Petal in the Breeze

This page has been archived here from official Square Enix sources. It was originally posted on 09/02/2011.

The annual Doll Festival…

Among the myriad and colorful Far Eastern traditions that have crossed the seas, none has been embraced with greater fervor by folk of the Middle Lands.

This year's celebration finds a company of maidens gathered in Windurst in the spirit of the occasion. From their cozy vantage point in the shade of a cherry tree, they trade cheerful banter over steaming cups of tea, every so often gazing up to admire the delicate beauty of the newly blossomed flowers.

Ah, but what's this? On close inspection, it would seem that this little clique's object of interest is that which pleases the tongue, rather than the eye…

The hot, steaming tea gurgled as it streamed out of the metal flask to come to rest inside an exquisite ceramic cup.

"Here you are, Madilane," said Kurenai, proffering the beverage to her Elvaan friend.

"My thanks," replied Madilane as she gingerly accepted the cup from her Hume companion. Breathing deeply of the tea's soothing aroma, she flashed a rare smile and continued. "We could not have hoped for a finer day."

"You can say that again!" the Mithra Sheh Teela heartily agreed. "This simply is perrrfect tea weather!"

"Tea weather?" said Kurenai skeptically. "I've never heard of such a thing."
"Why, that's because I made it up," explained Sheh, mischief twinkling in her eyes. "Any excuse to indulge in scrrrumptious sweets with piping-hot tea!"

"Hear! Hear! We are, aftaru all, the Sweet Tooth Brigade!" Chococo, the doe-eyed Tarutaru, jumped at the opportunity to pitch another moniker for this as-yet unnamed sorority. As with her previous attempts, however, she was met with long seconds of awkward silence before the three others finally found their tongues.

"That name is…um, how should I put it?" started Kurenai. "It's sort of…hmmm—"

"Tasteless. I believe the word you seek is 'tasteless,'" suggested Madilane, forthright as ever.

"Well, I perrrsonally don't think it's that bad," offered Sheh by way of diplomacy. "Could do with a tad more charrrm, though."

"Awww… I thought that was my besty-west one yet," bemoaned Chococo, even as her mind continued to churn for more ideas.

Thus began the latest Doll Festival celebration between the four linkshell companions—a quartet of maidens who, despite being spun of different silks in all visible ways, were united in their common love for all things sweet. This year's festivities found them gathered beneath the majestic cover of a cherry tree in Windurst one afternoon, cozily ensconced upon a grass mat of Far Eastern weave.

With the final cup of tea having been distributed, Kurenai cleared her throat to announce the commencement of the customary proceedings.

"Without further ado, I hereby declare the show-and-taste session open!" So saying, Kurenai brought forth her contribution: a rosy pink gelatinous mass that jiggled hypnotically with every subtle movement of her hands.

"It's a cherry bavarois, and of the plus-one variety, to boot! Given the season, I thought no dessert would be more fitting!"

"Cherry bavarois beneath the cherry tree, eh? Cleverrr!" nodded Sheh appreciatively.

"Oh my Goddess, this is—*om-nom-nom*—sublime! The way it—*gulp*—slides down your throataru is divine!" Chococo's eyes scanned her friends' faces in search of approval for the improvised rhyme.

"Half-baked rhymes and poor table manners aside," began Madilane, her voice turning steely, "I believe you've devoured considerably more than your share."

So chided, Chococo shrank back and swallowed the last morsel of bavarois in silent repentance.

Realizing that perhaps she had overspoken, Madilane tried to restore the festive mood by drawing everyone's attention back to the subject of confections. With an elegant flourish of her slender hands, she brought forth her own offering.

"Ladies, I give you kitron macaron!" And as simple as that, the tension melted away.

"Ooh, ooh! I've always wanted to sink my fangs into one of these!" exclaimed Sheh, hungrily licking her lips.

"And today you shall," chimed the Elvaan maiden in response.

"Ah, it's even tastier than I had imagined!" appraised Kurenai, joy written all over her face. "The kitron cream is just heavenly!"

"Oh, yes. The filling's harmonious blend of sour and sweetaru sooo reminds me of Madilane," Chococo chipped in.

