Always be with you

Chapter 7: Parting

Chapter 7: Parting

"Why isn't the Rabbit coming with us?" Jack enquired.

"Oh, missing me already, Jack?" Bunny perked up his ears, all too eager for a sarcastic comeback. "Too bad though, Frosted flakes. I have a very important mission on my hands. One that can only be handled by someone more capable than yourself." The Easter Bunny huffed with a boast. "But not to worry - I'll let you know when I send Pitch flying your way."

"Not a chance, Carrot Ear. I'll be back so quick I'll find him before you do."

"Just you try it, Frosty." smirked his rival Guardian.

"It's a race, then." Jack said with cocky smile.

"Ah, they just love head-butting, don't they?" mused North nostalgically. "Alright now, everyone. Bunny and Sandy are just here to see you off ("Aw, I didn't know you care, Bunny") Tooth and I are going to take you to the border of our land and make sure you cross it safely. Then, you can begin your journey to the Perennial Mountain."

Mary recognized it as the name of the mountain rumored to be where Mother Nature had hid herself eons ago. Apparently it was aptly named, for it certainly suggested something old and perpetual.

"And how do we get there? Mary can't fly, remember?" Jack asked pointedly; although secretly, he already a guess.

An intrigued smile flit across the girl's face for the tiniest fraction as she realised how casually Jack mention flight, as if it was such a wonted thing that took neither effort or thought. When all's considered, three out of five Guardians can fly on their own devices. That was rather amazing. However, in this case it only made her self-conscious. The human girl's lack of ability to fly like a bullet through the air would be a handicap in the journey, and the fact bothered her slightly.

"Why, on the Sleigh of course." North looked as if Jack had asked the most obvious thing in the world.

Just as he said it, as if to prove his point, the elves began to coax the Sleigh out into the clearing. The eight mighty reindeers pawed the ground restlessly, blowing out white puffs from their nostrils like engines of a locomotive. To top it off, Jack forgot how massive they were, like fighting bulls ready for the game. Steadfast and powerful. These creatures could not be further from the docile deer that they'd been so often depicted as. Briefly, Jack wondered if Mary was just as surprised.

What amazed Jack more was how upgraded the Sleigh was in just three years. The seats have been refurbished (though the lack of seatbelts was still blatant, much to Bunnymund's dismay), the wings repainted in bright red and gleaming, straight and poised. Ready to take off any second. It was a mechanical mixture between the traditional sleigh and an awesome fighting jet. Jack had marveled at the Sleigh in the past, but now, he felt almost brought to tears.

"Everyone still loves the Sleigh. A beauty, she is, no? Just polished her, too." Now it was Santa's turn to grow smug. It seemed like every Guardian couldn't wait for the chance to show off his or hers talent and magic to the others. "Hop on!"

North positioned himself at the driver's seat while Mary sat herself besides him. Tooth and Jack took the back seat.

"See ya, Bunny." Jack said, turning back with a grin.

"Eh," was his rival's nonchalant reply (although if one looked closely, you'd notice his whiskers twitching).

"You, too, Sandy."

Sandman created a gentleman's hat on his head and raised it in goodbye.

Jack smiled one more time before returning his view back to the front, ready for the ride. Too bad Bunny wasn't gonna be there, feeling queasy, for him to tease.

The tunnel spewed the Sleigh and its riders into an open space. The sleigh began to drag itself upwards towards the sky. The space was clear and brilliant with the colours of the early morn, and all winds were fully awake, seemingly rushing to meet them.

"WHOO! YEAH BABY!"

Jack dissolved into laughter like a victorious child.

He stood up and raised himself to the sky, feeling the rush of the wind on his face, delighting in the euphoric sensation coursing through him, engulfing him. Despite the fact that Jack could fly himself, the feeling of riding North's sleigh never gets old. It only gets better!

"What did I tell you, huh?" cackled North loudly and even Tooth couldn't help a smile as well.

Then, spectacularly and completely unexpected, swirling lines of beautiful golden sand dashed after them like falling stars. The Sleigh riders looked over their shoulders to see a sprightly Sandman hale and heartily waving at them while weaving streams of dreamsand into the air. The shining material danced besides them like falling stars before bursting a parade of aeroplanes and confetti, before falling on them golden rain.

