Title: The Transformation

Title: The Transformation

Pairing: Not confirmed yet, open for suggestions

Rating: PG-13 - R

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto this is merely for entertainment purposes.

'Italic' Thoughts

"…." Speech

'Bold' Kyuubi talking

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CHAPTER SEVEN

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Storming away from Ichiruka, Saukra was mumbling under her breath how everything seems to revolve around Natsuko now that she was back. She was supposed to the centre of attention not that little tramp. But everything seemed to have fallen apart the moment she was back. Tsunade-sensei had singled her out for the upcoming medic-nin evaluation. Sasuke refused to take her side at Ichiruka. Ino and all her friends or rather who she thought were her friends were making fun of her instead of helping her. They of all people should know that with the Kyuubi being sealed in Natsuko, she is a danger to them all. Especially if the seal that the Fourth had placed on her had been able to weaken before, what was stopping it from weakening again? No one had understood the meaning behind it. Natsuko should be put down before she could cause more harm. But instead, it had seemed as if someone had blindfolded all of them. Since everyone seemed to regard her as some kind of hero.

"If no one is going to do anything, I guess it's up to me then." Sakura smirked. She had plans to destroy Natsuko completely. And if the death of Natsuko would cause Sasuke to hate her, she would accept it for it wouldn't be long after Natsuko's death that he would be grateful for it and perhaps even realised that the love of his life is in front of him all along.

Now she just needed some help to put her plan in motion. Sakura was just about to enter her room, when she caught sight of her mother in the living room. Surely, her mother would be able to help her with her plan. She had remembered her mother was the first person to show her hatred towards Natsuko especially the time when Team 7 was formed.

"Mother, I have something of importance to discuss with you." Sakura started the conversation. She would need to determine the reason behind hatred towards Natsuko before she could discuss her plans further. "I have recently been told of the biggest secret that everyone in Konoha have been keeping silent for seventeen years." That should start the ball rolling Sakura thought.

"Yes…this secret that you speak of Sakura, does it have to do with a baby boy and a fox?"

It would seemed that her mother knew what she was talking about but was reluctant to speak of it, perhaps she just needed a few prompting in the right direction from her beloved daughter. "Yes mother. It would seem that the baby boy was actually a baby girl in disguise, and apparently she had just return to her home. Mother, I need to know why you resent this baby girl."

"Sakura, during the attack seventeen years ago, my brothers, your uncles, and the only other family I had were killed. I know it isn't right for me to place the blame on the baby. But if your family had been killed…"

"Mother, I understand. I'm not blaming you for your resentment. In fact I need your help in bringing down this baby girl." With the knowledge that her mother had just presented, she was secured in letting her know of the meeting that had taken placed earlier in the day as well as her plans to bring about Natsuko's downfall.

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At the same time, while Sakura was plotting with her mother over at the Haruno's household, things were going rather well at Ichiruka. The rest of the former Rookie nine and Neji's old genin team had told her what had happened over the five years when Natsuko was gone.

Kiba and Neji who were being promoted to chuunin shortly after the peace had returned to Konoha. Shino, along with Tenten had passed the exam a year later when the chuunin exams were resumed. Hinata, Ino, Lee, Sakura and Sasuke on the other hand had passed only on the second year after the invasion, incidentally the year that Sasuke's house arrest had ended.

During their talk, Natsuko saw that everyone was not as close as they had once been in the past. It seemed that they had all split up into several smaller groups. Shikamaru and Ino were still close, mainly to do with their close family ties. In addition, it would appear that Shikamaru had become a hermit of sorts.

She had gathered that Kiba, Shino, Tenten had been promoted to a jounin just under a year while Neji and Shikamaru had been a jounin for nearly two years. The rest were still at chuunin level, however many of them had branched out. Ino was an academy teacher while Hinata was a medic-nin who was about to be promoted to a jounin. Lee on the other hand had been forced to retire after the chuunin exam when his old injuries were aggravated and was now teaching taijutsu at the Taijutsu School.

