The Night Ala Alba Saved Christmas

Chapter 5

"Isn't the view amazing, Setchan?" Konoka threw an arm around Setsuna and pulled her over to the edge of the sleigh. "Look at all the lights!"

"It really is quite beautiful, Ojou-sama." A mile or so below them, a massive city was spread out, streetlights glittering.

"According to my geographic sensors, we are currently located above Los Angeles." Chachamaru stated.

"Look, the Hollywood sign!" Konoka leaned over the edge and pointed. "It's like the entire city is covered with Christmas lights."

"Y..yes." Setsuna gently pulled Konoka back to her seat so she wasn't in as much danger of falling.

"I am beginning the descent. Please hold on."

Setsuna and Konoka barely had time to latch onto the railing before the sleigh took a dive towards the top of an apartment building.

"YAAHHH!" Setsuna's grip was so tight that her knuckles were white.

"WHEEEEEEE!" Konoka had one hand to the railing, the other in the air above her head, waving.

The sleigh jerked to a stop on top of a large apartment block.

"Don't do that!" Setsuna snapped at Chachamaru as she tried to pry her fingers off of her handhold.

"That was fun!" Hopped off the sled and sauntered up next to the reindeer. "Can you go faster next time?"

"Of course, they don't call me Comet for nothing."

"Oh, not this again." Cupid groaned. "Every year she tries stunt-flying..."

"Here, have a carrot." Konoka stuck the vegetable and Cupid began munching happily, his previous complaints forgotten. The girl turned back to the sleigh, where Setsuna was still berating Chachamaru for her reckless piloting. "I don't know what you're so afraid of, Setchan. You can fly, after all."

Setsuna opened her mouth as if to respond, but failed to respond. She closed her mouth sheepishly.

"We'll, I'll get the gifts out. Which one of you is going to take them down?"

"I'll do it!" Konoka waved her hand enthusiastically.

Setsuna sighed. Konoka was really getting into this.

Ku Fei's head emerged from the chimney in a coughing fit.

"It's really dirty in there-aru!" She began shaking soot out of her hair. There was a click and a flash of light. "Don't take pictures!" She shouted at Asakura, who was leaning back in the sleigh with her camera, Sayo's voodoo doll body resting on her shoulder. Ku finished wiping the ash from her face and began to climb back into the sleigh.

"Maybe I could try the next one." Sayo raised a tiny hand. "If I stop possessing the body I might be able to float the bag down the chimney."

"Interesting idea..." Asakura set the camera on the seat and began scribbling in her second notebook, the first one having been already filled with notes on the inner workings of Santa's workshop. "Anyway-" She turned back to the reindeer who were pulling the sleigh. "So, Phil...You just joined Santa's team recently?"

"Yep, a few years back. Santa wanted another reindeer to spread all the work out a little. So I transferred in from Norway. I wasn't going to pass up this kind of opportunity."

"So why did you get chosen for this assignment?"

"Rudolph here was kind enough to give a me a recommendation."

The other reindeer bobbed his head.

"Yeah, I was happy to put in a good word for my buddy here. After none of the teams in the Reindeer Games would let me join, Phil and I started our own team. Football champions six years running." He stamped his hoof.

"Okay good." Asakura finished scribbling her notes. "So these reindeer games...what do they entail exactly?"

"That can wait, aru." Ku shoved Asakura over. "We have stuff to do. You can finish your interview during our next stop." She took the reigns and gave them a shake. "Let's go, aru!" The sleigh shot into the air as Rudolph and Phil leapt off the edge of the building into the night.

Asakura sighed. The wind was far too noisy for her to question the reindeer. Oh well.

"So, let's work out the logistics of our next stop." She turned to Sayo. "Can you stop possessing that doll when you aren't on Mahora's campus? I thought you were bound to it?"

"I can leave the doll, but I'm just bound to the doll instead. I should be able to go down the chimney that way."

"Why would you go down the chimney when you can just pass through solid objects?"

"I have to bring the gift bag down with me, obviously. Although maybe we should tie a rope onto it; I would hate to drop it, and you know how much of a klutz I can be. Maybe we should just leave the deliveries to Ku."

"Don't do that, aru!" Ku wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. "I need a break."

Chisame shoved the last gift into the stocking with Zazie's name scribbled across it. What the heck that girl needed a set of gold-plated juggling clubs for was beyond all human comprehension. The fact that the clubs somehow fit into the stocking was also somewhat puzzling, but after sailing through the stratosphere in a magic sleigh pulled by flying animals Chisame didn't feel like thinking too hard about it. Some sort of Santa-magic.

"Okay, done!" She stole a glance at her watch. "I really need to get going. Other stops to make."

