That Saturday found Sakura clutching Tsubaki's right hand in her left hand with her right hand balled into a fist, prepared to knock on the door of the house in front of her. Sakura hesitated, before squaring her shoulders and knocking solidly on the wooden door.
While waiting for the door to open, Sakura looked down at her little sister, wondering if what she was about to do was the right thing to do. It was already bad enough that the village was requiring her whole family to go through the civilian academy just because of their diluted heritage, but if it were to be known just how advanced Tsubaki was for her age then there was no telling what would happen to her. The worst that Sakura could think of was Tsubaki simply disappearing.
The door opened, interrupting Sakura's musings before they took a turn for the worst.
"Sakura-san, Tsubaki-san, what brings you to my home?" Rock Lee asked while opening the door wider so that the two sisters could enter the small house. Lee led the two girls to the living room and gestured for them to sit on the old couch in the center of the room.
Lee went into the kitchen and returned with a tray bearing a tea kettle and three cups. He poured the hot water onto the tea leaves in each cup and handed one to each sister.
Setting down her cup after a small sip, Sakura finally answered Lee's question.
"Lee-san, I know you entered the academy last year and I, well we, need your help with something." Sakura picked up the tea cup, took a sip, fiddled with the handle, and then put the cup back down then raised her gaze to meet that of Lee's.
"Whatever it is Sakura-san, I will do my best to help you." Lee's kind smile bolstered Sakura's confidence.
"Do you remember the disappearances that occur each year within the second year of the civilian academy?" Even though Lee's small dimmed slightly, Sakura speeded on. "Well this is Tsubaki's second year and if I don't do something to help her, it's very likely that she'll disappear too."
Although the disappearance were something like a tradition at the civilian academy, no one actually spoke about it. In fact, there was a rumor that a family planned to go to the Hokage's office with a complaint, but before they could they all disappeared, even the family's toddler went missing. Since then, no one spoke about the disappearances for fear that the same would happen to them.
A dark voice whispered in Sakura's head, that maybe Lee would snitch on her for trying to cheat the system, but Sakura reminded that voice that Lee and his family, out of everyone else, would be the last people to willingly betray anyone to the village. She reminded herself that Lee was his parent's second child, with the first being 'enrolled' in the villages accelerated program.
Sakura watched with a little trepidation as Lee contemplated her words. Doubts began to form in her head and for a moment she prepared to knock the older boy out and bolt from his house, and possibly even the village itself.
Before Sakura could start to enact her plan, Lee's smile returned full force and a determined light entered his eyes. "What do you need to know and how can I help?"
For a moment, Sakura thought her heart was going to pound from out of her chest. Looking down at Tsubaki, Sakura felt that she had a chance. That they had a chance.
Later that day found Sakura and Tsubaki waiting with Lee in the middle of one of Konoha's many meadows in its forest. The older boy had contacted someone on his house phone, much to Sakura's nervousness. Whoever was on the older line sounded young, about their age which put Sakura's nerves at ease. Even though the words were muffled, Sakura got the feeling that the other kid on the line was slightly annoyed. After asking the other kid for help with a situation, to which they agreed, Lee told them to meet in their 'usual spot', which was the meadow that they were currently standing in.
After walking the edge of the meadow twice, Lee stopped in front of Sakura and Tsuabki with a strange look on his face. But before he could say anything, a rustling noise signaled the presence of another person. Lee and Sakura both tensed, however Lee relaxed and Sakura followed after with reluctance.
The new person was a girl about their age wearing a light colored yukata with long brown hair. The most unusual thing about the girl was her eyes. It seemed as if she didn't have a pupil or iris, but as the girl walked closer, Sakura could see that she did actually have an iris and it was only a light lavender color. She was a Hyuga
The girl scanned Sakura and her sister and turned to Lee with a scowl on her pretty features. "Care to explain why you decided to call the number that I told you was only supposed to be used for emergencies."
Lee turned a blinding smile on the girl. "I'm glad you decided to come Neji-san because this situation really is an emergency.
Lee motioned to the two pink haired girls standing quietly behind him. "These are my friends, Haruno Sakura-san and Haruno Tsubaki-san. Sakura-san, Tsubaki-san, this is Hyuga Neji-san."
Lee beckoned the two girls closer. "Neji-san has the best chakra control in our class, he can help you with your problem."
Sakura eyed the other girl – no, the boy – warily, she didn't know if she could trust the other academy student. She was entrusting the fate of her sister and the rest of her family on someone who she didn't know, someone from one of Konoha's prestigious shinobi clans.
Neji's pale eyes watched as Sakura blocked his view of her little sister. The strange color of her hair pinged a distance memory in his mind. For some reason, pink hair seemed very important. Briefly ignoring the two girls, Neji turned his attention to Lee who was staring at him with a wide smile and sparkling eyes.
"You know I cannot train with members outside of the clan. We were fortunate enough to be allowed to train together." Neji said quietly. If possible, Lee's smile widened even more.
"Tsubaki-san has a problem that I think you would be interested in solving." That caught Neji's attention. Faster than Sakura could react, Lee reached behind Sakura's back and gently pulled Tsubaki forward.
All of the muscles in Sakura's body seemed to clench up, while her breath started to come faster and harder. Lee was fast. His speed was not something that Sakura thought that she could beat, but she would try.
As if sensing her growing hostility, Lee looked over his shoulder and gave her a small smile. "Relax Sakura-san, Neji-san is trustworthy. He would not tell anyone."
Sakura released the breath that she was holding and slowly relaxed her tense body. She stared at Lee's singular braid. His hair was long enough to reach just below mid back and was thick enough to be confused for a black hawser rope.
Neji arched an eyebrow at the eldest girl but turned his attention to Lee when the boy stepped within his personal space with the youngest girl. Lee rummaged for something in one of his pockets to produce a dull kunai, which he placed in the younger girl's hand. Neji watched quietly as Lee turned the girl's hand palm side down, and to Neji's amazement, the kunai didn't fall.
The girl, Sakura, stepped up from behind Lee's back to stand next to him. She looked Neji in his eyes and spoke quietly. "Everything she picks up sticks to her hand, until someone else removes it."
Neji stared back at Sakura and wondered why they didn't go to one of the academy instructors. When he received the call from Lee earlier that day asking for an emergency meeting, he did not think that it would lead to this. Even though Tsubaki was a civilian academy student, her academy instructors should be able to help the Haruno's with their situation. But as Neji looked from one civilian born academy student to the next, he realized that this was one of those situations that Lee told him about.
Civilians were not treated the same as shinobi or shinobi clans. They did not receive the same medical treatment or coverage, they did not have as many rights or a voice within the government. The power of the governor in charge of civilian district was only an illusion. They had no real say-so with any of the decisions made by the Council or the Hokage.
However it was even worse for immigrants. Immigrants were expected to earn their rights within the village and prove their loyalty. Sometimes it took an immigrant family two or three generations before they could be considered actual 'citizens' of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. That made it easy to believe that no one would really care if one out of hundreds of civilian academy students died because their chakra network did not align properly
Neji knew how it felt to be considered non-important. He knew how it felt to be ignored or disregarded just because of where, when and who he was born to. He knew how it felt to be in Sakura and Tsubaki's position. To be afraid to trust the adults around him, to not know what to do or who to go to. So with this in mind, Neji came to his decision.
"This area is too public, come with me, I know of a place where we can talk more privately." Neji said quietly.
The brilliant smile that the two girls gave him and the thumbs up that Lee shot his way told Neji that he made the correct decision.