Chapter 8:

Chapter 8: Mending

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Matt awoke in a strange room.Bookmark here

It took a few seconds to put the pieces of his memory together. He had finished his first job at the library. Then an Emergent had appeared in Goldia. He had leapt in to fight it, and then…Bookmark here

He remembered the pain. The blood on his face, the crack of his ribs. He remembered it- but he couldn’t feel it.Bookmark here

Confused, he sat up and looked around. He was in a hospital, and the sky outside was dark.Bookmark here

“Good, you’re awake.” The man standing over him looked more suited to a life of crime than medicine. He had a scraggly beard and cold eyes, and his gravely voice didn’t comfort Matt at all.Bookmark here

“What happened?” He cautiously asked.Bookmark here

“Emergent attacked. You got cut up bad, and your boss brought you in.” The doctor’s terse response rang hollow. Matt felt a tremble of rage run through him. He had fought an Emergent- one simple, lone Emergent- and lost. Badly.Bookmark here

“Willow, Emi, Chloe, are they-“Bookmark here

“Your friends are just fine. You’re the only one who sustained any serious injuries.”Bookmark here

Well gee, doc, thanks for making me feel better. Matt glowered at the old man. His glare didn’t seem to have any effect.Bookmark here

“What’s with that look? You should be happy. If it wasn’t for Willow’s treatment your face would be a pile of roast beef right now.”Bookmark here

Matt glanced at his reflection in the window. He remembered the Emergent slicing into him, but there weren’t even scars.Bookmark here

“If Willow healed me, why am I in the hospital?” Matt asked, moving to get out of bed. He promptly fell onto the ground. Even though he didn’t feel pain from his wounds, he felt numb. The energy was drained from his body.Bookmark here

The doctor smirked as if to say “that’s why” and helped Matt back into the bed.Bookmark here

“What… what happened to me?” Matt realized he could barely lift his limbs.Bookmark here

“It’s a side effect. What, did you think that girl has magic healing or something?” The doctor scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous. Her Naturia accelerated your body’s natural healing, and it drained you of your energy. You’ll be out for a while.”Bookmark here

Matt fell back against the pillow and sighed.Bookmark here

“Oh, by the way, you have some guests.” The doctor walked over and opened the door.Bookmark here

Matt expected to see Willow coming to greet him, and hoped that Cynthia was here, impossible as that would be.Bookmark here

But neither girl entered. Chloe walked in instead. She yawned and gave him a tired wave.Bookmark here

“Chloe?” Matt was surprised she was here.Bookmark here

“Hey… came to… check on you…” Every word sounded like a chore as she fought off her need to sleep. She stumbled over to him and laid her head on the bed, promptly falling asleep.Bookmark here

What did she even come here for?Bookmark here

Chloe wasn’t his only visitor. Matt spotted Emi peeking in through the doorway, white as a sheet.Bookmark here

“Emi?” She squeaked when he called out to her, ducking out of sight. When she peeked in again, there were tears in her eyes.Bookmark here

“You can come in, you know.” Knowing Emi, she’d be hiding all night.Bookmark here

Emi glumly trudged inside. Her face was wracked with guilt. She threw herself in front of the bed and began to cry.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! This is all my fault!” She blubbered, much to Matt’s confusion.Bookmark here

“Hey, come on, it’s not your fault, just bad luck,” Matt said. He was trying to reassure himself more than her, though. He didn’t feel great about what had happened.Bookmark here

“I should have helped you! But when I saw the Emergent, I just froze! And you got hurt because of it!” Emi was hyperventilating and her eyes were frantic. “Please, my life may be worthless but if my death can make amends, then feel free to take it!”Bookmark here

Matt had no idea what to say to THAT offer but he definitely didn’t take the knife she held out to him.Bookmark here

The doctor did.Bookmark here

“Whoa there missy. I don’t know what kinky game is going on here but you’ve got some nerve bringing a weapon into my hospital,” he growled.Bookmark here

The brought on a new wave of hysterics from the poor girl. Matt just waited for her to wail herself out.Bookmark here

When Emi ran out of tears, he let her know that there were no hard feelings.Bookmark here

“You don’t have any training in fight Emergents. You’re practically a civilian. It’s natural to freeze up like that, don’t worry about it,” he assured her.Bookmark here

“But… but…”Bookmark here

“Emi, I’m fine. Look, no scars. Just a little bed rest.”Bookmark here

Emi finally calmed down a little, sitting next to him. Looking at the state he was in, she felt as guilty as ever. Matt might have said it was fine, but he almost died.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry,” she whispered again. “It’s because I’m weak… and scared. If I had been prepared, then I could have used my magic. Even if it’s normal… I’m not a civilian anymore, I’m… a Guardian.”Bookmark here

A Guardian was someone who was supposed to protect. Emi had cowered and hid, instead.Bookmark here

“Emi…”Bookmark here

“You were so brave, jumping in front of Willow like that…” Emi replayed the scene in her mind with stars in her eyes. “I never could have done that. But… that’s what a Guardian does, right? It’s not just helping out in a library.”Bookmark here

Emi had hoped to spend her time in the guild doing simple jobs, helping out around the city. Not anything dangerous.Bookmark here

But this was supposed to be a simple job, and the danger had come to her.Bookmark here