"Alright, I'll see you at the Christmas party tomorrow." Akira balled up the now-empty plastic bag that had been full of cheap presents. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight." Chisame disappeared into the stairwell, dragging her sack behind her, hoping that Akira wouldn't notice that she was headed up to the roof. Fortunately, Akira was far too tired to be paying attention.

She tossed the bag into the nearby trash can and dropped into a sitting position against the wall. Finally, she had the chance to relax. Nothing else stood between her and her bed. There was half a minute of silence as Akira tried to drum up the willpower to force herself onto her feet. She had just dragged herself upright when she was knocked to the floor by Makie's excited emergence into the hallway.

The first thought that came to Akira's mind was the fact that her cover was blown; Makie would notice the stockings and come to the logical conclusion that Akira had done the filling. Of course, this fear was unfounded, as even in normal circumstances Makie was not the brightest bulb. As for the current circumstance, the girl seemed to be in a state of pure ecstasy, and an explanation for why Akira was in the hallway was the furthest thing from her mind.

"I just saw Santa's sleigh!"

"What?"

"Come on!" Once again, Akira found herself being dragged along. Within seconds, she was in Makie and Yuuna's room. Yuuna was staring wide-eyed out the window, pointing with a shaking finger.

Akira put her face near the glass and inhaled sharply. Silhouetted against the moon was the outline of two reindeer towing behind them an old-fashioned sleigh. Akira watched, slack-jawed, as the image shimmered briefly in the sky before fading into the clouds.

"Did you see it!-?" Makie was bouncing excitedly around the room, her gymnast's intuition guiding her around the piles of decorations that littered the room.

"Yeah." Akira wanted to think that her eyes were playing tricks on her, but it had been so clear... "I definitely saw it."

"We saw Santa! This is so amazing!" Makie froze for a second before her grin stretched even wider. "I have to go check the stockings!" She rushed into the hallway, leaving Yuuna and Akira sitting in the room.

"She's not going to sleep any time soon." Akira sighed.

"Why?" Yuuna cocked her head.

"Because...someone else helped fill the stockings."

There was a loud gasp from the hallway as Makie discovered Akira and Chisame's work. Yuuna twisted her neck to stare at Akira.

"You mean...Santa...actually..."

"Kinda." She picked up one of the remaining cookies from the table. "I can't tell you any more."

"Looks everybody's on their way back." Eva stared at the tracking system as all the blinking dots approached the home base.

"Yep." Santa shifted himself in his chair. "The Library girls should be coming in for a landing any minute now. Negi's group and Asakura's groups will be here in about fifteen minutes. Chachamaru will be here shortly after that, and Kaede's group should arrive about half an hour for now." He stroked his beard. "It seems that everything went off without a hitch." He extended a hand to the vampire girl. "Allow me to thank you for your help."

She reluctantly allowed him a handshake.

"You realize that I didn't actually do anything except blow up part of your workshop, break your leg, and eat a bunch of your food..."

"Oh, don't worry about all that stuff. We'll have the workshop fixed before New Years, and my leg will be good as new in a month or so. And the food is just my courtesy to you."

"Even so, it was the kids who did all the heavy lifting." She grumbled into her half-empty cup.

"Well, you're the one who made them into a team. Even if you are trying to make them into your evil minions, you've done those kids a lot of good." She looked up sullenly.

"You're giving me too much credit."

Santa just chuckled. He did that a lot.

"If you feel left out, I do have one last favor to ask of you."

"Shoot. I guess I owe you."

"I want you to attend the 3-A Christmas party this year."

"Seriously?" Eva leaned back in her chair, slinging her feet onto the table. "I owe you a favor, and you tell me to go to a party? Oh, whatever. Saves me from having to do actually work."

"Good." Santa turned to the map, which was now flashing brightly. "Looks like the first group is back in. Come on. Let's go down to the garage and greet them." His chair began to float down the hallway, the Pseudo-Eva floating slowly along behind him.

"Wow that was amazing!" Haruna bounced out of the garage, Nodoka and Yue following behind.

"Did everything go well?" Santa held out his hand, which Haruna enthusiastically high-fived.

"No major incidents." Yue reported.

"Well, there was that one guy..." Nodoka adjusted her hat. "...In New Jersey..."

"Oh right." Yue cleared her throat. "Well, Haruna wanted to do at least one delivery, so me and Nodoka decided to go with her. We kinda knocked over an end table and woke him up."

"Did he see you?"

"Unfortunately, yes." Yue muttered. "When we tried to put it back up, we just made a bigger mess."

"He was a nice guy, though." Nodoka interjected. "He agreed not to tell anybody if we took a picture with him."

"That's...odd." Santa scratched his mustache.

"I threw in a sketch of the four of us as a bonus." Haruna gave Santa a thumbs up.

