~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~{}~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Emme: Blood Gaiden
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~{}~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
By Yuki Rosemoon and Andrew Perron
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~{}~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
#3
~~~~~~~~{}~~~~~~~~

I blinked and opened my eyes... blue and white sheets, old wallpaper, brown carpet. I was back in the hotel room. The battle against the demonic Devon, the reunion with the angelic Xavier, the meeting with my mother and taking on the role of the Vampire Guardian of Beauty – had it all been a dream?

Tyler walked in and smiled. "Ah, good, you're awake."

"...I..." Words tumbled out. "I need to see him."

"What was that?"

I looked up, straight into Tyler's eyes, "I need to see James."

"Uh... didn't you just? I thought it wasn't going to work out between you two."

"I... I just..." I shook my head. "We need to... talk. Or something." My head was pounding. I wasn't sure what I was doing – but I knew I needed to do it. "Not yet. But soon."

I rolled out of bed. It was far past time that I got up. "Let's go to the beach first," I smiled. "We need to relax after the past couple days, anyway."

I put on my favorite lilac dress, a white sun-hat, and brown lace-up boots. I combed my hair, until it shined. I looked at my mother's angel necklace, perfect. I walked up to Tyler. "Ready?"

"Yup," Tyler said, popping the "P" while buttoning his shirt.

We left. The wind rushed through my hair as we drove towards the coast. My mind, unwilling to dwell on what might have been a dream (and might not have), drifted to James. What was going to happen? After I killed that man – did that change how he felt? I turned to face the breeze, and it made my eyes water.

~~{}~~

Meanwhile, Kid Enthusiastic was fighting Nazi pterodactyls while hang-gliding.

"Stupid emotions..." he grumbled, pouting as he used a sonic laser to disable the pterodactyl leader's weather control machine. It (He? She? Kid E wasn't sure) screeched in rage and pulled out its wing-adapted katana, rushing through the air through the hang-glider. Kid E swooped in a circle, letting it just brush past the back of his head – he'd been needing a haircut – before shooting out a pair of anti-gravity cuffs which left it helpless and floating in midair.

Kid E left it for the cops and made long, sweeping circles, angling down through the city skyline towards the roof of the LNHQ. "Mumble..." He touched down on the pad, a perfect three-point landing, and stored the hang glider in the Unlikely Vehicles Bay. Grousing still, he headed down the stairs and into the cafeteria. "Grumble."

He got the ma po tofu, French fries, and Bananade-kun (the only soda with your 100% RDA of molybdenum!) and sat down at some random table. He salted his fries, puffing a frustrated breath out his nose.

"Hey!"

Kid Enthusiastic almost jumped out of his seat. Oh, duh – there was someone else at the table with him. Specifically, Otherkin Lad, who was a reasonably close acquaintance – and who had no idea about the Emme situation. He relaxed. "Hey! What's up?"

"Oh, not much! I was talking to Kindle earlier, and she was saying that I should try and get into those commercials they're doing for our PR. I don't know, though, I'm pretty average-looking."

"Nah, nah— it's all about the charisma! You have boatloads of it! I remember this one time..."

They passed lunchtime wandering through conversation, looping around reminisces of Kid E's days as a freelance adventurer and winding around Otherkin Lad's vague plans for the future. Eventually, both finished their lunches and bade each other goodbye.

Kid Enthusiastic stretched. Ah, he was feeling better now. What had been getting him down, anyway? Hah, it didn't matter!

He hopped into his room and did a quick-change into swimming trunks, flip-flops, and sunglasses. Then he activated the PA system to broadcast all over the LNHQ.

"ATTENTION EVERYONE!"

January Frost, sitting in the Conference Room with Agent M discussing the Espionage Squad's last mission, peered up at the speakers. "What the..."

"BEACH PARTY! WOO!"

"..." She sighed. "Come be a hero, he said. You'll be helping humanity, he said..."

"Meet me at the Jet Hangar!" Kid Enthusiastic flipped off the PA and scooted on down, where a crowd had instantly gathered. "WOO!" he shouted.

"WOO!" the assembled mass of beach-ready Legionnaires shouted back!

They piled into the Super Drop Transport and blasted off towards the coast of whatever state they were in at the moment.

"Beach! Beach! Beach! Beach! WOOOOO!" they shouted as it landed, piling out in a big ol' group. Agent M stayed behind, putting quarters into the parking meters one by one for the thirty-two spaces the jet filled.

Kid Enthusiastic ran into the hot sand, waving at all the astonished beachgoers watching the parade of net.heroes make their way to the ocean like newly-hatched sea turtles. He splashed into the water and dove beneath, immediately surfacing and shaking the water out of his hair. Ahhhhhh, refreshing!

SPLOOSH! Gift-Wrapping Granny splashed in right next to him, spraying salty seawater right into his eyes! He laughed and splashed right back, causing a battle of the waves that only ended when Minority Miss hit the water at full speed and caused a mini-tsunami.

Kid E was washed onto shore, laughing. He stood up, shook himself out like a wet dog, and looked around. Ah! Nice day. Bit thirsty, though. He started walking down the beach in search of a concession stand, away from the crowds.

