Chapter 44
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Kyle had brought a rather useful orb into the tower with him, one that Aurin had overlooked many times in favour of other items. An Orb of Ascension. It allowed him to see the location of the elevator through the walls, letting the pair breeze through the first six floors with ease before it ran out of charges.

“How did you not know about this?” Kyle had asked, shocked that Aurin had never used one before.

“I’m certain I read about it before, but forgot about it,” Aurin had replied. “Come to think of it, I think I’ve only ever used the Orb of Return, Tamers and Traps.”

Kyle went on to explain to the young tamer about half a dozen orbs and their various purposes, including one that he called the Orb of Recollection.

“It restores an unconscious Minakai?” asked a flabbergasted Aurin.

“And you can summon it back to the tower again, yes. It’s a real run saver, but it’s rare for it to have more than a single charge before becoming just a heavy crystal ball.”

With each new floor, Kyle found new items to show Aurin. He explained to him in detail what each of them was used for, including a few spell crystals that Luna had once mentioned.

“Watch what this Neutral Crystal can do,” said Kyle as a Peekan approached. He focused on a colourless crystal he had picked up, which emitted a powerful concussive blast that knocked the turquoise bird from the sky. The crystal shattered instantly and Wingbloom finished off the Peekan with ease.

“That’s fantastic!” exclaimed Aurin.

“I’m amazed that you two managed to brute force your way to the eighteenth floor without making use of all of the items in the tower,” said Kyle, dumbfounded at Aurin’s lack of competence in using the tower to his advantage.

“If I used these, I could have beaten your record already,” said Aurin.

“Steady on,” laughed Kyle. “These will only get you so far, particularly as the Minakai get progressively stronger and the traps more frequent. You could probably use them to buy yourself another couple of floors.”

The two continued to explore. Kyle kept a close eye on Aurin, seeing how he operated without stepping in. Likewise, Aurin watched Kyle’s every move intently, trying to learn as much as he could from this rare opportunity.

It wasn’t long before the two were on the tenth floor and Kyle had picked up his first egg.

“I wonder what’s inside it?” asked Aurin.

“There’s an item for that,” said Kyle.

“That, I do know,” replied Aurin. “An Identifying Lens, right?”

“At least that’s one thing you can use.”

Aurin neglected to mention that he had only recently learned about the mystical magnifying glass when he and Luna had triggered the treasure trap on their previous run.

On floor twelve, the duo landed on a bizarre type of floor that Aurin had yet to see. It was filled with water up to his waist, soaking the entirety of his lower half. Shamtile was so short that he had to swim, which angered the small lizard greatly.

“This is unusual,” said Aurin, looking at Kyle. “One time I had water up to my ankles, but this is something else. Ever seen a floor like this before?”

“Maybe a dozen times?” said Kyle, also rather unhappy at having to wade through water on one of the few occasions he wasn’t wearing working clothes. “It’s more common than the completely open floor you experienced once, but there are a few other types of trick floors that you’ll probably see before you’ve progressed as far as floor twenty-five.”

It had struck Aurin how little he knew, even today. His hubris had gotten the best of him recently, thinking that he had already hit the point of diminishing returns in what he could learn, experience, and achieve. No, he knew now just how wrong he was.

“Just wait until you see one of the floors that swaps the tiles out for ice,” said Kyle. “That will really test your patience. Even a fire Minakai won’t be able to melt it.”

A leaping brown log with green leaves bounding through the water towards the pair. When it was close, Aurin could see that it was a Seawub, an aquatic Minakai that looks like a wooden fish with seaweed fins.

“Careful,” warned Kyle. “It’s not very powerful, but you’re in its territory today.”

Shamtile tried to focus on casting his earth magic, but was unable to do so as he treaded water. The Seawub jumped high, landing with a thump on Shamtile’s head before diving under the water.