"I suppose that's alright as long as the secret doesn't get out." He rubbed his forehead. "Why don't you girls go wait in the dining room for all of your friends to get back. Or maybe back to the workshop. The elves will let you know when everyone else gets back, okay?"

"Sounds good." Haruna vanished down the hallway.

"We'll see you later, won't we?" Nodoka asked.

"Of course."

"Okay." Yue and Nodoka made a beeline for the library.

"Good luck ever getting them away from your books." Eva said with a laugh. "Even I have trouble with that."

"Oh, I have my ways of getting them out." Another light began to flash. "Oh, looks like we have another group coming in!"

This is ridiculous. Of all the insane things I've had to do, this is the worst.

"Eva-chan, you aren't wearing your hat!"

Konoka pressed the Santa cap onto Evangeline's head. Asakura had somehow gotten the idea into her head that what this occasion really really needed was a group picture of everyone wearing the red coats and hats that Santa had handed out, with the man himself in the center. They had already wasted a good twenty minutes trying to get everybody in the proper positions, facing the right direction, and finding something for the head elf to stand on when he took the picture.

Eva stood off on the end, trying to occupy her mind with anything other than thoughts of what was going on around her. It wasn't working.

"Come on, Eva, smile! We need everybody to be smiling!"

"This is so inane..." She muttered.

"Don't be such a downer, Eva-chan!" Konoka patted her on the back. "The sooner you smile for the picture, the quicker you can get out of here, okay? At least try to look happy."

Evangeline let out a long sigh, but she forced her face into a smile.

"Okay, everybody, on three!" The elf stood on top of a stack of crates, fiddling with the camera. "Smile! One, Two, Three!"

There was a click, and Asakura scurried forward to examine the screen on the back of the camera.

"Okay everybody, we're good."

The neatly organized group dissolved into a rabble. One step closer to going home.

"Come on people, it's time to leave! This is your Master speaking!" Eva herded her students towards the workshop's exit. She could grudgingly understand their reluctance to leave the workshop, but it was starting to get ridiculous. Saying goodbyes was one thing, but they had gone through the whole process at least twice already. Konoka had probably backtracked at least half a dozen times to give Santa a "final" hug.

"Really, everyone, you should get going. It's almost light out. You need to get back before your friends realize that you went missing." He waved at the group as they slogged through the snow towards the teleporter. "Once again, thank you all for your help. I will be sure to keep in touch, and I hope to see you all next year." He pressed his palms together and bowed.

"Thank you, sir." Negi returned the bow, and the rest of the group followed suit.

"You're very welcome." He grinned. "All of you had better be on my nice list next time we meet. Goodbye everyone, and Merry Christmas!"

With that, Santa vanished into the workshop as everyone waved and shouted their final goodbyes. Eva stood next to the teleporter, monitoring it, as it sent her pupils back to Mahora. As the last of them disappeared into the rune, Santa emerged once again.

"Don't forget our agreement, Evangeline."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I'll go to the party." She exhaled deeply. "Thanks for the food. Tell Mrs. Claus that the cookies were delicious."

"I'll be sure to pass it on. Merry Christmas, Eva."

She stepped up to the magic circle, glowing in the snow.

"You too." She vanished into the teleporter.

Santa watched the snow blowing through the night.

"Reginald." An elf popped out of the snow next to Santa's floating chair.

"Yes, sir?"

"Prepare the high-velocity racing sleigh. I have one more delivery to make."

For what seemed like the millionth time that day, Eva groaned. This time it wasn't from frustration, but due to the fact that she had imbibed far more eggnog than her ten-year-old body could handle. She had knocked back so many of them in Santa's workshop with the Pseudo-Eva that she had forgotten her limits.

The last time she had attended one of these parties had been eight years earlier. That particular iteration of class 3-A had been lousy enough to convince her that class gatherings weren't worth the trouble. It was just a bunch of cliques, each with its own agenda, and Eva hadn't fit into any of them. If she was going to be sitting alone in a corner, she might as well do it in the comfort of her own home. But this 3-A was different.

They were certainly a hodgepodge of seemingly all the most abnormal students that Mahora could find, but at least it wasn't an exclusive group. Even die-hard introverts like Chisame got dragged into the madness. By the end of it, the hacker girl was ranting and raving about how her gingerbread house was clearly superior to shack that the cheerleaders had put together, and the judges clearly had no sense of taste.

So of course it was inevitable that Eva was forced to take part in the "Human Christmas Tree Decorating Contest". As one of the trees, of course. Getting tied up with half a dozen rolls of tinsel was hardly comfortable, and the glitter was probably never going to come out of her hair. But even so, she was forced to admit that seeing Kotaro get coated in fake snow and strings of lights by his supposed sister was actually quite funny.

