Chapter 4:

Chapter 4: Venti

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Emi was like a frightened animal when Matt brought her into his room. Her eyes were hopping all over like she was looking for an escape route.Bookmark here

“Hey, if you don’t want to do this, you can go.” Matt didn’t want to make her any more uncomfortable than she already was.Bookmark here

“No! …No, it’s okay,” Emi gasped. “I-I… it’s just… I’ve never been alone with a boy in his room before…”Bookmark here

Her face was scarlet, but she didn’t look embarrassed, she looked terrified. She held her staff like a weapon, clutching it so tightly her knuckles were white.Bookmark here

“I won’t do anything, promise!” Matt said, giving her all the space she needed.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, this is like the bus stop all over again,” Emi mumbled sheepishly. “It’s just… I’m a Venti. Boys… think things.”Bookmark here

People said things, too. Venti had a reputation.Bookmark here

“Is that why you don’t want anyone to know?” Matt asked. Emi nodded.Bookmark here

“Have you met a Venti before?” Emi asked.Bookmark here

“No, you’re the first.”Bookmark here

“But… you’ve heard the stories, right? About how Venti d-d-do things with men, how they’re… sl-sl…” Her voice faded. She was too embarrassed to even say it.Bookmark here

He could only admit yes.Bookmark here

“What, um… what have you heard?” Emi’s eyes were watering. She didn’t look eager to hear, but she didn’t want to say it herself.Bookmark here

“That Venti will have sex with anybody. They’re always on the prowl. That they eagerly seek out new partners, sometimes in multiples. That their voices are so stimulating they can enthrall any man. That a Venti is judged by how many men she’s been with.”Bookmark here

Emi got smaller and smaller with each word, and by the time he was done she was a trembling ball on the floor.Bookmark here

“H-Hey, look, that’s all just talk, I don’t think that way!” Matt quickly clarified.Bookmark here

“Please stop, I’m gonna die…” Emi’s voice was muffled. She raised her head, red and teary.Bookmark here

“Look, Emi, I know that Venti aren’t like that.” Matt was trying to be reassuring. It didn’t help that those stereotypes were partly based in fact.Bookmark here

“I know… a lot of Venti are… you know,” Emi whimpered. “But it’s not like that! Venti are just… just!”Bookmark here

She began hyperventilating. Her eyes shot to the balcony and for a second Matt was expecting a repeat of the railing that morning.Bookmark here

But she gathered herself, blowing her nose into the tissue he offered.Bookmark here

Then she got angry.Bookmark here

Emi’s tiny little face scrunched up in rage was one of the cutest things Matt had seen. She hopped up and began pacing.Bookmark here

“Look!” She shouted, pointing at him. “Venti aren’t sluts, okay?! We’re just… we…” Her finger began to shake, and the embarrassment returned.Bookmark here

Matt sighed, and waved to his bed. “Emi, why don’t-“Bookmark here

“I knew it! I knew it! You just brought me in here in order to-“Bookmark here

“No! I just thought you might want to sit down!” Matt said, giving her a wide berth.Bookmark here

Emi wailed and jumped into the bed, shamefully burying her face in the pillows. She screamed and began whacking herself in the head.Bookmark here

Mat didn’t believe in stereotypes, but Emi was certainly living up to the “Venti are emotional basket-cases” one.Bookmark here

“…Sorry,” she mumbled, raising her head. “I… I…”Bookmark here

“Take your time.” Matt sat down. The hard floor was a nice reminder to buy furniture.Bookmark here

“People say that Venti are all girls, but they aren’t. “Emi finally found a way to explain without getting embarrassed. “It’s just that there’s only one boy in every eight children. So they have to… fight for partners. That’s where their… our voices… come from.”Bookmark here

She buried her face in her hands.Bookmark here

A female Venti’s Song was seductive, capable of stirring arousal and enthralling men. Matt thought mentioning that would only make things worse.Bookmark here

“Venti can reproduce with other races, so… they seek mates.” Emi couldn’t look him in the eye. “B-But, they… they’re not all like that! I’m not!”Bookmark here

The desperation in her eyes was shocking. Matt had no reason to think she was anything like that, but the way she was staring at him…Bookmark here

She clearly assumed he saw her that way.Bookmark here

“I went to school, to learn magic. And the boys there… when they saw me, they only thought one thing. And the girls, they were even worse, calling me names, saying I was a…”Bookmark here

Her eyes were muddy and her face was covered in shadow. Like a sad puppy, Matt wanted to give her a hug. But he knew to keep his distance.Bookmark here

“Emi, I don’t see that when I look at you.” He could only tell her the truth and hope she believed it. “And I don’t think they’ll see that, either.”Bookmark here

For a second, he saw a spark of hope in her eyes. Then she turned them away.Bookmark here

“…Sarah knows.”Bookmark here

That was a surprise.Bookmark here

“She came to my school, looking for mages to commission. I was hiding my wings then, but she still pointed me out immediately somehow. Said it wouldn’t matter. That’s why I came here, but…” She sighed and slumped back on the bed. “I’m scared.”Bookmark here

“I wish I could help.” Matt had no clue what to say. “But if you need to talk, well, we newbies have to stick together, right?” He cracked a smile. “And I think I’m at least a better conversationalist than Chloe, right?”Bookmark here

