Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1
Matt looked out the window of the bus at Goldia City. Willow was pointing out landmarks, but he was more interested in the pedestrians. There were more people here than he had expected.
The bus got to the right stop soon enough, and Willow led them through the town, pointing out more landmarks to the interested Emi and snoozing Chloe. It was a surprise she could walk, dead as she looked.
“And here it is! Goldia Central Library!” Willow said, gesturing with a flourish. The building was old, with several stories and a curved roof, with an archway over the wide double doors. Willow led them up the stairs, which Matt noted were littered with wrappers, beer bottles, and cigarette butts. Not the best image for a public library.
“Hello there!” She greeted the man at the front counter with a smile. He seemed taken aback.
“Willow. From the Guardians,” Willow introduced herself. “And these are our newest members, Matt, Emi, and Chloe. We’re here about the job request!”
The man gasped and adjusted his glasses. “O-Oh! I see! Y-Yes, that would be wonderful! Hello there! My name is Russel.”
The librarian fidgeted as much as Emi did, constantly sliding his glasses up his nose. His brown hair was a frazzled mess and his rumpled clothes hung off his scrawny frame. But as much as his eyes shifted around, Matt could see there was intelligence in them.
“So Russ, what can we do for you?” Willow asked.
Russel adjusted his glasses again, turning to his computer. “Y-Yes, well, I-I’m grateful to have you, I need some people to stock the shelves, sort through returns, and… oh, yes, clear out the litter on the front steps.
Matt stifled his groan. Either way, they would pick up trash?
“And what about the plants?” Willow asked.
Russel blinked. “The plants?”
“Yeah, I noticed you a few, on the windowsills and stuff. They need watering. I’ll take care of those.”
“Oh, um… I would prefer if you handle the jobs I-“
Willow slapped her hand on the counter. “Are you saying that those plants aren’t a priority?” She asked. It was the most polite threat Matt had ever heard.
“B-By all means, I would love whatever help you good give!” Russel whimpered, shying away.
“Excellent!” Willow turned to the others. “Now, I’m not here to hold your hand and tell you what to do. You can figure that out on your own. Come find me if you have any questions.”
“I’ll stock the shelves,” Matt immediately volunteered. That sounded more interesting than any of the other jobs.
So that was how he found himself pushing a cart stacked with books through the library. Emi was sorting the return, and Chloe…
Chloe was probably asleep somewhere.
Matt found this job to be mind-numbingly dull. Scan the list. Push the cart. Find the shelf. Return the book.
Scan the list. Push the cart. Find the shelf. Return the book.
Jobs like this weren’t why he chose the Guardians for his commission. He wanted to fight Emergents, not be some… book boy!
Matt nearly dropped a book at the sound of a voice after so much silence. He looked around, but couldn’t see anyone.
Then he looked down.
A little girl with curly orange hair and freckles was staring up at him with wide green eyes. She held a picture book in her tiny little fingers. It wasn’t unusual to see a kid in the children’s section, but this girl wasn’t ordinary.
Two tiny wings stuck out of the back of her dress.
What was a Venti child doing in Goldia? Emi was rare enough, but two Venti in two days?
“…Hey there,” he finally greeted her.
“D’you work here?” She asked hopefully. Matt nodded and her face lit up. She tugged his sleeve. “Then can you read this to me?!”
She pushed the book at Matt.
Reading a book to a little girl sounded slightly more terrible than pushing the cart. “Uh… see, miss…”
“Well, like I was going to say, Ceci, I’m working right now,” Matt explained. “I need to put all these books back on their shelves!”
Ceci’s eyes began to water, and her lip started quivering. She burst into tears.
And she cried LOUD.
“DAAAADDDDY!!!” She wailed, running out of the children’s section.
Matt had a bad feeling about this. His bad feeling was confirmed a few minutes later when she came in clinging to Russel’s arm.
Oh. This was just perfect. His first job, and he’d made the boss’s daughter cry.
Wait. But Russel wasn’t a Venti, so…
Matt decided to not explore that line of thought and let the librarian speak.
“You’re Matt, right?” Russel didn’t seem upset, which was a relief. “Ceci says you didn’t want to read to her?”
“I said please, and everything!” Ceci sobbed, wiping her eyes. When Russel turned back to Matt, her crying face shifted into a mischievous smirk and she stuck her tongue out.
That little brat-!
Matt restrained his anger. She was just a little girl. “Sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to upset her. I was taking care of stocking the shelves, I just… said I had to do my job, sir.”
Russel laughed. “Oh, I see, I understand. But if it’s all the same, one of the others can do that. In the meantime, would you mind keeping an eye on Ceci?”
Matt wanted to scream. But Russel’s warm smile couldn’t be argued with.
“If that’s what you want, sir,” he agreed. He was falling back on that old adage “the customer is always right”.
And if that meant he had to spend his first job babysitting, well… he would suck up his pride and do it. But this was no job for someone like him.
