This is it. The final chapter in this arc. Aah, will it be okay? I hope so, I can't bear for anyone to hate it now...
Where the Hell Are We Now!
The days leading up to the imminent departure seemed to pass by in a blur of noise and colours blending into the usual day-to-day affairs; like running the restaurant, needling Sasuke, playing matchmaker, and giving Tsunade a hard time. All too quickly the final night came and it was time to say farewell to Naruto and Bradley.
It would be one of the most memorable send-offs in the blonde-haired jinchuuriki's, if not the entire village of Konohagakure's, lifetime.
Kejibi Mochikaeri was doing all the catering of course; Kotorra not only wanted to keep this gathering between friends but also an opportunity to put her new cooks to the test as this would be the first time they would be cooking without her interference. If they could pass muster here, she'd be able to focus more on running the business and her side projects instead of running around the kitchen.
The party was being held on the roof of the Kejibi's home giving everyone a gorgeous view of the starry night sky. The overhanging trees were draped with streamers and hanging lanterns cast a twinkling, merry light over the festivities.
Everyone appeared to be having a wonderful time, laughing and chatting loudly with each other.
Kiba, Akamaru and Gina sang inane songs on top of one of the tables (well Gina and Akamaru attempted to sing) while Naruto and Konohamaru booed and threw things at them. Even Sasuke cracked a smile (albeit briefly) when the crooning trio tried to drag Neji up there with them and Lee tried to help.
Chouji would not stop singing the praises of the cooks going so far as to say that the restaurant ought to be a place of worship.
"Chouji," Shikamaru said. "you think all restaurants should be a place of worship."
"That's not true, only the really good ones!"
"Either way, does this mean I can finally declare myself a High Priestess?" drawled Kotorra, eliciting chuckles from those gathered around. She glanced at her watch and then looked at the sky. "Oh, it's about that time...Um attention everyone! May I have your attention for a few moments, please? Gina! Kiba! Akamaru! Enough already! You've abused our eardrums enough for the evening!"
"It'll never be enough!" cried (barked) the accused, eliciting another round of laughter.
"Just shut up already!" Kotorra shook her fist at them in mock-rage. Once the giggling stopped she continued. "We're here tonight to bid a fond farewell to our pals Uzumaki Naruto and Bradley Davis as they're going to be leaving us tomorrow. So since we want to send them off with more than just love and good wishes, we'd like to present them with a few parting gifts. Naruto gets to go first."
Naruto was a bit too overwhelmed by emotion to move right away, so Gina grabbed him by the back of his jacket and half-dragged him to the table where all the gifts were set.
From Iruka and Kakashi, he received a new set of kunai and shuriken. Well, truth be told they were really from Iruka; Kakashi had actually gotten him some hentai manga but then remembered who the boy was going to be travelling with and kept the manga for himself.
Gai, and Lee by extension, gave him seven unitards (which Bradley promised to burn for the good of humanity), TenTen gave him a whetstone to sharpen his kunai with, and Neji gifted him with a winter jacket.
"It's kinda big, isn't it?" blinked Naruto, as he waved the sleeves around comically.
"You'll grow." Neji said.
"Doubt it." Chorused Ino and Kiba.
"I will too!" Naruto said, shaking a sleeve at them angrily.
"Ignore them, open your presents." soothed Kotorra, handing him a small box. "This one's from Gina."
Placated for now, Naruto tore open his gift, eagerly lifting out the contents: a small porcelain fox charm on a red, silk string. It looked like it was about to pounce on something, and its tiny eyes seemed to sparkle with mischief.
"Gina-neechan, where did you get this?" Naruto asked, awed.
"What do you mean "get"? I'll have you know I made that!" Gina said, haughtily. "I even went to the trouble of doing it the hard way! No easy feat let me tell you!" Everyone was rather impressed as the piece was only about two inches long and held incredible detail. You could even see the individual whiskers.
The next gift that was opened was from Sasuke; it was a dictionary. The Uchiha earned himself a dirty look from the blonde for his trouble. Naruto was more pleased with the gift he got from Chouji and Shikamaru: a book of ramen recipes.
"I will treasure this forever-ttebayo!"
"Whatever, open ours next Naruto!" yelled Kiba, Akamaru barking from his jacket. The blonde obliged, pulling out what appeared to be a bandolier. However, instead of slots for bullets, there were scroll and kunai holders.
