How may we endure the desolation of the absolute?
The noise of the Bazaar was a background hum, the seemingly electric energy pulsating all around Sloane as she wandered among the Festival of the Lost vendors. A Human sold delicate pottery beside Eliksni weavers showcasing their intricate fabrics. There were platters of stuffed figs and mugs of Ether Fizz. A Bracus tended a flame below a spit. The charring meat sizzled with each turn, and war beasts lapped at the fat that trickled to the ground. Two Awoken Corsairs shared a roasted artichoke, both warming their fingers on the coal-blistered petals. Human and Eliksni children darted past, their laughter and chittering carried on the wind.
Everything here struck Sloane's senses as ruefully foreign and strangely dissonant. She'd missed so much. Her grief caught in her throat as the spiny shell of a Hive Ghost glided into view, and Sloane felt her jaw drop. She mentally noted even more questions for Zavala.
Rehnpeir's Drunken Noodle caught her eye up ahead, the sign blissfully familiar, and she sighed with relief for a moment.
Aisha and Shayura waved her over to a table. "You made it," Shayura said, affection laced into the edge of her voice.
"I'm glad you're here too," Sloane said. "Both of you." Aisha handed a steaming bowl to Sloane and put another in front of an empty chair.
Aisha's gaze followed Sloane's. "Reed will always have a seat at our table," Aisha said. Shayura nodded and offered a supportive but strained smile, and Aisha gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
Sloane looked down again at the bowl in front of her. Swirls of noodles and slices of meat soaked in the creamy broth, and the egg's golden yolk pooled around the bok choy nestled beside it. She stared at her meal, as if to commit every noodle to memory.
"Are you planning on eating it or painting it?" a voice teased from behind.
Sloane turned to see Zavala standing beside her. A small laugh escaped from her lips. "I just… I've been waiting—wanting—for this for so long. Now that I have it, I… I almost don't want this moment to end."
"We know how you feel," Aisha said.
"However, there's good news," Zavala quipped.
"You can savor the next bowl too."
Sloane grinned and lifted the first noodles to her lips. She savored the umami flavors, surprised by the complexity.
"How is it?" he asked.
"It's different. But… still good."
A look of understanding passed between them, and Zavala gave her a reassuring smile.