Chapter 13:

Chapter 13: Useless

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Matt heard the Emergents before he saw them. Their howls sent a shiver down his back and he clutched the knife tightly as he scanned the hills.Bookmark here

There they were! Five beasts loping towards the jeep, all claws and fangs and shiny armor. They were slower than the one he had fought before, and their armor was bulkier, with sharp spikes sticking out of the back like hedgehogs.Bookmark here

Matt felt himself relax a hair. There were only five of them. Five Emergents, and four Guardians. They were at a disadvantage, but five… they could take five.Bookmark here

He knew what his brother would do right now. Kanone would have charged into the fray and destroyed them effortlessly. But Matt couldn’t do that. He didn’t have his brother’s overwhelming Naturia.Bookmark here

But that doesn’t mean I can just sit back and do nothing, he chastised himself. He prepared his Naturia and charged forward, raising the knife.Bookmark here

“Matt! Get back here!” Ryan shouted. With the heft of his giant sword, he didn’t have the speed to stop Matt.Bookmark here

But a twirl of Serena’s staff kept Matt behind her.Bookmark here

“Didn’t you hear the plan?” Ryan snapped. “Stay back!”Bookmark here

“But…!” But Matt needed to help somehow. He wasn’t going to just hang back!Bookmark here

“Emi!” Serena called. “Can you hold these guys back with your magic?”Bookmark here

“…Huh?” Emi snapped to attention. The sight of the Emergents had paralyzed her, but she was back in it. “Y-Yeah! I can try!”Bookmark here

She closed her eyes and raised her staff. The air around her began to swirl, catching her hair and cloak.Bookmark here

A wall of wind pressed against the Emergents, slowing them down. Ryan was the first to move. He raised his sword, the blade nearly as tall as he was, and swung it down on the closest one. He broke through the armor and cleaved the beast’s skull in half, the Emergent collapsing into a puddle of shadows.Bookmark here

“Gruaargh!Bookmark here

“Rrwowaarr!”Bookmark here

Two Emergents broke through the wind, leaping at Ryan with claws and teeth bared. Ryan jumped back, barely avoiding the beasts.Bookmark here

The Emergents were slow, but with a weapon as unwieldy as his sword there was no way Ryan could take them both. Matt ran towards him, but Serena got there first. She lifted her staff towards the charging beasts…Bookmark here

…And it burst into pieces.Bookmark here

Matt couldn’t believe his eyes. The metal staff had turned into a cloud of dust.Bookmark here

Serena smiled, and began to move her hands. The cloud swirled and bent to follow her gestures, forming tendrils that wrapped around the two Emergents, holding them in place. They snarled and thrashed, helpless against the coiling bonds.Bookmark here

Ryan nodded to her and turned to the other Emergents, one of which had charged right for him.Bookmark here

But the other had circled around and was running for Emi.Bookmark here

“Emi! Watch out!” Matt dashed across the field and leapt in front of her. He raised his arm to shield them both, and the Emergent bit into it. Bookmark here

“Matt!” Emi cried.Bookmark here

“I’m fine! My Naturia’s blocking it!” This Emergent didn’t have the long claws of the last one he’d fought, so he just had to keep it where it was.Bookmark here

The problem was, the Emergent was bigger than him, and stronger, too. He had to push with everything he had to keep it from toppling him over. But he was losing ground.Bookmark here

Then he remembered the knife! He brought the sharp blade up into a gap in the armored plates on the Emergent’s neck, driving it in as deep as it would go.Bookmark here

“GRAAAAAAARRRRGHH!” The Emergent roared, pulling back and snapping the knife. It reared back on its hind legs, black liquid oozing out of its wound. Enraged, it lunged at Matt again, and he rolled out of the way.Bookmark here

Well, I had knife, what now?! Matt looked at the useless handle in his hands. The Emergent was wounded, but the wound was already repairing itself. Anything less than a killing blow would have no effect on one of these monsters.Bookmark here

Luckily, he had more room to move around than that day in the street, and this one was considerably slower. It lunged at him and jumped back, dodging the slash of its claws as he thought of a plan. He didn’t like it, but he couldn’t fight this thing with his bare hands.Bookmark here

“Wind blade!”Bookmark here

A gust of wind blew past him and an invisible blade sliced through the Emergent’s outstretched claw. The creature yowled in pain and backed off, the severed limb crumbling away.Bookmark here

“Matt!” Emi ran to Matt’s side, her face flushed with sweat. “Are you okay?!”Bookmark here

“I’m fine!” Matt snapped. He hadn’t meant to, but he didn’t have the time to be polite. That thing’s leg was already starting to grow back!Bookmark here

“I-I’m out of mana,” Emi whimpered. “I don’t have enough for another wind blade!” She’d used all her courage, and now that she was drained she felt more like food than a Guardian.Bookmark here

Matt stepped in front of her and took a defensive position, holding up the broken handle for what little good it would do. The Emergent charged. But before it reached them, Ryan swung his sword, and sliced its head off. The creature crumbled away.Bookmark here

Matt let out the breath he was holding. The strength left his legs and he collapsed. The other Emergents were dead.Bookmark here

“That was a close one,” Ryan said, helping him back up. “Sorry. I didn’t think your knife would just break like that.”Bookmark here