"Thank you Sandy!" North laughed and bellowed back. "Hyaaa!" He pulled on the reins and the Sleigh shot forward mightily in response.

Jack could only marvel at the creative works of his sun-haired friend with a mix of wonder, gladness and gratefulness. Wonder was always North's specialty, but that didn't mean Sandy and the others could not inspire that very feeling. Just like Sandy, any of the Guardians were capable of creating and bringing Dreams, Hope, Memories and Fun, even if it is not within their centre. A snow day could bring wonder. An Easter egg hunt could be fun. Christmas is filled with memories of family and friends. And reliving a dear memory could bring people the hope and strength they needed. Knowing this, on his heart Jack could not but feel so happy he was that he became a Guardian (yes, even if it meant working with the kangaroo). The fact that he was standing and fighting side by side these infamous and iconic spirits, that he belonged with them now never ceased to give him a warm feeling.

And he knew this feeling would remain in his heart, even as the last fragments of dreamland fell and faded away from the sky and the show came to an end. The Sandman gave them one final gift though - a shimmering butterfly circling them all with its frail wings before throwing itself to the wind and vanished.

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The Sleigh brushed against the ground, signaling this journey's end and the beginning of a new one. One person after another was slowly deposited onto the dark, hard soil. There was no longer any snow hiding the ground. The borders of the Guardian's world was before them, laid bare like reality. In front of them, several yards away, was a deep and wide ravine, plunging down and separating the other side save for a single silver bridge, dully lit against the background.

"This is it." whispered Tooth, her eyes seemed to be drawn towards the murky distance beyond the rock face. There was a thin mist shrouding that land partially. "The border of the Unguarded World..."

Everyone seemed to be magnetically drawn to the mysterious other side, too. The closest comparison that could be made was that it was like spotting a very rare creature of the wild; and it knows you are there, and it is wordlessly staring back. You're so absorbed in seeing this creature that your memory is working to etch every detail of it into your mind. Everyone seemed to be in a brief, light trance before a twig cracked under North's footfall woke them.

"I'm afraid this is where we part with you, my friends." Said North in his most quiet and solemn tone. "I can't take you beyond this point. Beyond that bridge, a Guardian's ability to fly becomes significantly smaller. So be careful, Jack."

"Aww, don't tell me you're going to start worrying now, North." Jack cooed. Even now the Winter spirit could not resist the urge for some fun, or perhaps a lighter mood. They exchanged a knowing glance. The senior Guardian chuckled benevolently and nodded.

"Here are some things to help you on your journey." Tooth stretched out her arm, a small pack held in her hands.

"This is very kind of you." Mary said, with a grateful bow. "You've already given us supplies. Thank you."

"Ah, don't mention it, sweetie. We're glad we could help." Tooth pulled the other girl into a hug, which surprised her a little. But she didn't want to hurt Tooth's feelings, so she returned the hug the best she could. "Have a safe journey."

"You as well." said Mary Albarn, none of it felt forced this time. It was incredible how different people can be at the moment of parting.

When Tooth released her from the hug, Jack touched Mary's shoulder. "Let's go."

The two broke away from the two Guardians and stepped onto the bridge, which, although was solid and not the ropey dangling kind, seemed to vibrate faintly when their foot first touched it. One could almost took that little vibration for humming, but it lasted only a fleeting moment before quieting. Their following footsteps engaged no response from this mysterious bridge.

Jack stepped onto the bridge first. Three steps onto the bridge, Mary turned and gave Tooth and North a goodbye. It came out as only a simple wave.

She did not say anything. She didn't want to say that word of farewell - it made it all seemed like the end, which it most certainly was not going to be.

The two returned her wave, a heavy smile grew on their lips. Mary was grateful, and she turned away and quickly caught up with the sight of Jack's retreating back.

End of First arc: Spirit Awakening.

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Author's shout out:

Thank you markwyldespinebuster for liking and having faith in my story, however slight. Truth be told, I was having a pretty crappy day after having an argument with my mum when you reviewed and followed my story. The news of your being 'in' made me so happy I forgot all my sadness and was able to enjoy the day again. So I really can't thank you enough. I hope you'll continue to enjoy "Always be with you."

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In other news, they're finally leaving the North Pole! I know this is quite a brief chapter. But more is coming! And a review is just the way to feed my engines ;)

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