Bickering Beauties

This page has been archived here from official Square Enix sources. It was originally posted on 10/02/2012.

The Doll Festival draws near once again, and the MHMU has made certain that when it comes to this fancy festival favored by gleeful girls the realm over, no expense will be spared, kupo!

After all, what connoisseur of culture wouldn't jump at the chance to dramatically ascend a doll dais, skylark before a scenic screen, or bask in the becalming beams of a bonbori lantern's light with her companions?

This year in Windurst, however, virulence and vainglory threaten to violate the very principles upon which this festival was founded.

Many years ago, researchers in Aht Urhgan developed an enigmatic device that could, by unleashing a scintillating burst of light, ingrain a thin strip of material with a perfect copy of the surrounding scenery. Unassumingly dubbed an "image recorder," this revolutionary contraption was greeted with wonder and astonishment at the time, and it remains a source of both interest and consternation to this very day—as one possessor of the device recently discovered.

A fragrant spring breeze gently coaxed Salijah toward the open gates of Windurst, almost as if the city itself were welcoming the Near Easterner with outstretched arms. He lowered the image recorder fastened snugly to his back and looked it over to ensure it had survived the final leg of his journey unscathed. Luckily for the traveler, it remained in pristine condition despite the many weary malms he'd walked. He had not undertaken this extensive adventure solely for the sake of sightseeing, but to compose a visual journal of all that made the Middle Lands unique and display that essence back home as an exhibition…and for that, his recorder played an integral part.

Naiko-Paneiko, as shrewd an editor of the Tarutaru Times as there ever was, could barely contain his enthusiasm upon getting wind of this intercontinental scoop.

"What an opportunity, just dangling in front of my itty-bitty nose! We must grab this chance by the udder-wudders and milk it for all its worth!"

Salijah's arrival could not have been more auspicious. The Doll Festival—a tradition that had proliferated over all of Vana'diel through the major trade routes of Aradjiah—was but days away. This was the perfect opportunity to showcase just how popular Eastern culture had become in the Middle Lands…and wring some magazine sales out of the suckers who would be only too happy to hear about how amazing their own federation is.

The plan was simple: gather as many citizens adorned in festive finery as possible, then have Salijah use his image recorder to capture the spectacle on the Doll Festival stage.

The best part is that lovely-wovely girls practically grow on trees here! With all these luscious ladies, I mightaru just have to make a double—or even triple—issue of Magic Paradise Weekly! I shan't leave a single skir—stone unturned while covering this magnificent event!

Within minutes of its official announcement, news of the plan spread through Windurst like wildfire and set the town ablaze with excitement, with young girls from every district fanning the flames. Of course, the most coveted position on that dais of delicacy—incontrovertible proof of one's premier pulchritude—was without doubt that of the empress. So esteemed was this role that rumors flitted from mouth to mouth that the lass crowned empress would be renowned throughout the East as well. Needless to say, the possibility of sea-spanning fame consumed the female populace of the sylvan city.

"If only I were a little younger…then fame and forrrtune would be mine for sure," muttered a Mithran spinster to no one in particular, alone in Windurst Woods with nary a soul with which to commiserate over the injustices of aging. Being a fully matured female however, her hopes for acclaim via the Doll Festival were a tad misplaced. Tradition never decreed this celebration a beauty pageant (no matter what excuse Naiko-Paneiko proffers), but defines it as an occasion to rejoice in the health and happiness one's daughters.

On the day of the Doll Festival, the sun sat high in the afternoon sky and Windurst was set aflame with its own corona of colorful attire. Young ladies from all walks of life lined up for their chance to shine in a hallowed tradition from an exotic land, each of them believing they held the key to success.

For a certain Elvaan paladin, that key was a yukata. If the Doll Festival was about displaying one's femininity, she reasoned, then what better article to wear than a garment that brings out ethereal elegance in any girl who wears one? And if Far Easterners originally called their holiday "The Gala of the Peach", then it was only obvious what color her show-stopping attire should be.

With this yukata, they shall have no choice but to crown me empress!

A Mithran beastmaster living in Windurst Woods had a different idea, however. She possessed many pieces of antique equipment, but what spoke to her ideals most were the charming cat ears that adorned her headpiece. Two sets of ears made for twice the cuteness, and with her tail exuding an equal amount of charm, there wasn't a single girl in Vana'diel who could challenge her for the title of most adorable.

I'll beat out all the other girrrls for the top spot! I'll be the strongest empress ever!

This was hardly a contest of brute strength, but that point seemingly went in one ear and out her three others.

A third girl, a Tarutaru restaurateur in Windurst Waters, realized her size might just give her an advantage. No one in the realm more closely resembled a doll's petite stature than her, and the dainty way in which she sat turned her into the mirror image of those festive figurines. Indeed, she was the embodiment of the word "lovely."

Tarutarus are the only ones fit to be festival-westival dolls! Tee hee hee. All I have to do is wear some traditional clothing and I'm a shoe in!

A Hume girl looked scornfully down upon her smirking Tarutaru neighbor in line, vowing to herself that she wouldn't lose to that pipsqueak. She'd decked her body with bright red clothing that was accented with white, fluffy trim—yes, it was the outfit of a smilebringer. The only change she made was to do away with the pants.

Why would I bother wearing those stuffy things when so many people at last year's Starlight Celebration told me how cute I looked without them?

Looking out across the crowd, Salijah could sense the discontent amongst the young patrons. Rage had replaced revelry on their faces, and what at first seemed like sparks of passion had erupted into the coals of hate and envy. They consumed whomever they touched and left naught but ire in their wake. He had to do something to douse this conflagration of ill will.

"Do you Middle Landers truly know nothing of this Eastern tradition's roots!? The Doll Festival is about rejoicing, not rancor! If anger and malice are the only emotions you girls can exhibit, I fear not a single one of you is worthy of the empress' crown!"

Salijah's words had snuffed out the cinders of animosity, covering the festival grounds in a wet blanket of silence. The Elvaan girl stiffened up, eyes pinched tightly closed in self-reflection. The Mithran lass tucked her tail between her legs and lowered her head in embarrassment. Even the petite Tarutaru and her Hume aggressor stopped their argument to exchange ashamed looks and release deep sighs of regret.

The color drained from Naiko-Paneiko's face. The dank stench of failure wafted to his nose as he pictured unsold issues of Magic Paradise Weekly piled as high as the Great Star Tree. Worst of all, not a single stone would be upturned!

But Salijah had more to say. As he lifted up his image recorder, his stern visage softened into a smile.

"…no single one of you, I said. That's why I'll be capturing images of each and every lovely lady here today. Have no fear—I've enough light crystals to make even the light of Altana seem dim by comparison!"

And so the session lasted until after the sun went down, the echoes of girlish laughter ringing across the Sarutabaruta steppe serving to assure everyone that this year's event was a monstrous success. Even Naiko-Paneiko's pale complexion had turned the color of gil.

The next day, as he packed his bags and set out on his journey home, Salijah finally breathed a sigh of relief.

"Come to think of it, didn't the same thing happen back home last year? I suppose people truly are the same wherever you go."


Story: Miyabi Hasegawa
Illustration: Mitsuhiro Arita

Category: News

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