Chapter 20:

Chapter 20: Visiting

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Willow entered the Guild Master’s office and saw Sarah hard at work on a stack of papers.Bookmark here

She looked absolutely miserable. Her eyes were baggy and her clothes were several days old.Bookmark here

Willow cleared her throat to draw her attention. “You asked for me?”Bookmark here

Sarah looked up with a bright grin on her face. “Hey Will! Glad you could make it! I wanted to talk to you about something important. You’re going to see Matt at the hospital again after this, right?”Bookmark here

Willow raised her eyebrow. “This is about Matt?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. How’s he doing? Is his leg healing fine? He’s been there for a week now.” Sarah may have been smiling, but she was too tired to keep the worry out of her voice.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry,” Willow assured her. “He’s making excellent progress. Without any unforeseen complications he’ll be back home by next weekend.”Bookmark here

Sarah sighed in relief, slumping back in her chair.Bookmark here

“Is there anything else?” Willow asked, preparing to leave.Bookmark here

Sarah let out a small gasp and sat back up. Her eyes slid to the other person in the room, Lori. He was sitting in a chair off to the side, staring coldly at her.Bookmark here

“Um… wait! Is Matt lonely? He’s gotta be lonely, right?” Sarah frantically asked. “Or… books? Food? Has he asked about anything? I want you to tell me all about how your visits go, take as much time as you want!”Bookmark here

Willow rolled her eyes. She could see what this was.Bookmark here

“…Master, if you want to check up on Matt, you can go do it yourself,” she sighed.Bookmark here

Sarah’s good mood snapped like a twig.Bookmark here

“Don’t you think I don’t want to?!” She wailed. “I can’t! I have to stay here and write all these stupid reports!”Bookmark here

She was practically bawling. Bookmark here

“Master, you were the one who said it was important that all the guilds were made aware about the urgency of the situation,” Lori reminded her. “You can go see Matt when you’re done.”Bookmark here

“Then what the heck’s this requisition form doing here, huh?!” She demanded, slapping the paper she was filling out. “Or that last one about job compensation earnings?!”Bookmark here

“Just because there was an emergency that doesn’t absolve you from fulfilling your obligations as Guild Master,” Lori calmly rebuffed her objection. “Maybe if you filled them out as you got them they wouldn’t have stacked up like this.”Bookmark here

“This is mutiny! Aren’t I the Guild Master around here?!”Bookmark here

“Yes. You are. Now stop wasting time complaining and do your job.”Bookmark here

“You slave driver! Demon!”Bookmark here

“And if you even think about using that Naturia of yours to sneak out again I’ll lock you into a restraining collar and throw away the key.”Bookmark here

It was right about when Sarah began comparing Lori to a totalitarian despot that Willow decided it was time to leave.Bookmark here

She walked out of Sarah’s office and her bad mood immediately took a turn for the worse.Bookmark here

“Hey Willow! Heading out to see Matt again?” Nick asked, coming up to her. Every time she saw that smile of his it pissed her off. But she held her temper.Bookmark here

“What do you want, Nick?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest.Bookmark here

“If you’re heading to the mainland to check up on Matt, I wanted to come along!” Nick replied.Bookmark here

Her eye twitched. “Do you seriously expect me to believe that you’re concerned enough about Matt that you’d go pay him a visit in the hospital? You’ve had, what, two conversations with him?”Bookmark here

“How cold, we’re in the same guild. Of course I’m concerned about him. But specifically, I’m just an escort.” Nick cleared his throat and gestured across the common room.Bookmark here

Emi was crouched behind the couch, peeking out over the cushions. She ducked down.Bookmark here

Willow sighed and rubbed her temples. “Emi, if you want to come pay Matt a visit you don’t need to use him as an excuse.”Bookmark here

There was no way Emi could do that! It was all her fault in the first place that Matt was in the hospital, going to see him as just a regular guest? All by herself?!Bookmark here

No, no, it was better to make it seem like she was going with some other Guardians. She’d even gotten Chloe to agree to come… kind of.Bookmark here

“…We going yet?” Chloe yawned, sitting up and rubbing her eyes.Bookmark here

“See? We’re all gonna go together as one happy guild!” Nick grinned. “Serena was gonna come too, but she’s… taking care of someone else right now.”Bookmark here

He winked. “Let’s give those two some privacy, sound good?”Bookmark here

Willow rolled her eyes and shoved her way past him. “Oh, please. Like that would ever happen. Although at least Ryan’s got a better shot at her than you.”Bookmark here

Nick watched her go and turned to the other girls. “…She said we could tag along!”Bookmark here

With all the tension in the air, Emi could only meekly nod.Bookmark here

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“But man, in spite of what happened to his leg, Matt really is lucky, you know?” Nick laughed. “Getting you to take care of him? You’re practically like his personal nurse! …Hey, I know a gal who’s got a uniform if you’re intere-hoooof!”Bookmark here

A well-placed elbow to the solar plexus shut Nick right up. It had been an HOUR of this.Bookmark here

“That’s… great bedside manner…” Nick curled up in front of the hospital door, the wind knocked out of him.Bookmark here

