A darkness fell upon the land. Whether it was from the sky or came from beyond the stars, no one knows.
A wave, which had for eons been shallow and weak, grew strong enough to shake the very <<sky>>.
And it was in that shaking <<sky>> that it first came into being.
A head, a torso, two arms, two legs… taking the shape of a human body. Two eyes formed in the blank face, then a nose, and at last a mouth, curled into a smile.
The creature was filled with joy from the moment it was born.
The prayers, hopes, and dreams that emanated from the wave wrapped around the creature’s body and soul.
From the moment it became conscious, a single word reverberated in its mind. It was an important sequence of sounds that became a word that expressed the creature’s very identity.
In time, an image formed in the creature’s newly formed brain.
It saw a shining white light, overwhelmingly bright, coming from the middle of the largest landmass on a planet, inviting it…
In a wilderness that stretched out as far as the eye could see there was a campfire, looking as small as a grain of sand. It was about to go out.
Reiyu, Zonne, Rona,” Rino called out softly, trying not to disturb the pre-dawn air.
There was no response from the three people lying around the fire, wrapped tightly in their blankets. They were fast asleep.
I’ll leave you be for now. We did a lot of walking yesterday, after all.”
The four travelers had agreed to take turns keeping watch, but Rino decided to continue without waking any of the others.
She fed the fire and sat down, hugging her knees.
A large egg, about as big as she could hold in one hand, lay sleeping by her side. “Sleeping” wasn’t merely a metaphor. The hatched egg had legs and a tail, and two (closed) eyes could be seen from within the carapace.
The egg was called Sunrise Egg.
“Phew… No thanks, I’ve eaten my fill.”
Rino chuckled at Rona’s sleep talking.
Rona, the baby. Despite the almost shockingly direct and naive nature of the youngest member of their party, Rono had already saved them more times than she could count.
Rino’s stomach started to rumble.
They were all hungry. It was a feeling they were becoming unfortunately familiar with. The girls, who had endured grueling training to become priestesses—Blaze Maidens—were starting to wake up to the reality of carrying on such a quest without taking charity from anyone.
Deep in the Dragonia Mountains, at the heart of the Dragon Empire—many days’ walk northeast of where they were—stood Red Dawn Manor, the oldest temple in the world. The temple was dedicated to a priceless jewel, which the Blaze Maidens were tasked with protecting. Once they devoted their bodies and souls to the cause, few of them were ever seen in the outside world again. Just ten days earlier Rino, Reiyu, Zonne, and Rona would have never dreamed that they would be out on their own.
“We can’t keep going like this. We should just say our thanks and move on,” Reiyu, the oldest of the party, said two days earlier.
Zonne, who was in the middle of eating some chicken, Rona, who was stuffing some candy into her mouth with a smile, and Rino, who was happily watching the other two, froze at those words.
The first village they came across gave the Blaze Maidens a warm welcome.
The Dragon Empire was a militaristic state ruled over by the Dragon Emperor. But it was a civilized nation, being a descendant of the ancient kingdom of Dragonia. Most of its citizens were deeply religious and held the priests and priestesses in high regard. As a result, as the group of Blaze Maidens, accompanied by a walking egg, came down from the mountains, the villagers all welcomed them with open arms, and freely gave them what little stores they had saved up for the winter.
Gifts and food continued to pile up before them, but Reiyu still didn’t seem happy.
Try to remember what our master told us. Have we not all been ordered to find the <<truth of the world>> with Rino and Sunrise Egg, and to find within it the hope for all of humanity? These are the villagers’ precious reserves, meant to keep them going until spring. We can’t take advantage of them like this.”
The always energetic Zonne, naive Rona, and serious Rino were shaken by Reiyu’s words.
Rino, Zonne, and Rona were good enough as priestesses for the master to allow them outside.
However, as devout as they were, they were also young girls.
Who could blame them for being led astray by hot food when they were so hungry, a warm bath to soothe their tired feet, and a soft bed instead of their usual hard ground? Reiyu was a little more mature than the other three.
And so, the four of them, who secretly slipped out at night, left behind a polite thank-you note and a Blaze Talisman in the sleepy village. The heartfelt goodwill of the people they met at the start of their journey was also their first time feeling bitterness.
The eastern sky glowed a pale white. Dawn was coming soon. The fire was dying, and Rino’s head drooped as she sat beside the egg. It was about time that she headed into the land of dreams.
A white-hooded head appeared out of nowhere just outside of the ring of sleeping maidens; it watched them.
The only sound came from the sleeping girls and egg.
They’re still sleeping. Now it’s time to play,” it whispered as it fully materialized.
A white cloak followed from the hood, and within it was a body that seemed too hard to be biological—it was almost more akin to a doll. In the dim light just before dawn, only the pale face could be seen.
“I’ll take this.” It pulled out one of the golden pins that Rino had in her hair.
“And this.” It also took a bracelet from Reiyu’s wrist.
“And I’ll have this, too.” It pulled three glass beads from Rona’s waist pouch.
There was a strangely-shaped item which was originally used in a form of divination, but which the maidens now used to pass the time—one of Zonne’s beloved fans.
“Oh, that looks important.”
Finally, the figure stood in front of the egg, and thought as it put its hands on its hips,
“Hmm… You’re… not a toy. Boring.”
