Sakura scrambled up the side of the building, panting slightly as she tried to catch her breath.
"You're late!" Shin said, grabbing her hand as she neared the top.
"Sorry, sorry! Kohana begged me to help her clean the gutters, and I couldn't exactly say no! What's happened so far?"
For the past year and a half or so, whenever they had nothing else planned and wanted a bit of easy entertainment, the chinmoku would as a group ascend to the roof and, while snacking on whatever Juro had brought that day, amuse themselves in the best way they knew how: people watching.
Or, more specifically, genin watching.
"Who's down there today?" Sakura asked, settling between the two boys while Juro fished out a sandwich for her.
"Don't recognize them, but I'd bet anything they're newbies—no cohesion at all." Shin said.
"Take a look yourself."
Immediately below the roof of the office building was Training Ground 16. Training ground 16 was a favored area for recent jounin-senseis because it was basically the closest grounds you could get to the center of the city without them being incredibly small or reserved for the academy. The ground itself wasn't bad either; plenty of open areas, a small pond, and enough randomly distributed trees that teaching tree hopping was a breeze.
Today it seemed a team of three boys and their sensei had it reserved, and the latter had apparently decided the opportunity was best spent teaching teamwork (a favored lesson for any jounin sensei.)
The jounin had decided to do this by blindfolding one, putting earmuffs on another, and muting the third, and then having them all run an obstacle course where any time any of them messed up the other two were sprayed with a water jutsu.
They were, of course, soaked.
Shin snorted. "Useless. They're already flagging enough that it's clear they've been at it for at least two hours and still the blind one is just trying to rely on his own memories, the deaf one is shouting orders without paying any attention to his own surroundings, and the mute one has decided his own 'disability' means that there's absolutely no way he could help his teammates even if he wanted to, so he's not even bothering to try."
"And what would you propose, oh wise one?" Juro needled.
"Anything'd be better than continuing to try the same failed exercise!"
"Alright then, I'll go tell the sensei to start having his students hit each other with fresh carp." Sakura grinned.
"You know what I mean!" Shin whined. Then he smiled. "See, look? The sensei's calling a halt!"
"That can only be a good thing," Juro murmured, "what with him looking like he's ready to murder them and all."
"Oh." Shin disappointingly said a few seconds later. "They're just going off to do a D-rank. That's no fun."
"How can you tell?" Juro asked, squinting at the blurs below.
Sakura answered him, this time: "The Sensei's having them straighten themselves out. He wouldn't bother if they were just going to continue training."
Juro grunted. "Still training, just a different type."
"Fair enough." Sakura conceded. As chinmoku watched the group below them walk in the direction of the Administrative building, however, she couldn't help but wonder if D-ranks were really that useful in teamwork. They helped desensitize civilians to shinobi, yes, and they also taught fairly good if basic undercover skills, but...
Well, she could never quite tell how babysitting would lead to any group suddenly realizing that working together was far more useful than working apart, and that was assuming that they (like the team fading into the distance) hadn't already known that going in.
Regardless, Sakura decided, she had a few more years before she had to worry about enduring the boredom of painting fences. No use starting to think about it now.
A few weeks later found Sakura ducking into a courtroom, this time a few minutes ahead of schedule.
Konoha's courthouse was conveniently located down the block from the Administrative building. It was tall and built in the style of a Nara's meeting house, primarily because it had in fact been Konoha's first Nara meeting house before the clan had moved and the hidden city had asked to 'borrow' the building.
Most of the building was heavily restricted, with police stationed at just about every door inside and out. The upper floors held courtrooms for everything from Public Order cases— 'victimless' crimes, so to speak—to Personal Offense cases (like murder), Property Offense cases (like robbery), and Monetary Offense cases (like tax evasion.) The first floor, however, which held courtrooms for civil cases and some of the lesser criminal cases, was free for the public.
After she'd been thoroughly checked and it had been determined that she posed no risk Sakura had been allowed into courtroom three, which primarily dealt with monetary cases. Aiko, whose life goal was to become the Commerce Department Head, had decided to start attending a few of them a week to see what the trials were like and (after some not-so-subtle hints that she'd like company) Sakura had offered to come along.
