Chapter 26:

Chapter 26: Return, Part 1

Guardians of Dawn: Volume 1

Sarah wasn’t in a good mood when she entered Strayhaven. The trip back home had exhausted her. She was planning to swan dive right into bed.Bookmark here

“Welcome, Guild Master,” Nero and Bianca greeted her at the door. She walked past the Mechadolls and into the common room.Bookmark here

There was a stranger talking to Emi on her couch.Bookmark here

“Oh! H-Hello!” Emi gasped. “Sarah!”Bookmark here

“Hey.” Sarah pointed at Cynthia. “Who’s this?”Bookmark here

Cynthia’s jaw hit the floor. She jumped up crossed the room in a blur, startling Emi.Bookmark here

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! You’re Sarah Dawn! The Sarah Dawn! Oh gosh, I’m such a big fan! You’re amazing!”Bookmark here

“Again, who is she?”Bookmark here

“I’m Second Lieutenant Cynthia Ross of Central Services!” Cynthia saluted.Bookmark here

Sarah’s face soured. Emi was surprised, it was the first time she’d seen her look upset.Bookmark here

“Central Services? What’s going on? Did someone do something?”Bookmark here

“What? No, wait, she’s not here because of that! She’s Matt’s girlfriend! She was visiting him the hospital! I invited her here because she didn’t have anywhere to stay!”Bookmark here

Sarah immediately took a turn from the better. A bright smile spread across her face. “Oh! Is that right?! You’re Matt’s girlfriend?”Bookmark here

“Yep! I never got the chance to thank you for commissioning him, by the way, he’s such a great guy, and I’m sure he’s a lot of help! …Well, I mean, I know he got injured, but trust me, he’s got talent! You definitely won’t regret making him-“Bookmark here

Sarah raised her hand to stop her. “Wow. You really like to talk. Don’t worry, Cynthia. Matt’s part of my family now.” She winked. “And I’m not turning my back on family. He’s a Guardian for life.”Bookmark here

Cynthia’s eyes began to water. She flung herself into Sarah’s arms and hugged her.Bookmark here

“Oh! You’re the best! Finally someone who appreciates him!”Bookmark here

“Wheeeew, she’s a hugger, huh?” Sarah laughed.Bookmark here

Cynthia pulled back and resumed fawning over Sarah.Bookmark here

“Miss Guild Master, or… Guild Master Dawn, or…”Bookmark here

This girl needed a hand brake. “Sarah. Just Sarah.”Bookmark here

“Uweh?! B-But… c-calling the Sarah Dawn by her name…!” Cynthia was at a loss for words.Bookmark here

“I’d prefer it. Trust me. I’m nothing special.”Bookmark here

“Nothing spe-?! Nothing special?! You’re Sarah! Dawn!”Bookmark here

“Yep, that’s my name. You’ve said it quite a bit.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean by nothing special?! You’re amazing!”Bookmark here

Emi blinked. She knew that the Guardians were prestigious, but the reverence in Cynthia’s voice was surprising. “Sarah… is she really that great?”Bookmark here

“Gee. Thanks Emi. That means a lot.”Bookmark here

Emi went pale. “Nonononono! I-I didn’t mean it like-! I mean, that came out wrong, I’m so sorry! I-I was just… sorry!”Bookmark here

“It’s okay, Emi, I’m kidding,” Sarah laughed, walking over and patting her on the head. “Like I said, I’m nothing special. Just a girl trying to protect people, same as you.”Bookmark here

Cynthia was blown away by Sarah’s humility. “Emi, she’s just being modest. Sarah Dawn is a celebrity! And the Guardians… How do you not know about her? Did you grow up on a mountain or something?”Bookmark here

Emi felt a stab in the gut. Right on the money.Bookmark here

“So you joined the Guardians even though you didn’t know anything about them?!” Cynthia couldn’t believe it.Bookmark here

Emi didn’t know what to say. She shrugged.Bookmark here

“I was just… studying to be a mage. Then Sarah came and recruited me, and I kinda… yeah. I decided to join.”Bookmark here

“Wow. That’s amazing! Well, let me tell you! Sarah Dawn is amazing! A celebrity! She’s the greatest ever!” Cynthia looked towards Sarah with admiration.Bookmark here

“R-Really?”Bookmark here

“Again, it’s not a big deal,” Sarah said, trying to downplay Cynthia’s admiration. “I just…”Bookmark here

“It was right after the Cataclysm!” Cynthia interrupted her. “When Margilia and the area around it collapsed, when people were panicking, Sarah Dawn appeared and saved everyone!”Bookmark here

“Whoa… no way, really?!” Emi was seeing Sarah in a new light.Bookmark here

“There was carnage, and rubble strewn everywhere. And there were so many people… see, the Cataclysm had struck, and there was so much damage. People were trying to set up rescues to try and find survivors, but when they’re covering that much area… well, let’s just say it was difficult.”Bookmark here

Emi nodded. She hadn’t been to the site of the Cataclysm before, but she could imagine the damage that had been dealt.Bookmark here

“Sarah Dawn’s Star Gate made the rescue operations possible. She came out of nowhere and made a name for herself, opening portals for people to go through at ground zero. If it wasn’t for her, Central Services might still be making repairs and clearing out debris even now.” Cynthia turned to Sarah. “She’s a hero.”Bookmark here

