AN: Note that I do not own Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, or any of the characters from either Anime. This work is a fanfiction written out of my love for the series and not in any attempt to make a profit.
Proofread by: Author
The usage of the Transformation technique in canon is heavily underutilized in my opinion. Only someone who takes the time to truly understand the basics and practices them well will ever understand the value and versatility of the E-rank jutsu. With how Sakura had little to no other techniques to practice, I say it is fair to consider her to be someone who by now, understands those techniques very well, and would therefore be able to make the best out of them.
Chapter 89: To transform, heaven's entry
Sakura was relieved as they finally caught up to Naruto, Hinata, and Pakku. After all, it was way safer to travel in numbers, especially when possibly pursued by enemy Shinobi. Sakura frowned at the thought, looking back at Asuma with a bit of a frown. He had decided not to kill the Otogakure-nin he had knocked out, leaving them in favor of catching up with Naruto's team. Sakura didn't agree with the decision, since the enemy could end up waking up before they found Sasuke, and would once again pose a risk, if not to them, then to other Shinobi nearby. Of course, deep down, Sakura felt that it wasn't her only reasoning. After all, a bigger kill count would look a lot better on her mission report, likely proving her worth as a Shinobi and potentially guaranteeing her a promotion to Chūnin. Even if the exam itself had been interrupted, actual war was a decent substitute, that's when battlefield promotions were a thing after all, and it was also the original form of the Chūnin Exam.
Sadly, Asuma outranked her, and his judgment was the one she should follow. Perhaps Asuma thought it better to capture them as prisoners afterward for interrogation.
Of course, any such thoughts fled Sakura's mind as Naruto welcomed them all, loudly. Earning him a bump to the head. "Idiot, do you want more enemies to find us?" Sakura questioned him, glad to see Naruto get the message as he winced and shook his head while rubbing the forming bump on his head.
"That's a clever way to use the transformation technique," Hinata told Sakura, not even looking back as they continued to travel. Sakura was surprised for a brief moment, before realizing that Hinata likely had her Byakugan active, allowing her to see her chakra, as well as behind her, without turning her head.
"Thanks, it took a while to master, but I'm glad I did." Sakura thanked Hinata, smiling in appreciation for her to have acknowledged her effort.
"Um, what are you two talking about? I mean, I can see that Sakura looks older now, but what's so useful about it?" Naruto asked, before blushing, deciding to backtrack as he felt he might have insulted her or something. "Not that you don't look good like this, I like it, I just don't see the point." He explained.
"It's a matter of taking advantage of an adult body. Because her limbs are longer, Sakura now has longer reach when it comes to her movements, and with more muscle mass, she's become stronger." Asuma explains, which Sakura confirms with a nod.
"It's not perfect, however. It takes a constant supply of chakra to pull off, especially as I stress the transformation. Also, while I gain an adult body, I don't gain the reflexes, or instincts of one. I had to train for a long while to not trip over my own feet whenever I transformed. I still can't throw kunai or shuriken very well like this, so it's a bad idea to fight like this until I've gotten some more training." Sakura explained, frowning slightly at the thought. The effort she had put into mastering her transformations was honestly ridiculous for what essentially amounted to a temporary boost. After all, the closer she came to being an actual adult, the less of a boost the transformation would yield until it would instead be a downgrade of her actual abilities. Most Shinobi wouldn't bother to put in the time, choosing instead to learn something else that would take half the time to master, like a new offensive jutsu of some kind. Well, Sakura hadn't had that kind of luxury.
Besides, she could always change her transformation, adjust it to be more useful as she grew up and she learned more of how to construct a more accurate and refined version of herself.
"Still, it is impressive. It is possible that if you keep working on it, it might turn into something entirely new." Asuma tried to encourage her, which Sakura appreciated and let him know with a thankful smile.
"I kind of wonder if I should take the time to master transforming into a dog. I'd be a lot faster…" Kiba mused, and Sakura suddenly felt like an idiot as she smacked herself in the face with the palm of her hand, exciting complaints from Karin.
