Tenten awoke bright-eyed and ready to face the day, despite the certain chaos that was sure to await her. Gai-sensei had decided, in his infinite wisdom, that his team's chemistry was lacking as of late and set-up a special mission of sorts. The three of them, Lee, Neji, and herself, had been whisked away to a secluded area of the forest surrounding the village for a three-day camping trip. Each day had a specific training exercise that they must complete, along with a detailed account of each other's performance. Their teacher wanted them to see how their varied strengths and weakness made them a complete unit. Tenten felt that, for once, her sensei had actually come up with an idea that was completely appropriate.
And since the first day's activity was target practice, the girl was extremely pleased. It catered perfectly to her abilities. She was so going to show up those silly boys!
After the three put away their bedrolls and ate a quick breakfast, they followed the directions left for them and made their way to the makeshift training grounds Gai had thrown together.
When they arrived, Lee's eyes lit with excitement. "Gai-sensei is truly amazing! Do you not agree, Neji?"
The byakugan user gave a noncommittal grunt, trying to appear unfazed by the sight before him.
"Well, this should be fun." Tenten remarked with a wide grin, taking in the obstacle course that they were to tackle. There were hundreds of targets, most mechanized to move about the field in erratic fashion, some mostly hidden behind various obstructions. There were also painted, human-shaped cutouts taking the form of civilians and allies, which were to be avoided at all cost. "Can I go first?"
The boys nodded their assent, Lee humming in anticipation and Neji glaring at the course dispassionately, arms crossed rigidly across his chest.
The kunoichi made short work of it, hitting each bullseye on her first attempt, all while protecting the friendlies. She returned to her teammates with a satisfied smirk.
Neither Lee nor Neji did half as well and they spent the rest of the day trying to repeat her success. By just past midday, the Hyuuga had finally perfected his attempts, but it took Lee until nearly sundown to complete the task. Tired and dirty, they headed back to their campsite for the night, the boys sharing conspiratory looks behind Tenten's back.
After the evening meal, Tenten retired early, pleased with herself. Watching Lee's struggle had worn her out and the girl had decided to treat herself to some extra sleep. The boys stayed behind, waiting silently by the fire until they were sure she had properly drifted off to sleep.
"Tenten is a formidable opponent." Lee spoke in quiet seriousness.
Neji closed his eyes, thinking on her earlier performance. "She is."
"If we could find out what gives her the power of accuracy, we could be as fearsome as Tenten."
"Lee," Neji sighed softly, "it is nothing more than hard work and perseverance."
"But Neji, we work just as hard as our youthful teammate. If that were the case, then we would also have the same powers as her." The green-clad shinobi turned to his friend with wide eyes. "There must be something else."
Neji shrugged in response.
"It must be something that only Tenten has. Something that no other ninja in the village has." Lee tapped his head in thought, pacing back and forth as he tried to process what he knew about the girl. "It must be... That's it! I know what it is!"
Neji looked very skeptical. "You do?"
"Yes!" The upbeat man pumped his first in the air, triumph flaring his nostrils. "It is her buns, of course."
"H-Her what?" Neji sputtered indignantly as red filtered through his cheeks.
"Her buns." When Neji continued to stare at him in confusion, Lee elaborated. "Her chignons! Her method of wrapping her hair over her ears! That must be it!"
Neji raised one elegant eyebrow. "That is ridiculous."
"It is not and I shall prove it to you!" Lee proclaimed proudly.
"Easy." Lee postured, flashing a quick thumbs-up. "If we can get her hair to fall out of her buns, Tenten's powers will be neutralized."
"Lee, I don't think..."
"Neji," Lee interrupted, "have you ever seen Tenten with her hair down?"
"No." The man admitted begrudgingly.
"Then the only logical explanation is that it is the secret to her powers."
Neji, despite being unconvinced, gave in. "Fine. What is our plan of action?"
In the underbrush, just outside of the glow put out by the fire, two sets of eyes observed the shinobi they had come across in the night.