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"Natsuko…I need to speak with you for a moment." Ino said as the others walked into a weapon shop, directing her to a nearby bench instead.

"Sure Ino. What is it you want to speak to me about?"

"I assumed that you noticed how Shikamaru was during lunch just now. It's just…after the death of Chouji… Even though both he and I were badly affected by the news, Shikamaru took the news worst. He had isolated himself from almost everyone save for a selected few after the Chouji's funeral.

He's depressed without a doubt, but for the past five years, he has turned into a living corpse. His eyes are hollow even now you could still see the haunted look in his eyes, the thought that he had failed his friend haunts his every waking hour. You could just imagine the stress he had been on. I heard from his parents that they were thinking of taking him off active shinobi duty for a while so that his family could help him with the depression. But I think taking him off active duty now would do more harm than good. The only good thing that came out of Chouji's death was that Shikamaru had become more seriously about his work. Especially if you saw how fast he was promoted to chuunin team leader followed by the promotion to a jounin. My dad had said that there have been talks about promoting him to a team leader but…"

When it was clear that Ino had no intention of continuing, Natsuko had decided to ask, "So what do you expect me to do? If you, someone who have known Shikamaru since you two were babes couldn't get through to him, what makes you think that I could?"

"I know you can Natsuko, because during the meeting, it was the first time since five years that Shikamaru had spoken without being directed at. I know that if anyone could do it, it would be you Natsuko! There was this spark in his eyes when he defended you, a spark no one had ever seen since five years ago. Please Natsuko, I beg you. At least just try to talk to him."

"I'll try Ino but there is no promise that I would be the one to drag him out of this depression."

"Thank you. That is all I ask for." Ino let out a relived sigh. It was all she was hoping for, a chance to bring back the former Shikamaru. Although she herself had hoped that eventually she would be the one to bring him out of his depression but it seemed that it was time that she hand the task over to someone more capable.

Ever since Chouji's death, nothing seemed the same anymore. It was like someone had turned on the switch in her, a wake up call. No longer was she this naive person, thinking everything would be alright. Her crush on Sasuke had died out and she slowly became quieter and reluctant to socialise but over the years she had started to open up with encouragement from her family, Hinata and Tenten. Her friendship with Sakura however came to a standstill. It wasn't because she resented Sakura or even Sasuke for that matter regarding Chouji's death. Their friendship had long ago weakened due to their rivalry over Sasuke and with the events happening around her over the years, her friendship with Sakura wasn't the first thing on her mind to salvage. She had more important things to concern herself over with.

Hinata and Tenten had seen Ino take Natsuko aside and realised that she might be talking to Natsuko about Shikamaru. None of them could deny the fact that when Shikamaru jumped to Natsuko defence during the meeting there was this flicker of suppressed emotion. It was as if he was punishing himself for Chouji's death. Since Chouji can't live, neither was he allowed to either. This would explain his subconscious effort in suppressing his emotion, since he was not supposed to live either. Therefore the two of them would ensured that the guys would not interfere so as to give the them a little privacy.

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On her way back home, Natsuko was thinking of ways to talk with Shikamaru when she thought of something, "Kyuu…what was the reason Shukaku is in such everlasting rage? Was it because of being trapped in Gaara?"

"Not exactly, I would say that the real reason is due to the sand priest that had summoned Shukaku to this world. He was power crazy to have thought that if he could were to fused with the demon he would be immortal but as he did not have the ability to soothe Shukaku after they fused, he slowly went crazy.

Gaara, I would say was just a recipient of an insane demon, if we are able to bring Gaara to Shizenki, the council might just be able to do something about it. The question would be the amount of Shukaku's sanity that would be preserved after being trapped in that state for decades.