Sarah’s face was bright red. What Cynthia was saying was true, but she didn’t like drawing attention to it. “Listen, it’s not that big of a deal, guys, really! I just did what I had to do. I had the ability to help, and so I did. That’s what anyone would do.”Bookmark here

“She used that fame to go on and establish the Guardians, making a guild on the idea of helping people. Your Guild Master is an inspiration!”Bookmark here

Emi was in awe. She’d never heard any of this. She’d always thought of Sarah as an admirable woman, and knew that the Guardians were famous, but… wow, this was something else.Bookmark here

“It’s just me. I just did what I ought to,” Sarah laughed. She’d come back hoping to rest, and didn’t expect to arrive with a hero’s welcome.Bookmark here

“Um… to be honest, when Emi invited me and I learned you weren’t here, I was kinda disappointed,” Cynthia admitted. “The other Guardians are great and all, but you… you’re my hero. And besides, I… can I ask a favor?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? An autograph? I guess I could-“Bookmark here

“No, not that. …Okay, well, yes, that too, but… I was wondering…” Cynthia looked shyly up at Sarah. “Can I… can I travel through your Star Gate? Just one time, please!”Bookmark here

Sarah’s Naturia was pretty much drained for the night. “Look, Cynthia, my Naturia isn’t for fun. I have to be very-“Bookmark here

“Sarah? You’re back already?”Bookmark here

Sarah whirled around to see Lori enter with a perplexed expression.Bookmark here

“Oh! Lori! Yeah, change of plans. See, there was this whole thing, and I decided it would be better if I came back early, so…”Bookmark here

Lori didn’t buy it for a second. “You told me you were spending the night in order to sleep in and skip work, didn’t you?”Bookmark here

Drat. Caught.Bookmark here

“…Cynthia! Now that I think about it, this is a great time to show you around the place!” Sarah said, summoning a portal with a snap of her fingers.Bookmark here

“Sarah, wait, you can’t-“Bookmark here

“Sorry Lori can’t talk right now, need to entertain the guest!” Sarah called, quickly ushering Cynthia and Emi into the portal.Bookmark here

Lori watched the air close shut behind her and exhaled. She’d pay for this.Bookmark here

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Sarah’s portal couldn’t go far, so she dumped them out on the second floor. Right on top of Nick.Bookmark here

“You know, I’m not one to complain about three women getting on top of me, but this is one of those rare exceptions,” he grumbled.Bookmark here

“Sorry Nick! Just got a little lost showing our guest around!”Bookmark here

“No problem. Just watch where you open those,” he laughed, picking himself up off the ground. “Running from Lori, I’m guessing?”Bookmark here

“He came in just as I got back!” Sarah groaned. “It’s like he’s psychic or something!”Bookmark here

Emi helped Cynthia to her feet. The girl giddy with laughter.Bookmark here

“That… that was amazing! I love it! I move fast but that… wow!”Bookmark here

Sarah really liked having Cynthia around. She was so amazed by every little thing.Bookmark here

“I’m surprised you’re back this early from the conference. Did something happen in New Margilia?”Bookmark here

Cynthia perked up. “Conference? At the capital?”Bookmark here

Sarah sighed, slumping against the wall. “Some shit happened. There was another Emergent attack in a populated city. But the king and all those bureaucrats don’t want to admit it.”Bookmark here

A chill went through Cynthia. Images of the Emergent that had attacked her flashed before her eyes. Emi was the only one to pick up on it.Bookmark here

“Hey, um…”Bookmark here

“Hmm?” Cynthia glanced at her, and Emi immediately shut up. She didn’t have it in her to press the issue.Bookmark here

“N-No, just… never mind.”Bookmark here

Nick sighed. “Well, we should have expected that the king wouldn’t want to listen. It’s like I’ve been saying all along. Folks are getting too complacent when it comes to dealing with Emergents. Even us.”Bookmark here

“The problem is, no one wants to hear that the Emergents are getting more dangerous. They’d love to dismiss what happened as just a few fluke incidents, not anything to take seriously.”Bookmark here

“Um… do you mean when that Emergent attacked us in the city?” Emi asked. “It… It didn’t happen again, did it?”Bookmark here

“Damn right it did. It’s happened three times now.”Bookmark here

“Three times? And the king still won’t do anything about it?” Nick groaned.Bookmark here

Sarah actually had some good news in that area. “Actually, no, he said he’d give it serious consideration. And not the ‘yes yes go away’ kind of ‘serious consideration’, either. He looked really shaken by what happened.”Bookmark here

“Well that’s… good, I guess? Still, it would be nice to know just what he planned to do. But it’s good that you managed to convince him. I guess you aren’t one of the most famous Guild Masters for nothing!” Nick tried to bring a bit of levity in, but it didn’t work. Sarah glanced away.Bookmark here

“It’s mainly thanks to that girl from House Volstgalph. She agreed with me and actually showed the king footage of the attack on Ruvaud. If her guild hadn’t taken care of things, then I don’t think anything I said would have convinced him,” she clarified.Bookmark here

“Oh? A girl from House Volstgalph?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Her names was… Lu-something? Luna… Lulu! That was it. Lulu.”Bookmark here

Emi was worried that Nick was going to throw up.Bookmark here

“O-Oh.”Bookmark here

“What? You know her?”Bookmark here

Nick couldn’t meet her eyes. He was as red as a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar.Bookmark here

“We’ve… had some dealings.”Bookmark here

Sarah felt a little grossed out herself. She decided to drop the issue.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.