Chapter 24:

Chapter 24: Business as Usual

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

The king turned to Lulu as the laughter stopped. “What do you mean by that? What other Emergent?”Bookmark here

“Are we the only ones who got the email?” Lulu asked, glancing around the table. “Or did you forget about the Emergent that appeared in the center of Goldia?”Bookmark here

That was right! In her anger Sarah had nearly forgotten, it wasn’t just the incident in the Wildlands, an Emergent had emerged within the city walls!Bookmark here

Lulu looked from face to face. Nobody said a word, and no one could meet her eyes.Bookmark here

“Really? Nobody? Your majesty? The mayor sent a personal request for aid to the palace, what happened to that?” Her eyes were shining with glee, like this was all one big joke.Bookmark here

The king was silent in thought for some time. Then he smiled.Bookmark here

“You raise an excellent point, Miss Lugh.” The agreeableness in his voice worried Sarah. “But to the best of my knowledge, there has never been a case of an Emergent emerging within a populated area. It’s impossible! It must be a mistake of some sort. An Emergent snuck in, that was all it was. A simple oversight! It has happened in the past, has it not?”Bookmark here

Everyone seemed reluctant to accept this idea, feasible as it might have been. Sarah was about to refute the assertion, but Lulu stole her chance once again.Bookmark here

“Ah! Yes, you’re right, your majesty. I didn’t think of that at all!” She groaned in an exaggerated fashion. “Yes. It must have been a problem with the wardings. Or the wall itself must be structurally unsound. It’s the only possibility.”Bookmark here

King Alexander was obviously relieved by her response. “Yes, exactly. It isn’t something we should-“Bookmark here

“Are you saying the wall that I built with my own two hands is faulty?!” Nallie exploded, nearly jumping across the table to wring Lulu’s neck. “Absurd! I went over every inch of that barrier personally, no Emergent could ever sneak through! Not unless there was a problem with the wardings!”Bookmark here

Now it was Kyte’s turn to be offended.Bookmark here

“I resent that insinuation. The Rachlace wove the wardings flawlessly. No Emergent could ever pass through, not even if the gates were wide open and welcoming to them. Clearly, structural damage to the wall itself must have disrupted it somehow.”Bookmark here

“So you’re holding the Ballon Union responsible for this, young man?!”Bookmark here

“If there was no fault with our magic then it must be so.”Bookmark here

“Why don’t we test if those wardings of yours can protect against a stone blade to the face?!”Bookmark here

Lulu sat back in her chair and enjoyed the show. When it reached the tipping point, she cleared her throat, getting their attention.Bookmark here

“…So am I to understand that it’s the position of the two of you that it wouldn’t be possible for the wall or the wardings to fail?”Bookmark here

Yes!” The two Guild Masters exclaimed.Bookmark here

Lulu’s jaw dropped in shock. “What? But your majesty,” she gasped, turning to him, “if the Emergent didn’t get through the wall or past the wardings, how is that possible?”Bookmark here

The king stewed for a moment.Bookmark here

“…You’ve raised a valid concern, I must admit. We shall take a brief recess while I consider what you’ve said. You’re dismissed.”Bookmark here

Sarah knew that her case was a hard sell; Emergents didn’t manifest in populated areas. Emergents didn’t change their form or grow. The kingdom had accepted these things as fact. It was why she was quick to report the events, and why she expected to be doubted.Bookmark here

She was surprised that the king seemed to be honestly considering it so early. She expected the discussion and assertions would take hours.Bookmark here

Who was this Lulu girl?Bookmark here

The representatives left the room, and Sarah took the opportunity to take care of the other business she’d come here for.Bookmark here

“Nallia!” She called after the Celian.Bookmark here

“What?” The gruff woman wasn’t pleased to see Sarah. “Listen young woman, if it’s about Goldia I promise you, that wall could hold off a thousand Emergents it wasn’t-“Bookmark here

“No, no, it’s nothing like that. I need your help with something else.”Bookmark here

“…Oh. Fine, what is it?” She was a little more interested now.Bookmark here

“One of the new members of my guild, Matt… the guy who fought against that Emergent… he got injured. Badly.”Bookmark here

“Get a doctor, what do you need me for?”Bookmark here

“I know Matti. Once his leg’s healed, he’s going to want to go back out there and keep fighting Emergents. But he’s trained to fight barehanded. And you know as well I do that you need more than martial arts to kill Emergents.”Bookmark here

A thin smile crossed Nallia’s lips. “I see. So it’s that kind of help you need.”Bookmark here

“Can you make him a weapon with your Soul Forge?”Bookmark here

“It’s not that I can’t do it. But you understand the cost of a favor like that, I assume?”Bookmark here

Sarah had expected that. She nodded.Bookmark here

“Then consider your request granted. Assuming, of course, that I find the young man worthy when I meet him.” Nallia gave her a transactional smile, and Sarah sighed in relief. That was one issue dealt with at least.Bookmark here

Nallia was famed for her Soulforging, sculpting weapons that couldn’t be matched by any other. But she didn’t craft for just anyone. It was rare that she would ever make more than one or two a year, for people she personally deemed worthy. All the guls in the world wouldn’t convince her otherwise.Bookmark here

Sarah had handled her part. Now she just had to hope Matt would be found worthy. If she would get him a weapon it would be only the best.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

When the guild representatives returned to the conference room, the king wasn’t alone. Standing at his side was a weasely-looking man in a long lab coat. His skin was pale and clammy and his greasy black hair was slicked back over his shoulders. Most unnerving were his beady little eyes, studying them like lab rats from behind his spectacles.Bookmark here

