slipping out of his fur, but she didn't look surprised. Only some mixture of sad and resigned. "Very well. If that is what you wish, than it is past time that we see if the vortex has reopened. I shall still remain with you as long as I am able, Monsieur Lynx, and once that time is past than I hope that Serge will dream of me. Even once you know all there is to know, never cease to dream of me."