Title: Early Enrollment
Summary: Drafting isn't a process in use anymore. At least, it's not called that anymore.
Author Note: Long time no see! Again :( Sorry. No excuses. Well. Maybe one. I finished my Naruto BigBang! :) Some forty thousand words! (I may or may not have a sequel already started...) (also, I am not dead and neither are these stories!)
When Shikaku knocks on the Haruno door, Sakura is the one to open it. He's met her before, when Ino came over to play with Shikamaru, and Shikaku had seen something rather extraordinary in the little girl. He watches Sakura curtsy and her face light up.
"Shikaku-san!" She turns and starts pushing at her father's knees to let him in, "Come in!"
Shikaku looks to her father for permission to enter the house as he thanks Sakura for inviting him in. He's here to draft the man's daughter and Haruno-san understands that. Although it's not called 'drafting' unless it's during wartime, there really isn't another word for what he's doing. He'd like to call it early enrolment, but being a ninja isn't like going to college. It's a bloody career in a shadow military and he's here to tell Haruno-san that his daughter will be a very good killer.
He steps into the house when Haruno nods to him and easily slips his sandals off, following Sakura into the kitchen when she gestures for him and her father to follow her.
Sakura hauls out a stool from the island and drags it across the floor to the cabinets. She climbs up it and grabs the plate of cookies sitting there. They're peanut butter flavoured and Shikaku's always liked peanut butter.
"Would you like a cookie, Shikaku-san?" She smiles up at him shyly, balancing the plate carefully on her hands as she holds it up to him. "I helped Mama make them," She tells him with a bright, accomplished gaze.
"That would be lovely, thank you, Sakura-chan," Shikaku takes one of the cookies from the plate and Sakura blushes when he ruffles her short pink hair
Haruno pulls a chair out for Shikaku and after the Nara takes his seat, sits across the table from him, "So, Sakura-chan, introduce me to your friend." He tells his daughter and Shikaku can hear suspicion in his voice. Shikaku is pretty sure that the reason Haruno is suspicious is because Shikaku is a well known ninja and the Harunos are a rather plain civilian family. He doesn't sound like he's going to object too strenuously to Shikaku's proposal though.
"Daddy, this is Shikaku Nara. He's Ino-chan's Dad's best friend. Shikaku-san, this is my Daddy, Takumi Haruno."
Shikaku nods to Takumi and Takumi nods back.
They both know exactly who the other man is and Shikaku is playing along with Takumi for Sakura's sake.
"Sakura-chan, why don't you go and finish up your homework?" Takumi takes Sakura's hand and pulls the little girl to him. She hugs him tight, kisses his cheek and bounces away, happily humming. Shikaku isn't the only one that notices that she stops at the top of the stairs and then crouches down to eavesdrop on their conversation.
She's good, but she's still only a child yet.
"Haruno-san, I'm here to ask you and your family something."
Takumi purses his lips and bows his head. "You want Sakura," He murmurs and then looks up at Shikaku. Shikaku can see the condemnation in his eyes and though he doesn't like it, he's used to it.
He knows it's not good that he's used to being looked at like a murderer and killer. He doesn't want that for anyone, but Konoha is his life and he has to protect it in every way he knows.
Which means that if he has to draft a little girl into a ninja career and turn her into a deadly killer, that's what he'll do.
"We do," Shikaku answers. "She's shown a remarkable brilliance for her age, as well as chakra control far surpassing any person currently in the academy. We think she could graduate in one year, if she puts her mind to it."
Takumi lays his hands flat on the table and Shikaku distracts himself by taking a small bite of the cookie. It's quite good.
"Who are 'we', Nara-sama?"
Shikaku licks a crumb from his lips and blinks slowly, "Intelligence." He doesn't have to answer Takumi's questions, but thinks it will be easier to get Takumi to agree to giving up his only child if he has more information. It's not classified anyway.
"Who reported Sakura-chan to Intelligence?" Takumi asks, not taking his hands off the table. Shikaku knows the man is angry and trying to control himself and he understands. Shikamaru is smart enough to go to the academy this early, but the boy is too lazy to do any of the work and would fail miserably on purpose. Sakura is driven in a way that he hasn't seen in a while.
Takumi takes a deep breath and then lets it out slowly. "Sakura's new friend, Ino-chan. She is Yamanaka-sama's daughter?"
"Yes," Shikaku has to answer these questions before he can get his own answer from the Haruno. Everything is give and take and he has to give Takumi his answers before he can take Takumi's daughter.
The man leans back in his chair, studying his hands and Shikaku can hear Sakura shift at the top of the stairs. "Ino-chan will be a ninja, won't she?" Takumi's question isn't so much an actual question as it is a rhetorical. Takumi already knows that Ino will be kunoichi, just as he knows that Konoha will only wait so long before enticing his daughter into joining the academy with or without his permission.
