Chapter One: Uncalled Adventure
Tenten, Master Ninja, landed upon a cliff beneath a stormy sky. Beneath her, she saw the legions of darkness peering up in fear. As they saw her, they fled in terror.
"Oh no!" said one.
"It can't be!" said another.
"It's Tenten!" said a third.
"We are doomed!" said a fourth.
"Yes!" proclaimed Tenten. "I am Tenten, the greatest ninja to ever live, greatest student of Tsunade and-"
And then a panda whacked her over the head with a length of bamboo. The blow destroyed imagination land and leaving her in bitter reality. Looking up, she saw Master Panda munching on his bamboo. "Tenten, focus on cleaning those floors. If they get cluttered, it could cause a fire in the forge."
Tenten sighed. "Yes, Master Panda."
Reluctantly, she grabbed her rag and set to work cleaning. Master Panda didn't actually trust her to take part in the forging process. So instead, she spent her days cleaning the house until it was spotless.
"No time for daydreaming, I guess," mused Tenten, rubbing down the floor. She could probably leave it as is, but you should always do your best work. Not that her best work seemed to be getting her anywhere. "Ugh, this is the worst. Master, why can't I go to the ninja academy at the Leaf?"
"Tenten, I'm disappointed in you," said Master Panda. "The ninja academy at the Leaf is expensive, and the work is far more dangerous than blacksmithing. Even if you got into it, paid for the training, and then graduated, you don't have a Sharingan. You'd just end up as cannon fodder for the Senju and Uchiha."
"But Master, anyone can become powerful if they put the work in!" said Tenten. "The Hokage, Sarutobi, doesn't have a bloodline!
"So I can be like him."
"Not with my money, you're not," said Panda. "My most useful assistant is not going to waste her life as a ninja. She's going to give up on her dreams, then spend her life selling those suckers subpar equipment! All for outrageous prices! I just got an order from both the Uchiha Clan and the Leaf for a whole shipment!
"With luck, there will be a civil war, and we'll make a killing! And when the surrounding lands invade, we can sell to them as well!"
"But being a merchant is dishonorable!" said Tenten. "Everyone says so!"
"Eh, honor is a scam rich people invented so the poor wouldn't murder them for their stuff," said Master Panda. "The samurai hated merchants, and look at where they are now. They're a relic.
"Once we get rich enough, we'll determine good and evil!"
"I hate you!" said Tenten.
"You can feel how you want," said Master Panda. "As long as you finish your job." Then he went back to munching bamboo.
Tenten clenched a fist and looked skyward. "Ugh! Why couldn't I be an orphan whose parents got massacred by bandits and ended up in an abusive home! I could do whatever I wanted then!
"But, no, I had to be born during an era of peace, miles away from the Leaf, with a steady career waiting for me. I'll bet orphans in the Land of Rain don't have to put up with this kind of thing. They just starve to death."
On she worked, carefully polishing all the tools, sanding down the beams and all the usual stuff. Then, just as she finished, Tenten saw a slight, tiny smudge she might have missed. For a moment she paused, before reluctantly picking up her cloth and going back to scrubbing.
At last, Tenten had finished. Walking over to the table, she found a belt of recently made kunai. "Alright, done. Master Panda, I'm going to go test some kunai."
"Just be sure to collect them after you finish missing the targets," said Master Panda.
"Shut up!" shouted Tenten. "I always hit!"
"Whatever you say," said Master Panda.
Tenten stalked out of the house and as she walked to the target practice area. Then she saw the smoke begin to rise behind her. Glancing back, she half hoped that a bunch of raiders had broken in and Master Panda was fighting. No such luck; instead he'd started using the forge, which meant she'd have to clean it again soon.
Didn't he ever take a day off?
Either way, Tenten went to the target area and began to hurl kunai at the targets while walking. Each strike hit a bullseye, as usual. Pausing, Tenten opted to throw a kunai a little bit above the target, then another one after it. The blade knocked the first kunai in midair, so it got a perfect bullseye.
Perfect shots as usual.
This used to be hard, but the constant practice had honed her abilities. Not that she had anything to use it on. "Ugh, this is the worst." She went to collect the kunai. "Nothing but hits.
"I know I could be a powerful ninja if I could just go to the academy. How am I ever going to become like the Great Ninja Tsunade if I can't even get access to the academy?"
At that moment, Tenten heard a voice through the trees. It was demanding, but young and she looked for it. "Shizune, are you certain this is the way to the village?"
"Shizune?" asked Tenten. "She must be an assistant to Lady Tsunade?"