Glancing around the courtroom she quickly found that Aiko had already arrived and positioned herself at the foremost bench. The courtroom was shaped in much the way Sakura had expected it to from Aiko's prior descriptions: the rectangular room was divided in half by a sort of pseudo-half-wall. The half nearer to the door had four rows of two benches each, divided in the middle to make a small corridor to the gate, while the huge judges' desk (meant to seat three with plenty of room for documents) splayed across the back wall. The massive desk was bracketed on either side by two smaller desks, presumably for the prosecution and defense, while the witness stand stood facing the judge between the two and, squeezed into the right corner behind the judges, a clerk was already hard at work preparing to create that day's record.
"Hey, Aiko." Sakura murmured as she slid onto the bench next to her.
"Hey." Aiko smiled back. She had a notebook and pen on her lap, ready to go, but she had yet to write anything down.
"So, this is the courtroom?"
"Unless something has gone seriously wrong." Aiko grinned.
"When's the first case supposed to start?"
The Utatane's eyes darted to the clock positioned on the left wall. "Five minutes, give or take."
"It's... more popular than I thought it'd be." Sakura said then. Again her eyes swiveled around the room, taking in not only the positioning of the furniture but also the surprising number of people settled on the benches behind and to the side of the two academy students.
"A lot of them are on trial or witnesses." Aiko explained. "They'll leave after their case is done. The rest are like me, to a point—interested in a career in the Commerce or Justice Department, that is. Now, shush."
In total Konoha had 13 departments—Commerce, which dealt with trade, Finance, which dealt with the money supply within Konoha, Justice, Infrastructure, which dealt with bridges and the like, Health, Education, Research, which researched, War & Security, which oversaw most ninja, Diplomacy, which dealt with international relations, Utilities, which dealt with water and the like, Services, which contained the fire department, and, of course, the Hokage Department, which ran it all.
Most of them, Sakura suspected, were just as boring as they sounded, but then just as she really wanted a career in Research Aiko was just as excited to work for Commerce, so beauty and the eye of the beholder and all that.
Still, it was a bit hard for her to believe that other people would also want to sit here for hours on end to listen to the droning of old men.
She glanced around again, trying to figure out who was there willingly, but none looked remotely as relaxed as Aiko and herself so she decided Aiko was inflating the 'normalcy' of her actions.
"All rise for the respectable Judge Nara, the respectable judge Mitokado, and the respectable judge Suzuki, " an Uchiha police officer abruptly announced. Sakura sat up a bit straighter, watching with as much interest as she could muster as the three judges entered the room.
The first case they oversaw dealt with a shopkeeper who had been found to have been using his brother's connections in the Land of Tea to get around the import tax both Konoha and the Daimyo had placed on food.
He was found guilty.
The second case focused on a man with a restaurant owner who was accused of not paying his workers, and lasted nearly three times as long as the first because the owner was adamant of his innocence (this despite, Sakura noticed, actually admitting no less than four times during his testimony that he had done exactly what he was accused of.)
The third—a case involving a food vendor accused of shortchanging foreigners unused to Konoha's money supply—also ended in a guilty plea, as did the fourth (tax evasion again), the fifth (more wage fraud) and the sixth (tax evasion, Sakura thought, but honestly she wasn't paying that much attention by then.)
"Are they always guilty?" Sakura whispered after the judges decided to leave the room for a quick recess.
"More or less, yes." Aiko said, not looking up from where she was scribbling something in her notebook. "Unlike the Daimyo's court there are no plea deals in Konoha, so every case must go to trial no matter what. All of the actually interesting cases happen in the upper floors, anyway."
"Then what's the use of being here?" She murmured, perhaps a bit more sardonically than intended.
Aiko shot her a look. "Experience. Now stop being rude."
Sakura flushed, but quieted. At the very least this experience gave her some idea of what to look forward to if she ever decided Konoha' or the Land of Fire's import taxes were unreasonable.