As darkness encroached over the campus, the games eventually gave way to mere talking. Namely, Makie and Yuuna trying their hardest to convince their classmates that they had in fact seen Santa's sleigh. Even Akira seemed to be in on it this year.

Eva groaned, and this time it was in frustration. Somebody had slipped up and blown their cover. Oh well, nobody actually knew what had happened. She would let this one go.

She surveyed the room again. Over the years, Eva had been to enough parties to recognize the atmosphere of a party that was about to end. This particular one had only about ten minutes left before her classmates would begin to file out, back to the dorm.

"Hey, Chachamaru." She tapped the robot on the shoulder, pulling her out of her conversation with Narutakis. "We should head back to the cottage soon. Takahata is going to shanghai us into helping with clean up."

"Alright, Mistress." She got up, picking Eva's coat off of her chair as they walked to the door.

"Leaving already, Eva-chan?" Konoka looked up from her hot chocolate.

"It's getting dark, and it's a long walk back to the cottage." Eva shrugged.

"Okay." Konoka smiled broadly. "Oh, I have a favor to ask."

"Yeah?"

"Do you mind if we visit your resort tomorrow. It's been a long day. You know..."

"That's fine. I need a break too, and I didn't even do anything. I'll see you all tomorrow." Evangeline and Chachamaru waved at the class as they walked out the door.

"Did you enjoy the party, Mistress?"

"It was better than I expected." Eva muttered curtly as she shook bits of tinsel out of her hair. "Although I wish they would have decided to wrap somebody else in all this glittery crap."

"I'm glad to hear you had a good time."

"I never said..." Eva stopped. "You know what? It really wasn't that bad."

"Does this mean that you'll go to the New Year's party as well?"

"I suppose I might as well."

The vampire girl tossed her coat over her couch and parked herself in her softest chair. What a hassle. Two solid days of chaos. She was just about to nod off when her heard a grumbling from behind her. She looked to see Chamo and Chachazero sitting on the kitchen table.

Sitting in front of the ermine was a black lump.

"Man, I thought for sure that helping Aniki find a partner would get me onto the nice list this year!"

Chachazero giggled.

"I told you that all of your underwear theft would cancel that out."

"Well, it's just not fair. I'm going to march myself right up to the North Pole and give Santa a piece of my mind!"

He strode resolutely to the end of the table, and then right off the end of the table. There was plop as he landed on the floor.

"What the heck is wrong with him?" Eva called over her shoulder.

"Too much eggnog. The strong stuff."

Chachamaru emerged from the basement, where she had been cleaning up from the night before.

"Would you like me to return him to Negi's room?"

"That would be great."

Chachamaru scooped up the prone ermine and carried him out the door.

"Well, that was fun." Chachazero cackled.

"I'm assuming that you got put on the naughty list again?"

"Actually, no." The doll laboriously pointed at an intricately engraved dagger that was embedded in the table. "Must be because I haven't killed anything for a decade or so. Either that or Santa's just taunting me because he knows I can't actually move."

"Good for you."

"I know, right. Well, it's been a long day, so I'm going into stasis now. See you tomorrow. Goodnight." The doll flopped back on the table, and the room was silent.

Eva was about to drift off to sleep herself when she noticed something off. Her stocking was hanging from the center of the mantlepiece, and there was something inside it. She shoved herself out of the chair and snatched the sock off of it's hook.

Inside it was a flat, rectangular box, wrapped beautifully in overly colorful paper.

"Might as well see what this is."

Her fingernails sliced through the paper and ribbon, and she found herself holding an elaborately hand-carved picture frame. Inside the frame was the group picture from Santa's workshop. Jammed in the corner of the frame was a small handwritten note.

Evangeline,

I'm glad to see that you finally found some friends to celebrate this Christmas with.

Don't be afraid to enjoy it. ;)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Santa.

P.S. Congratulations on finally achieving the "nice" list!

Tell Chamo that if he knocks off the panty thievery,

he'll get on the "nice" list and I'll bring him a nice hat next year.

Eva chuckled to herself as she set the picture on the center of the mantlepiece. As she looked at Santa's face, she could have sworn it winked at her. She sat back in her chair. She just needed some sleep. Tomorrow she could go to the resort, and she would really relax. For the first time she could remember, she was almost looking forward to having that rabble of students show up at her door.


.

Yup, so the Christmas story is finally complete. There's a ton of stuff I wanted to put into this story, but never got the chance to. Maybe next year I'll revamp the story and post it the way I intended it to be from the start. Although, I'm content with how it turned out, given how rushed it is. Hopefully it's still an enjoyable read.

I may tack a chapter of bonus extra stuff on here, but if I do, it won't be for a few more days.

Merry Christmas, everybody!