"I'm not... entirely sure, Lady Tsunade," said a voice. "But I'm certain it must lead somewhere."
Then Tenten saw her and realized it had to be Lady Tsunade. The curvaceous blonde was every bit as beautiful as Tenten had imagined her. She was untouched by age like a goddess. Her golden hair fell around her as she walked.
"Wonderful, and here I was hoping to get some gambling in," said Tsunade. "You, girl, does this way lead to the village?"
Tenten realized she was being addressed directly. "I...
"You're Lady Tsunade?"
"Never you mind that, does this way lead to the village?" asked Tsunade.
Tenten leaped to attention as she quickly sheathed her kunai into the belt. This was her chance to impress her idol. "N-no, it leads away from the village. I uh... I could show you the way if you want."
"I appreciate that," said Tsunade, before raising an eyebrow. "Those kunai, are you a Leaf Ninja?"
"No, I mean to say, not yet I'm not," said Tenten. "I'm just testing out the kunai we make to sell to the ninja.
"I'm hoping to get training at the academy, but Master Panda won't pay for it. He says that ninjas are suckers. Especially the ones that gamble with-
"I don't agree with him, I should clarify. I want to be a ninja."
Tsunade nodded. "...Well, in any case, lead on."
Tenten nodded. "Um right, yes. Follow me."
And she quickly led Lady Tsunade and Shizune along the path. Shizune seemed to have fallen into Tsunade's shadow, somewhat. She had the same mousy brown hair Tenten had and also was wearing brow. About the only thing, Tenten had that Shizune didn't was her hair tied up in two buns, made to resemble a panda.
"Is it far?" asked Tsunade.
"No, it's not far at all," said Tenten, leading on. "Um, I've heard a lot of stories about you, Lady Tsunade."
"I don't want to talk about the past," said Tsunade.
Tenten nodded. "Right, sorry."
"Sorry if Lady Tsunade is short," said Shizune. "We've been on the road for some time, and we haven't seen civilization in weeks.
"So, um, you work as a blacksmith with your family?"
"No, just Master Panda," said Tenten. "He found me as a baby abandoned in the woods. I never knew my real parents."
"There were a lot of orphans from the Third Shinobi World War," noted Tsunade.
"Yeah, and I'm one of them. Maybe," said Tenten.
Eventually, they came out of the trees and into the edge of the woods. The town stood out far before them, and Tenten paused. She hadn't taken any shipments from this place in forever. "Master Panda usually has me get him the equipment he needs from these places. He doesn't like coming out this far."
"You carry equipment by yourself?" asked Tsunade.
"No um, I use a Fuinjutsu he taught me to use," said Tenten. "You can store all kinds of weapons and equipment in it. He gives it to me with a lot of money inside, then I use that money to buy what he needs.
"Then I take it back here." Tenten halted; this was so great. Lady Tsunade was taking an interest in her! Maybe she would ask Tenten for guidance around the town, and she'd impress her and be taught as a protege. "So uh, here we are. The town is right over there, and um..."
Tsunade nodded. "Thank you for your help. Farewell."
And they walked on down.
"Oh, no problem I..." began Tenten as she realized her idol was already walking away from them. From the looks of things, Tsunade had already forgotten her. "Or maybe I'm just some random person who points them in the right direction. Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk. I probably... probably should have asked her to train me when I had the chance.
"I should head back home and keep working." And Tenten turned and walked toward home. Except, as she walked, she realized that she'd just lost a major opportunity. When would she get another one like this one? If she went home and cleaned the smithy for Master Panda again, she'd never leave again. Her fist was clenched. "...Not this time."
Storming toward the house before her nerve fell apart, Tenten kicked open the door. "Alright, Master Panda! I've had it! I've sick of staying here and practicing to become a blacksmith!
"I'm gonna be a ninja! I'm going to join the ninja academy in the Leaf, and that's final! And I'm leaving right now!"
Master Panda didn't look up as he hammered away at a sword. "Sure, whatever, have fun."
Tenten was kind of disappointed at this response. "What? You're not even going to try and stop me?"
"Oh please, you've got no supplies, all the equipment you've got on you there is my property. Besides, you don't even have a raincoat," said Master Panda. "You're going to be back here soaking wet in a few hours."
Tenten fumed and drew the kunai off her belt and threw them on the table. "...Well, fine, I don't need the equipment anyway! And I'm sure I can get there on time, there hasn't been any rain in-"
An hour later, it was pouring.
