Summary: Like many other shinobi, Tenten has achieved her status through hard work and her own unique training style. After all, she is known as the "Weapons Mistress of Konoha," and she can make her weapons dance. (One shot)
Toboe LoneWolf: Heh. Breaking into the Naruto fandom.
Disclaimer: Toboe LoneWolf does not own Naruto. Or a kunai.
When she was young, Tenten once saw a group of traveling performers. One of the acts involved juggling. Like all young children, she watched in awe as the performer juggled three, four, five, six balls in the air, watching the balls go from hand to air to hand, falling and rising in a changing rhythm. Over and under, with two hands and even one, the juggler tossed the balls in ever changing arcs.
And then, for the dramatic last act, the juggler switched from colorful balls to deadly, sharp edged steel.
The growing crowd gasped as the performer whipped out a kunai, flipping it into the air in the midst of the myriad number of balls he was juggling. One by one the balls were replaced by kunais, until the air just in front of them was filled with flashing metal. A collective gasp was heard as one kunai flew straight up in the air, high above; in slow motion they watched the wayward kunai fall, fall, fall—
A second kunai shot up, ricocheting off the first, making that one spin even higher. The second fell back down, and the juggler caught it with ease, even as he kept juggling the other four kunais.
"Hup!" He cried, as he threw it once more.
Tenten was mesmerized.
She wanted to do that.
At that moment she made a second goal to herself.
One, to be as great as Tsunade.
Two, to make her weapons dance.
x x x x x
By the time Tenten entered the Academy, she could already throw a kunai with deadly accuracy from thirty meters away. That was already the extent of the indoor training hall the Academy had, so she had to train outside with the older students, even if she was only a first-year.
Her teachers saw her frightening accuracy early on. Silently they watched her pound her target from forty, fifty meters away. It was not natural ability; at least not at first. But she had practiced and practiced even before the Academy, until she knew the feel of a kunai like her own breath. Her teachers were proud of her, although they did not show it. They were shinobi, not parents, and they did not dote on her; but they taught her tricks far beyond her peers in weaponry. How to hit her target from the ground, behind her back, how to store weapons on her body beyond the weapons pouch…little tricks that she learned before her peers.
She could throw kunais and shuriken with ease, and later senbon and a myriad number of dagger designs. She strove to master multiple targets, first two, then three, four, five…
As she honed her accuracy, she also honed her dexterity. She was constantly fiddling with a weapon or two, even in class. Idly tossing it from one hand to the other in the back of the classroom when she was bored, or twirling them around one finger, Tenten played around with her weapons. Every once in a while after training she'd stay behind awhile and juggle a few of the weaponry for half an hour, just to relieve a bit of the tension built up after practice.
Sometimes, she would entertain her friends by taking bets on what she could hit. Sometimes she missed, but it wasn't often; and eventually the time came that she never, ever missed (unless they pulled a prank, and…well…woe betide those that did…). And in any case her friends were more interested in Tenten's hobby.
"Do it again, Tenten!"
Tenten grinned and slipped two kunai into her hands. Tossing one, then the other, her small group of friends watched as she juggled the two kunai in the air. Their eyes widened as they found that a third kunai had been added sometime, secretly without them knowing. Tenten winked. Concentrating hard, she caught the kunais – all three – in her left hand. She tapped them against her palm before fanning them out, showing them dramatically that yes, they were all real.
She grinned. "Yep. They're all real. It wasn't genjutsu."
x x x x x
Tenten liked juggling her weapons whenever she had a bit of free time. It was a bit easier than random target practice because all of her weapons stayed in one general area. The first time she meet her genin group for training after graduating from the Academy, waiting for their group leader, she was the second to arrive. She had walked into the forest clearing tossing a single kunai, to see the top graduating student sitting on a tree stump, alone.
"I guess we're early, huh." Tenten said as she switched her kunai tossing to her other hand.
"Hn." Neji continued staring straight ahead.
Tenten shrugged, and leaned against a nearby tree. She didn't know much about Neji, only that he was the top ranked rookie and had a huge chip on the shoulder in the latter days in the Academy. With a flick of her wrist she added another kunai and a shuriken to her juggling. Well, she didn't actually juggle the shuriken literally with her hands; she used the two kunais to bounce the shuriken mid-air.
