Chapter 6:

Chapter 6: The Library

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Hello there!” She greeted the man at the front counter with a smile. He seemed taken aback.Bookmark here

“Wh-Who-“Bookmark here

“Willow. From the Guardians,” Willow introduced herself. “And these are our newest members, Matt, Emi, and Chloe. We’re here about the job request!”Bookmark here

The man gasped and adjusted his glasses. “O-Oh! I see! Y-Yes, that would be wonderful! Hello there! My name is Russel.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“So Russ, what can we do for you?” Willow asked.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Matt stifled his groan. Either way, they would pick up trash?Bookmark here

“And what about the plants?” Willow asked.Bookmark here

Russel blinked. “The plants?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I noticed you a few, on the windowsills and stuff. They need watering. I’ll take care of those.”Bookmark here

“Oh, um… I would prefer if you handle the jobs I-“Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“B-By all means, I would love whatever help you good give!” Russel whimpered, shying away.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“I’ll stock the shelves,” Matt immediately volunteered. That sounded more interesting than any of the other jobs.Bookmark here

So that was how he found himself pushing a cart stacked with books through the library. Emi was sorting the return, and Chloe…Bookmark here

Chloe was probably asleep somewhere.Bookmark here

Matt found this job to be mind-numbingly dull. Scan the list. Push the cart. Find the shelf. Return the book. Bookmark here

Scan the list. Push the cart. Find the shelf. Return the book. Bookmark here

Jobs like this weren’t why he chose the Guardians for his commission. He wanted to fight Emergents, not be some… book boy!Bookmark here

“Hello!”Bookmark here

Matt nearly dropped a book at the sound of a voice after so much silence. He looked around, but couldn’t see anyone.Bookmark here

Then he looked down.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Two tiny wings stuck out of the back of her dress.Bookmark here

What was a Venti child doing in Goldia? Emi was rare enough, but two Venti in two days?Bookmark here

“…Hey there,” he finally greeted her.Bookmark here

“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?!”Bookmark here

She pushed the book at Matt.Bookmark here

Reading a book to a little girl sounded slightly more terrible than pushing the cart. “Uh… see, miss…”Bookmark here

“I’m Ceci!”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

Ceci’s eyes began to water, and her lip started quivering. She burst into tears.Bookmark here

And she cried LOUD.Bookmark here

“DAAAADDDDY!!!” She wailed, running out of the children’s section.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Oh. This was just perfect. His first job, and he’d made the boss’s daughter cry.Bookmark here

Wait. But Russel wasn’t a Venti, so…Bookmark here

Matt decided to not explore that line of thought and let the librarian speak.Bookmark here

“You’re Matt, right?” Russel didn’t seem upset, which was a relief. “Ceci says you didn’t want to read to her?”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

That little brat-!Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

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?”Bookmark here

Matt wanted to scream. But Russel’s warm smile couldn’t be argued with.Bookmark here

“If that’s what you want, sir,” he agreed. He was falling back on that old adage “the customer is always right”.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Ceci practically dragged him to a beanbag chair, and he began reading the dullest picture book in the world to the Venti.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

The look Emi gave him when she caught him crouched behind a chair was something.Bookmark here

“Found you, Matt!” She declared, leaping down from the second floor. She glided down on her wings and tagged him.Bookmark here

Emi gasped in shock, dropping her books.Bookmark here

“You… You’re a…”Bookmark here

Ceci blinked. She had been so busy clinging onto Matt that she hadn’t noticed Emi at all. “…Hello?”Bookmark here

“S-Sorry,” Emi said, scrambling to pick up the books. “Just… your wings, you-“Bookmark here

“I’m a Venti,” she explained.Bookmark here

“…Yeah, I know.”Bookmark here

“Anyway, I’m playing with Matt now!” Ceci’s eyes were shining. “Do you wanna play, too?”Bookmark here

“Uh, I-I have to work, so-“Bookmark here

“Okay!” Ceci chirped.Bookmark here

Matt couldn’t help but resent how easily Emi had been let off the hook.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hey!” She shouted. “What do you guys think you’re doing?!”Bookmark here

“Beat it, kid,” one of the punk girls sneered. Bookmark here

“Matt!” Ceci turned to him. “They’re making a mess! Go beat them up!”Bookmark here

“What?! I’m not gonna beat them up!”Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Watch out Jeffi, guy’s got a body on him, might give you a good fight,” the girl from before called.Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Look-“Bookmark here

“Okay, that’s enough.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hey, what do you want, lady?!”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

“Yeah, you tell him!” Ceci cheered.Bookmark here

“So you are looking for a fight?” Jeffi demanded.Bookmark here

“Uh, Jeffi, I think we might want to listen,” one of the girls in the group said. “Don’t you know who that is?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“What the hell is this mess?!” He shouted, trying to scrape the plants away, but they were tightly wrapped around him.Bookmark here

With a tug, Willow pulled the plants off of him. Jeffi nearly fell down the steps.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“What was that?! How did you do it?! Huh? Huh?!”Bookmark here

Willow smile. “It’s my Naturia, silly girl.”Bookmark here

“I thought your Naturia let you heal people?” Matt was confused about what her power was. No one could have two Naturia.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

Matt was surprised. That was an amazing Naturia. He’d underestimated her.Bookmark here

He followed the girls into the library, relieved to actually see something exciting on the job today. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.