Alaia Skyhawk: Here's the next chapter!

Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians, the Guardians of Childhood, or any related characters etc. This story is written purely for entertainment purposes.

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Chapter 125: Tutors and Tea Parties

If one could watch all the shadows in the world, all at once, you might have seen them. Two figures moving instantly from one darkened corner to another, often across vast distances, in pursuit of Unnatural Fear. The female of the two, closely following the guidance of the male.

Only one of the six candidates had been successful, but from that had been gained valuable information. The data in her personality profile has been heavily added to, and would be used as a template when looking for other suitable candidates. The future success rate should be much higher.

Yet for now the newly-immortal Rheen was getting a month of on-the-job training, before she would be shipped back to her homeworld as its Steward of Natural Fear. But she wasn't the only one getting such training, as four other new immortals were at this very moment scrambling to keep up with a certain Spirit of Winter.

Jack hurtled down through the clouds, whooping at the speeds, while behind him Iseb, Diskel, Alleiss, and Serera followed as best they could with their shaky novice flight-skills. They, like Rheen, had been turned into immortals by Jamie just a week ago. They were all Legends, although Jack had heavily suggested granting an affinity for wind to the four new Guardians of Fun. High-mobility was a key requirement of the job, and flight was also an ideal tool in creating entertainment for children.

Of course having only an affinity for wind and air, but not a direct connection to it as a Nature Immortal would have, left a bit lost in translation. They were going to have to do a lot of practice.

But for now, flight practice was a secondary concern. Jack was bringing them to the best place in the world to learn about being a Guardian of Fun... The place where his own Legend began.

Burgess.

Yes it was late-summer, but since the newbies weren't Winter Immortals that wasn't an issue. The main thing they were here for, was to meet and interact with the children of the town. And with Summer Break still in full swing, there were plenty of them playing in the park. Yet it was towards one specific group and their parents, that Jack led his students.

Alicia waved in enthusiasm when she spotted him. Pippa, Claude, Caleb, Monty, and 'Cupcake' Susan doing likewise. They'd been forewarned about the new immortals and their names, so as to be able to see them.

"Hi, Jack!"

"Welcome home, Jack!"

A moment later excited shrieking and yelling started up, as Sophie and Jamie's friends broke into smiles when their children responded to the revelation that Jack had arrived.

Jack was bowled-over by a mass of six to twelve-year-olds, laughing as he ended up beneath the pile of excited youngsters. It took a few moments for him to extricate himself from the heap, but once he did he pointed out the four uncertain new-immortals to the children.

"Hey guys, I've got something special to ask you. These are Iseb, Diskel, Alleiss, and Serara. It's a biiiiiiiiiig secret right now, but they're all from other planets."

Monty's daughter Melissa gasped, as wide-eyed as the others.

"Really?!"

Jack grinned, nodding.

"Yep, and they're here to learn how to be a Guardian of Fun, so when they go home they can do for the children on their world, what I do for you all here. Think you could show them around for me, and tell them all the things you know about having fun when I'm here to play?"

"SURE!"

All ten children cheered and darted over to the four newbies, taking the confused immortals by the hands and dragging them away beneath a tide of enthusiasm.

Jack chuckled as he watched them go, as Susan came up beside him. She'd changed a lot from the tutu-wearing unicorn-obsessed child she'd been so long ago, but she was still gentle beneath her tough-looking exterior.

"Cheating your way out of teaching? Tsk tsk, that's naughty."

Claude and Caleb came over now, coming up either side of Jack to each sling an arm over his shoulders.

"Aww come on, Cupcake. Since when has Jack ever been a fan of school?"

Jack shrugged in his position between the pair.

"Actually I don't mind school. It's the teachers and their methods that decide if or not a lesson is boring. So like any good teaching, I'm giving my students lessons with the best personal tutors they could hope for." He pointed towards the group, who were already at the foot of his statue. "I could lecture them all about my job and how I do things, but it doesn't change the fact that most of what I know I learnt from interacting with children myself. They'll never be carbon-copies of me, and I shouldn't expect them to be. They need to figure out their own 'style', and the kids will help them do that."

Last to move were Pippa and Alicia, the former raising her eyebrows in speculation. All of Jamie's closest and trusted friends had been told about the Allegiance, and that all its worlds would be getting new immortals. They visited him and Sophie at Solaris, often enough that hiding it from them would have been impossible.

"Does that mean Burgess should be renamed 'The School for Guardians of Fun'?"

Jack waved that off.

"Nah, nothing so stuffy. But the town is going to be famous across the whole Allegiance. I can't think of anywhere else on Earth, other than Santoff Claussen, where I'd want to bring my students. And with Burgess also being the hometown of Tsar Solus I, this place is definitely going to go down in the history books as one of the most important places at the start of this new era."

Alicia reached over and tweaked the tip of his nose.

"In no small part thanks to you, of course." She put her hands on her hips, adopting a pose of mock disapproval. "I also find your attitude to be most appalling. As the Art Teacher at Burgess High, I can say your own teaching methods are in considerable need of polishing."

She was struggling to keep a straight face as she said it, the corner of her mouth quirking upwards as she fought not to smile.

Jack responded to the tease with one of his own.

"Then take it up with Ombric, because his methods are as 'unpolished' as mine. No text-books, lesson-plans, or tests in his classes." He pointed a thumb at his chest. "He was my teacher for reading and writing, the first teacher I'd ever met... Actually, I'm glad he was. Every other teacher in that century was a complete stiff."

