Chapter 73- 'Twas One Hour Till New Year's…

"You know, the hardest thing to do is to end a year!" Gai announced.

"I find the hardest thing is ending an extremely lengthy story," said Kiba.

"Have you written an extremely lengthy story recently, Kiba?" questioned Shino.

"No," Kiba admitted. "But I'm willing to bet it is something very difficult to do!"

"So what do you think about this New Year's Party slash Gai's birthday party that Neji is planning?" asked Kakashi.

"I had my doubts, but now that we are one hour from midnight, I feel as though he will pull through," said Gai proudly.

"Really?" said Sasuke. "Because, it being an hour from midnight and all, I'm starting to think that Neji will never contact us."

"Just because we have received no word from Neji concerning the party doesn't mean one won't eventually arrive!" Gai said, but he was probably just assuring himself.

"Don't worry, Gai," said Kurenai supportively. "I'm sure Neji will show up soon!"

"So am I!" Gai snapped. "Don't give up on one of my students so easily!"

Everyone felt bad for Gai because Neji had apparently made absolutely no effort to contact any of them or announce a party. When there had been no word, the teachers gathered all the students and brought them to Neji's favorite training area because they figured if the party was going to be anywhere, it would probably be there.

Unfortunately, whence they arrived, there were no balloons, no party hats, no food and certainly no cake. Still, they persevered and believed Neji would pull through!

However, 'twas one hour till New Years and all through the land, not a party was raging, not a note from the band. The ninjas were waiting in the forest with care in hopes that young Neji soon would be there.

The children were bored and wished they were in beds while visions of training danced in their heads. And Kurenai with her cheer and Gai with his hope, Kakashi read his book as Asuma smiled like a dope.

But off in the distance, there arose such a clatter and the ninjas paid heed to see what was the matter. Away through the trees they flew like a flash, tore through the trees, they ran and they dashed. The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow gave the luster of midday to the objects below, when, what to their wandering eyes should appear…

It was a parade and a band, and they gave up a cheer!

With a leader so young, so lively to see, they knew in a moment it must be Neji! More rapid than eagles his courses they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Shikamaru, Kiba, Sasuke, Ino! Even Hinata, Kiba, Tenten, Lee and Shino! I'm calling to Sakura, Naruto, Chouji! And Gai, Kurenai, Asuma and Kakashi! I've brought this parade from a faraway land to help us celebrate so strike up the band!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky. So up to the tree tops, the ninjas they flew, with their hearts fill of joys, and Neji's was too.

And then, in a twinkling, the band began to play in celebration of the greatness of this New Year's day. And so the ninjas returned to the ground and began to dance, jump, play and bound! Dressed in their warm clothes from their heads to their feet, they were ready to celebrate this holiday treat.

A bundle of toys Neji had brought on his back and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow and his clothes, normally clean, were covered in snow. The usual clench he had in his mouth had vanished to elsewhere and maybe gone south.

Gai's could hardly contain as he grabbed hold of his belly and shook and even seized like a bowlful of jelly. He laughed and he cheered like a right jolly elf and even Sasuke joined in, in spite of himself. Though Sasuke was cold hearted he could not turn away for everything was perfect on this New Year's Day!

Kakashi winked his eye (perhaps from what he read) but the students were no longer filled with such dread. The year had been long and been such hard work and even Shikamaru who had been such a jerk in these last few months preceding this joy, had to admit he'd been a troublesome boy.

Chouji was glad with the spread of food that was there and dug in with careless excitement and flare! The students enjoyed watching Chouji be happy and didn't think their party was in the least bit too sappy.

For Sakura and Ino decided a truce for they didn't know how their rage had gone loose. Their argument thus far hadn't made so much sense so they should move on and make it past tense. Choosing a boy of friendship seemed simply so silly and they couldn't believe they'd both been so bitchy.

Meanwhile Hinata couldn't help but approach her cousin who viewed her as a lousy cockroach. She thanked him for planning such a joyous party, and expected him to return her comment with glee, however it seemed a nerve she had struck so he instructed her to leave and not push her luck. And so Hinata decided to avoid him all night because it was impossible to make things between them all right.

Lee hugged his great teacher to make him feel great because he knew that Gai just couldn't wait for the party to start so he struck up the band and people could hear it to the village of the Sand! Lee was excited to make Gai happy and proud for he knew that today only joy was allowed! He also was thankful that Neji pulled through because if he didn't, Lee didn't know what he would do. He would have scolded his teammate, that much is for sure, and would have shook his head for him to be so immature! But thinking such thoughts just didn't seem right for Neji had planned a wonderful night.

Tenten was still as pointless as ever and continued to push through every endeavor. However, no one quite cared cause she was quite lame since thus far she never revealed her last name.