“Now, we can’t let you take any more,” came a voice trembling with anger from behind. It was Zonne.
They tied the creature up and strung it up in a tree. It cried out.
“Trickstar! How dare you tie me up! Trickstar!”
“Trickstar? Is that your name?” Rino asked the figure.
“Maybe. That was the first word I heard as I came to life.”
“I thought I was losing my marbles, (Note: This is what Rona calls them, but they were originally a tool for rituals) now I know why!”
“Ah! They’re so pretty. I want them. It looks like so much fun when you play together,” said the Trickstar.
“Hey, you’re supposed to be sorry for stealing our stuff! Apologize!” rebuked Zonne. The Blaze Maidens, who had pretended to sleep earlier in order to trap the Trickstar, now put their martial training to use.
“I’m sorry! I was just having a little fun!”
“Stealing isn’t ‘a little fun,’ it’s a crime!” Reiyu continued on in a cold tone.
“I’ve heard that in some towns you can be put to death for such crimes.”
“Eek!” The bound Trickstar turned blue and started to shake.
“Reiyu. It’s returned everything it’s stolen, hasn’t it? And it’s apologized, so…” said Rino.
Zonne quickly dismissed the idea. “Don’t be naive, Rino. You always assume people will be better than they are.”
“That’s Rino’s greatest strength,” said Rona with a laugh.
“Very well. If you promise to never steal our things again, we’ll let you go… However, I have two questions for you that you must answer, Trickstar.”
Reiyu took charge. Behind her the morning sun rose, along with a large and a small moon and all the other planets that normally filled the skies.
“Number one: You possess the ability to phase in and out of our reality. So, there’s no point tying you up with rope, right?”
“You’re right, Reiyu.”
The Trickstar slipped out of the ropes as though they were never there and stretched out its arms and legs.
“I just wanted to see what it was like to be bound up like that. Just a bit of fun. Wasn’t it fun, Zonne?”
Zonne had an astonished look on her face. How did it know her name?
“And my other question: why us?”
“Is there something of ours that you want? We don’t have anything valuable,” Rino interjected.
“I’ll tell you, Rino. You are all very valuable, you’re special. When I came to this planet, I just knew that I had to come to this place. I had a feeling that there was someone I had to meet here, to join with them.”
“So, you’ve been stalking us for the past three days?”
“Teehee, so you knew from the moment I got here, huh, Rona?”
“Wait a minute. You said, ‘came to this planet.’ You mean you’re an alien?” Rino asked the creature. The existence of aliens and creatures from outer space was not a big deal for the citizens of Planet Cray.
“I dunno. I don’t remember anything before I came to life. Do any of you remember your own births?”
“I guess not… Very well, that is all. Go where you will, Trickstar. Just remember, no more stealing.”
“You’re so boring, Reiyu. Hey, why don’t you let me join you? I’m sure I’ll come in handy.”
Zonne butted in, “Hey, we’re not out on some sort of field trip, you know?”
“You’re protecting Sunrise Egg, right? Every morning Rino stands in front of everyone and prays to the egg. It was so interesting to see an egg pampered like that.”
“You really have been watching us.”
Rino looked surprised at the Trickstar’s revelation. Sunrise Egg was the egg that Rino chose at the temple, so it was her task to pray to it.
“Our party is full,” Reiyu coldly stated.
“So how about this? Half a day’s walk west of here you’ll find a prosperous town. They’re going to have a festival tomorrow. I’m sure you’ll be able to find food and anything else you need there. After all, didn’t you all decide to take this journey on your own, without depending on anyone else?”
“Incredible…!” exclaimed Rona.
“Hey. So, you can not only disappear, but you can teleport to other locations? Amazing,” admitted Zonne.
“Rino should decide. This is her egg, and her quest,” Reiyu remarked.
“What!? Umm… What to do…”
Rino was flustered by being put on the spot like that. She instinctively shifted her gaze back to the egg.
Sunrise Egg was awake.
It waddled its way up to the Trickstar and turned to look at it.
Sunrise Egg stared intently at the Trickstar.
The Trickstar stared back at Sunrise Egg.
Until at last, with a crack, the egg headbutted Trickstar, then started dancing merrily. The Trickstar joined in with the jaunty dance. The Trickstar’s cries combined with the egg’s and they got louder and louder. The campsite in the middle of the wilderness had become a party.
The four maidens looked at each other.
“Let’s join forces. The egg seems to like it. And besides, ‘for the glory of the sun and the holy dragon,’ right?”
Rino smiled as she made her decision.
“For the glory of the sun and the holy dragon,” the other three maidens repeated.
The sun was finally fully above the horizon, bringing light to the lands of Planet Cray.
It was a new day for the Blaze Maidens and Sunrise Egg.
As well as the start of a new adventure with their new companion, the Trickstar.
<<Notes about Terminology>>
A priestess from the Red Dawn Manor in the heart of the Dragon Empire.
The priestesses’ main duties are to look after the eggs that they swear to protect, and to raise the dragons that hatch from them. Rino, Reiyu, Zonne, and Rona have been sent on a quest by their master with Sunrise Egg to find the Truth of the World. However, this kind of task is very rare for the Blaze Maidens; most maidens spend their entire lives within the walls of the temple.
Supervising Editor: 中村聡