"How long do I have?" Takumi asked softly. At least Shikaku won't have to explain what was going on, since the man already knows. All three of the Haruno's are exceptionally smart so it's not surprising that Takumi doesn't need more information.
"Less than a month," Shikaku murmured back. They need to know if she will be joining the academy this year or next year. If Takumi and Shiori let her join this year, Sakura would be in class with Sasuke and Naruto, two other early admittance, and they will be able to bond since they are all about the same age. If Sakura isn't allowed to join this year, Shikaku and Inoichi will use the year to dredge up some obscure law about knowing ninja techniques and force the little girl to go to the academy next year. While it won't be nice for all parties involved, it won't be that hard to actually get done.
"I'd like to talk it over with my wife," Takumi swallows harshly and breathes in a very controlled manner. He obviously doesn't want his daughter to become a killer, never mind so young, but Shikaku has a job to do and this is part of it.
There is only one way to bypass Sakura's enrolment into the academy and that would be to go to the Hokage himself and convince the man that Sakura doesn't want to be kunoichi.
Takumi obviously knows that would be a pointless exercise though because even Shikaku has heard Sakura profess to wanting to be ninja.
"Take whatever time you need, Haruno-san," Shikaku doesn't want to intrude on this family more than he already has, so he stands - leaving most of his cookie on the table - and gives Takumi a short bow. "Please remember that we will teach her how to defend herself." Takumi resists a scowl at him and Shikaku nods, "We don't want Sakura as 'cannon fodder', Takumi-san. We want her as one of our premiere kunoichi. We want Sakura to show off our strength and abilities. We wouldn't be able to do that unless she was the best and we wouldn't be steamrolling you and your family unless we thought that she was the best."
"Thank you for coming and talking to me directly, Nara-sama," Takumi stands as well and starts towards the door, expecting Shikaku to follow him, which the Nara does. He doesn't want to offend Takumi anymore than he already has and he doesn't want the Haruno family to hold a grudge against the Naras.
Shikaku slips his sandals back on and let's himself be hurried out the door. He isn't insulted with the speed Takumi uses, understanding the man's feelings about him.
Inoichi meets him several blocks away with a curious cat-like look on his face. Shikaku sighs and shakes his head. "It's not going to be easy to get them to agree."
Inoichi smirks, "I think your underestimating Sakura-chan. She really wants to be a ninja and I sensed her at the top of the stairs overhearing your conversation with her father. She'll convince him."
"I don't have your faith in her commitment to ninja-hood, but I'm not the father of her best friend, am I?" Shikaku runs a hand over his hair and rolls his head to the side, cracking his neck. "Did you sense her naturally using chakra to enhance her hearing?" He asks and Inoichi nods with a wide grin.
"She's going to be simply amazing when she's had some proper instruction," Inoichi mused, a pleased look on his face. "It helps that because she's so good, Ino-chan has started to work harder on her own to get ready for the academy. If Sakura helps Ino out, Ino might be ready to join the academy a year or even two early."
Shikaku stroked a hand over his hair and cracked his neck, stretching out. "Do you think that would work with Shikamaru? I tried the competitive thing with him against other boys, but he didn't seem to care. You think he might take the challenge of a girl knowing just as much if not more than him?"
"I think that you should half-gloat about her accomplishments and watch to see if Shikamaru takes it as a challenge. As lazy as the boy is, he doesn't like to lose." Inoichi smirks and cracks his knuckles, "I imagine that if you were to set up of competition when both of them were there, it could be fun to see Shikamaru actively involved."
"So," Shikaku cocks his head to the side and gives Inoichi an assessing look, "-when is Sakura next visiting your house?"
Inoichi glances out at him from the corner of his eye as they jump to the roof tops to speed their way back to Shikaku's office, "Next Friday. Ino-chan invited Sakura-chan for a sleepover."
Shikaku snorts, "Is it nice to have a daughter?" He mutters rhetorically, "You get to deal with ribbons and dresses and children playing house. Poor Chou has to deal with mud and blood and fisticuffs over frogs." Inoichi clears his throat and Shikaku looks at him then realizes what he insinuated by leaving his son out of it. "But Shikamaru is too lazy for either. I have to check the boy every so often to see if he's still breathing."
Laughing at his long time friend, Inoichi leads the way through the Intelligence building, his broad shoulders and recognizable face clearing a path quickly, "I'm going to leave out some textbooks from the academy, pretend that I'm looking through the curriculum and see if Sakura picks anything up."
Shikaku enters his office behind his friend and hangs his coat on the hook, "Good plan. I think you should grab the higher level texts to make her have to work at it. And maybe get a little curious."
Inoichi hums, "Yeah, I can do that."
"So," Shikaku sits behind his desk and Inoichi sits across from him, "Anything else on the agenda today?"
They spend the rest of their day going over reports from Ibiki. Neither of them are as interested in the reports as they are in the little girl with so much potential.