Shino and Kiba, all this long while, turned to each other and let loose a smile. Well, really just Kiba was the one who did that because Shino wasn't social, he only aced in combat. And we cannot move on quite yet, if you know me, because I must mention how Shino is a tree.

And up from the hills, Iruka did cry, "Leaving me out? Although you did try, I have arrived and so I will come!" But no one objected because that would just be dumb. Iruka's appearance appeased all the fans as again they all shouted to rise up the band.

"I'll be the Hokage!" Naruto couldn't help but say because he hadn't said it enough yet today.

The bells in the distance drowned out his cry as fireworks exploded brightly up into the sky. They symbolized the coming of a new year and so Naruto knew there was only one way it could go; he would train hard as his resolution to become a great ninja, it was the only solution!

The others chimed in and considered their goals and all decided to train for their roles! After all, they were ninjas and they had to be strong because if they weren't, that'd simply be wrong.

Kurenai, for once, just couldn't argue and wept as Asuma handed her a tissue. In fact, even Asuma had tears in his eyes thanks to the arrival of Neji's happy surprise. They hugged and were merry and cheerful and glad that Neji pulled through and didn't seem mad. They both were so giddy that things had worked out because that's what this year had all been about.

(Can you believe it's been almost three years and I've poured in my love and my sweat and my tears? Enjoy the stats that follow these lines for it took me so long to find all the signs. A story with almost four hundred a page, this is truly the end of one epic age.)

So with those admissions, the group gave a whistle and continued to party in the brush and the thistle. And they heard Gai exclaim with joys and delight,

"Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night!"


Total pages: 342
Total words: 158,462
Total chapters: 73
Total hugs: 19
Total kisses: 9
Total fake holidays: 28
Total original characters: 19
Total piñatas: 2
Total parades: 4
Total giant holes: 2
Total run on sentences: 7
Total Hulk moments: 2
Total holidays based on people not having parents: 3
Total Power Rangers references: 2
Total birthday/Christmas/holiday spars: 4
Total slapped foreheads: 36
Total chapters parents were involved: 17
Total times Team 8 made a sandcastle: 2
Total times Ino called Shikamaru lazy: 20
Total times Shino was like "No": 27
Total times Shino said "I'm Shino": 4
Total times people said "Oh Shino!": 6
Total times Shino made a hilarious joke: 9
Total times Shino was called a tree: 14
Total times Gai punched someone: 4
Total times Gai whipped out his giant knife: 5
Total times someone brought up pushing Neji off a mountain: 7
Total times the fork approached Lee and Tenten: 2
Total times Shikamaru's chuuninhood was referred to: 20
Total times Lee named something after Gai: 3
Total times Kiba and Shino were ambiguously gay: 28
Total times Shikamaru and Chouji were ambiguously gay: 14
Total times holidays were turned into competitions: 8
Total times Neji mentioned the Main or Branch Houses: 16
Total times Kurenai expressed her political correctness: 9
Total times they went know... THAT restaurant: 10
Total times someone wandered the streets of Laredo: 2
Total times Super Future Sakura appeared: 2
Total times Kiba verbally pwned Neji: 11
Total times someone looked underneath the underneath: 13
Total times someone almost or did throw a temper tantrum: 3
Total times they went to the Hokage Mountain/mini golf course: 4
Total times the word "compadres" was used: 4
Total times the Sand Trio appeared in a chapter: 4
Total times Iruka appeared in a chapter: 5
Total times Tenten's pointlessness was referred to: 16
Total times Shikamaru called something troublesome: 27
Total times Neji used the gentle fist as a punishment: 8
Total times a mean trick was played on Shikamaru while he slept: 4
Total times Asuma stroked his beard: 4
Total times Kurenai was compared to MC Hammer: 1
Total times Kiba gave Akamaru the silent treatment: 3
Total times people did things "as an odor": 3
Total times only Team Gai celebrated a holiday: 3
Total times someone drank their troubles away (with Sprite): 2
Total times Naruto shouted, "JESUS!": 1
Total times someone said "NOOOOO!" like Darth Vader: 3
Total times an event was interrupted by an evil ninja: 3
Total times the teachers tried to make a holiday informational: 5
Total times Shino contemplated suicide: 5
Total times Kakashi made a facial gesture no one could see: 6
Total times sex occurred behind the scenes: 1

A/N: Thanks for sticking with me all this time guys! I apologize for really drawing out those last few holidays, and I hope it was worth it. It was really difficult trying to decide how to end it…I went back and forth from having Neji just in bed and skipping the whole thing or making it all fun and dramatic like this, and I think I liked this ending better even though it was a little on the short side. With that said, thanks again, and I hope you enjoyed the story and the stats!