Chapter 9:

Chapter 9: Hunter and Prey

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Matt woke up as good as new. No numbness, no soreness, it was like the fight against the Emergent had never happened.Bookmark here

The only trace of its attack was the wound to his pride.Bookmark here

It’s okay, he assured himself. It was just a bad day. The Emergent had been a little tougher than he’d expected, and he’d gotten hurt. But next time he was going to destroy it.Bookmark here

Matt’s phone rang and he glanced at it. Cynthia! It felt like forever ago since he’d talked to her, even if it had only been the other day. She didn’t even know he’d been attacked by the Emergent.Bookmark here

With a smile on his face he answered her.Bookmark here

“Matti! You never called! How was your first job?!” Cynthia’s cheery voice was just what Matt needed to brighten his morning.Bookmark here

“Eh, it wasn’t anything major. I helped out in the library, that’s all.” He didn’t want to worry her with talk about the Emergent.Bookmark here

“Oh man, that must have been boring as heck,” Cynthia laughed. She had even less patience than Matt did. “How are you doing over there? Making any friends?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, a few.” Matt didn’t want to spend any more time than he needed to talking about the Guardians, lest he slip up. So he changed the topic. “What about you, Cynthia? How’s life working for Central Services?”Bookmark here

The only answer he received was a long, exaggerated groan. Well, that was a great sign.Bookmark here

“Maaattttiii, you don’t know how boring it is!” She wailed. “Like, yeah, city patrols and stuff are nice, and making sure that there aren’t any Emergents getting through the barriers, but I also have to do paperwork! Nobody told me that Central Services was like school!”Bookmark here

Matt’s heart went out to the poor girl. At least he hadn’t had to do any paperwork yet.Bookmark here

Cynthia was going into the finer details of being frustrated by filling out forms when some voices on her side cut her off.Bookmark here

“Whoops! Sorry, Matti! That’s my coworker! We start patrols at 7:30…”Bookmark here

She laughed. But it was a laugh that sounded like crying.Bookmark here

“Good luck” was all Matt could say to her.Bookmark here

“Good luck on yours too!” She cooed. “Love you, Matti!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I love you, too.” With Cynthia’s sweet words in his ears, Matt pulled himself out of bed and walked into the hall.Bookmark here

“Uweh!”Bookmark here

…And promptly ran into Emi.Bookmark here

“Oh, hey.” Matt wasn’t really sure what to say to her. Their last conversation had been… awkward.Bookmark here

“G-Good morning.” Her scarlet face told him she felt the same way.Bookmark here

They stood in the hall, neither sure what to say to the other. Emi finally mustered up her courage and noted, “you… you seem to be in good shape?”Bookmark here

“Yep, everything’s working like it should,” Matt assured her.Bookmark here

“…G-Good. That’s good. Um… I guess I’ll see you at breakfast, then?”Bookmark here

“Actually, I was gonna head to the Playroom. I wanted to get some practice in, and I saw they had training dummies and stuff.”Bookmark here

Emi blinked. “O-Oh, really?”Bookmark here

“For my next job I want to hunt down some Emergents. I need to be prepared.” Matt wasn’t going to have a repeat of yesterday.Bookmark here

Emi was still wary after last time, but she gave him her best encouraging smile. “Good luck, then,” she wished him, and headed down to breakfast.Bookmark here

Matt was nearly ripped apart yesterday, and he’s already back to training to go out and fight Emergents again… he’s so brave, why can’t I be like that? Emi asked herself, a pinprick of self-loathing striking her heart.Bookmark here

But she didn’t want to bring the mood down, so she forced a smile before entering the dining room.Bookmark here

“Good morning!” Breakfast today was a fruit salad, her favorite! Emi’s morning was already improving.Bookmark here

“Morning!” To Emi’s relief, Willow’s face was filled with life. After she’d healed Matt last night, she looked almost as bad as he did. Glad to see everything was back to normal.Bookmark here

“Matt coming down soon?” Serena asked. “Or is he sleeping in due to… you know?”Bookmark here

She was too polite to say it outright, but everyone was thinking it.Bookmark here

Emi shook her head. “He’s gonna skip breakfast today.”Bookmark here

“But it’s the most important meal of the day!” Nick said, spooning some fruit onto his plate. “Who could miss this gourmet meal our master chef Willow prepared? She cut it into bite-sized pieces and everything!”Bookmark here

Willow shot him a withering look from across the table.Bookmark here

“He said he was going to the Playroom to train,” Emi explained, sitting down at the table.Bookmark here

“That’s good,” Ryan nodded. “Gotta make sure he’s prepared for- wait, did you say the Playroom?”Bookmark here

With the exception of the sleeping Chloe, everyone at the table froze.Bookmark here

“Isn’t it Wednesday?” Serena went pale.Bookmark here

“Is… Is something wrong?” Emi didn’t know what was going on, but she was starting to get worried.Bookmark here

“Shit! Shit! Serena, didn’t you go over the schedule with the newcomers?!” Nick exclaimed, jumping up from the table. “Willow! Come on!”Bookmark here

Willow didn’t agree with Nick on many things, but she was with him on this, following him out of the dining room.Bookmark here

“Wh-What’s going on?” Emi asked, frantically following the others down the hall.Bookmark here

“I forgot to tell him, I can’t believe I’m such an idiot!” Serena chastised herself.Bookmark here

“What? Tell him what?!” She was in full-on panic mode right now.Bookmark here

“Not to use the Playroom on Wednesday mornings!”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