Some of the other nearby children had noticed Jack's presence now, and Pippa tugged Jack from the twins' hold and gave him a small shove in the youngsters' direction.

"Go off and play, Jack. Just don't forget to take your students with you when you head home."

Jack chuckled, gave them a mock salute, and darted away.

"Yes Ma'am!"

Pippa frowned at him as he raced over to the now cheering children, muttering quietly to herself.

"I wish he wouldn't call me that. It makes me feel old."

Cupcake laughed at that.

"Pippa, compared to us he's the one who's old." She glanced over to the twins. "So, which of you is staying here to keep an eye on the kids?"

Claude and Caleb shrugged in unison.

"We'd like to come."

"But a tea party isn't really our thing."

Cupcake now looked to Monty, who to date had replaced his old large-framed glasses with a more slimline pair.

"What about you?"

Monty grimaced, having realised if he went he'd be completely 'outnumbered'.

"I'll stay too. Someone sensible needs to be here, if Jack's students have to be rescued from our children."

"Oi!"

At the twins objection to that implication, Alicia slung an arm each over Pippa and Cupcake's shoulder.

"Fine with me. Come on girls, let's go meet up with Sophie."

The trio headed off along the footpath towards the woods, following the trails to a small clearing not far from the pond. Sophie was already there, lounging comfortably on a rock, and she grinned when she saw them.

"The boys back out of the 'tea party' again?"

She hugged the girls in greeting, none of them really caring that thanks to being immortal she looked barely half their age. It was something that had become part-and-parcel of any dealings with her or Jamie.

Alicia was the last to let go, it having been several weeks since she'd last seen her best friend. Receiving or sending letters via little eggs-on-legs, didn't make up for not seeing her in person.

"How goes work?"

Sophie let out a small sigh, but didn't look troubled.

"I've still decades to go before things come close to the way they are across the Allegiance, but all of the current generation of children will grow up without the prejudices of their parents. By that time I can just concentrate on being Aster and my brother's assistant."

A double-tap from Sophie's sandal-shod foot dropped them neatly into one of the Warren passages, and they proceeded onwards to the glade that was part of her private quarters here.

Set out in the garden there was an elegant wooden tea-table and four chairs. She'd predicted correctly that the boys would make excuses not to come. If the visit had been to both her and Bunny, they'd have scrambled to come.

The four women sat themselves down, with Cupcake taking charge of pouring the tea.

"So how are Bunny and Jamie these days? We've not heard anything about them for a while, other than that they'd gone off on that visit to Lumeris, and then come back."

Sophie shrugged.

"Aster's been busying himself, checking over everything in the Warren since he wasn't here for the post-Easter clean-up. Jamie's been catching up with everything that's gone on in the World Council while he was away and I was Acting Chairman. He's holed up in his office reading through all my reports."

A female voice intruded upon the gathering, as a certain Pooka entered the glade carrying a tray of cakes.

"And then there's me." She smiled as Sophie hastily gestured for a nearby golem to fetch another chair. "Don't worry, I'm not offended. I've spent so much time at Solaris, I'm not surprised you didn't expect me to be here."

Sophie glanced at her surprised friends, and introduced the newcomer.

"This is Lilali Claeret Bunnymund, Aster's elder sister. She's transferred to Earth to be the Pooka Brotherhood's representative here."

Lilali set down the tray, which was piled with little delicacies. Each was a Pooka recipe, adapted to use local ingredients. Bunny's sister was apparently a fan of cooking, and loved to experiment.

She sat down when the golem returned with a chair for her.

"I was overjoyed to discover my brother was alive, even though it was a surprise to learn that he was an immortal and a Guardian. And now that I'm here in person, I can see how wonderful a world this is. To be witness when a world embraces the presence and guidance of immortals and Constellations, is a privilege, but no world I have ever been to for that, can match this."

Alicia picked up one of the cakes, glancing across the table with eyebrows raised.

"We're really that different?"

Lilali frowned a little, thinking over how to put it.

"The simplest way to describe it is that the people here were more 'advanced' when immortals were introduced to them. As a rule, the Allegiance only approaches worlds when they're entering a more scientific stage in their culture, but the previous era filled with myths and stories isn't so remote that the introduction of Belief Magic and Immortals is a huge shock. From what I've heard of here, the people of this world were already nearing the interplanetary travel stage before immortals were revealed, even though you'd had them for thousands of years."

Sophie winced a little at that.

"I won't lie. It was a lot of hard work to settle everything, and there was a lot of conflict from certain minorities. But it all worked out for the best."

There was an awkward moment as everyone present remembered the circumstances in which Sophie had become an immortal. To cover it up, Alicia took a bite of her cake and quite genuinely praised it a moment later.

"This is wonderful. Any chance I could get some recipes from you? Maybe I could show you a few of mine?"

Lilali smiled, her ears set at a cheerful angle. She was certainly more 'animated' than her brother.

"I'll make up a recipe book for each of you if you like. I know far more recipes than just the cakes I've got on here."

The conversation slipped easily into talk about all the different foods they could recommend to the Pooka, ending in a promise to meet up again soon and swap recipes. When time came to return to Burgess, to Claude, Caleb, Monty, and the children, the three men were much bemused to learn they'd missed out on meeting another Pooka.

And after sampling the cakes the 'girls' had brought back with them? Well, attending a 'tea party' didn't look so unappealing anymore.

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Alaia Skyhawk: Well there ends another arc, with a little update on Jamie and Sophie's friends :)