Neji half-listened to the tiny tings! of metal on the opposite side of him. It had a nice rhythmic pace. He had never personally watched the kunochi juggle before; only glimpses past the tiny crowd when the girl had chosen to exhibit her ability. He marked it as interesting, nothing more. But now – taking small glances now and then – there might be something after all. She was the girl that could hit any target, right? He remembered.
Tenten stuck out the tip of her tongue as she changed the pattern of her juggling; this time adding a third kunai that would go over one arm and underneath the other as she kept the shuriken spinning in mid-air. Over and under, over and under, taking care in her movements as she kept flying metal from slicing anything but air.
Neji watched her out of the corner of his eye. He was intrigued by the patterns she was making as the weapons spun around her hands. All perfectly timed; with one kunai making a half turn before she caught it and the other flipping over twice before twirling over her little finger, only to switch positions as they continued the pattern.
A sudden break in the pattern caused him to blink. One moment her blades were making patterns in the air, the next they were quivering in the tree trunk to the left of him. It had been so quick as to be almost instantaneous. And all four weapons were concentrated in an area no bigger than his palm. He looked intently as the girl walked over and began tugging her weapons out. Yes, she might be just the one he needed to hone that technique. He raised one eyebrow at the girl as she turned back.
"You have a lot of skill in weaponry," he commented.
Tenten smiled. "Thanks," she said as she sheathed the weapons. She kept one kunai though, flipping it in one hand.
Neji opened his mouth to ask her to spar with him, but shut it as he heard voices approaching.
"Gai-sensei! I hope that I shall prove myself worthy to you!"
A booming laugh. "With the flaming power of youth, you shall never fail!"
Tenten watched with widened eyes as their third teammate and group leader bounded in. Gai struck a pose.
"Students of mine! Let us all train with the vigor of springtime of youth!" Flashing brilliance of incredibly white teeth added to the utter shock value of Gai's statement.
Tenten's eyes flickered from Lee's copied pose a split-second later to Neji. Neji narrowed his eyes slightly, and she sighed as Gai continued to hold his pose.
Well, her team was…interesting, at least…
x x x x x
One day Neji came to the training clearing to see Tenten there already. She was holding her arms outstretched on either side of her body, hands empty and eyes closed. Neji paused in his walk.
Tenten's eyes flashed open, and she leapt upward. "Hup!"
This time, Neji did not blink. His trained eyes saw Tenten reach for the hidden weapons on her body, and for three heartbeats time he saw only flashing trails of metal and heard the heavy thuds of weaponry being sunk deeply into wood.
Tenten smiled as she landed back down. Around her four trees had a perfect vertical line of various types of daggers, kunais, and shuriken embedded into their trunks; two trees behind her and two trees in front of her.
Brushing a few bangs out of her eyes she waved at Neji. "Hey, Neji! Gimmie a moment!"
Neji nodded once. Meanwhile Tenten fished out about three times the number of senbon that normal ninja believed was possible. A whirlwind of arm movement and quick staccato sounds before Tenten stopped, brushing her hair back again. "There, that should do it."
Now one tree in front of her had a perfect vertical line of weaponry going down its truck plus a bunch of senbon filling every single crack in between each individual weapon. The poor tree looked like a porcupine had decided it was target practice.
Well, if a porcupine had one hundred percent accuracy and was able to shoot quills in the first place. Neither of which were true, but that's beside the point.
Tenten waved at Neji again. "Okay then! I'm ready!"
Neji raised one eyebrow as he entered the clearing. "What was that for?"
"Mmm, I'm trying a different training routine today," Tenten tapped the side of her jaw. "I want to change things a little. You ready?"
Neji fell into his fighting stance and activated his Byakugan. Tenten took hers, and Neji was a bit surprised – although he did not show it – to see her empty handed. Was she planning on using taijutsu first?
Tenten winked before rushing at him.
No, past him.
Vaulting up into the air Tenten wrenched two kunai from a tree and whipped them at Neji, who quickly dodged them. Two breaths later and Tenten had managed to pry out four more, slinging them at Neji. Neji brought out his own kunai and knocked them off course, the sounds of clashing metal echoing.
Tenten landed with three kunai in her fists, two shuriken spinning on her fingers, and two senbon clenched between her teeth. Neji smirked and ran forward, arm bent with his kunai ready.