"Sorry, Karin. I just feel like an idiot. I just remembered I have another transformation that could let me reach Sasuke a lot faster if I carry Karin with me as something small." Sakura explained, choosing to stop on the next branch.
"Wait, Karin?" Naruto asked, confused as they all stopped as a group.
"S-she's riding on Sakura's head, transformed." Hinata pointed out to Naruto. Sakura couldn't help but smile at how much Hinata seemed to have improved concerning both her shyness, as well as her increased shyness around Naruto.
"Wait, really?" Naruto asked, surprised, while Sakura took the wireless radio off, allowing Karin to land next to her.
"So, what should I transform into? It'll be easier if I know what you're transforming into." Karin pointed out, and Sakura couldn't help but smile as she formed the ram hand seal, and was replaced by a white dove.
"Now, isn't that something," Pakku commented while everyone else stood still, shocked for a moment. Amused, Sakura jumped into the air, flapped her wings and flew up and landed on Karin's head.
"And you can even fly in this form," Karin said, amazed, to which Sakura nodded, exaggerating the movement to include her neck, making sure everyone saw. "You can't speak as a dove. That's a bit of a drawback. Right, I think I can manage something like a wireless radio again, just don't drop me. I don't have anything I can transform into to slow my fall." Karin points out, to which Sakura nods again, jumping off of Karin's head and landing on the branch again, letting Karin transform.
"I'm not so certain it's a good idea for us to split up. Granted, not much would be able to touch you two up in the sky as long as you remain hidden, but it's dangerous. I won't be able to help you if something goes wrong." Asuma explains his worries.
"What do you think, Heikō?" Sakura asked her sister.
"I think we should hurry. Sasuke is strong, but he's up against three others. He'll need us." Heikō pointed out, and Sakura immediately agreed, looking up at Karin to see what she decided.
Karin in turn looked at Asuma. "It seems Sakura is insisting on going ahead. If the rest of you can also turn into something light enough for her to carry, I imagine we could all get to Sasuke faster." Karin pointed out. Asuma seemed to consider the idea, while Kiba and Naruto frowned.
"I'm not really good at transforming into inanimate objects," Kiba explained with reluctance before Naruto backed him up.
"It's a lot harder. I've never tried being something really small before either." Naruto added, before bringing his hands together in a ram seal. In a puff of smoke, Naruto was replaced by kunai. It was smaller than a regular one but still too large for Sakura to even lift if it weighed anything close to what the real thing would. In another puff of smoke, Naruto was back, still scowling.
"I think Sakura and Karin will have to go on ahead." Hinata pointed out, not looking too happy with the idea either.
"Wait, how will you even find Sasuke? With the canopy in the way, a bird's eye view might not do it." Asuma pointed out, only for Karin to smile.
"I'm a chakra sensor, I can just about feel Sasuke from here. And Sakura also has her own tracking abilities. Although, she can seemingly sense anything but chakra, and in a smaller range." Karin explains, which has Sakura rolling her eyes at how severely Karin was underselling her abilities, as well as her own.
"That's impressive, for both of you actually. Alright, if you two are sure about this, go and back up Sasuke, get him back to the village." Asuma tells them, and Karin nods, before transforming into an even smaller version of the wireless radio she had been before.
With Karin transformed, Sakura lifts into the air, skillfully picking Karin up with her claws, and flies up into the sky.
Sakura can't help but feel amazed as she soars high above the forest. Certainly, Heikō and her had flown before using their transformation, but it had all been a test at that point, careful calibration, and testing to ensure that they wouldn't plummet to their death after taking a leap of faith. Their thoughts had constantly been on their calculations and analysis of their tests. In addition, they had been very careful not to be seen as they practiced, which usually gave their flights a sense of urgency. This time, however, everything was different. Sure, there was still a sense of urgency to reach Sasuke as soon as possible, but it was still different. Instead of an urgency to go back, they needed to move forward, towards Sasuke.
