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in search of noodles

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At long last, Petra finds the shop she’s looking for. It’s been a long time coming, this journey to this quaint, unassuming little shop, one she’s heard so many rumours and recommendations about. It’s just…

It’s so hard to find.

(“Dorothea’s noodles, you know, the one near the forest entrance!”

… Why would anyone want to build a shop there?

“No, they’re downtown, next to the opera house! You can hear her singing sometimes when she makes the noodles!”

Hm. Reasonable, but she’s been to downtown Enbarr multiple times, on account of Brigid’s political relationship with the Empire. Edelgard’s taken her to the opera house plenty of times and there’s been nothing in the way of small noodle shops with a woman’s singing voice.

“No, you’re wrong, they’re actually in Varley!”)

It drives Petra mad, this search for the best noodles, this search for a Dorothea Arnault and her elusive little shop. But after years of going around Fódlan, of asking the dignitaries she’s met, of asking noodle shopkeepers…

… she’s finally found it.

Surely it’s not good business practice to have their shop be so hard to find? And yet, here she is, in front of it, finally. She knows it’s the shop because it’s a shade of crimson she hasn’t quite seen in her life. Maybe she has, perhaps on a bird, she isn’t quite sure. Right now there are more urgent things on her mind.

(And yes, she can hear a voice from inside, presumably this Dorothea Arnault. She finds herself mesmerised, and makes a beeline towards the entrance.)

The bell above the door rings when she enters, and there’s a cheerful voice, saying, “Welcome! Sit anywhere, I know it’s been a long journey.”

Petra looks around and can’t seem to find the source of the voice. Surely it isn’t a ghost…? She wonders aloud. She sits in a small corner, takes off her coat and meticulously folds it into a neat square, and puts it next to her.

She’s looking outside, waiting for service, when the same cheerful voice startles her:

“I haven’t seen you before. I should know, I remember all the pretty faces!”

“Oh,” Petra says, giggling a little, “you are too nice…”

“No such thing. I only say what I think is true,” the woman says. She has a crimson dress, the same shade as the building, and Petra has to wonder what it is about the woman and the colour red. “Now,” the woman claps her hands together, and bits of flour fly off from her hands, emphasised by the sun streaming in through the window, “what would you like to have?”

Petra looks on in bewilderment. “Is there no… menu?”

The woman laughs. “People who come to my shop know what they want! Ask away, pretty lady.”

“Oh,” Petra says, taken aback. “I might be needing some time, then.”

“That’s alright,” the woman replies, wiping her hands down on her bright red apron. (What’s with her and red? Petra wonders again.) “Take all the time you need.” She looks around her shop, and smiles at Petra. “Can I sit with you while you think? It’s nice to have another person here.”

“Of course,” Petra says, gesturing to the seat in front of her. She can’t figure the woman out.

“I’m Dorothea, by the way,” the woman says with a playful wink. “I’m in the area for a while.”

Petra doesn’t quite understand the remark, but she lets it slide for now. She has something more important to think about: what noodle dish should she ask for?

 

.

 

(“Dorothea! This is the most delicious dish I have ever tasted in my life!”)

 

.

 

Petra ends up going there again the next day, and the next, and the next, and the whole week she’s in the territory.

She’s now just looking out the window, using her chopsticks to push her noodles around the plate. They’re getting cold, she knows. It’d be a waste of Dorothea’s efforts not to eat them, she knows, but she can’t tear her thoughts away.

By this time tomorrow she'll be back in Enbarr to finish up some things with Edelgard, and a week later she'll be in Brigid.

… which is halfway across the world from this pretty lady and her noodles.

“What's on your mind, Princess?”

Petra smiles, sheepish, somehow bashful that she's caught in her thoughts despite Dorothea being in front of her, watching her the whole time.

Petra had asked for a surprise dish and Dorothea had been waiting for feedback, but Petra's thoughts are elsewhere right now.

She sighs. “Today is my last day here, and I am sad, if I can be honest with you,” she says, willing herself to look at the woman before her. She looks so nice, with the red apron, with her bright green eyes, with her hair tied up in a ponytail, with her signature soft smile.

Petra wonders if that smile is just for her or if it’s her customer service smile. She doesn’t know the answer — she hasn’t seen any other customer in the shop.

“Of course you can, Petra,” she says, and the smile tugs at Petra’s heartstrings, and there’s something about Dorothea that intrigues her, and oh, she doesn’t want to stop seeing this woman. Dorothea tilts her head to the side, and Petra takes it as a prompt to continue talking.

“I want to keep seeing you,” she says outright, “but I will be going back to my country tomorrow, which is a week’s journey away.”

Dorothea throws her head back in laughter at that. Petra wonders if she’d said anything wrong, but she’s too busy admiring the way the sun is highlighting her features — soft cheeks, supple lips, shiny hair…

Petra feels her own cheeks start to hurt, smiling, beginning to grow red.

“Watch this,” Dorothea says, and sparks come out of her fingertips when she flicks her wrist. Petra’s jaw drops to the table when the midday sun disappears for a split second, only to be replaced with the moon and its surrounding stars.

“What…”

“Go. Look,” Dorothea urges on, and Petra walks to the door and looks outside.

There’s the unmistakable scent of the sea, the air growing more humid than when she stepped into the shop an hour ago. The sky is dark except for the moon and the stars lightyears away.

“Dorothea,” she turns back, dumbfounded, “are we in…”

“Yeah, I reckon Brigid is a nice place to settle down next,” Dorothea says with a dreamy sigh, and Petra thinks she sees a small blush forming across Dorothea’s cheeks, but in her confusion about the whole situation she could’ve been imagining things.

(You tend to see what you want to see, as her father would say to her.)

“Magic?” is all Petra asks. It’s all she can say right now.

“Yes,” Dorothea says, proud, drawing circles in the air with light on the tips of her fingers. “That’s how I’ve managed to stay hidden all this time.”

Hidden. Petra wants to ask more, she does, but the wistful look in Dorothea’s eyes makes her change her mind.

“How will I find you when you settle down elsewhere?” Petra asks.

“You’ll find me, don’t worry, beautiful,” Dorothea answers with a wink.

 

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.

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“Mommy, we’re seven now! You can’t still be using this excuse!” Sophia exclaims with raucous laughter. Petra, sitting at the counter close by, laughs along.

“Yeah, Mommy, you can’t ‘use up cooking skill points in a past life’! That’s ridiculous!” Alexis pipes up, next to Petra.

“My smart girls,” Dorothea says, kissing atop Sophia’s head and rounding the counter to drop another kiss atop Alexis’s. She shares a knowing look with Petra and kisses her wife on the cheek. “You’re right, I’m just horrible in the kitchen… did you know in another life I was bald?”