Disclaimer: Azure Dreams is a product of Konami Co. Ltd. I am making no profit from this story.
One hint as to who Ojisan (which means Uncle) is…
I was reclining on the chaise lounge by the pool in our center court, lazily twirling a wooden staff in my hand, when Oniisan burst through the French doors, his entire face painted an unflattering shade of puce. I had absolutely no interest in his tantrum, but experience had taught me that he was going to rave about it whether or not I cared, so I slipped on a mask of concerned confusion before asking him what was wrong. I would stop listening after the first few sentences; it was bound to concern that unsightly barbarian.
Oniisan was right about one thing, however: after an entire year of training at the tower ourselves, it was infuriating to hear the rumors buzzing around town that Koh, of all people- stupid, poor Koh- was having no trouble reaching floors unseen by mankind since his equally stupid and poor father. And while I was unable to vouch for Oniisan's swordsmanship (he tended to rely more on buying the most expensive weaponry than honing his skills by practicing proper technique), I had inherited the same strong inclination towards magic that Ojisan had possessed; sensing my potential, he had even taken it upon himself to teach me some rudimentary spells before he disappeared into the tower seven years ago.
So how on earth was that ill-bred urchin finding such easy success after only a sparse number of ventures into the tower? It confounded me to no end, and I resolved to figure out the secret to his success at any cost. And I almost lost my life because of my stubborn disdain for him.
I was resting on the second floor when the eerie clanking of the elevator alerted me to another tamer's presence; I hid behind a stone pillar and hoped I was pressed close enough that the torch at the top didn't cast my shadow across the floor. I watched Koh saunter into the main room, stopping in the middle of it with his fist on his hip. I'm sure he was confused by the lack of confrontation; on most days, either Oniisan or myself occupied the second floor. Sometimes we were both there. He scanned the area, his head swiveling from left to right and left again, before cocking his head to the side and heaving his shoulders. I ducked back behind the pillar; I didn't want to be discovered spying on him. Was he saying something? I strained to catch his mutterings when a high-pitched voice rang out in the quiet around us.
"What are you so worried about? No 'Prince of Monsbaiya', no pointless time-consuming battle."
"It's not that…" a voice I recognized as Koh's replied. "I thought… I could've sworn I saw Selfi on the first floor…" I felt the tips of my ears burning; I thought I had been careful enough! "I thought she might have waited on the second floor to insult me like she usually does." It was silent for a moment until Koh exploded, "Don't look at me like that! I just don't want her to come up missing is all! I'd probably catch the blame for it. That's it."
"If you say so," replied the other voice. "In any case, it doesn't look like either of the Twit Twins are here, so let's head up to the third floor already." I bristled at his insulting nickname, but at least I knew it was someone familiar with Oniisan and me.
I heard Koh pivot and start towards the elevator, but by the time I allowed myself to peer around the corner, neither of them were in sight. I was alone again.
As I considered their conversation I felt the full weight of their insults hit me. Did that filthy peasant honestly believe I- a member of the legendary Rode family- would be so easily overtaken by a monster on the very first floor? And his companion! Could he possibly place me in the same league as Oniisan? I would show them not to underestimate Selfi Rode!
My nails dug into my palms as I strode to the elevator. True, I hadn't ventured so high into the tower yet, but that only meant I was inexperienced- not incapable! Poised in front of the elevator and trembling with rage, I groped around in my purse to check for my staff and a wind crystal; having both of them, I boldly stepped onto the glowing orb.
The elevator began whirring and clinking, and I felt my body lock into place as I was lifted into the air. It went dark briefly before I was deposited in a random room. I quickly took in my surroundings: no monsters. (The last thing one wants in the tower is to be caught unawares.) I let out a breath I didn't realize I had been holding and took a tentative step, noticing the way even the slightest sound echoed off the walls. I stood still, trying to listen for my breathing, but I was distracted by the faintest sound of… music? It wasn't loud enough to muffle the sound of an approaching monster, but it was still creepy. Did this music play on the first two floors, as well? I had never noticed it before, but now it made my palms sweat.
I shook my head, hoping to break loose of the music's effect on me, and continued on the path to the north. It was too quiet, and I was beginning to grow suspicious. Had Koh killed off all the monsters before I arrived? I reminded myself not to lower my guard. Surely more were spawning- or hatching or whatever they did- as I walked; it was better to be paranoid than lax. A slack attitude could mean death, and I was too beautiful and wealthy to die young.