Twice Neji resorted to the Kaiten in the midst of their sparring. Tenten never reached once for her weapons pouch or her hidden weapons, instead always using the weapons embedded in the four trees. Constantly flitting from tree to tree, even when she limited herself she always had at least a single weapon to attack him with. The tiny clearing became riddled with discarded weapons.
Tenten flung two passes at Neji as Neji avoided her attacks. She somersaulted and landed heavily on the ground. Grunting as she rolled over, she picked up another handful of weapons from the peppered forest floor. She brought up a scythe just in time defend against Neji's incoming fist. Bringing up her knee she kicked out, forcing Neji back and giving her time to flip back onto her feet. With a yell she charged, Neji dodging artfully by turning to one side. Tenten followed his footsteps, sweeping her arm forward as Neji backed closer into a tree. His eyes widened as she let metal fly, the sharp edges brushing past his ear. Spinning quickly, he caught Tenten as she turned, throwing her hard against the tree. Sliding down the trunk, she grabbed a few low-lying weapons.
A palm flaring with blue chakra pressed against her chest, right above her heart. "I win."
Tenten cursed as she let the kunai slip from her fingers. "Dangnabbit, Neji. I was this close!" she demonstrated with her thumb and index finger. "This close!"
"Hai," Neji imitated her hand movement, "but I was this much farther than you." He smiled, holding a hand to help her up.
Tenten laughed. She liked this more casual Neji much better. She marked its beginning after the chunin exam. Of course, Neji would always be Neji, but at least, for sanity's sake, he could make a joke.
The two of them caught their breath, tightening bandages, stretching a bit. Then Tenten raised her head, grinning at Neji.
Neji bent into his fighting stance again and reactivated his Byakugan. "Ready?"
"Let's go!" Tenten's arms crisscrossed each other and dug into her previously unused weapons pouch. Leaping into the air once more, she rained down metal. Now they fought in their more usual style, although between the two of them they still managed to pull surprises on each other, as Tenten did a strange half turn and throw behind her back that barely missed Neji's shoulder and Neji rebounded off a tree coming straight for Tenten.
The sounds of battle cries and scuffles and flinging metal ended with Tenten flat on her back, Neji's palm once again hovering a few millimeters away from her chest. But this time, Tenten had managed to bring her kunai up to Neji's chest, so it…almost came to a standstill.
Tenten coughed. "Hah. Gotcha."
Neji had on the famous Neji-smirk. "Only halfway."
Tenten scoffed as she lowered her arm, automatically sheathing the kunai. Neji slid down to sit on the ground, letting Tenten free to sit back up and breathe. Leaning back on their arms, they breathed heavily for a while, catching their breaths. As their breaths slowed, they looked at each other and nodded. Getting up on their feet once more, they took their battle stances again.
They trained, and they trained, and they trained.
It is their way of the ninja.
x x x x x
Tenten had a special end-training tradition.
After every training session, after she had picked up all of her weapons and put them away in the hidden locations on her body, she would stand facing west, and close her eyes.
It always began with a kunai.
Like magic she'd draw out a single kunai, spinning it in the air. Tired hands after harsh training became deft again as they traced old, old patterns, spinning and twirling a single kunai in the air, over and under graceful hands, creating an image that became alive. She could see it in her mind's eye, the picture she drew, as she moved her hands in elegant patterns. She did not need to open her eyes to see.
Neji and Lee would watch her, sometimes. They would wait at the edge of the clearing, watching their teammate make metal alive.
When the single kunai was just a blur, Tenten would open it up to some variation.
Shurikens and tonfas, fans and daggers and senbon, any one of the myriad number of weapons that Tenten wielded became part of Tenten's picture. She would move from her standing position into a crouching tiger, a poised swan, twirling from one stance to another, all the while drawing a story in the air with metal.
It was a sort of kata for Tenten, a chance for her to bond with her weapons beyond target practice. It was calming; almost meditation, the deceptively easy throws and catches of sharp weaponry matching in time with her heart.
On the nights when moonlight shone brightly, Neji would watch Tenten make her weapons dance.
x x x x x
Being the weapons mistress of Konoha, it should be no surprise that Tenten had countless numbers of training exercises for weaponry, from specializing in one weapon to mass dispersion to secret hiding techniques. Along with, of course, the incredibly diverse number of positions Tenten could throw a weapon.
