Chapter 18:

Chapter 18: Aftermath

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Emi didn’t know what to do. She curled up behind the wheel and began to hyperventilate. The Emergent… the Emergent was dead, but Matt… Matt wasn’t-Bookmark here

FWAAAAAP! A loud smack against the glass startled her.Bookmark here

“Emi!” Serena shouted. “Get the first-aid kit out of the back! We need to treat Matt’s wounds! NOW!”Bookmark here

“Wha-wha-wha-“Bookmark here

“MOVE, GIRL!”Bookmark here

Emi practically fell out of the driver’s seat, rushing to get the first-aid kit.Bookmark here

Serena knelt next to Matt. He was in a lot worse shape than Ryan. His complexion was waxy and blood was flowing out of his leg like a broken spigot.Bookmark here

She tore up his cuff to see the damage and nearly lost her lunch. She could barely make out the gashes through all that red.Bookmark here

“Towels! Get towels, too!”Bookmark here

Serena grabbed the knife and cut off a part of her skirt. She tried to wipe away the blood but it was like trying to fight a fire with a squirt gun, it just kept coming out.Bookmark here

Emi stumbled forward, nearly dropping the medicinal supplies. The air was thick with the sickening stench of iron.Bookmark here

“We’re going to need to clean the wound and stop the bleeding, get out the bandages,” Serena ordered, propping up Matt’s leg. She began undoing his belt.Bookmark here

“Wh-What are you doing?!” Emi cried, shielding her eyes. “Now isn’t-“Bookmark here

“NOT now! I need a tourniquet or he’s going to bleed out!” Serena tied the belt tightly over his thigh. She managed to stop the constant outpour, but time still wasn’t on their side.Bookmark here

“Emi. Do you know how to dress a wound?” Serena asked. Emi felt a little queasy. But this was about saving Matt. She nodded.Bookmark here

“Good. Put pressure on it until the bleeding stops. I’m going to call for help.” Serena didn’t feel comfortable leaving either boy in Emi’s care, but there was no way the girl could work a radio. If only the Wildlands weren’t a dead zone for cell reception.Bookmark here

She turned it to the frequency of the Guardians’ radio.Bookmark here

“Guardians! This is Serena! Emergency, I repeat, emergency! Emergents cleared, but we have two wounded! One critical! Requesting immediate evacuation assistance! I repeat, requesting immediate evacuation assistance. Over!”Bookmark here

Static crackled on the other end. She pressed the microphone to her forehead and prayed.Bookmark here

“Serena! Are you there? This is Nick, do you copy?”Bookmark here

Serena’s eyes snapped open. “Nick! You’re there!” She’d never been so happy to hear that lech’s voice! “Listen, we’ve got serious wounds here, we need Willow, and an ambulance, and-and-and-“Bookmark here

“Copy. Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered. She should be there in a few seconds. Over and out.”Bookmark here

Serena slumped back in her seat and sighed. In most situations, stranded this far away from a city with such a serious wound would have been a death sentence for Matt.Bookmark here

But they were safe.Bookmark here

Because Sarah Dawn was here.Bookmark here

The sky tore open. Sarah stepped out of the portal with Willow hot on her heels.Bookmark here

“Will, go… go take care…” Sarah panted, leaning against the jeep to catch her breath. “I’ll… I need… go.”Bookmark here

Willow was all business.Bookmark here

“What’s going on?” She demanded, kneeling next to Emi.Bookmark here

“He, um, he…” It was all Emi could do to keep pressure on the wound, she was too frazzled to respond to any of Willow’s questions.Bookmark here

“It was a bite. A serious one. He’s bleeding, bad,” Serena said.Bookmark here

“Let me see.” Willow all but pushed Emi away, inspecting the wound.Bookmark here

“Is… he’s gonna be okay, right?” Emi whimpered. “You can… your Naturia, you can just heal him, right?”Bookmark here

Willow’s face was grim.Bookmark here

“No. Not here. There’s too high a risk of infection, and the damage is too severe. This isn’t like repairing some cuts or a broken bone, the injury to his muscles and tissue is more complicated than that. He needs surgery, now.”Bookmark here

“Just… just give me a minute…” Sarah panted, wiping the sweat from her brow. “Need to… get my strength… hospital… far…”Bookmark here

Sarah’s Naturia could do a lot. But even her power had limits, and they were right at the edge of them.Bookmark here

“I might not be able to heal the wound, but thanks to the tourniquet the bleeding slowed,” Willow observed. She reached into the bag at her waist. “And I can handle the rest.”Bookmark here

To Emi’s surprise, Willow didn’t pull out bandages or thread or one of a hundred other things she would have thought to use to stop the bleeding. She took out leaves.Bookmark here

In Willow’s hand, the leaves began to glow green.Bookmark here

“These have a natural coagulating effect,” Willow explained, placing the glowing leaves over Matt’s wounds. “And I’ve enhanced it. That should staunch the bleeding for now. With a little luck he might even keep his leg. But he needs a hospital. What happened to Ryan?”Bookmark here

“…Ryan…? Oh!” In all the excitement, Emi had completely forgotten that Ryan had gotten injured too.Bookmark here