Or, at least, what to look forward to if she was as stupid as the first man to be brought up immediately after the recess ended, who argued that he should not be punished because "getting caught was punishment enough—I wasn't even able to make my poker tournament yesterday because I had to prepare for this, your honors! Please give this simple man some sympathy."
"Guilty." Judge Mitokado said without batting an eye. The other two nodded. "Standard punishment." That meant, if Sakura remembered correctly, that the man had to pay double what the tax would have been to both Konoha and the Daimyo unless the latter wanted to challenge and try him in their own courts.
She sighed as the next defendant (a woman accused of fudging her work hours) came to the front, clearly in tears and ready to plead guilty. At least the last one had been somewhat interesting.
She glanced at the clock and resisted the urge to sigh again.
This was how she was spending her Saturday, and the torture wasn't even half over.
Of all the various aspects of the Academy's year four, the one Sakura liked the least was kunoichi lessons.
That was not to say they were hard, of course, just that they were... well...
"—by age, rather than legal definition. That means that even if you become a genin and therefore an adult at, say, ten, you will not begin training for seduction-based missions until you are at least fifteen, and even then only if you chose to.
Nonetheless it is important for all of you to have a basis—"
Sakura, as well as everyone else in the course, had been bright red since about five minutes into class.
She still remembered last year when Fujio had had his own shinobi-specific courses teach him about the same things she was learning now, and she remembered how he had been unable to look anyone in the eye for nearly a week and literally ran in the other direction when Yuna Yamanaka, a sixteen year old clan member who was well known for her beauty, had approached him to ask about whether he'd seen her little brother. At the time Sakura had laughed and teased him about his reactions.
Now she felt mildly apologetic.
"—erogenous zones include, of course, the most obvious parts of the anatomy, such as breasts, but they also include other areas such as the neck and, for many men and women, ears. Which erogenous zone is most effective, of course, depends largely on both the person involved and the desired outcome, but—"
She was six, okay? Six! Her birthday wasn't even for another month and she had to learn about this? Sakura knew for a fact (because of some very unpleasant memory-fishing a couple months ago) that Arden hadn't even begun to learn about anything like this until she was ten (or at least ten-ish—the memory wasn't very clear), so why did she have to know about it now?!
"Fetishes are also an important part of—"
Sakura's face, if possible, turned even redder. In front of her her clanmate Inohina looked ready to feint, and the face of one of the civilian-born student's (also named Sakura, because of course both their parents (as well as the parents of two others in the class) chose the most popular girl's name in Konoha) had turned an odd green-ish color and seemed in no rush to turn back.
Fifteen more minutes... fifteen more minutes...
For all that her life was now built around chakra and fighting and learning and training, Sakura still tried to make time for what was important in life.
In other words she and Kohana still had playdates.
Kohana had taken to collecting carved animal statues a few years prior, so they mostly played with those, creating their own personal "hidden village" of animals to look after.
It was kind of odd, Sakura new, that she, at nearly seven (it was now only a week before her birthday) was simultaneously spending her days learning how to be a skilled killer and some of her evenings lost in her and Kohana's imagination.
Arden, she knew, wouldn't have been comfortable with the dichotomy.
No one else around her seemed to care.
She'd asked her father once, on the rare occasion he was home, and he'd explained that so long as one was capable of doing their job, and doing it well, no one quite cared what else they did;
"And anyway, my little blossom, it's not as if playing is unusual for year fours—I bet there's not a single person in your class who hasn't 'played ninja' sometime in the last month!" (Which had honestly been a fairly accurate statement.)
Still, the easy acceptance of such disparate actions never seemed quite right in Sakura's head.
Not, of course, that that would stop her from playing with Kohana—her sister had just gotten a new wooden duck, after all, and it would be a shame to not welcome the newest member of the hidden village.
(Sakura smiled as she spoke in the high pitched voice they'd given the frog statue, and tried not to think of Arden's memories of a cartoonish version of Orochimaru trying to kill children in a forest. That was for later, she forced herself to remember, and this was now.)