Golden, reptilian eyes looked on in glee. "Did you hear that, Kabuto?"
"Tenten is indeed a very formidable kunoichi." The older man rubbed his hands together. "I want her powers for myself."
The younger man quietly sighed, adjusting his drooping glasses. "Surely you don't believe..."
"Bring her to the new lair, Kabuto." The master interrupted. "I will be expecting the both of you before sunset tomorrow. Do not fail me."
"Yes, Lord Orochimaru."
Tenten crouched defensively, quickly scanning her surroundings while she waited for the next round of attacks. Her heart was pounding and her heavy breathing caused her chest to heave, but her chocolate eyes shone with determination. The kunoichi had already lasted much longer than she had expected to.
The training exercise Gai-sensei had planned for the day was a taijutsu battle royale. Tenten had arrived at the grounds much less enthused than she had the previous day. Both boys excelled in this area, Lee with his brute strength and speed, Neji with his strategic intelligence. The girl knew she would have to be on her toes if she was to stand a chance against the both of them at the same time.
The next barrage came swiftly, one boy on either side of her. Lee's eyes gleamed with manic glee while Neji's lips pressed into a grim line. There was something off about the two of them, Tenten then realized. They were taking this much more seriously than they normally would for a sparring match. And despite their usually superior skill in this particular area, neither of them had landed a proper hit on her yet.
Something just did not add up.
Tenten struck out, pushing herself up onto her hands and twisted her body into an elegant, spiralling kick, and managed to hit both boys square on the jaw. The girl blew out a long breath and wiped a few errant hairs out of her face, grinning in her success.
"Ha! I won!" Tenten turned to her teammates, fists clenched. "I'm getting some water, then we can start round two."
When Tenten was out of hearing range, Neji spoke up. "That did not go as expected."
"No." Lee shook his head and scrunched his brows. "I believe we need a new strategy."
"Agreed. Lee, you focus on being a distraction. I will concentrate my effort on releasing her hair."
"Neji, I accept your challenge. I shall be the best distract..."
The boys' conversation was cut off by a shrill scream coming from the direction their teammate had taken. They rushed towards the sound, desperate to help their friend, only to find Tenten being whisked away.
"It is Kabuto!" Lee exclaimed. "He has captured Tenten!"
"Hurry, Lee. We must not let him get away." Neji ordered as they started their pursuit.
But before the boys had gained much ground, Kabuto activated his teleportation jutsu, and Tenten was gone.
"Neji, what do we do now?" Lee paced frantically, tears threatening to pour from his eyes.
"Lee, did you see what Kabuto was wearing?" Lee shook his head in the negative, so Neji continued. "He was wearing a souvenir t-shirt from the hot springs we passed on the way here. I believe that is where he is taking Tenten."
"Orochimaru does enjoy a good hot spring." Lee observed. "Let us make haste to rescue our friend."
"Yes, but first, let us come up with a plan."
"Hello, my little kunoichi. I'm so glad that you've come to visit me."
"Orochimaru." Tenten groaned. "I should have known."
"Now, now, Tenten." The man sneered, licking his lips with his forked tongue. "Don't look so put out, my dear. I have no intentions of hurting you."
"Then why have you brought me here?!" The riled girl struggled against the grip Kabuto had on her arms. "And why are we at a hot spring?"
"I'm after the secret to your powers, of course." The snake master replied, as if was the most logical thing in the world. "And the lair is being redecorated. I thought the hot spring might be a nice change of pace."
"Oh." Tenten's face scrunched in confusion. "But my powers? What powers?"
"Your powers of accuracy, of course."
"Don't be coy with me, girl!" Orochimaru hissed. "We overheard your companions talking about it and I want it for myself!"
"Oh for the love of... arg!" The girl shouted in frustration. "I don't have any powers. My skill comes from hard work and dedication!"
"I beg to differ. Your teammates were sure your powers came from these." The master slid a finger slowly over the hair at her ear.