For once, Sakura and Heikō felt as if they could truly appreciate their flight. It was breathtaking. The sky suddenly seemed to stretch forever, and the higher they climbed in their flight, the more the ground below them seemed to expand as well. Sakura let out a relaxed breath, enjoying the cold air filling her lungs as she breathed in and took the situation in. It was liberating, to feel the wind, air under her wings, and know that she was in control. For a moment, she was the ruler of the sky, and nothing could stop her.
"Wow." Heikō thought, and Sakura agreed with her, giddy to try their capabilities without any self-imposed restrictions for once.
Unfortunately, the moment was soon ruined as Karin spoke up. "Sakura, I think that's enough. I can barely feel Sasuke anymore. If you climb anymore, we'll lose him… It's also pretty cold up here." Karin pointed out, and Sakura regretfully lowered their altitude, bringing them down to a much more favorable height. "That's better. Now, turn fourteen degrees to your left, and we'll be heading straight for Sasuke." Karin informed Sakura, and Sakura obeyed, altering their course.
As they fly in silence, Sakura nudges Heikō with a mental push, asking her to join her in planning. It was likely they'd have to fight as they arrived. With the transformation slowly eating away at their chakra, they would have to think of a plan, preferably one that capitalized on their unexpected arrival, from the sky. As several ideas began to form, Sakura couldn't help but smile. It wasn't reflected in her transformation, as there was no way for the beak to curve, but Sakura smiled none-the-less. Let Sasuke be the witness to all their hard work.
As soon as Sasuke was in sight, Sakura dove straight for him. Things weren't looking well for him. He had managed to catch up to the Suna-nin, but it had ended up costing him badly. Besides Gaara, neither Temari nor Kunkaro had fought in the final stage of the exam, and therefore had their full chakra reserves to draw upon. On top of it, they were part of the same team, experienced in working together. Lastly, they were fighting two against one, and Sasuke had been fighting against Gaara before that.
Sakura was glad that the worst damage she could spot on Sasuke was a shallow looking cut along his right arm and cuts in his clothes. Otherwise, he seemed largely unharmed. However, Sasuke had realized the odds were against him, and he was trying to retreat, moving back the way he had come.
Temari was using her fan, trying to blow Sasuke out of the trees, while cutting down said trees each time he managed to avoid her attacks. Kankuro was carrying Gaara on his back, but looked largely unbothered by the weight of his brother and his gourd, while focusing on controlling his puppet, trying to kill Sasuke with it.
Smirking to herself, Sakura noted how none of them were paying attention to anything but their opponent/s. Coming in behind the Suna-siblings, Sakura let go of Karin, allowing her transformation to drop before catching Karin as her feet made contact with the wood underneath. The loud thud as she landed brought the gazes of all three conscious Genin towards her, and just as Karin reverted to normal, dropping her own transformation, Sakura rapidly formed the hand seals for snake and rat, using one of the few Jutsu that Kakashi had inadvertently taught her, even if he hadn't meant to. "Demonic Illusion: Hell viewing technique." Sakura thought to herself as she snared both Temari and Kankuro in her technique.
AN: A little surprise for the end, no? How do you think the Suna Genin siblings will react to the Demonic Illusion: Hell viewing technique? Any guesses? Also… did Sakura just catch Sasuke in the same technique? I wonder…
Alright, enough with the teasing. I suppose I should discuss this sudden change in how the chase after Sasuke went. In canon, Temari had been fighting in the final stage, so she was not well suited to delay Sasuke, who manages to beat her, and then go after Kankuro. Here, however, she remains fully rested, and together with Kankuro, their chances are a lot higher than they were in canon for beating Sasuke. When it comes to the moment for fight or flight, it shifted to fight this time. Honestly, I would normally say that Sasuke could win against such odds as he is now, but certain, additional factors that need to be taken into consideration, and Sasuke now has his own reasons to be retreating from this battle, something we wouldn't otherwise see from canon Sasuke.
Sadly, Shino isn't here to come to Sasuke's help as he did in canon. No female beetle on Sasuke for him to follow him by.