Ceci practically dragged him to a beanbag chair, and he began reading the dullest picture book in the world to the Venti.
If only it ended there. But Ceci wasn’t satisfied with Matt just reading to her, no, she wanted to play hide and seek next. But instead of being the one to hide so Matt could just not look for her, SHE wanted to be the one to seek.
The look Emi gave him when she caught him crouched behind a chair was something.
“Found you, Matt!” She declared, leaping down from the second floor. She glided down on her wings and tagged him.
Emi gasped in shock, dropping her books.
“You… You’re a…”
Ceci blinked. She had been so busy clinging onto Matt that she hadn’t noticed Emi at all. “…Hello?”
“S-Sorry,” Emi said, scrambling to pick up the books. “Just… your wings, you-“
“I’m a Venti,” she explained.
“…Yeah, I know.”
“Anyway, I’m playing with Matt now!” Ceci’s eyes were shining. “Do you wanna play, too?”
“Uh, I-I have to work, so-“
“Okay!” Ceci chirped.
Matt couldn’t help but resent how easily Emi had been let off the hook.
“Matt, I want to play outside next!” The little girl pleaded. He sighed and nodded his head. He was really envying Chloe right now, getting to snooze her first job away.
Playing with Ceci outside wasn’t much better than playing inside. For one, she didn’t want to stick around the library. Her first demand was that Matt take her to buy ice cream, then out to lunch, and things only escalated from there. Needless to say, he was relieved when they finally headed back to the library.
In the time they had been gone, a group of kids in black leather had taken up residence perched out front on the library steps, smoking and drinking and generally being a public nuisance. Matt was happy to walk around them, but Ceci was a little less inclined.
“Hey!” She shouted. “What do you guys think you’re doing?!”
“Beat it, kid,” one of the punk girls sneered.
“Matt!” Ceci turned to him. “They’re making a mess! Go beat them up!”
“What?! I’m not gonna beat them up!”
“Daddy said you have to do what I say! You’re a librarian, and they’re making a mess of daddy’s library! Go beat ‘em up!”
Before Matt could say anything, one of the punks grabbed him by the collar and pulled him in. “Oh, you think you’re a tough guy, huh?” He snarled.
“Whoa, listen, just hold on here, let’s talk this out.” Matt was trying to deescalate the situation, but the teens weren’t having it.
“Watch out Jeffi, guy’s got a body on him, might give you a good fight,” the girl from before called.
“Look, I’m not going to fight anybody, I’m just working here for the day, look, the girl wants you guys to leave, so can’t you just…”
“You gonna make us leave, is that it? I thought this was a public library? Doesn’t that make these public steps?” The punk demanded. “It’s not like we’re hurting anybody, right?”
Well, Matt had to give him that. But even if they weren’t hurting people, they were pretty clearly responsible for the litter that had been accumulating in front of the library.
“Okay, that’s enough.”
Matt turned to see Willow standing at the door, her arms crossed. She wasn’t smiling anymore. She sauntered down the steps and pulled the kid’s hand off Matt’s collar.
“Hey, what do you want, lady?!”
“Sorry, but this kid’s a friend of mine. And I’d appreciate if you could clear out? I’ve been talking to the head librarian, and he’s not very happy with you punks making a mess of his library.” Matt stepped back, giving Willow her space.
“Yeah, you tell him!” Ceci cheered.
“So you are looking for a fight?” Jeffi demanded.
“Uh, Jeffi, I think we might want to listen,” one of the girls in the group said. “Don’t you know who that is?”
Willow decided to show them. She raised her hand, green light glowing around her clenched fist. Then she curled it open, and Matt stumbled back in shock. It wasn’t the healing energy he had been familiar with, no, instead a long green plant shot out from Willow’s hand, the leafy fern covering the kid.
“What the hell is this mess?!” He shouted, trying to scrape the plants away, but they were tightly wrapped around him.
With a tug, Willow pulled the plants off of him. Jeffi nearly fell down the steps.
She held her other hand up, showing some seeds. They began to glow. That was enough of a warning for the punks to run off.
Willow smirked and slipped the seeds back into her pocket. She knelt down and planted the fern in the dirt beside the steps, giving it a pat.
Ceci’s eyes were glowing with shock. “That… That was the coolest thing ever!” She screamed, running over to Willow. Matt was left forgotten on the steps.
“What was that?! How did you do it?! Huh? Huh?!”
Willow smile. “It’s my Naturia, silly girl.”
“I thought your Naturia let you heal people?” Matt was confused about what her power was. No one could have two Naturia.
“It does,” she laughed. “Nature’s Gift lets me stimulate cell growth. That means I can heal people, but it also means I can make plants go from just a seed to a full fern, like you just saw.”
Matt was surprised. That was an amazing Naturia. He’d underestimated her.
He followed the girls into the library, relieved to actually see something exciting on the job today.