Tenten shivered in the rain, trying to keep her chakra network humming to warm her. She'd been taught to access it for the transportation jutsu. Of course, it didn't make things anything less comfortable. She might not have been going numb from the cold, but that made it more uncomfortable. The water was pouring down her body as she walked.
"Typical," said Tenten, shuddering. "Okay, so it's pouring rain. Fine, I'll just find a cave to hole up in for a bit. I'm sure I can stay for a bit." Walking along, she spotted one nearby, beneath an old log. "Ah, there's one." Moving forward, she crawled into it and enjoyed the absence of rain on her. "Now I can just sit down and... uh..."
There was a low growl.
Tenten looked up and saw a wolf. Several wolves, all of them growling at her. Tenten sat up and crawled back. "Hi, um... nice dogey, nice dog, I uh...
Turning, she fled, and the wolves were after her in a shot. Grabbing a tree branch, she hauled herself up. It happened mere moments before the wolves snapping jaws came after her sandals. Scaling as high up the tree as possible, Tenten got to the top and looked down.
The wolves were waiting and growling.
"Why couldn't Dad let me keep some of the kunai?!" muttered Tenten. "Oh well, I'm sure they won't want to stay in the rain any more than I do-"
The rain dribbled to a stop.
"SERIOUSLY?!" said Tenten.
The wolves sat down to wait. Tenten leaned against the bark and sighed. "Okay, so... um, I'm stuck up a tree in a rainstorm with hungry wolves baying for my blood. But I'm sure Lady Tsunade will be along to save me or something."
"Um... any time now."
Nothing continued to happen for quite some time. Tenten decided that she had to do it herself if she was going to get out of this. Peering around, Tenten saw a tree branch from another tree nearby. It was a different kind of tree with a lot of pine cones. If Tenten could get there, maybe she could slip down and sneak out.
Pulling herself into a standing position on the branch, Tenten stayed quiet. "Okay, Tenten, you might be able to make it to that branch if you run. One, two, three..." She sprinted forward along the narrow branch and leaped.
For a moment, she was in freefall, heading down and toward the other branch. Then, just as she was about to pass it, Tenten caught it. The branch bent but did not break, and she pulled herself up.
"Yes! I got it, now I'll just..." Tenten looked down. The wolves moved about ten feet to the left and surrounded the tree she had moved to. "Stupid dogs. They followed me."
Clambering into a better position, Tenten stared down with the wolves staring at her. "Well, this is just great.
"All I've done is switch to a different tree with..." She saw one of the pine cones. "Pinecones. Lots of pine cones." Snatching one of the tree, she raised it. "Hey wolfie, take this!"
Hurling the pine cone, it whacked one of the wolves right on the snout. The wolf whimpered and backed away, only for Tenten to hurl another one at him. Then another. Then she turned her attention to hitting the stupid thing's friends. One of them howled, only to be whacked again. Every single throw Tenten made connected. Soon they were whimpering and fleeing into the woods.
She hurled a few more blows to keep them running and picked up some pine cones. Then she slid down the tree and walked on. "Hah! Not so great, now are you! Plenty more where that came from!"
Tenten then continued on enthusiastically, feeling very accomplished. "Yes! Now that I've defeated the wolves, I can head to town! The beginning of the Legend of Tenten is now!
"Where am I?"
Tenten halted as she realized this part of the forest wasn't looking like anything she'd been here. She must have gotten turned around after fleeing the cave. "I haven't been in this part of the forest before.
"Let me think." Tenten looked up. "Okay, so that tree is much higher than the others. I'll climb up that to the top and see what I can find."
Tenten did just that.
Only one problem. Now that she wasn't being chased by hungry wolves, climbing trees was hard. As long as her life was on the line, the rough bark and skinned knees weren't a big deal. Now, though, she was feeling a lot of aches from her earlier efforts.
"Geeze, this was so much easier when my life was on the line," muttered Tenten, coming up through the trees. Looking around, she viewed the forest and thought it looked much more beautiful from this high. Even so, she kept looking and eventually saw the town. "Ah, there's the town now. It's uh... it's a long way off, isn't it? Better start heading that way now."
And so, once again, Tenten slid down the tree and kept walking. She was aching all over now as she walked and feeling very hungry. She hadn't taken any food with her, and she thought hungrily about a rabbit Master Panda had been cooking. "...I'm really hungry. I guess I could head back to the cottage, but...
"No, if I go back now, I'll never leave again. I've got to stay the course and keep going. Maybe I could hunt for my food. I just need to find a stone." Looking down, she found a particularly flat stone and tossed it into the air. "Yeah, that'll do.
"Now, all I need to do is find a rabbit."