There were the typical standing positions, but Tenten honed her flexibility and accuracy so that she could hit a target upside down, standing on one hand, between her legs, behind her back while targeting to the side, and doing the splits. Among other positions.
Luckily, both of her teammates were also extremely flexible, so they didn't wince as Tenten would easily slide into a full split in order to dodge one attack while throwing a katana at them. Never mind that katanas were not really meant to be thrown, or the feasibility of doing the splits while attacking someone.
Tenten called them flexibility exercises. Neji mentally called them contortion exercises, although he would never, ever, tell her that. Sure, all shinobi should be able to move freely, but did Tenten really have to twist herself into a human pretzel…and shoot a kunai?
Tenten would practice on top of rolling boulders, on shakily stacked rocks, on water and all of its varied surfaces, in midst of treetops, and in pitch blackness. Like all good shinobi should, learning to fight in different terrains. And in every environment, Tenten trained to master her weapons skill.
She trained to hit beyond ten out of ten, one hundred out of one hundred, one thousand out of one thousand.
She was known as "the Weapons Mistress of Konoha," and as such she strove to become a master in using anything and everything as a weapon. Not only the traditional, but the untraditional, be it a mallet, a frying pan or even poison. As time passed Tenten mastered fumma shuriken, stave work, explosives, bombs…the weeks in which Tenten practiced the use of explosives exclusively were interesting ones in Konoha, to be sure. At that time, the villagers were sure that Tenten had suddenly become an avid pyromaniac, and Lee bemoaned the loss of trees for his youthful squirrels.
As her expertise and repertoire in weaponry increased, her juggling sessions became more and more creative.
Neji had very vivid memories of the time when Tenten decided to use, of all things, kitchen utensils and food products. Branded into his mind was the usage of whipped cream.
Barring Tenten's silly moments, Tenten's skill in weapons became part of Konoha's fame. Her talent was no bloodline limit, no secret that needed to be kept safe, no ability that could not be done by any other ninja. It was "just" weapons skill; one that every ninja needed and practiced in.
She was simply the best.
x x x x x
That night, Neji watched her.
Tonight she danced on water. She stepped out onto the calm lake, light footsteps making ripples echoing towards the shore where Neji stood. Like always, she turned to face west, her arms outstretched from her sides.
A snap of her wrist sent a kunai whirling. Her hands twisted as she delicately caught the spinning handle before releasing it again, sending it into elongated figure eights that rotated around her, above one shoulder before crisscrossing towards her lower back. The single trail of the kunai was soon followed by a line of kunai, all following the same path as she controlled the chakra strings tying them to her will. Like a steel ribbon, Tenten twisted the strings of kunais around her like the scrolls she used in battle.
Hands intertwining and weaving as Tenten whirled on top of the water surface, Tenten spun a display of steel. Every weapon she mastered, every weapon she used, revolved around her in dazzling arcs. Droplets of water trailed after the weapon's path, reflecting the moonlight.
Tenten smiled, her eyes closed as bare toes skimmed the water surface. She danced, surrounded by the steel she loved. Kunai, shuriken, senbon, katana…sai, nunchaku, fans…all spinning in tune with her mind.
Neji could see her smiling within. He watched her as she ended the day by dancing on top of the water, with a tribute to her weapons. He had watched her through the months, and seen her nightly dances becoming more and more intricate, more and more beautiful.
She was not like the other kunochis, he noticed. While the others cared for flowers, or wore ribbons, or liked perfume, Tenten was different. Her flowers were shurikens, her ribbons were kunais, and her perfume was polished steel.
Konoha's steel became a blur of liquid light, traveling so light that it left patterns in the air, figures of eights, circles, crescents…glowing as Tenten made cold metal alive. They sang for her, humming along with the chakra infused in them. Moonlight played along the blades, cool blue light reflecting along the water's surface.
Tonight, her metal sang of dragons. Two swirling beasts writhed around her, entwining and coiling like the twin smoke dragons that followed Tenten's signature move. They echoed their mistress' heart, born of determination and fierce protectiveness, forged and honed and purified in fire, to be reborn as cold steel.
Yes, Tenten was different from the rest. She is the Weapons Mistress of Konoha, and she can make her weapons dance.