As the lizard tried to not sink, the Seawub summoned a mighty root underwater that pulled Shamtile underneath and held him tightly. It wasn’t long before bubbles emerged as Shamtile started to drown.

Aurin wasn’t sure what to do other than switch his Minakai, but as he raised his hand to use his summoning stones, Kyle grabbed his hand. “Check your bag,” he said.

“Right,” said Aurin, knowing how to help his best friend. He pulled out a light blue crystal and took aim at the Seawub that was biting Shamtile’s legs under the water. As the water turned red, Aurin unleashed an icicle from the crystal that pierced the nature elemental’s side, breaking its concentration and dissipating the root.

Shamtile rose to the surface and gasped for air. He scrambled away from the fish while it was disoriented and breathed deeply. He conjured a small pillar on the floor that protruded from the water.

“He’s going to leap any second,” said Aurin. “Be ready.”

Moments later, the Seawub burst from the water and began to fire razor sharp leaves at Shamtile, who countered with a rock wall. The leaves collided with the hard surface, as did the Seawub. It fell back into the water and out of sight.

“Conjure your armour and don’t let your guard down,” ordered Aurin.

Shamtile complied and covered himself in his rocks. The Seawub attacked with vines from beneath the surface, but Shamtile dropped low and held steady. The vines were not strong enough to pull his weight. He grabbed onto the vines and pulled hard, throwing the Seawub into the air.

“Finish him!” called Aurin.

The masked lizard summoned a rock and fired it at the Seawub, crushing it against the wall. As it fell down, it vanished in a green burst of light as it was banished from the tower.

“Great work, Shamtile,” said Aurin, as Shamtile did a victory dance atop his pillar.

“If you want to really challenge yourself, you should enter some tournaments where they used themed fields,” suggested Kyle.

“I suppose I could,” said Aurin, failing to hide his reluctance.

“You’ll have to eventually if you’re planning to become the national champion. You’ll be obliged to do various exhibition matches so you wouldn’t want to look silly, would you?”

“Point taken,” said Aurin, remembering watching one of Tobias’s matches on television a couple of years ago. The famous Bretonian tamer had battled on a field surrounded by lava against an opponent who exclusively used the fire element. Somehow, the champion overcame the field and defeated his opponent.

Aurin and Kyle waded through the water while Wingbloom sat atop the water and swam along like a duck. Shamtile had accepted the leafy bird’s offer to ride on his back, which the reptilian Minakai happily accepted.

“There’s my egg!” called Aurin, spotting an egg underneath the water in one of the rooms.

“Go for it,” said Kyle, remembering his agreement with Aurin about who would get which of the eggs.

Aurin was fully waterlogged after retrieving the egg, and Kyle couldn’t stop laughing at him. “It always works out for me,” said the rancher.

“I wouldn’t say always,” said Aurin, thinking about the current state of Kyle’s house.

Kyle glared daggers at him.

“Okay, that was uncalled for,” said Aurin. “Sorry.”

“Let’s keep moving before I drown you,” said Kyle.

Wanting to survive the tower run, the two pushed ahead and escaped from the water-covered floor, ascending to the thirteenth floor. Kyle’s usage of various orbs, items and crystals guided them through to the eighteenth floor with only a few battles giving them trouble.

Wingbloom was still going strong, but Shamtile was starting to look exhausted. “We’re going to break our record, Shamtile,” said Aurin, trying to keep his Minakai’s spirits up.

Kyle was surveying the various corridors and their offshoots. “I was hoping we’d find another egg before we left, but three eggs in a run is wishful thinking even if we were to climb another half dozen floors.”

“Can’t you use one of your treasure orbs or something?” asked Aurin.

“I’m tapped out already. I’ve mostly been picking up silver to help cover the cost of the repairs, so I’ve got little space left for items. You’d think my insurance company would accept arson by a criminal gang, but they weren’t so obliging.”

“Let’s go this way,” said Aurin, pointing to the left.

“How come?”

“I have a gut feeling about it.”