Emi giggled, wiping her tears. “…Yeah… thanks, Matt. I’m glad you’re different from the others.” She smiled, a big beaming one aimed right at him. Her voice was as soft as silk and her sparkling eyes were like pools of crystal, inviting him closer, drawing him in…Bookmark here

Matt’s heart skipped a beat, and he felt his face heating up. A familiar feeling was welling up inside of him, and it made him sick.Bookmark here

“Uh… w-well, um, it-it’s getting late!” Matt scrambled to his feet and rushed to the door. Damn. “B-But it’s our first day tomorrow, so we should really get some rest!”Bookmark here

“Oh…” Emi was a little disappointed. She’d wanted to keep talking for a little longer.Bookmark here

“P-Please, we can talk again in the morning.” Matt was too ashamed to show his face, afraid she’d think he was like the others. Even as he was escorting her out the door, part of him wanted her to stay. He just wanted to be near her! But he knew it was better for both of them if they kept their distance.Bookmark here

Emi gave him a shy good night and slipped into her room, and Matt finally felt like he could breathe again. He slumped against the door and tried to calm his heart, picturing Cynthia’s smile. Luckily, Emi’s allure was quick to fade in her absence.Bookmark here

Matt really hoped he hadn’t made her uncomfortable. He couldn’t help it, damn it, and he knew she couldn’t either.Bookmark here

He needed a shower to clear his mind, and then he was going to call Cynthia.Bookmark here

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While Matt was occupied and turned in for the night, downstairs the other Guardians were just getting started for the night. Ryan and Serena were shooting pool in the common room while Chloe snored away.Bookmark here

“So what do you think of those two?” Ryan asked, lining up his shot. “Emi and Matt.”Bookmark here

“Oh, I love ‘em to bits!” Serena twirled her cue while she waited. “Emi’s a little shy, but she’s just precious! And Matt, well…”Bookmark here

“He’s 18, Serena,” Ryan warned her.Bookmark here

“And I’m only 20. Besides, he has a girlfriend,” Serena said, winking. “Don’t worry. I’m not interested.”Bookmark here

“Good, that would be awkward.”Bookmark here

“What? Don’t like the idea of being in the same guild as a flirting couple?” She teased.Bookmark here

“Please, you’re flirty enough for three people. I was asking a serious question!”Bookmark here

“You? Being serious? Did you bump your head one time too many up those cliffs?”Bookmark here

“Ha ha. Very funny. Seriously, what do you think about them?”Bookmark here

“Matt’s Naturia has its uses,” Serena admitted. “Being able to protect himself from attacks would definitely come in handy against the Emergents.” She sent a smirk his way before shooting down a ball. “More handy than some people’s Naturias anyway.”Bookmark here

Ryan stuck his tongue out.Bookmark here

“Matt’s eager, but Emi doesn’t want to fight Emergents,” she confided. “I haven’t seen her magic yet, but I’m curious what kinds of jobs she’ll be taking.”Bookmark here

“She definitely needs a confidence boost,” Ryan agreed. “She reminded me of a sad puppy. She needs a big sister to help her out, you think?”Bookmark here

Serena batted her eyelashes and leaned over the table to emphasize her cleavage. “Got anyone… in mind?” She purred.Bookmark here

“Not gonna work, Serena, I’m sinking that 8 ball.” Ryan made the shot flawlessly.Bookmark here

Son of a-!” Serena spat, nearly breaking the cue in half. Bookmark here

“Hah!” Ryan picked the bills up and waved them in her face to taunt her. Serena glared back.Bookmark here

“You were a lot more fun when you were the kid fresh off the boat.”Bookmark here

“Had time to get used to your feminine wiles,” Ryan smirked, raising his eyebrows.Bookmark here

Before Serena could fire back, the door opened. A man wearing a long black duster and a cocky grin walked in with a swagger like he owned the place. His hair was tousled like crows’ feathers and his brown eyes were deep and warm.Bookmark here

“Nick!” Serena’s lost money was forgotten, and she skipped across the room to pull her friend into a big hug.Bookmark here

“Hey, Serena, how’s my favorite girl?”Bookmark here

She kissed him on the cheek and pulled away.Bookmark here

“Tending her garden,” she teased. “Still not talking to you.”Bookmark here

Nick made a pained face, holding his hand over his heart. “You wound me.”Bookmark here

“Better than what she’ll do.”Bookmark here

“I have my gun, I’ll be fine.”Bookmark here

“Want a last meal?” Serena asked, walking towards the kitchen. “I can still whip something up.”Bookmark here

“Nah, caught a bite in town. So who’s the new girl?” Nick had already turned his attention to someone else.Bookmark here

“Chloe Rosenthal,” Ryan replied. “But you can call her ‘Off Limits’.”Bookmark here

Nick laughed. “I’m smart enough not to date in the workplace, don’t worry.” He adjusted the blanket on her and straightened up. “Now, I believe I have a date with the flower girl.” He winked at them. “Don’t wait up.”Bookmark here

“Oh, yeah, he’s smart alright,” Serena said, rolling her eyes.Bookmark here

“Hope you survive it!” Ryan called after him.Bookmark here

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