“It was my fault,” Serena apologized, relieved to see they weren’t injured. “I should have taken care of them faster.”Bookmark here

“What was that thing you did?” Emi asked curiously. “Your staff, it just… whoosh!”Bookmark here

Serena’s staff was propped over her shoulder, as solid as it had been this morning.Bookmark here

“Oh, that was my Naturia! Shatter Dance!” She explained. She held up the staff again, and it burst into pieces, hovering like a dense fog around her.Bookmark here

“It’s a Bestowal Naturia,” Matt noted. She nodded.Bookmark here

“Bestowha?” Emi looked at him in confusion.Bookmark here

“Let me explain.” Serena reformed her staff and handed it to Emi. “Feel that? Solid, right?”Bookmark here

Emi whacked it on the ground to make sure. Then she whacked it against a rock. Then to make triply sure, she whacked Matt on the head with it.Bookmark here

“Hey!”Bookmark here

Emi giggled and handed the staff back to Serena.Bookmark here

“My Naturia spreads a field over any inorganic object and does this!” Serena shattered it again. “I can break it down into particles to control.” She sculpted the shiny powder into several shapes. “Then, when I release my Naturia…”Bookmark here

She held out her hand and snapped her fingers, the staff reforming in front of her.Bookmark here

Emi was amazed. “So you could, like, break up a whole mountain?!”Bookmark here

Serena laughed. “No, I can’t do something quite that big. And even though I can change the shape, the particles can’t be separated. It’s not the best Naturia I could have… but it’s mine.” Her smile was warm with pride.Bookmark here

“I wish I could have a Naturia,” Emi sighed. “Magic is cool and all, but that was just amazing, tying those Emergents up like that!”Bookmark here

“It takes a lot of control and practice. Definitely a lot of-“Bookmark here

A loud honk interrupted her.Bookmark here

“You guys know we have another pack to hunt, right?!” Ryan shouted from the jeep. He honked the horn again.Bookmark here

“…Let’s get going, before Mr. Impatient leaves us stranded out here,” Serena laughed. She joined them in the back this time.Bookmark here

Serena and Emi chatted while Matt rested his head on the rail. He was still burning up about the fight. He should have been able to take that Emergent barehanded like his brother, but not only had he barely made a scratch with his weapon, couldn’t even protect Emi. If Ryan hadn’t been there…Bookmark here

He wanted to be alone with his thoughts, but Serena didn’t let him. She poked him on the shoulder.Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“So Emi tells me you were a big hero, protecting her from that Emergent.” Serena nodded to her. “Nice work!”Bookmark here

“…Whatever,” Matt muttered, turning away from the girls. What did he do to deserve anyone’s thanks?Bookmark here

“Don’t downplay it,” she said, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. “If you weren’t there, she might have been seriously hurt before Ryan or I could have gotten to her.”Bookmark here

“So?” He snapped. “I couldn’t even beat that Emergent!” That was what really upset him. He’d felt completely useless that fight!Bookmark here

“Matt, killing Emergents isn’t everything.” Serena’s voice was stern, but she didn’t sound mad. “Look. Ryan and I, we went and killed them. But you did a lot, too. The only reason we could fight those Emergents without worrying is because we knew that you were behind us, protecting Emi. We all had our roles to play, and you played yours perfectly.”Bookmark here

Matt glanced at Emi. She smiled shyly back at him, her face red.Bookmark here

“Your Naturia is wonderful,” Serena said. “It’s perfect for defending and protecting. And that’s what it means to be a Guardian.”Bookmark here

Matt could hear Sarah’s voice coming out of Serena’s lips.Bookmark here

“Still… if you guys weren’t there… if Ryan hadn’t…”Bookmark here

“But we were. And he did.” She smiled. “Don’t worry. You’ll be able to fight Emergents on your own one day. But right now, focus on what you can do, okay? And that’s protecting us. And yourself.”Bookmark here

Serena’s eyes were shining with faith.Bookmark here

Matt turned and watched the horizon again. Serena made him feel a little better, but he still hoped he’d make a better showing in their next encounter.Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

Matt was startled. He hadn’t noticed Emi had sidled up next to him.Bookmark here

“I can’t really make big warm speeches like Serena,” Emi said, glancing back at the blonde, “but you saved me.”Bookmark here

“Well… you saved me, too, with your wind blade,” he reminded her. “So let’s say we’re even.”Bookmark here

“B-But that… I was just really desperate and everything, and I only cut off its leg, it didn’t even seem that injured!” She looked down. “I was totally useless…”Bookmark here

Shit. She looked like she was about to cry. The last thing he need right now was for her to get all hysterical because she felt useless.Bookmark here

“Hey, if you hadn’t cut it with your wind blade, it could have gotten me before Ryan could step in,” Matt reminded her. It might not have been a lot, but it had definitely saved him. “You helped a lot, just because you didn’t kill it, that… doesn’t mean…”Bookmark here

Emi’s big green eyes gazed innocently back at him. “Doesn’t mean…?” She batted her eyelashes and smiled.Bookmark here

This girl-! She'd tricked him!Bookmark here

“…Shut up,” he huffed, turning away from her. Emi giggled.Bookmark here

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