Then he heard a girl saying, "Oh! My hat blew away!" He looked up and saw a girl in a purple dress with red, curly hair blowing in the wind. Then her hat was carried to his feet.

"Are you looking for this?" he called.

~~{}~~

We walked to the beach – it wasn't really that far. When we got there, Tyler asked, "I'll go get something to eat. Did you want anything?"

"No, I'll just take a stroll down the beach."

I walked down the shore, trying to think about anything except the problems of the last week. The warm breeze came and blew my hat away. "Oh! My hat!" I chased it down the dunes.

Then a boy said, "Are you looking for this?" I looked up – brown hair, black eyes.

I gasped. "...James?"

He looked at me with surprise. "Emme..."

I looked away... but I couldn't help but smile. "I... um... hello. Again."

"Uh, hey..." He bit his lip. "Um... how's it been?"

"O–oh, good..." God. I'd been wanting and WANTING to talk to him— but I had no idea what I was going to say!

"Hey Kid Enthusiastic!" Pantra said, my head snapped up then I looked down to ground, awkward. "Who's this?" she asked, pointing to me with a clawed finger.

I looked up from the ground and smiled, "I'm Emme."

"Ohai! Hey, Kid E! We got out the giant-size hamster ball and we're tossing people around in it! You gotta try this!" She seemed like she was ready to pick him up and carry him off.

"Oh man, that sounds—" He looked at me. "Er..."

"It's f–fine..." I half-choked on my words.

He glanced at me. I was trying to look away, look casual, but it didn't fool him. "Well, I mean, you can totally come, if you want!" He was trying to sound casual too.

"Um... I..." I mumbled, looking down.

"Hey, c'mon! This'll be fun," Pantra said with joy, dragging K.E. and I down the beach towards the others. I stumbled forward as the overly-affectionate catgirl ignored any signals other than "play play play".

"Er um ah!" Kid Enthusiastic attempted to dig his feet in but was easily swept off of them. "Y'know, Emme's been through a lot—"

"Well then, she deserves a break! A party break!"

"Oh, jeez..." I sighed under my breath. Well, at least I wouldn't have to party with a demon...

Pantra dragged us up the beach and into the midst of a crowd of net.heroes in swimsuits. I squinted in the sharp yellow sunlight. A couple of them I recognized – Manga Girl, who was wearing one of the swimsuits they used in Japanese schools; Kindle, who was playing beach volleyball; the robot celebrity Tori. For a second I stopped. The LNH – I had known who they were when I went to apply, but it was different, seeing them as people...

I felt a sharp poke on my back. I stopped and started to turn around, thinking it was James. But a strong voice asked "What are you doing here?" I turned around all the way, to see Doc Nostalgia, fists on hips, standing there looking down at me.

"Why don't you ask her?" I tossed my head toward Pantra and tried to fade into the crowd.

He pushed through the crowd and started to yell at the poor catgirl. I regretted saying that... well, until the catgirl started yelling back. James took my hand and lead me off to the side. Finally, we had a chance to talk.

He hugged me and said, "I'm really glad you're here."

I hugged him back and said, "I missed you a lot," Then I pulled back. "But I have to tell you something."

He pulled back and asked, "What's wrong?" his eyes filled with concern.

I slowly looked and him and pulled my fingers over my lips, "It's a secret, and you can never tell anyone, ever." Then I led him over to a more private spot, "I am a secret guardian – of Beauty. And I have to fulfill my duty."

He started to laugh... but stopped when he saw how serious my face was. "You're not kidding about this... the Secret Guardians – they're supposed to be a myth, right?"

"You told me once that all myths are true somewhere."

He chuckled. "Guess so... fulfilling your duty. You'd have to hide yourself from the world, work in secret... but I guess it wouldn't be the first time for you, right?" Suddenly, he pulled me in and hugged me tight. "Emme... I know you have to do this. I'll miss you."

I swallowed, struggling to hold back the tears. "I— I'll miss you too."

"Hey." He let go and stepped back. "No matter what happens... don't let anybody tell you you're not a hero, all right?"

I ran to him and glomped, making us topple over. "I'll miss you a lot, but I'll stick around here a while more." I kissed him on the cheek and got up.

He laid there in shock. So I pulled him up and let go of his hand, taking off down the beach. "Let's race!"

He chuckled and yelled, "Hey! You got a head start, no fair!"

We raced down to the lifeguard's tower. He got there first, but I'm pretty sure I let him win. I ran to him and jumped on him making us fall over. Someone walked by, saying, "Get a room!"

I got up and blushed. "Weirdo." James looked confused.

I jumped to my feet, grabbed his hand and ran over to the other net.heroes. "DANCE PARTY!" I yelled.

"DANCE PARTY!" they yelled back.

I hooked my iPod up to the stereos, and high-pitched fast-paced nightcore music started bursting out of the speakers. Then me, James, and everyone else started dancing in an enormous choreographed musical number!

< Emme: Blood Gaiden #2 LNH20 Tales of the LNH v20 #1 >