Finding a rabbit was a lot more difficult than Tenten expected. It didn't help that she wasn't used to hunting, and she couldn't deviate from her current course. Eventually, however, she was lucky enough to see a rabbit. It was munching on some plant or other and leaned over. Mouthwatering, Tenten raised her stone and prepared to make the throw.
Even as she did, though, she stepped on a loose twig. The rabbit spurred to life, sprinting away. Tenten hurled the stone, but her balance was off, and rabbits are much smaller than wolves. The stone sparked on a pile of leaves kept dry under a stump, and the rabbit escaped.
"No, no, come back here, you delicious bunny! I need to eat you!" cried Tenten, racing after him. But she halted and looked around, feeling more miserable than ever. "It's getting dark now and cold. I think I might need to stay the night out here. Well, fine, I'll just make a fire. With no flint or tinder. In the middle of a wet forest.
"Okay, so that's a no go."
Then Tenten noticed the dry leaves had caught fire and were burning merrily. Happily, Tenten warmed her hands on the flames. Then she noticed that the log was starting to smoke.
"Um..." Tenten halted.
The log caught fire.
"RUN AWAY!" cried Tenten.
She sprinted for the town with all her might.
It didn't take long before the blaze became an inferno and ended up setting other trees on fire. Tenten had no idea how she'd managed to set fire to a wet forest, but the flames were spreading. She noticed woodland creatures fleeing for their lives and ran even faster.
On either side, Tenten could see fire rising around her. She tripped and fell before rising again despite being stunned. On and on she ran, feeling the heat at the back of her neck. At last, she sprinted out of the forest and into the open. Turning around, Tenten looked up and saw the forest behind her crackling with flame.
This uh... this wasn't off to a good start.
Either way, she had reached the town. So she walked toward the road and limped the rest of the way, wet and miserable. People were coming out to see the flames rising high into the night as she knocked on the gates to the town. The door opened, and a man peered out.
"A child?" he asked. "What are you doing out here this late?"
"I was trying to travel to the Leaf Ninja to become a ninja. But I got lost in the rain and ran into a bunch of wolves in a cave," said Tenten. "Then they chased me up a tree, and I drove them off with pinecones. But then while I was heading out this way, the fire happened, and I had to run for my life."
"...How old are you?" asked the man.
"Eight, I think," said Tenten, who did not keep a calendar. "I'm an adult. Itachi Uchiha was slaughtering armies at my age."
"Shouldn't you be with your family?" asked the man.
"Master Panda wants me to work as a blacksmith," said Tenten. Then she realized this town wasn't the one she usually went to. It must have been a different one, and she got turned around in the forest.
"Why would you run away from a career like that?" asked the man. "It's highly lucrative."
"Because I want to be a ninja," said Tenten proudly.
"You want to be cannon fodder for the Uchiha and Senju?" asked the man.
"No, I want to be the greatest ninja ever," said Tenten.
"Do you have any bloodlines?" asked the man.
Tenten paused. "Um, well, I don't know.
"I mean, I am an orphan, but I'll bet I'm some long-lost descendant of an ancient race of warriors. Or the reincarnation of a Goddess."
"Yeah, you should give up on your dreams and go home," said the man. "How are you even going to fund this? Even if you get to the Leaf, you'll have to pay for housing and food. The academy won't give that to you."
"Well, um... I guess I could do some odd jobs here. At least until I get the money to head to the Leaf," said Tenten, not dignifying the first part with a response. "I won't get far without equipment.
"Is there anywhere I can get some work?"
The gate opened, and the guard peered out. "Well, I heard that Old Man Yannis is in need of having a fence painted. We usually go to the Leaf for D rank missions."
"How much does the Leaf demand for D ranks?" asked Tenten, remembering her haggling lessons.
"Um, for the whole team?" asked the man. "It depends on the level of skill. I've got a chart here with some guidelines if you want to see them, though."
"Then I'll undercut their prices. I'll charge only a fraction of what they do the entire thing myself," said Tenten. "Where's this fence and Old Man Yannis?"
The guard sighed. "...I'll tell you what, I'll take you to him in the morning. Just, come into the guardhouse, get warm and rest here tonight."
Tenten followed him in. "Right, um, thanks. When I'm a legend, I'll be sure to remember you."
The guard didn't have any faith in her, she could tell. Well, she'd prove it, just like she proved it today. Looking at herself in a mirror, Tenten saw herself wet, bedraggled, but victorious. "I'll be a legend, I'm sure of it."
Then she collapsed into unconsciousness.