“Honored representatives,” King Alexander began, gesturing to his guest. “Because of the weight of our discussion on these so-called ‘new’ patterns in the Emergents, I felt it necessary to call in an expert on the subject. Allow me to introduce Weinrich, from the Izaida Collaboration.”Bookmark here

The Izaida Collaboration was a guild of scientists formed to study the Emergents. They were responsible for much of what the world knew about the Emergents through their research and experimentation.Bookmark here

“Thank you, your majesty,” Weinrich said, rising to his feet and bowing to them. “I believe you were discussing the possibility of an Emergent emerging within the walls of a populated area, correct?”Bookmark here

“That’s right,” Sarah nodded.Bookmark here

Weinrich adjusted his glasses. “Well. I’m pleased to inform you that such a thing is simply impossible. In the Collaboration’s extensive study of Emergent behaviors and their composition, we have found nothing to suggest that an Emergent is capable of acting as you describe. I hope this will alleviate any of your concerns, so that we may go back to business as usual.”Bookmark here

Sarah couldn’t believe what she was hearing. This man was supposed to be an intelligent scientist? Was he kidding?Bookmark here

“Brilliant! I’m grateful for your counsel, Weinrich!” The king was cheery in applause of Weinrich’s estimation, clearly relieved by the scientist’s assurance that nothing was wrong. Bookmark here

“Let’s consider this an odd blip, a strange event, and think no more of it.”Bookmark here

Sarah slowly shook her head. But what had she expected? Bookmark here

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing.” She couldn’t hold it in any longer and rose from her seat, looking at the others. “Do any of you believe this?”Bookmark here

There were some murmurs and averted eyes, but nothing else.Bookmark here

“Your majesty, forgive my impertinence,” Sarah apologized to the king. “I understand that you don’t want to believe that something like this could be possible. But we have to take this seriously! Not as just a strange occurrence! What will you do when the Emergents appear in another populated city? What if one emerges in New Margilia?”Bookmark here

King Alexander gasped. “Do you mean to suggest that our own capital could be under attack by these things?!”Bookmark here

“For the last 13 years since the Emergents appeared, we’ve been growing complacent.” It was a hard truth, but one that needed to be stated. “We know that Emergents can’t appear in our cities, so we hide safely behind our walls. The citizens leave dealing with them to guilds like us, and live safely without concern! And that was fine for the times. But times are changing! I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but it’s clear that everything we thought we knew about Emergents is changing! Why do you think I informed everyone I could?! Because if we just pretend like nothing’s changed, then the next attack could be devastating!”Bookmark here

She slammed her hands on the table and stared desperately at the king. He wasn’t laughing anymore.Bookmark here

“You would have me declare a state of panic? Get the citizens up in arms over… what? A few trifling oddities? After the devastation of the Cataclysm and the death of my brother, after the appearance of the Emergents, Autoria is finally beginning to return to a state of normalcy and you would have me send it back into blind chaos?!”Bookmark here

“I would have you do what’s necessary to protect our people!” Sarah pleaded. She had to keep herself in check. She may have been one of the most prestigious Guild Masters but that didn’t absolve her from retribution.Bookmark here

“Your majesty,” Weinrich simpered, adjusting his crooked glasses over and over, “what she says, if it’s true…”Bookmark here

The king silenced the toady of a scientist with a single look.Bookmark here

“It was one incident. A simple fluke. You can’t seriously expect for such an event to be repeated!”Bookmark here

The king’s booming voice silenced the room.Bookmark here

“…Are you so sure it was just the one time?”Bookmark here

The king’s eye twitched in irritation. Once again, Lulu’s “well, actually” had interrupted him.Bookmark here

“Of course it was just the one time,” he scoffed, sinking back in his seat. “I’ve heard no such reports of similar incidents occurring. The Emergent behind the walls, the Emergent that grew, these are just anomalies.”Bookmark here

“Forgive me, your majesty,” Lulu said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “but what do you know of the city of Carthade?”Bookmark here

“Carthade? A large city down south… what does that have to do with anything?”Bookmark here

“Would it surprise you to know that not two weeks ago that two officers from Central Services filed a report with the command office reporting an Emergent emerging within the walls of the city?” Lulu asked. “I looked over the casualty reports from that incident, and my, it’s quite revealing. So… that would be two times, would it not?”Bookmark here

The king’s face turned pale, then red with fury. “Central Service reports are supposed to be confidential!!!”Bookmark here

Lulu rolled her eyes. “Pfft. Please. In fact, within the last two weeks, there have been three separate instances of Emergents in populated areas.”Bookmark here

“Th-Three?!” Weinrich’s eyes were bugging out.Bookmark here

Lulu shrugged. “Once, sure, maybe that’s just a fluke. Two times? Definitely odd. But three? That’s not a coincidence. That’s a pattern.”Bookmark here

“No, no, that’s not possible,” the king muttered, shaking his head in disbelief. “Goldia, Carthade, now you’re saying a third city was attacked?!”Bookmark here

“Ruvaud. A city near the Shadow Tower.”Bookmark here

“Ruvaud was attacked?! I’ve heard nothing of this!” King Alexander bellowed. “When was this?!”Bookmark here

Lulu blinked. She began to type something on her long fingerless glove, which Sarah realized was actually a fancy touch screen.Bookmark here

“Oh, that would be…” She turned her palm up, a screen projecting in the air. Screams filled the room as the image of an Emergent rampaging through a city appeared on it.Bookmark here

“…Right about now.”Bookmark here

The room fell into chaos. King Alexander nearly fell from his chair.Bookmark here

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