When Matt entered the Playroom, he was struck with a blast of cold air. He shivered. It was like the dead of winter in here, had someone turned on the air conditioning? He could see his breath in front of his face!Bookmark here

As the chill settled into his bones, he gazed upon the figure in the center of the room.Bookmark here

It was a woman, scantily clad in spite of the freezing air. A black tube top wrapped around her chest and dark shorts of animal hide clung to her hips. They were the only shreds of clothing he could see. The rest was a vast expanse of skin so white it was practically ghostly.Bookmark here

She faced away from him, revealing a back that was covered in scars. More wounds than he could count marred her glowing skin, and no-doubt more were hidden behind the mane of jagged black hair that tumbled past her shoulders.Bookmark here

She turned to him, revealing a face that was as hard as it was beautiful. Two scars traced up her cheek from her and a third scored the side of her mouth, and the largest of them stretched up her temple. But as striking as her wounds may have been, her eyes were what caught Matt’s attention. The hollow pools of crystal blue alongside the pallor of her skin told him she was Aizanu.Bookmark here

“I-I’m sorry,” Matt stumbled. He’d meant to ask who she was, but the look in her eye froze the words on his lips. Bookmark here

“Are you prey?” She asked. Her voice was as soft as a snowflake and just as cold.Bookmark here

“I…” Prey? Did she just say ‘prey’?Bookmark here

Matt only closed his eyes for a second, just to regroup. But when he opened them again, the woman was gone. Bookmark here

And something sharp and cold was pressed against his throat.Bookmark here

“Are you prey?” her frozen breath tickled his ear as she whispered her question again. Matt shivered.Bookmark here

“H-Hello,” he managed to get out, even as the freezing blade dug deeper into his throat. “I’m… Matt. I joined the Guardians a few days ago-“Bookmark here

“Unknown name. You… are prey.”Bookmark here

Matt barely had time to cover his neck with his Combat Gear as the woman sliced at it. She let out a gasp of surprise and he slammed his elbow into her stomach, knocking her off of him. He rolled forward and turned, only seeing a blur.Bookmark here

He tried to follow her, but she was moving too fast. He caught a flash of blue out of the corner of his eye and he raised his arms, turning his torso just as she struck him in the stomach. Again, he had only just managed to guard.Bookmark here

She growled in disbelief, like a wild animal denied its dinner. She leapt back and landed in a crouch, and Matt finally got a good look at what he was dealing with.Bookmark here

Ice.Bookmark here

Her hands and feet were covered in it. Chunks ice extended past her wrists and ankles, curved into claws. They glistened like daggers, even longer than the Emergent’s weapons.Bookmark here

What was up with this girl?!Bookmark here

He asked her to stop, begged her, but her only response was a growl. She lowered her body in preparation for a pounce, while Matt covered as much of himself as he could. He had to be ready to dodge to the side the second she-Bookmark here

A gunshot echoed through the room, scattering Matt’s thoughts and causing the woman to spring back and hiss. Matt ducked to the floor in fear of getting shot, but when he returned to his senses he saw what was going on.Bookmark here

“Kayla! That’s enough!” Nick’s bellow seemed to calm the woman down a hair. She rose to her feet and the ice slid off her. A young woman stood where a feral animal had been crouching seconds earlier.Bookmark here

Willow burst into the room, her face white with terror. “Matt! Are you okay?!” Serena and Ryan nearly knocked her over trying to follow. Everyone was in a frenzy.Bookmark here

It was Sarah who seized command of the chaos. She sauntered into the room with a tension-breaking smile, walking over to the woman called Kayla.Bookmark here

“Sorry about the surprise,” she apologized. She tickled Kayla under the chin and the girl purred. “This is Matt. He’s family, not prey.”Bookmark here

“Didn’t know,” Kayla said, glancing down. “Sorry.”Bookmark here

Matt was stunned. The savage woman was like a kitten in Sarah’s hands.Bookmark here

“That’s okay! We all make mistakes! And Matt’s sorry he came in during your private time. He won’t do it again, right Matt?”Bookmark here

Sarah looked at him expectantly while Kayla looked at him like he was breakfast. What was he supposed to say to that?Bookmark here

“Uh… yeah. Sorry. Won’t happen again.”Bookmark here

“Perfect!” Sarah clapped. “We’re all friends again!” She reached out to hug Kayla, but the woman slipped from her grasp. She tried a few more times for good measure but Kayla wouldn't be caught. Sarah groaned in defeat. Her smile returned in short order.Bookmark here

“Now then, Matt and the rest of us will leave you to your hunting, okay Kayla?”Bookmark here

“M’kay.”Bookmark here

Sarah quickly ushered the others out. She turned to grab Matt, but he’d already approached the Aizanu girl.Bookmark here

“Hey, um… I really am sorry about walking in on you like that.” He felt like a moron for apologizing, considering that not two minutes ago this girl had tried to tear his throat out. But they were part of the same guild, and he wanted to at least try to get along with her.Bookmark here

To his surprise, she reciprocated. REALLY reciprocated. She practically shoved her boobs into his chest as she rubbed up against him, sniffing his neck. It was way more contact than he was comfortable with.Bookmark here

“H-Hey, that’s too-“Bookmark here

She pulled away in a flash, making a face like she’d smelled sewage. She turned her head and muttered under her breath, “prey.”Bookmark here

Matt left the Playroom flustered in more ways than one.Bookmark here

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