She couldn’t run away or cower in fear like she always did. No one was seriously hurt this time, but what about next time? Emergents weren't supposed to appear in cities, but this one did. What if another one emerged tomorrow? Would she just stand back and let someone else get attacked? Hurt? Killed?Bookmark here

Her magic could be used to protect people. That was her job now, scary as it was. She needed to be strong.Bookmark here

Matt didn’t know if it was Venti pheromones or just the awkward silence, but he could feel the anxiety coming off of Emi in waves. He tried to change the subject to a lighter topic.Bookmark here

“So what happened after I passed out?”Bookmark here

“Well… Willow healed you up, and then she kinda passed out, too,” Emi explained. Bookmark here

“Wait, seriously?!”Bookmark here

“Sarah explained it… she overused her Naturia and needed to recover.”Bookmark here

“Sarah was there?”Bookmark here

Emi nodded. “She came to clean up the mess. She brought you and Willow here and then left.”Bookmark here

“Left? Left where?”Bookmark here

She shrugged. “She just… left. With her portal. I don’t know where.”Bookmark here

“Just to go take care of business.”Bookmark here

Startled, Matt and Emi turned to see a portal rip open in the air. Sarah walked into the room and waved.Bookmark here

The doctor cleared his throat. “Miss Dawn, I believe you’ve been warned about using your Naturia inside hospital grounds.”Bookmark here

“Sorry Doc, I forgot,” she chuckled. “Now then, Matt, glad to see you’re awake! You feeling better?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I feel fine.” He mainly felt tired.Bookmark here

“Great! Then let’s pack you up and get you back on home!” Sarah cheered.Bookmark here

“W-Wait, doesn’t he need, um, further treatment?” Emi asked, looking at the doctor in confusion. He shrugged.Bookmark here

“Really all he needs is somewhere quiet he can recuperate.”Bookmark here

“You heard him!” Sarah cheered, slapping the doctor in the back. “Thanks a million, Doc! You’re a real lifesaver!”Bookmark here

The doctor glowered at her, clearly not appreciating the gesture.Bookmark here

“I’m happy to go back, but I can barely sit up.”Bookmark here

Sarah waved her hand lazily. “Nah. Not a problem.” She walked over to the bed and tucked her arms under his back and legs, lifting him up.Bookmark here

“W-What?! What are you doing?!” Matt sputtered, turning red in embarrassment. Did she have to carry him like this?!Bookmark here

“Wha-wha-wha!?” Emi was just as flustered as he was.Bookmark here

“Come on, Emi! Chloe! Let’s get a move on!” Sarah turned back to the portal. Emi frantically shook Chloe awake, the two girls slipping into the portal just as it closed.Bookmark here

The doctor sighed. He took off his glasses and rubbed his forehead. Sarah Dawn and her Guardians were a whirlwind of headaches as usual.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

To Matt’s continued embarrassment, Sarah didn’t take them right to his room. Instead, she brought him to the front entrance, and carried him through the castle for everyone to see.Bookmark here

By the time they actually got to his room, part of Matt wished the Emergent had devoured him. His first job and the entire guild had seen him getting carried by their leader like a princess.Bookmark here

He empathized with Emi’s occasional bouts of dying of shame.Bookmark here

As Sarah set him down in his bed, he realized that she’d forgotten about Willow, so he checked to make sure she was okay.Bookmark here

“Will? Yeah, she’s fine! I carted her out of there before you even woke up!” Sarah assured him. “She’s sleeping her Naturia fatigue off in her room just like you!”Bookmark here

Matt sighed in relief and sunk down into the mattress.Bookmark here

“I almost forgot.” Sarah reached into her pocket and took out a thin plastic square. She set it on the night stand.Bookmark here

Matt’s arms still had some life in them, so he took it.Bookmark here

“Official Guild Membership Card… Mathew Hearthome.”Bookmark here

Just saying those words brought a feeling of warmth to his numb body. He smiled.Bookmark here

“After I brought you to the hospital, I went to speak with the mayor,” Sarah said, sitting down on the bed. “I needed to let her know what happened with the Emergent. City hall is in a pretty big uproar about it. An Emergent beyond the wall? Yikes.”Bookmark here

Matt could imagine. Even though Emergents prayed on humanoid races, this was the first time he'd heard of one emerging inside a populated area. It was definitely cause for alarm.Bookmark here

“But it’s okay! Because while I was there, I had her print out that lovely thing!” She grinned. “It’s your official guild ID. Consider it my thank you gift, for making it out of that mess alive.”Bookmark here

“It’s not a big deal,” Matt said, setting down the card and turning over. He didn’t want her to see he was blushing.Bookmark here

“No, it is a big deal.” Bookmark here

Matt felt the tickle of her fingers curling through his hair.Bookmark here

“Matt… you could have died. Do you know how terrified I was, getting Willow’s message? You just became a part of my family, and you were nearly ripped apart by an Emergent on your very first day.”Bookmark here

Her voice cracked. Was she crying? Matt was too scared to look.Bookmark here

She tucked his bangs aside, and startled him with a kiss on the forehead.Bookmark here

“Welcome home.” Her voice was a soft, sobering whisper. “Don’t scare me like that again, okay?”Bookmark here

Warmth spread across his face and pounded through his heart. It was just a little peck. But it brought images of a gentle mother to mind, visions of a childhood he’d read about in stories but never had for himself.Bookmark here

“Sweet dreams, Matti. I’ll see you in the morning.”Bookmark here

She turned off the light and closed the door behind her.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.