I carefully shuffled down a narrow corridor towards what appeared to be a rather large room; maybe I would find something of worth inside- not that I needed it. On second thought, if there had been anything of monetary value on the floor I'm sure treasure-hunting Koh will have snatched it up long before I got here. The pathway widened before me, and I climbed up the steps leading towards the room looming ahead. I leaned through the doorway, checking for any monsters: coast clear. I placed my hand on the jagged opening in the wall to steady myself and further inspected the room. There were quite a lot of raised areas that made it difficult to see the entire room at once, so I decided to climb to the highest point and have a look around. Atop my perch, I saw an herb growing up through the cracks in the tiles and… not much else. I leapt to the ground, deciding to leave the herb for someone who might need it. A broad pathway extended for quite some distance towards the east; I could see it branch off in three different directions. A weary sigh crossed my lips as I hopped down from the stoop and started walking towards the intersection. I considered my choices; turning south might take me back to the room I started in, so that option was pointless. Continuing east might take me somewhere new, but I would probably find that room eventually should I decide to travel north again. When I arrived at the crossway, I cast a sidelong glance east as I turned onto the northern path.
Soon I wished I hadn't taken the northern route; it went on forever, bending and stretching further than I could see. My sandals weren't meant for this type of trekking. After what was clearly about 15 kilometers, I finally came across a room; it was probably the first room I would have come across had I continued east instead of going north like a fool.
Thankfully there was a small raised area in this room as well, and I sat to rest my tired feet for a bit. I leaned forward to rub my delicate ankles when I saw something oblong half-tucked behind a ledge. It couldn't be… I stood to my feet, feeling numb. Why would Koh leave an egg behind? I staggered towards it slowly, hoping it wasn't a mirage. It was such a pretty shade of orange, like a deep fire, seeming to glow in the dim light of the monster tower.
I was just on the other side of the raised mass when chaos rained down around me; in a matter of seconds the empty space of the room was transformed into a monsters' den! It was full to brimming, and my throat strangled the cry that rose up inside of me. I stared directly into the large, unblinking blue eye of a floating, metallic beast; what would have seemed to be rust from a distance revealed itself to be blood, and I felt myself grow sick. Its top and bottom half were adorned with spikes and separated by a sharp rotating gear that whirred like an electric saw. Without warning, it reared back and flung itself forward. I threw myself to the ground to avoid it, unwittingly dodging two attacks because a monster behind me- half knight, half fire demon- had chanted a sled spell aimed at my back. The giant metal beast let out a piercing shriek as it exploded upwards, and the attacking monster bore down on me. I scrambled for my staff and flipped onto my back, not wanting to waste the time needed to stand up before casting a spell.
A binding spell froze the fire-knight with its sword not half a meter from my leg; I had only enough time to roll out from underneath it and stand up before a Troll's mace glanced my ribcage. I felt rather than heard the scream tear out of my throat. At nearly the same moment, a Pulunpa dug its horn into the back of my thigh. I stumbled directly into another of the metallic monsters, my outstretched hand landing on one of its thorns; immediately, I recoiled, trying to regain my footing while monsters battered me from every direction. I felt my strength leaving rapidly, and I realized I was in a struggle to survive. I reached for my pouch, but a whirring noise appeared at my side. I spun to my right just as another copper monster reared back to attack; there was nothing for me to do but throw up my hands in a desperate attempt to protect my more vital organs. It slammed into my considerably weaker body with much more force than I was prepared to handle, and I was knocked back onto the ground, the bell on my cape jingling with the force.
I will never be able to explain my gratitude for what happened then.
Being the older between us, and also a man, Oniisan took his directive from Otousan incredibly seriously; before I set out for a tower quest Oniisan always pressed a wind crystal into my gloved hand, told me to 'get out of there' should I run into any danger, and fastened a bell to my cape. I would tear away, snapping that I was 16, too, and that he needn't baby me. 'I always have my magic,' I would inform him snidely as I slammed the door shut behind me.
But at that moment, with the warm glow of a Holy Bell encompassing the room, I wept for the way I had treated Oniisan; he was the reason I was alive. Oniisan personally went to the priest to have the bells blessed before I left the estate. I watched as the monsters filed out of the room under the influence of some unbearably painful force, tears distorting my vision. Dragging myself to my knees, I crawled to the treasure at the far side of the room. Cradling it against my chest ever so gently, I removed the wind crystal from my bag and hoisted it into the air; I rested my eyes as the magic transported me to the tower gates at the edge of Monsbaiya, so I never saw the face of the tamer who cried out my name as I left. But it sounded awfully familiar…