“You do?”

“I’ve gotten this high up without you before, right?”

“With Luna, but I take your point.”

The two followed Aurin’s directions and happened upon a particularly large room where a third egg awaited them. Guarding the egg, however, was a Frocean. The large pale blue frog bore a grumpy expression and was covered in frozen boils, while three large icicles protruded from its back. It stared at the tamers and their Minakai menacingly.

“You’re up,” said Aurin.

“Alright,” said Kyle. “I’ll show you how we handle rough opponents. You know what to do, Wingbloom.”

Wingbloom beat its wings hard, sending a powerful wind at his opponent. The Frocean sat there, unmoving. It blinked a few times, hoping his attackers would leave him be. When Wingbloom charged at him, he relented and reluctantly stood up.

The ice frog breathed in deep and blew an icy wind through the air. Wingbloom’s flapping slowed, but the air elemental plant pushed through and rammed his beak into the Frocean. It took the hit hard, but it remained standing.

As Wingbloom turned around, it was hit with a sharp icicle to the wingtip, sending it crashing to the ground. The Frocean leapt into the air and slammed itself down on Kyle’s Minakai, sending it straight back home to the ranch.

Kyle’s mouth hung open in surprise. “Gittup!” he said, summoning the lightning elemental. “Use your advantage,” he ordered.

The blue beast zapped lightning from its golden tail, smashing apart each of Frocean’s frozen boils. The relentless assault left the giant frog open and Gittup charged in, glowing from his electrical energy. He collided with the Frocean, shocking it brutally. The wild Minakai shook violently before being banished from the tower.

Aurin didn’t say a word, waiting for Kyle to react. The rancher sighed. “Alright, I’m definitely out of practice. Wingbloom should have been strong enough to overcome his elemental weakness. We need to start training again more regularly to get back to full power.”

“I think this calls for a weekly tower run,” said Aurin.

“Maybe monthly,” said Kyle, picking up the egg. “I’m too busy to give up a day each week. Maybe if you ever get a proper job, you’ll understand.”

“This is going to be my job,” said Aurin.

“We’ll see.”

“Just admit that you had a lot of fun coming back into the tower. You still remember how it works inside-out and you retired how long ago now?”

“I don’t remember,” replied Kyle nonchalantly as he retrieved an Orb of Return from his bag.

Aurin was alarmed. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m not carrying you higher than this on my back. When you break your record again, it’ll be because you’ve earned it. Take what you’ve learned today and apply it.”

Aurin wasn’t going to argue with him, he considered it a fair enough reason to leave. He was leaving with plenty of additional knowledge and a new egg, while Kyle had gained two eggs. It was an incredibly fruitful trip, far more than he had expected.

The two warped out of the tower and made their way back to the ranch. For once, it was Kyle enthusiastically retrieving the incubator while Aurin waited by the gate to the pens. The pair agreed to hatch their eggs in the same order they had found them.

Kyle was up first and place an egg into the incubator, pressing the button to activate it. As the incubator worked its magic, the forcefield glowed a bright blue and a small, winged Minakai flapped within the glow. When the light faded, it was revealed to be a Coldbat. The icy blue bat landed on Kyle’s shoulder, already comfortable with her master.

“My turn,” said Aurin, paying little attention to Kyle’s newest team member.

The incubator glowed a deep brown while Aurin was hatching his Minakai, and a Gorun was born from the egg. “How am I supposed to train this?” asked the young man, looking at the brown limbless rock that sat still.

“Figure it out,” said Kyle, lining up his second egg. Seconds later, it was revealed to be a Techling. Kyle was more than happy to add to his aerial arsenal.

The two spent the rest of the chilly Christmas day getting to know their new monsters. A task that was much easier for Kyle than it was for Aurin and his new pet rock. It had been a good day and Aurin was reminded of just how rewarding exploring the tower was. Once Zodiac had been dealt with, he would continue his ascension until he reached the top.