But this recent year due to your ability, it had allowed Shukaku some kind of break from the insanity. He might just be on his way towards recovery. I suspect this is the reason why Gaara doesn't have such an arduous time controlling it lately as Shukaku seems to be helping him as well. But kit, you should know that there isn't much longer we can drag the situation. The longer we delay, the harder it would be to reverse the effects. The question now is how to bring Gaara to Shizenki. Kit the best way is to go through the ritual hence you would need to find that scroll your dad is talking about."

"What if we were to get more people to increase the amount of charka? Would that be possible to send both Gaara and I to Shizenki?"

"I would need to think about it kit. It has never been done before, travelling with someone to Shizenki. Every time when a council member was sent to this world, we had always travelled alone. It would be best if I have the scroll detailing the process of the ritual to see if we would be able to reach Shizenki safely."

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"Shikamaru."

"Natsuko."

With a small sigh, Shikamaru lied back on the ground with his arms folded behind his head, making no effort to get up. He continued to watch the clouds floated by, reminiscing about the past when the sun shone brighter.

"I missed him too." She smiled at him sadly, knowing that he would know who she was referring to.

"Hn."

"You know, I find it hard to imagine that he's gone. It's just… every time I think about it, I always imagined that he would be at the barbeque store stuffing himself, not like this. You know he would never have wanted you to live your life like this when he was gone. He would have wanted you and Ino to live both your lives to the fullest. It wasn't your fault. If anyone is to be blame it should be me. I was the one…"

"No! I'm the one to blame. I was the one who allowed him to remain behind. I was the one who was not strong enough to help him. It was my fault, all my fault…"

"Shikamaru…you know that is not right. Answer me. Did you know that consuming multiple Houren Pills was deadly?"

"No. It never seemed to have been a problem with the Akimichi clan before."

"Yes, and if you had known that the usage of multiple Houren Pills would be deadly for Chouji would you have allowed him to remain behind by himself knowing that he would need to consume multiple Houren Pills?"

"No. I would never. I would have stayed behind myself or assigned a different person."

"But how would you be able to help Chouji yourself when we did not have enough people to face each enemy? Even if you were to assign him to a different enemy, how could you be sure that he won't need to consume multiple Houren Pills as he did before? There was no way to know that Chouji would have such an adverse effect towards the pills. You yourself said it the Akimichi clan had never have a problem with consuming the pills before. And you trust Chouji enough to know that he would be able to defeat the enemy, there wasn't a need to assign someone else or assign someone to help him.

You need to understand his death is not your fault. You had done nothing wrong, the most you have done was to trust a friend's ability and that is not wrong. If you want blame, you should blame the doctors or me. I was the one that chose him. I was the one that did not choose enough people for the mission. The doctors did not manage to detect his allergy towards the medication. They were the ones did not manage to cure him. For all you want, you could blame Sasuke for his abandonment which led to this whole guilt trip. Not you." Natsuko ranted.

"It's not your fault nor is it the doctors' fault. I know I'm not the one to blame but I can't help it. There wasn't anything I would do differently at that time without knowing his reaction to the pills. But, it's just that! I would never see him again, it's forever!" Shikamaru replied sullenly.

"He's not gone forever you know. He still lives on in our hearts and memories. I know it's hard, but it will get better. Time lessen the pain in our heart and the losses we experienced. If you ask me, I know he is somewhere watching over us as we continue on with our lives. But only by living fully would we be respecting his death.

To do so, you will need to let go before you can move on. I'm not asking you to forget his death for it is our past that moulds us into what we are today. All I'm asking is that you acknowledge his death. That would be the first step you're taking towards recovery. There are many people that are willing to help you triumphed over this period of darkness but you have to reach out for it. No one would be able to help you if you don't help yourself first." Natsuko pointed out rationally.

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Some readers some would say its wrong how I portray Sakura just know that I do not really hate Sakura as a character but every story needs villains and she just happen to fit in perfectly for the role I need her to play. Sorry if some of you may not like it.

Let me know if there's any mistake I was rushing out the chapter to take notice of them. Thank you everyone that review.