Chapter 2:

Chapter 2: Settling In

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Matt was breathless when he reached the top of the stairs.Bookmark here

Strayhaven stood before his eyes, high walls and tall gates. It looked like a castle from a horror movie, not something he expected to be associated with the Guardians. Draped over the large wood door was a black banner with a white symbol, a strange spiky spiral, the emblem of the Guardians.Bookmark here

“Don’t stand there gobsmacked!” Ryan laughed, slapping Matt on the back and knocking him forward. “Let’s head in already!”Bookmark here

Ryan led Matt and an exhausted Emi to the gate, pushing it open with a creak and heading in.Bookmark here

The castle was dark on the outside, but big and bright on the inside, the hallways filled with paintings and portraits, including ones of Sarah and Ryan. Matt was blown away by their new home.Bookmark here

Emi gasped in surprise. “It’s a palace! Am I really going to live here?” Her smile was bright for the first time.Bookmark here

“Welcome.”Bookmark here

Two voices spoke in unison. At the end of the hall stood a man in a sharp suit and a woman in a frilly dress. They looked like a matching set, flawless features and short black hair without a strand out of place, and hollow gold eyes. So perfect they couldn’t be human.Bookmark here

“Mechadolls?” Matt asked, taking a closer look. It was the first time he’d seen an automaton, they were more human than he’d imagined.Bookmark here

“Nero, Bianca, these are our new members!” Ryan greeted them.Bookmark here

The two dolls placed their hands over where their hearts would be, moving synchronously in a bow. They led the way down the hall.Bookmark here

“A place this size takes a lot of maintenance, and Mechadolls make it a lot easier. Great, huh? Of course, we also have to pitch in, do chores and stuff, but we’ll get to that. Here we are!”Bookmark here

The Mechadolls pushed open a set of double doors, and they entered a common room way too big for the three people inside it.Bookmark here

“Is this them?!” A blonde woman was the first to catch Matt’s eye. She seemed like the type to catch lots of eyes. Her white dress was plain but did nothing to downplay her curvy body, paired with a face that looked like it had broken a lot of hearts. Her hair danced around her hips as she walked up to them, pulling Matt into a hug.Bookmark here

Matt’s head went to how soft she was. He felt his face heating up as she pressed her voluptuous body against him. It was a relief when she finally let him go, scooping up Emi in her grasp next.Bookmark here

“This is Serena Johnston,” Ryan introduced her with a laugh. “You can tell she’s a hugger.”Bookmark here

Serena let the red-faced Emi go and winked at Ryan, turning to them. “Hey, I’m Serena, lovely to meet you both!”Bookmark here

“I’m Matt.”Bookmark here

“Emi.” She averted her eyes.Bookmark here

“That’s Willow over there,” Serena said, pointing to the other blonde, sitting on the couch.Bookmark here

Willow had hair like honey and a scowl like vinegar. She wore overalls, and her green eyes were sharp with judgment. Then her expression softened into a smile. In a second she seemed friendlier, more approachable, like Cynthia. She waved at them.Bookmark here

“So these are our new recruits…”Bookmark here

The last person in the room was the only man, dressed in a fine suit with a flat cap. Matt thought he was an old man at first due to his pale skin and stringy white hair, but as he got closer Matt could see he was surprisingly young. He shook Matt’s hand, his grip surprisingly tight for his gaunt frame. A fine saber rattled at his waist.Bookmark here

“I’m Lori. The vice-guild master.” His voice was terse and his red eyes skipped over them, landing on Ryan. “…Where’s the third one?”Bookmark here

Ryan smiled sheepishly. “She, uh… overslept.”Bookmark here

Overslept?Bookmark here

Serena giggled, and Ryan shrugged. Lori wasn’t amused.Bookmark here

“I’ll go pick her up later, come on!” Ryan laughed. Lori muttered something.Bookmark here

Matt felt those piercing eyes on him again.Bookmark here

“She’s waiting for you.” Lori’s thin finger pointed across the room.Bookmark here

Matt and Emi walked to the door, and glanced at each other. They both gulped.Bookmark here

“Y-You go first,” Emi whimpered.Bookmark here

“No, no, that’s okay, you can go,” Matt said, as anxious as she looked.Bookmark here

“If I go in there I’ll die, please!” Emi urged him, her eyes watering.Bookmark here

Matt sighed. Her pleading face could give Cynthia’s a run for its money. Bookmark here

He walked inside. It was an office, with a large desk. A portrait of Sarah hung behind it, with a long black blade mounted on the wall. Sarah herself sat at the desk, her face a lot stricter-looking than she’d been at his school.Bookmark here

Then she smiled.Bookmark here

“Matt! Emi! Welcome! I’m so glad to see you!” She grinned, rising from her seat and walking over to them. Matt thought he’d be in for more hugs, but she just shook their hands. “Welcome to the Guardians!” She waved her hand with a flourish.Bookmark here

She sat back on her desk. “So what do you guys think?”Bookmark here

“…About what?” Matt wasn’t sure what she was getting at.Bookmark here

“About everyone, silly!” She laughed. “Your guildmates? Ryan, Serena, Willow, Lori?”Bookmark here

“Oh! Uh, they’re… they’re cool, I guess,” Matt shrugged. Ryan laughed a lot like Jermaine and Serena was clingy like Cynthia.Bookmark here