“Um…”Bookmark here

Nick glanced up to see a worried Emi.Bookmark here

“Why do you… keep bothering her like that?” Emi asked. Willow was such a nice person usually, but whenever Nick was around she seemed so mean. And usually it was because Nick said something crude or insensitive.Bookmark here

“Aww, you’re worried about me?” Nick laughed, picking himself up off the ground. “Nah, that’s okay. But your concern is appreciated.” Bookmark here

“It’s just… Willow’s really nice, so if you’re nice to her, then… she’d be friendlier, I guess,” Emi mumbled. She wasn’t sure what she was doing butting her nose in like this. But she would do anything to keep from going into that hospital room.Bookmark here

“Ah, but then I wouldn’t have so much fun!” Nick smiled, patting her on the head. “Don’t worry your little feathered head about it, missy. Our relationship is complicated. Just like yours and Matt’s.”Bookmark here

Emi blushed. “C-Complicated? It’s… wait, feathered?”Bookmark here

Her embarrassment quickly turned to pale-faced terror as she realized the meaning of his words.Bookmark here

Nick leaned in and whispered conspiratorially. “You don’t want anyone else to know, right?”Bookmark here

He held his hands together and made a flapping motion like a bird.Bookmark here

Her jaw dropped.Bookmark here

“Th-That’s…”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.” Nick gave her a wink and patted her again, walking inside.Bookmark here

Emi’s head exploded in shock. How did he know?!Bookmark here

Willow had already gone ahead, so Nick sauntered up to check in. “Emi,” he called over his shoulder, “you can head up ahead of us. I’m gonna work things out up here.”Bookmark here

Emi blanched. “B-By myself?!” The whole point of coming with the others is because she was too ashamed to see Matt by herself after what she’d done! …Or failed to do, more accurately.Bookmark here

“…You came here to apologize, right? Don’t you think that works a little better if you two get some private time?” Nick’s eyes seemed to pierce right through her. Emi shamefully nodded. That had been what she wanted, but she’d felt too guilty to ask.Bookmark here

She was lucky she was feeling “high” right now. She was in peak condition, meaning her self-confidence was doing better than usual. In fact, she was actually kind of excited that she would get to-Bookmark here

She nearly had to slap herself to come back to her senses. This was important!Bookmark here

“Thank you, Nick!” She headed towards the room wing.Bookmark here

“And I might be a while,” Nick called after her, “so feel free to sing him a lullaby if you think it’ll help him feel better!”Bookmark here

Emi froze in disbelief. He knew… and he still made a joke like that?! Emi couldn’t believe she’d actually felt grateful to that jerk for helping her work up the courage to see Matt! Willow was right, he was just a… a meanie!Bookmark here

She huffed and stomped down the hall.Bookmark here

Nick stopped laughing the second Emi left the waiting room, handing the clipboard back to the receptionist.Bookmark here

“What was that about?” She asked, confused.Bookmark here

“Ah, complicated stuff, don’t worry,” Nick said, glancing at her nametag. “So, …Rebecca, what time do you get off tonight?”Bookmark here

He flashed the blonde his most charming grin.Bookmark here

The receptionist giggled and rolled her eyes. “Please. You’ve got enough of a reputation here for me to know that’s not your best.”Bookmark here

“…So if I tried my A-list material, I might have a shot?”Bookmark here

Rebecca’s only response was a snort and a bemused shake of her head. Nick sighed in mock disappointment.Bookmark here

“Well, just business then. If you wouldn’t mind pointing the way to the narcolepsy ward, I have a patient in need.” Nick jutted his thumb at the forgotten Chloe, snoring away in a chair.Bookmark here

“Ah, another victim of your terrible pickup lines?” Rebecca dryly asked.Bookmark here

Nick chuckled. “You know, if you keep teasing me like this I’m gonna think maybe you actually are interested.”Bookmark here

“I’m sure you will,” Rebecca said, shaking her head incredulously. She scribbled a phone number on a notepad and tore it off.Bookmark here

Nick was a little surprised, but accepted it gladly. “I’ll call tonight,” he grinned.Bookmark here

“Call right now,” Rebecca suggested. “That’s Dr. Fauldon’s number. He’s our head neurologist. The sooner we treat that brain damage of yours, the better.”Bookmark here

Nick smiled and shook his head. He had to tip his hat to her. “Next time, then.”Bookmark here

He stepped away from the counter and nearly collided with a redheaded girl.Bookmark here

“S-Sorry!” She cried, her face flushed. “I-I’m in a hurry.” She turned to the receptionist.Bookmark here

“Can I help-“Bookmark here

“I heard Matt Hearthome was admitted here last week?! Can you tell me what room he’s in? I have to go see him!” Nick could see the panic in her eyes.Bookmark here

“If you’re looking for Matt, he’s in room 214,” Nick answered her. “It’s-“Bookmark here

The girl was already gone. A distant “thank you” on the wind was the only trace of her.Bookmark here

“Huh. Never thought that kid would be one to get female callers,” Nick mused. His thoughts turned to Emi, who was also in the room, and Willow, who was likely treating him at this very moment.Bookmark here

“…Nah, it’ll be fine.”Bookmark here

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