"Hmmm, I'm uncertain whether I should receive that comparison with joy," said the Elvaan, her eyebrows furrowed. "On a related note, it might interest you to know that, owing to its subtle flavors, kitron macaron has garnered a devoted following among artisans," she elucidated, demonstrating her knowledge to an audience who, having had their fill, were past caring.

Next in the order of business came Sheh, who produced from her gobbiebag an ornate box. She opened the lid to reveal an elysian eclair, the most heralded of all mille feuilles. A Windurstian dessert painstakingly crafted of multiple layers of puff pastry, it is said to symbolize the innumerable leaves of the Great Star Tree.

"Magnificent, isn't it?" said Sheh, a hint of maternal pride in her voice. "It was no small coup to brrring it here intact, I tell you."

"It sure is pretty to look at, Sheh, but I'm more interested in how it tastes!" quipped Kurenai.

"Still, considering all the trouble I went through, I'd ratherrr that we admired it for a minute or two before—"

"Too late!" Chococo cut into both sentence and pastry, her fork sundering the elysian eclair in one fell stroke. That was encouragement enough for the others, who eagerly claimed generous portions for themselves. Letting out a sigh, Sheh took her own fork and joined in lest she be deprived of her share.

After three courses of dessert and as many rounds of tea, the girls had begun to feel somewhat taut about the belly. However, they weren't quite finished yet.

"Now, while I've been duly-wuly impressed with the selection so far, the bestaru is still to come!" proclaimed Chococo as she reached into her picnic hamper and eased out a bundle of cloth. The others leaned forward, breaths held in anticipation. With rehearsed showmanship, the Tarutaru lass peeled away the cloth in one fluid motion to reveal the contents.

"Ta-da! Feastaru your eyes on the one dessert to rule them all!" she announced, bracing herself for rapturous applause and delighted gasps. None came. If Chococo had not been shocked at her companions' underwhelming response to her earlier antics, confusion certainly racked her mind now.

After a few excruciating seconds dumbstruck, Kurenai ventured to speak. "Haven't we…um, seen this before?"

"Aye, no mistake about it," Madilane confirmed. "Pamama tart—the same as last time."

"Awww, talk about a let-down!" groaned Sheh melodramatically.

"No, no, no, you've got it all wrong! This is an opo-opo tart, not the common-wommon pamama variety!"

"Looks the same to me," the Hume girl observed plainly.

"They share the same ingredients, that's true, but the preparation is differentaru, I tell you! Subtle yet profound!"

Feeling her annoyance swell, Madilane let fly with unkind words. "Given your dearth of compelling ideas and arguments, Chococo, it's a wonder you manage to get by as a bard."

"Hey, that's hitting below the beltaru! Besides, new or old, it doesn't matter as long as it tastes good!"

"Well and true, but I find tarts a rather cloying way to end an otherwise enjoyable degustation."

"That's what the tea's for, isn't it? Now you're just nitty-wit-picking!" Chococo blurted, her indignant eyes brimming with moisture. Not for the first time that day, a heavy silence fell upon the four friends.

Cringing at this unsavory turn of events, Sheh tried for a diversion.

"Hmmm," she began, sounding a mite forced. "Looks like my tea's gotten cold."

Raising her cup in a gesture, the Mithra continued. "Kurenai, would you mind—"

Before she could finish, however, a single flower petal loosed by the wind glided down to gently land in her cup.

"Oooh, a petal in my tea! I'm in for some good forrrtune now!" Sheh cried out in delight.

"Petal in tea?" said Kurenai skeptically. "I've never heard of such an omen."

"Knowing Sheh, I gravely doubt one exists," said Madilane matter-of-factly.

"Speaking of omens," the Mithra jumped in, "here's an interesting one I came by while chasing them harbinger harrres out in La Theine…"

As if that change in topic were a cue, the four maidens instinctively and simultaneously reached for the opo-opo tart—or pamama, depending on who you ask—the clashing of their hands eliciting hearty laughter from one and all.

Thus was the rift mended, the companions picking up the revelry right where they left off. Their animated voices could be heard well after the sun had sunk beyond the horizon, their conversation turning here and spiraling there, heading towards a destination unknown even to them. Aye, not unlike a petal borne along by the breeze…


Story: Miyabi Hasegawa
Illustration: Mitsuhiro Arita

Category: News

This content copyright Square Enix.