“Uhum…” Emi gulped, nodding.Bookmark here

“We’ve got two more members, Nick’s off on a job and Kayla’s... in her room. They’re great! In the meantime, have Serena show you guys around, she’ll take you to your rooms! Your stuff’s already been dropped off!”Bookmark here

She turned to Emi. “We gave you a room with a balcony like you asked, Emi!”Bookmark here

“Oh! Th-Thank you!” She brightened up a little.Bookmark here

Sarah laughed. She placed a hand on each of their shoulders and gave them a smile like those Matt imagined a mother would wear, warm and filled with care. Matt felt relief wash over him.Bookmark here

“Come on you two, relax!” Her voice was soothing. “You’re Guardians now. This is your home. Your family. You don’t need to be so nervous. Everyone here is happy to have you, even scary ol’ Lori.”Bookmark here

“…Yeah.” Matt smiled. Sarah was trying to make this place seem like home to them.Bookmark here

Emi only nodded.Bookmark here

“You guys can come talk to me whenever you need, okay? Just think of me as your new mom!” She looked into Matt’s eyes, and let them leave.Bookmark here

The second they entered the common room, they were swept up by Serena again.Bookmark here

“Matt! Emi!” She cooed, taking their hands. “Come on! I need to show you around!”Bookmark here

Serena skipped forward with her arms out. “This is our common room. We’ve got TV and video games, books, even board games if that’s your thing. You can use it however you want.” She pointed at another door. “Kitchen and dining hall’s just through those doors. We eat at 8, 12, and 6, but you can stop by for a snack whenever.”Bookmark here

“Do the Mechadolls cook?” Matt asked.Bookmark here

“Nero and Bianca? Nah. But I do! We’ve all got different chores, we’ll work you two into the schedule somewhere. Let’s get going!”Bookmark here

Serena led them out of the common room down one of the halls.Bookmark here

“First floor is mainly our public amenities,” she explained. “You know, showers and stuff, we’ve got a gym, a library, storage, and… oh! This here’s Ryan’s room.” She stopped outside the door. “He’s on the first floor, Willow, too. Will’s got a lovely garden, you should have her show it to you sometime!”Bookmark here

She showed them the different rooms, and finally stopped at a spiral staircase.Bookmark here

“Nick’s still fixing the elevator, so we’ll use the stairs.” She led them up to the second floor and began showing them around the rooms. Bookmark here

“I’m over here, and that’s Lori, Nick, um…” She smiled sheepishly at them. “We have a lot of empty rooms.”Bookmark here

“Uh, what… what’s that?” Emi asked, pointing a shaking finger at a large metal door that was different from the other ones.Bookmark here

“Oh! That, uh… that’s Kayla’s room.” Serena looked uneasy. “Don’t… don’t go in there.”Bookmark here

Emi’s eyes bugged out and Matt felt a little uneasy himself.Bookmark here

Serena quickly led them away from there. Bookmark here

“And here we are!” She gave an exaggerated bow, gesturing to two doors. “Emi, we’ve got you on the right, Matt, you’re over here on the left. Why don’t you guys check out your rooms for a little bit, and then we can finish our tour?”Bookmark here

Emi ran into her room as soon as Serena gave her the key.Bookmark here

Matt was surprised by how large his space was. It was bigger than his dorm, that was for sure. His bags sitting in the middle were small in comparison. He walked forward and flopped on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.Bookmark here

This is… my room, huh? He’d gone through a lot, these last few hours. He was in a new place, meeting new people. And now he was a Guardian.Bookmark here

He sat up and took a look around. The large room looked so empty. He needed to get some bookshelves, maybe a TV, a throw rug…Bookmark here

Matt’s phone rang, shaking him out of his thoughts. It was Cynthia.Bookmark here

“Hey Matti!” She chirped. “What’s up? You there yet?”Bookmark here

“Hey girl.” Matt felt the smile already creeping up his face. “Yeah, I just got here.”Bookmark here

Cynthia squealed. “How are they?! You’ve got to tell me everything! Are they as awesome in person?”Bookmark here

“Cynthia, if you’re such a fan, you should’ve joined,” Matt laughed. “Anyway, I’m in my room right now, can you believe that? I’ve got my own private room. I can decorate it however I want.”Bookmark here

“Dude! That’s so cool! I can’t wait to see! It’s cool if I visit, right?”Bookmark here

“I’ll check, but it should be fine. Anything else you want to know?”Bookmark here

“Just that I love you, silly,” she cooed. Matt blushed.Bookmark here

“H-Hey, hey, that’s… thanks,” he mumbled. “I love you, too.”Bookmark here

He hung up, and got out of bed, stretching. He walked over to the screen door. The balcony overlooked the ocean, and Matt was amazed at how far he could see. The blue of the ocean stretched out in all directions no matter which way he look-Bookmark here

“Aaaaaah! Fresh air at last!”Bookmark here

Emi stood on her balcony with her arms stretched over her head, her smile bigger than any Matt had seen from her.Bookmark here

White wings like a bird spread out behind her.Bookmark here

Matt gasped. “E-Emi? You’re a Venti?”Bookmark here

Emi whirled towards him, tucking in her wings. Her face turned bright red with horror.Bookmark here


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