Hinata's gift was a box of tinctures, elixirs, and bandages. Shino got him a sewing kit.
"You have a tendency to rip your clothes." The quiet boy explained.
Ino's gift was the next to be opened: a new backpack. Immediately following that was Sakura's gift; the blonde eagerly ripped open the box but took great care in pulling out the contents.
"A handmade friendship bracelet! How cute!" leered Gina, causing Sakura's face to match her hair.
"Thanks Sakura-chan!" beamed Naruto, hurriedly placing it on his wrist. "I promise I won't take it off until I come home!"
"Here Naruto, use it in good health and clear conscience." Kotorra said, handing him something that caused Jiraiya to pale; a Smiter.
"Why did you give him that!" wailed the sennin.
"Mostly to watch you squirm." She gave one of her infamous sharkish leers.
The final present came from Tsunade in the form of a silver chain for the Shodai's pendant.
Then it was Bradley's turn to receive gifts.
While he didn't get as many as Naruto, he did manage to get one from Sasuke that wasn't a veiled insult: a new pair of boots. Bradley had been going barefoot ever since they'd left Suna and had never gotten around to being fitted for shoes.
"Man, that has got to be the nicest thing he's ever done for...anyone. Ever." Kiba commented.
"Well, now I wouldn't say that..." muttered Gina, having heard the story of the Wave mission from Naruto. "Asshat has his moments, rare though they are."
"Thanks a bunch man." Bradley said to the Uchiha. Sasuke shrugged off the compliment. Kotorra and Gina wished they hadn't taken his BorgFish off so they could "hear" what the broody avenger was thinking.
"Now that we're done with the presents," Kotorra announced. "please direct your eyes to the skies as the show is about to begin!"
An almost blindingly bright flash above them drew everyone's attention immediately to the sky. When it dimmed, shooting stars in a myriad of colours streaked across the sky awing the Konoha ninja and eliciting wistful smiles from the Wild Cards.
"It's amazing!" gasped Hinata. "I've never seen so many shooting stars before!"
"And never in so many colours." Tsunade added, then glanced at the Wild Cards. What she was seeing was impossible, the kind of impossible that seemed to be the Kejibi's calling card. They only grinned at her before pointing back up towards the sky.
The shooting stars were now forming patterns: the Konoha insignia, a dog, a fox, birds flying in formation, what could only be a bowl of ramen, and finally a written message.
"What does that say?" Lee asked what all the ninja were thinking. Unfortunately the Kejibi were laughing too hard to answer.
High in the sky, written in Universal Standard were the words: Eat at Ichiraku's.
Morning came and the remaining members of Team 7, Tsunade and Iruka gathered at the gate to see Naruto, Jiraiya and Bradley off.
"If Bradley or Naruto come back perverts I'll hang you by your balls from the Hokage Tower with your own hair." Kotorra glared at the toad hermit.
"Eh heh heh...I'm certain that won't be necessary..." Jiraiya chuckled nervously. Tsunade put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.
"See that it won't be Jiraiya or I'll let her."
"And I'll help." Iruka added. Jiraiya gave a nervous squeak.
"Be safe Naruto." Gina said, pulling the blonde into a hug. Naruto returned it.
"You too Gina-neesan. Say hello to Gaara for me when you get to Suna."
"Oh you know I will."
"Man, I'm gonna miss everyone." Sighed Bradley, before turning to Sasuke, Sakura, and Kakashi. "I'm counting on you to take care of my friend."
"And we expect you to do the same with ours." Kakashi nodded. Bradley smiled at him.
With a jaunty wave and wide grins, the trio turned to leave the village. Naruto suddenly stopped.
"When I come back," he said grinning. "you'd better be ready 'cause I'm gonna be even stronger than you Sasuke!"
"Heh, not in a thousand years dobe!" Sasuke smirked back. "And when you come back I'll prove it to you."
Before Naruto could retort, Jiraiya pulled him into a headlock. "Stop trying to act cool and come on. We're wasting daylight." The short blonde yelled and protested as he was literally hauled like a sack of potatoes.
"It's not going to be the same around here with him away." Iruka said quietly.
"No." Tsunade agreed. "But, let's think of it as a three year lull before the hurricane comes back."
To be continued.