As the girl shivered, disturbed by the man's touch, the pieces of the puzzle finally fell in place and Tenten realized why her teammates had been so off earlier in the day. Those idiots had been aiming for her chignons all day, rather than trying to win the match. "Yeah, well my teammates were wrong."
"We shall see." Orochimaru held his hand out to Kabuto. The light-haired shinobi relunctantly passed his master a kunai. "Now hold still, girl. I want to make a clean cut."
Tenten closed her eyes, fearful for her beloved hair. It might not hold powers like that madman thought, but she was still rather attached to it. But just before the cut came, the door slammed roughly open.
And Tenten's mouth dropped.
Neji's long, dark hair had been wrapped into twin buns over his ears, while Lee sported a pair of black earmuffs, with matching fake hair twisted messily over the earcups. But what caught her attention even more than that was the fact that the boys had apparently rummaged through her rucksack, because they were both wearing a spare set of her ninja clothing.
What if they were wearing her underwear too?
The kunoichi trembled in rage. She so was going to kill them!
"You shall not lay a hand on one strand of Tenten's beautiful hair!" Lee exclaimed, taking up an attack posture.
Neji nodded at his companion's statement. "Hand her over and no one will have to be hurt this day."
Orochimaru leaned closer to Kabuto, speaking in a whisper. "They have already harnessed her powers, you fool!"
"It would appear so, my Lord." Kabuto looked skeptical, but did not contradict his master. "What course of action should we take?"
"I must have chignons, too. Hurry, Kabuto!" The man ordered roughly. "Get your brush!"
Kabuto shoved Tenten behind him roughly, distracting the boys with her fall while he pulled up his master's long tresses. Orochimaru, very pleased with his new style, went on the offensive immediately. Soon all four men were throwing kunai, shuriken and senbon in rapid succession at each other and Tenten was forgotten in the chaos.
"Idiots." The kunoichi grumbled to herself. "I'll have to fix this mess on my own."
Just to prove her point, the girl untied her hair, letting her chocolate locks tumble down her back in luscious waves, and shook her head out. Neither side had hit their mark yet, despite the hundreds of weapons that had been thrown so far. Frustrated at the state of things, and at all the ridiculous assumptions that had been brought up that day, Tenten sprung into action. Opening a small scroll that she kept on the pouch at her hip, the kunoichi launched a barrage of senbon at all the men in the room, both friend and foe. Suddenly pinned to the walls, but none bearing any injuries, the men finally gave Tenten their full attention.
"Of all the absurb things to believe." Tenten admonished them, her voice firm with disappointment. "My chignons do not hold any special powers. It's just the easiest way to keep my hair out of my eyes. My accuracy comes from practice. You four should be ashamed of yourselves. You're lucky I didn't aim for any vital parts."
Tenten turned on her heel and headed for the door.
"Tenten, won't you let us down?" Lee questioned, remorse and panic reflected in his large, round eyes.
"No." The girl huffed. "After all the trouble you guys caused, you deserve to be left there. And when you finally manage to get down, you had better clean up this mess!"
After Tenten exited, Orochimaru spoke up. "Your kunoichi is very, very formidable indeed. But her powers were even greater with her hair down."
"I see." Lee replied. "Her buns must restrain her overwhelming powers of accuracy!"
"You may be correct." Orochimaru nodded. "I'm not sure even I could handle the enormity of her power."
"I think we should pretend this incident never happened." Neji spoke up sagely.
All four men nodded their heads in agreement and, when they had finally released themselves of Tenten's handiwork, they made a secrecy pact.
And then they thoroughly cleaned the hot spring, not wanting to risk Tenten's wrath.
And thus, the tale of the great chignon caper was hidden for many, many years. But finally on his deathbed, Orochimaru, unable to hold onto the secret any longer, lamented the one power he had failed to collect and out of his confession, a legend was born - Tenten, the Weapon Mistress of Accuracy and her Magical Buns.