“Head wound. He was showing signs of a concussion,” Serena said. “I didn’t want to move him.”Bookmark here

“Stable?”Bookmark here

“I don’t know,” she admitted.Bookmark here

Willow cursed under her breath. “Sarah, is that portal-“Bookmark here

The sound of the air swirling open drowned out Willow’s question and answered it for her.Bookmark here

“One gate to the hospital, right on cue!” Sarah panted. “Hurry, it won’t last long.”Bookmark here

“Well it has to, we aren’t moving him without proper medical support.” Sarah might have been the leader of the guild, but Willow’s snarl wasn’t something to argue with. She stepped through the portal and a few minutes later an entire emergency team followed her back out, bringing Matt and Ryan through to the other side.Bookmark here

The portal closed behind them, leaving Sarah stranded in the Wildlands with Serena and Emi.Bookmark here

“Sorry guys…” She panted, trying to force a smile in spite of the tough situation. “That’s… as far as I go.”Bookmark here

Serena slumped back against the jeep and sighed. It would be nearly a full day before they got back to Goldia, and they probably wouldn’t hear anything about Matt before then.Bookmark here

She needed to take care of Emi, too.Bookmark here

“Hey Emi, are you okay? That was really intense, but-“Bookmark here

Emi threw herself into Serena’s arms and began to cry. “Matt… Matt, he… his leg, it just… it’s all my fault! If I… If I…”Bookmark here

Serena held her and rocked her soothingly. “Hush now sweetie. It’s not your fault at all. You did your best.”Bookmark here

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The drive back to Goldia was undertaken in grim silence. Serena drove through the night without stopping, no one saying a word. Emi was too broken to try to sleep. The sun rising over the distant city walls welcomed them home.Bookmark here

“I’ll take care of handling the jeep and supplies,” Sarah said, climbing out of the back. “You two are worried about the boys, right?”Bookmark here

“Thanks, boss,” Serena sighed in relief. “But aren’t you worried about them too?”Bookmark here

Sarah grinned. “Matt and Ryan? Not at all! I know everything will be alright!”Bookmark here

Emi admired that smile. She wished she could feel that confident. She got out of the jeep with Serena, and followed her through the portal Sarah had summoned.Bookmark here

This was the second time Emi had visited Matt in the hospital. She hoped he would be okay. She kept her head down and tried not to pay attention to the tense air around her. Serena found Matt and Ryan’s room.Bookmark here

Emi was relieved to see they were both alive.Bookmark here

“Emi! Serena! I’m so glad you guys are okay!” Ryan was all smiles, that was a good sign.Bookmark here

“Ryan, are you alright?” Serena cried, rushing to his bedside. “How’s Matt doing?”Bookmark here

Matt was clearly in worse condition. He was asleep with his leg in a cast. But at least he still had a leg, and Emi was grateful for that.Bookmark here

“I’m doing fine,” Ryan said, getting out of bed. “They did some tests and said it was just a few lacerations and a minor concussion, nothing to worry about.”Bookmark here

Emi didn’t think there was anything “minor” about a concussion.Bookmark here

“So you’re free to go? And what about Matt?” Serena asked hopefully.Bookmark here

“That’s a little bit more complicated.”Bookmark here

Everyone turned to see the doctor enter the room, Willow following behind him. She looked solemn.Bookmark here

Serena gulped. “Matt… is going to be alright, isn’t he?”Bookmark here

“It seems that way, yes,” the doctor confirmed. Bookmark here

Everyone sighed in relief.Bookmark here

“He’s very lucky though,” he continued. “There wasn’t any serious nerve damage. If it had gone another way, it could have resulted in partial or total paralysis, maybe even amputation. Frankly, the kid is lucky to be alive. But as long as there isn’t any further damage to the limb he should make a full recovery given time.”Bookmark here

When Emi heard that, it drained away all the tension and fear driving her forward. Relief washed over her and the strength left her legs. She fell to her knees.Bookmark here

“Oh, thank god…” She wailed, breaking out into tears on the hospital floor.Bookmark here

“Come on now, don’t cry, there’s a good girl.” Willow gently helped her back to her feet, sitting her down next to Matt.Bookmark here

“So what are our next steps?” Ryan asked.Bookmark here

“Like I said, you’re free to go,” the doctor said, checking his clipboard. “But take it easy. No jobs requiring physical exertion for at least a month, longer if the symptoms persist. As for Mr. Hearthome over there, we’ll be keeping him here for another two weeks to continue administering treatment.”Bookmark here

“Only two weeks?” Emi was shocked. She’d seen how badly injured his leg was.Bookmark here

“I’ll be coming here every day,” Willow explained, holding up her glowing hand. “He should be able to move by then with my help.”Bookmark here

“He’ll have a limp for two months or so, but he should be fine.” The doctor’s tone was gruff and cold, but his words were a relief all the same.Bookmark here

Emi turned to Matt. He was asleep, but he looked healthier than before.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, Matt,” she apologized. She hoped that when he woke up she would be the brighter version of herself. She didn’t want to show him such a terrible sight again.Bookmark here

She wiped the tears from her eyes and followed the others out. “I’m so, so sorry…”Bookmark here

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